1870s

Rocky Branch celebrates 150 years.

Louretha Renfrow Johnson approached me after my talk at the public library last February.  As its 150th anniversary approached, would I be willing to speak to church members about ways to document the church’s rich history? I leapt at the opportunity, and we set a date for mid-April. Coronavirus, of course, had other plans.

All the more reason that I’m happy to see that Rocky Branch United Church of Christ has found a scaled-back way to mark its sesquicentennial milestone and plans to go all out next year if conditions permit. I’m hoping they’ll still have me.

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See the 14 August 2020 Wilson Times article here.

Bethel buys its acre.

In November 1877, steward Lawrence Ward, acting on behalf of Bethel A.M.E. [Zion] Church, purchased the acre of land on which its church stood on the road leading from Stantonsburg to Contentnea Creek near Ruffin’s Bridge. The church is now located about a mile north of Stantonsburg, but its cemetery remains on the original acre. Ruffin’s Bridge was originally known as Peacock’s Bridge, and Peacock’s Bridge Road runs east of present-day NC Highway 58. 

Deed Book 14, page 366.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County } This deed made this the 16th day of November 1877 by F.M. Moye of Wilson County and State of North Carolina to Lawrence Ward of said County & State holding the office of Steward in the A.M.E. church known as Bethel Witnesseth that the said F.M. Moye in consideration of Twenty Five Dollars to him paid by the said Lawrence Ward as the representative of said church the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged have bargained & sold by these presents do bargain & sell & convey to the said Lawrence Ward and his successors in office for the benefit & use of said Church a certain lot of land in said county, it being the land on which the building of the said church is situated on the North side of Big Contentnea creek near Ruffins bridge and on the east side of the road leading to said Bridge and is a part of the tract of land Known as the Davis land containing one acre To have and to hold the aforesaid lot of and all privileges thereto belonging to the said Lawrence Ward and his successors in office for the benefit & use of said church And the said F.M. Moye covenant that he is seized of said lot of land in fee and has the right to convey the same in fee simple and that he will warrant & defend the said title to the same against the claims of all persons whatsoever In testimony whereof the said F.M. Moye have hereunto set his hand & seal the say & year above written  /s/ F.M. Moye   Attest J.K. Peacock, J.S. Ellis 

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In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lawrence Ward, 25, farmer, owned $1000 in real property; wife Mary, 20; and daughter Mary A., 3; Chloie, 14, Lydia, 11, Jennie, 10, and Patrick Pope, 7; and Sophia Ward, 48.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Lawrence Ward, 38; wife Mary, 29; daughter Mary, 14; mother Sophia, 58; and farm worker Henry Lane, 12. [Their proximity in 1870 and 1880 to the house and plantation of Dr. David G.W. Ward suggests that Lawrence and Sophia Ward had been owned by the doctor in slavery.]

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: Laurence Ward, 55, farmer; wife Mary, 43; mother Sophia, 84; and granddaughter Amie Yelverton, 13.

In the 1910 census of Pikeville township, Wayne County: Lawrence Ward, 66, farmer; mother Sophia, 98; wife Mary, 60; and granddaughter Amy Yelverton, 21.

Lawrence Ward died 29 August 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1831  in Wilson County to Sophia Ward; was married; was a retired farmer; and was buried in Wayne County.

Deed book 14, page 366, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.

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.”

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  • 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.

Mortality schedule, no. 6: Town of Wilson, 1870.

Each of the United States federal censuses from 1850 to 1880 included a mortality schedule enumerating individuals who had died in the previous year previous. Each entry noted the decedent’s family number in the population schedule, name, age, sex, color, marital status, place of birth, month of death, occupation, and cause of death.

Here is a detail from the 1870 mortality schedule for the Town of Wilson, Wilson County:

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  • Charles Edwards. Age 6 months, died in August, cholera infantum.

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster Cally Speight, 23; wife Margaret, 26; and Ann, 13, domestic servant; Abel Edwards, 84; wife Arden, 72; Issa, 20, hotel chambermaid; Gracy, 23, domestic servant; and Ann P. Edwards, 5.

  • Lane Scarborough. Age 8, died in August, “inflammation brain.”
  • Infant Scarborough. Age 3 months, died in September, “inflammation brain.”

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Anna Scarborough, 35; son John, 17, furniture shop employee; daughter Louisa, 14; and Henry Blackman, 19, teaching school.

  • Rena Clark. Age 6 months, died in July, cholera infantum.

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Mariah Clark, 20, listed as a domestic servant in the household of retail grocer Edwin G. Clark.

  • Neal Mac. Age 1, died in July, unknown.

