“Emma Wife of Charlie Oates Died Sept 3 1908 Age 40 Years” “Rev. Henry W. Farrior Aug 12 1859 May 6 1937”
The headstones of Emma Oates and Rev. Henry W. Farrior stand in the Oates family plot in Odd Fellows Cemetery. They are clearly newer stones, erected long after the deaths of the people they commemorate. Nearby, Emma Oates’ broken original marker with the epitaph “Every joy to us is dead, Since Mother is not here.”
In the background of the first photo, the small white marker of Emma Oates’ husband, Charles Oates, leans against that of their daughter Fannie Oates McCullins. The markers of two other daughters, Ella Oates and Rosa Oates Barnes, lie broken nearby. Farrior’s kinship to the Oates family, if any, is not clear.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer Charles Oates, 34; wife Emma, 30; and children Willie, 11, Fannie, 9, Annie, 8, Effie, 5, and Queen Elsie, 4.
Emma Oates died before Wilson County maintained death certificates.
Emma Ruby Oates died 2 May 1922 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 May 1905 in Wilson to Charley Oates of Edgecombe County and Emma Williams of Edgecombe County; lived at 415 Hadley Street; was single; and was in school. [She was likely buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery with her parents and sisters.]
I have written here and here of the children of Jonathan and Margaret Dew Artis, who migrated from Wilson County to Putnam County, Indiana, in the 1870s. The Artis family seems to have followed family there, as a sad newspaper story reveals Margaret’s cousin Esther Due in Indiana, too.
Esther Due was born about 1879 in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Edwin Due [Dew] and Adaline Barefoot (or Deans) Due. The family migrated to Indiana when Esther was an infant. On 2 July 1898, Esther gave birth in Putnam County to a son Raymond Due, whose father was white.
The boy was placed with an African-American foster family, who sought to adopt him.
Greencastle Banner, 28 April 1899.
They appear in the 1900 census of Greencastle, Putnam County, Indiana: Virginia-born gardener John T. Fox, 32; wife Luella, 31; and son Raymond F. Fox, 1.
Things did not go well though. In December 1899, newspapers ran articles with varying details, but telling one essential story — Esther Due had taken her son from the Foxes and gone to Indianapolis. They lodged briefly with her cousin Margaret Artis, but were not allowed to stay. Due then entered a rescue mission for unwed women, Door of Hope.
Indianapolis’ Door of Hope Mission. Undated photo courtesy of IUPUI University Library.
Seemingly dissatisfied with her situation at the mission, and unable otherwise to care for the boy, Due left him in a stranger’s front yard.
Indianapolis Sun, 22 December 1900.
Indianapolis Journal, 22 December 1900.
Greencastle Star Press, 29 December 1900.
I have found nothing further about Raymond Due, alias Fox. His mother died 10 November 1904 in Putnam County, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was born 26 April 1879 in North Carolina to Edward Due and Ida Barefoot; was single; worked as a domestic; and was buried in Brick Chapel cemetery.
In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: domestic servant Lucy Sanders, 45; farm laborers Ollen Womble, 19, Edwin Due, 15, and Tony Rountree, 23; and farm laborer Seth Deems, 22, (his wife?) Eliza, 20, and Dinah, 2.
Edwin Dew, 23, and Adaline Deans, 19, were married 10 September 1876 at Virgil Deans’ in Wilson County.
In the 1880 census of Jefferson township, Putnam County, Indiana: Edward Dew, 25, works on farm; wife Adaline, 20; and children James A., 2, and Easter A., 1.
In the 1900 census of Edwin Due, 48; wife Addie, 39; and children Arthur, 22, Easter, 21, Edwin Jr., 17, Ida A., 16, Lizza, 14, Mary E., 12, Edith, 11, John, 9, Joseph, 7, Eva, 4, and Marshal, 1. Addie reported 12 of 14 children living. The first two listed here were born in North Carolina; the remaining in Indiana.
Adeline Due died 2 November 1902 in Monroe township, Putnam County, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 July 1860 in North Carolina to Nicodemus Taylor and Anna Barefoot and was married to Ed Due. She was buried in Brick Chapel cemetery.
