Documents of genealogical and historical interest to researchers of Wilson County, North Carolina’s African-American past, curated by Lisa Y. Henderson.

I am available for speaking engagements and consultation services concerning personal genealogical research, local history and cultural preservation. Please contact me at blackwideawake@gmail.com.


      1. My last name is Barefoot, my grandfather James Edwin Barefoot lived in the only thing left from a plantation or big farm until he died 90s. Ive been finding records of slaves on the site with the same last name. I’m curious as to whether the name was passed to their slaves and these people were connected to my family history which has always been elusive. My grandmother’s side. yelvertons were not far from there and had one as well, story is the father freed his before it became law because it was cheaper to have them as employees. They com2timued to live on the property. Not a history I’m proud of, but I am curious. Thanks for postimg the old records.

      2. Hi, and thanks for reading. Freed people chose their own surnames. They were not given to them. Freedmen who chose the name Barefoot likely had been owned by white Barefoots. If your Yelverton ancestor freed his enslaved property, I have found a record of it. Manumission was a difficult process that required court, and later legislative, permission.

    1. Hi Lisa..I’m so happy I fell upon your website. I’m going to email you about 903 E. Vance. I grew up in that house with my aunt Ximena Pitt Martinez and my uncle Jose Martinez.
      I live in Stamford CT now but plan to visit Wilson in the near future. Thanks very much for writing about these homes..the resident’s and this most valuable and important history. I left my email below
      Belinda Pitt

  1. What a new treat for me to locate these pages. I am the grandson of Walter Hines of Wilson (barber at Briggs Hotel). I remember Reggie Henderson quite well from the 50’s (I’m age 72). I just found out from you that my great-great granddad founded Wilson !!! I have some items and pictures of interest about my family and I have about 50 pics and articles about the original Links, Inc., Wilson, Rocky Mount, Tarboro Chapter. I think it was the 4th Links chapter. I’d love to share whatever might be of interest to your blogs. It would be a treat to hear from anyone about this.

    1. Wow, wow, wow! What a pleasure to hear from you, Edwin. I’m so glad you found my blog. I’m Rederick Henderson’s elder daughter. I’d love to feature the photos and items you mentioned. Please contact me directly at lisayhenderson at gmail dot com. Looking forward to hearing from you!

    2. Edwin Holmes, I visited Rocky Mount., NC in the summer of 1972 with a friend, Samuel J. Lanchester. I do not remember the names of his relatives. Are you familiar with any Lanchesters in Rocky Mount?

      Lydia Hunter

  2. Words cannot begin to express just how much I love your blog. My history via my mother are deeply rooted in Wilson, NC! As a matter of fact, our family reunion will be in Wilson this year. I am great great daughter of Gillis and Mary Stephens/Stevens (the spelling of the last name changed between 1900 and 1910). I am also the great great great Elbest Kent and the granddaughter of his great grandson Joe Kent, Jr.

    1. Hello, Linda!! Thanks so much for your kind words. I knew some Kent descendants growing up, and I think I may have some posts in the hopper related to the family. I’ll get them posted in time for your reunion!

      1. Lisa,

        Good evening. I happen to be researching my maternal family, the Shade family of Maryland. My research began in Maryland, then Alabama, and resulted in me reading your blog. Reading through your blog and sharing with my siblings, we think that we are related to Issac and his wife Estelle. With several family members from Maryland completing Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, and other DNA test we find several surnames that you listed. In addition, a relative who lives in North Carolina recently tried to help make the connection. I saw that Kenneth and a few others have responded to your blog. I’m hoping that you and them are open to discussing family connections with us in Maryland.


      2. Wow! I love a good DNA connection! The Shade grandchildren are a generation older than I, and I don’t know them personally, but I’m pretty sure I could get in touch with Ken Shade (Jr.) I’m certainly willing to contribute in any way I can.

