Month: February 2020

Studio shots, no. 141: Alex Creech.

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Alex “Boy” Creech (1909-1980).

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on New Wilson and Raleigh Road, farmer Right Creech, 48; wife Sallie, 37; and children Willie, 19, James O., 17, Maomie, 18, Luther, 14, Lillie May, 11, Alex, 9, Elizabeth, 8, Beulah, 6, Gertrude, 3, and David, 1.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Wright Creech, 56; wife Sallie A., 47; and children Lillie M., 22, Elex, 20, Elizabeth, 18, Gertrude, 13, David, 11, Sallie, 8, Genava, 6, Addie L., 3.

On 7 April 1934, Alex Creech, 24, of Wilson, son of Wright and Sallie Creech, married Anna Ham, 22, of Lucama, son of Louis and Nelie Ham, at the courthouse in Smithfield, Johnston County. Luther Creech applied for the license.

Thanks to Edith Jones Garnett for sharing this photo of her uncle.

Auction place.

“For hundreds of years, enslaved people were bought and sold in America. Today most of the sites of this trade are forgotten.” Thus began the 12 February 2020 installation of The 1619 Project, the New York Times‘ initiative that aims to reframe American history by centering African-Americans in the narrative. Wrote Dr. Anne C. Bailey, author of The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History, “Auctions and the sales of enslaved people could be found near or along the major ports where enslaved Africans landed, including Richmond, Va.; New Orleans; Savannah, Ga.; and Charleston, S.C. But the enslaved were also sold in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and at New York City’s 18th-century open-air Meal Market on Wall Street. The sales took place all over the growing nation — in taverns, town squares and train stations, on riverbanks and by the side of the road. Before being sold, the enslaved were often kept in pens or private jails, sometimes for days or weeks. Then they were sold directly from the pens or marched to a nearby auction. Thousands of sales took place each year, right in the hearts of American cities and towns, on the steps of courthouses and city halls.”

In order to create “a more equitable map of American history,” an afterword to Bailey’s piece asks us to help fill in the record by reporting known sites at which enslaved African-Americans were auctioned. I have done so.

One of the earliest posts at Black Wide-Awake displays the 1856 report of Benjamin Bynum to a Wilson County court of the proceeds of the sale of Cate and Sherard at the White Oak tollhouse on the Plank Road. James R. Barnes had bought them for $450.20. I don’t know the exact location of the tollhouse, but it is reasonable to believe that it stood near the spot where the Plank Road between Wilson and Greenville crossed the Buck Branch of White Oak Swamp just west of Saratoga.

Highway 264-Alternate now follows the path of the Plank Road. Here was White Oak Swamp from the Highway 264-Alternate bridge yesterday.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2020.

Mishaps and mayhem, no. 1.

Causes of death (or, just as often, manners of death) listed on death certificates in the early twentieth century could be surprisingly detailed or confoundedly vague. Then, as now, most people died of disease, but fatal injuries — accidental and intentional — were distressingly common, as seen below.

  • Atkinson, Lafayett. Died 19 March 1933, Spring Hill township, Wilson County; was married to Etta Atkinson; was 48 years old; was born in Wilson County to Handy Atkinson and Susan Barnes; and worked as a farmer. “Stabbed in heart — murdered with knife”

  • Atkinson, Stephen Clyde. Died 9 January 1923, Spring Hill township, Wilson County; single; born 26 March 1899 to S.T. Atkinson and Zillie Barnes; worked as a farmer; buried in Boyetts cemetery. “Embolism (cardiac) — Homicide — Gunshot wound thigh.”

  • Exum, Leslie. Died 4 July 1934, Wilson; married to Beulah Exum; resided at 304 North Reid; age 27 years, 9 months; taxi driver; born in Wayne County to Willie Exum and Ada Artis; informant, Beulah Exum. “Homicide — Hit over stomach with Brick.”

  • Fields, Peter. Died 5 May 1923, Cross Roads township, Wilson County; single; about 33 years old; worked as a tenant farmer for W.J. Scott; born Wilson County to Daniel Hodge and Chritchania Allen; buried in Lamm Cemetery. “Murdered by Walter Bethea. Death was instantly.”

  • Gaston, Fred. Died 17 November 1916, Wilson township, Wilson County; single; 27 years old; farm hand; born in Elm City to William Gaston of Virginia and Marriah Battle of North Carolina; informant, Elmer Gaston. “Injury of the brain, Homicidal — Blow with flue in head.”

  • Hawkins, Ernest. Died 7 March 1923, Toisnot township, Wilson County; married to Sulester Batts; about 20 years old; worked as a tenant farmer for H.C. Crumpler; born in Nash County to Lola Maryland. “Shot by County Sherrif Stilling whiskey.”

