Church

Artist, lawyer, preacher.

On 15 September 1939, Cora L. Bennett, a writer employed by the Works Project Administration interviewed William Arthur Cooper for the Folklore Project. The transcript of the interview is housed at the Library of Congress. Here is an excerpt:

William A. Cooper, artist and preacher gives the story of his life as follows:

“My work has been my life. Whatever degree of success I have had has come about, I believe, as a result of my dogged determination to do something tangible for my race.

“I was born in the country near Hillsboro, N.C. As a small boy I worked on the farm. I worked in the tobacco fields, worming and stemming tobacco as well as in the cotton fields. For about four months in the winter I attended a Mission school in Hillsboro for negros. In summer time I worked as a janitor and some times as a cook or house boy.

“When I was about fourteen I began to support myself, and soon there after went to the Industrial Institute at High Point, N.C. as a work student. I worked on the school farm,
got up at five o’clock in the morning to milk the cows, plow and hoe cotton and corn, and anything else that needed to be done. While I was at this school I also took up brick laying along with my other studies.

“From High Point I went to the National Religious Training School at Durham, N.C. There I took the four year Theological Course. Still working my way through school, I received the Bachelor of Theology Degree from that institution.

“As soon as I had finished I went to Wilson, N.C. where I started out as an insurance man, and at the same time preaching at a small church on Sunday.

“I went from there to Burlington, N.C. where I was elected Principal of a high school. I also served as Principal of the high school at Graham, N.C. and taught at various other places. All this time I was studying law at night and passed the State Bar examination in 1922.

“I became interested in art for the first time a few years before this. I was in bed with a severe cold and while lying idle I thought I would try to do two pictures illustrating the Biblical quotation: ‘Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, but straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be who
find it.’ The members of my church were quite pleased with the pictures. Their pleasure encouraged me a great deal, and from that time on I began to paint other things. It was then I started painting the members of my race, anybody I could get 3 to sit— field hands, teachers, children, cooks or washerwomen. I had taken no formal lessons at the time but I kept right on trying to see what I might do.

“I have attempted to show the real negro through art. I believe that unless we have some record of the negro that is neither burlesqued with black face nor idealized with senmentality, the younger generation of negroes will be deprived of inspiration from their own race. …”

——

William Arthur Cooper (1895-1974), preacher, lawyer, and artist, painted the portraits of Negro field hands, domestic servants, children, religious and civic leaders and business executives. As a member of the North Carolina Interracial Commission, Cooper made a “good will” tour to colleges and universities in North Carolina where he exhibited his portraits and lectures on art and black culture.

Cooper’s papers, housed at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, include: “Biographical materials; correspondence, concerning portrait commisions, lectures on art, and exhibitions of his work; two account books containing expenditures; receipts; a journal, 1935, containing expenditures and notes concerning his “good will” tour; a report on the tour; Cooper’s publication Educating Through Fine Arts; his book A Portrayal of Negro Life, 1936, which contains reproductions of his portraits acompanied by his explanatory text, and documents related to the book including proposed plans, sales records, and a typescript of the book which contains portraits not included in the published version; price lists for Cooper’s paintings; exhibition catalogs, clippings, miscellany, and a book by Charles C. Dawson, ABCs of Great Negroes; and 36 photographs of Cooper, of his friends and church members, and his portrait paintings.”

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The Bathing Girl (1932).

Sunday School at Calvary.

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This photograph, taken circa 1915, depicts Samuel H. Vick at left with Sunday School participants at Calvary Presbyterian Church. Four of his children — George W. (1903-1985), Irma (1905-1921), Robert E. (1908-2001), and Doris V. (1911-2010) — are among those gathered.

Photo courtesy of Freeman Roundhouse Museum, Wilson, and digitized here.

Wynn’s Chapel.

WYNN’S CHAPEL FREE WILL BAPTIST CHURCH

Wynn’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church was organized in the early years of the nineteenth [sic; twentieth] century. The original church was located on what was then called the “hill” beside the railroad track at the southern end of Elm City.

Two of the charter members were the late Willis Wynn and William Birstel [Burston].

In 1956, the original church burned to the ground. The present church was then erected on Armstrong Street on the east side of Elm City.

The present pastor is Rev. E.R. Reid, Jr., who resides at 911 Washington Street, Wilson, N.C. A few of the officers now serving are deacons and trustees: Cecil Hagans, Mason Benjamin, George Bunn, Talvin Latham; secretaries: Bertha Evans and Geneva Dew.

