The death of little Bettie Askew of Whitesboro.

The death certificate of five-month-old Bettie Louise Askew caught my eye not only because of her young age, but also her birthplace — Whitesboro, the all-Black town in southern New Jersey founded by former United States Congressman George H. White and promoted by Samuel H. Vick.


Theodocia Magnolia Boykin was born in Wilson County to John Boykin and Dicy Bailey Boykin on 7 February 1884. The 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County shows house mover John Boykin, 50; wife Dicy, 44, cooking; and children Sallie, 19, cooking, James, 18, day laborer, Dotia, 14, Susia, 14, Lillie, 10, and Eliza, 7. John Askew, a native of Northampton County, North Carolina, migrated with his family to Cape May County, New Jersey, shortly after 1900.

It’s not clear where Bettie Askew’s parents met, but John S. Askew, 26, of New Jersey, and Dothia Boykin, 24, of Wilson, applied for a marriage license in Wilson County. Though the license was never returned to the Wilson County Register of Deeds’ office for registration, Episcopal church records show that they were married on 2 September 1908.

Their first child, Bettie Louise, was born in Whitesboro in 1909, but brought back to Wilson prior to her death in April 1910. The 1910 census of Middle township, Cape May County, New Jersey, shows John S. Askew, 28, a wagon wheelwright, and wife Theodothia M., 26.

A second daughter, Elsie Joanne, was born 14 April 1911. [Per her death certificate, she was born in New York.]

John S. Askew apparently died around 1911, probably in New Jersey.

The 1912 Wilson city directory lists Theodosie Askew, music teacher living on Viola on the corner of Vick.

On 20 December 1913, Ezekiel Warren, 22, of Black Creek, married Thedore [sic] Askew, 30, of Wilson, in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nathan W. Boyett, 69, carpenter, widower; nieces Therorshia Warren, 36, Elsie J. Askew, 9, and Elenzie C. Askew, 3; and roomer Lucy Wethers, 64. [Elenzie Cathleen Warren was Theodocia Askew Warren’s daughter with Ezekiel Warren.]

In the 1930 census of Newport News, Virginia: on Shoe Lane, Jesse Faulkland, 40, brickyard laborer; wife Eliza M., 37; children Rachael R., 16, Ethel M., 14, Jesse A., 10, Margaret C., 7, and Coynetta M., 4; nieces Elsie Askew, 18, and Cathleen Warren, 12; and lodger Coy Jones, 52, shipyard laborer. [Eliza Boykin Faulkland was Theodocia Magnolia Boykin Askew Warren’s sister.]

On 31 August 1931, Curtis Wiggins, 23, of Whalleyville, Virginia, son of Robert Wiggins and Cora Ford, married Joann Askew, 21, of Buckingham, Pennsylvania, daughter of John Askew and Magnolia Boyd, in Newport News, Virginia.

In the 1940 census of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: at 4431 Brown Street, William Ricks, 25, cook and waiter at cafe; wife Anna, 26, hotel maid; and aunt and lodger Magnolia Henry, 56, widow.

In 1941, Curtis Wiggins registered for the World War II draft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his registration card, he was born 15 October 1908 in Whaleyville, Virginia; lived at 1255 South 18th Street, then 902 North Sartain, Philadlephia;his contact was wife Joanna Wiggins, 1255 South 18th; and he worked for Merchants & Miners Transportation Company, Philadelphia.

Elsie Wiggins died 27 January 1941 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 January 1911 in New York to John Askew and Magnolia Boykin; was married to Curtis Wiggins; and lived at 902 Sartain, Philadelphia.

In the 1950 census of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: at 741 45th Street, Magnolia Henry, 66, widow; nieces Ella Davis, 25, and Victoria Drain, 11; nephew Thomas Heath, 28, and his wife Geneva, 25, and son Thomas Jr., newborn; and lodgers Ruth Mines, 26, Nancy Mines, 4, Kenneth Mines, newborn, Flax Graves, 42, Susan Graves, 45, and Beatrice Graves, 15.

Magnolia Henry died 30 April 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 February 1884 in Wilson, N.C., to John Boykin and Dicy Bailey; was a widow; and lived at 741 North 45th Street, Philadelphia.

Studio shots, no. 197: Sylvania Simmons Sutton.

Sylvania Simmons Sutton (1853-1916).


In the 1860 census of Indian Springs district, Wayne County: cooper George Simmons, 40; wife Axey J., 38; and children Riley B., 19, Simon, 15, Susan A., 17, Zach, 10, Silvania, 9, Bryant, 7, H.B., 5, and Gen. Washington, 2.

In the 1870 census of Brogden township, Wayne County: farmer Geo. Simmons, 52; wife Annie, 47; and children George, 24, shoemaking shoes, Zachariah, 22, Silavant, 20, Bryant C., 18, Hillary B., 16, and Washington, 12.

On 23 December 1875, Calvin Sutton, 21, married Sylvania Simmons, 22, in Wayne County.

