Author: Lisa Y. Henderson

Researcher -- and descendant -- of North Carolina's free people of color. See also my genealogy blog at www.scuffalong.com and www.afamwilsonnc.com, which documents the African-American history of Wilson County NC.

I do like they done.

Martha Ann Tyson Dixon of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, sat for an interview with a Federal Writers Project worker in the late 1930s. Dixon had spent her childhood enslaved near Saratoga, Wilson County, and she and her husband Luke D. Dixon had migrated west in the late 1880s. More than 50 years after Emancipation, she vividly described the hardships of life during and after slavery.

“I am eighty-one years old. I was born close to Saratoga, North Carolina. My mother died before I can recollect and my grandmother raised me. They said my father was a white man. They said Jim Beckton [Becton]. I don’t recollect him. My mother was named Mariah Tyson.

“I recollect how things was. My grandmother was Miss Nancy Tyson’s cook. She had one son named Mr. Seth Tyson. He run her farm. They et in the dining room, we et in the kitchen. Clothes and somethng to eat was scarce. I worked at whatever I was told to do. Grandma told me things to do and Miss Nancy told me what to do. I went to the field when I was pretty little. Once my uncle left the mule standing out in the field and went off to do something else. It come up a hard shower. I crawled under the mule. If I had been still it would have been all right but my hair stood up and tickled the mule’s stomach. The mule jumped and the plough hit me in my hip here at the side. It is a wonder I didn’t get killed.

“After the Civil War was times like now. Money scarce and prices high, and you had to start all over new. Pigs was hard to start, mules and horses was mighty scarce. Seed was scarce. Everything had to be started from the stump. Something to eat was mighty plain and scarce and one or two dresses a year had to do. Folks didn’t study about going so much.”

“I had to rake up leaves and fetch em to the barn to make beds for the little pigs in cold weather. The rake was made out of wood. It had hickory wood teeth and about a foot long. It was heavy. I put my leaves in a basket bout so high [three or four feet high.] I couldn’t tote it — I drug it. I had to get leaves in to do a long time and wait till the snow got off before I could get more. It seem like it snowed a lot. The pigs rooted the leaves all about in day and back up in the corners at night. It was ditched all around. It didn’t get very muddy. Rattle snakes was bad in the mountains. I used to tote water — one bucketful on my head and one bucketful in each hand. We used wooden buckets. It was a lot of fun to hunt guinea nests and turkey nests. When other little children come visiting that is what we would do. We didn’t set around and listen at the grown folks. We toted up rocks and then they made rows [terraces] and rock fences about the yard and garden. They looked so pretty. Some of them would be white, some gray, sometimes it would be mixed. They walled wells with rocks too. All we done or knowed was work. When we got tired there was places to set and rest. The men made plough stocks and hoe handles and worked at the blacksmith shop in snowy weather. I used to pick up literd [lightwood] knots and pile them in piles along the road so they could take them to the house to burn. They made a good light and kindling wood.

“They didn’t whoop Grandma but she whooped me a plenty.

“After the war some white folks would tell Grandma one thing and some others tell her something else.  She kept me and”

“cooked right on. I didn’t know what freedom was. Seemed like most of them I knowed didn’t know what to do. Most of the slaves left the white folks where I was raised. It took a long time to ever get fixed. Some of them died, some went to the cities, some up North, some come to the country. I married and come to Fredonia, Arkansas in 1889. I had been married since I was a young girl. But as I was saying the slaves still hunting a better place and more freedom. Grandma learnt me to set down and be content. We have done better out here than we could done in North Carolina but I don’t believe in so much rambling.

“We come on the passenger train and paid our own way to Arkansas. It was a wild and sickly country and has changed. Not like living in the same country. I try to live like the white folks and Grandma raised me. I do like they done. I think is the reason we have saved and have good a living as we got. We do on as little as we can and save a little for the rainy day.”

——

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Nancy Scarborough, 47; Victoria, 10, Susan, 6, and Laurina Scarborough, 3; farm manager Seth Tyson, 23; and Julia, 18, Nancy, 17, Aaron, 15, and Abner Tyson, 13.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Mary Tyson, 62, with Edith, 23, John, 21, Abraham, 16, and Martha Tyson, 11.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Martha Tyson, 20, was a cook in the household of white marchant/farmer Mark Atkinson.