In the 1910 census of : Edwin Due, 56, farmer; wife Tena, 55; children Johnnie, 18, Joseph, 16, Eva, 13, Marshal, 12, and Lorenzo, 10; and mother-in-law Olive Howell, 82.
Per his headstone in Brick Chapel cemetery, Edwin Due died in 1921.
Casual violence among young men is not new. Unsurprisingly, historically newspapers have sensationalized such violence when it involved black men, playing into the stereotypes and fear-mongering of the era.
I recognize the viciousness of this propaganda.* I also recognize articles reporting violent crime as invaluable, if distorted, glimpses into the lives of ordinary African-Americans during a period in which they were poorly documented. Beyond the basic facts of the terrible crime reported here, what can we learn?
News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 30 July 1907.
“on the Owens place” — This reference to the owner of the farm on which the events took place indicates the protagonists were likely sharecroppers or tenant farmers. The Saratoga Road is today’s U.S. Highway 264-A (formerly N.C. Highway 91.)
“a negro dance and barbecue supper was given by Robert Hilliard” — Hilliard, who was Black, hosted a Saturday night party on the farm, perhaps in a barn. He sold barbecue — surely Eastern North Carolina-style, with a vinegar-and-red pepper sauce — and sandwiches to patrons from a stand near the road.
“a wheezy fiddle” — the source of music for the dance. (Who was the fiddler? Was he locally renowned? Was there accompaniment? Was fiddling a common skill? I can’t name a single one from this era.)
“‘Hilliard is the n*gger I wanted to drap.” — The meaning and usage of this now-extreme pejorative has shifted over time. Here, it is almost, but not quite, neutral. More interesting, to me, is the now-archaic pronunciation “drap” for the verb “drop.”
On 29 January 1903, Will Scarborough, 21, of Saratoga, son of Ashley and Ellen Scarborough, married Lucy Anderson, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Bob and Winnie Anderson, in Wilson County. Jack Bynum applied for the license.
Will Scarborough died 6 August 1968 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 90 years old; was the son of Ashley Scarborough and Ellen [maiden name unknown]; was a widower; lived in Stantonsburg; and was buried at Saint Delight cemetery, Walstonburg. Informant was James E. Best, Stantonsburg.
On 1 November 1900, Robert Hilliard, 20, of Wilson County, son of Jack and Laura Hilliard, married Ailsy Bynum, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of West and Sopha Bynum, in Gardners township, Wilson County.
Robert George Hilliard Sr. died 27 February 1944 at his home at 211 Finch Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 66 years old; was born in Wilson County to Jack Hilliard and Laura [maiden name unknown]; was a widower; was engaged in farming; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Mattie Moore, 211 Finch Street, was informant.
On 8 May 1902, Riley Faison, 30, of Wilson County, son of Henry and Sophia Faison, married Frances Farmer, 26, of Wilson County, daughter of Tom and Polly Farmer, at “Mr. Frank Barnes Plantation.” A.M.E. Zion elder N.L. Overton performed the ceremony in the presence of Mattie V. Overton, James Smith, and Polly Farmer.
The setting: the former plantation of Joshua Barnes, then three miles north of Wilson and now on the outskirts.
Several people gathered at Willie Barnes‘ home to go together to a dance in the neighborhood. Barnes was eating his evening meal, and his wife, children, and neighbors sat before the fire. Mary Talley suddenly rushed in. Moments later, her husband Robert Talley appeared in the doorway, cried “Mary, Mary, Mary!,” and emptied a shotgun barrel into his wife’s hip. Willie Barnes grabbed the gun, which discharged its other barrel into the ceiling. Mary Talley lost considerable blood, but the wound was judged not serious. A sheriff’s posse found Talley holed up in his residence with a loaded gun, but arrested him without incident.
I haven’t found anything further about this incident. However, Robert Talley went to prison, he didn’t stay long. He appears in the 1910 census of Wilson … with Mary Talley.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Robert Talley, 23, and wife Mary.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Talley, 31, store janitor; wife Mary, 28, cook; and three boarders Lula Vick, 18, cook, Rachel Miller, 19, cook, and Buster Miller, 15 months.