  • Hinnant, Cleophus. Died 8 December 1923, Cross Roads township, Wilson County; married Gessie Hinnant; born 24 March 1902 in Wilson County to Josiah Hinnant and Victoria Wilder; buried in Hinnant graveyard. “Was murdered. Shot to death by a man named Turner Williamson.”

  • Johnson, Herbert. Died 20 July 1923, Wilson township, Wilson County; married to Winnie Johnson; age 40; farmer for Petway & Anderson; born in Duplin County to Joseph Johnson and Rania Pearson; buried in Colman cemetery, Wilson. “No Doctor. Shot Gun. Cornes Inquest. Kill by gun shot. — Homicide.”

  • Perkins, Columbus. Died 2 January 1918, Saratoga township, Wilson County; was married; was 35 to 40 years old; and was a farmer/laborer. “Shot through head by unknown party or parties — Dr. S.H. Crocker held the inquest Stantonsburg — Shot to death by Walter Hopkins.”

  • Taylor, George. Died 4 May 1918, Wilson, Wilson County; married to Maggie Taylor; aged about 44; carpenter; born Wilson County to Jordan Taylor and Winnie [last name unknown]; buried in Wilson cemetery. “Shot by Police & killed while under arrest.”

Harry Clark’s farm.

The city’s response to my request for documents about Vick cemetery yielded an unexpected bit of information. One of the plat maps revealed a property across Lane Street from Vick that the city’s Cemetery Trustees purchased from Augustus S. Clark of Cordele, Georgia, in 1953 for $4400. Partially visible next to it is a parcel marked “Bethel.”

The deed for the Augustus Clark parcel describes it as:

“The public road leading from Ward’s Boulevard pass [sic] Rest Haven Cemetery” is the western leg of what is now called Lane Street. “The road leading to Highway #264” is the eastern leg. Harry Clark was Augustus S. Clark’s father, and a 1921 plat map of his farm is annotated here:

In short, the southeastern half of Rest Haven cemetery was once the northeastern half of Harry Clark’s farm. In 1953, the Cemetery Commission purchased three tracts from the Clark family for the cemetery’s expansion.

On 23 January 1923, the same day A.S. Clark sold his share of his father’s estate, his niece Flora Clark Bethel and her husband Wilton Bethel sold Tract No. 6 to the Cemetery Trustees. (Flora C. Bethel had inherited the tract from her father, John H. Clark.)

On 5 June 1953, pursuant to a suit filed by the Cemetery Trustees against William H. Clark‘s heirs (widow Mary Clark, Thomas Clark and wife Sarah, A.S. Clark, Flora Clark Bethel and husband Wilton, A.S. Gaston, Theodore Gaston, Ralph Gaston and wife Dora, Cicero Gaston, George Gaston and unnamed wife, Russell Golding and unnamed wife, Flora Golding Parks and unnamed husband, and Harry Jenkins and wife Bertha), Tract No. 5 of the Clark farm was condemned. The heirs were awarded $3600, split according to their interests.

The road separating Tracts 1, 2, 3, and 4 from 5, 6, and 7 is now Lane Street, as is the road extending toward Martin Luther King Parkway from the dead-end of the first road. Tract No. 4 belonged to the heirs of Ella Clark Gaston Hinton, who died in 1947. The small black square in this tract shows the location of the Clark “home-house” (as the house recognized as the family seat is called in Wilson-speak.)

Here’s this area now:

The old path of Lane Street is clearly visible running alongside the softball field toward Stantonsburg Road. The electrical substation that the city lopped off A.S. Clark’s tract is the square of cleared land off Lane Street mid-frame. Vick cemetery is the field below Lane Street closest to the right edge of the frame. My best estimate is that the southwest half of Harry Clark’s farm stretched roughly from today’s Snowden Drive to the former path of Lane Street. The northeast half encompassed the portion of Rest Haven in which the sections widen over to Lane Street.

Plat Book 1, page 220; Deed Book 489, page 439, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; Deed Book 489, page 437; Deed Book 499, page 353, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson. Aerial view courtesy of Bing Maps.

Joe Simms and Susie win a blue ribbon.

Wanda Simms Page shared this heartwarming story of her father’s days as a proud young farmer.

Joe Louis Simms was born and raised up in Wilson County, North Carolina, four miles east of Black Creek. He and his brother attended the all-black, two-room Minchew Elementary School and did work in the 4-H Club alongside Raymond Hall, Daniel Green, and other neighborhood kids. Joe had long loved animals, and in 1949 he took on a project—raising and training a competition calf. His goals, simple and ambitious: to have the absolute best-looking and prettiest calf and to win the blue ribbon.

