On 14 October 1888, Nelson Thompson, 22, married Caroline Locus, 21, daughter of George and Elizabeth Locus, at Tony Parker‘s in Cross Roads township.
On 10 January 1897, Nelson Thompson, 30, married Melvina Farmer, 27, at Alford Jordan‘s in the presence of Junius Hayes, Grant Farmer and Benjamin Barnes.
In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Nelson Tompson, 33; wife Melvina, 30; and children James, 9, David, 2, Auther, 3, and Walter, 1.
In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Thompson, 45; wife Melvina, 42; and children James, 18, Arthur, 13, David, 12, Walter, 11, Mathew, 9, Addie, 7, Lillie, 5, Adrow, 4, and Arabella, 2.
Arthur Thompson died 26 December 1915 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 29 August 1895 in Wilson County to Nelson Thompson of Greene County and Fannie Barnes of Wilson County; was single; farmed; and was buried in Pate graveyard, Lucama.
In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Thompson, 54; wife Melvina, 52; and children Mathew, 18, Addie, 16, Lillie, 14, Nettie, 15, Ada, 13, Arabella, 11, and Ara and Alice, 9.
In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Thompson, 64; wife Melvina, 62; and children Adron, 23, Ira, 19, and Alice, 19.
David Thompson died 3 June 1945 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 October 1897 in Wilson County to Nelson Thompson of Greene County and Melvina Farmer of Wilson County; farmed; and was married to Bessie Thompson. He was buried in Newsome cemetery, Lucama.
Addie Thompson died 14 February 1952 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 June 1903 in Wilson County to Nelson Thompson and Melvina Farmer; was married; and farmed. Lennetta Thompson was informant. She was buried in Newsome cemetery, Lucama.
Charles Diggs left Wilson County shortly after Emancipation, and I have found no record of him there. He is remarkably elusive in federal census records as well, but newspaper clippings and other records offer glimpses of his family and the rich life he led in Brooklyn, New York. (Why was he called “Colonel,” though? Was he a veteran of the United States Colored Troops?0
On 25 April 1872, in Brooklyn, New York, Charles Diggs, 25, of Wadesborough, Virginia [sic], son of James Diggs and Lydia Harris, married Carter Corlea Jones, 25, of Lynchburgh, Virginia, daughter of Riley Carter and Polly Reed.
In the 1874 Brooklyn, N.Y., city directory: Diggs Charles well sinker 1191 Atlantic av
A female child was born 14 October 1874 in Brooklyn to Charles Diggs and Carter Carlea Jones.
A male child was born 4 April 1878 in Brooklyn to Charles Diggs and Carter Jones.
Florence R. Diggs was born 20 October 1878 in Brooklyn to Charles Diggs and Carter C. Jones.
A male child was born 2 December 1880 in Brooklyn to Charles Diggs and Carter C. Jones.
In the 1889 Brooklyn, N.Y., city directory: Diggs Charles welldriver 289 Franklin av
Carter Diggs died 25 March 1890 in Brooklyn, New York. Per her death certificate, she was 46 years old, was born in Virginia, and was married.
In 1890, Diggs was initiated into the Brooklyn Literary Union, organized in 1886, and where he would rub elbows with journalist T. Thomas Fortune:
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 May 1890.
In the 1892 state census of Brooklyn, Kings County, New York: Chas. Diggs, 45, well digger, and children Rosa, 19, [illegible], 15, Horace, 10, and Florence, 12.
In the 1895 Brooklyn, N.Y., city directory: Diggs Chas welldigger 485 Waverly av
Horace L. Diggs, age 16, died 9 June 1898 in New York, New York.
A 1901 article noted that Diggs was one of a few Brooklyn residents to have been born into slavery:
From “Brooklyn’s Colored Population: It Is Believed to Number Eighteen Thousand — Progress in Prosperity and In Intellectual Advancement — Paying Taxes on Property Amounting to About One Million Dollars. The Brooklyn Citizen, 8 December 1901.
In the 1905 state census of Brooklyn, Kings County, New York: at 111 DeKalb Avenue, Louis Paultry, 42, laborer; wife Harriett Paultry, 38; well digger Charles Diggs, 59; porter James Teamer, 32; stable man Edward Scoot, 46; and laborer John Harry, 27.
