Brooks School.

The seventh in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Brooks School

Brooks School dates prior to 1881, making it the earliest documented rural African-American school in Wilson County. Brooks was not a Rosenwald school. It was consolidated with other small schools in 1951, and its students then attended Speight High School.

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Wilson Advance, 11 February 1881.

Dr. Alexander G. Brooks had been a wealthy slaveowner and may have donated the land upon which the school was built.

Location: Per a 1936 state road map of Wilson County, the approximate location was just east of Black Creek on present-day Woodbridge Road, in the vicinity of Bunches Church.

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Brooks School was a one-room school seated on one acre.

A February 1951 report on Wilson County schools found: “The Brooks Colored … building is in ‘fair condition’ and has only two teachers for seven grades ….” Wilson Daily Times, 16 February 1951.

Known faculty: Principal Alice B. Mitchell; teacher Nora Allen Mitchell Jones.

Farmer’s mare stolen.

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Wilson Advance, 21 June 1888.


The 1900 census of Wilson County lists three men named Toby Farmer, any of whom might have been the man whose horse was stolen. (Though barber Tobias Farmer, who lived in town, is least likely.)

In Black Creek township: John Melton, 42, farmer; wife Lucy, 43; sons John, 15, and Samuel D., 3; stepson Johnson Farmer, 23; and father-in-law Tobious Farmer, 75, widower.

In Wilson township: Tobias Farmer, 70, wife Willie, 69, and son Warren, 48.

In Wilson town: day laborer Junius, 22, Rosa, 17, Freeda, 10, Robert, 7, Richard, 5, Mark, 2, and Ericker Farmer, 7 months, plus boarder Tobias Farmer, 48, barber.

The estate of George W. Thompson.

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Wilson Advance, 19 June 1890.


In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer George Thompson, 57; wife Rilda, 43; son Rufus, 8; with Cherry Bailey, 42, and Bitha, 25, and Mittie Bailey, 16.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer George Thompson, 62; wife Marilda, 52; son Rufus, 20; and granddaughter Hattie Thompson, 6.

Apparently on his deathbed, George W. Thompson made out his will 16 December 1885.

He left all his property to his wife Rilda during her lifetime, then his land to son Rufus, and, if Rufus had no heirs, to granddaughter Cora Thompson. After Rilda’s death, his personal property was to be sold and the money equally divided between son Rufus Thompson, Courtney Peacock, and Cora Thompson. Solomon Lamm was appointed executor.

George Thompson died within days. His executor filed to open his estate and prepared this inventory of his property. Though relatively meager, the list represents a laudable achievement for a man who had spent the bulk of his life enslaved.

Unfortunately, George Thompson’s debts outweighed the value of his estate, forcing the sale advertised in the notice above of a ten-acre parcel adjoining the property of M.V. Peele, Isaac Rich, and Henry Peacock. Marilda and Rufus Thompson had left the area, however, and could not be found in the county for service.

George Thompson Will, George Thompson Estate Records, North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Samuel N. Hill of the People’s Advocate.

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I. Garland Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (1891).

Samuel N. Hill died in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in March 1918. The New York Age ran his obituary.

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New York Age, 30 March 1918.

Many thanks to John Sullivan of Wilmington’s non-profit Third Person Project for sending this Black Wide-Awake’s way. 

Arrested for stealing a bucket of lard and a pair of pants.

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Wilson Mirror, 11 April 1888.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Henry, 8, Mary, 15, Apsley, 10, and Small Blount, 18, and Grace Edwards, 20, all hotel servants. They lived next door to Sarah Blount, 44, hotel keeper.

On 16 January 1873, Small Blount, 21, married Laura Best, 23, in Wilson. P.E. Hines performed the ceremony.

On 6 January 1876, Small Blount, 22, married Anna Pender, 18, in Wilson. P.E. Hines performed the ceremony.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, livery stable worker Small Blount, 30; wife Anna, 22; daughter Addie, 3; son Bruce, 6 months; and cousin Mary Blount, 22, house servant.

Statement of disbursements.

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  • Charles Darden

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Charles H. Darden, a blacksmith turned undertaker, was Wilson’s leading African-American businessman in turn-of-the-century Wilson.

  • Sylvester Seabury

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  • Mike Taylor

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Mike Taylor was the son of Abi Taylor, above.

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  • James Artist

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  • George Artice

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  • Fred Davis

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Fred M. Davis was a Missionary Baptist minister.

  • Daniel Battle
  • Henry Newsom
  • Ben Bell
  • Austin Linsey

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  • Charles Darden

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  • Patrick Williamson

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  • Small Blount

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  • Caesar Wooten

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Caesar Wooten murdered Mittie Strickland during an argument on Vance Street near the railroad track, launching a four-year manhunt.

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  • Charles Bynum
  • Bettie Privett
  • Alice Privett

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

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Mack Bynum was the father of Charles Bynum, above.

Wilson Mirror, 26 December 1888.

A rare opportunity to rent.

In 1881, Rufus Wright Edmundson ran an ad in the Wilson Advance for the lease of a house on a seven-acre lot on the east corner of Vance and Pender Streets. Wilson’s segregated residential patterns had not yet set, and Edmundson was able to extol the virtues of the parcel to white potential renters. East Wilson’s rapid development is hinted at in the notice — “all nearly new as premises were in original forest seven years ago.” Soon, Vance Street would become the southern edge of white settlement in East Wilson, and Edmundson’s property would be developed for the town’s newly emerging African-American middle class.

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Wilson Advance, 16 December 1881.

Rev. John W. Perry, Episcopal priest.


Educated at Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, John W. Perry was a deacon when appointed in 1882 to serve Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Tarboro. Perry was ordained a priest in 1887 and two years later was assigned to lead the congregation at Saint Mark’s in Wilson in addition to Saint Luke’s. He shared these posts for the next twelve years.

See Rev. Dr. Brooks Graebner, “Historically Black Episcopalian Congregations in the Diocese of North Carolina: 1865-1959” (2018), for more on Rev. Perry.


A great question affecting their welfare.

On 1 September 1887, John H. Williamson of the North Carolina Industrial Association wrote Samuel H. Vick seeking his assistance. Vick was head of the Wilson County chapter of the association, and this letter is found at the Freeman Round House and Museum:

My Dear Sir:

I shall be present in your city and address the people Sept. 8, 1887, on the Fair and progress of the race.

Will you please aid in securing a place for speaking and see that a large audience is obtained as I desire to talk to them on what I consider a great question effecting their welfare. I have sent hand bills.

Yours most truly,

Jno. H. Williamson, Sect.