1900s

The Locuses sell a lot to Taylor’s Chapel.

Deed book 86, page 97, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

On 14 December 1909, John and Delphia Taylor Locus(t) conveyed an 1800 square foot parcel to Willis Ellis, Joe Eatman, and Phoebe Rountree, trustees of Taylor’s Chapel Christ’s Disciples Church. The land was on “the north side of the path leading from the Nash Road to the old home place of Ira Howard, deceased” and was adjacent to land owned by John Locus and Ruffin Watson (“the James Howard tract”).

The land was to “be used for a church in the name of the Christ’s Disciples Church,” and to return to John Locust and his heirs after such use ended. 

[There is a Taylor’s Chapel Pentecostal Holiness in Nashville, N.C., today. I do not believe it is a related church.]

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  • Willis Ellis — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Mary Ellis, 34, and children Willis, 12, Walter, 9, William, 8, Henry, 5, and Lou, 4.
  • Joe Eatman
  • Phoebe Rountree — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: widow Phebee Rountree, 59, farmer, and children Richard, 19, Warren, 17, Ardenia, 15, and Martha, 12. 
  • Ira Howard — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ira Howard, 45; wife Harett, 44, and son William, 18.
  • James Howard– in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: next door to Ira Howard, farmer James Howard, 20, and wife Cisco, 20.

The apprenticeship of Charity Sanders.

On 19 May 1904, a Wilson County Superior Court judge ordered 12 year-old Charity Sanders bound as an apprentice to Julius Hagans until she reached 18 years of age.

Charity was the daughter of Mary Sanders and Edmund (or Edward) Sanders (or Wrenn?) and was likely an orphan at the time of her apprenticeship. Julius Hagans had recently married Charity’s aunt, Martha Sanders.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: teamster Edman Sanders, 39; wife Winne, 32; son Andrew, 12, day laborer, and daughter Charty, 9; sisters Martha, 19, and Bettie Sanders, 20; and boarders Willie Sanders, 21, day laborer, Preston Bryant, 24, day laborer, and Chrischana Sanders, 18.

On 2 January 1901, Julius Hagan, 36, of Wilson County, son of Richard and Allie Hagan, married Martha Sanders, 22, of Wilson County, daughter of Lovett and Charity Sanders, at Ed Sanders’ residence in Wilson County.

On 6 December 1906, James Tate, 27, of Wilson, son of Isaac and Emily Tate, married Charity Sanders, 17, of Wilson, whose parents were dead and whose guardians were Julius Hagans and wife. Missionary Baptist minister William Baker performed the ceremony at Julius Hagans’ residence in the presence of Martha Hagans, Jason Farmer, and Bettie Boykin. [Charity Sanders, in fact, was only about 15 years old.]

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, James Tate, 27; wife Charity, 18; step-son Henry Sanders, 3; son Hollie Tate, 2; and lodger John Pleasant, 39. All the adults were farm laborers. [On nearby Finch Mill Road, Charity Sanders Tate’s brother Andrew Sanders, 21, was living with Julius and Martha Hagans as a hired man.]

On 9 February 1914, Charity Sanders, 22, married Cordy Tillery, 22, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Allen Nelson, Edward Hill, and Lacy Sloane.

In 1917, Cordy Tillery registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 9 August 1889 in Manchester, Virginia; lived at Spring Street, Wilson; was a convict of the County of Wilson (for “misdemeanants”); and had a wife and one child to support.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Park Avenue, tobacco factory worker Cordy Tillery, 28, and wife Charity, 27.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery Charity dom h ft [foot of] Daniel; Tillery Cordy lab h 510 Railroad; Tillery Lorena dom h ft Daniel

Charity Tillery died 18 May 1920 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 25 years old; was born in Smithfield, N.C., to Edward Wrin of Raleigh, N.C., and Mary Saunders of Smithfield, N.C.; was married to Cordy Tillery; worked as a tenant farmer; and lived on Daniel Street. William Smith was informant.

United States Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at https://familysearch.org.

“He tink he’s sum punkins.”

Josephus Daniels’ News & Observer loved a good laugh at the expense of Black folk, even the ones back home in Wilson. Here, a “special” report of the antics of Wesley Rogers at the Mason Hotel one Saturday night. Rogers, a swell and a dandy, had taken offense at remarks made by another patron and had thrown the man out the door. Rogers’ alleged performance in Mayor’s court was deemed worthy of several column inches of print.

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 11 November 1908.

  • Wesley Rogers — I had assumed this to be John Wesley Rogers, but the facts do not fit. Rogers owned several businesses over the course of his life, but not a clothes cleaning establishment, and he was in 1908 a married man with children who was not likely to have been lodging at a hotel.
  • “the Mason Hotel, a joint on the east side of the railroad where the negroes do congregate” — I do not know of a Mason Hotel on Nash Street. The description sounds rather like the Orange Hotel (whose owner, Samuel H. Vick, was a well-known Mason), a boarding house that was cited often for gambling and prostitution.

718 East Green Street.

The one hundred thirty-sixth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

718 East Green Street, formerly numbered 649, is now an empty lot. Any buildings on the lot were demolished prior to the survey of the East Wilson Historic District. In the early 20th century, however, it was the site of a small Black-owned grocery, one of the earliest in East Wilson. City directories reveal the store’s existence, under an ever-changing series of proprietors, as early as 1908 and as late as the 1940s.

John H. Miller and John H. Lewis are the earliest identified grocers at the location in 1908.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, 1908.

Four years later, the city directory shows Jacob C. Speight as the owner. He lived two houses down Green Street.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, 1912.

Detail of page, Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1913.

By 1916, Selly Rogers was the operator of this grocery, as well as another on Stantonsburg Road (now Pender Street South).

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, 1916.

By 1922, several houses had been built around the store, and its number had changed from 649 to 718.

Detail of page, Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1922.

Grant J. Foster is listed as the owner in 1925, but within a few years he was operating a grocery on Viola Street.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, 1925.

The ownership of the grocery during the 1930s is not yet known. By 1941, Green Street Grocery and Market had a white owner, however, John M. Coley.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, 1941.

Sometime during or after World War II, the building at 718 ceased use as a grocery and became a residence, perhaps as a result of intense post-war housing shortages. By 1947, it was the home of photographer John H. Baker and his wife Rosalee.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, 1947.

Lane Street Project: Emma Oates and Rev. Henry W. Farrior.

“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.

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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.]

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2021.

Her love drew her back.

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.

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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.

 

Drapped the wrong one.

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.”

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  • Will Scarborough 

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.

  • Robert Hilliard

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.

  • Riley Faison  

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.

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*See Brent Staples’ opinion piece in the 11 July 2021 New York Times, “How the White Press Wrote Off Black America.”

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

“Mary, Mary, Mary!”

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 7 May 1907. 

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.

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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.

S.H. Vick’s Winona subdivision.

“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.