1910s

The death of Lucy Dawson.

Death of Mrs. A.D. Dawson.

“A star has gone down

To rise upon some fairer shore;

An ardent toiler has fallen asleep,

A faithful pilgrim has reached home.”

Mrs. Lucy A. Dawson, wife of Mr. A.D. Dawson of Wilson, N.C., went to sleep Sunday evening, May 20, just after the sun had gone down behind the western hills and all was quiet and still. So peaceful was her death that those watching by her bedside scarcely knew the end had come.

Mrs. Dawson was a true Christian, a loving wife and a devoted mother. Mrs. Dawson had lived in Wilson more then 40 years and the friendships she formed are too numerous to mention. Mrs. Dawson was erudite, affable and kind and her removal from our midst “to join the innumerable caravan which moves to that mysterious realm” has made a wound in our community which only the lapse of time can heal. Mrs. Dawson was a lady of the highest type, having in her life indelible stamp of the Christ-life and during her life she placed before us a standard of Christian living worthy of our emulation; and now that her life’s work is ended we rejoice in the thought that “having fought the good fight and kept the faith” she has received the “crown of life that fadeth not away.”

Mrs. Dawson leaves to mourn her loss nine children, a father, husband, two sisters, three brothers and a host of friends. All the children were present at her bedside. Miss Mattie Dawson, a teacher in Selden institute, Brunswick, Ga., and Miss Lucile Dawson, of Emerson institute, Blackville, S.C., reached home just before the end came. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. H.B. Taylor and Rev. C. Dillard of Goldsboro, N.C., at Calvary Presbyterian church, Tuesday afternoon, May 22. The Household of Ruth ceremony was conducted by Mrs. Mattie Dortch of Goldsboro, N.C., district most noble governor. In expression of high respect many floral offerings were received, among them a wheel with a broken spoke by the family, a crescent by Calvary Presbyterian church, a pillow by Household of Ruth, a cross by A.M.E. Zion church and a wreath of carnations from Prof. and Mrs. S.H. Vick and other beautiful designed from her many friends.

“There are no dead.

The stars go down

To rise upon some fairer shore;

And bright in Heavn’s jeweled crown

They shine forevermore.” 

Joseph H. Foy, Wilson Daily Times, 13 June 1917.

  • Lucy A. Dawson —

In the 1870 census of Swift Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Joseph Hill, 31; wife Sallie, 30; [mother?] Lucie, 76; and children Lucie, 17, Josephine, 14, Mason, 9, Sarah, 7, Sherman, 4, and Jacob, 3.

On 8 April 1875, Lucy A. Hill, 17, married James Gatlin, 26, in Edgecombe County.

On 1 November 1882, A.D. Dawson, 25, of Wilson, son of Robert and Rachel Dawson, married Lucy Gatlin, 24, of Wilson County, daughter of Joseph and Sally Hill, at Gatlin’s residence in Wilson County. Methodist minister P.M. Hilliard performed the ceremony in the presence of Sam Collins, Lewis Battle and Martha Tyson.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: dealer in fish Edd [Alexander D.] Dawson, 40; wife Lucy, 40, dressmaking; and children Mattie, 14, Virginia, 9, Lucy, 8, Edd, 5, Clarence, 3, and Augusta, 1.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: restaurant cook Alexander Dawson, 50; wife Lucy, 49; and children Sophie,  25, school teacher, Mattie, 23, stenographer, Virginia, 19, school teacher, Lucile, 17, Alexander, 15, Clarence, 13, Augusta, 11, and Arlander, 1. 

Lucy Annie Dawson died 20 May 1917 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 October 1860 to Joseph Hill of Virginia and Sally Slaughter of Virginia [but residents of Edgecombe County, N.C.], was married, and was engaged in dressmaking. Sophia Dawson was informant.

  • A.D. Dawson —

Possibly, in the 1870 census of Snow Hill township, Greene County: Robert Dawson, 30; wife Cherry, 25, and son Elice, 5.

