Church

Dr. A.S. Clark’s institute.

We did a little trip down to Cordele, Georgia, this weekend. Once there, I was a little hazy on the directions, but I spotted A.S. Clark Drive and knew we were good.

Augustus S. Clark was among the cohort of (mostly) young men who erupted from Wilson in the 1880s and ’90s,* determined to lead. Born in the final days of slavery, or just after, they drank in everything J.C. Price and Samuel H. Vick poured at Wilson Academy, went straight to university (often at Lincoln, their instructors’ alma mater), then set out, in Clark’s later words, to “… do what I can for the uplift of my people.”

Dr. Augustus S. Clark (1874-1959). (Photo courtesy of Frank T. Wilson, ed., “Living Witnesses: Black Presbyterians in Ministry II,” Journal of Presbyterian History, volume 53, number 3 (Fall 1985).)

For his part, in 1902 Clark founded, with his wife Annie, the Gillespie Normal School, later Gillespie-Selden Institute, in Cordele. In 1925, the institute added an hospital. (The closest Black medical facility was 142 miles away in Atlanta.) I’ve written of Gillespie-Selden here and finally went to see it.

Gillespie Institute Founded By Rev. and Mrs. Augustus Clark September 1, 1902 Served By Them Until October 1, 1941 Alumni 1942

The school complex forms the heart of Cordele’s Gillespie-Selden Historic District. Below, the school’s administration building, built in 1935.

The girls’ dormitory below, built in 1929, is the most imposing building in the neighborhood.

A rear addition has been largely torn down, and an open door grants access to the interior.

The building holds evidence of fairly recent use as a family resource and daycare center, as well as squatters. All things considered though, it is in pretty good condition.

This room runs the length of the back wall on the first floor.

At the front of the building, a series of small interconnected rooms flanks a central entry hall. I didn’t venture upstairs.

The cornerstone of the girls’ dormitory.

A marble plaque inlaid by the class of 1929.

The President’s House, also known as Dr. Clark’s house, which sits just to the west of the girls’ dormitory. The Clarks retired from active teaching and school leadership in 1941.

Below, Saint Paul Presbyterian, also founded by Rev. Clark. The tin-roofed section at right appears to be the original church, updated with brick.

Gillespie-Selden Institute, Class of 1947, in front of the girls’ dormitory. (Photo courtesy of St. Paul Gillespie-Selden Learning Center Facebook page.)

Gillespie-Selden Institute closed in 1956 when Cordele finally erected a high school for African-American students. Named in honor of A.S. Clark, the school eventually converted to an elementary school, but closed in 2014. The building is now under development as a non-profit biomedical institute.

For more about Gillespie-Selden Historic District, see the Gillespie-Selden Historic District National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, which contains this passage:

“Within the Gillespie-Selden Historic District, the outreach missionary role of Dr. Augustus S. Clark (1874-1959) and St. Paul Presbyterian Church is significant to the development of the neighborhood. Dr. Clark completed his theological training at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1897; he was sent by the Presbyterian National Board of Missions to Cordele in 1898 as a missionary to help the struggling Portis Memorial Presbyterian Church. During that same year, a loan was secured from the Board of the Church Erection Fund of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church for the construction of a new church building to be named St. Paul Presbyterian Church.

“In 1902, Dr. Clark and his wife, Anna, realized that there were less than adequate educational institutions for African-Americans to attend in Cordele as well as the entire southwest region of the state. Dr. Clark taught elementary-level and Sunday-school classes in the basement of St. Paul Presbyterian Church, but found he needed more space. … By 1904, enough money had been donated by white members of northern Presbyterian churches, especially the Gillespie family of Pittsburgh, that three buildings of the school complex were constructed. …”

See also, this 2009 design charrette prepared by University of Georgia’s Center for Community Design and Preservation and the 2103 Gillespie-Selden Historic District Design Guidelines.

Another memorial plaque, this one embedded in a brick pillar in front of the administration building.