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Mary Whitaker, 22, domestic servant; Ann Pender, 13, servant; and Mariah Mac, 25, servant, born in South Carolina.

  • Elias Edmondson. Age 1 week, Died in May, “inflammation brain.”

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Ellias Edmonson, 28; wife Emiline, 23; and Joseph E., 9.

The colored brethren of Wilson Primitive Baptist Church.

In 1946, the Wilson Daily Times published an article by Hugh B. Johnston commemorating the history of Wilson Primitive Baptist Church. I’ve excerpted below the sections that mention the church’s African-American members.

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Wilson Primitive Baptist Church, Asheville Post Card Co., undated.

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“On April 24, 1920, the Church agreed to begin construction as soon as possible and to include a baptismal pool, memorial windows for a number of outstanding members, and a balcony for the convenience of remaining colored brethren.”

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“A gallery for colored members ran entirely around the second story of the [1859] church, excepting the end above the tall, broad pulpit.”

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At a conference held at the Tosneot Baptist Church on Sept. 23, 1865, “a proposition was made and agreed to that all colored members that had ‘left their owners before the proclamation of freedom was made, and gone to the Yankees should be dealt with and excluded if they could not give satisfaction of their disorder.’ … [N]one of the offending members appeared … [and when they failed to appear at a postponed date,] motion was made to expel them: on which motion servants Thomas Farmer and Redic Barnes were expelled from all rights of the church.”

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“As a result of the formation of London’s Primitive Baptist Church for the convenience of the colored membership who were being served outside of regular meetings by Elder London Woodard, a conference was held at the Tosneot church on May 21, 1870, and “the following resolution was adopted by unanimous consent of the members, white and colored, that in the future, as before, the white members of the church shall have the entire control of the discipline and government of the church as this place. [This understanding was entered into the minutes] so as in after days there could not be any misunderstanding between the white and colored members of this church.”

Wilson Daily Times, 19 November 1946.

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Some thoughts:

  • The balcony in the back of the 1920 church is visible starting at 1:29 of this Youtube video.
  • What African-Americans were members of Wilson Primitive Baptist as late as 1920? Do the church’s records exist?
  • I have been unable to identify specifically Thomas Farmer and Reddick Barnes, the members who audaciously took their freedom into their own hands.
  • “The formation of London’s Primitive Baptist Church for the convenience of the colored membership who were being served outside of regular meetings” by London Woodard sounds like more like a recognition of a new reality: Toisnot’s black members had left to worship among themselves under a charismatic black preacher. It’s not surprising that those who remained unanimously agreed that white people would control the church.

Wilson Primitive Baptist Church, 1859-1920. The gallery for black members ran along three interior walls. Marion Monk Moore Collection, Images of North Carolina, http://www.digitalnc.org.

 

Mortality schedule, no. 5: Taylors township, 1870.

Each of the United States federal censuses from 1850 to 1880 included a mortality schedule enumerating individuals who had died in the previous year previous. Each entry noted the decedent’s family number in the population schedule, name, age, sex, color, marital status, place of birth, month of death, occupation, and cause of death.

Here is a detail from the 1870 mortality schedule for Taylor township, Wilson County:

  • Taylor, Milbry. Age 29, farm laborer, died in November, [illegible] fever.

In the 1870 census of Spring Hill township, Wilson County: farm laborer James Taylor, 56; wife Charity, 61; and Delphia Taylor, 21; Jeremiah, 9, and Cornelious Person, 5; and Wesley, 4, and Henry Taylor, 4 months.

Valentine Farmer buys four acres.

This indenture made the 4th day of September in the year of our lord eighteen hundred & seventy three between Warren Woodard & Jerusha Woodard wife of Warren Woodard of the County of Wilson & State of North Carolina of the first part & Volentine Farmer of the County of Wilson & State of North Carolina of the second part Witnesseth that the said party of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged has given bargained sold & granted & conveyed and does hereby give grant bargain sell & convey to the said party of the second part his heirs and assigns all that tract or parcel of land lying in the County of Wilson State of North Carolina bounded as follows Beginning at at a lightwood stake in S.B. Farmers line thence N 85 East by chaines & thirty two & 1/2 links to a lightwood stake thence N 1 East Six chaines and thirty two and 1/2 links to a stake thence S 5 E six chaines and thirty two and 1/2 links to a stake in line thence S 1 west by chaines & thirty two & 1/2 link to the first station containing four acres to have & to hold the same with the appurtenances thereunto belonging Volentine Farmer the said party of the second part his heirs and assigns forever And the said party of the first part for the consideration aforesaid does hereby covenant and agree to warrant and defend the persons(?) aforesaid to the said party of the second part his Executors Administrators and assigns against the claims & entry of all persons whatsoever And said Warren Woodard and Jerusha Woodard does further Covenant that the said Volentine Farmer is seized of the premises in fee simple and has power to make and convey such an estate by this Indenture and has  done the same by these

