Author: Lisa Y. Henderson

History. Genealogy. Culture.

While building Saint Alphonsus.

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“St. Alphonsus Catholic Church met at Reid Street Center in 1938 while the church was being built. The photograph was submitted by James “Casey” Ellis.” Wilson Daily Times, 20 April 1999.

If you can identify any of the parishioners, please let me know.

The doctor could not get there.

Six month-old Shirley Jean Everett died before Dr. T.G Bradshaw could reach her in the winter of 1948. Given the condition of the roads, it is not clear how he “sent medicine” from his office in Rock Ridge.

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“Probably Pneumonia Did not see [her?] & Roads so bad no one could get to see her Sent medicine 2/4/48”

 

The Carters came to Wilson.

Jesse A. Jacobs and his second wife, Sarah Henderson Jacobs, arrived in Wilson from Dudley, in southern Wayne County, circa 1905. Several members of my extended family, including my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (whom they adopted), arrived in their wake.

I have written of Jesse Jacobs’ nephew, Milford E. Carter Sr., son of Marshall and Frances Jacobs Carter, who settled his family briefly in Wilson. My grandmother recollected that several of Milford Carter’s brothers regularly visited Wilson, and at least one, Harold V. Carter (1902-1969), remained long enough to work in town:

“The Carters looked ‘bout like white folks. I didn’t really know ‘em. I think it was nine of them boys.  The three I knew was Milford and Johnnie and Harold, I think.  They used to come to Wilson, but –the older one didn’t come up.  But Milford, Harold ….  the two youngest ones come over and stayed with Annie Bell. Johnnie –  and Freddie, too.  When I’d go to Uncle Lucian’s, they lived not too far from there. But I never went to their house. I think Harold was the youngest one.  ‘Cause that’s the one came to Wilson, and Albert, Annie Bell’s husband, got him a job down to the station driving a cab. And he got his own car, and he was down there for a long time. Harold. He’s the youngest one. Carter. All of them was great big.”

Six of the Carter brothers and a nephew, 1950s.

“The Carter boys was always nice. They come up here, come to stay with Annie Bell, Papa’s youngest daughter. They wasn’t here at the same time. They was driving cabs. So they used to come over all the time. I went with Harold down to Dudley once ‘cause he was going and coming back that same day. See, Uncle Lucian was sick, so I went down with him and come back.”

A few notes on this recollection:

  • Harold Carter was the second youngest of nine Carter brothers (and one sister.)
  • Annie Bell Jacobs Gay was Jesse A. Jacobs’ daughter. Her husband Albert S. Gay, a porter at the Hotel Cherry, died in 1932. Their son, Albert S. Gay Jr., co-founded a taxi service, Veterans Cab Company, shortly after World War II, and I briefly wondered if Harold Carter drove for his cousin’s company. However, given the reference to Harold Carter driving my grandmother from Wilson to Dudley to visit her great-uncle, J. Lucian Henderson, who died in 1934, it is clear that it was in fact Albert Sr. who referred Harold for a job driving taxis. “The station” was probably the Atlantic Coast Line passenger rail station located across the street from the Cherry Hotel.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, copyright 1994. All rights reserved. Copy of original photo of the Carters in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Census man a-comin’.

In the 1940s, the Daily Times regularly published John G. Thomas’ “Wilsonia,” a column of observations of town life. Thomas considered himself a great wit and took particular interest in shining a light on the more picturesque aspects of Wilson’s black community. Here, he praises a “stunt” an enumerator pulled to secure African-American cooperation with census-taking.

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Wilson Daily Times, 4 April 1940.

Page School.

The ninth 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.

Page School

Page School was not a Rosenwald school; it was originally a school for white students. When small white schools consolidated circa 1920, the school building was turned over to educate black children.

Location: A 12 August 1910 Wilson Times article refers to “Page’s school house, near Town Creek.”  A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows “Pages” school located on present-day East Langley Road, just west of the Edgecombe County line. [However, per a 23 May 2000 Wilson Daily Times article, Page’s School was located at Dunn’s (then Page’s Crossroads) and was converted into a store when it closed after consolidation in the early 1920s.]

Description: The photo below may depict the Page School near Dunn’s Crossroads, not the one on East Langley.

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Known faculty: none.

Divine healer?

In a nine-day span in 1914, Wilson residents Mary A. Williams and James T. Rountree died while under the care of William F. Edwards, a “divine healer.”

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William F. Edwards was only passing through town and apparently moved on with impunity. Two years later the “Gospel preacher and healer” was in Concord, North Carolina, “still curing the people.”

Concord Daily Tribune, 4 December 1916.

Concord Daily Tribune, 11 December 1916.

Four years after that, “The World’s Wonder Christian Scientist Preacher Healer” was in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, exhorting black and white to come throw their crutches away.

The Independent (Elizabeth City, N.C.), 11 June 1920.

Hat tip to D.P. for locating these articles about Edwards.

BB&T considers its past.

