Randall and Bynum were granted last-minute reprieves after Sharp and Richardson asserted that the men had not been involved in the death of Williford.
Aaron Sharp — in the 1910 census of Wilbanks, Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Daniel Sharp, 46; wife Hattie, 38; and sons Daniel, 19, Edmond, 14, Ben, 12, Henry, 5, and Aaron, 2. In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Daniel Sharp, 54; sons Daniel, 28, Henry, 6, and Aaron, 12; daughter-in-law Lizzie, 23; and mother Harriet, 80. Aaron Sharp died 26 September 1930 in State Prison, Raleigh, as a result of “legal electrocution.” Per his death certificate he was 22 years old; was born in Wilson County to Daniel and Hattie Sharp; was single and had worked as a farmer. His remains were removed to Duke University [presumably, for use in the newly opened Duke University School of Medicine.]
Berry Richardson — Berry Richardson died 26 September 1930 in State Prison, Raleigh, as a result of “legal electrocution.” Per his death certificate he was 20 years old; was born in Robeson County to Emma Hamilton; was single and had worked as a farmer. His remains were removed to Fairmont, North Carolina.
William Randall — possibly, in the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Charlie Randall, 48; wife Mary, 42; and children Minnie, 21, Blossie, 20, Elijah, 19, William, 18, Nathan, 16, Mary, 15, Joseph, 14, Katie, 13, Sam, 12, Charlie, 10, John, 9, and Cora, 8.
A year after Austin F. Flood‘s plea to the Freedmen’s Bureau, Van Buren Winbourn continued to terrorize African-Americans in Wilson. In this letter, a Central District superintendent directed his assistant in Goldsboro to refer this complaint to Wilson County authorities and, if they failed to act, to arrest and jail Winbourn and his gang. I have not located Jacob Barnes‘ referenced affidavit.
Office Superintendent Bureau Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Central District
Raleigh, N.C., August 25th, 1866.
Maj. Jas. W.H. Stickney, Asst. Supt. Sub District of Goldsboro N.C.
Jacob Barnes freedman of Wilson in your sub District complains that an outrage was committed upon him by “Van Winman” and seven others, citizens of Wilson with intent to kill, for full particulars in this case your attention is invited to the enclosed Affidavit taken before me — Present this case to the proper County Authorities and if upon your application in behalf of this freedman, they neglect or refuse to arrest and bring to trial the offenders, in accordance with G.O. No. 3, current series Hd.Qrs. Asst.Com. N.C. and in accordance with Genl Grants G.O. No. 44. You will arrest the offenders and send them to Raleigh to be “detained in Military confinement until such time as a proper justicial tribunal may be ready and willing to try them.”
Very respectfully, A.G. Br[illegible], Bvt. Col. and Supt.
Jacob Barnes — perhaps, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Hardy Barnes, 50; wife Mary, 49; and children Alfred, 21, Riley, 24, Jacob, 22, Isaac, 19, Warren, 17, Zilly, 12, Mary, 9, and Wade, 6.
“Genl Grants G.O. No. 44” — General Order 44 directed division and department commanders in the former Confederate states “to arrest all persons who have been or may hereafter be charged with the commission of crimes and offenses against officers, agents, citizens, and inhabitants of the United States, irrespective of color, in cases where the civil authorities have failed, neglected, or are unable to arrest and bring such parties to trial, and to detain them in military confinement until such time as a proper judicial tribunal may be ready and willing to try them.” General Orders, No. 44, Headquarters of the Army, Adjutant General’s Office, 6 July 1866, Orders & Circulars, series 44, Adjutant General’s Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.
North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro(subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org
While director of the University of North Carolina Press, W.T. Couch also worked as a part-time official of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, serving as assistant and associate director for North Carolina (1936-1937) and as director for the southern region (1938-1939). The Federal Writers’ Project Papers are housed at U.N.C.’s Southern Historical Collection and include Couch’s correspondence and life histories of about 1,200 individuals collected by F.W.P. members. At least two African-American residents of Wilson, Georgia Crockett Aiken and William Batts, were memorialized in this way.
Folder 550 contains the transcript of the interview with William Batts, titled “The stake of life.” Batts, a tobacco packer, lived at 804 Stronach Avenue. [The 1940 city directory described Stronach Alley as “(formerly Young’s Line) — from a point east of North Av at Adams, north to Tilghman rd.”]