The oldest members are Mrs. Ellen Birstel Pender and Edward Norman.

— Elm City Centennial Committee, Elm City North Carolina Centennial 1873-1973 (1973).

——

  • Willis Wynn — Willie Wynn Jr. was born about 1875 in Wayne County. Per his death certificate, he died 11 February 1940 in Wilson; was a widower; resided at 1102 Atlantic Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer; was the son of Willie Wynn and Annie Williams. Geneva Dew was informant, and he was buried in Elm City.
  • William Birstel — in the 1920 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer William Birtsal, 51; wife Ida, 41; and children Lizzie, 18, Salmon, 20, Pearl, 11, William, 10, James, 7, and Lee Roy, 3.
  • E.R. Reid Jr.
  • Cecil Hagans — Cecil Lane Hagans (1916-1982) was a son of Julius and Grace Hagans.
  • Mason Benjamin — Mason Benjamin (1912-1995) was a Florence, South Carolina, native.
  • George Bunn — George Emerson Bunn Sr. died 16 February 1974 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 November 1911 to Emerson and Ella(?) Bunn; resided in Elm City; and had worked as a laborer. Carrie Cooper was informant.
  • Talvin Latham
  • Bertha Evans — Bertha Rountree Evans (1922-1985).
  • Geneva Dew — Geneva Wynn Dew was born 31 August 1911 in Wayne County to Willie and Jennie Hussey Wynn. The owner and operator of Dew’s Rest Home, Dew died 17 November 1984 in Wilson.
  • Ellen Birstel Pender — Ellen Burston, 18, of Toisnot township, daughter of William Burston, married Gold Pender, 22, of Toisnot township, son of Haywood and Mollie Pender, on 10 December 1917 at the bride’s home in Elm City. Baptist minister James Brown performed the ceremony in the presence of Rev. Fred Gardner of Ayden, North Carolina, and J.D. Hockaday and W.R. Hockaday of Elm City.
  • Edward Norman

Calvin Sidney Edwards.

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Wilson Daily Times, 14 January 1947.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Aaron Edwards, 40; wife Lucinda, 39; and children Thomas, 13, Mary J., 10, Louvenia, 8, Sallie A., 5, George A., 2, and Calvin, 4 months.

On 25 April 1912, Calvin Edwards, 25, son of Aaron and Lucinda Edwards, of Wilson, married Beatrice Moore [sic, Morgan] 18, daughter of William and Mary Moore [Morgan] of Cross Roads, in Lucama. Missionary Baptist minister R. Corbett performed the ceremony in the presence of J.L. Newsom, W.R. Kent, and Rev. C.D. Dew.

On 12 September 1918, Calvin Sydney Edwards registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 15 September 1882; resided at 113 Pender Street; worked as a plumber of J.E. Alphin on Nash Street; and his nearest relative was Beatrice Edwards.

Beatrice Edwards died 15 October 1918 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 1895 in Johnston County to William Morgan and Mary Saunders; resided at 113 Pender Street; and was married to Calvin Edwards.

On 24 September 1919, Calvin Edwards, 32, married Lizzie Woodard, 25, in Wilson.

Calvin Edwards executed a will on 31 August 1944. Under its terms, his wife (and executrix) Lizzie was to receive all his personal property and a life interest in his real property; at Lizzie’s death Maggie Holt Rountree, wife of Connie Rountree, was to receive a life interest; thence a life interest to Maggie’s brother Freddie Holt; thence to the nearest blood kin. [Maggie Foster, daughter of Charley and Georgianna Holt, married Connie Rountree in Nash County in 1937.]

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Calvin Sidney Edwards died 10 January 1947 at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 February 1887 in Wayne County to Aaron Edwards of Orange County and Lucinda Davis of Durham; resided at 1105 Carolina Street, Wilson; was a preacher; and was married to Lizzie Woodard. He was buried in the Masonic cemetery, Wilson.

Lizzie Edwards died 21 May 1954 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was a widow; was born 3 September 1890 in Wilson County to Stephen Woodard and Pheba McGowan. Informant was John M. Barnes, 500 East Green Street.

North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Junior missionary circle.

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Wilson Daily Times, 2 October 1943.

On 25 January 1933, Curley Bynum, 22, son of Cooper and Wen Ann Bynum, married Pearl Emanuel, 20, daughter of M.P. and Pattie Emanuel, in Wilson.

Pearl Bynum died 21 November 1949 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1910 in South Carolina to Pertis and Pattie Emanuel; was married; lived at 102 North Pender; and worked as a domestic and clerk. Informant was Curly Bynum.

