Month: January 2021

Concrete Stipple Style.

I’ve gone on and on about the artistry of Clarence B. Best, the marble cutter who carved hundreds of gravestones in and around Wilson County between the 1920s and mid-1970s. Now, after a few years of exploring local African-American cemeteries, I recognize the signature work of other monument makers. Whether the work of an individual, like Best, or a company, they were likely produced in Wilson or an adjoining county, and perhaps by African-American craftsmen.

One common type of concrete monuments dates from the first quarter of the twentieth century. The basic design, which I will call Concrete Stipple Style, is a large rectangle with rounded edges, a smooth central field with stamped block letters and no punctuation, and a stippled border. Unlike Clarence Best’s work, the inscriptions are rigorously centered. I do not know enough about molding concrete to speculate why so many Concrete Stipple stones develop a deep crack about one-third down the face of the monument. (See below.)

A fine example of Concrete Stipple, except for the bullet holes. The couple are buried in Odd Fellows cemetery, and the stone probably dates from just after Daniel’s death in 1908. 

  • Lizzie May Barnes

Lizzie M. Barnes was buried in Odd Fellows cemetery in 1919.

  • Sylvania Sutton and Calvin Sutton

Sylvania and Calvin Sutton were buried in 1916 and 1922, respectively, in Polly Watson cemetery, which lies just over the Wilson County line in Wayne County.

  • Bessie McGowan

Bessie McGowan died in 1925 and was buried in Odd Fellows cemetery.

  • Harrison B. Davis

Harrison B. Davis died in 1915 and is buried in the Masonic cemetery.

  • C.S. Thomas

My guess would have been that this is a foot stone for the grave of Charles S. Thomas, who died in 1937. However, this marker is in the Masonic cemetery, and Charles S. Thomas’ lovely headstone is in Odd Fellows. 

Suggs elected president of Livingstone College.

Greensboro Record, 23 January 1917.


With Samuel H. Vick, Daniel C. Suggs was one of the first generation of Wilson County freedmen to attend college. A Lincoln University graduate, he was not only a college president, but a lay leader in the A.M.E. Zion church and a wealthy real estate developer.

Daniel C. Suggs’ family was the Suggs of Suggs Street. His “valuable holdings elsewhere in the state” included considerable property in Wilson south of present-day Hines Street.

Runaway truck kills toddler.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 August 1949.


Hattie McMillian was only 15 months old when she was struck by John Lee Edmundson‘s truck. The impact fractured her skull, and she died within minutes. Per her death certificate, the little girl was born 6 March 1948 in Wilson to Neil and Mary McMillian; lived at 615 Taylor Street; and was buried in Moses cemetery, Pender County, N.C.

Taylor’s Alley no longer exist. It was a short block running between the railroad and Maury Street in the shadow of a stemmery and cotton oil mills.

Wilson_CSP_6B_12, U.S.D.A. Photograph Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

Daniel Hill: an aerial view, 1940.

This close-up of an aerial view of Daniel Hill shows the neighborhood in 1940. The street layout was altered somewhat when the city razed the area in the early 1960s urban renewal project, and I appreciate any corrections to the street labels. One interesting detail is easily identified — a baseball diamond (encircled) next to a row of endway (shotgun) houses on Warren Street. The Norfolk-Southern Railroad arcs across the bottom left corner.

Wilson_CSP_6B_12, U.S.D.A. Photograph Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

Lane Street Project: “Reclaiming Wilson’s history: Volunteers clean historic Black cemetery.”

Many thanks to Olivia Neeley and Wilson Times for this wonderful coverage of Lane Street Project’s Martin Luther King, Jr., National Day of Service clean-up event.

Wilson Times, 19 January 2021.


Studio shots, no. 170: the William D. Lucas family.

William D. and Neppie Ann Woods Lucas and children. Ettrick Marion Lucas is at right in white collar. This photo was likely taken in the late 1890s in Arkansas, a few years after the family migrated from North Carolina.

William D. Lucas, grandson of William and Neppie W. Lucas, and wife Henrietta Lucas.


In the 1860 census of Coopers township, Nash County: farm laborer Chordy Locus, 26; wife Jinsey, 24; and children William, 2, and John, 1 month.

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Cordie Lucas, 35; wife Quincy, 35; and children William, 10, Arnold, 9, Lahary, 7, Sidney, 5, Willie, 3, and Olivia, 1 month.

In the 1880 census of Coopers township, Nash County: Corda Lucus, 46; wife Jincy Jane, 45; and children William, 21, Arnold. Jno., 20, L.A. Jane, 17, Sidney E., 14, J. Wiley, 12, Livy A., 10, Martha A., 4, and Moning, 1.

On 3 February 1886, W.D. Lucas, 27, of Nash County, and Neppie Ann Wood, 21, of Franklin County, were married at Read Wood’s residence in Franklin County.

In the 1900 census of Madison township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: farmer William D. Lucas, 42; wife Neffie, 35; and children William, 13, John, 12, Ettric, 9, Askew, 6, Peter, 5, and Emma, 2; and adopted daughter Della Short, 16. All but the youngest four children were born in North Carolina.

