1880s

Baptisms at Saint Mark’s, no. 1.

Patrick M. Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches in Wilson, North Carolina 1856-1995 (1996), features several invaluable appendices that illuminate Wilson’s tiny African-American Episcopalian community. Valentine credits Cindy and Jeff Day with compiling them, and this post is the first in a series annotating these lists.

“Appendix F: Baptisms, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church” shows that Rev. J.W. Perry baptized these children between 1889 and 1892:

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Henry Hill, 35; wife Henrietta, 29; and children Celicia, 9, Robert, 4, and James H., 1. Henrietta Hill died 21 April 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 78 years old; was born in Washington, North Carolina, to George Cherry and Martha Gardner; was a retired maid for the A.C.L. station; resided at 205 Pender Street; and was a widow. Cecilia Norwood was informant.

  • 9 February 1890, Joseph C. Palmer, sponsors: J.H. Clark, S.S. Nixon, Henrietta Hill
  • 23 February 1890, Adaline Allen, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Henrietta Hill, Ella Palmer

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook Adeline Allen, 36, widow, and children Frank, 14, James, 13, Susan, 12, Ony, 7, Edgar, 6, and Willie, 4. In 1910, the family is found in the census of Portsmouth, Virginia.

  • 9 March 1890, Mary Harris, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Henrietta Hill, Sylvia Stricklin
  • 23 March 1890, James Artis, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Ida Clark, Henrietta Hill

Ida R. Clark died 13 January 1942 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 25 May 1873 in Franklin County to Prince and Chaney Crenshaw of Frankin and Edgecombe Counties; was married; worked as a teacher and homemaker; and was buried in the Masonic cemetery. John H. Clark was informant.

  • 8 August 1890, Ardina Purrington, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Ida Clark, Henrietta Hill
  • 14 September 1890, Anna M. Purrington Marshall, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Ida Clark, Joseph C. Palmer
  • 14 September 1890, Zalia Purrington, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Ida Clark, Joseph C. Palmer
  • 12 October 1890, David Dupree, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Ida Clark, Clara Dupree

David Dupree died 4 September 1954 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 May 1881 in Newport News, Virginia; worked as a laborer; and resided at 701 Wiggins Street. Informant was Lonnie Mercer.

  • 12 October 1890, Joseph Dupree, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Ida Clark, Henrietta Hill
  • 19 March 1891, Irine Winstead, sponsors: J.H. Clark, Ida Clark, Virginia Crenshaw

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Arrene Winstead, 32, widow.

  • 19 March 1891, Josephine Peyton, sponsors: J.H. Clark, John Boykin, Henrietta Hill
  • 26 June 1891, Chanie Virginia Clark, sponsors: J.H. Clark, John Boykin, Henrietta Hill

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher John H. Clark, 36; wife Ida R., 34; and daughters Chany V., 7, and Flora R., 2.

  • 28 August 1892, Bud Allen, sponsors: J.H. Clark, John Boykin, Henrietta Hill
  • 28 August 1892, Susan Allen, sponsors:  J.H. Clark, John Boykin, Henrietta Hill

Bud and Susan Allen were children of Adeline Allen, above.

The building of a new Episcopal church.

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Wilson Advance, 6 December 1888.

“On April 23, 1888, the minister at St. Luke’s in Tarboro formally took over the work at Grace Mission as a part-time missionary to Wilson. John William Perry was a graduate of St. Augustine’s and had been consecrated a priest by Bishop Lyman on April 7, 1887. He had been doing ‘most valuable work’ as rector at St. Luke’s since 1881. According to his own account, ‘when I took charge of this work [at Wilson] I found a few communicants and no Sunday School in operation and no particular place to worship in. When we could not rent a place to hold the services in, a room was used of a private family.

“Reverend Perry soon started a fund-raising campaign. Partly as a result, by October 1887, the diocese — with St. Timothy’s [a white congregation] ‘giving the greater portion of the purchase price’ — had obtained possession of a lot on the corner north of Lodge Street running 65 feet and running south on the west side of South Street for 153 feet ‘for the Colored Congregation … to build thereon an Episcopal Church for their use and benefit.'”

— Patrick M. Valentine, The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches in Wilson, North Carolina 1856-1995 (1996).

Location of the new church building, as shown in the 1893 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C.

The white boy walked the plank.

Roanoke News, 8 May 1884.

James Edward O’Hara was elected to the United States House of Representatives from North Carolina’s Black Second district in 1882.

Daniel Vick was Samuel H. Vick‘s father. John H. Clark is generally credited with being Wilson’s first African-American mail carrier, but this brief article tells another story.