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* This cohort included A.S. Clark’s brothers John H., William H., and Thomas G. Clark, Samuel H. Vick, his brother William H. Vick, and cousin Frank O. Blount, brothers Daniel C. and James T. Suggs, Henry C. Lassiter, Braswell R. Winstead, and Charles H. Bynum, all Lincoln University graduates; the Suggses’ sister Serena Suggs MooreJoseph H. Ward; Ardella Kersey; Mahala Williamson Reid; sisters Ada G. Battle and Geneva Battle Faver; and J. Arthur Cotton.

Photos of G.S.I. taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

A.M.E. Zion churches host gospel groups.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 September 1948.

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  • Carolina Jubilee Singers
  • Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church
  • Rev. A.G. Dunston — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Goldsboro Street, Mary Humphrey, 65, widow, and lodgers A.G. Dunston, 59, minister; Charlie Smith, 31, redrying tobacco factory worker, and Henrietta Smith, 28, cook. Dunston reported that he was living in Lumberton, N.C., five years previously, and the Smiths reported they were living in Atlanta, Georgia. Alfred Grifton Dunston died 18 January 1965 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 January 1880 in Currituck County, N.C., to Henry and Emily Dunston; lived near Stantonsburg; was married; and was a minister. Lona E. Dunston was informant. [Note Rev. Dunston’s son, A.G. Dunston Jr., was an A.M.E. Zion bishop and civil rights leader in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]
  • The Arigenaires
  • Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church

To have and to hold said land, no. 5.

Abstracts of deeds recording the purchase of real property by African-American churches and lodges in Wilson County:

  • On 25 June 1919, Samuel H. Vick and Mabel Harriss, trustees of Black Creek Council No. 130 of the Lincoln Benefit Society, and Walter Barnes, John Artis, and J.F. Ellis, trustees of Black Creek Lodge No. 8754, Odd Fellows, paid $350 for a lot in Black Creek on the corner of West Railroad and Church Streets.

Deed book 121, page 381, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

  • On 20 February 1920, Gary Armstrong and wife Henrietta borrowed $3282.60 from the Endowment Department of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. In exchange, the Armstrongs gave a mortgage on four parcels measuring 34, 112, 55, and 42 acres. If the Armstrongs defaulted on the loan, the Endowment Department would sell the land to satisfy the debt. This mortgage deed was cancelled 3 January 1924, after the debt was paid in full. Deed book 141, page 59.
  • On 29 October 1923, James Rountree, William Thorne, James Bass, Warren Rountree, Phebe Rountree, and Emma Daniel, trustees of Saint Pauls Disciples Church (Colored), sold to Barnes Chapel Lodge #78, Knights of King Solomon, a one-eighth acre parcel on the north side of the old County Line Road and east side of the public road from Wilson to Nashville, N.C., to be used for lodge purposes only and never for “a place of public amusement or in any manner that will be in derogation of the peace and dignity of the church” next door. [Saint Paul’s is an active church on Lake Wilson Road, just east of N.C. Highway 58, the “public road” referred to. I am not clear if the church not to be disturbed is Saint Paul or some other church.] Deed book 146, page 271.
  • On 1 December 1923, J.L. Newsom, Nathan Bass, and James H. Newsom sold W.K. Knight, Willie Newton, Elias Barnes, C.L. Battle, Charlie Newton, L.W. Williams, and Walter Thompson, trustees of First Baptist Church (Colored) of Lucama, for $125 a one-quarter acre parcel adjacent to the Wilson County Public School (Colored)’s lot on the extension of Main Street near the town of Lucama. Deed book 146, page 397.

As this Google Maps image shows, First Baptist Church still stands just outside Lucama. Its parcel is considerably larger than a quarter-acre and may include the land on which Lucama Colored School formerly sat.

Like jumping on a holy trampoline.

A number of readers commented on my recent post about Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association, particularly sharing memories of Rev. Wiley Barnes and Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church, one of three Wilson County churches in the association. Rev. Hubert Tyson identified the location of another, Travelers Rest Primitive Baptist Church, which stood next door to Saint Luke Freewill Baptist Church at the eastern end of Church Street in Stantonsburg.

