In this strange story, the family of a missing Rocky Mount man elicited the help of a local Boy Scout troop to find him. Having heard of an unidentified injured man lying in a Wilson hospital, the Lion Patrol, photo in hand, traveled to investigate. Physicians and undertakers (C.H. Darden and Sons, as it were) in Wilson confirmed deceased Junious “June” Mangum’s identity.
Junious Mangum died 15 April 1933 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 40 years old; was born in Rocky Mount, N.C., to William Mangum and Ida Parker; was single; lived at 723 South Main [Rocky Mount?]; was a laborer; and was buried in Wilson. HIs cause and place of death: “compound fracture of skull (parietal and occipital h[illegible]” “A.C.L.R.R. tracks near Elm City.”
James Walter Coleman was knocked off a truck running board and into the road, where he was fatally struck by another vehicle. In the darkness, neither Coleman’s family nor occupants of the other vehicle involved immediately understood what had happened. The terrible details came together during a coroner’s inquest. The Colemans’ truck had been badly overloaded, with furniture protruding out over the center line. With his family crammed inside the cab, Coleman was riding on the truck’s running board when an oncoming truck loaded with cabbage slammed into the furniture, pitching Coleman onto the ground and under the wheels of the cabbage truck or the vehicle just behind it.
Wilson Daily Times, 2 April 1930.
In the 1900 census of Bailey township, Nash County, N.C.: John Colman, 28; wife Fanny, 32; and children Adna, 4, Bessie, 4, and James W., 11 months.
In the 1910 census of Dry Wells township, Nash County: farmer John Coleman, 41; wife Fanny, 43; and children Adner, 15, Bessie, 13, James W., 11, Dessie, 9, William, 7, Theodore, 5, Sallie E., 3, and Lincey, 1 month.
In 1918, James Walter Coleman registered for the World War I draft in Nash County. Per his draft registration card, he was born 7 June 1899; lived at Route 1, Middlesex, Nash County; and worked as a farmer for John Coleman, Route 1, Middlesex.
In the 1920 census of Beulah township, Johnston County, N.C., James Coleman, 20, is listed as a fired man/farm laborer.
On 24 August 1921, James W. Coleman, 23, married Johnnie Ann Keys, 19, in Johnston County.
In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coleman, James W lab h 1206 Carolina St
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coleman James W (c; Annie) cook h 1204 Carolina St
James Walter Coleman died 1 April 1928. His death certificate gives little hint of the horrific manner of his death.
Though strawberry picking is now regarded as a quaint pastime, suitable for Instagrammable photos of one’s toddlers, North Carolina’s strawberry fields were a labor battleground in the late 1930s.
We read here of three African-American Wilson women who were ruled in April 1938 to have committed fraud and misrepresentation for seeking unemployment benefits after refusing offers to pick strawberries.
A month later, the Daily Times reported a “mass strike” by potential pickers — more than 400 unemployed Black men and women who refused to accept job offers working in strawberry fields. When these workers filed for unemployment, they were charged with fraud and tried in mass hearings at which they faced fines and denial of benefits. “‘They seem to feel,’ said Herbert Petty, manager of the [employment] branch office [in Wilson], ‘that they would rather get $4 from us for not working than they would $10 a week by working for it.'” When asked what people would do without unemployment relief, Petty snapped: “‘They got along all right this time last year when they couldn’t get this insurance.”
The spring of 1939 saw the protest reemerge. Per the April 10 edition of the Daily Times, the Wilson employment office sent out a “hurry call” for strawberry pickers, who would be sent to fields near Warsaw and Wallace in Duplin County, 50 to 80 miles south of Wilson. The report noted that there was “nothing mandatory” about the first few calls for laborers, but later in the season the employment office might be “forced” to draft pickers from the ranks of applicants for unemployment. If this happened, and applicants refused to go, “official action would be taken against them.”
In response to Times columnist John G. Thomas’ dismissive takes on the motives and concerns of African-American laborers, Willis E. Prince submitted for publication this remarkable rebuke.
Wilson Daily Times, 13 April 1939.
Who was Willis Ephraim Prince? In 1939, he was a 53 year-old self-employed carpenter and bar owner who had spent a decade living in Philadelphia and New York City and whose financial independence allowed him to raise his voice in protest without fear of repercussion. Just as importantly, he was the son of Turner Prince.
In 1865, formerly enslaved men and women settled on the flats just across the Tar River from Tarboro; they called their community Freedom Hill. Pitt County-born freedman named Turner Prince (1842-1912) and his wife, Sarah Foreman Prince, soon arrived in the community. Prince, a carpenter, constructed houses and other buildings throughout Freedom Hill and involved himself in local Republican politics. In recognition of his leadership and literal community-building, Freedom Hill residents chose the name Princeville when the town was incorporated in 1885, the first town in North Carolina (and probably the United States) incorporated by African-Americans.
In the 1900 census of Tarboro township, Edgecombe County: carpenter Turner Prince, 58; wife Sarah, 54; children Laura, 18, Sarah J., 16, Willis E., 14, and Jonas A., 11; and granddaughter Lucy Lloyd, 9.
On 21 August 1907, William Prince married Gertrude Pittmon in Manhattan.
In the 1910 census of Manhattan, New York, New York: at 165 West 72nd, William P. Prince, 24, born in N.C., janitor at apartment house, and wife Gertrude P., 30, born in N.C., housekeeper at apartment house.
On 6 June 1912, shortly before he died, Turner Prince made out a will whose provisions included: “I give, devise and bequeath to Ephraim Prince my son & Susie Gray my grandchild the house in which we now live. Ephraim is to have full possession of said house during the minority of said Susie Gray and in return contribute to her support. If at any time he should discontinue to do so, then he shall forfeit ($50.00) Fifty Dollars to my estate, the amount forfeited to be used for the benefit of said Susie Gray. If Susie Gray should die before maturity then said property shall revert to Ephraim in full. Otherwise he is to pay Susie Gray $50.00 upon her becoming of age, and he come in full possession of said property.”
