Month: December 2019

The estates of Jonathan and Elizabeth Ward Ellis.

Jonathan Ellis, son of William and Unity Ellis, died intestate in Wilson County about 1857, and his wife Elizabeth Ward Ellis about 1858. Their heirs were their granddaughters Susan Bynum Bynum, Louisa Bynum Best, Elizabeth Bynum, Sarah Bynum and Virginia Bynum, whose mother Spicy Ellis had married Reuben Bynum.

In the 1859 Fall Term of Wilson County Superior Court, the clerk issued an order directing William Barnes Jr., Washington Barnes and Edwin Barnes to divide Jonathan Ellis’ enslaved people Ruben, Jacob, Ephraim, Tom, Hannah, Hester, Adeline, Bob, Lamm, Blount, Lucy, Gilford, Norfleet, Isaac, Patience, Maria, Violet, Job, Mark, Harriet, Tiller and Alley into one-fourth shares. Son-in-law Joseph J. Bynum was administrator of Ellis’ estate, and his foot-dragging led to a petition for division by his sisters-in-law. (It is not clear to me why Susan Bynum was not entitled to a share.) The commissioners reported allotting to William and Louisa Best enslaved people Blount, Mark, Tom and Harriet and her three children Adeline, Lucy and Manervy, valued at $4100. The remaining men, women and children were held as “common stock” for minors Elizabeth, Sarah and Virginia Bynum.

Meanwhile, also during the 1859 Fall Term of Wilson County Superior Court, the clerk issued an order directing the same men to divide Elizabeth Ellis’ enslaved people Guilford, Amos, Beckey, Jim, Jesse, Ben, “2 Lettuces,” Ellen, Rose, Rachael, Hewell, Isham, Sam, Amanda and Harriet into one-fifth shares.


The Barneses filed a report on the division as directed. They allotted Jim and Rose, valued at $1900, to Susan and her husband Joseph Bynum; Jesse, Lettice, Lettice and Gilford, valued at $2050, to Louisa and her husband William Best; and the remainder were held in common for minor heirs Betsey, Sally and Virginia.


Elizabeth Ellis Estate Records, Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],




The obituary of Herman P. Lucas, Sr., 103.


Herman P. Lucas Sr., 103, of Wilson, died Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. Funeral will be 2 p.m. Sunday at Contending for the Faith Church Ministries. Burial will follow in Rest Haven Cemetery. Visitation will be 3 p.m. Saturday at Stevens Funeral Home. Arrangements are by Stevens Funeral Home., 6 December 2019.


I am not entirely sure, but I believe Herman P. Lucas Sr. to have been the son of Robert and Etta Howard Lucas. Corrections requested.

In the 1920 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Bob Lucas, 30; wife Etta, 30; and children Nannie, 10, Ella, 8, Addie, 6, Herman, 4, and Lillie, 1.

In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farm laborer Robert Lucas, 42; wife Etta, 41; children Ella, 18, Addie, 16, Herman, 14, Lillie, 12, James, 10, and Willie, 8; and grandchildren Doretha, 3, and Chaner, 3 months.

On 23 November 1934, Herman Lucas, 21, of Wilson County, son of Bob and Etta Lucas, and Mamie Lee Brockington, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of John and Mary Brockington, in Nashville, North Carolina. Witnesses were D. Elbert Williams, Addie Williams and Silas Wright, all of Wilson.

Herman Lucas registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 27 February 1915 in Wilson; lived at R.F.D. #1, Wilson; was married to Mamie Lucas; and worked for Mollie Howard. [If this is in fact Herman Lucas’ correct birth date, he was 104 at his death, not 103.]

The last will and testament of Coffield Ellis.

On 28 January 1854, Coffield Ellis of Edgecombe County penned a will that included these provisions:

  • to wife Penninah Ellis, enslaved people Minny, Lewis, Robbin, Jacob, Young Minny, Turner, Jane, Laurence, Bright, Chaney, Greene, Mary, Jonas, Charlott, Frances, Robert, Ellen, Annah, Calvin, Cherry, Faroby, Littleton, Bryant and George. After Penninah’s death, Robert and Charlotte were to go to son William Ellis.
  • if “at any time during her life [wife Penninah] became tired of keeping any of the said negroes she may call three disinterested men together and point out to them said such of said negroes as she wishes to get clear of,” to be divided between their daughters Sally, wife of William Barnes, and Louisa, wife of James Barnes.
  • to son William Ellis, the right to take any of Coffield Ellis’ slaves to use, when water level is low, to complete a canal in Toisnot Swamp
  • “if my faithful servant Old Miney shall survive my wife,” she shall be able to choose a master from his three children
  • to daughter Sally, wife of William Barnes, an enslaved woman named Gilly
  • to daughter Louisa, wife of James Barnes, an enslaved woman named Caroline

Coffield Ellis Will, Edgecombe County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],


Florence Williams Maryland’s 103rd birthday.


