On 3 June 1919, the Daily Times published a list of Wilson County soldiers who died during World War I. The list is segregated. First in the Colored List is Henry Ellis, who was killed 6 October 1918 and in whose honor Wilson County’s African-American post of the American Legion was named.
Wilson Daily Times, 3 June 1919.
The Daily Times had commemorated Ellis’ death when it received word in December 1918:
“Private Henry Ellis Son of Mrs. Mary J. Howard, Route 1, Wilson, N.C. Died of wounds received in action while fighting for his country and oppressed humanity.” Wilson Daily Times, 4 December 1918.
In the 1870 census of Chesterfield township, Nash County, N.C.: farmer Martin Lucus, 52; wife Eliza, 42; and children Irvin, 19, Neverson, 16, Sidney, 13, Eliza, 7, Westray, 6, Anne, 4, and Mary, 2.
In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 66, wife Eliza Eatmon, 50, daughters AmandaLocus, 18, and Mary J. Locus, 14, “son-in-law” Asa Locus, 10, and “daughter-in-law” Lougene Locus, 4, Margaret Howard, 21, and Harriet Howard, 2. [Nelson Eatmon married Eliza Locust on 28 January 1880 in Wilson County. The Locuses’ relationship designations are obviously erroneous; they were Nelson Eatmon’s stepchildren.]
On 6 February 1887, Warren Ellis, 19, of Wilson County, married Mary Jane Locust, 19, of Wilson County, in Wilson County. Phillis Ellis was one of the witnesses.
In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Mary J. Ellis, 34, widow, and children Willis, 12, Walter, 9, William, 8, Henry, 5, and Lou, 4.
In the 1910 census of Jackson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Mary Jane Ellis, 44, and children Henry, 16, Louise, 13, and Charles, 6; and brother Neverson Lucas, 56.
Henry Ellis registered for the World War I draft in Nash County, N.C, in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 10 November 1895 in Wilson County; lived at Route 2, Bailey; was a tenant farmer for Elijah Griffin; and was single. He signed his card in a neat, well-practiced hand: “Henry T. Ellis.”
In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Mary Howard, 52, widow; son Charlie Ellis, 17; and sister Luginer Colman, 45, widow.
Mary J. Howard died 20 June 1936 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was the widow of Manuel Howard; was 65 years old; and was born in Wilson County to Martin Locus and Louisa Brantley. Gray Ellis was informant.
Henry T. Ellis, then, was the son of Warren Ellis and Mary Jane Locus Ellis and stepson of Manuel Howard. He was descended (or connected) on his mother’s side from several free families of color with deep roots in the area of western Wilson County — Locuses, Brantleys, Eatmons, Howards — and on his father’s from Hilliard and Faribee Ellis, a formerly enslaved couple who established a prosperous farm in the New Hope area shortly after the Civil War.
I have seen no evidence that Ellis’ body was returned to Wilson County for burial. His parents, grandparents, and siblings are buried in Hilliard Ellis cemetery, but there is no marked grave for him there.
On 26 May 1886, Henry Joyner, 30, and Annie Conner, 20, both of Wilson County were married at the A.M.E. Zion church in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister J.N. Rasberry performed the ceremony in the presence of S.H. Vick, E.C. Simms, and H. Haywood.
In the 1900 census of Indianapolis, Indiana: at 949 King Avenue, Henry Joyner, 49, laborer; wife Anna, 35; and children Edwin, 13, Stella, 11, Lama, 9, George, 7, Thomas, 4, and Cora, 2; plus boarder Bennet Beachem, 71, laborer. Henry, Anna, and Edwin were born in North Carolina.
In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Indiana: at 117 North Tremont Avenue, Henry Joyner, 55; wife Annie, 44; and children Edwin, 23, Lama, 19, George, 16, Thomas, 14, Cora, 11, Cecil, 9, and Henry , 7.
In 1917, Edwin H. Joyner registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 6 March 1887 in North Carolina; lived at 881 West Pratt Street, Indianapolis; worked as a chauffeur for Hulett Law Motor Car Company, 333 North Pennsylvania Street; and was married. He signed his name [in a neat, upright hand]: Edwin H. Joyner.