In witness whereof the said party of the first part has hereunto [set] their hand & seals on the day & year above written    /s/ Warren Woodard, Jerusha Woodard

Witness M.D. (X) Franklin

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Valentine Farmer paid Warren and Jerusha Woodard the nominal sum of one dollar for four acres, his first land purchase. Jerusha Farmer Woodard was the daughter of Moses Farmer Sr., Valentine Farmer’s former owner, which may shed light on the basis of the favorable transaction.

Deed book 8, page 194, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

State v. Moses Bynum and Martha Snead (1870).

In August 1870, Moses Bynum, with J.W. Smith, posted a bond to insure Bynum’s appearance in Wilson County court to face an adultery charge.

Jack Privett and Jinsey Privett were subpoenaed to appear as witnesses against Bynum and Martha Snead.

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: South Carolina-born farm laborer Jack Privett, 40; wife Quincy, 32 [probably Jincey]; and daughter Malvinia, 4; plus Adeler Privett, 18, and her likely children Jane, 3, and Eli, 9 months.

Laura Sneed, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of Moses Bynum and [illegible] Bynum, married Burnis Hinnant, 21, of Wilson County, son of Amos Hinnant and Lindy Hinnant, on 3 September 1888 at Henry Dudley’s residence in Cross Roads township.

Mollie Hinnant died 4 August 1954 in Kenly, Johnston County. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 September 1878 in Wilson County to Moses Bynum and Martha Snead and was a widow. Mrs. Lossie Shaw was informant. [Her marriage license and the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, suggest that Laura “Mollie” Bynum Hinnant was in fact born about 1869, which is consistent with her parents’ prosecution.]

Adultery Records –1870, Miscellaneous Records, Records of Wilson County, North Carolina State Archives.

The estate of Moses Hagans.

Moses Hagans died early in the spring of 1873. His wife Theresa Lassiter Hagans, unlettered and unfamiliar with the workings of probate, signed over her rights to administer her late husband’s estate to Larry D. Farmer, a public administrator.

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Farmer filed in Probate Court for letters of administration, estimating the value of Hagans’ estate at $200 and naming his heirs as widow Theresa Hagans and Lucinda Hagans Brantley, who was Hagans’ daughter.

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On 12 April 1873, Farmer filed an inventory of Hagans’ personal estate, which consisted of meat and lard; household kitchen furniture; “old plunder in & around the houses”; a small amount of lint cotton; corn and peas; a cart and a crosscut saw; fodder; poultry and dogs; a horse and farming implements; sows and pigs; and a garden of greens. All of it was allotted to “Trecy” Hagans for her support while the estate was in probate.

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It was a meager showing, insufficient to meet the $300 minimum required for a year’s support.

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In the 1830 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Moses Hagans was head of a household of four free people of color.

In the 1840 census of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Moses Hagans was head of a household of nine free people of color.

On 10 February 1846, Moses Hagans, “now of Edgecombe,” paid Thomas Hadly of Wayne County $328.50 for 164 1/4 acres on Little Swamp in Nash County. The transaction is recorded in Deed Book 18, page 331. (A mortgage for the purchase is recorded at book 18, page 325.) Little Swamp is now in Wilson County. It rises near Old Raleigh Road; flows south between Radio Tower and Flowers Roads; crosses under Interstate 95 near its junction with N.C. Highway 42; then flows east to join Contentnea Creek.

In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: Moses Hagans, 48, farmer; wife Pitty, 38; and son Gray B., 19, farmer. Also: Thomas Brantley, 28, turpentine worker, and wife Lucinda, 23.

On 25 October 1857, Moses Hagans applied for a license to marry Trecy Laciter in Wilson County.

In the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Moses Heggins, 60, farmer, and wife Theresa, 48. Moses claimed $125 in real property and $115 in personal property. [Hagans’ estate records do not mention real property.] Also, Thomas Brantley, 52, farmer; wife Lucinda, 35; and children William, 9, and James W., 6. Thomas claimed $800 in real property, $200 in personal property.

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Moses Hegans, 70; wife Trecy, 50; and James R. Locust, 12, farm laborer. Also: farm laborer Thomas Brantly, 57; wife Lucinda, 39; and son Willie, 15, farm laborer.

Estate Records of Moses Hagans, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.