Children

Tony Robbins’ side: “Please send me a paper so as I can get them.”

In August 1867, John J. Pender complained to the Freedmen’s Bureau that Toney Robbins was harassing him about Pender’s apprenticeship of three children who Robbins claimed were his grandchildren. Pender asserted that Robbins had no children, much less grandchildren. The Bureau apparently sided with Pender, as the children were with him in 1870 when the census taker passed through.

Here is one of Robbins’ letters pleading for the Bureau to intercede on his behalf.

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Joyners Depot Wilison Co NC   August 5th 1867

Freedmen Bureau

I ha [written] 2 or 3 letter to Maj Crompto a Bout 3 of my grand Children nor [illegible] Eny Anser then wrote to General Every at Raleigh he said go to the Freedmen Bureau at Rockey Mount in Edgecone County the children is in Wilison County he told me to write to you it was out of his Power as it was in Wilison County

Thy or not Bound By law, So Plese Send me a Paper So as I can get them thy ar living With John J. Pender of Wilison Co

I wait an Anser [illegible] with Respets Tony Robins

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner) > Roll 17, Letters received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org 

Apprentices.

Under laws authorizing the involuntary apprenticeship of poor orphans and the children of unmarried parents, county courts in antebellum North Carolina removed thousands of children from the homes to be bound to serve their neighbors. Hundreds of indentures dot the pages of Wayne County court minute books, and free children of color were disproportionately pulled into the system. Apprenticeship created an inexpensive, long-term and tractable labor supply for white yeoman farmers, many of whom could not (or could not yet) afford to purchase enslaved people.

Wayne County lost its northern tip to the newly created Wilson County in 1855. By pinpointing the locations of the farms of the men (and rare women) to whom they were indentured, we are able to identify the following free children of color as residents of the area that would become Wilson County’s Black Creek township and parts of Crossroads township.

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William Ayers, 13, was bound to Fred Hollomon in 1843.

William Ayers, 13, was (re-)bound to Enos Rose in 1843.

  • In the 1860 census of Black Creek district, Wilson County: William Ayres, 30, farm laborer, in the household of Stephen Privett, farmer. In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer William Ayers, 46.

Betsey Morris, 9, was bound to Thomas Horn in 1842.

  • In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Elizabeth Morris, 17, is listed in the household of Thomas Horn, farmer.
  • In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Martha Morris, 60; probable daughter Elizabeth, 25, and granddaughter Martha, 2. Next door, in the household of farmer John Saunders: Zillah Morris, 4, likely a second-generation apprentice. (Martha was white; Elizabeth and her daughters, mulatto.)
  • In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: domestic servant Elizabeth Morris, 33, and children Zilla A., 17, Martha, 13, Henry, 7, and Elizabeth, 1; all mulatto.
  • Possibly, in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer William Morris, 47; wife Martha, 42; children Mattie, 16, Buddie, 6, and Frank, 1; and mother Elizab. Morris, 70; all white. (Elizabeth Morris and Martha Morris are approximately the right age to be Elizabeth and daughter above, but death certificates show Martha Morris’ maiden name to be Peele.)

Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.

 

State v. Calvin Barnes.

In December 1866, Eliza Barnes was hauled before two justices of the peace to answer some sharp questions. In response, she admitted that she had delivered a baby boy in about July; that she was not married to his father, who was Calvin Barnes; and that she was poor.

The justices issued a warrant for Calvin Barnes:

Calvin Barnes appeared with John Q. Thigpen, a white farmer, to post a two hundred dollar bond for Barnes’ appearance at January term.

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Possibly, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: George, 24, Dempsey, 23, Calvin, 22, Esther, 44, Alice, 18, Anna, 19, Robert, 20, and Jane Barnes, 19, all farm laborers.

Also possibly, in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Frank Barnes, 55; wife Nicy, 51, and children Edwin, 12, Catharine, 7, and Watson Barnes, 12; with Weltha, 13, and Richard Artis, 21, and Eliza Barnes, 26, and her son Benjamin, 5. [Benjamin possibly the child sworn to in the proceeding above.]

Bastardy Bonds-1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

School days.

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Inez Dickerson Bell, Pauline Farmer White, James Ellis, Deveria Jackson Turner Wing.

