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.

State v. Goffney, 157 N.C. 624, 73 S.E. 162 (1911).

This case reached the North Carolina Supreme Court on appeal from Wilson County Superior Court.

In summary, the lower court convicted Sylvester Goffney of housebreaking. He appealed; the Supreme Court reversed the decision and dismissed the case.

Goffney appealed on three grounds, the first two of which were deemed without merit. The third: “It is contended by the learned counsel for defendant in a well-prepared brief that, upon the state’s evidence, no crime has been committed, and with this position we fully agree.”

George Barnes and Joe Barnes were partners in Barnes Brothers, a business that Goffney was alleged to have broken into. One of the Barneses testified: “I know the defendant, have known him for four years. He has been in my employ for several years, during which time I found him honest. He assisted me in my store and business a portion of the time. In consequence of statements made to me by Richard Farmer, a negro boy in my employ, I instructed Richard to induce [Goffney] to break in my store. On the night of July 7th Policeman Wynne, myself, and others watched the store, and about 12 o’clock we saw the defendant, Sylvester Goffney, and Richard Farmer go to the store, and saw defendant, Goffney, remove tacks holding a window pane, and remove the window, and enter the store. Richard Farmer immediately afterwards also entered the store through the same window. Policeman Wynne, myself, and others, who were watching the store, after firing pistols, entered the store, and arrested the defendant, Goffney, and required said Farmer to accompany us.” The only other witness corroborated Barnes.

The court’s determination: In the case at bar it appears that Barnes, the owner of the building entered, directed his servant Richard Farmer to induce the defendant to break in his (Barnes’) store; that the servant obeyed his orders, and that he and defendant entered the store together, and that Barnes was present watching them, and arrested defendant after he entered.

If it were possible to hold the defendant guilty of a felony under such circumstances, then Barnes could be likewise convicted of feloniously breaking and entering his own store, for he was present, aiding and abetting the entry of the defendant and induced him to enter. That would of course be a legal absurdity.

“Upon the facts in evidence, no crime was committed because the entry was with the consent and at the instance of the owner of the property. His honor should have directed a verdict of not guilty. Reversed, and proceeding dismissed.”

——

Here’s how the Wilson Daily Times reported the trial:

Wilson Daily Times, 11 July 1911.

A few interesting points from this account:

  • The Barnes Brothers operated a store in Samuel H. Vick‘s Odd Fellows building on East Nash Street “below the railroad.”
  • Sylvester Goffney had recently left their employ to go work for veterinarian Elijah L. Reid. The Barneses’ had regarded him as a trustworthy employee.
  • One of the Barnes brothers slept on a cot in the store. Goffney stopped by to visit, fell asleep and spent the night in the store.
  • The next day, Richard Farmer, an employee described as a “little boy” or “little negro,” cautioned Barnes that Goffney had solicited his help to rob the store — and cut Barnes’ head off.
  • The next time Goffney visited, Barnes refused to let him in. He later heard someone try the door, fired a shot, and all went quiet.
  • Barnes then directed Farmer to conspire with Goffney to break into the store. Barnes and a policeman hid while Farmer and Goffney entered through a window, then arrested both.
  • On the stand, Farmer testified that Goffney also planned to rob the restaurant of Richard Gaither, “a cripple and blind negro” and “fix” his wife.

Two months later, the Times reported a verdict:

Wilson Daily Times, 8 September 1911.

——-

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster William Gwaltney [Goffney], 56; wife Courtney, 50; step-son John Bunn, 25, blaksmith; and nephew Sylvester Gwaltney, 6.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, widow Courtney Goffney, 50; Ada Battle, 30(?), graded school teacher; and lodger Sylvester Goffney, 16, factory laborer.

In 1914, Sylvester Goffney was designated beneficiary of the estate of his aunt, Courtney Goffney.

In 1918, Sylvester Goffney registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1894 in WIlson; resided at 147 Suggs Street, Wilson; and was unemployed. [Goffney signed his card with a firm, strong signature, evidence of a good education and opportunity to practice.]

In the 1920 census of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan: auto factory laborer Sylvester Goffney, 25, was a lodger in the household of Ida L. Taylor, 42, on Saint Antoine Street.

In January 1937, Sylvester Goffney applied for a Social Security number. Per his application, he was born 10 August 1894 in WIlson, North Carolina, to Christopher Goffney and Kate McCowan.