Batts had worked as a packer for ten seasons and enjoyed the work. He was six feet tall and muscular and had farmed on rented land before working in the warehouse.
Batts’ family were sharecroppers, working to keep half the crop they produced. As he reached adulthood and realized how little money his parents received for their toil, he determined to find different work. Batts had wanted an education, but his father did not believe in the value of schooling needed him to work. “He learned us how to treat white folks and let our education stop at dat.” In response to his father’s view that literacy was for white people, Batts said, “… if de n*gger could do his own figuring de white folks ‘ud have to figure harder, too.” His first job was as a section hand for Norfolk & Southern Railroad, which he quit to drive a dray.
From there, Batts went to work at a wagon company. (Almost certainly Hackney Wagon.) After he was laid off, he got a job at a tobacco warehouse. The work was seasonal — August to November — and he had been paid $11.88 a week for the ten years he had worked there as a packer, unloading tobacco from farmer’s wagons and placing it in baskets in the warehouse. The odor of tobacco sickened him at first, but he could not quit because his wife was not working and the dollar-a-day he made doing farmwork during the summer did not go far.
Batts worked 7 o’clock A.M. to 6 P.M. five days a week and a half-day on Sunday. When the season ended, he hustled to find more work to supplement his wife’s work washing clothes, “cooking when company come to de white folks” and other occasional work. “when the spring opened up,” there was farm work — setting our tobacco plants, chopping cotton, barning tobacco, and picking cotton kept him “in a regular strut.” In winter, he dug ditches, sawed wood in a sawmill, and cleared land.
“I reckon you’d say I ain’t got no regular job, but I work pretty regular, ‘specially all de months besides December and January.” His wife worked stemming tobacco for about $8 a week. Still, they had trouble saving money. “We had to buy some furniture and clothes and keep up our life insurance and our rent and lights.” The couple was fortunate that their water was included in their rent — “We can take a bath every day if we want it …”
Their son and daughter no longer lived with them. Batts missed them, especially for help when his wife felt poorly because of high blood pressure.
He was seldom seriously ill and felt bad for her and tried to help. She would probably have to quit working. “I reckon I can support us ’cause we don’t owe no debts.” They bought their furniture for cash, and paid groceries ($15/month) and rent ($10/month) in cash. They had life insurance and had set aside a “little,” but feared running into bad luck. Batts dreamed of buying a small farm and a mule. “I think dat is the de stake of life.” A farm could provide security, something he had not thought much of until the stock market crash of 1929.
Batts’ wife was a Christian when they married, but it took her five years to convert him. When she “made [him] see the point,” he joined a Disciples Church. It brought him great comfort.
Batts introduced the interviewer to his wife, who was in the kitchen peeling potatoes. The room contained newly painted furniture, a four-burner oil stove, a linoleum rug, and “snowy white” linens. Mrs. Batts explained that Batts had gotten the idea to paint the furniture green from an issue of Better Homes and Gardens. He had wanted to paint the walls after the owner of the house refused, but she counseled him to paint the things they could take with them if they had to leave the house.
Nursey Batts longed for her own house that she could “fix and mess over” and believed the Lord would provide. She came from a large family with hard-working parents who denied their own needs in their struggle to provide for their children. Only six of their 14 lived to adulthood.
Nursey Batts believed few white folks believed in ghosties or witches or conjuring, and black people were “outgrowing” it. She opined on the origins of conjure. She also had this opinion: “Most n*ggers feels like dey is imposed on just ’cause dey is n*ggers, but lemme tell you, a good honest n*gger needn’t be skeered of living. De white folks has always been good to me and [William.]”
While waiting for an iron to heat, Nursey Batts showed the interviewer her parlor, which was neatly furnished and decorated.
“A body never knows when a important person will drop in on him and everything will most likely be like de devil’s had a fit on it. I hate for company to catch me, as de saying is, with my breeches down.” Still, she downplayed the appearance of the room. She had crocheted the bedspread from tobacco twine in a pattern she got from a woman who lived out in the country. She was proud of the chifforobe her husband had bought her for Christmas.
Nursey Batts was hopeful that she and William Batts would get their farm and thought another term for Franklin Roosevelt would be helpful. “I wish dat we could vote for him, but [William] can’t read or write so he can’t vote. I can read a little, but I don’t know nothing ’bout de Constitution of the United States.”