It shall be known as The First Presbyterian Church of Elm City.

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF ELM CITY ORGANIZED

Elm City, N.C., May 29, 1904

The Committee appointed by the Presbytery in session at Burgaw, North Carolina, April 1904, to visit Elm City, N.C. and to organize a church if the way be clear. We met the petitioners on the 29th day of May, 1904 in the Methodist Church. The sermon was preached by the Reverend Clarence Dillard, PhD of Goldsboro, N.C. from 2 Timothy 2:19. After the sermon, those who desired to walk together in the Presbyterian faith were asked to join hands around the pulpit, and the following came forward:

James G. Mitchel, Ada Gaston, Nina Gaston, Minnie Ellis, G.E. Mebane, Clara M. Nicholson, John C. Ellis, J.J. Howard, William C. Ellis, Isaac Smith, Sara Ellis, James Cobb, Lillian Hall, William T. Armstrong and Georgia Gaston. These were examined and received on confession of faith.

John C. Ellis and Ganzy E. Mebane were elected and ordained elders. James G. Mitchel and W.C. Ellis deacons.

The church having been organized, it was agreed that it be known as The First Presbyterian Church of Elm City, North Carolina.

Committee: Rev. C. Dillard, Ph.D.; T.G. Williamson; C.E. Tucker

Elders: S.H. Vick, J.P. Murfree

Respectfully submitted to the Elm City, N.C. Centennial Committee, July 11, 1973.

— Elm City Centennial Committee,  Elm City North Carolina Centennial 1873-1973.

  • James G. Mitchel — in the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: tenant farmer James G. Mitchell, 38; mother Rosa, 58; and children Kester R., 18, Cynthia, 14, Robert L., 12, Jimmie D., 10, and Lelia B., 8.
  • Ada, Nina and Georgia Gaston — in the 1900 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Pender Street, barber and plasterer George W. Gaston, 44, wife Cilla, 44, a cook; and children Rosco, 18, bricklayer; John, 16, common laborer; Georgia, 15, cook; Addar, 12, nurse; Nina, 11, nurse; Mancy, 6; Lacy, 6; Augustas, 6; Boston, 1; and Dewey, 6 months.
  • John C. and Minnie Ellis — in the 1900 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Main Street, school teacher John C. Ellis, 44; wife Della, 44, cook; and children Walter, 20, Martha, 18, Minnie, 16, John, 14, Haywood, 11, Arthur, 7, and Doretha, 4.
  • G.E. Mebane
  • Clara M. Nicholson — in the 1910 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wilson Street, Thomas H. Nicholson, 34; wife Clara, 33; and children Alonzo, 7, and Alice M., 4 months.
  • J.J. Howard
  • William C. and Sarah Ellis — in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County:  sawmill worker William Ellis, 20; wife Sarah, 21; and mother Leah, 80.
  • Isaac Smith
  • James Cobb — in the 1910 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: at 57 Wilson Street, railroad track repairman James Cobb, 28; wife Lula, 27; and children Wiley, 2, and John A., 8 months.
  • Lillian Hall
  • William T. Armstrong — in the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Proctor Road, farmer William T. Armstrong, 35, and wife Lucy, 28.

Lafayette “Fate” Melton.

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On 3 December 1907, Mack Melton, 55, of Gardners township, son of Lenzy and Eliza Melton, married Sarah Wootten, 40, of Greene County, in Wilson County. Moses Dew applied for the marriage license, and he, Carrie Melton and Marry Thomas witnessed.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Mack Melton, 60, wife Sarah, 45, and children Lafyette, 14, Lillie, 12, Gilber, 10, and Warren Melton, 8. Both Mack and Sarah reported that this was a second marriage for each. Sarah reported that seven of her nine children were living.

Fate Milton registered for the World War I draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he resided in Wilson County, was born in Pitt County on 21 December 1895, and worked a farmer.

On 29 December 1921, Fate Melton, 26, of Wilson County, son of Mack and Sarah Melton, married Annie Brooks, 21, of Wilson County, daughter of Grant and Sallie Brooks. Primitive Baptist minister Thomas Bunch officiated at the ceremony, and David Bynum, Leander Harriss and Leander Sauls were witnesses.

Fate Melton was appointed as an elder in the Union Primitive Baptist Association as a young man and served as pastor of at least four Wilson County churches, Oaky Grove, Friendship, Union Grove and Jerusalem Grove. He led Jerusalem Grove from 1924 until his death in 1961; the church is now helmed by a grandson.