Road duty.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County Justice Court

State & Isaac Williamson overseer of public Road vs. Peter Strickland (Col)      }

Warrant for failure to Work public Road Before J.E. Eatman Justice of the Peace

The State of North Carolina

To any lawful officer of said County Greetings. Whereas the said Isaac Williamson overseer of public Road known as section beginning at Horns Bridge and ending at the great swamp Bridge has complained in oath to me a Justice of the peace in and for Wilson County, that the said Peter Strickland (Col) after being lawfully ordered on the 2nd day of March 1883 to work on said secion of Public Road and the kind of tool to carry did wilfully and unlawfully fail to meet and work as ordered against the peace and dignity of the state.

These are therefore to command you forthwith to apprehend the said Peter Strickland and have him before me or some other Justice of the peace of Wilson County.

——

In the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Sarah Strickland, about 35; with children Peter, 21, Alice, 9, Martha, 5, and Sallie, 1 month.

On 27 December 1883, Peter Strickland, 23, married Nancy Farmer, 19, at Wash Farmer‘s.

Road Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

The unmistakable way to conviction.

In November 1888, Charles Bynum was tried and convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Henry Privett, his girlfriend’s brother.

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Wilson Mirror, 7 November 1888.

  • Charles Bynum, accused — possibly, the Charles Bynum, 15, listed with his parents Mack, 39, and Mary Bynum, 30, in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County.
  • Henry Privette, victim; Bettie Privette, his sister, allegedly Bynum’s lover; Alice Privette, his wife; Sallie Privette, his sister; Mahala Privette, his mother — In the 1870 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farm laborer Joseph Privett, 30; wife Mahala, 27; and children Lucretia, 9, Mary, 4, Henry, 2, and Bettie J., 2 weeks; plus Penninah Locust, 2. In the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Joe Privett, about 44; wife Mahalah, about 35; and children Polly Ann, 16, Henry, 14, Bettie, 11, Hattie, 7, and Sallie, 3; plus Penninah Jones, 14. Henry Privett, 18, son of Joe and Mahalia Privett, married Alice Howell, 20, daughter of Ransom and Burbary Howell, on 8 February 1887 at the courthouse in Wilson.
  • James Bynum, juror.
  • Henry Birney, juror.
  • Celia Cotton, witness.

He will not do so.

On 7 October 1889, Amy Kimble swore that her husband Edmund Kimble had abandoned her and their child. Witnesses testified for her, and a justice of the peace sustained the charge, ordering Kimble’s arrest. He was picked up nine days later.

Edmund “Kimble” is likely the Edmund Kimbrough listed as a laborer residing at 219 South Railroad in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C. city directory. I have found no documentation of Amy Kimble/Kimbrough or their children.

Miscellaneous Records, Records of Wilson County, North Carolina State Archives.

Who in the Sam Hill …?

On 17 February 1882, the Wilson Advance ran a brief piece announcing that the colored people would begin publishing the Wilson News in March of that year, and S.N. Hill would be an editor of this for-the-people-by-the-people paper. (No editions are known to survive.) Two months later, Samuel Hill was well-enough established in local politics to be appointed a poll holder in Wilson.

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Wilson Advance, 14 April 1882.

The Advance was the first foray of notorious, but much celebrated, Josephus Daniels into the newspaper business, and the white supremacist world view he later honed to a fine point at Raleigh’s News & Observer was on naked display in its pages. Local and regional Republican politics, which were dominated by African-Americans, were not spared. That the Advance‘s presses printed Hill’s paper did not shield him either. The Advance printed the satirical letter below (and a similar one a few weeks later) purportedly written by “Jedekiah Judkins” to George W. Stanton, a die-hard Unionist and Republican.

10 20 1882

Wilson Advance, 20 October 1882.

Snide commentary in the white press notwithstanding, Hill networked and exchanged ideas with other black journalists and political figures in eastern North Carolina the following summer. [Was the Independent yet another newspaper?]

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Wilmington Daily Review, 5 July 1883.

His statewide networking secured his designation as a marshal for the state colored fair.

The Banner-Enterprise (Raleigh), 27 October 1883.

The News apparently was still in publication in December 1883 when the Advance printed a small blurb suggesting that Hill was angling for postmaster appointment under the auspices of James E. O’Hara, who had been elected in 1882 as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives from North Carolina’s “Black Second” district.

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Wilson Advance, 21 December 1883.

Months later, however, the paper seems to have faltered, and Hill had to relaunch the publication.

4 25 1884

Wilson Advance, 25 April 1884.

On 22 January 1885, the Advance printed a brief note that a Samuel Hill referred to in a recent article as having been chaged with perjury in Toisnot township was not the “Samuel N. Hill that all our people know.” The known Hill had stopped by the Advance‘s offices and informed them that “he is now traveling for a newspaper at New Bern.”

