1940s

Rev. and Mrs. Hilliard welcomed to Saint John.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 January 1942.

William A. Hilliard’s World War II draft registration card, filed in Wilson County in 1942. Rev. Hilliard left Wilson in 1948 to assume the pastorate Saint Paul A.M.E. Zion Church.

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Bishop William Alexander Hilliard (1904-2008).

“Bishop William Alexander Hilliard, 103, retired bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, died March 13. He was reported to be the oldest living bishop in all of Methodism. The funeral was scheduled for March 22 at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Detroit. Born in 1904 in Greenville, Texas, and educated in Kansas City, Mo., Hilliard received his higher education at Western University and Wayne State University. He was married for 71 years to Edra Mae Hilliard, who died in 1998. Called to the ministry in 1922, Hilliard was ordained a deacon in 1924 and an elder in 1927. He was pastor at more than nine different churches before becoming pastor at St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church in Detroit. He was elected in 1960 as the 67th bishop in the AME Zion Church and retired from the episcopacy in 1980.” [Obituary unattributed, 21 March 2008]

Jet magazine, 20 October 1977.

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Lula Simms Deans’ well-known twins.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 September 1946.

“… the well-known twin-brother’s Doan and Dock Sims; saw-mill owners and lumber dealers here”?

Given the prominence of business owners among Wilson’s early 20th-century African-American community, I was surprised never to have heard of the Simms brothers or even any Black-owned sawmills in Wilson. What I can readily find in digital records does not shed much light on the brothers’ business operations, but does provide some details of their lives.

Lula Simms Deans was born in Nash County in 1871, most likely in Jackson township, which borders Wilson County west of Elm City. Her parents, Wiley and Rachel Simms, had been enslaved in Wilson County and registered their two-year cohabitation there in 1866. Lula was about 23 years old when she gave birth to Doan E. and Dolphus F. Simms in either Wilson or Nash County. She was not married, but one source lists their father as John Taylor. When the twins were about 14 years old, Lula Simms married Wiley Deans of Wilson County.

Doan and Dolphus, known as Dock, were earning their own money as early as 1910, and soon after set out on the separate paths that would eventually lead to their lumber business.

Doan Simms was in Franklin County, North Carolina, by 1912. He fathered a son that year, whom he named after his twin brother, and married the boy’s mother in 1917, the year little Dolphus died. The same year, when he registered for the World War II draft, he described his job as a millhand for John K. Barrow, a sawmill and lumber manufacturer near Zebulon in southeast Wake County. By 1930, Doan and his family were living near Whitakers in extreme northern Nash County, and Doan was described in the census as a sawmill foreman. Ten years later, he and his family were living just over the Wilson County line in Wayne County.

Dock Simms remained in Jackson township (or nearby Zebulon) for decades before relocating to the Edgecombe County side of the Whitakers area during the Depression. In 1930, the census described his occupation as lumber mill manager and in 1940, a sawmill logger.

By 1940 (and perhaps ten years earlier), the Simms brothers had established their lumber business(es), but I have not been able to determine where it was located and even what it was called. I’ll continue to search, and any clues are appreciated.

  • Lula Deans

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Willie Simms, 32; wife Racheal, 23; and daughters Mahala, 1, and Anna, 7.

In the 1900 census of Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.: farmer Rachael Simms, 52, widow; daughter Lula, 27, farm laborer; and grandchildren Loyd, 7, Doan and Dolphus, 6, and Maud, 2 months.

On 13 April 1908, Wiley Deans, 22, of Nash County, son of Pete and Catsey Ann Deans, married Lula Simms, 34, of Nash County, daughter of Wiley and Rachel Simms, both deceased. Free Will Baptist minister C[rockett] Best performed the ceremony at his residence in Wilson.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Wiley Deans, 27; wife Lula, 36; stepsons Loyd, 18, Doane and Dolphus, 16, and Theodore R., 5; brother-in-law Hubbert Simms, 19; and niece Mary Simms, 12.

In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: on Wilson and Stanhope Road, farmer Wiley Deans, 36; wife Lula, 45; children Thedo, 15, and Van, 9; and brother-in-law James Sims, 43.

Lula Deans died 18 September 1946 near Whitakers, Edgecombe County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 November 1871 in Nash County to Wiley Simms and Rachel Simms, both of Wilson County; was a widow; and was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson. D.F. Simms, Whitakers, was informant.

  • Doan E. Simms

Also in the 1910 census of Jackson township, Nash County: Doc and Doanie Simms, 17, odd jobs laborers in the household of N. Harriss Perry, a white 35 year-old farmer.

Dolphus Simms died 21 June 1917 in Harris township, Franklin County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 June 1912 in Franklin County to Don Simms of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Roxana Davis of Dinwiddie County, Virginia.

In 1917, Doan Sims registered for the World War I draft in Franklin County, N.C. Per his registration card, he was born 6 March 1896 in Wilson County; lived in Louisburg, N.C.; and worked as a millhand for J.K. Barrow.

On 9 September 1917, Doane Sims, 28, of Louisburg, Franklin County, married Anna Morgan, 26, of Louisburg, daughter of Wyatt Morgan and Rebecca Morgan, in Zebulon, Wake County. [Presumably, “Anna” was Roxanna.]