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Fate Melton died 4 September 1961 at a Veterans Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was a farmer and Primitive Baptist minister; was born 21 December 1896 in Wilson County to Tony Sharp Melton and Sarah Ellis; and was a World War I veteran. Annie Brooks Melton was informant.

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Proceedings of the 58th Annual Session of the Union Primitive Baptist Association found at www.archive.org; military headstone application found at U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Many thanks to Anthony J. Edwards for permission to feature this photograph.

Wilson news.

PC 2 17 1940

Pittsburgh Courier, 17 February 1940.

  • Johnnie Mincy — John Henry Mincey. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 650 Wiggins Street, plumber Benjamin Mincey, wife Mattie, 60, sons Benjamin Jr., 31, a hotel cook, and Johnnie, 21, a daily paper deliveryman, and granddaughter Deloris Woodard, 5. In 1940, John Henry Mincey registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 8 April 1919 in Wilson, resided at 650 Wiggis Street, had telephone number 3909, was employed by National Youth Administration, and his closest relative was Mrs. Mattie Mincey. John H. Mincey died in Wilson 14 December 1982.
  • Hartford E. Bess — Hartford Eugene Bess. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 Pender Street, widow Minnie Best, 48; and children Hartford, 30, delivery boy for retail dry goods business; Ruth, 27, teacher at Williamston School; James, 23, janitor at Oettinger’s store; and Glenwood, 10, grocery delivery boy. Hartford Bess died in Wilson on 2 December 1988.
  • S.J. Satchell — Spencer Jordan Satchell. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 Viola Street, retail grocer Jarrette J. Langley, 60; wife Mary, 60; daughter Orris, 21; Virginia-born son-in-law Spencer Satchell, 29, teacher; and daughter Ivory, 30, teacher. Spencer J. Satchell died 20 February 1982.
  • Robert Haskin — Robert Douglas Haskins. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: drug company salesman Robert Haskins, 55; wife Gertrude, 48; children Mandy, 36, cook Elizabeth, 33, beauty shop cleaner Estelle, 29, hotel kitchen worker Robert D., Jr., 27, N.Y.A. stenographer Lossie, 24, and barbershop shoeblack Thomas, 20; and granddaughter Delores, 15; plus lodger Henry Whitehead, 21, tobacco factory shaker. Robert D. Haskins died 11 December 1966 in Wilson.
  • Ossie M. Royall — Ossie Mae Jenkins Royall. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 203 Pender Street, widow Ossie M. Royall, 33, an elevator girl at the courthouse; her mother Tossie Jenkins, 53, stemmer at a tobacco factory; daughters LaForest, 16, and Evauline Royall, 14; and a roomer named Ed Hart, 45, a laborer employed by the town of Wilson. Ossie and LaForest were born in Wilson; Evaline in Battleboro [Nash County]; and Tossie and Ed in Nash County. By the late 1950s, Ossie Royall had moved to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and was working as the dining hall supervisor at Elizabeth City State Teachers College. She died in Amherst, Massachusetts, 16 March 2000.

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  • Susie Moore
  • Robert L. Jeans — Robert Lee Jeans registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in 1942. Per his registration card, he resided at 510 East Green Street; was born 17 April 1903 in Tate County, Mississippi; and was minister of Calvary Presbyterian Church. His contact person was Mrs. A.G. Douglas, 416 North Meyers Street, Charlotte. The same year, Jeans was appointed head of Tabor Presbyterian in Des Moines, Iowa. Rev. Jeans died in Washington, D.C., on 17 November 1994.
  • Margaret K. Bridgers — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1209 East Nash Street, furniture company truck driver Jessie Bridgers, 32; wife Margret, 27; and children Elizabeth, 6, Jessie Jr., 5, and twins Saul and Carl, 2.
  • William A. Swinston
  • Mrs. R.L. Williams
  • Mrs. Brodie — possibly Anna Kearney Brodie.
  • Calvary Presbyterian Church
  • Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church
  • Darden High School
  • WGTM

Image courtesy of The Pirate (1960), Elizabeth City State Teachers College, digitized at U.S. School Yearbooks 1880-2012, http://www.ancestry.com.

A one-man crusade on child problems.

PC 3 25 1944

Pittsburgh Courier, 25 March 1944.

C.B. Beamon was an A.M.E. Zion minister, presumably at Trinity, rather than Saint John. Newspaper articles show that he pastored a church in Missouri in 1926 and later lead churches in Tennessee, Kentucky and Nebraska, but I have not been able to find anything else about his time in Wilson.