In the 1940 census of River Rouge, Wayne County, Michigan: renting at 450 Holford Street, Sylvester Goffney, 45, porter at veterans hospital, and wife Mattie, 41, confectionery clerk.

In 194x, Sylvester Oliver Goffney registered for the World War II draft in Wayne County, Michigan. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1894 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 450 Holford Street, River Rouge, Michigan; his contact was Mrs. P. Henry, 475 Holford; and he was unemployed.

In the 1947 Wyandotte, Michigan, city directory: Goffney Sylvester (Mattie) conf 518 Elliott h 516 [Elliott]

Sylvester Goffney died 22 March 1948 in River Rouge, Wayne County, Michigan. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 August 1894 in Wilson, N.C., and was married.

 

Negro doing well in the North.

During one of his annual visits home to Wilson, the News & Observer published a short feature on Silas Alexander Artis, who had once worked turning the power press at the Wilson Daily Times., a paper once operated by N.&O. founder Josephus Daniels. After leaving the paper, Artis attended Brick Agricultural, Industrial and Normal Institute in northern Edgecombe County before migrating North.

img.jpg

News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 22 June 1922.

Was Silas A. Artis the son of Fereby Barnes Artis Barnes and her first husband, Benjamin Artis? If so, in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Willis Barnes, 60; [his second] wife Fereby, 51; and [Fereby’s] children Morris, 20, Artis [sic], 16, Silas, 14, Wade, 12; and Fereby’s mother Rose Barnes, 50. (Though the surname of Fereby’s children was listed as Barnes, it was in fact Artis.)

In 1917, S. Alexander Artis registered for the World War I draft in New Haven, Connecticut. Per his registration card, he was born 4 July 1886 in New Orleans, Louisiana; resided at 171 Dixwell Street, New Haven; worked as a stationary fireman for Cauder Rubber Company, New Haven; and had “defective eyes.”

In the 1920 census of New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut: at 58 Hudson Street, rubber shop fireman Silas A. Artis, 34, born in Connecticut; wife Baptiste, 38; daughters Sila, 2, and Frances, 1; and Pearley Reeves, 24.

In the 1930 census of New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut: at 647 Orchard Street, houseman Silas A. Artis, 44, born North Carolina; wife Baptiste, 50; and daughters Sila, 13, and Frances, 11.

In 1942, Silas A. Artis registered for the World War II draft in New Haven. Per her registration card, he was born 4 July 1886 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 9 Northeast Drive, New Haven; worked for City of New Haven Park Department; and his contact was Sila A. Artis, 9 Northeast.

Silas A. Artis died in New Haven, Connecticut, on 13 August 1977.

New Haven Independent, 5 May 2009.

206 North Pender Street.

The one hundred-fourth 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.

The vacant lot at 206 North Pender Street. Visible in the distance is the corner of Ashe Street and Darden Lane.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “ca. 1922; 1 story; John Clark tenant house; gable-end, side-hall house with turned-post porch; a variant of the shotgun; Clark was a white tobacconist, who built house for black tenant.”

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Crocker James lab h 206 Pender and Crocker Nancy cook h 206 Pender

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Crocker James H (c; Nancy) sta fireman h 206 Pender

In 1940, Donnie Daniel Graham registered for the World War II draft in Chowan County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 15 February 1908 in Wayne County; he resided at 211 East Church, Edenton, Chowan County; his contact was Nancy Crocker, 206 Pender, Wilson; and he worked for George P. Folk, Hotel Joseph Hughes, Edenton.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Crocker James H (c; Nancy) h 206 Pender

James H. Crocker died 3 May 1945 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 65 years old; was born in Wayne County to Joseph I. Crocker and Celia Hooks; was married to Nancy Dew Crocker; resided at 206 Pender Street; and worked as a common laborer. Informant was Gaston Crocker, Fremont, North Carolina.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Council Adam (c; Ophelia) chauffeur Dave Woodard h 206 Pender

Photo courtesy Google Maps Streetview.

Visitor to Saint Mark’s.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 August 1934.

Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, 106 South Reid Street. This building replaced an earlier one on the site. Saint Mark’s sanctuary now serves its historic African-American congregation as well as a Latino mission, La Iglesia de la Guadelupana.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2019.

Darden v. Robert G. Lassiter & Co., 198 N.C. 427, 152 S.E. 32 (1930).

