Signatures are often-overlooked scraps of information that yield not only obvious clues about literacy, but also subtleties like depth and quality of education and preferred names, spellings and pronunciations. They are also, in original documents, tangible traces of our forebears’ corporality — evidence that that they were once here.
This is the sixth in a series of posts featuring the signatures of men and women born before 1900, men and women who could not take even a basic education for granted.
Sidney Wheeler was a man, not a boy, and married nine months after this mishap. On 23 December 1896, Sidney Wheeler, 24, married Lou Armstrong, 20, in Wilson. W.T.H. Woodard performed the ceremony in the presence of Richard Renfrow, S.A. Smith and Janie Booth.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: day laborer Sidney Wheelus, 27; wife Lula, 23; and son Sidney, 8 months.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Sidney Wheeler, 40, barber; wife Lou, 40, private cook; and children Sidney, 9, Dave, 7, Floyd, 4, and Emma, 2.
In March 1910, Sidney Wheeler Jr. accidentally shot his sister in the head while playing with a gun. She died instantly. Their mother was away from home cooking supper for Frederick Woodard’s family; their father presumably was also at work. The Wheeler girl’s name is unknown. The 1900 census lists only one child; the 1910, only one daughter, Emma, who lived to adulthood. Though described as eight years old, Sidney Jr. was more likely about ten.
News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 17 March 1910.
Fourteen months later, Sidney Wheeler Jr. (still described as eight years old) was charged with assault with a deadly weapon against General Tyler, “another colored boy.”
Wilson Daily Times, 19 May 1911.
The Daily Times published two articles about the incident. The second doubled down on the sensationalist editorializing, but there seems little question that Sidney Jr. engaged in unusually violent behavior.
Wilson Daily Times, 19 May 1911.
Six months later, a Raleigh paper picked up a local-interest bit from Wilson and printed it using the exaggerated dialect and descriptions saved for negro anecdotes. In a nutshell: Anderson Dew visited Sidney Wheeler’s barber shop. With half his face shaved, Dew attempted to spit. Wheeler warned there was no spitting while he was shaving. Further, there was the matter of Dew having testified against Wheeler on a liquor charge. Dew distracted Wheeler’s attention, then jumped from the chair and ran off to tell this tale.
The Farmer and Mechanic (Raleigh, N.C.), 7 November 1911.
Sidney Wheeler died 8 March 1912 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 35 years old; was born in Nash County to Richard and Annie Wheeler; worked as a barber; was married; and resided at 710 Vance Street. Lula Wheeler was informant.
Six and-a-half years after their father died, Sidney Wheeler Jr.’s younger brother Dabbie fetched up in court on a breaking and entering charge. As he had already done time on a county road gang, the judge sentenced him to five-to-ten in the state penitentiary.
News & Observer, 7 September 1918.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Hackney Street, college cook Lula Wheeler, 49, widow, and children Richard, 12, Emma, 10, John, 8, and Sammie, 6.
Dabbie Wheeler died four years into his prison term of tuberculosis of the shoulder joint and bowels. He was 17.
Dabbie Wheeler died 21 June 1922 at the State Penitentiary in Raleigh, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 August 1904 in Wilson to Sidney Wheeler and Lula Armstrong and worked as a laborer. He was buried in Chapel Hill.
Ten months later, Sidney Wheeler Jr. escaped from a prison camp near the Rocky Face Mountain quarry in Alexander County, North Carolina. I have found nothing further about him.
Alamance Gleaner, 5 April 1923.
Lulu Wheeler died 5 May 1925 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 August 1878 in Elm City to Emma Armstrong; she was the widow of Sid Wheeler; she resided at 523 Church Street; and she did housework for Atlantic Christian College. Emma Wheeler was informant.
In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Kisseah Boykin, 41; children Polly, 19, James, 18, John, 16, and Charley, 9; and niece Nannie Potts, 10.
Ernest Deans, 25, of Taylors township, son of Alfred Rice and Amanda Deans, married Polly Boykin, 22, of Taylors township, daughter of Joe Boykin and Kissy Boykin. Hilliard Ellis Jr. applied for the license, and a justice of the peace performed the ceremony in Wilson.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson & Raleigh Road, farmer James E. Deans, 33; wife Pollie, 29; and children James T., 6, and John H., 3.