  3. Thanks so much for doing all of the heavy research Lisa. I’m a History buff and especially interested in Wilson’s African American History, which I know so little about. I believe Ms Christine Barnes Richie to be related on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. My late paternal grandmother was named Margaret Hagans Powell. I haven’t had the opportunity to do any extensive research, but came across the names Hagar Hagans and James Hagans previously while trying to find connections to my paternal great grandfather Julius Hagans. I also saw your features on my second cousins, Vanilla Beane and Inez Dade. Thanks for helping me to connect the pieces of the puzzle.

    1. Thanks, Sharon! Always good to hear from someone with Wilson County roots. I’ve researched Julius Hagans’ family a bit to try to connect his father Richard to my Wayne County Haganses, but so far without success. I’ll keep an eye out for any Hagans material suitable for posting!

      1. Lisa, I left a note on your organization facebook page. I have been working on Alice Ann Faithful and Richard Hagans from Wilson. Still in early stages but if I can be of assistance to you or Sharon Doucette. My public tree is on Ancestry under Robert Faithful IV. August 2021

  4. I have been trying to find out about my great grandmother’s father Lemon Taborn, born 1834 in Wilson, North Carolina. He is listed as a Ward of the town of Wilson. According to the Us Cencus of 1860 he was 26 years old and his job was listed as a Barber. My confusion is how a black child in 1834 Wilson, Norrh Carolina was listed as a Ward of the town of Wilson and not a slave?!? Can you lend any insight into this question? An answer would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!

    1. I’ve done several posts about Lemon Taborn; hope you’ve seen them. Where do you see him listed as a “ward of the town”? Wilson was not founded until he was nearly an adult. Lemon was born free in Nash County to a free woman of color who was likely not married. He served as an apprentice until 21 and was one of a handful of free people who lived in the town of Wilson in the antebellum era. (I grew up with some of his descendants, by the way, descended via one of his sons.

  5. What a Wonderful Blog. I was surprised to see my Family History here. And my Great-Grandmother Margaret Hinnant. I remember Shade Drug Store, I think his Wife was my Third Grade Teacher.

  6. Hello Lisa, thank you so much for sharing the photo with the Wilson Times of Aunt Tena the custodian for Lee Woodard. She is my Grandmothers mother’s oldest sister. They never had a picture of her but when my grandmother now 84 saw the picture in the Times she knew right away who she was. She was so excited because we have tried on different occasions to trace her roots but we always run into a dead in at some point. Again thank you so much for sharing it.

    1. Wow! Wonderful! I’m so glad her photo was reconnected with her people and hope that I’ve provided some help with family history info. That makes my blog worthwhile.

      1. Yes, the info has been very helpful. Do you search family trees or know of anyone that does. It is a very tedious job especially when you don’t know the right places to look. My grandmother is 84 and still is interested in finding out more about her mother’s family. Thanks in advance

        p.s. keep it coming


    I LOVE IT°••

  8. Hello Lisa
    I truly appreciate your awesome research and informative articles about NC. I was born in Wilson and lived in various small towns in Wilson County. I am related to (just to name a few from the Wilson area) Paternal: Alexander Artis, his brother Floyd Ellis, Cora King, Maternal: Short W. Barnes, his daughter Maggie Barnes-Crawford, etc). Perhaps, we are related.
    Blessings to you.

  9. Lisa, would you be able to email me? I have a few questions that I would like to ask you! I would appreciate it greatly. Thank you!

  10. Great blog…I am researching the Simms family of Wayne/ Wilson Com N.C that migrated to Ga. Then Al. Robert Simms-Abraham and James..In my research I have some information on the African Americans connected to that family..I have also been in contact with a lady researching the Simms AA lines, she goes by the nick of “seecan05” on Ancestry.com..she has very good research data..may want to contact her.. again, great job on your work.

    James Simms

    1. Thank you, James! If you have documentary evidence, such as wills or other records that name enslaved people born in NC, or photographs that you’re willing to share with Black Wide-wake, I’d love to post them.

