Month: December 2022

Rest in power, Fred Valentine.

My chosen family lost yet another patriarch in the closing days of 2022. Fred L. Valentine Sr. passed away in Washington, D.C., on December 26, surrounded by family. An outfielder for the Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles, “Uncle Fred” spent a stand-out summer with the Wilson Tobs in 1958, where he met his future wife, Helena Smith, and demanded desegregation of the whites-only section of Fleming Stadium after the “colored section” collapsed under an overflow crowd of African-American fans.

The Valentines became close friends of my parents and, as I wrote here, their children were “play cousins” of my sister and me. I honor Fred Valentine’s memory, and send love to his beloved wife, daughters, son, and grandson.

Fred Valentine as a Tob. Photo detail courtesy of North Carolina Baseball Museum, Wilson.

Butterfield delivers for his District’s history.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today [22 December 2022], the United States House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus appropriations package, which contains $32,879,497 in Community Project Funding secured by Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) for projects across the First Congressional District of North Carolina.  The House’s vote now sends the funding package to President Biden to be signed into law.

“It’s extremely special to me that my last vote as a Member of Congress will send nearly $33 million to the First Congressional District of North Carolina.  Representing the First District has been a labor of love for me over the past 18 years and it feels good to know my last effort will positively impact so many hard-working families across the district long after my time in Congress comes to an end,” said Congressman Butterfield.

“I am a product of eastern North Carolina, and it has been the honor of my life to represent the First District for the past 18 years in Congress. The First District has given so much to me not only over the past 18 years, but all my life.  I am incredibly proud to have secured this funding that will have a profound impact in the district long after I’m gone.”

Congressman Butterfield championed funding for 14 projects that will directly benefit NC-01 residents[, including:]

Thank you, Congressman!

The apprenticeships of William Ann and Richard Blount.

On 21 August 1869, a Wilson County Probate Court judge ordered 14 year-old William Ann Blount and 11 year-old Richard Blount bound as apprentices to Calvin Blount until they reached 21 years of age.

Neither William Ann nor Richard Blount appears in the 1870 census with Calvin Blount and family. However, William Ann was possibly the Ann Blount, 19, who married Parry Farmer, 24, in Wilson on 18 February 1874.

United States Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at

N.A.A.C.P.’s Walter White speaks in Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 May 1933.

Two years into his long stint as Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Walter F. White delivered a lecture at Wilson’s Calvary Presbyterian Church.

For more about White’s extraordinary life as a civil rights activist, see here and A.J. Baime’s White Lies: The Double Life of Walter F. White and America’s Darkest Secret (2022).

Walter F. White (1893-1955).

Hat tip to G.K. Butterfield Jr. for the article on White’s visit — he learned of the event from his father, G.K. Butterfield Sr. 

Photograph of Walter Francis White, between 1920 and 1940. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (051.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP [Digital ID # cph.3c07019].

State vs. Nep Lee.

In November 1912, clerk of court Thomas A. Hinnant recorded evidence in State vs. Nep Lee, a case alleging receiving and concealing stolen goods. 

Jim Pearce was on trial for stealing a watch. Neptune Lee, his accomplice, attended his trial as “an interested spectator — or apparently so.” Seemingly to Lee’s surprise, the prosecutor called him to the stand to ask if he had seen Pearce with the watch. Lee said he had not, but had bought a watch the day before from a man he did not know. Prosecutor Dickinson asked Lee to show the watch and, incredibly, he did. Mary Henderson and others quickly identified the watch as her stolen property. What happened next is not clear. Was Lee convicted and sentenced to 13 months on the county roads on the spot? 


  • Nep Lee

In the 1880 census of Woodville township, Bertie County, N.C.: Bob Lee, 62; wife Betsy, 38; and children David, 18, Winnie, 14, John H., 13, Harrisson, 8; Neptun, 6; and Annie, 4.

On 16 December 1900, Nep Lee, 21,  of Wilson, son of Robert and Bettie Lee, married Laurena Williams, 21, of Wilson, daughter of Susan Gray, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Crocket Best performed the ceremony.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lee Neptune plstr h 411 s Spring

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: painter Marion Watson, 51; wife Annie, 33, laundress; and brickmason Neptune Lee, 36, lodger.

On 21 June 1911, Nep Lee, 30, married Lizzie Myers, 21, at the home of Mary Myers in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony.

Neptune Lee died 24 January 1949 at the County Home, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 June 1881 in Bertie County, N.C., to Robert Lee of Florida and Mary E. Thompson of Bertie County; was the widower of Lizzie Lee; worked as a brick layer; lived at 506 East Walnut Street; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Annie Watson was informant.

[Note, a different Nep Lee died 18 October 1953 in Wilson at the Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 November 1876; was married to Bertha Lee;  was a farmer; and lived near Robersonville, Martin County, N.C.] 

  • Jim Pearce

Criminal Action Papers, 1912, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

The apprenticeship of Ashley Jordan.