Wilson Daily Times, 30 August 1995.

Mrs. Maryland passed away on 4 September 1995, less than a week after this news photo was published.


Jonas Maryland, 23, of Toisnot, married Florence Williams, 19, of Toisnot, on 4 October 1911 at Town Creek School house. Missionary Baptist minister J.J. Thompson performed the ceremony.

In 1918, Jonas Maryland registered for the World War I draft in Edgecombe County. Per his registration card, he was born 4 April 1878; resided at R.F.D. 1, Sharpsburg; was a farm laborer for Jessie Williams; and his nearest relative was Florence Maryland.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on the Wilson and Rocky Mount Road, farmer Jonah Maryland, 40; wife Vinie, 22; and children Clarence, 8, Willis, 5, Allie, 4, Fannie, 3, and Annie, 7 months.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on the Rocky Mount and Town Creek Road, Janos Maryland, 53, widower, house carpenter; and children Clarence, 19, Ernest, 17, Fannie, 15, Addie B., 13, Ruth, 11, and Essie, 8.

In the 1940 census of Bronx, New York: Elizabeth Hayes, 33, domestic for private family; daughter Ethel Hayes, 6; and partner Florence Maryland, 44, domestic for private family. The women were born in North Carolina; Ethel, in New York.

Shotgun houses restored.

Back during the summer, I enjoyed a long chat with Monica T. Davis about her master’s thesis, which examines the significance of shotgun houses (traditionally known locally as “endway houses) in the East Wilson community. What a pleasure to read this 6 December 2019 Wilson Times article about her efforts to restore these houses to usefulness.

Shotgun houses set for restoration.


By Brie Handgraaf,

“Tiny houses have gained popularity in recent years, but two Wilson natives are working to restore several shotgun houses, which made the efficient use of a small floorplan cool more than a century ago.

“’When the East Wilson Historic District was nominated in 1988, there were 301 shotgun houses in Wilson and now there are only 88 left,’ said Monica T. Davis. ‘They were built when the tobacco industry was flourishing because shotgun houses could be built compactly with so many on a lot, which was good for the working-class people of the time.’

“Davis, a 2005 graduate of Fike High School, is a graduate student in interior architecture and historic preservation at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She recently teamed up with Antonio M. Jenkins, owner of Tee O’s Luxury Renovations, to purchase five properties and two undeveloped lots on Ash Street and Narrow Way.

“The duo started working on plans to bring back the shotgun floorplans and restore some of the homes’ original features. However, when they talked to city officials about separating two of the parcels, they learned two of the houses on Narrow Way had outstanding permits for demolition.

“Davis and Jenkins got to work, presenting staff with a scope of work and getting a grace period to make progress and save the homes from demolition. Since then, work has begun on the first of the houses at 132 Ash St., which was built in 1910 and has one bedroom.

“’The lawn was very unkept [sic] and you couldn’t event see the shotgun house because of the overgrowth, so we cut that down,’ Davis said. ‘We had some lead-based issues on the front of the house, so that was taken care of. The addition on the back of the home has been started and we have gutted the inside to restore features like the original tongue-and-groove flooring and a beadboard ceiling. All that was covered up by previous owners, so we’re working on revitalizing that.’

“Jenkins, who graduated from Beddingfield in 2006, said he expects each house to take a few months to complete. Davis was awarded the Atlantic World Research Network Graduate Student Research Grant that will help with the effort and 10 students in a preservation class from UNC-G will pitch in this May.

“’They are going to restore some original windows,’ Davis said. ‘They’ll clean some brick pillars and put in some old salvaged wood doors. We’ll also have a demonstration for them on how to install plaster.’

“The owner of Rinascita Designs said she’s worked with a restoration specialist who is confident the restoration work will qualify for tax credits.

“’The renovations will cost between $25,000 and $30,000,’ Jenkins said. ‘The first one appraised at $51,000 and after the repairs, I would say it’ll be valued around $150,000.’

“The plan is to rent the houses for the first five years to comply with the tax credits, but ultimately Davis said she wants to sell them.”

“’We created a nonprofit organization called Rebirthing Our Cultural Kington [sic] Foundation with the goal to teach African Americans in this district and throughout Wilson about homeownership,’ she said. ‘Many of these have been rental properties for over 40 years, but we want to encourage people to be financially literate and work toward owning a home.’

“Davis also hopes her work helps educate people on the history of east Wilson and spurs others to invest in the area.

“’If the people who are living in that neighborhood see we’re from here and have hope, maybe it’ll help change their mindset and improve the historic district,’” she said.”

[Update: More on the renovation of East Wilson shotgun houses from WTVD, ABC 11, a Raleigh television station.]

Letters to Santa Claus.