“Same as plenty of others in the area, Joe’s family already kept cows, and when one gave birth to a dark red female calf, he knew she was the one. As was their practice, he named her Susie, and she quickly showed herself to be gentle and a good breed. He made sure she always had her fill of green grass and dry hay. He washed her coat to a shine with fresh water from a bucket and trained her to walk beside him on a rope so that she wouldn’t be scared. She, of course, stayed with the cows, but his eyes never strayed far from her.

“When the day of the competition came, Joe and Susie set off walking beside the three-mile dirt road leading to Minchew. They had no other transportation. Joe carried a stick to protect Susie from the mean dogs they’d meet, though he didn’t think she’d be scared—their family had mean dogs too and she was used to them. They stopped along the road every now and then, as they’d practiced, but the walk still didn’t take so long.

“When they got to the school, Joe realized that it was, in fact, a pretty big day. The yard was full of people and calves. Folks, including Joe’s mom, had canned lots of food and made other preparations. A bunch of things were going on. As was the case with the school, everyone at and in the competition was black. All black. White people didn’t really deal with them—not like that—and Joe knew he wouldn’t even have had a fair shot at the blue ribbon if they did. Eventually, they found and fell in line with the rest of the boys and calves.

“After a while, Carter Foster, Wilson County’s second Negro Agricultural Extension Agent, began the judging. Joe knew Foster from his visits to teach them at the school and because he sometimes worked with Joe’s dad on their farm. In 1945, Foster and Jane Boyd, the Negro Home Demonstration Agent, had been mentioned in the Wilson Daily Times for their “wonderful work among the Negroes in the area” and for “working quietly with little publicity and no brass bands.” Their salaries were reported as less than half that of J.O. Anthony and Lois Rainwater, their white counterparts.

“Foster judged each calf, and at the end of that day Joe and Susie had the blue ribbon, making him one of the first ones at the school to win a prize like that with an animal. Joe felt very, very good. Susie, if she was aware that something had happened, maybe felt good too. When it was time to make a picture, Foster pulled them away from the rest of the group. Just before the camera clicked, Joe threw his arm around Susie’s neck and gave a big smile. Eventually, they headed back down the road they came in on, ribbon in hand.

“Joe’s family made a milk cow out of Susie after she got grown and kept her for some years. Joe went on to do other projects in 4-H, including making things out of wood, tobacco-grading contests (his team won third prize at the state fair), and raising up other animals like turkeys, which he bought twenty of as chicks for very cheap from a hatchery (one was included for free) and later sold around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Minchew Elementary School closed in 1951, and Joe started attending the consolidated Speight High School near Stantonsburg. Through it all, he never forgot Susie.”

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Joe Louis Simms and his prize-winning calf Susie, 1949.

——

Reddick Simms, 24, son of Jack and Treacy Simms, married Bettie Barden, 20, on 6 September 1890 at Woodson Rountree‘s in Black Creek township. Frank Simms, Jesse Rountree and Lee Moore were witnesses.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Rederick Simms, 52; wife Elizabeth 40; and children Johnie, 16, Thestus L., 14, Ardena, 11, Amena, 8, Bettie E., 7, Joseph, 3, and Charlie, 1.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Reddick Simms, 62; wife Bettie P., 50; and children Johnnie, 24, Festus, 22, Ardena, 20, Almena, 17, Lizzie, 15, Joseph, 12, Charlie, 10, and Freddie, 7.

Reddick Simms died 6 March 1923 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1861 and was married to Bettie Simms.

On 15 March 1923, C.L. Darden applied for letters of administration for the estate of Reddick Simms. The value of the estate was estimated at $338, and heirs were widow Bettie Simms and children John, Festus, Ardena, Almina, Lizzie, Joseph, Charlie and Fred.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Brockington, 47; wife Mary, 47; children James, 27, Ethel, 18, Eulah Mae, 17, Irene, 14, Mamie, 13, Zollie, 10, Pearle, 8, and Bertha, 5; plus grandson John Ed Cooper, 2. All were described as born in South Carolina except Bertha (North Carolina) and John Ed (Michigan).

Joseph Simms, 21, of Cross Roads, son of Reddick and Bettie Simms, married Ethel Brockington, 20, of Black Creek, daughter of John and Mary Brockington, on 26 March 1932 in Wilson. Mary Brockington, Joe Gibson and J.T. Daniel were witnesses.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Joseph Simms, 29; wife Ethel, 26; children Rosa L., 6, Helen and Ellen, 5, Joseph Jr., 3, and Billie J., 1; and uncle Jesse, 70.

Joe Louis Simms married Rose Elizabeth Arrington on 15 November 1958 in Wilson.

Bettie Barden Simms died 7 October 1962 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 80 years old; had been a farmer; was widowed. Joseph Simms, 705 Carroll Street, was informant.