In the 1920 census of Indianapolis, Indiana: at 512 West Saint Clair, Edwin Joyner, ; wife Florin, 32; and daughter Edwina, 1.
In the 1930 census of Indianapolis, Indiana: at 518 Saint Clair Street, rented for $14/month, Edwin H. Joyner, 41, truck driver; wife Floriene, 34, hairdresser; children Edwina, 12, and Henry E., 8; and “daughter?” Jacquelin Fahl, 7.
Edwina La Verne Joyner died 15 February 1937 in Indianapolis. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 January 1918 to Henry Joyner of North Carolina and Florida Thurman of Indianapolis; was single; and lived at 2345 North Capitol Avenue.
In the 1940 census of Indianapolis, Indiana: at
Edwin H. Joyner died 24 October 1950 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1887 in North Carolina to Henry Joyner and Anna Connes; lived at 2858 Highland Place; was divorced; and worked as an oil truck driver. Brother E. George Joyner was informant.
The twentieth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.
There were two African-American schools called Barnes in early 20th-century Wilson. One was on present-day Airport Road. The other appears to have been in the vicinity of Barnes Church on Old Stantonsburg Road. (Neither church nor school is still standing.)
“On March 3, 1919, the Wilson County Board of Education agreed, as recorded in its minutes, to expend $100.00 for an acre of land for the school. They also agreed to sell the school’s apparent predecessor to the Colored Masonic Lodge of Stantonsburg for $900.00 (a surprisingly large sum of money), provided that that the ‘colored people of the district’ would raise $600.00 for erecting a new schoolhouse. If these conditions were met, they would appropriate $250.00 for the new building. On October 6 a Charles Knight appeared before the board and requested again that a new building be erected for the Barnes Colored School. The board told him that this was ‘now impossible’ and asked that he look for a house to be temporarily acquired for the winter. On December 1, however, the board reversed course once more and authorize the erection of a two-room Barnes schoolhouse.” In a footnote to this paragraph: “It seems unlikely that the Barnes schoolhouse discussed in the board minutes is the same as the one that the Rosenwald Fund supported during the 1921-1922 budget year [i.e. the Airport Road school]. [School superintendent Charles L.] Coon notes that a five-room school, valued with its land at $9300, was erected in 1920 in the city of Wilson, but the county board references the sale of any [sic] earlier building in the town of Stantonsburg. Further, the school that the fund supported was a three-teacher type that cost $6000, with $700 in Fund support, $1000 in public funds, and a whopping $4300 contribution from the black community [citations omitted].” [Note, 11/9/2022: it appears this section to refer to Stantonsburg Colored School, not Barnes.]
Location: A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows Barnes School on what is now Old Stantonsburg Road, just north of the town of Stantonsburg.
Mark Sharpe, “one of the county’s most industrious Negro farmers,” with some of his young hogs. Sharp bought his 53-acre farm near Wilbanks through a Farm Security Administration program. Wilson Daily Times, 20 August 1943.
The Wilson Dodgers made their debut in 1948, opening against the Rocky Mount Black Swans.
Wilson Daily Times, 17 March 1948.
Wilson Daily Times, 21 May 1949.
The description “newly formed” more than a year later suggests they did not play a full season in ’48.
Douglas Simms, manager and pitcher — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 308 East Street, Frances Simms, 49, widow; children Geneva, 23, Margaret, 17, Retha, 18, “runs store — retail gro.,” Douglas, 19, “cleans tourist home,” Raymond, 26, and Eva, 20; and grandson Ralph, 2. Douglas Simms registered for the World War II draft in 1940. Per his draft card, he was born 1 January 1918 in Wilson; lived at 308 North East Street; his contact was mother Frances Simms; and he worked for Imperial Tobacco Company, Barnes Street. Douglas Simms died 30 November 1967 in Wilson.
Alfonza Watson, first baseman — possibly, Alfonza Watson born in 1930 in Wilson to Willis Watson and Mamie Atkinson Watson.