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Calvin Sutton, 25; wife Silvania, 26; children Hattie, 3, and twins Joel B. and Josephin, 1; mother Dolly, 55; brothers Dallow, 18, and Henry, 16; and sister Mary, 12.

In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Calvin Sutton, 45; wife Silvania, 49; and children George, 18, Walter, 16, Mary, 13, and Roscoe, 10.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Upper Black Creek Road, farmer Calvin Sutton, 54; wife Sylvania, 58; daughter Hattie Taylor, 33; and grandchildren Olivia, 9, Viola, 7, Lillie M., 5, Georgiana, 4, and Mittie, 2; plus adopted grandson Frank McNeal, 16.

Sylvania Sutton died 4 August 1916 in Springhill township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was about 65 years old; was married; her father was George Simmons; and she was buried in Watson graveyard.

Detail of portrait, courtesy of Ancestry user cjjsinc.

The death of Green Mercer.

“Very old negro died at County House & very little information as to family history to be had.”

Green Mercer‘s regular home was on Church Street, but he died in the Wilson County poorhouse. He was described as married, but his wife did not serve as informant on his death certificate. The role was left to Clarcy Taylor, who apparently knew very little. Mercer was buried in the “colored cemetery,” which at that time was Oakdale, near Cemetery Street.


I have found very little record of Mercer in Wilson County:

On 25 August 1866, Green Mercer married Margarett Wilkins in Edgecombe County, North Carolina.

In the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: farm laborer Green Mercer, 27; wife Margaret, 27; and children Fanny, 3, Major Talton, 1, William, 12, and Redding, 5; Frederick Cotten, 53; Randle Parker, 24; and Lewis Ruffin, 21.

In the 1880 census of Cocoa township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: Green Mercer, 42; wife Margarett, 37; and children Redin, 15, Fannie, 14, Tatin, 11, William, 8, and Joseph, 3.

On 12 December 1884, the Wilson Advance published the annual statement of accounts paid by Board of Wilson County Commissioners. In September 1884, this entry: No 331 for work at poor house to Green Mercer 2.00.

Lucas killed by falling lumber.

Ed Lucas was killed when falling timber struck his head while he worked. His employer W.D. Hackney was the informant for his death certificate, but knew little of Lucas, and the document notes: “Deceased was an unknown laborer at Wagon Factory.”

Update, 16 July 2022:

Evening Chronicle (Charlotte, N.C.), 2 May 1910.

Thanks to Carol Ten Hoopen for locating this article.

Up the road.

This passage appeared in the recent article I posted about Lawyer Sanders and his 35 children. By happenstance, shortly before I saw the column, my mother mentioned learning when she first came to Wilson in the early 1960s that, in local usage, to go “up the road” meant to migrate North. Thus, for reasons we cannot know, shortly after giving birth to a child that did not survive, Dora Clark Sanders joined the Great Migration, leaving her husband and remaining children in Wilson. She did not return.

Private Frank Barnes has died.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 December 1919.

Ten Wilson County men named Frank Barnes registered for the World War I draft in 1917-1918; six were Black. One, born 2 April 1895, was the son of Andrew and Stella Williams Barnes. This Frank Barnes was severely injured during his service in France, but absolutely did not die of disease during the war.

This Frank Barnes’ service card shows he was discharged on 12 March 1919. He is listed with his family in the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County and, in fact, lived to 1981.

Who, then, was the Frank Barnes, son of Stella Barnes, who died while in service during World War I?

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III; North Carolina World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, http://www.ancestry.com.

He made fight for the chief.

We read here several accounts of the fatal shooting of Phillip Worth by Wilson police chief Wiggs in April 1916. Below, the newspaper report of the coroner’s inquest into the matter.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 April 1916.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Ed McCollum saves the day.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 April 1911.


In the 1900 census of Bennettsville, Marlboro County, South Carolina: Edward McCollum, 22, butler, and wife Sarah, 26, washerwoman, with Lawrence McRae, 10, errand boy.

On 27 September 1905, Eddie McCollum, 27, son of E. and E. McCollum, married Rosa Farmer, 20, daughter of Gray and A[rgent]. Farmer, in Wilson. Presbyterian minister Charles E. Tucker presided, and C.S. Thomas, J.J. Thorp, and H.C. Holden witnessed. 

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laborer Edie McColum, 38; wife Rosa, 36; and children Elvia, 8, Gladys, 5, and Edith, 4.

Argen Farmer McCollum died 20 January 1926 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 4 years old; was born in Wilson to Eddie McCollum of Bennettsville, South Carolina, and Rosa Farmer of Wilson; and lived at 811 East Viola. 

Eddie McCollum died 13 May 1929 at the colored hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 March 1880 in Bennettsville, South Carolina, to Edwin McCollum and Easter Dupree; was married to Rosa McCallum; and was a day laborer for Allen Furniture Company.

Elva McCollum died 6 May 1950 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 August 1911 in Wilson to Eddie McCollum and Rosa Farmer; was never married; worked as a beautician; and lived at 418 North Vick Street. Gladys McCollum was informant.