Family ties, no. 7: “They’ll skin a flea for his hide and tallow.”

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the seventh in a series of excerpts from documents and interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)


As discussed here, after Jesse A. Jacobs Jr.’s death, Sarah Henderson Jacobs married Rev. Joseph C. Silver. Sarah died just a few years later, and in 1943 Rev. Silver married Martha C. Hawkins Henderson Aldridge.

Shortly after Rev. Silver’s death in January 1958, his widow Martha sent my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (who had formerly been known as Hattie Jacobs) a letter addressed to her workplace, the Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium. Martha Silver mentioned their mutual family connections and offered advice on reclaiming household furnishings that Sarah Silver had brought to the marriage.

P.O. Box 193 Nashville

N.C.   c/o Brake

Feb. 2, 1958

Dear Hattie –

You heard of Rev. Silver’s death Jan. 7th although I didn’t notify you as I was sick and still is sick but not confine to bed. Sarah had some things in the home.  A bed which I am sure you wouldn’t care for and a folding single bed which I am going to get but my main reason for writing you she has an oak dresser and washstand that Rev. Silver told me you wanted and said he told you you could get it if you would send for it so it is still there and it is good material if you want it. Amos has already seen a second hand furniture man about buying it. The Silver’s will “skin a flea for his hide and tallow.” The Aldridges holds a very warm place in my heart and always will. If you wish to do so you may write to Rev. Amos Silver Route 3 Box 82 Enfield and ask him if your mother Sarah’s furniture is still there. There is also a carpet on the floor in the living room you need not mention my name. I am very fond of Johnnie Aldridge of Dudly. Come to see me whenever you can I think you might get with Reka at Fremont some times, she and Luke come to Enfield to see me occasionally  I am going to write Reka next week. I married your great uncle Rev Joseph Aldridge write me

Your friend and great aunt by marriage.

M.C. (Aldridge) Silver


Martha Silver, seated second from right, with her husband Joseph’s children Daniel W. Aldridge, Allen Aldridge, and Mary Aldridge Sawyer, seated, and William J.B. Aldridge, Milford Aldridge, Lillie Aldridge Holt, George M. Aldridge, and Joseph L. Aldridge. Occasion unknown, but well after Joseph Aldridge’s death in 1934.

Though Martha Silver was not a Wilson native, she and her second husband Joseph Aldridge (my grandmother’s great-uncle, Johnnie Aldridge was her uncle) were married in Wilson. Rev. Silver (who would become Martha’s third husband) performed the marriage ceremony on 16 December 1925. C.E. Artis applied for the license, and William A. Mitchner, Hattie Tate, and Callie Barnes were witnesses. I have seen no evidence that either Martha or Joseph lived in Wilson, and I do not know why they chose to be married there. C.E. Artis was Joseph Aldridge’s nephew, but there are no obvious relationships between either bride or groom and Dr. Mitchner, Hattie Tate (she was Artis’ next-door neighbor — was she simply a stand-in?), or Callie Barnes (who was a close neighbor of my grandmother on Elba Street).

Letter and copy of photo in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.


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