In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tally Robert (c) lab 409 N Pine
In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Talley Mary (c) dom h Young’s New Line nr Water Works rd
Mary M. Talley died 22 May 1945 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old; was born in Asheville, N.C., to Eleck Robinson and Dora Miller; was single; and lived at 200 West Lee Street. Rachel Ellis, 200 West Lee, was informant.
“Winona, a suburb of Wilson, N.C.” Deed book 68, page 457, Wilson County Register of Deeds.
In 1905, Samuel H. Vick filed a plat map for the subdivision of a parcel of land he owned along Mercer Street. Assuming Mercer Street follows its present course (the street was outside city limits until the mid-1920s), this appears to be the stretch west of Hominy Swamp. There’s no Daniels Mill Road in the area though, and the parallel Wells Alley and unnamed street do not match up with modern features. However, if you flip the map upside down to view it per the compass designation at top center, the landscape falls into place. Daniels Mill Road, then, is modern-day Fairview Avenue.
Below, on an inverted Google Maps image, I’ve traced modern Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue in red. In dotted yellow, the probable course of Wells Alley, which seems to track a line of trees that runs along the back edge of the lots facing Mercer, and the short crooked unnamed street that apparently never was cut through.
The cursive note added at upper left of the plat map says: “See Book 72 pp 527 et seq perfecting title to these lots.” At bottom left: “Lots 100 ft in debth [sic] & 50 ft in width except lots 23, 24, 25, 33, 61, 57, 58, 59, 60, & lots 1 and 2.”
A few of the 85 lots are inscribed with surnames, presumably of their purchasers: #46 Bynum, #48 Johnson, #53 Melton. In addition, lots 17, 19, 20 and 22 appear to be inscribed with the initials J.H. The 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists the home of William A. Johnson, an African-American cook, as “Mercer St w of N & S Ry.” Though imprecise, this is broadly describes the street on the map. No Melton or Bynum is similarly listed.
The 1910 census settles the matter. On “Winona Road,” restaurant cook William Johnson, 40; wife Pollie, 35, laundress; and children Mary E., 13, Willie C., 11, Winona, 4, and Henry W., 2, and dozens of African-American neighbors, mostly laborers and servants who owned their homes (subject to mortgage).
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Mercer Street next door to Smith Bennett and wife Mary, restaurant proprietor William Johnson, 39; wife Polly, 38; and children Wyona, 14, Margaret, 8, James, 11, and Millie, 19. Herbert and Ella Bynum owned the house on the other side, and Mollie Melton was up the street, and may have been related to the Bynum and Melton noted on the plat map.
The 1930 census reveals the house number: 910 Mercer Street, valued at the astonishing figure of $18,000. (This may well be a matter of an errant extra zero, as the 1922 Sanborn map shows a small one-story cottage at the location, which would not have commanded that sum.) Will A. Johnson, 60, worked as a cafe cook, and wife Pollie, 55, was a cook. The household included daughter Margrette Futrell, 18; infant grandson Wilbert R. Hawkins, born in Pennsylvania; widowed daughter Mary J. Thomas, 33 (noted as absent); and niece Jannie Winstead, 7.
When Sam Vick’s real estate empire collapsed in 1935, he lost three lots and houses on Mercer Street — 903, 907 and 915 — perhaps the last property he held in Winona subdivision.
Here’s what I wrote about Oscar Mincey‘s headstone in December 2019, in one of the first Lane Street project posts:
Oscar Mincey, son of Prince and Susan Suggs Mincey, was born about 1887. His small stone is a few feet from his father. It’s almost completely sunken, and his death date is unreadable. I have not found a death certificate for him, which suggests he died before the state required them in 1914. Oscar’s brother Benjamin, the fireman, is presumably buried nearby, but there is no trace of his headstone.
L.S.P. volunteers have cleared away the vegetation. Scratching at the soil reveals a web of wisteria roots clutching the stone. They run as much as a foot beneath the surface and have to be clipped carefully to release their grip.