On 22 January 1870, a Wilson County Probate Court judge ordered Ashley Jordan bound as an apprentice to Jacob H. Barnes until he reached 21 years of age. At the end of his term, Jordan was to receive “six dollars in cash, a new suit of clothes and a new Bible.”

  • Ashley Jordan — Jordan is not listed in the household of Jacob H. Barnes in the 1870 census, and I have found no further information about him.

United States Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at

The estates of Barnes and Roderick Amason.

It’s not a common surname in Wilson County anymore, but in the early 1800s a prosperous extended family of Amasons (Amersons) lived in the Stantonsburg area (in what was then Edgecombe County, North Carolina). They owned extensive real property and considerable slaves, and often left estates that spent years in probate as family members bickered, and heirs and administrators died.

This post is third in a series featuring documents from Amason family estate files.


Roderick Amason was appointed administrator of his brother Barnes Amason’s estate soon after Barnes’ death in April 1844.

On 25 October 1844, at Joshua Wilkinson’s store, John A. Tyson testified in a deposition that on 10 June 1844 that he “happend in company with Roderic Amason & General Moye at Daniel & Rountrees store in Stantonsburg and that Mr. Gill had presented his account against Barnes Amason ….” Amason had run up credit with Andrew E. Gill, but a number of credits reduced the debt. For 1840, that credit included the  “Hire of 2 Hands” on December 22 for 80 cents. For 1843 and 1844, Amason’s credits included the hire of an enslaved man named Jerry to Gill.

At November Term of Edgecombe County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Roderick Amason filed a petition for division stating that “the slaves belonging to the estate of … Barnes [Amason] will not be required for the purpose of paying the debts of said intestate, there being ample personalty besides them for that purpose. That of them, there are fifteen as follows — 1 Frank 2 Mourning 3 Stephen 4 Jack 5 Solomon 6 Jerry 7 Richmond 8 Lucy 9 Jinny 10 Hilliard 11 Judy 12 Rosa 13 Dyer 14 Patsy & 15 Sally,” and they should be divided among Barnes’ heirs, who consisted of his siblings and their children.

Roderick himself died in December 1844, however. Wyatt Moye — state senator and slave dealer — took over as administrator of both estates. His stewardship of both estates was contentious.

In October 1845, B.B. Bell complained to Edgecombe County court that Moye owed him $63.21 from the estate of Roderick Amason.

A justice of the peace sided with Bell and noted that Moye claimed that he had paid out sums greater than the cash at hand, but noted “there is four negroes yet to be sold.”

At August Term, the heirs complained to the court that Wyatt Moye was still holding on to Barnes Amason’s estate and had refused to make full distribution, a charge Moye denied.

I have not been able to determine the fates of the enslaved people held by Barnes and Roderick Amason.

Estate of Roderick Amason, North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

The obituary of Martha A. Modica.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 June 1945.


In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer Willis Mordicai, 28; wife Martha A., 24; and children Katie, 6, Mary D., 4, and Dinksy A., 1.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Willis Mordica, 53; wife Martha, 52; children Dinksy, 20, Etta, 16, Darcas, 14, and Hampton, 4; and grandsons Edgar, 2, and Fred, 3.

On 1 February 1901, Reddick Batts, 47, son of Mack and Anika Batts, married Dinkey Modica, 23, daughter of Willis and Martha Ann Modica, at “Fairview Plantation,” Toisnot township. Baptist minister Isaac Barnes performed the ceremony.

On 17 January 1906, Willie Barnes, 30, of Elm City, son of Bob and Hannah Barnes, married Etta Modica, 21, of Elm City, daughter of Willis and Martha Ann Modica, at Willis Modica’s residence. 

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer Willis Modiky, 56; wife Martha, 53; and grandsons Jessey, 14, Edgar, 13, and Fred, 12.

On 28 October 1919, Edgar Modica, 22, son [sic] of Willis and Martha Modica, married Cora Hall, 20, daughter of Alex and Mollie Hall

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wilson-Tarboro Road, Willis Modica, 65; wife Martha, 64; grandsons Fred, 22, and Edgar, 23, and Edgar’s wife Cora, 22.

Willis Modica died 26 June 1929 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 85 years old; was born in Raleigh, Wake County, N.C., to Nowell Daniel and Millie Daniel; was married to Martha A. Modica; and worked in farming.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Edgar Modica, 32, and grandmother Martha, 74.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Martha Modica, 82, living alone. 

Martha Ann Modica died 16 June 1945 at her home at 408 South Warren Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 18 April 1856 in Granville County, North Carolina, to Harry Watson and Mariah [maiden name unknown]; was a widow; and was buried in Elm City, N.C. Kattie Jeffrey, 408 South Warren, was informant.

Fannie Ricks died 30 December 1945 in Elm City, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 30 July 1884 in Wilson County to Willis Modica and Marthann Watson and was married to George Ricks.

Katie Modica Jefferys died 24 December 1968 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 February 1873 to Willis Modica and Martha Ann Watson; was a widow; and loved at 1402 Atlantic Street, Wilson. Bessie Lassiter was informant.