Suffer the little children: death by accident.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away with stunning regularity. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children.

Few Wilson County children who died in that era were buried in marked graves. In town, original burials were in Oaklawn or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, and headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time. By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

  • On 13 January 1914, Prince Albert Barnes, 14, of Wilson, son of Arren and Margaret Barnes, died of a “blow upon head & fracture of the skull, accidental.” He worked as a laborer.
  • On 2 February 1915, Herman Carroll, 6, son of A.J. and Marchaline Pierce Carroll, died when a falling tree fractured his skull “from ear to ear.”
  • On 10 March 1915, John Hines, 8, of Toisnot township, son of John Hines, was killed by a runaway mule. His feet were caught in the stirrups, and he was dragged head down for half a mile. He was buried in Elm City Colored Cemetery.
  • On 22 April 1917, Lonnie Hilliard, 3, died after his ankle was fractured in an automobile accident.
  • On 2 May 1918, Elma Taylor, 5, of Taylors township, daughter of Alice Taylor and Haywood Johnson, fell in a well and drowned. Her family buried her.
  • On 9 August 1921, Fredie Williams, 15, of Wilson township, son of Richard and Mary Williams, drowned. He was buried in “Barnes grave yd.”

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1921.

  • On 24 October 1921, Robert Speight, 17, in Wilson township, son of James Adkinson and Mamie Hill, was “killed at sawmill by some sort of machinery striking him on the head accidentally.”
  • On 6 March 1922, Novella McClain, 8, of Wilson, daughter of Charley and Mary Ella McClain, died from a blow to the head, over her right eye, by an automobile.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 March 1922.

  • On 11 December 1923, Lily Mae Reid Jones, 17, of Wilson, was “accidentally killed by train.” She was a factory laborer and a widow.
  • On 23 December 1923, Rosa Lee Jones, 5, of Saratoga township, daughter of Garfield and Bessie Parker Jones, died after she was “accidentally run over by car automobile.”
  • On 15 May 1925, Massey L. Murchinson, 10, of Elm City, son of A.A. and Annie Townsend Murchinson, drowned by accident.
  • On 6 April 1926, Eddie B. Bass, 5, of Wilson township, son of James and Geneva Clifton Bass, was “accidentally killed while playing in a tree [fell] and broke his neck; instant death.”

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