agriculture

John Artis’ crop lien.

On 2 February 1907, A.P. Branch agreed to advance John Artis, colored, forty to fifty dollars in supplies “to enable me to make a crop” on the land on which he lived in Black Creek township rented from and owned by Nathan Bass. Artis agreed to raise twelve acres in cotton, nine acre in corn and four acres in tobacco and gave Branch a lien on his crop as well as a seven year-old black mare mule named Rody, a buggy and harness, an iron axle cart, and all his farming implements.

——

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Artis; wife Lucy, 40; children Nora, 10, John E., 15, Eliza, 13, Katie, 11, and Robert, 7; and nephew Luther, 23.

Deed book 72, page 191, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Littleton Ellis Jr.’s crop lien.

As adapted from Wikipedia and NCPedia: the crop-lien system was a credit system widely used by cotton and tobacco farmers in the South from the 1860s to the 1930s. Sharecroppers and tenant farmers, who did not own the land they worked, and even cash-strapped landowners, obtained supplies and food on credit from local merchants. The merchants held a lien on the farmer’s crop, and the merchants and landowners were the first ones paid from its sale. What was left over went to the farmer. Merchants routinely, and lawfully, marked up prices, and country stores rapidly proliferated across North Carolina and the South. Abuses in the crop lien system reduced many tenant farmers to a state of debt peonage, as their debts to landlords and merchants carried over from one year to the next.

On 1 January 1910, Littleton Ellis Jr. gave F.S. Davis a $140 lien on his crop in order to purchase fertilizer from Farmers Guano Company. Ellis promised to raise cotton and corn on the land on which he lived (and likely owned as his share of his father’s property) and also pledged a black mule, Rhodie, and a yellow mule, Katie, as security.

——

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis, 73; wife Judy, 55; and children Lucy, 21, Littleton, 18, Sarah, 16, Maggie, 14, Nettie, 12, and Minnie, 10.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Wiggins Mill Road, farmer Littleton Ellis, 27; his mother Judie, 62; and sisters Lucy, 30, Sarah, 24, Maggie, 23, and Lettie, 21.

Littleton Ellis registered for the World War I draft in 1918. Per his draft registration card, he was born 30 August 1882; lived at Box 75, R.F.D. #2, Wilson; was a farmer “on his own land next to R.P. Watsons”; and his nearest relative was mother Juddy Ellis.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Judie Ellis, 80, widow; children Lucy, 32, Litt, 30, and Maggie, 25; and granddaughter Manerva Barnes, 22.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis Jr., 47; widowed mother Juddie, 82; and divorced sister Lucy Cooker, 49.

Littleton Ellis died 24 March 1934 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 August 1882 in Wilson to Littleton Ellis and Judia Barnes; Bryant Ellis was informant.

Deed book 72, page 562, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Unemployment fraud?

On 30 April 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier reported that three African-American Wilson women were facing fraud and misrepresentation charges connected with unemployment compensation applications. Though the details of their alleged crimes are not listed, the article notes that several others had recently been penalized after refusing employment in strawberry fields.

Pittsburgh Courier, 30 April 1938.

  • Maggie Rogers — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: perhaps, at 705 Dew Street, high school lunchroom cook Maggie Rogers, 40, and her sons Phillip Henry, 18, a tobacco factory laborer, Millard Jr., 16, and Coach V., 14.
  • Lena Kirby
  • Tiny Hobbs Jefferson — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: fertilizer plant laborer Tom Jefferson, 43; wife Tiny, 32; and children George, 12, Lena, 10, Tom Jr., 4, and Momynise, 2.

Bringing in cotton.

Orren V. Foust photographed street scenes in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Wilson. The images below, which were reproduced as postcards, depict cotton market scenes.

The first two cards show Barnes Street from two points along the street. (The tea kettle shop sign can be used for perspective. Comparisons to the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map seem to pinpoint the site as a spot just above Goldsboro Street looking toward Tarboro Street.) In the top image, two African-American men can be seen near the middle of the shot, standing behind a loaded wagon.

In this photograph, taken a little closer to the activity, another African-American man perches atop a bale of cotton, his face turned slightly toward the camera.

This shot, labeled “Sunny South Bringing In Cotton, Wilson N.C.,” shows an African-American drayman (or perhaps a farmer or farmhand) leading a team of oxen hitched to a wagon.

Images courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III’s Historic Wilson in Vintage Postcards (2003).

Greetings.

This linen postcard depicts scenes from Wilson, including notable buildings, a tobacco auction, and three African-American fieldhands — all children — posing under the watchful eye of a white boss.

The Curt Teich & Co. card is undated, but in Historic Wilson in Vintage Postcards (2003), J. Robert Boykin III places it in the 1930s. He also identifies the farmer overseeing the children as C.D. West.