In the 1908 Dawson Alex D (c) fish City Market h 505 E Vance. In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson city directory, these Dawsons were listed as residents of 505 E Vance: Alex D. (eating house 215 S Goldsboro); Alex D., Jr. (barber); Clarence C. (clerk); Lucille P. (music teacher); Mattie H. (stenographer), Sophie L. (teacher); and Virginia S. (teacher.)

  • Mattie Dawson
  • Selden Institute — An historical marker in Brunswick, Georgia’s Selden Park reads: “Selden Normal & Industrial Institute. Established 1903. Operated by Negro citizens of Brunswick and Miss Carrie E. Bemus, high school courses in teacher training, practical and industrial arts. Site purchased by industrialist E. P. Selden and Dr. Charles Selden, a Christian missionary to China, named Selden in honor of Dr. Charles Selden. Later taken over by board of general missions, Presbyterian Church North, and became a Presbyterian school. Three principals served: Miss Carrie E. Bemus, Rev. H.A. Bleach, and Rev. S.Q. Mitchell. Consolidated with Gillespie Institute, Cordele, Ga., 1933. Presented by Selden Alumni and Former Students. Original Board of Directors Rev. S.G. Dent, Sr., Chas. A. Shaw, Alex Atkinson, Rev. John Williams, Mrs. Ellen Buggs. Glynn County Commissioners R.L. Holtzendorf, Chairman, John E. Taylor, R.E. Owens, Gerald Edwards, Roy J. Boyd.”
  • Lucile Dawson — On 10 December 1919, Simon Frazier, 24, of Georgia, married Lucille P. Dawson, 24, of Wilson, in Wilson. In the 1920 census of Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia: medical doctor Simon F. Frazier, 30; wife Lucile, 24; and lodger Martha Daniels, 39, public school teacher. In the 1930 census of Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia: at 222 East Park Avenue, physician Simon F. Frazier, 40; wife Lucille P., 33; and children Muriel E., 9, Ouida, 6, and Wahwee A., 3 months.
  • Emerson Institute
  • Rev. C. Dillard — Clarence Dillard.
  • Rev. H.B. Taylor — Halley B. Taylor.
  • Mrs. Mattie Dortch
  • Prof. and Mrs. S.H. Vick — Samuel H. and Annie Washington Vick.
  • Joseph H. Foy 

Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III and Sue Powell for details of the clipping.

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 5.

Margaret Colvert Allen, seated far right, third row, circa 1915.

Greensboro Daily News, 10 March 1916.

Margaret C. Allen, second from right, second row from top. Her sister Launie Mae Colvert Jones, at left, first row of middle section, circa 1916. Both photos, I believe depict students of Statesville’s Colored Free School. The second photo may show the school itself shortly before it burned or may depict one of the other buildings in which the school met before a replacement was built in 1921.

Photos in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

The story of a 27 year-old murder.

In August 1912, 17 year-old Nash County boy Lieutenant Hawkins was found stabbed to death on his employer Iredell Williams’ farm near the Wilson County line. His body had lain in a pasture overnight. The Wilmington Morning Star reported that two men, Paul Powell and Oscar Eatmon, were quickly arrested.  

Eatmon was convicted “of having something to do with the killing.” (What?) He served five years in state prison and returned to Wilson. Meanwhile, Paul Powell’s brother Dempsey Powell, also involved in the incident, left the state. When he returned in May 1939 for one of his brothers’ funeral, he was arrested and charged with Hawkins’ murder. 

Wilson Daily Times, 27 May 1939.

A mere five days later, the Nashville Graphic reported that Powell had been acquitted. Eatmon was the star witness. Eatmon, Hawkins, Powell and others had argued on their way home from church. A fight broke out, and Hawkins was slain. Eatmon was taken into custody as a witness, but “at a preliminary hearing talked too much and was arrested in connection with the crime.” Powell  returned to North Carolina about 1933 and saw and talked to Eatmon, but Eatmon had not reported him. When Powell came back in 1939, Eatmon alerted authorities. 

All good until cross examination. Defense attorney I.T. Valentine confronted Eatmon with a sworn statement from the 1912 trial record. Eatmon had testified then that another boy, named Wiggins, had stabbed Hawkins, and Powell had only pulled Wiggins off the victim. After reviewing this bombshell, the judge directed a “not guilty” verdict, and Powell’s ordeal was over. 