James “Casey” Ellis submitted this 1941 photo of himself and three Darden High School friends to the Wilson Daily Times, which ran it on 1 April 2003. Bell, White, and Turner graduated in the Class of 1944.

 

Music lessons.

Though this image of Sister Antonio Spruill of Oblate Sisters of Providence was taken in the 1950s, just beyond the range of Black Wide Awake, it’s really just too great not to be included here. Barbara Farmer, at far left, identified the other girls as Josephine Collins, Gail Peacock, JoAnn Jenkins and Wilter Davis. (Thank you!)

“Music Class St. Alphonsus School in Wilson, N.C.”

In 1947, per the city directory, Saint Alphonsus Catholic School operated from 600 East Green Street, the large two-story house at the corner of Pender Street built for J.D. and Eleanor Reid. By 1950, the house was a nunnery for the Oblate Sisters.

Founded in 1828, the Oblate Sisters of Providence was the first permanent community of Roman Catholic sisters of African descent in the United States. Though small, the order remains active.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 May 1946.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 September 1948.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Kennedy family photos.

Tennessee native Rev. John E. Kennedy was pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church from about 1925 to about 1930. (The family is not listed in the 1930 census of Wilson.) He had married Annie L. Moore, whose mother Serena Suggs Moore was a native of Wilson and a daughter of G. Washington and Esther Suggs.

This photograph was taken on the front steps of Saint John’s parsonage, next door to the church. The Kennedys’ youngest child, son James Reginald, was born in Wilson.

The Kennedy family in 1929 — Rev. John Kennedy, Annie Moore Kennedy, James R. Kennedy and Ruby E. Kennedy.

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Rev. Dr. John E. Kennedy (1876-1944).

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Annie Lucretia Moore Kennedy (1883-1942).

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Rubye Eloise Kennedy (1917-1993).

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James Reginald Kennedy (1925-1997).

The parsonage at 121 North Pender Street, Wilson. The shed-roof porch is unfortunate recent add-on.

Kennedy family photos courtesy of Ancestry.com user JamesKennedy621; photo of parsonage taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2019.

He has received less care and attention than his years demanded.

In 1877, Abram Farmer petitioned Probate Court to apprentice his grandson to him, charging that the boy was being neglected by his stepfather:

Before H.C. Moss, Judge of Probate for Wilson County

The Petition of Abraham Farmer of Wilson County North Carolina, respectfully shows with your Honor that his grandson, Gray Pender a boy of color, aged about Sixteen years, is an orphan, his father Richmond Pender having died about six years ago, and his mother, Sarah Pender died about two years ago. That the said orphan has been living with this step father, Stephen Battle since the death of his mother, & by him hired out for wages, & has received less care & attention than his tender years demanded &c &c

Your petitioner respectfully makes application before your Honorable Court that the said orphan may be summoned to appear before the [illegible] & show cause why he may not be apprenticed to him or to some other good master who will educate & provide for said orphan as the law directs

Jan’y 22nd 1877     J.S. Woodard Atty for Petitioner

The said orphan is now at the house of your petitioner on the premises of Isaac B. Farmer.

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In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Rich’d Pender, 28, farm laborer; wife Sarah, 25; and sons Gray, 9, and George, 1.

On 7 June 1871, at Anthony Barnes’, Stephen Battle, son of Hundy and Lucinda Battle, married Sarah Pender.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, farmer Abram Farmer, 63; wife Rhoda, 45; step-children Charlotte, 16, Kenneth, 15, Fannie, 11, and Martha, 10; and grandchildren Gray Pender, 17, Gray Farmer, 19; and Thad, 13, and John Armstrong, 10.

In the 1910 census to Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Pender, 47; wife Lillie, 35; and Eliza, 18 months, and Aniky, 4 months.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Grey Pender, 58; wife Lily, 44; and children Elijah, 11, Annie, 10, Herman, 8, Rosetta, 9, Furney, 6, Dennis, 4, and Victoria, 2.

Grey Pender died 22 August 1928 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was born in Wilson County to Richmond and Sarah Pender; was married to Lillie Pender; and was a tenant farmer for Mrs. Mattie Williams.

Apprentice Records 1877, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.