On 31 July 1918, Doan Simms, sawyer, was sent to Camp Greene, Charlotte, N.C., for basic training.

U.S. Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty, 1917-18, www.ancestry.com.

In the 1920 census of Little River township, Wake County, N.C.: Doan Sims, 26, sawmill sawer; wife Roxanna, 27, born in Virginia; daughter Mary, 9, born in Virginia; and boarder Nelson York, 27, sawmill cutter, born in South Carolina. [Mary Beatrice Simms was born 3 September 1910 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. She died 16 September 2003 and is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Wilson.]

On 5 May 1927, Mary B. Simms, 18, of Zebulon, daughter of Doan and Annie Simms, married Rubert Weaver, 22, of Zebulon, son of Gus and Ida Weaver, in Raleigh, N.C.

In the 1930 census of North Whitakers township, Nash County, N.C.: sawmill foreman Doan Sims, 36, and wife Roxanna, 31. Sharing their household: Rubert Weaver, 25; wife Mary B., 19; and their daughters Doris, 2, and Ruby V., 11 months. [A number of saw mill laborers were listed in the vicinity, including Nelson York, the Simms’ Wake County boarder.]

In the 1940 census of Great Swamp township, Wayne County, N.C.: farm manager Don Simms, 46; wife Roxanna, 48; grandchildren Doris, 12, Ruby, 10, Anna, 9, and Myrtle, 4; and Jimmie Joyner, 25, laborer.

In 1940, Jefferson Albert Howard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 June 1918 in Wilson County; lived at New Grabneck (Gen Del), Wilson; his contact was Doane E. Simms, R.F.D. Lucama, who was his employer and landlord. The card noted that Howard had a “severe burn scar on left arm & foot.”

In 1940, Jimmy Joyner registered for the World War II draft in Wayne County. Per his registration card, he was born 20 September 1912 in Bailey, Nash County; lived at R.F.D. 1, Lucama, Wayne County (updated: 53 K Street N.E., Washington, D.C.); and his contact was friend Don Simms.

Doan E. Simms died 22 December 1962 at Carolina General Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1896 in Nash County to Lula Deans; was married to Roxanna Simms; lived at 200 Pender Street, Wilson; was a World War I veteran; and was a retired businessman.

Simms was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery under a large headstone engraved D.E. and D.F. Simms Family.

  • Dolphus F. “Dock” Simms

On 30 August 1919, Adolphus Simms, 35, of Nash County married Bessie Lucas, 18, of Nash County at the Wilson County Courthouse.

In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Dolphus Simms, 25, and wife Bessie L., 17.

On 1 October 1923, Dock Simms, 28, of Zebulon, N.C., married Mary Lou Fennell, 22, of Wallace, N.C., in Burgaw, Pender County, N.C.

In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: lumber mill manager F. Dock Simms, 36; wife L. Mary, 39; and lodgers, D. John Fennell, 25, lumber mill laborer, and wife Mary, 25.

In the 1940 census of Upper Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: sawmill logger Dock Simms, 46; wife Mary L., 39; and daughter Evelyn, 4. Per the census, the family lived in Wilson County in 1935.

Dock F. Simms died 30 March 1953 in Whitakers, Edgecombe County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1894 in Wilson County to John Taylor and Lula Simms; was a sawmill operator; and was married to Mary Lou Simms.

Simms was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery under a large headstone engraved D.E. and D.F. Simms Family. His widow, Mary Lou F. Simms of Whitakers applied for a military headstone, which was to be shipped to D.E. Simms, 200 Pender Street, Wilson.

A card of thanks to many friends.

Wilson Daily Times, 8 January 1946.

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On 17 March 1905, Bert Wells, 55, of Toisnot township, son of Jolly Hagans and Caroline Wells, married Sarah Parker, 30, of Taylor township, daughter of Elbert and Grace Parker, in Wilson.

On 7 October 1908, D.S. Farmer, 46, of Wilson, applied for a license to marry Janie Lewis, 35, of Wilson.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Dock S. Farmer, 52; wife Janie, 26; children Ella, 20, Emma, 18, Walter, 14, and Geneva, 12; and hired woman Sarah Wells, 32.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Doc Farmer, 68; wife Janie, 30; son Walter, 25; and laborer Sarah Parker, 46.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Dock S (c) farmer h 1109 E Nash

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1109 East Nash Street, James L. [Jannie L.?] Farmer, 38, widow, tobacco factory laborer, and Sarah Wells, 50, widow, tobacco factory stemmer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1109 East Nash Street, Jannie Farmer, 48, widow, laborer for Southern Tobacco Factory, and Sarah Wells, 70, widow.

Mrs. Hamilton will specialize in embalming.

Wilson Daily Times, 8 July 1941.

Forsyth County, N.C., native Annie M. Thompson Hamilton and her husband Levi Hamilton Sr. were residents and owners of a funeral home in Goldsboro, N.C., but had recently opened a second location in Wilson. Hamilton Funeral Home served Wilson for more than 70 years.