A closer look at the Simon and Penninah Woodard Barnes family.

As previously explored here, on 14 February 1970, the Wilson Daily Times published a full-page article by local historian Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., detailing the life of London Woodard, founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church. Near the end of the piece, Johnston outlined the family of London and Penny Lassiter Woodard‘s daughter Penninah Woodard, who married Simon Barnes.

In February of this year, I undertook an unsuccessful search for the Barnes-Woodard cemetery with Bernard Patterson, a descendant. Below, please find Johnston’s notes about the family (with a few of my annotations.)

“Pennina Woodard was born on January 30, 1859, and died on February 24, 1919. On January 1, 1877, she married Simon Barnes, son of Silas Barnes and wife Rosetta (Rose) Farmer. He was born September 11, 1848, and died on April 15, 1923. His mother was born in March of 1831 and died on August 1, 1921. The exact date was not given, but her position on the roll of members of old Toisnot Baptist Church indicates that she was received about 1861. “Big Simon” Barnes was an industrious and highly respected citizen of the western section of Gardners township, and he and his good wife reared a large and commendable family on the farm that she had inherited after the death of her three brothers.

  • Rosetta Barnes married 1st Henry Pleasant and 2nd the Rev. John Dillahunt. [John Washington Dillahunt was a native of New Bern, N.C.]
  • James Walter (Bud) Barnes was born in 1878 and died August 18, 1931. He married Adeline Pitt but had no children. In addition to a farming operation, he had quite a widespread reputation as an “herb doctor.” The writer of this article also remembers that as late as 1919 he operated a cane press and vat which he transported from farm to farm at the end of the summer in order to make the molasses that in those days was considered a great delicacy by a great many people in Wilson and Wilson County
  • Hardy Barnes died October 11, 1954. He married 1st Martha Ann Pitt and 2nd Maggie Barnes [Maggie Bullock].
  • Chaney Barnes was born October 28, 1882. She married Frank Barnes, son of Silas Barnes and wife Mary Coleman. She lives with a daughter, Mrs. Jesse T. McPhail [Minnie Barnes McPhail] of 1316 Carolina Street, whose husband is a retired post office employee and friend of the writer.
  • Penny Barnes died on November 27, 1923. She married Turner Hines.
  • Leonard Barnes was born on June 26, 1888, and died on November 19, 1952. He served in World War I. His wife was Adelaide White.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 November 1952.

  • Silas Barnes died on February 2, 1945. He married Gertrude and lived in Richmond, Va.
  • Priscilla Barnes was born in 1891 and died on October 24, 1919. She married the Rev. Ed [Zeb] Hardy.
  • Simon Barnes, Jr., was born on October 15, 1895. On September 14, 1921, he married Roselee McCoy who was born on January 26, 1904. He served in World War I and now owns and occupies part of the farm that his maternal grandmother purchased prior to the Civil War. He is a lifelong and esteemed friend of the writer of this article as he was of my father before me.

Simon Grove Holiness Church was named in honor of Simon Barnes Jr., who donated the land upon which the church, to which his wife belonged, was built. This land, on N.C. Highway 42 East, is part of the acreage Penny Lassiter Woodard accumulated as a free woman of color.

  • Mary Eliza Barnes was born in April of 1896 and died on May 19, 1931. She was the second wife of Turner Hines above.
  • Treacy Barnes was born on June 4, 1900, and died on December 23, 1954. She married Calvin Atkinson.
  • Amy Barnes was born on August 25, 1904. On February 11, 1926, she married Luther Petway, son of Joe Petway. They reside at 1209 Queen Street and her husband is an old friend of the writer.”

Wilson Daily Times, 26 May 1971.

Thanks to Bernard Patterson for information regarding the history of Simon Grove; photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2019.

Their names is these.


In the name of God Amen. I John Woodard of the County of Edgecombe and in the Parish of St. Mary being in health at the present, thanks be to Allmighty God for the Same but knowing how many Ways the Life of Man may be Abridged have thought fit to Make, Constitue, and Ordain this to be my last Will and Testament and for What Temporal Estate it hath pleased Almighty God to bestow on Me I dispose of in form and manner following.

Item. I lend to my dear and loving wife, Margaret Woodard, the use  of my plantation that I now live on and two negros. Their names is these Cip & Sam. During her widow hood and then the plantation and negro Sam to my son, Elisha Woodard, to him and his heirs for ever.

Item. I give also the Negro Cip to my son, John Woodard, to him and his heirs for ever. I like wise give to my son, John Woodard, one still after my wife deced, to him and his heirs for ever.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my daughter, Mary Lee, one negro wench named Lucy to her and her heirs for ever and I also lend the use of my negro Hanner to my daughter Mary Lee during her life and then my disire is that Margaret Brown, daughter to Mary Lee, to have the said negro to her and her heirs for ever.

Item. I lend the use of two negros, Beck and Sam, to Lenard Langston and Ann, his wife, during their lives and then my desire is that they should be equal divid between my tow granddaughters, Sarah Langston, and Elisabeth Langston, to them and their heirs for ever.

Item. I lend the use of one negro nam Rose to James Holland and Sarah, his wife, during their lives and then I give the negro Rose to my grandson, John Holland, to him and his heirs for ever.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my son Thomas Woodard, one Horse called Parrot, and five Pounds Proclamation Money to him and his heirs for ever.

Item. I Lend the Use of all the Rest of my estate of what Nature and Quallity soever to my Well beloved Wife Margaret Woodard, during her Widowhood and then to be equaly divided amoungst my six children before mentioned. I Nominate and Appoint my Well beloved Son Thomas Woodard to be my Hole & Sole Executors of this my last will and testament revoking all others. In witness where of I have here unto set my hand this 11 day of February in 1765.  Signed, sealed, and delivered       John (X) Woodard

In the presence of Us

Stephen Cobb

James Barnes

John Drew


Per the notes of the late, great Wilson County historian and genealogist Hugh B. Johnston, the will of John Woodard’s son Elisha Woodard located John’s plantation on Contentnea Creek, on the southwest edge of Edgecombe County, now Wilson County.


Edgecombe County Wills and Estate Papers, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.