In early December 1948, the Daily Times published letters to Santa from William B. “Billy” Davis Jr. and Diana Davis (now Myers), children of William B. and Hazel Ingram Myers.


Wilson Daily Times, 4 December 1948.

The children wrote again a few days later with revised lists. (Only the request for a baby brother remained constant.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 December 1948.

The Oleanders Quartette performs.



Wilson Daily Times, 8 December 1937.

This was probably the Oleander Quartet, comprised of George Boyd, Cecil Murray, Howard Scott, George Hall, and pianist Elijah Lamar, which performed blues and spirituals on radio, mostly as a backup to Leadbelly, the legendary folk and blues singer. (Notably, the group backed him on a recording of “Pick a Bale of Cotton” circa 1935.)

The will and estates of William and Unity Ellis.

Per Powell and Powell, Wilson County Founding Families (2009), published by Wilson County Genealogical Society, William Ellis was born about 1740 in what was then Chowan County, North Carolina. He married Unity Dixon and settled in an area of Edgecombe County that is now Wilson County. His and Unity Ellis’ children were Willie, William, Coffield, Dixon, John, Gray, Jonathan and Spicy Ellis.

William Ellis made out his will on Christmas Eve 1812 in Edgecombe County:

  • to wife Unity Ellis, a life interest in the plantation on which lived lying at the fork of Mill or Panthers Branch and Toisnot Swamp, to revert to son Willie Ellis at her death. Also, Unity received life interests in enslaved people Arthur, Jonas, Isham, Belford, Lisle, Pat, Mimah, Treasy and Hester.
  • to son Coffield Ellis, a grist mill and land lying on the south side of Mill Branch, as well as slaves Sam and Harry, who were available to Unity Ellis during her lifetime or until Coffield turned 21
  • to son Dixon Ellis, the plantation on which William formerly lived on White Oak Swamp and a second parcel of land, as well as slave Giddeon
  • to son John Ellis, the plantation on which John lived on the main road from Tarboro to Stanton’s Bridge [roughly modern N.C. Highways 111 and 222], containing 149 acres, as well as a second one-hundred-acre tract and an enslaved man named Jack
  • to son Gray Ellis, if he had heirs, a plantation near Tarboro containing 125 acres (to go to son Jonathan Ellis if Gray had no lawful children) and an enslaved man named Bob
  • to son Jonathan Ellis, a plantation on the south side of the main road from Tarboro to Greenville, containing 100 acres, and an enslaved man named Guilford
  • to daughter Spicey Ellis, a plantation on the south side of Toisnot Swamp on the main road from Stanton’s Bridge to Tarboro, containing 100 acres, and slaves Hannah, Byhuel, Chaney and Beedy
  • to son William, an enslaved man named Jim; and
  • to son Willie, slaves Anthony and Mol, who were available to Unity Ellis during her lifetime or until Willie turned 21

Unity Ellis died in 1817, before the settlement of William Ellis’ estate. Her share of William’s enslaved estate was divided thus: to son John, Arthur ($525) and Pat ($5); to son Dixon, Jonas ($712); to son Coffield, Belfour ($712); for son Willie, Isham ($636); for son Jonathan, Mima, Sary and Clary ($888); and to son William, Trease ($600) and Hester ($350). Lisle, presumably, died between 1812 and 1818, and Sarah and Clara were born to Mima during the same period.


In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Isom Ellis, 67; wife Patience, 62; and son (grandson?) Jacob, 18, farm laborer.

Perhaps, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Guilford Ellis, 40, farm laborer; wife Pleasance, 29; and children Ned, 16, Cherry, 14, Jesse, 12, Arabella, 11, and Sarah, 4.

Will of William Ellis (1812); Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Why should not the girl be returned to her mother?

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No. 55        Bureau of Ref. Freedman & Abd. Lands, Office Asst. Supt. Goldsboro, N.C. March 27 1867

Mr. Organ, Stantonsburg N.C.


Complaint has been made, that you keep Betsey Homes, aged 15 years & daughter of Julia Homes, without the consent of said Julia & after you promised the mother to bring the girl to Petersburg, Va. — You will please report to this office without delay, if Betsey is bound to you by any offices of the Bureau or if any other objection exists, why the girl should not be returned to her mother.

Very Respectfully, Your obd servant,

Hannibal D. Norton, [illegible], Asst. Supt. Bur. of R.F.& A. Lds.


“Mr. Organ” was almost surely John Organ, 38, the Virginia-born bookkeeper who appears with wife Anna and children in the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County. Only the youngest child, four-month-old Ellen, had been born in North Carolina, indicating that the Organs were recent transplants to Wilson County — apparently having dragged Betsey Holmes with them. Incredibly, her mother Julia had managed to track her across state lines and demand that the Freedmen’s Bureau intervene to secure her return to her family.

See also the Fisher brothers, likewise kidnapped from Virginia.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters sent, vols. 1-2, February 1867-February 1868,