In 1918, Willis Ephraim Prince registered for the World War I draft in Manhattan County, New York. Per his registration card, he was born 22 January 1886; lived at 2470-7th Avenue, New York City; was an unemployed licensed engineer; and his nearest relative was wife Gertrude Prince.
On 22 November 1919, Willis E. Prince, 31, of Edgecombe County, son of Turner and Sarah Prince, married Marina White, 21, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Edgar and Marietta Wilkins, at the courthouse in Wilson.
In the 1920 census of Tarboro, Edgecombe County: on Tarboro Road, carpenter Willis Prince, 32; wife Marina, 21, teacher; and daughter Vivian, 8 months.
On 31 December 1920, Tarboro’s Daily Southerner reported the arrests of four men for stealing a safe from Willis Prince’s store in Tarboro.
On 21 November 1922, Willis Prince, 36, son of Turner and Sarah Prince, married Mary Gear, 36, daughter of Dan and Sarah Gear, in Wilson. A.M.E.Z. minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Laura Peele, S.A. Coward, and Louise Cooper.
In the 1925 and 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories, Willis and Mary Prince are listed at addresses on Suggs Street.
Mary Prince died 14 November 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 45 years old; was born in Wilson County to Daniel and Sarah Gier; was married to Willis Prince; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery. Alice Woodard was informant.
In the 1930 census of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: at Chestnut Hill Hospital, Willis E. Prince, 49, boarder, porter at public hospital; born in North Carolina.
Willis Ephraim Prince died 2 October 1950 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 January 1889 in Edgecombe County to Turner Prince and Sarah [maiden name not listed]; was married to Allie Mae Prince; lived at 205 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; and worked as a merchant at his own business.
In the 1910 census of Lake Creek township, Bladen County, North Carolina: Quincy Williams, 29; wife Lulu Jane, 20; and children Thomas G., 3, Annie M., 2, and Rufus A., 8 months.
In the 1920 census of Lake Creek township, Bladen County, North Carolina: John Q. Williams, 38; wife Lula, 32; and children Thomas, 14, Annie M., 12, Rufus A., 10, and Jeremiah, 7; and niece Rossie Johnson, 16.
In 1940, Thomas Gleans Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 12 September 1905 in Ivanhoe, N.C.; his contact was mother Lula Evans Williams, Ivanhoe, Bladen County; and he worked for W.E. Barnes at Cherry Hospital. The card is marked “Cancelled Dead 7-7-41.”
Thomas Williams died 10 March 1941 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 September 1905 in Ivehoe, N.C., to John Williams and Lula Johnson; was single; lived at 415 East Green Street; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Rountree cemetery, Wilson.
James Artis‘ February 1930 will was devoted primarily to paying his debts to those who cared for or helped him during his final illness.
He directed that Dr. Matthew S. Gilliam be paid from insurance proceeds for “rendering me medical service, furnishing me medicine, paying my room rent, boarding me and furnishing me what ever I need as long as I live.”
Artis then directed that Julia Johnson‘s bill for “cooking, washing and looking after me” be paid, but only after his burial expenses were paid and lawyer Glenn S. McBrayer was paid $50 for handling his affairs.
If there was any money left, he directed that his unnamed daughter receive two dollars, and anything after that was to go to his unnamed wife.
In the 1870 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: Louisa Artis, 21; husband James, 25, works on street; and children Adeline, 5, and James, 1 month.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: James Artice, 39, laborer; wife Louzah, 26; and children Adeline, 13, James, 10, Isadora, 8, Effie, 2, and Minnie, 1.
On 10 October 1902, James Artis, 29, of Wilson County, son of James and Louisa Artis, married Armelia Speight, 30, of Wilson County, daughter of Rufus Speight and Tempsy Speight [she, alive and living in Peterburg, Virginia]. Richard Renfrow applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister F.M. Davis performed the ceremony at Jane Branch’s residence in Wilson in the presence of C.R. Cannon, H.S. Phillips, and Jane Branch.
Blount Artis died 24 April 1916 in Boon Hill township, Johnston County. Per his death certificate, he was about 16 years old; was born in Wilson County to Jim Artis and Amelia Artis; was single; and worked as a clerk in a drugstore. Charles Gay was informant.
Amelia Artis appears in the 1912, 1916, 1928, and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory. James Artis is listed in none. Amelia Artis worked variously as a laundress, cook, factory hand, and domestic, and lived at 121 Ash Street, 512 South Street, 117 North East Street, and 810 East Nash Street. [The couple seems to have separated early in the marriage, though they reunited long enough to appear in the same household in 1920.]
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 121 Ash Street, barber Jim Ardis, 30; wife Amelia, 28; and daughter Amelia, 14. [Jim and Amelia’s ages are off by twenty years.]
James Artis died 5 March 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 50 years old; was born in Wilson to James Artis of Wilson County and Louise Faison of Duplin County, N.C; was married to Amelia Artis; and lived at 210 Manchester. He was buried in Rountree [Odd Fellows] cemetery. Amelia Artis, 112 East Street, was informant.
Amelia Speight Artis’ broken grave marker in Odd Fellows Cemetery.
I found the headstones of Amelia Artis, Blount Artis (also known as Rufus Artis), and Amelia’s mother Tempsy Speight in a pile with two dozen other headstones in Odd Fellows cemetery. The locations of their graves are unknown. I have not found a marker for James Artis, though he is surely buried there.