Robert Ellis, second baseman (“at the keystone sack”)
Crevan Moses, shortstop — on 10 June 1948, Lathrop Crevound Moses, 17, of Wilson, son of Eugene Moses and Annie Mae Tate Moses, married Annie Elizabeth Ruffin, 17, of FarmVille, N.C., daughter of Roosevelt Ruffin and Senora Hardy Ruffin, in Wilson.
Wimp Morgan, third baseman (“a hot corner man”)
Jim Haines, captain and catcher
Amos Ellis, outfielder — perhaps: Amos Staley Ellis registered for the draft in 1946. Per his registration card, he was born 7 September 1926 in Edgecombe County; lived at 624 Darden’s Alley; his contact was Rosa Ellis of the same address; and he worked for Jim Blount.
Major Hinnant, outfielder — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 908 East Vance, Mary Hinnant, 54, widow; children Robert, 21, Thomas, 19, Jessie, 17, Bennie, 16, Eveline, 14, Major, 11, and Dannie, 33; and grandchildren Festus, 16, Blossie, 12, Martha, 11, James T., 8, Clarence, 7, Samuel, 5, Mary R., 1, and George, 6 months. Major Hinnant registered for draft in 1945. Per his registration card, he was born 6 September 1927 in Wilson County; lived at 908 East Vance; his contact was mother Mary Hinnant; and he was unemployed.
Robert King, outfielder
Willie Lee Hines, outfielder (“other outer gardeners”) — Willie Lee Hines registered for the World War II draft in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 10 October 1924 in Wilson County; lived at 206 Ashe Street; his contact was mother Daisy Hines; and he worked as “laborer on defense job contract” at Glider Base, Edenton, N.C.
In 2018, North Carolina welcomed home a native son, renowned jazz drummer Billy Kaye. Born Willie King Seaberry in Wilson in 1932, Kaye performed with Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk and other luminaries, but had never played in Wilson. Not long after his June performance at Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Sandra Davidson interviewed Kaye for North Carolina Arts Council’s “50 for 50: Artists Celebrate North Carolina.”
Below, an excerpt from the interview.
S.D.: Tell me what you remember about growing up in Wilson.
Kaye: I was born in ‘32 a couple blocks from the train station near the Cherry Hotel, one of the top hotels in Wilson. My grandparents’ home was 517 Church Street which was something like a two-block walk to the train station. It was a block off Nash Street. Most of the employment was done there. Nash Street had [a] drug store, dentist, doctor. There was a Ritz Theater on Nash Street. There were three churches in that area. That was basically it. I grew up running around the yard playing the Lone Ranger with a broomstick between my legs. I used to enjoy coming home in the summers when I was a youngster to play in the dirt, climb the trees, play under the house. That kind of stuff.
S.D.: … What is it like to for you to play your first hometown show?
Kaye: It’s hard to explain. It’s the biggest thing that ever happened. Playing at home was something I wasn’t even about when I left here. I had no history. I was just a guy that moved up [North]. I played in Greensboro some years back. It was okay. It was North Carolina, but it wasn’t Wilson. Goldsboro—that was great, but it still wasn’t Wilson. Home is where I was born. So, this thing here, it’s hard to explain. I’m playing at home. I’m seeing things that I didn’t see and appreciating things. I see these trees, the most magnificent things. There’s nothing there but trees. Man, they are the greatest trees I’ve ever seen. It’s like home.
Billy Kaye performs at Whirligig Park. (Photo: Astrid Rieckien for the Washington Post.)
For the full transcript of Kaye’s interview and to watch videos of his performance in Wilson’s Whirligig Park, see here.
“my grandparents” — Kaye’s mother was Helen King. On 8 March 1929, Henrietta King, 50, whom I believe to be Helen King’s mother, married W.J. Howell, 58, in Wilson. Rev. B.F. Jordan performed the ceremony in the presence of George W. Coppedge, Eva M. Hines, and Willie Faulkland. William J. Howell died 8 November 1939 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was born in Cumberland County, N.C., to Rachel Barnes; was married to Henrietta Howell; lived at 517 Church Street; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery. In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Howell Henrietta (c; cook) h 517 Church. Henrietta King Howell died 28 December 1948 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.