“Colonel” Charles Diggs helped plan the Garnet Republican Club’s Lincoln Dinner in February 1908. During the event, he delivered a speech on “Organization and Unity.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 13 February 1908.
Diggs helped plan the Garnet Republican Club’s observance of the 100th anniversary:
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 28 November 1908.
In 1911, the Society of the Sons of North Carolina, to which Diggs belonged, planned a “monster mass meeting” and published an appeal for support of its efforts to address “the condition of immorality existing among the young girls of our race in certain sections ….”
New York Age, 6 July 1911.
Of more personal concern, in late 1911, widow Rosa Hardnut signaled her intent to sue Bristol Meyers Chemical Company, where her husband was buried alive while working on a dig for Charles Diggs.
Brooklyn Daily Times, 9 December 1911.
Charles Diggs died 29 April 1919 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. Per his death certificate, he was born 1848 to James and Lydia Diggs; was a well digger; was a widower; and was buried in Mount Olivet cemetery.
Florence Varner died 28 April 1928 in Manhattan. Per her death certificate, she was 61 years old; was widowed; was born in 1886 in New York City to Charles Diggs of North Carolina and Carter Jones of North Carolina.
Mae Wilson died 23 July 1941 in the Bronx. Per her death certificate, she was 42 years old; was widowed; and was born 24 October 1880 to Charles Diggs of North Carolina and Carter Jones.
[What was the Society of the Sons of North Carolina?
In December 1866, Eliza Barnes was hauled before two justices of the peace to answer some sharp questions. In response, she admitted that she had delivered a baby boy in about July; that she was not married to his father, who was Calvin Barnes; and that she was poor.
The justices issued a warrant for Calvin Barnes:
Calvin Barnes appeared with John Q. Thigpen, a white farmer, to post a two hundred dollar bond for Barnes’ appearance at January term.
Possibly, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: George, 24, Dempsey, 23, Calvin, 22, Esther, 44, Alice, 18, Anna, 19, Robert, 20, and Jane Barnes, 19, all farm laborers.
Also possibly, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Frank Barnes, 55; wife Nicy, 51, and children Edwin, 12, Catharine, 7, and Watson Barnes, 12; with Weltha, 13, and Richard Artis, 21, and Eliza Barnes, 26, and her son Benjamin, 5. [Benjamin possibly the child sworn to in the proceeding above.]
Bastardy Bonds-1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 419 Hines Street, Lewis Townsend, 62; wife Henrietta, 60; daughter Alzie, 22; and daughter Geneva Brown, 24; son-in-law George Brown, 26; and grandchildren Ester, George Jr., and Martha.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 508 South Spring, pressing club operator George Porter, 34, divorced; Jeneva Brown, 30, divorced, housekeeping servant, and her children Brown, 15, Esther, 13, Martha, 12, and Olive, 9; and George M. Porter, 4.
George Brown died 1 October 1947 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 53 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Sam and Martha Brown; was married; lived at 911 Robeson Street; worked as an auto mechanic; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Informant was Mrs. Esther Goodwin, 408 East Hines Street.
In June 1955, the Goodwin family flew from Frankfurt, Germany, to New York after Capt. Felix Goodwin completed a tour of duty.
New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,database on-line, http://www.ancestry.com.
At April Term 1856 of Wilson County’s Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a grand jury charged Martin Locust and Bede Wells, both of Wilson County, “being lewd and vicious persons not united together in the bonds of marriage” before and after 1 April 1856 “unlawfully lewdly and lasciviously associate bed and cohabit together … to the evil example of all others.” William Wells and Josiah Boyett were subpoenaed as witnesses, and jury foreman Jacob Taylor returned a true bill to the clerk of court.
This is the bond Locus and Wells pledged for their appearance in court. Curiously, the names of two co-pledgers were crossed out — Kingsberry Wells and William Wells. Both were likely relatives of Bedie Wells, and William was a witness before the grand jury.
Martin Locus was of African, European and Native American descent. Obedience Wells was white. Their prosecution and, presumably, conviction did not much alter their lives, as they are found living together four years later in the 1860 census. (The third column after their names was used to indicate race or color. Wells’ was left blank; white was the default. Locus’ M stood for mulatto.)