On 7 July 1915, Will Batts, 23, of Wilson, son of Morris and Nancy Batts of Taylor township, married Nurcy Hill, 22, of Wilson, daughter of Robert Hill, at Graham Woodard‘s in Wilson township. Missionary Baptist minister Jeremiah Scarboro performed the ceremony in the presence of Jason Farmer, Bessie Farmer, and Mena Littlejohn.
In 1917, Will Batts registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 15 December 1889 in Wilson County; lived on Vance Street; and was a butler for N.L. Finch.
In the 1920 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Batts Nursey (c) dom 601 Warren; Batts William (c) drayman h 601 Warren
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: a 804 Stronach Alley, Will Batts, 46, public school janitor; wife Nursey, 36, tobacco factory stemmer; and brother-in-law Freeman Hill, 29, tobacco factory office boy.
In 1942, Freeman Hill registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 25 November 1900 in Wilson; lived in 623 East Viola; his contact was Nursey Batts, 722 Stronach Avenue; and worked for Wilson Tobacco Company, South Railroad Street.
Will Batts died 24 February 1947 in Wilson of congestive heart failure. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 December 1890 in Wilson County to Morris Batts and Nancy Bynum; was married to Nursey Batts; was the janitor at Charles L. Coon High; and lived at 722 Stronach Avenue.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 404 Walnut Street, John Parks, 28, tobacco factory worker; wife Emeline, 26; children Beatrice, 7, John Jr., 6, Ida, 3, and Mark, 1.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Mercer, owned, John Parks, 59; wife Emeline H., 32; and children Beatrice, 17, John H., 16, Ida D., 13, Helen G., 7, Douglas R., 5, and Mark A., 11.
Emmaline Parks died 5 March 1938 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in August 1898 in Clayton, North Carolina, to Mark Bobbitt and Dora Arrey [Avery]; worked as a laborer; and was married. John Parks was informant.
Here is the original complaint from Violet Blount to the Freedmen’s Bureau about her grandsons’ unlawful apprenticeship, chronicled here. Blount was also the maternal grandmother of Samuel H. Vick.
Wilson N.C., May 31, 67
Freedmens Bureau Goldsboro N.C.
I respectfully wish to inform you that my grandsons Oscar & Marcus Blount (16 & 17 years of age) have been without my or their knowledge or consent bound to Mr. B.H. Blount, their former owner, while myself and their younger brother age seven years have to be supported by my son in law Daniel Vick. I am seventy years old and do think that common justice requires these boys to work at least in part for me & their younger brother as their mother is dead and their father does not claim to work for him. Mr. B.H. Blount once agreed to give the boys up to me but still holds on to them saying that his son G.W. Blount Esq. had arranged it for them to stay where they are till they are free.
Most Respectfully, Violet Blount
North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro(subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters Received Jan 1867-Feb 1868.
I posted here of five cartes de visitephotographs taken at Francis M. Winstead’s studio in Wilson, most likely in the early 1890s. I had received slightly pixelated copies of the photos from a woman who had assembled a large collection of photos of African-Americans.
Last week, Warren Milteer gave me a heads up about a photo listed at eBay. I purchased it, and it arrived today. I didn’t realize it til then, but it’s the original of one of the copies I received some years ago. The seller told me that it was just one of thousands of photographs he was liquidating for an estate. I intend to keep an eye out for the others.
In the meantime, here, in their glory, are two of the children of Presbyterian minister Leavy J. Melton and Rebecca Canty Melton.
On 29 October 2019, I donated this photograph to Wilson’s Freeman Round House and Museum.
On 12 July 1893, Levi J. Melton, 29, obtained a license to marry Rebecca Canty, 23, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
In the 1900 census of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: minister L.J. Melton, 36; wife Rebeca, 29; and children Marion, 6, Hally, 4, Onna Bell, 2, and Robert J., 1.
In 1917, Marion Campbell Melton registered for the World War I in Charlotte. Per his registration card, he lived at 811 East 7th Street, Charlotte; was born 11 May 1894 in Wilson, N.C.; was a student at Biddle University, Charlotte, and a candidate for the ministry; and was single.
Levi J. Melton died 23 May 1941 at his home at 623 East Seventh Street, Charlotte. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 December 1864 in Mechanicsville, South Carolina; was a widower; and was a minister.
In 1942, Marion Campbell Melton registered for the World War II draft in New York, New York. Per his registration card, he was born 11 May 1894 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 207 West 147th Street, Apartment 2; worked for Grand Central Terminal, 42nd and Park Avenue; his contact was wife Beatrice Melton.