In the 1910 census of Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: farmer William D. Lucas, 43; wife Neppie A., 40; sons Askew W., 16, Ettrick M., 18, and Peter W., 13; adopted sister Dellar Short, 30; and Lula Wood, 17. 

In 1918, William Lucas registered for the World War I draft in Saint Francis County, Arkansas. Per his registration card, he was born 30 November 1883; Lived in Forrest City, Arkansas; worked as an express driver for Wells-Fargo Express Company; and his contact was Anna Lucas.

In the 1920 census of Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: farmer Wm. Lucas, 60; wife Neppie, 53; son Ettrick, 28; grandchildren Susie, 7, Leonard, 6, William D., 4, and Linda, 3; cousin Leo Tabron, 8; and boarders Della Short, 45, Roy Allen, 19, and Louis Jones, 23.

Neppie A. Lucas died 13 September 1928 in Caldwell, Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was born in North Carolina to Bill and Amanda Ritch; and was married to William D. Lucas. She was buried in Goodlow cemetery.

In the 1930 census of Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: on Shiloh Dirt Road, cotton farmer William D. Lucas, 62; wife Lucy, 54; grandchildren Sussie, 15, Leonard, 15, Annie L., 13, William D., Jr., 14, and Lenda, 12; and adopted daughter Della, 45. 

On 8 January 1934, Saint Francis Chancery Court granted William D. Lucas a divorce from Lucy Lucas on the grounds of desertion. They had married in 1929.

On 6 August 1935, William D. Lucas, 76, of Forrest City, Saint Francis County, married Martha Grady, 52, also of Forrest City, in Clay County, Arkansas.

In the 1940 census of Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: farmer W.D. Lucas, 81; son Ettric Marion Lucas, 48; grandson William, 25, granddaughter-in-law Henrietta, 17, and great-grandchildren James Earl, 2, and Leon Lucas, 1; Della Short, 59, adopted daughter; and Arnold Lucas, 7, great-grandson.

William D. Lucas died 7 September 1951 in Caldwell, Saint Francis County, Arkansas. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 January 1880 [actually, about 1858] in North Carolina to Corda Lucas and an unknown mother; was a widower; and a farmer. E.M. Lucas was informant.

Photos courtesy of Europe Ahmad Farmer.

A house blazed on the other side of town.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 January 1899.

In January 1899, a house owned by Annie Barnes and occupied by Ed Humphrey and George Rogers. The “two fire companies” that responded were, presumably, the all-white city department and all-black volunteer Red Hot Hose Company. Neighbor B.F. Briggs, as indicated by the honorific “Mister,” was white.

In Plain Sight.

Adam Rosenblatt of Friends of Geer Cemetery traveled to Wilson this past Saturday to help Lane Street Project in its first public cemetery clean-up. We appreciate both his physical labor and the opportunity to form alliances and learn from F.O.G.C. as we chart a path for our cemeteries. 

Please join Friends of Geer Cemetery on 23 January 2021 for the virtual grand opening of its outdoor exhibit, In Plain Sight: Reflections Past & Actions Present in Durham’s Geer Cemetery. Eventbrite link here.

In Plain Sight: Reflections Past & Actions Present in Durham’s Geer Cemetery

The Friends of Geer Cemetery are proud to introduce In Plain Sight — an outdoor educational exhibit in Durham’s historic African American burial ground — through this Virtual Grand Opening. For far too long, the graves of this city’s African American founders have been hidden from view, their stories underappreciated. Join us to learn more about their lives and ongoing efforts to ensure respect for their memory.

In Plain Sight is a journey through the history of Durham and the cemetery itself, the result of a collaborative effort with local students, scholars, volunteers, and descendants of those laid to rest here. In this Virtual Grand Opening, you will learn about both the space and this project, hear from the Friends of Geer Cemetery about their advocacy work, and be prepared for a visit to the outdoor exhibit — on your own any time through Sunday, March 7th, or with safely distanced guided tours (visit for details).

The Virtual Grand Opening will be followed by an open Q&A session.

In Plain Sight is made possible in part by a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and through generous matching donations from more than 70 supporters.

The obituary of Sallie Bynum, of the old school.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 January 1920.

Mystifyingly, I have not been able to locate Sallie Bynum‘s death certificate. “Dr. Herring” is probably Dr. Needham B. Herring (1839-1923). Dr. Herring was a native of Duplin County. In 1860, his father, Bryan W. Herring reported owning personal property in Duplin County valued at $29,143, most of which would have been in the form of enslaved people. Dr. Herring’s father-in-law, J.J.B. Vick of northern Nash County, reported $26,133 of personal property in 1860. It is not clear which “relatives of Dr. Herring” are referred to in this death notice.


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Sallie Bynum, 63, widow; daughters Lula, 21, and Burtha, 18; and boarder Rabeca Edwards, 22.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Spring Street, Lue Williams, 34; boarder Sallie Bynum, 65, widow; and [Lue’s] daughter Lue B. Williams, 13, all factory laborers.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, Sallie Bynum, 85, widow, and Marie, 6.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.