Martha Tyson, 26, married Luke Dixon, 26, in Wilson County on 12 February 1885. Minister E.H. Ward performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles Batts, Tempey Cotton and Green Taylor.

In the 1910 census of Watensaw township, Prairie County, Arkansas: Luke Dixon, 49, saw filer at Bar factory, and wife Martha M., 52.

In the 1920 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cedar Street, farmer Luke Dixon, 58; wife Martha, 59; and cousins Margaret Tyson, 14, and Oleo McClarin, 9.

In the 1930 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke D. Dixon, 70, born in Virginia, and wife Martha, 70, born in North Carolina, with cousin Allen Reaves, 8.

In the 1940 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke Dixon, 84, born in Virginia, and wife Martha A., 84, born in North Carolina.

Federal Writers’ Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 2, Arkansas, Part 2, Cannon-Evans, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mesn.022.

Signatures, no. 4.

Signatures are often-overlooked scraps of information that yield not only obvious clues about literacy, but also subtleties like depth and quality of education and preferred names, spellings and pronunciations. They are also, in original documents, tangible traces of our forebears’ corporality — evidence that that they were once here.

This is the fourth in a series of posts featuring the signatures of men and women born before 1900, men and women who could not take even a basic education for granted.

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  • Lee A. Moore (1863-1948), top: 1898, inside leaf of book; bottom: 1905, Wilson County marriage license of Fannie McGowan and Henry Matt Daniel.

  • Braswell R. Winstead (ca. 1860-1926), 1892, Wilson County marriage license of James J. Wilson and Susie Harriss.

 

 

Where did they go?: Arkansas World War II draft registrations.

In the 1880s and ’90s, thousands of African-Americans left North Carolina for Arkansas, seeking better fortune. Many settled in Lonoke, Jefferson and Pulaski Counties in the east-central part of the state, including the families of these World War II draft registrants.

  • Jethro Aycock

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Samuel Acock, 36; wife Jane, 35; and children Sam, 15, Fannie, 13, Harrett, 12, Amos, 10, Emma, 8, Mattie, 6, Hannah L., 4, Maggie, 2, and Jeathroe, 1.

  • Peter Aycox

In the 1900 census of Barraque township, Jefferson County, Arkansas: farmer Green Aycock, 52; wife Janie, 48; and children Robert, 30, Lary, 18, and Peter, 13; plus mother Faine Aycock, 81.

  • Jim Baker

In the 1910 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County: on England Road, farmer James Baker, 26, wife Mae E., 23, and children Bertha, 3, and Annie, 7 months.

  • Clayton Barnes

In the 1910 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: farmer Clayton Barnes, 24; wife Jennie, 25; step-daughters Lizzie Phillips, 12, and Carrie Phillips, 8; plus sister-in-law Lucelia Jones, 18. The adults were born in North Carolina; the children in Arkansas.

  • Richard Barnes

In the 1930 census of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas: at 1515 Bishop Street, owned and valued at $3000, Richard B. Barnes, 40, an office building porter, and wife Hazel Barnes, 30.

  • James Columbus Bynum

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: laborer Larence Bynum, 24; wife Edney, 19; children James, 1, and Mary J., 1 month; mother-in-law Liddie Bynum, 55; brother Isac Bynum, 22; and sister-in-law Anna Bynum, 17.

In the 1930 census of Well township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: farmer J.C. Bynum, 51; wife Florence, 50; daughter Odessa, 12, and adopted son Columbus Webb, 5. J.C. and Florence were born in North Carolina; the children in Arkansas.

  • Charley Augusta Bynum

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County, see James C. Bynum above.

In the 1900 census of Richwoods, Lonoke County, Arkansas: Laurance Bynum, 55; wife Edna, 39; children Mary, 19, Charlie, 17, Hattie, 16, Rachel, 9, Lewis, 6, Cora, 3, and Laurance, 11 months; grandsons Mack and Romie Notsie, both 1 week; and son-in-law Ed Notsie, 25. The Children after Rachel were born in Arkansas.