Rev. Tyson’s grandmother Lillie Thompson Fox Bass was a devoted Primitive Baptist and, even after migrating to Delaware, returned to Stantonsburg every year to attend the annual Association gathering. Says Rev. Tyson, who accompanied her visits to Travelers Rest and Corner Line:

“Ma Lillie was faithful. I always went inside with her. Boy, did I have questions. At first I thought they were singing in a diverse dialect, so she gave one of her old hymn books so that I could sing along. At least five preachers preached each service. No piano, but they didn’t need it. Their tribal rhythm was in the house. Everyone drank out of the same water dipper. Everyone hugged as well as kissed in the mouth (while they still had snuff in their mouth.) While singing, they partnered off with in-sync hand-shaking to the rhythm, rocking the weak shacking of the floor’s foundation. It was similar to jumping on a holy trampoline. I enjoyed taking her there.”

——

On 26 January 1919, Walter Fox, 21, of Greene County, son of Henry and Hattie Fox, married Lillie Thompson, 18, of Greene County, daughter of Will and Kitsey Thompson, in Lindell township, Greene County.

In the 1920 census of Bull Head township, Greene County, N.C.: Walter Fox, 22,  wife Lillie, 20, and Mabell, 3 months.

In the 1930 census of Eureka township, Wayne County, N.C.: Walter Fox, 35; wife Lillie, 34; and children Rosa M., 11, Walter L., 9, Willie, 7, Jessie L., 5, Minnie, 2, and Walter Jr., 6 months.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Main Street, widow Lillie Fox, 40, domestic, and children Rosa Lee, 20, cook, Walter Henry, 18, Willie, 17, Minnie, 15, domestic, Jesse Lee, 13, and Alexander, 9; plus lodger Willie Bynum, 16.

Lillie Thompson Fox Bass died 25 June 1988 in Lincoln, Delaware.

Thank you, Rev. Hubert Tyson, for sharing these memories!

Minutes of Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association.

Primitive Baptist churches organized themselves in associations, and African-American congregations in Wilson County were members of several, including Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association and Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association.

In November 1918, the Eighth Annual Session of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association met at Stony Creek Church in Nash County. On the first day, the delegates voted to hold the next year’s session at Corner Line Church in Wilson County. The published minutes noted that Bethlehem P.B.A.’s member churches had been members of Radicue P.B.A. until 1910, when “trouble arose” between an Elder A. Wooten and Elder N. Johnson of Few-In-Number Church in Edgecombe County. The men could not (or would not) agree to resolve the matter via ordinary channels, “[t]herefore, we the church at Few-In-Number, would not give up for our member to be tried in such an disorderly way. This is why they call us in disorder. We hope the Lord will show our brethren their wrong. This done by order of the church, assisted by five other churches joining us.” In other words, six churches broke with Radicue to form their own Association.

The minutes’ Table of Statistics reveals three Wilson County churches in the Association: Conner [Corner] Line, New Hope, and Traveler’s Rest. Elder S. Buston [Samuel Burston] of Sharpsburg helmed Corner Line, and Wiley Barnes and Peter Barnes were delegates to the Session from that church. The church reported having baptized no new members the previous year, but receiving one by profession of faith for a total membership of 16. New Hope had no sitting elder, but was represented by A. Horne and Kelley Johnson. The church had received one new member by profession, another by letter (from his or her home church), and had 14 total members. Traveler’s Rest was led by Elder J.H. Winston of Pinetops (in Edgecombe County) and was represented by B.F. Davis and Nathan Lucas. Though the church had only six members, it had baptized one the previous year and received two by profession. It had also dismissed two members.

From Minutes of the Eighth Annual Session of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association Held With the Stony Creek Church, Nash County, N.C. (1918).