1860 census of Kirbys district, Wilson County.
The 1850 census of Nash County shows the household of Kingsberry Wells and his next-door neighbors, Beedy and Martin Wells, who was actually Martin Locus. (The age disparity is likely a recording error. In fact, Martin Locus and Obedience Wells, listed as “Pheby Wells,” were married in Nash County on 22 November 1822, during a period in which laws forbidding interracial marriage were only loosely enforced. Per descendant and family historian Europe Ahmad Farmer, after about 1830, when North Carolina began to strip away rights from free people of color, the couple made an effort to appear to live separately.)
Martin Locus and Obedience Wells’ son Martin Locus Jr. was the father of Martin John Locus.
1822 Nash County marriage license of Martin Locust and Pheby Wells.
Adultery Records-1856, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
Henry Stott was overseer of “the new road” running from “the old conty line road to the Tarborough road near Alsey Boykins.” Stott had summoned men to fulfill two days of road building and maintenance duty on May 21 and 22, 1857. However, Wiley Deans and Jack, an enslaved man belonging to Deans, failed to show either day, and Stott complained to justice of the peace Josee Peele. Peele issued a warrant ordering Deans to appear before him or another justice of the peace to pay a four-dollar fine (a dollar a day for each man for two days’ work) if convicted.
A note on the back of the warrant indicates that justice of the peace L.S. Boykin found against Stott, and “The plantiff craves an appeal to the next county court to be held in the town of Wilson on the forth Monday of October next.”
Road Records-1857, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Street, Thomas Tyson, 44, “croper” [cropper? he reported owning his farm]; wife Armeter, 26; and children Ardella, 8, Nancy, 6, Cylester, 3, and Matthew L., 5 months; plus boarders Oscar Isarell, 26, dry goods store laborer, and Lat Blount, 20, house carpenter.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, farmer Tom Tyson, 50; wife Ameta, 36; children Ardella, 18, Celesta, 13, Ethel L., 11, Hubert, 9, Larry L., 2, and Clementon, 1; and mother-in-law Ardella Barnes, 58.
On 31 October 1935, Celester Tyson, 18, of Wilson County, daughter of Thomas and Arnelia Tyson, married Moses Taylor, 21, of Wilson County, son of Albert and Annie Taylor, in Greenville, Pitt County, North Carolina.
In 1940, Matthew Lee Tyson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 4 September 1919 in Stantonsburg; resided in Stantonsburg; his next-of-kin was sister Celester Tyson; and he worked for Civilian Conservation Corps in Chapel Hill, Orange County, North Carolina.
On 17 September 1948, in Norfolk, Virginia, Celester Tyson Taylor, 31, born in Stantonsburg, North Carolina, to Thomas Tyson and Armetia Barnes, married Andrew Edward Jackson, 31, born in Baltimore, Maryland, to John William Jackson and Susie Wyatt.
Celester T. Jackson died 3 June 1988 in Richmond, Virginia.
In May 1860, on the testimony of H.F. Barnes and Warren Ellis, a grand jury indicted Hartwell Williford and James G. Williford for the murder of an enslaved man, Thomas, who belonged to Hartwell Williford. I have found no additional information about this crime.
Hartwell Williford and James Williford lived in the area of modern-day Elm City and were the father-in-law and husband of Nancy Mears Williford, written of here.
On 22 February 1957, the Rocky Mount Telegram ran a genealogy column by “An Old Reporter” [Hugh B. Johnston] that featured Hartwell Williford. Largely a compendium of Williford’s real estate transactions and estate purchases, it somehow missed his indictment for murder. However, there was this:
“Family tradition states that Hartwell Williford possessed a ready temper and a powerful physique in his youth. On one occasion he engaged in a rough-and-tumble fight with another man in the neighborhood, seized him by the ears, and slung him around with such force that these appendages were torn from the head of the unfortunate owner. On another occasion he became so infuriated with a slave fellow that kept stealing from the neighbors or running away and causing his master trouble and expense in bringing him back home, that he undertook this immediate, unique, and terrifying punishment. He knocked both heads from a barrel, drove short nails in the sides from every direction, tied the slave securely in it with his head out one end and his feet out the other, and rolled him a short distance down the road in front of the house. The nail pricks received through his clothes were probably inconsequential to the slave as compared with the moral effects, but at any rate he was for the rest of life a reliable and industrious person.”