Thanks to Carol Lee Ware for bringing this story to my attention and to Wanda S. Page for allowing me to share and for citing Black Wide-Awake in the original as a source of reference for Carter W. Foster and Jane Amos Boyd.

Soil map of Wilson County, 1925.

At last, a county map marked with the locations of Lane Street cemeteries. This 1925 soil map indicates a combined Odd Fellows and Vick cemeteries at (A) and the Masonic cemetery at (B). There is no cemetery indicated in the general location of Oakdale cemetery (C). (Note that, as in the 1904 topographic map, the eastern arm of Lane extended to Stantonsburg Road and the western arm extended to what is now Pender Street.)

Detail of “Soil Map of Wilson County, North Carolina,” U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1929, available via East Carolina University Digital Collections.

 

Hardy Tabourn seeks a Revolutionary War pension.

State of North Carolina, Nash County  }   On this thirteenth day of August Eighteen hundred and Forty four Personally appeared in open Court Hardiman Tabourn a resident of the County of Nash and maketh the following declaration in order to obtain a pension under the act of Congress passed on the seventh day of June Eighteen hundred and thirty two and after being duly sworn according to law doth declare on his oath that he is the son of Burrell Tabourn who Enlisted in the war of the revolution in the year Seventeen hundred and eighty-one For the term of Twelve months under Capt Lytle and after he had served out that time he was drafted for a twelve month tour in the year of Seventeen hundred and eighty two as he has always heard his said father say who will more fully appear by two certificates which he has procured from the Secretary of the State of North Carolina, which he submits as evidence in Connection with his own of his Said Fathers services.

And further declares that his said Father Burrell Tabourn died leaving no widow and that his said father Burrell Tabourn died on the Ninth day of January Eighteen hundred and fortytwo and that he was Eighty one years old when he died and that he himself is forty nine years old and that he has three Brothers and two Sisters Namely Larkin Tabourn forty seven years old, Caleb Tabourn Thirtyfive years old, Boling Tabourn twentyeight years old, Beady Tabourn who intermarried with one Berry Locust Thirtytwo years old and Elizabeth Tabourn Thirty years old and he Further declares that his said Father was at the time he entered the Service a resident of the County of Nash and remained as Such up to this death and that he himself and all his brothers and sisters are Residents of the County of Nash and State aforesaid

And he Further declares that he has always heard his Father Say that he served the last Tower under the same Capt as he did the first two and he said Hardiman Further declares that he hims [sic] and he in behalf of his Brother and Sisters do hereby relinquish all Right to a pension whatever Except this

Sworn and subscribed to the day and date before written Before me  Francis M. Taylor  Hardiman X Tabourn

——

In the 1850 census of Nash County: Caleb Tayborne, 51, wife Susan, 50, and children Quilly, 20, Jane, 15, Owen, 15, Martha, 12, Larkin, 12, and Sallie, 10.  Also, Larkin Tayborne, 57, wife Rebecca, 68, Ricks, 24, and Levenia, 15.  Also, Berry Locust, 50, wife Beedy, 45, and children Arthur, 25, Eliza, 19, Hepsy A., 16, Ivah, 15, Alsey, 12, Henry, 10, and Leymon, 8.

In the 1860 census of Old Fields, Wilson County: Hardy Tabourn, 70, farm laborer, living alone.

From the file of Burrell Tabourn, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives and Records Administration.

A producer of fine quality tobacco.

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Wilson Daily Times, 9 August 1946.

Floyd W. Farmer was not only a prosperous farmer, he was a force in the effort to get Wilson County to build rural high schools for African-Americans in the late 1940s.

——

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Cromwell Farmer, 57; wife Mary Jane, 48; and children James, 20, Ida, 20, Cromwell, 19, Ella, 17, Maggie, 16, Clara, 14, Floyd, 12, Viola, 9, Liola, 9, Esther, 8, Lee A., 7, and George, 6.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Mary Jane Farmer, 65, and children Floyd W., 21, Leola, 19, Viola, 19, Queen Esther, 17, and George, 15.

In 1940, Floyd Willie Farmer applied for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born in April 1919 in Wilson; lived on Route 1, Elm City; his contact was mother Mary Jane Farmer; and he worked as a tenant farmer for Mrs. M.A. Bryant.

On 14 November 1942, Floyd Farmer, 24, of Elm City, son of Crumel and Mary J. Farmer, married Odell Sharp, 20, of WIlson, daughter of Alvin and Carrie Sharp, in Wilson. C.E. Artis applied for the license, and a justice of the peace performed the ceremony in the presence of J.H. Forbes, J.E. Miles and B.E. Howard.

Floyd W. Farmer died 16 April 2014.