By the late 1880s, Hill was living in Wilmington, where newspaper reports note that he was active in efforts to encourage African-American investment in local railroad companies

Not quite five years later, the Advance reported that Hill, an “irrepressible” “coon,” had received a patronage position in Washington. There is no evidence that he returned to Wilson.

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Wilson Advance, 29 August 1889.

Within the next few years, however, Hill withdrew from active politics and began to espouse an accommodationist philosophy. On 27 November 1898, New Bern Daily Journal published a letter by Hill lashing out at “unscrupulous white Republicans” and “scheming politicians” and praising the good white folks who had always shown “the best sympathy” to colored people. “Make friends with the best white people among whom you live,” he exhorted. “Their interests are greater than yours and  the maintenance of happiness depends upon their efforts.” A few weeks later, on 10 December, the Wilmington Morning Star cited Hill’s “sensible and calm utterances” in the wake of the Wilmington Insurrection as a positive contrast to the stridency of Congressman George E. White, a “bumptious strutter.” For his part, Hill had pshawed agitation against “fancied evils which do not exist” and counseled “[t]he best public meeting for the negro to attend is his church, where he may commune with his God, and where he may be influenced for good.”

So where did Sam Hill come from? And where did he go?

Most likely, he was the Samuel Nelson Hill who opened two accounts at the Freedmen’s Bank’s New Bern branch. The first time, on 9 August 1871, Hill was 12 years old. His account registration card notes that he resided in Bragg’s Alley; was light-complected; was the son of Moses M. and Adeline Hill; had brothers named Benjamin Starkey (dead), Moses Hill and Thomas Hancock; and sisters named Carolina and Holland Hill. The boy signed his own name.

Hill opened another account on 8 June 1874. Per that account registration, he was born and “brought up” in New Bern; resided in Windsors Brickyard, Virginia; worked for Dr. Windsor; was 15 years old; was of yellow complexion; and had a brother named Noah Harper, also of New Bern. Samuel signed his name with a mature version of his earlier signature and with a confident, curlicued firmness that connotes deep literacy.

In the 1880 census of New Bern, North Carolina: on Elm Street, shoemaker Moses Hill, 49, wife Adelaine, 43, son Samuel, 20, a shoemaker, and daughter Susan, 1. Moses reported that he suffered from rheumatism and Susan from whooping cough.

Hill probably arrived in Wilson in 1881. His star there burned bright and brief, and by about 1885, he had moved on. His whereabouts the decade of the 1890s are unclear, but just after the turn of the century Hill is found in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, performing manual labor.

On 19 November 1904, Samuel Nelson Hill, 45, of 288 North Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, married Georgeanna Treadwell Vanderburgh, 43, of 6 Cole Avenue, Pittsfield. Hill reported that he was the son of Moses Hill and Adeline Hancock and was born in New Bern, North Carolina. He worked as a laborer, and this was his first marriage.

In the 1910 census of Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts: electrical works janitor Samuel N. Hill, 50, and wife Georgeanna, 49.

Samuel Nelson Hill of 164 Linden died 21 March 1918 in Pittsfield, age 58 years, five months, five days.

Leonard Medical School students.

James Arthur Cotton appears in Leonard Medical School‘s 1888-’89 catalog with a notation that he done his collegiate studies at Saint Augustine’s College. (Perhaps he did not finish, as the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929 lists him as a 1897 graduate of Chicago’s Harvey Medical College.

Lincoln University graduate Charles Hudson Bynum appears in the 1892-’93 Leonard Medical School catalog.

Fake news (and other stories.)

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Wilson Advance, 14 October 1887.

Wilson Advance, 8 July 1897.

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On 21 November 1895, Richard Renfrow, 35, son of Julia Gay, married Victoria Knight, 28, daughter of Harriet Knight. Baptist minister W.T.H. Woodward performed the service, and Levi Jones, H.T. Ransom and Maggie Ransom witnessed.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Richard Renfrow, 38; wife Victora, 35; her widowed mother Harriet Knight, 61; and Harriet’s grandchildren Hattie, 16, Andrew, 17, barber, and Alis, 12.

In the 1901 Hill’s Directory of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Berkley, Virginia: Renfrow Richard barber 311 Queen.

In the 1908 Hill’s Directory of Wilson, N.C.: Renfrow Richard barber 544 E Nash.

In the 1914 Hill’s Directory of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia: Renfrow Richard barber 417 E Bute.

On 26 December 1916, Richard Renfrow, 50, married Matilda Taylor, 50, in Wilson. Hood Phillips applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister A.L.E. Weeks performed the ceremony in the presence of Boston Griffin, J.E. Farmer and Henry Lucas.

Matilda Renfrow died 2 June 1918 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 50 years old; was married; and worked as a cook. Informant was Richard Renfrow, 900 Queen Street, Norfolk.

In the 1923 Hill’s Directory of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia: Renfrow Richard barber 628 E Charlotte.