Murder of Slave-1860, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
At April Term 1868 of Wilson County’s Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a grand jury charged Daniel Sharp and Nancy Williford, both of Wilson County, “being lewd and vicious persons not united together in the bonds of marriage” before and after 1 April 1868 “unlawfully lewdly and lasciviously associate bed and cohabit together … to the evil example of all others.” Willie G. Dixon, Patience Barnes, Abel Taylor, Henry Taylor, Drew Barnes, John B. Batts and Henry Dixon were subpoenaed as witnesses, and the jury foreman returned a true bill to the clerk of court.
Daniel Sharp was African American; Nancy Williford, white. The charge against them was fornication and adultery. As best I can determine, of the six witnesses called to testify before the grand jury, Abel Taylor, Patience Barnes, and, probably, Drew Barnes were black. No records of their testimony are included in the file in which the document above was found. Records show that Sharp and Williford had at least two children together, John B., born in 1867, and Mary E., born in 1868.
In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Williford, 46; [second] wife Nancy, 26; and children Mary A., 18, John T., 16, Nancy T., 14, Caroline, 11, Arabella, 5, Elijah A., 4, and James C., 1. [James Williford’s step-mother was Elizabeth Taylor Sharpe Williford. Did Elizabeth bring Daniel into the Williford household?]
In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Nancy Williford, 34, and children John B., 3, and Mary E., 2. All were described as white. [I initially assumed that this Nancy was James G. Williford’s daughter. However, her age as listed in the 1870 and 1880 censuses is more consistent with that of Williford’s wife Nancy Mears Williford. Williford died in 1861. His and Nancy’s son Elijah Elbert is listed in the 1870 census as Bertie Williford, 14 year-old apprentice to Hickman Barnes, and daughter “Arvilla” is listed in the household of her half-brother William Williford. Did Nancy lose custody of her children as a result of her relationship with Daniel Sharp?]
In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Benjamin Tillery, 27; wife Cherry; and daughter Jane, 3; Lucy Taylor, 23, and son Columbus, 8 months; and Daniel Sharp, 26, farm laborer.
In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jason Barnes, 26; wife Patience Barnes, 24; Lucy Barnes, 20, farm laborer; Exie Barnes, 1 month; and William Battle, 20, farm laborer.
In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Virginia-born farm laborer Abel Farmer, 57; wife Viney, 45, farm laborer; and children William, 9, Elvey, 5, David, 7, and Georgiana, 17, farm laborer.
In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Nancy Williford, 42, and children John, 13, farm laborer, and Mary E., 12. Here, Nancy’s children were described as mulatto.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Daniel Sharp, 40, farmer.
Mary Williford, 18, daughter of Nancy Williford, and Lorenzo Barnes, 22, son of William and Sarah Barnes, obtained (but did not return) a marriage license in Wilson County on 15 April 1891.
On 20 February 1895, John Williford, 28, married Mary Ella Barnes, 21, in Toisnot township. G.A. Gaston, J.C. Ellis and Buck Dew witnessed the ceremony.
In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widower John Williford, 34, farmer; daughter Mary B., 4; and boarder Sammie Barnes. 19.
On 29 October 1893, Daniel Sharp, 52, of Toisnot, married Cynda Parker, 19, of Toisnot, in the presence of John Williford, Mose Parker and Jason Barnes.
In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Daniel Sharp, 58, farmer; wife Lucinda, 25; and children Joseph, 6, George W., 4, and James H., 2.
In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Renza Barnes, 26; wife Mary, 32; and Nanny, 11, and Minnie, 8; and niece Bertha Williford, 4.
On 19 December 1900, John Williford, 34, son of Dan Sharp, married Lena Locust, 19, daughter of Elbert and Rose Locust, in Elm City in the presence of J.C. Ellis, Lucian Norfleet, Willie Locus, and George Braswell.