In the 1920 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farmer Earnest Deans, 43; wife Pollie, 39, and children Tommie, 15, Johnnie, 13, Clarence, 10, Naomi, 9, and Clenon, 5.
Clarence Deans died 10 March 1926 in Crossroads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 August 1907 in Wilson County to Earnest Deans and Pollie Boykin; was single; and was a tenant farmer for E.B. Capps.
In the 1940 census of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland: Sarah Powell, 50, widow; her daughters Ruth, 19, and Anna Powell, 16; and niece Polly Deans, 55, widow. All had lived in Wilson, North Carolina, in 1935, and Sarah and Polly worked as domestic servants.
Clinton Earnest Deanes registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 12 October 1914 in Wilson County; he resided in Baltimore, Maryland; his contact was Polly Deanes; and he was employed by U.S. Construction Company.
Polly Deans died 24 March 1962 in Crossroads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 July 1883 in Wilson County to Joseph Barnes [sic] and Kizzie Barnes and was widowed. Informant was Johnnie Deans. She was buried in Rocky Branch cemetery.
A native of Duplin County, North Carolina, Nina Frances Faison Kornegay Hardy migrated to Wilson in the first decade of the twentieth century. She worked for decades as maid and cook for Jefferson and Annie Applewhite Farrior and for William D.P. Sharpe Jr. This photo booth portrait was probably made in the 1940s.
City directories offer fine-grained looks at a city’s residents at short intervals. The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directory reveals the types of work available to African-Americans during the booming tobacco era. This post is the thirteenth in an alphabetical series listing all “colored” directory entries for whom an occupation was listed. The address is the resident’s home, unless a business address is noted.
Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away in sorrowful numbers. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children. Few children who died in Wilson County were buried in marked graves. In town, most early burials were in Oaklawn, Rountree, or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, Rountree was engulfed by pine forest, and their 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 14 July 1915, Theodor Smith, 13, schoolboy, of Wilson, son of Tom Smith and Edith McDowell, of “congestion of the brain.”
On 24 January 1917, Mary Myrtie Belle Banks, 3 months, of Springhill township, daughter of Allen Banks and Florence Taylor, died of “status epilepticus.” She was buried in “Watson graveyard.”
On 30 September 1917, Sadie Austin, 4, of Saratoga township, daughter of Matthew Austin and Hattie Eason, died of “brain trouble — don’t know cause.”
On 30 December 1921, Harriett Newsom, 10, of Black Creek township, daughter of Layfayett and Rebecca Newsom, died of “cerebral congestion,” with jaundice as a contributing condition. She was buried in “Jones graveyard.”
On 28 January 1911, Irene Dewey, 2, of 619 Vance Street, Wilson, daughter of Thomas Dewey and Callie Smith, died of cardiac failure. She was buried in Dunn, North Carolina.
On 17 January 1917, Edgar Lindsey, 17, of Wilson township, son of John Lindsey and Nancy Lane, died of endocarditis. He was born in Franklin County, N.C.
On 19 September 1918, Charley Hagans, 12, school boy, of Wilson, son of James Hagans and Hannah Bynum, died of “acute dilatation of the heart.”
On 2 November 1919, Raymond Dixon, 4, of Walstonburg, son of Thomas Dixon and Millie Barnes, died at Wilson Sanatorium, of “shock and heart failure on account of anaesthetic.” He was buried in Greene County, N.C.
On 10 May 1920, Creasa Ann Hinton, 14, of Springhill township, daughter of Rufus Hinton and Melvina Cook, died of valvular heart disease.
On 29 February 1924, John Brewster Armstrong, 5, of Farmville, son of E. Douglas Armstrong and Ellen Freeman, died at Wilson Hospital of cardiac decompensation. He was buried in Farmville, Pitt County.
On 10 June 1921, Morriss Lee Edwards, 11, of Wilson township, son of Anthony Edwards and Mollie Howard, died of “[don’t know] heart trouble stated death came suddenly. No doctor in attendance.”
On 14 October 1926, Elise Barnes, 11, of East Nash Street, Wilson, daughter of Rosco Barnes and Jessie Adams, died of acute pericarditis.
On 21 March 1930, Cleotha Taylor, 7, of Wilson township, daughter of Henry Strickland and Allice Taylor, died of “heart lesion –aortic insufficiency,” with rheumatism as a contributing factor.