  • Josh Griffin

In the 1910 census of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas: at East 11th Street, Josh Griffin, 28, public works laborer; wife Lizzie, 30; and stepson Willie Sanders, 6.

  • Tom Hooks

In the 1920 census of Barraque township, Jefferson County, Arkansas: on Little Rock Road, farmer Thomas Hooks, 43; wife Lula, 44; and children Thomas, 16, Nathan, 14, Carolina, 14, Corena, 10, Nora B., 7, Wilber, 6, Vandie, 4, and Fredona, 1. All the children were born in Arkansas.

  • Andrew Jackson Jones

  • George Daniel Jones

In the 1900 census of Williams township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: Virginia-born farmer Peter Jones, 50; wife Ellen, 44; and son George, 20, both born in North Carolina.

  • Robert Daniel Parker

Perhaps, in the 1900 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: farmer Ceaza Parker, 39; wife Cinda, 42; and children Mattie, 16, Willis, 14, Daniel, 12, Luvenia, 8, Huburt, 7, Piety, 4, and Mary A., 1.

Studio shots, no. 43: Pattie Hagans Freeman.

Pattie Hagans Freeman (1900-1977).

——

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Larnce Haggan, 49, wife Etha, 44, and children Joe, 21, Augustus, 19, Oscar, 18, Charlie, 16, Annie, 13, Connie, 10, Lena, 8, Mollie, 7, William L., 4, Minnie, 3, and Pattie, 1, and Lawrence’s widowed mother Alice Hagans, 70.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Laurence Hagans, 60, wife Mary, 56, and children Laurence Jr., 16, Minnie, 4, and Pattie, 12.

Julius F. Freeman, 31, of Camp Pike, Pulaski County, Arkansas, married Pattie Hagan, 21, of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, on 1 October 1918.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Julias Freeman, 33, brickmason for construction company; wife Pattie, 21; and son Julias Jr., 3 months.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1113 Washington Street, owned and valued at $3000, brickmason Julious F. Freman, 42; wife Hattie, 31; and children Julious, 10, Doloris, 9, Robert P. and Richard P., 8, John C., 6, Charles E., 4, Patricia E., 3, Mary E., 1, and Rubey, 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1114 Washington Street, owned and valued at $3000, brick mason Julius Freeman, 52; wife Pattie, 40; and children Julius L., 20, Doris, 19, Robert and Richard, 18, John, 16, Charles, 14, Eunice, 12, Mary, 11, Ruby, 10, Tom, 9, Dan, 8, Lillian, 6, and Henry, 2.

Pattie H. Freeman, age 77, died 12 August 1977 in Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 August 1977.

Photograph courtesy of Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, the 100th anniversary commemorative booklet of Calvary Presbyterian Church.

112 North Pender Street.

The sixty-ninth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1913; 1 story; unusual L-plan cottage with a cross-hip roof; aluminum sided.”

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 112 Pender Street, Irene Plumber, 50; daughters Christine, 18, and Jennette B. Plumber, 21; mother Agness Barnes, 75; and lodger Lizzie Bryant, 28. All except Barnes were cooks. Bryant was a cook in a cafe; the others, in private homes.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N,C., City Directory: McCadden Tobias (c; Lorena) h 112 Pender

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2017.

Snaps, no. 22: Staton and Doretta Sherrod Davis.

Doretta and Staton Davis in front of their Bruton Street home in Daniel Hill, mid-1950s.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Westley Davis, 38; wife Mag, 38; children  Horris, 16, Lillie, 13, Oliv, 10, Clinton, 8, Staton, 7, Emma, 4, Learry, 2, and Eva, 1; and nephew June Coley, 25.