On 22 January 1908, John Gaston, 25, son of George and P[riscilla]. Gaston, married Nannie Barnes, 19, daughter of Rezo and Mary Barnes, at First Presbyterian Church in Elm City. Rev. C.E. Tucker performed the ceremony in the presence of James G. Mitchell, G.C. Cowell, and Oliver N. Freeman.
In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: John Williford, 43; wife Lena, 28; and children Bertha, 14, Beatrice, 7, John L., 6, Edward, 4, Arnold, 2, and Odell, 2 months.
James Hardy Williford died 11 November 1914 in Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 October 1914 to John Williford and Lena Lucas.
Willis Albert Williford died 1 November 1915 in Elm City. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 September 1915 in Elm City to John Williford and Lena Lucas.
On 17 June 1917, Bertha Williford, 22, of Toisnot, daughter of John and Lena Williford, married Paul Kelly, 21, of Toisnot, son of John and Charlotte Kelly. Missionary Baptist minister E.S. Lucas performed the ceremony at his home.
In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: well digger John Williford, 53; wife Lena, 38; and children John, 15, Edwin, 13, Arnel, 12, Frank, 8, and Inez, 17 months.
Mary Williford died 30 June 1920 in Elm City. Per her death certificate, she was born 18 March 1920 in Elm City to John Williford and Lena Lucas.
In the 1930 census of Elm City town, Toisnot township: John Gaston, 48, brickmason; wife Nannie, 41; daughters Pricilla, 21, and Minnie, 18; plus mother-in-law Mary Barnes, 62.
Mary [Williford] Barnes died 6 April 1949 in Elm City. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1868 in Wilson County to unknown parents and was a widow. Nannie Gaston was informant.
Adultery Records-1868, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
“We have a righted a wrong”: Board votes to name elementary school for Frederick Douglass
By Drew C. Wilson, Wilson Daily Times, 19 February 2018.
The Wilson County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to rename Elm City Elementary School after abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
All six board members supported the proposal. Board member Robin Flinn was absent from the meeting.
“I am just proud of them for understanding and knowing that it was time,” said Alice Freeman, a 1964 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and a former president of the Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association.
The effort to rename the school was led by alumni association members who have made multiple requests to adopt the Douglass name going back to the early 1970s.
“I am very happy and I am just so proud of our organization and the hard work that it took,” Freeman said. “I am just really proud of the school board because they realized the importance of it. They realized our contributions. They realized that after 40 years, almost 50 years, we have remained active. We’ve got good folks and we are going to move forward with this. We’re just excited.”
Bill Myers, a former teacher at Frederick Douglass High School, said after the decision that it was hard to put his feelings at the moment into words.
“I can’t even express it really. We have righted a wrong,” Myers said.
“The question should have been ‘Why change the name in the first place?’ So to do it now is just electrifying,” Myers said.
Elm City Elementary has been named after the community in which it is located since 1970, when integration began in Wilson County. The school was named Frederick Douglass High School from 1939 to 1969. During that time it was attended by members of the African-American population in Wilson County. In 1970, former Frederick Douglass students joined students at Elm City High School to form an integrated school.
Though Elm City Elementary has undergone multiple renovations since 1970, two major portions of the school, the auditorium and the gymnasium, were originally part of Frederick Douglass High School.
The original Douglass auditorium.
The Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association has a long history of financial support of Elm City Elementary and Elm City Middle.
“I’m just tickled to death, particularly for all those kids that were here tonight and the association that has been doing so much to promote and keep the thing going,” Myers said. “They have been giving away money, scholarships, everything, every year and this is why I wanted to be here to do this, for them.”
Myers said he felt a major part of this effort to rename the school and regain the 30-year legacy of the high school.
“This was my first teaching job over here and I feel very much still a part of it,” Myers said. “I am happy for them. I am happy that this board could see through that and try to rectify something that happened that was definitely wrong.”
According to Lane Mills, superintendent of Wilson County Schools, costs associated with changing the name of Elm City Elementary School would be about $11,353.
The costs would include $4,317 for staff long-sleeve and short-sleeve T-shirts, $2,500 for a new school marquee, $800 for a new school sign, $704 to replace the rugs at the entrances, $450 for new checks, receipts, a deposit stamp, $450 for new PTO checks and deposit slips, $250 for school pencils, $200 for school stamps and $200 for ink pens, plus other miscellaneous items.