These are the opening paragraphs of a statement issued a few days ago by Kelly King, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Truist Bank, acknowledging the institution’s ties to slavery. Truist was formed in December 2019 from the merger of banking giants SunTrust and BB&T. BB&T — Branch Banking and Trust — was born in Wilson in 1872.

The tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many others before them have caused our nation to come face-to-face with its history of systemic racism. The structural racial injustices that have been levied against African Americans were born from a terrible national legacy – slavery. We’ll never be able to adequately right the wrongs of the past, but it’s our obligation as leaders in the business community to publicly and passionately condemn these injustices with greater commitment, focus and energy.

This national discussion also has created a great deal of introspection here at Truist. As we work toward building a more equitable society, we must consider our own past and acknowledge the role our heritage companies played over 100 years ago to perpetuate the atrocity of slavery and the repression of enslaved people, leading to systemic disadvantages their descendants have endured for generations. This includes our early institutions, which had close ties to industries of that era that profited from slavery. We deeply regret and denounce these shameful aspects of our history, both known and unknown.

King’s gesture on behalf of Truist is nice one but, in focusing on the bank’s actions “over 100 years ago,” he stops short of laying bare and claiming ownership of the role BB&T played throughout the whole of the twentieth century in creating and supporting “systemic disadvantages” for African-Americans. In other words, profiting on the backs of black people and shutting them out of places and positions of power started with slavery, but did not end there.

Instead, the mea culpa moves on to back-patting:

While this acknowledgement of our early history is difficult, our organization has also demonstrated a sincere commitment through the years to affect positive change and stand for equity in the communities where we live and work. 

Cue bullet points.

King’s memo is light on what he is actually apologizing for. BB&T corporate publication “Our account: A history of BB&T” — last updated in 2012 and in desperate need of a hard, new look — offers clues to the company’s official framing of its roots: “when hostilities ended in 1865 and the South was forced to accept defeat, the farmers-turned-soldiers returned home and found their property destroyed, livestock gone, tools and equipment either ruined or lost, and their money worthless.” “The world that they had left their homes to defend existed no longer. The world to which they returned was chaotic and was to remain so for several years.” “… [T]he state faced a broken economy with corruption in government, and when help seemed to come from no quarter, North Carolinians turned to each other for aid.”  Into the breach of Radical Reconstruction, the story goes, stepped Alpheus Branch and Thomas J. Hadley, both Confederate veterans and the sons of wealthy former slaveowners.

You can read the rest of “Our Account” for yourself, but don’t expect to find anything in it about structural racism. Branch and Hadley lent money to struggling farmers and merchants in Wilson County. Able to borrow money at reasonable interest rates, farmers moved into the cash economy, planting cotton and, beginning in the 1880s, bright-leaf tobacco, a crop that would pour money into pockets across the county. An acknowledgment — beyond the performative — of the “shameful aspects” of BB&T’s history would require an admission that “farmers and merchants” did not include African-Americans, and an examination of the ways that BB&T served, or did not serve, this group embodied and perpetuated injustice. However, per the 3 July 2020 Charlotte Observer, Chairman “King said … a full inquiry of the bank’s past was unlikely.”

——

  • Alpheus P. Branch (1843-1893) — Branch’s father Samuel W. Branch listed 38 enslaved African-Americans in the 1860 slave schedule of Halifax County, North Carolina. Branch fought for the Confederacy as a member of the Scotland Neck Mounted Riflemen, 3rd N.C. Cavalry. In 1865, Branch married Nannie Barnes, daughter of Joshua Barnes (who would become a charter member of an early iteration of BB&T.) Barnes is styled the “Father of Wilson County.” He was also a committed owner of one of the largest groups of enslaved African-Americans in Wilson County.
  • Thomas J. Hadley (1838-1917) — Hadley’s father Thomas Hadley listed 37 enslaved African-Americans in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County. Hadley rose to captain in Company A, 55th N.C. Infantry.

Many thanks to Brian D. Dalton and Linda Clark Parks for bringing Truist’s statement to my attention.

Moore-Mitchell marriage.

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 February 1919.

  • Ernest Moore

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: merchant Lee Moore, 36, wife Louisa, 32, and son Ernest, 12.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, life insurance agent Lee Moore, 40; wife Mary, 36; and son Earnest, 19.

In 1917, Ernest Andrew Moore registered for the World War I draft in New York, New York. Per his registration card, he was born 8 March 1888 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 257 West 111th Street; worked as an elevator operator for Frank Mull, 257 West 111th; and was single.

Ernest Moore, 31, of Wilson married Esther Mitchell, 21, of Wilson on 18 July 1919 in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony, and Dudley Bynum and Oleonia Bynum witnessed.

On 17 November 1927, Louise and Thelma Moore, children of Ernest and Ethel Mitchell Moore, were baptized at Riverside Hospital. Louise was born 28 October 1924, and Thelma, 15 July 1926. New York, Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records, 1767-1970, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

  • Ethel Mitchell — actually, Esther Mitchell.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Atlantic Street, barber Douglas [Dudley] Bynum, 29; wife Ora, 28; and roomer Ester Mitchell, 21.