Recommended reading, no. 16: “Black Tip, White Iceberg.”

For an in-depth understanding of the context and significance of Samuel H. Vick‘s service as Wilson postmaster, please read Benjamin R. Justesen’s “Black Tip, White Iceberg: Black Postmasters and the Rise of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1897-1901,” published in The North Carolina Historical Review, Volume 82, Number 2 (April 2005), pp. 193-227. (If you don’t have a JSTOR subscription, you can sign up for 100 free article views.)

An elopement from Robeson County.

Wilmington Morning Star, 2 September 1902.

In 1902, Charlotte Sanderson, a white married Cumberland County mother, ran away with C.A.P. Overby, an African-American man (with a reddish-brown, or “ginger cake,” complexion). With several of Sanderson’s children in tow, the couple made it as far as Kenly, where Overby apparently realized the enormity — and impossibility — of their actions and abandoned the family. Sanderson rode the train one town further, into Wilson County, where she disembarked and found work for herself and children. After writing to a friend to ship her goods to Lucama, Sanderson was arrested and returned to Fayetteville to face charges of … what?

The Daily Times noted that Sanderson was “fairly good looking, but illiterate.” The Lenoir, N.C., Weekly News described Sanderson as “very ignorant and debased,” as any white woman who engaged in an intimate relationship with a Black man would be, per the social restrictions of the time. Her husband, on the other hand, was “industrious” and “respectable.” The Sandersons did not divorce, however, or at least not immediately, as they are found together in the 1910 census.

I have not been able to determine the fate of Overby.


In the 1900 census of Lumberton township, Robeson County, North Carolina: Alexander Sanderson, 36; wife Charlotte, 30; and children William C., 11, Nannie Lee, 9, Alice C., 7, Maggie, 5, and Alexander, 2.

In the 1910 census of Lumberton township, Robeson County: farmer Sandy Sanderson, 46; wife Charlotte, 40; and children Alice C., 17, Maggie B., 15, Sandy, 12, Clarence, 9, and William C., 21.

Lane Street Project: Sam Vick’s purchase of the lot.

As we know, in 1913, Samuel H. Vick sold the Town of Wilson the 7.84 acres that became Vick Cemetery. As the deed below shows, Vick had purchased this land in February 1908 from banker Franklin W. Barnes and his wife Matilda Bynum Barnes. 

Deed book 81, page 196, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Notice that Vick’s purchase is described as about 10 acres adjoining the Rountree Church lot. In other words, Vick bought a large lot that he later subdivided. At an unknown date, he conveyed the two or so acres adjoining Rountree Cemetery to Hannibal Lodge, Odd Fellows, for use as its cemetery and conveyed the rest to the City for Vick Cemetery in 1913. The Odd Fellows never filed a deed for their cemetery, but we now have a tighter window — between 1908 and 1913 — for the date of its establishment.

So, if Odd Fellows Cemetery was not established until some time after 1908, why do some of its grave markers show death dates before that time? Recall Wilson’s first Black public cemetery, Oakdale. Sam Vick was an ardent Odd Fellow. It may be that after the cemetery opened, he had the graves of his mother, father, and daughter Viola moved from Oakdale and reinterred in a new family plot. Chief Ben Mincey may also have done the same for his father and brother

The last will and testament of Jennie Farmer Braswell.

In a will signed 21 May 1907, Jennie Braswell left all her personal and real estate to her sister Venus Farmer.


In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: widow Rhoda Farmer, 70; daughter Jennie Braswell, 40, widow; daughter Martha Wooten, 28; grandchildren Howard, 17, Rena, 15, Lulu, 13, Minnie, 7, Walter, 10, and Lily [Wooten?], 20; and Dennis A. Thadis, 33.

Will of Jennie Braswell (1907), North Carolina Wills and Probate Records 1665-1998, http://www.ancestry.com.

The Women’s Auxiliary of Saint Mark’s Episcopal.

This folded sheet of paper contains minutes from meetings of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church’s Women’s Auxiliary.


Wilson N.C. Sept. the 29 1909. The woman Auxilliary was open in a short way by the President Mrs Hill. The pastor & supt. gave an interesting talk. The following members paid monthly dews

Mrs Hill 5 cents for

” Perry 5

” Cherry 15

Miss Winstead 10

” Ward 10

Mrs. I.R.C. Clark 10

” Palmer 10     total of 75 c

” Mitchell

” Norood

” Green

” Taylor

” Jones

The meeting was closed by singing Hymn 672 Bless be the tide Benediction by the pastor.