——

  • Dempsey Powell — in the 1900 census of Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.: Ichabod Powell, 50, farmer; wife Mary A., 50; children Mary A., 20, Martha, 18, Joseph, 16, Margarett, 14, Geneva, 12, Billie P., 11, Dempsey H., 9, and Paul J., 6; and nephew Henry Lassiter, 28. In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer William T. Powell, 38; wife Mary, 21; brother-in-law Dempsie, 16; and sister-in-law Martha, 6. On 14 February 1912, Dempsey Powell, 19, of Old Fields township, son of Tom and Clarky Powell, married Bessie Hedgpeth, 18, of Oldfields township, daughter of Dock and Clara Hedgpeth, in Wilson County. [Is this the same Dempsey?]
  • Paul Powell — Paul Powell died 21 July 1966 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 May 1894 in Nash County to Jabe [Ichabod] Powell and Mary Ann Lancaster [Lassiter]; lived at 1304 Carolina Street; and was never married. 
  • Oscar Eatmon — in the 1910 census of Jackson township, Nash County, Oscar Eatmon is a 16 year-old farm laborer living with his widower father Jarman Eatmon.
  • Lieutenant Hawkins — in the 1910 census of Jackson township, Nash County, Lieutenant Hawkins is a 14 year-old farm laborer living with his parents Bynum and Julia Hawkins.
  • I.T. Valentine — Itimous Thaddeus Valentine, later an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The Negro was given a very raw deal.

In 1919, Samuel H. Vick drafted a lengthy letter to the Daily Times to protest treatment of African-American patrons of the John Robinson Circus. 

The exact nature of the “raw deal” is not clear, but appears to involve forcing Black customers to buy premium-priced reserve seating rather than general admission tickets. Also, refusing to honor purchased tickets. And humiliating patrons by directing them to “the Nigger Wagon” and “the Nigger Hole” when they tried to enter the show. Vick’s anger is clear, but measured. He notes the general good relations between Black and white Wilsonians, but laments the potential for disruption of that goodwill by a rude stranger. Who could blame a Black man for losing his cool?

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1919.

An introduction to Sharpsburg.

Per county GIS mapping data, there are two property owners remaining in Wilson County whose named include the word “Colored.” The first I know well — Elm City Colored Cemetery Commission. The second pulled me up short — Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church.

Though I have driven through it on U.S. Highway 301 hundreds of times, I know little about Sharpsburg, other than that its town limits straddle three counties — Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe. Because I’m not familiar with the locations of these boundaries, I have not looked closely at Sharpsburg as a source of material for Black Wide-Awake.

I pulled up the GIS map for Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist and was immediately struck by two things.

One, the Wilson County sector of Sharpsburg is cleanly bounded by SE Railroad Street on the west and Main Street on the north. Two, this is the historically Black section of town — the church is there, it is “across the tracks,” and its street names include Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

And then there’s this grainy Google Maps image of the church itself:

Per county tax records, trustees bought the lot at the corner of Railroad and Lincoln Streets in 1915 and built Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church in 1920. Another grainy photograph linked to the tax record and date-stamped 2016 shows a large sign mounted on the church tower that reads “Bellamy Chapel P.B. Church.” Bellamy Chapel appears to be defunct as well. 

I’ve added Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church to my follow-up list. Stay tuned.

 

If he doesn’t bring that money in, something has happened.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 August 1911.

“The worst had happened, Fields was dead,” and the Times penned a tribute to its loyal subscriber.

——

On 26 February 1903, James Fields, 52, of Wilson, son of Alex and Mary Fields, married Lucy Warren, 30, of Wilson, at her residence. Missionary Baptist minister E.P. Pearsall performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles B. Gay, Ella Gay, and William C. Barnes.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: James Fields, 49, odd jobs laborer, and wife Lucy, 32, laundress.

James P. Fields died 21 August 1911 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 58 years old; was married; lived at 213 Hackney Street; worked as a gardener; and was born in Boyton [Boydton], Virginia, to Elex Fields and Mary Smithering. W.B. Fields of Wilson was informant.