Magnolia Batts died 19 November 1948 on Oldfields township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 August 1898 in Wilson County to Jesse Winstead and Susie Moore; was widowed; and was engaged in farming.
Laura Williams Sutton was born in Nash County and died in Farmville, Pitt County, in 1930, but her body was brought to Wilson, where she had lived for decades, for burial in Rountree Cemetery.
On 21 March 1906, William Sutton, 27, of Wilson, son of Providence and Marguret Sutton, married Laura Williams, 24, of Wilson, at the Graded School. Free Will Baptist minister John Steward performed the ceremony.
William Sutton registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 30 June 1878; lived at 620 Stantonsburg Street; worked as a laborer for Southern Oil Mill; and his nearest relative was wife Laura Sutton.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Robinson [Robeson] Street, oil mill laborer Willie Sutton, 41; wife Laura, 37; and daughter Dora, 2; boarders Fannie Brown, 18, private nurse; Willie Taylor, 19, oil mill laborer; Geneva Jones, 20, cook; and Nelson Thompson, 20, oil mill laborer; and roomer Sadie Hardy, 40, tobacco factory laborer.
Laura Sutton died 23 June 1930 in Farmville, Pitt County. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 December 1888 in Nash County to Jake and Kizzie Williams; was married to Willie Sutton; and was buried in “Round Tree” Cemetery, Wilson.
Well into the twentieth century, African-American couples married overwhelmingly at an office of a justice of the peace or the home of a relative. However, on 21 March 1906, as carefully noted a Wilson County marriage register, William Sutton and Laura Williams tied the knot at Wilson’s Colored Graded School. Free Will Baptist minister John Steward performed the ceremony, and Charles Best, CharleyDawson, Minnie Sutton, and Henry Garnett.
Per unsourced notes, a slave cemetery lies adjacent to the Boykin-Lamm-Wells cemetery in Oldfields township. On an overcast November morning, I went to see what I could see. I am aware of only one verified slave cemetery in Wilson County, though there must have been many dozens. I was skeptical of this one, but also hopeful.
The cemetery, set a hundred yards or so behind a house under construction, contains 44 graves. Twenty-nine are marked with readable headstones, the earliest of which dates to 1892. Thus, there is no visible evidence that the cemetery dates to the antebellum period.
Of the remaining, several are marked with dressed fieldstone markers, such as those seen below. These graves are intermingled with those of Boykin-Lamm-Wells family members, an unlikely arrangement for the graves of enslaved people.
Stephen D. Boykin (1832-1910) was patriarch of the intermarried families buried here. He does not appear to have been a slaveowner, but his father, also named Stephen Boykin (1797-1864), was. In the 1850 federal slave schedule, the elder Boykin reported owning five enslaved people, ranging from a one month-old boy to a 35 year-old woman, and in 1860 reported 11 enslaved people, ranging from an eight-month-old girl to a 55 year-old man. If Boykin the elder is buried here, his grave is either unmarked or is marked by one of the fieldstones. If enslaved people are buried here, their graves are likely in the woods that border the cemetery on two sides.
On 11 December 1942, Willie Lucas pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Hezekiah Reid. He received a sentence of three to five years in prison, but was paroled by Governor J. Melville Broughton in August 1943, having served nine months.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Westover, farmer Zion Read, 56; wife Lara, 25; and children Zoreana, 8, Hesicar, 12, William, 4, and Walter E., 0.
Willie Reid died 20 October 1942 at Centre Brick Warehouse, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 June 1923 in Wilson to Zion Reid and Laura Davis; was single; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery. Cause of death: “homicide — knife wound of left breast.”
Late local historian Hugh B. Johnston Jr.’s file contain this note, apparently copied from volumes of city commissioners or boards of aldermen meetings that cannot now be located:
“Dec. 17, 1888 Oakview Cemetery. Gray Farmer, [illegible] Robinson, and Washington Sugg were appt. a Committee to look for a burial ground for the colored people.”
This is the earliest reference to a public African-American cemetery in Wilson and appears to presage the establishment of Oakdale (also called Oaklawn, Oakland, Oakwood, and Oakview) Cemetery in the area of present-day Cemetery Street south to the former Elvie Street School. Sugg (or Suggs) owned extensive property in the area, and the deed for his first land purchase refers to a preexisting “graveyard lot” near his property. This lot may have been developed into a city cemetery.
In the 1900 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: Joseph Wooten, 38; wife Chaney, 28; and children Cora, 11, James, 6, Lossie, 4, and Nora, 1.
In the 1900 census of Sparta township, Edgecombe County: Watt Vines, 30; wife Emma, 29; and children Eddie, 11, Patsey, 5, Junius, 3, and Yettie, 3 months.
In the 1910 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County: Joseph Wooten, 50; wife Chaney, 40; and children James, 17, Lossie, 15, Jacob, 11, Mark, 9, and Andrew J., 1.
On 27 January 1915, James Wooten, 21, of Edgecombe County, son of Joe and Chaney Wooten, married Yettie Vines, 18, of Saratoga, daughter of Watson and Emma Vines, in Saratoga. Joe Wooten applied for the license, and Primitive Baptist minister Ruffin Hyman performed the ceremony in the presence of C.C. Vines, J.J. Vines, and Miles E. Reid.
In the 1920 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County: James Wooten, 25, and wife Yettie.
In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: James Wooten, 36; wife Yattie, 30; and William J., 7.
In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Jim Wooten 45; wife Hattie, 39; sister Mary Bullock, 50; and cousins Melba M., 9, and Ada R. Edwards, 6.
The 8 December 1948 Daily Times reported that Yettie Wooten, an “aging colored woman,” had been sentences to ten to fifteen years in state prison, with a recommendation that she placed in the division for the criminally insane.
Yettie Vines Wooten died 9 October 1990 in Wilson.
On 18 August 1924, Joe Cockrell, white, interrupted four African-American men — Sam Jackson, Tom Smith, Otis Taylor, and John Smith — pulling fodder in a corn field on George Dew’s farm. After demanding liquor, Cockrell argued with Jackson. Shortly after, a shot rang out, Jackson dropped to the ground, and Cockrell fled. He was on the lam for about two weeks before being arrested at his uncle’s house, charged and held without bail.
On 6 November 1924, Raleigh’s News and Observer reported that a judge had determined there was not enough evidence to hold Cockrell on first degree murder charges and had reduced the charge to second degree and released Cockrell on $5000 bond. I have not found a report of the verdict in the case.
On 9 December 1918, Sam Jackson, 19, of Wilson, son of Turner and Nellie Jackson of South Carolina, married Victoria Watson, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Will and Alice Watson of Clayton, North Carolina, at the courthouse in Wilson.
On 4 January 1919, Sam Jackson, 20, of Wilson, son of Simon and Nellie Jackson of Conway, South Carolina, and Mary Carroll, 19, of Wilson, daughter of Major and Dollie Carroll, in Wilson. Free Will Baptist minister A.A.J. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of William Cassill, Molley Wright, and Mary Davis. [A month after Jackson married Victoria Watson??]
In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Sam Jackson, 22, and wife Mary, 23.
Sam Jackson died 18 August 1924 in Taylor’s township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 30 years old; was married; and was a farmer. He was buried in Coleman’s cemetery. George Dew was informant.
Sharpsburg is not just a Nash County town. Parts of the town lie in Edgecombe and Wilson Counties, with its historical African-American community in the latter. Though the violence here did not directly involve Black people, I post it for its insight into prejudice so deeply ingrained that the mere image of a “negro office holder … dictating to a white stenographer” could provoke a former mayor to shoot down the police chief (who was also his brother-in-law).