Wilson N.C. Sept. the 6, 19[09?]  The woman Auxilliary met an St. marks Church

Wilson, N.C.

The Woman’s auxiliary of St. Mark’s church met Sept. Oct. the 6, 1909. Opened by singing hymn 582 prayer by the Supt. there were some very interestings things spoken of the following gave some talk about about the work of the woman auxilliary. Messes Mitchell, Hines, Winstead & Clark. Mrs. Mitchell apointed to intertain the Auxilliary by reading miss Winstead & others a few encurging words.

Mrs Perry 5 fo Oct   tots 20

Mrs. Mamie L. Taylor 15 for three monts

Closed by singing 504 hymn my soul be on thy gaurd. & prayer.


The Colored Graded School’s early days.

This beautifully sharp photograph is the earliest known depicting the Colored Graded School. Photographer F.M. Winstead, who operated in Wilson from about 1880 to about 1908, shot this wintertime scene, most likely within a few years of the school’s opening in the 1890s. The school was built at what was then the edge of town, and I am fairly sure that the field in front of the school has been picked clean of cotton.

My thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for this photograph.

Booze in the bed (but not enough).

News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 6 August 1907.

Both the Daily Times and the News & Observer got a lot of mileage out of covering root doctor Benjamin Woodard. (Josephus Daniels, the N&O’s founder and editor, had known Woodard personally during his Wilson years.) Here, despite detailed description of the liquor found in Woodard’s house, Woodard was acquitted. However, state’s witness Bloss Batts (who was jailed pending hearing, as was done in those days) was charged with “retailing,” i.e. selling alcohol illegally. I have not found evidence of the outcome of that matter.


For more about Ben Woodard, see here and here and here and here.

  • Bloss Batts

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Tom Batts, 69; wife Mariah, 60; and children Eddie, 22, Willie, 20, Blossom, 18, William, 15, Bettie, 29, and Frank, 11.

In 1918, Blos Batts registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in March 1883; lived on Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer for Farmers Cotton Oil Company; and his nearest relative was Buddy Marlowe, Stantonsburg Street.

On 23 November 1919, Bloss Batts, 40, of Wilson, son of Tom and Mariah Batts, married Lizzie Taylor, 25, of Wilson, at Bettie Marable‘s in Wilson. Oliver Marable applied for the license, and Free Will Baptist minister C.L. Johnson, of Craven County, performed the ceremony.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Batts Bloss (c; Lizzie) h 203 Ashe

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Wiley Batts, 68; wife Lucy, 59; daughters Anna Knight, 34, and Mary Batts, 25; grandchildren James Thomas, 3, and Jimmy Lee Batts, 2 months, and Junior, 11, and Mamie Knight, 9; and brother Bloss Batts, 56, widower.

Bloss Batts died 9 April 1942 at the Wilson County Home. Per his death certificate, he was 56 years old; was born in Wilson County to Tom Batts and Mariah Jones; was married to Lizzie Batts; worked in farming; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery.

Charges on the docket.

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 6 September 1908.

This rundown of Superior Court cases reveals crazy times in the streets of Wilson. It’s not easy to determine which defendants were African-American, but:

Jack Rountree was charged with setting fire to the house of Jesse Howard (whose honorific “Mr.” was unusual for an African-American at the time.)

Josephine Blount and white madames Cora Duty, Mallie Paul, Rosa Holland, Gladys Moore, Nan Garrett, Fannie Burwell, Willie Bright, and Maud Kelly were charged with “maintaining ‘red light’ houses.” Blount, who operated from Samuel H. Vick‘s Orange Hotel, was already in jail, awaiting trial.

Gladys Moore, seated wearing boater, and Mallie Paul (or, perhaps, Paul and Moore). Arguably, Paul, who operated for decades, was the doyenne of Wilson’s red light district madames. Photo courtesy of Jim Gaddis.

The first of two “squads of blacklegs” charged with gambling — Jesse Taylor, Mid Farmer, Dock Atkinson, Wiley Dupree, John Lancaster, and Bud Bynum — was comprised of Black men.

George Rountree, probably. I have not been able to identify Abner Renfrow.