  11. Hello Mrs. Lisa Y. Henderson. I’m so excited about this page and finding my ancestors from Wilson. I wanted your help. Im rooted from the BARNES families from Wilson. I dont know much. I know My Great Great Grandfather is Ben /Benjamin Barnes born around 1855 or 60. But our set migrated south to Florence county, South Carolina. Please help! Thanks

    1. Thank you, but this is a perpetuation of inaccuracies that I am trying to undo. Rountree-Vick was not a single cemetery. One was private, one was city-owned, and they were separated geographically by a third cemetery, Odd Fellows. Death certificates indiscriminately refer to burials in any of the three as “Rountree,” most commonly. Rountree-Vick is a name the city devised in the 1990s.

  12. Hello Lisa Y. Henderson,

    I was ask a question I cannot answer. May be you know the best place to seek the answer.
    Enclosed is an email.

    Hello. I am researching Eliza Edward a woman who was enslaved by the Edward’s family in Greene county, NC. Theophilus Edward’s “gave” Eliza to Benjamin S Edward’s when she was 1 year old. I believe Benjamin and Eliza had two children Edith and William. They all lived on a farm in Greene county until it was stolen from them in late 1920s. Any of this ring a bell? Thank you.

    My Answer:
    Hello Donald Hugh Taylor, Jr. , Nice to meet you. The story you told I am not familiar with. However, I know someone who might have heard or may be he can point me in the right direction.
    The Woodard’s Edward’s and Evans’s family are related and they began in Greene County, North Carolina. Our last Family Reunion name was “Woodard, Evans and Edwards Family Reunion.”
    Any one of those 3 Surnames might have heard the story.

    I will ask,

    Leroy Barnes

    His Answer: Thank you so much. My email is don.taylor@duke.edu. The community in Greene county where the theft took place is known as Browntown Crossroads

    I have not heard of Browntown, Greene County, North Carolina.


    Leroy Barnes
    Facebook: Leroi Barnes
    Email: speedoo251@aol.com

    1. Hi,Leroy. I’m not sure I understand the facts. Benjamin S. Edwards was a slaveholder born about 1800. He was not alive in the late 1920s. Nor was Eliza Edwards. Who is it that was living on a farm that was stolen in the 1920s. Once the researcher has figured that out, he may be able to search for deeds in Greene County’s Register of Deeds office.

  13. Hi Lisa,

    This is so interesting! My maternal grandmother was an Edwards and maiden name Speight. Recently did my ancestry and would like to find more info about the my 3 x great grandfather George Edwards, father of Oscar Edwards. There seems to be no electronic record of him.

  14. Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for this treasure of information! I stumbled upon it this evening while doing simple research about my family. I am a Yelverton — James Yelverton Jr. was my paternal grandfather’s grandfather. I have been trying for some time to find out the history of the small piece of land that was passed down to me (specifically if it was part of the original Yelverton land, and if so, who lived there). It is in the Nahunta district, in Faro. I’ve also been trying to untangle some of my lineage, as it (unfortunately, but not a surprise) overlaps about 8 generations back, starting with Hardy J. Yelverton (who would have been James Jr.’s grandfather, best I can tell). There is a lot of interesting history in the Yelverton family, for sure, although a good deal of it is not pretty. However, I am determined to find out more. Again, thank you for your work and information!

    1. I’m so glad you found the blog! Yelverton is a Wayne County family, but they certainly branched into Wilson County. I’ve got cousins who are James Yelverton descendants.

  15. About a year ago, I discovered the marriage record for my Couch great grandparents and that my great grandmother’s parents were Thomas Scaggs & Mary E. Turner, apparently the daughter of Lewis Turner & Eliza Ann Mills. Along the trail of that ancestry, I ran across the Not a Slave article re Robert Mills (Cumberland County, NC court case: John A. Philips v. Patrick Murphy, Adm’r 49 NC 4 (1856)), and The Descendants of William Mills, Sr. – In that genealogy, Robert Mills is not shown…and William Kelly Mills is shown as a son of Lewis Turner & Eliza Ann Mills; who are shown with him in the census as also being the parents of Mary-(Mary E. {Turner} Scaggs). William Kelly Mills is shown in censuses as white, mulatto and black. —— Are Robert Mills and Eliza Ann Mills related? I was hoping to discover if my heritage included Africans, and perhaps a little further back, African slaves. (I successfully traced my stepchildren’s heritage back to African ancestry in Louisiana.) Forgive me if I’ve inquired in some fashion earlier…I cannot find any notes indicating that.