Wilson Daily Times, 31 October 1929.

Darden v. Robert G. Lassiter & Company reached the North Carolina Supreme Court on appeal from Wilson County Superior Court. Camillus L. Darden, administrator of the estate of Evan Powell, filed the action against Robert G. Lassiter & Company to recover damages for Powell’s death of plaintiff’s death, which was alleged to have been caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of the defendant. The county court entered a judgment for plaintiff, and Lassiter & Company appealed.

The evidence showed that on December 29, 1927, Powell was working for Lassiter in a trench or ditch cut along Mercer Street in the town of Wilson in preparation for laying sewer or water mains. The trench was cut by a ditching machine to approximately the required depth, and Powell was engaged in smoothing out the bottom of the trench to a uniform grade, called “fine grading,” when the trench caved in and injured him, along with two other workmen. Powell died the following day.

Powell, “a colored man about 29 years of age,” had been employer by Lassiter as a day laborer for about five months and working with this particular crew for about two months prior to his injury. The trench was approximately 7 feet deep and about 21 inches wide. The ground was saturated with water from heavy rainfall.  Water seeped in from the walls on both sides of the trench, and there had been a couple of cave-ins prior to this one. About fifteen yards from the most recent cave-in, workers encountered quicksand about 6 feet below the surface of the ground. Lassiter installed a pump to keep the water out of the trench.

Lassiter’s foreman, O.L. Pickering, directed that certain bracing be used to keep the walls of the trench from falling in — two upright pieces of timber, placed from 8 to 16 feet apart along the sides of the ditch, with two horizontal braces placed between them, one at the top and the other at the bottom. However, contrary to custom, Pickering provided no longitudinal stringers to keep the banks of the ditch from falling or caving in.

On the day of the incident, Pickering went to lunch about 12:30 and left the others working in the ditch. There were no braces for a space of 18 or 20 feet (one witness said from 35 to 40 feet) immediately behind the ditching machine where Powell was working. Shortly after the foreman left, the bank of the ditch suddenly caved in just beyond the last brace and temporarily buried three of the workmen.

Foreman Pickering testified, in part: “It was my duty to see that these braces were put in. I instructed them to put the braces in at intervals of 8 feet. There was a space behind the machine of about 12 or 15 feet in which there were no braces. They had put in all the braces I had instructed them to put in except the last one. They did not have it in when I left. I left them to put that in — the one right behind the machine — and to lay the pipe. Evan Powell was in the ditch at the time I left. He was leveling the bottom or doing fine grading.”

Lassiter offered evidence that Powell had a duty to help put in braces and assumed the risk of his injury. However, this was countered by evidence showing that Powell had no such responsibility. Other employees were instructed to place the braces in the ditch under the immediate supervision of the foreman, who, in turn, was under the supervision of an engineer employed by Lassiter.

The usual issues of negligence, contributory negligence, assumption of risk, and damages were submitted to the jury, resulting in a verdict for the plaintiff. The defendant appealed.

Chief Justice Stacy wrote the opinion. “The case, with evidence sufficient to carry it to the jury, was tried upon the theory that in law the defendant was in duty bound, in the exercise of ordinary care, to provide a reasonably safe place for [Powell] to work, and to furnish him reasonably safe means and suitable appliances with which to execute the work assigned, subject to the limitation that the deceased took upon himself, as an employee or servant of the defendant, the ordinary risks of danger incident to the employment, which were obvious or could have been perceived by him in the exercise of his senses and by the use of ordinary care and circumspection. In this, there was no error. …

“Whether ‘fine grading’ in the bottom of a trench, such as [Powell] was doing in the instant case, is dangerous, or otherwise, would seem to depend upon a variety of circumstances. In some cases, it might be entirely safe; in others, not. The size and dimensions of the trench might affect it. The character of the soil would certainly have some influence. The presence of lime, stone, or quicksand, or of earth newly filled in, the moisture in the ground, and numerous other conditions might render such work more or less safe, or more or less hazardous. The state of the weather or the season of the year might have something to do with it. But all of these are matters of fact, about which there may be conflicting evidence, as in the instant case, calling for determination by a jury.