Hallie M. Mayberry died 6 January 1944 at her home at 2217 Douglas Street, Charlotte, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 18 July 1896 in Wilson to Rev. Levi J. Melton and Rebecca Canton; she worked as a teacher; and she was married to Rev. W.R. Mayberry.
Ona Bell Sanders died 19 October 1961 in James Island, South Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 20 August 1900 in Wilson to Levy Melton and Rebecca Canty; was married to Rev. Marion J. Sanders; and was a teacher-principal.
Bureau of Refugees Freedmen & Abd Lands, Sub Dist Goldsboro May 7/ 1867
Mr. John Perkins, Black Creek NC
Sir, Information has been received at this office that you seized one Bbl [barrel] and one stand of corn valued at $6.67 2/3 the property of Isaac Winsted to liquidate a debt due you from his father. You will please send to this office a written statement of the matter
Very Respectfully &c
O.E. Compton, Major USA Sub Asst Com
Pikeville N.C., June 1st 1867
O.E. Compton, Goldsboro N.C.
Sir, I have only yesterday 31st May received the within from you ishued 7th Inst. in reply I have to say that I rented or leased some land to Riched Winstead the father of Isaac & Prince Winsted. he Richard bout provisions of me in time that he was making the corn and pledged the corn to pay the amount at harves but before he paid me all he turned over or pretendidly give the corn to his Sones, but he had pledged me the corn to pay the amount, so I did not really take any of Isaac’s corn in his possession &c I can prove the above to be true by two witnesses.
Written by R.W. Perkins by request Yours respectfully, John Perkins
John Perkins — Perkins, born in 1844, was a Confederate veteran, having enlisted in Company F, North Carolina 61st Infantry Regiment in 1862.
Isaac Winstead —
In the 1870 census of Pikeville township, Wayne County: Richard Winstead, 80, farm laborer; wife Phillis, 57; and children Frank, 12, Anna, 6, and Isaac, 28.
On 27 April 1873, Isaac Winsted, 30, of Wilson County, married Caroline Batchelor, 30, of Nash County, in Taylors.
In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Isaac Winstead, 38; wife Caroline, 38; children Lizzie, 12, and Jane, 8; and mother Phillis, 70.
In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, farm laborer Isaac Winstead, 79, and wife Calline, 75.
Isaac Winstead died 7 April 1920 in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was married to Caroline Winstead; was 78 years old; his father was Dick Winstead; and he was a tenant farmer for J.S. Thompson. Informant was E.E. Winstead. (A duplicate certificate shows: Isaac Winstead died 7 April 1920 in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was married to Caroline Winstead; was about 70 years old; was born in Wilson County; and he was a farmer for J.S. Thompson was informant.)
North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro(subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters Received Jan 1867-Feb 1868;North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org
Your favor of April 2nd is to hand and contents noted. In reply I have to state that the two girls, named Clara Ann and Emeline are in my employment, they having hired themselves to me, and having entered into a written contract to work with me on my farm for the balance of the year. The contracts, which I hold, were drawn up by a Notary Public, and signed by the girls. The girls agreed to work with me of their own accord, and part of their wages have been paid them.
I will be in Goldsboro on Saturday next, and will call and see you, and bring the contracts.
Yours truly Jno. B. Carrow
P.S. If I fail to come up on Saturday I will try and come on Monday next if possible. J.B.C.
North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro(subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters received, Jan 1867-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org
There’s a small liberal arts college in Wilson, once known as Atlantic Christian College, now as Barton. It was founded in 1902 by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on a campus just southeast of Grabneck. The actress Ava Gardner attended the school, but did not graduate. In her era, and into my lifetime, Atlantic Christian admitted only white students. Those students produced a yearbook called The Pine Knot, filled each year with cheerful images of the people and events deemed most memorable. In the 1935 edition, the editors saw fit to insert between the campus athletes and the advertisements this page, labeled “Dark Side of the Campus”:
The men and women depicted are not named or otherwise commented upon. They are, presumably, the housekeepers and custodians, cooks and gardeners, mechanics and porters who kept Atlantic Christian College running and eased life for its merry undergraduates. I cannot identify them, but I can honor their service and memory by recognizing them individually. If you know any of these Depression-era employees of A.C.C., please let me know.