Vines cut, I dug carefully at each edge, scooping out dirt by hand to keep the hole small. At last, Oscar’s death date appears — January 15, 1905.
Finally, a simple clean-up with water and a nylon brush.
Oscar Mincey was about 17 when he died.
In the 1900 census of Wilson town, Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Prince Mensey, 60; wife Susan, 52; children Ben, 19, Emma, 19, and Oscar, 12; and niece Rosetta Mensey, 7.
Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.
Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the section of the 100 block of North Goldsboro Street opposite the county courthouse.
Levi H. Jones‘ barbershop stood at the rear of today’s Planter’s Bank building, which was erected in 1920 and now houses county government offices. Within a couple of years, Jones changed locations, opening the Mayflower at 108 East Nash Street, a narrow two-story brick building near First National Bank. First National is now the Wilson County-Nash Street Office Building, and the Mayflower’s site is a parking lot.
Wilson Times, 30 June 1911.
Alexander D. Dawson, a former local Republican Party stalwart, operated a fish and oyster stall in the city market building, which burned down in 1929.
Wilson city hall, market and fire department, circa 1900.
Postcard courtesy of North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s digitalnc.org.
As pointed out by a descendant, an early 1900’s photograph of early leaders of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church misidentified its rector, the Rev. Robert N. Perry. Charlotte, N.C., native Perry, who served in Wilson from 1905 to 1919, is depicted in the portrait above. He was married to Mary Ada Jackson Perry, and their children William M., Robert Nathaniel II, Alice L., John L., and Frank Hargrave Perry were born in Wilson.
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, provides a detailed account of Rev. Perry’s tenure, including this opening summary: “… Perry ‘found things some what neglected and the congregation scattered but hopeful. The work began to take on new life and enthusiasm was created for anything [that] might be suggested.’ During his fourteen years in Wilson, Perry married thirty-four parishioners, baptized forty-three, presented thirty-three for confirmation, and buried eight. Membership rose rapidly from eighteen in 1906 to twenty-five in 1907, thirty-three in 1909, forty-seven in 1917, and sixty-seven the very next year. The congregation remained at that level during the rest of his tenure.”
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, Robert Perry, 28, public school teacher; wife Mary A., 26; and son William, 5 months. [“Public school”? Was Rev. Perry actually a teacher at Saint Mark’s private elementary school?]
Robert Nathaniel Perry registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 6 December 1881; lived at 315 South Street, Wilson; was minister of the Colored Episcopal Church; and his nearest relative was wife Mary Ada Perry.
During Rev. Perry’s tenure, Saint Mark’s church and school were located at the corner of South and Lodge Streets. 315 South Street was the school’s address, as well, and suggests that its building did double-duty as a parsonage.
Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.
Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the intersection of the 100 block of East Barnes Street and the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.
William Hargrove — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith William Hargrove, 32; wife Leuvenia, 30, washing; daughter Bessie, 6, and Lillie, 3; widowed sister Mary Boddie, 25, cooking; and cousin Julious Heat, 20, farm hand.
Isaac J. Young‘s blacksmith shop operated in the present-day location of Worrell’s Seafood. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 315 Spring Street, horse shoer Isaac J. Young, 46; wife Laura, 29; and sons Cornelius, 12, and Robert, 9; plus lodger Henry Moy, 5.
Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the west side of the first block of South Goldsboro Street.
Hardy & Holland’s livery stable was wedged, improbably, between a wholesale grocery and a garage with a second floor print shop. Per the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, “This business is located on South Goldsboro street between Nash and Barnes streets and the business has been established for the last four years. The proprietor [James Hardy] has succeeded in building up a good patronage. He is very prompt in answering calls and his prices for Livery are very reasonable. Telephone Number 9. Hack and Dray work solicited. The proprietor wants your patronage and guarantees the right sort of treatment. He is a colored man and has the good wishes of all.” Hardy’s business partner was Thomas Holland, a Wake County native.
Henry C. Holden‘s barbershop occupied the basement level of the Branch Bank building at the corner of East Nash and South Goldsboro Streets.
This screenshot from Google Streetview shows the wrought-iron rail around the former exterior entrance to the barbershop below the Branch Bank building.