“Indeed, in the instant case, the fact that [Powell]’s work was done under the immediate supervision and direction of the defendant’s foreman would seem to be equivalent to an assurance that he might safely proceed with it. … When the foreman went to get his lunch, he left [Powell] at work in the trench, leveling the bottom or doing fine grading. He was therefore, at the time of leaving, in a better position than [Powell] to observe and appreciate the danger.

“The case was properly submitted to the jury.

“No error.”

Evan Powell’s death certificate. Cause: “Paralysis. Crushed by falling dirt while digging a ditch in town of Wilson; fractured vertebrae.” Powell was a native of Whiteville, Columbus County, in southeast North Carolina.

203 North Pender Street.

The one hundred-third 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 the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “ca. 1890; 1 story; Reverend Henry W. Farrior House; L-plan cottage with intact Victorian motifs, including bracketed chamfered porch posts and bay window; Farrior was minister of the St. John’s A.M.E. Zion Church.”

Robert C. Bainbridge and Kate Ohno’s Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey (1980) provides additional details about the house, including the photo above: “This L-plan cottage probably dates c. 1880. It boasts a handsome three-sided baby in the front ell. The bay is ornamented by a molded cornice, paired scrolled brackets, and arched window surrounds.” As shown in Sanborn fire insurance maps, prior to 1923 the house was numbered 130 Pender.

From the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

In the 1916 and 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Farrior Henry W Rev h 130 Pender. (In 1916, also:, Farrior Dancy h 130 Pender)

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 130 Pender, minister of the Gospel Henry W. Farrior, 56; wife Icey, 54; and granddaughter Florence, 10; plus Isadora Estoll, 18.

In the 1922 and 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Farrior Henry W Rev h 203 Pender

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 203 Pender, owned and valued at $4000, Christian Church minister Henry W. Farrior, 60, and wife Aria, 60, with boarders tobacco factory stemmer Earnest Bulluck, 35, his wife Lena, 30, and children Earnest Jr., 12, Paul T., 8, and Lee, 7.

Henry William Farrior died 6 March 1937 in Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born 12 August 1859 in Powhatan, Virginia, to Henry and Sylvia Farrior; resided at 203 Pender Street, Wilson; was married Isiebell Farrior; and was a preacher. Dalley Farrior was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 203 Pender Street, widow Ossie M. Royall, 33, an elevator girl at the courthouse; her mother Tossie Jenkins, 53, stemmer at a tobacco factory; daughters LaForest, 16, and Evaline Royall, 14; and a roomer named Ed Hart, 45, a laborer employed by the town of Wilson. Ossie and LaForest were born in Wilson; Evaline in Battleboro [Nash County]; and Tossie and Ed in Nash County.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 September 1948.

203 North Pender has been demolished. The property now belongs to nearby Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Hines brothers’ barber shops.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 August 1947.

In addition to his business and real estate interests, William Hines for decades served as secretary-treasurer and general administrator of Mercy Hospital. This photograph, which probably dates from the mid-1950s, depicts Hines flanked by Helen James, nursing director, and Anna Burgess Johnson, hospital board member. Photo courtesy of O.N. Freeman Round House and Museum.

Leaving Carter’s Cafe.

In the spring of 1921, barber Walter S. Hines served notice that he was getting out of the restaurant business.

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.14.06 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 11 May 1921.

  • Clarence Carter — Clarence Lenwood Carter. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Clarence Carter, 36; wife Meena, 25; and children Omega, 9, Clarence H., 7, and Mina G., 5.

1101-1119 South Railroad Street.

Though not in the Historic District, this tight cluster of shotgun houses in the 1100 block of South Railroad Street — called “endway” locally — comprises a sight once common across East Wilson. Built cheaply from about 1900 to World War II as rental housing for low-wage workers, relatively few of the District’s endway houses have survived into the twenty-first century.

These houses, shown here from the rear, were built in the 1920s and feature a small front porch sheltered by a shed roof. The exteriors are little modified since the addition of indoor plumbing (likely in the 1950s), and several retain their original galvanized metal standing-seam roofs. Public documents for 1101 Railroad Street show that the houses measure 504 square feet (14 feet wide by 36 feet deep.)

The block of Railroad below Elvie Street was originally numbered 801-819, as shown in this excerpt from Hill’s 1928 Wilson city directory:

By the early 1960s, it had been renumbered to the 1100 block, as shown in the 1963 directory:

Google Maps Streetview shows the 1100 block from the corner of Railroad and Lincoln Streets.

Top photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2019.