  16. Hello, I cannot thank you enough I just stumbled upon this blog. I’m having a problem finding out where I fit into the line of The Barnes/Kent families. I know I am a couple of generations behind Ned Kent’s son or grandson Marcellus Kent’s Grandson or Granddaughter. I am so happy! I have longed for this information for a long time. I am so greatful for any advice or help anyone is willing to share. I am born and raised in San Francisco. I never knew my journey would bring me to Wilson County North Carolina. Also, Can you reply with your Facebook page?

  17. Howdy! I am looking for information on a Mariah Locust. I believe she was born around 1799 or 1800. She was the wife of Elijah Locust probably born around the same time. They had a daughter named Zillah who was born around 1826 or 1825. Zillah was listed on several census with Mariah ( FPC) and in a Hagan household with a young child and then Married to a jones.

    I match the Locust, Hagan, Hinnants, on my portion of Entirely Native American Chromosome 19. I descendand directly from a Native American Woman confirmed by my Maternal Haplogroup. This connection I suspect is through Mariah Locus. Do you have a surname for her or a marriage record that would tell us her maiden name. I believe she may have connection to an Indian Coleman line. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks!

  18. Lisa, this site is so fantastic. I am volunteering at the Stagville plantation over in Durham and I’m working on genealogy research on descendants of enslaved people over at Stagville. There was a family living in Wilson County in the 1870s that had been enslaved at Stagville, going by the last name Mordecai or Mordica or variations on that. Any leads on descendants you’re aware of would be appreciated! The last name seems to disappear from North Carolina census records after 1870.

    1. Wow! I see the Mordica brothers, Willis and Ezekiel, in Joyners township in 1870, and Willis and family in Toisnot township (same area) in 1880. I don’t know any Mordicai descendants, but I’d love to feature a post about your search. Please email me at blackwideawake at gmail dot com.

  19. Hello!
    I love reading your posts!
    My parents used to talk about going to “June German” every year…a huge, good time dance where Blacks attended. I haven’t been able to find anything written about this yearly event. Please keep an eye out for any stories you may come across about June German.
    Thanks, Barbs

  20. I’m so happy to stumbled across this!! My grandmother was born in Wilson in 1920, the only thing she knew was that her father was a barber last name Gaston.

  21. Hello Lisa, my name is Cheryl Pender and I have been trying to research my maternal family history My family was born in Edgecombe County and I researched, several years ago,and found out about William Dorsey Pender but today, while reading your blog, I found out about his father and the “ James J Pender plantation” house that had 25 or more enslaved in which some were my ancestors. I’ve only been able to go back 3 generations (without having to commit to an ongoing deduction from my bank account). Can you inform me on how to go further in discovering my roots, possibly all the way to the ship? Hiding our history cost them nothing but now I’m suppose to pay to uncover it, the audacity!

    1. Hi, Cheryl! I’m glad Black Wide-Awake has been useful in your search. Genealogical research is unquestionably an expensive undertaking, and I don’t know any way around that. Breakthroughs beyond 1870 often require intensive archival work, and the reality is that only a very few records remain detailing slave ships’ “cargoes” or linking names found on manifests to descendants. All of my enslaved ancestors were in inland eastern NC, piedmont NC, or southeast VA, and there were likely many generations between those I can identify and those were taken from Africa. For this reason, it’s not a goal I’ve focused on, and I unfortunately can’t offer any guidance. I wish you the best!

  22. Thank you for all your extensive research and well organized web site. It’s truly a rich resource that captures much of Wilson’s past, in all its facets.

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