In the 1920 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: on Black Creek Road, West Davis, 50; wife Margaret, 50; children Horice, 23, Clinton, 17, Staton, 16, Emma, 15, Lerie, 13, Eva, 12, and Pelie, 9; and granddaughter Beulah O., 2.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Elm City Road, farmer Solomon Sherrod, 41; wife Josephine, 32; and children Alena, 11, Jarvis, 10, Doretta, 8, Dock, 6, B. Minnie, 4, and Solomon, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Harpers Road, farmer Soloman Sheard, 50; wife Josephine, 42; and children Javis, 20, Doretta, 18, Linton O., 16, Minnie B., 13, Solomon, 11, Flora, 3, Bulah, 3, and Elmore, 1.

On 20 April 1930, Staton Davis, 25, son of Wesley and Maggie Davis, married Doretta Sherrod, 18, daughter of Solomon and Josephine Sherrod, at Wade [illegible]’s farm in Wilson township. Primitive Baptist minister Isaac Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Leonard Shearard, Lonnie Hoskins and Jarvis Shearard.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 Bruton Street, rented for $9/month, Station Davis, 36, plumbing company pipe fitter; wife Doretta, 28; and children Lorena, 9, Richard, 8, Suti Mae, 6, Station, 4, Leonard, 2, and David, 5 months.

In 1940, Statin Davis registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 12 October 1904 in Wyan [Wayne] County; resided at 408 Brouton Street, Wilson; his contact was Maggie Davis, Route 1, Fremont; and he worked for the W.P.A. at Charles L. Coon High School.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Davis Staton (c; Doretta; 6) h 406 S Bruton St

Staten Davis died 12 September 1952 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 19 October 1904 in Wayne County to Wes Davis and an unknown mother; resided at 408 Bruton Street, Wilson; was married to Doreatha Davis; and had worked as a laborer.

Doretta Elizabeth Sherrod Davis died 6 May 1997 in Wilson. Born 14 September 1911, she was 85 years old.

The first seven of the twelve Davis children: (top) Richard; (middle) Staton Jr., David, and Lorena holding Jo Ann; (bottom) Sudie Mae and Leonard, circa 1942.

Many thanks to William Ashley Davis for sharing these family photos.

Rogers kits out his pool hall.

In 1905, John W. Rogers bought, subject to $209.45 mortgage, all the goods necessary to furnish a billiard hall — two pool tables, balls, a cue rack, a ball rack, cues, triangles, etc. A handwritten notation along the edge of the entry shows that Rogers paid his note in full in June 1907 and owned the goods free and clear. [The 1908 Wilson city directory lists only one African-American-operated billiard room — Matthews Pool Room at 510 East Nash., which was managed by Eugene Matthews. Rogers, who lived at 555 East Nash, was described as a foreman in the directory.]

Where we shopped: Hill’s Fish Market.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 August 1944.

Brothers William and Joseph Meade Hill owned and operated a fish market on East Nash Street near Pender (the site later of Dr. Julian B. Rosemond‘s dental office.) The market’s location assured that it served a mostly African-American clientele.

What curious text: “For Your Protection … Always let the little fishes that swim around our adv. dive down into your Telephone Directory or Radio Station WGTM and bring up your Seafood Telephone Number 3291. It’s a number that guarantees fresh seafood.”

The teachers of Calvary’s church school.

CHURCH SCHOOL

Mr. S.H. Vick‘s zeal for Sabbath School work continued into his being superintendent of Calvary’s Church School for twenty-five years. Other superintendents following him were Mr. B.R. Winstead, Mr. William Hines, and Mrs. Henrietta Colvert, a registered nurse with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

Some of the early teachers were Mrs. Lucy Thompson, Mrs. Della Barnes, Mrs. Mamie Faithful, Mr. B.R. Winstead, Mr. and Mrs. Mack Cannon, Mrs. Martha Spells, Mrs. Eleanor P. Reid, Mrs. Ethel Hines, Mrs. Sarah Hines, Mrs. Cortney Fitts, and Mrs. Mary Diggs.

The Sunday School pianists included Mrs. Susan Peacock Prince, Miss Rose L. Kittrell, Miss Naomi Freeman, Mrs. Doris Vick Walker, Miss Dolores Hines, and Mrs. Mary Ellis.

From “Historical Highlights of Calvary Presbyterian Church (USA), Wilson, North Carolina,” Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service (1989).