Month: November 2020

J. Burton Harper, Lincoln ’00.

Lincoln University‘s 1900 yearbook listed Wilson, N.C., as Joseph Burton Harper‘s permanent address.

His senior bio, however, listed his birthplace as Hookerton, in Greene County, and I’ve found no other records that place him as a Wilson County resident. We’ll claim him though.

In the 1880 census of Hookerton township, Greene County: laborer Stephen Harper, 48; wife D.A., 44; and children Edna, 17, John C., 13, Joseph B., 3, and Herbert C., 2.

In the 1900 census of Hookerton township, Greene County: farmer Stephen Harper, 57; wife Dilsey, 58; and children Edney, 37, Joseph B., 23, and Herbert C., 22; plus niece Sarah Edwards, 17.

In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: at 408 East Goldleaf, Presbyterian clergyman and teacher Joseph B. Harper, 32, and wife Olive S., 28, music teacher.

In 1918, Joseph Burton Harper registered for the World War I draft in Edgecombe County. Per his registration card, he was born 10 September 1877; lived at 606 Gold Leaf, Rocky Mount; was a minister and teacher; and his nearest relative was Olive Sagerna Harper.

In the 1920 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: at 606 East Goldleaf, Presbyterian minister Joseph Burton Harper, 41; wife Olive, 39; and daughter Stella, 11.

In the 1930 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: at 810 Holly Street, Presbyterian minister Joseph B. Harper, 51; wife Olive, 49; and children Stella, 11 [sic: 21], and Robert, 9, plus several lodgers.

Rev. Joseph Burton Harper died 19 April 1940 at his home at 810 Holly Street, Rocky Mount. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 September 1878 in Hookerton, N.C. to Stephen Harper; was married to Olive Sagerna Harper; was a minister and teacher. He was buried in Hookerton.

Other suns: California

Though the Great Migration to California most often drew seekers from states like Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, Wilson County natives also joined the tide that increased the African-American population of that state exponentially.

Perhaps the first nationally known Wilson native to take up residence in California arrived not in the Great Migration, but as a result of the National Football League draft. The Los Angeles Rams drafted Saint Augustine’s College defensive end Isaac T. Lassiter in 1962, and he later spent five seasons with the Oakland Raiders, playing in the 1967 Super Bowl. Lassiter was born in 1940 in Wilson to Dempsey and Mary Jane Bynum Lassiter and graduated from C.H. Darden High School.

Hat tip to Bernard Patterson for the football card image.

Want ads, 1927.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 August 1927.

From at least 1925 until at least the mid-1940s, 1011 East Nash Street was the address of Butler and Myrtle Brodie Jones.

From the early 1920s until the early 1940s, Matilda Roberts lived at 802 East Vance. Available records do not show that Roberts worked as a practical nurse.

Hannibal Lodge building burns.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 October 1997.

For more about the Odd Fellows Hannibal Lodge building, see here and here. Shortly after it erected this building, Lodge #1552 established the Odd Fellows cemetery that now lies abandoned and overgrown on Lane Street.  

The obituary of John W. Jeffries (or Jefferson).

Wilson Daily Times, 27 June 1938.

The “local negro fire company” was, of course, the Red Hots.

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On 20 November 1887, John W. Jefferson, 36, of Wilson County, son of Jack Jefferson, married Lizzie D. Dotson (or Doster) at “the rectory at St. Timothys church.” Episcopal priest B.S. Bronson performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer John Jefferson, 52, widower.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jeffreys John V (c) lab h 708 S Spring

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 360 Spring Street, odd jobs laborer John Jeffries, 60, and wife Maggie, 30.

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jefferson John (c) lab h 708 S Spring

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 607 Spring, house carper John Jefferson, 68, and wife Maggie, 31.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jefferson John (c) lab h 607 S Spring

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jefferson John (c) carp h 521 Spring

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jeffreys Jno W (c) carp h 521 Spring

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jeffries John W (c) carp h 521 Spring

John Wesley Jeffrey died 27 June 1938 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 9 May 1849 in Harnett County, N.C.; lived at 307 Spruce Street, Wilson; was divorced from Maggie Wilson; and was a laborer.

An open safe.

Wilson Mirror, 26 November 1897.

The mid-1890s’ surge of white supremacy, best and most horrifically exemplified in the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, created an atmosphere in which crude and casual racism flourished even in “respectable” publications. The Wilson Mirror led a story about a robbery with this gratuitous doggerel.

  • Riley Faison — Riley Faison, 30, of Wilson County, son of Henry and Sophia Faison, married Frances Farmer, 26, of Wilson County, daughter of Tom and Polly Farmer, on 8 May 1902. A.M.E. Zion ordained elder N.L. Overton performed the ceremony at Frank Barnes’ plantation in Toisnot township in the presence of Mattie M. Overton, James Smith, and Polly Farmer.
  • Ed. Barnes
  • “across the railroad near the Methodist church” — in the vicinity of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. 

Negro weddings.

Who knew that “negro wedding” was a whole subgenre of blackface?

… Me either.

But it was, and quite popular in Wilson County as late as the 1940s.

In 1927, Mrs. R.H. Llewellyn, clever and entertaining, entertained the Rotary Club with a negro wedding and a negro sermon. 

Wilson Daily Times, 14 December 1927.

In 1938, Stantonsburg High School’s senior class’ evening of “good clean fun and amusement” included a negro wedding.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 March 1938.

In 1941, Saratoga High School’s Beta Club presented a negro wedding whose finale was a stirring “Dark Town Strutter’s Ball.”

Wilson Daily Times, 26 February 1941.

Participants did not need to make up their own mockeries. Titles of negro wedding plays include “Henpeck at the Hitching Post,” “My Wild Days are Over,” and “The Coontown Wedding.” Characters in Mary Bonham’s “The Kink in Kizzie’s Wedding: A Mock Negro Wedding,” published in 1921, include Lizzie Straight, Pinky Black, Sunshine Franklin, Necessary Dolittle, George Washington Goot, and Uncle Remus. The opening lines: “CAPT. COTTON — ‘Bein’ as Ise de Knight ob de Hoss-shoe, an’ while we’s waitin’ fo’ de bridal paih, we will practice de riding’ gaits.’ ALL GROOMSMEN — ‘Thank-u-doo, obleeged-to-you!’ (They salute the Captain.)” Charming.

Killed as she crossed the street.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 May 1928.

Mattie Farmer was knocked down and killed as she crossed from one side of the 500 block of Nash Street, where she lived, to the other. 

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Mattie Farmer died 23 May 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 28  years old; was married Eli Farmer; lived at 522 East Nash Street; worked as a common laborer; and was born in Laurinburg, N.C., to Henry and Hattie McLaurin. She was buried in Rountree cemetery.