On 11 April 1930, Ray M. Pierce, 4, of 1212 East Nash Street, Wilson, son of Andrew Pierce and Lessie Haskins, died of acute myocarditis.
This table reveals the stark disparities in wealth between whites and blacks in early twentieth century Wilson County.
The columns, representing tax categories and values, are Number of Polls; Number Acres Land; Value Land and Timber; Number Town Lots; Total Value Real Estate; Total Value Personal Property; Aggregate Value Real and Personal.
[I am intrigued by the differences in land ownership among African-Americans in different townships. Some surely is attributable merely to population, but I wonder about additional causes of inequality. Why so few taxable individuals or landowners in Stantonsburg township? Why were African-Americans in Spring Hill township so much more prosperous? I have some theories, but I want to explore more. — LYH]
Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission as a Board of State Tax Commissioners (1907).
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way,
I will rest at the close of the day;
And I know there are joys that await me,
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.
Mr. Larry Artis, 99, of 100 A St., departed this earthly life on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at his home in the North End Section of Goldsboro, North Carolina. Larry was born on March 03, 1918 to John Eddie and Alneda Artis in Wilson, North Carolina.
Larry joined the Army in Apr 1941 and served in World War II. Mr. Artis served in the US Army from April 2, 1941 to August 31, 1945 in the East Indies, Papua and New Guinea in a all Negro Construction Battalion. While in the US Army He was decorated with the WW II Victory Medal; Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal with 3 bronze service stars; the American Defense Service Medical and the Distinguished Unit Emblem. He was honorably discharged August 31, 1945. He did his basic training at Fort Bragg and was then shipped over to the Pacific. He was a See Bee (Construction Battalion). He was decorated with an Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Service Stars; an American Defense Service Medal; a Distinguished Unit Emblem and a WW II Victory Medal. When he was there, he visited Australia when they were given leave. He was honorably discharged in October 31, 1944.
He was a member of St. James Holiness Church of Stantonsburg, North Carolina where he sung in the choir. On November 1, 1953, Larry married the former Lillie Frazier of Central Heights. To this union two sons was born, Nelson and Michael. Nelson has since passed away.
Mr. Artis was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Lillie F. Artis; his son and daughter-in-law, Nelson Frazier and Jewel Frazier; his grandson, Nelson Frazier, Jr.; his siblings, Jesse Artis, Eddie Artis, Henry Artis, Mammy Artis, Clyda Newsome, Carrie Lee Newsome, Mary McCoy and Lizzie Mae Thomas. Larry leaves to cherish his lifelong memories; one son, Michael (Dawn) Artis; two sisters, Avris Jean White and Maggie Diamond; grandchildren, Savonnah Re’ Artis, Stephanie Davis, Tony Atkinson, Sharon Atkinson; great grandchildren, Greg Davis, Jr. and Kim Davis; and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg & Wilson Road, John Ed Artis, 31, tenant farmer; wife Maggie, 32; and children Jessie, 9, Rosa, 7, Henry, 5, Claud, 2, Lyra, 2, and Ella, 6 months.
In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: John E. Artis, 41, farmer, widower, and children Jesse, 19, Rosa, 18, Henry, 15, Claud, 13, Larry, 12, Mary, 10, Eddie, 8, Mamie, 6, Carry L., 4, and Maggie, 2.
In the 1940 census of Indian Springs township, Wayne County: farmer Earnest Thomas, 31; wife Lizzie Mae, 25; and children Earnesteen, 9, Doris, 8, and Louise, 6; and lodger Lara Artist, 21, farm laborer.
In 1940, Larry Artis registered for the World War II draft in Wayne County. Per his registration card, he was born 3 March 1919 in Evansdale, Wilson County; resided at R.F.D. #1, Dudley, Wayne County; his contact was brother-in-law Ernest Thomas; and he was engaged infarming.
On 1 November 1953, Larry Artis, 34, of Goldsboro, son of John Eddie Artis and Mattie Clay Artis, married Lillie M. Frazier, 34, of Goldsboro, daughter of Wright Frazier and Nettie Hines Frazier. Holiness minister W.H. Holiday performed the ceremony at Saint James Holiness Church in Stantonsburg, Wilson County, in the presence of Johnie Newsome, Hackney Artis and Henry Artis.