Edgecombe County’s Living Hope church hotel the 11th annual session in 1921. Elder Burston was moderator, and Brother Wiley Barnes was one of two men chosen “to stand to preach for the people.” That evening, Brother Barnes sang the hymn on page 490 (of an unnamed hymnal)* and preached from Acts 9:2 — “And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”

In October 1923, Bethlehem P.B.A. convened at Wilson County’s little Travelers Rest Primitive Baptist Church.

Cover, Minutes of the Eighth Annual Session of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association Held With the Traveller’s Rest Church, Wilson County, N.C. (1923).

Elder Burston was again appointed moderator, and Brother Wiley Barnes was one of two men chosen to preach. On Saturday morning, Brother Barnes sang the hymn on page 530 and preached from Ezekiel 36:3 — “Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people.”

As always, the Association closed its Session with its touching “Circular Letter”:

In 1925, Bethlehem P.B.A. held its annual meeting at Bethlehem Church in Edgecombe County. The Association favorably received a request from Diggs Chapel (in northeast Wayne County, just over the Wilson county line) to join the Association. Wiley Barnes of nearby Stantonsburg had been elevated to Elder and led this congregation.

The Association returned to Corner Line in October 1927. Elder Burston preached the introductory sermon from I Corinthians 1:1. Elder Barnes lined a hymn and preached from Exodus 3:7-8 — “7 And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; 8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” In 1927, Corner Line had 18 members; New Hope, 17; and Traveler’s Rest, 15. The delegates chose New Hope, “nine miles from Elm City and ten miles from Wilson,” for the next meeting.

Elder Burston died in 1930. Elder Wiley Barnes took over leadership of Corner Line and New Hope, in addition to Diggs Chapel. J.H. Winstead of Tarboro headed Traveler’s Rest.

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  • Sam Buston — Samuel Burston died 29 April 1930 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was about 50 years old; was married to Lucy Burston; was a preacher; and was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Henry Burston and Rachel Taylor. Lucy Burston, Sharpsburg, was informant.
  • Wiley Barnes
  • Peter Barnes
  • A. Horne
  • Kelley Johnson — in the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Kellie Johnson, 32; wife Bloomer, 26; and children Arthur, 10, Elizabeth, 8, L. Rosa, 6, Kelly Jr., 5, Willie, 3, and Bloomer, 2.
  • B.F. Davis
  • Nathan Lucas — in the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on the south side of Stantonsburg Road, tenant farmer Nathan Lucas, 49; wife Dilsey, 35; children James, 19, Dora, 17, Odell, 11, and Peter M., 4; sister Susan Lucas, 46; and grandson Lacey J. Edwards, 1 month. Nathan Lucus died 30 September 1921 in Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate he was 52 years old; was married; worked as a farmer for H.E. Thompson; and was born in Johnston County to Amos Lucus. James Lucus, Stantonsburg, was informant.

I have not identified the locations of Traveler’s Rest and New Hope Primitive Baptist Churches.

*[Update: The hymnal may have been Hymn and Tune Book for Use in the Old School or Primitive Baptist Churches, compiled by Silas H. Durand and P.G. Lester and first published in 1886. The scores of the hymns include both shape-note and conventional notation.]

Minutes digitized at Divinity Archive, a project of Duke University Divinity School Library and partner institutions. 

To have and hold the said land, no. 4.

Abstracts of deeds recording the purchase of real property by African-American churches and lodges in Wilson County:

  • On 16 November 1916, J.L. Yelverton and Mary B. Yelverton sold J.H. Winston, Nathan Locus, and Peter Barnes, trustees of Travelers Rest Church of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association, for $50, a lot in Stantonsburg bordering the Yelvertons, the colored school, and B.M. Whitley. The purchase was recorded 6 October 1917 in Deed Book 111, page 347, Register of Deeds office, Wilson.
  • On 18 October 1917, Ace Lucas and wife Anne Lucas sold L. Blackwell, Wesley Strickland, Herbert Taylor, and Ace Lucas, trustees of Sandy Fork Missionary Baptist Church, a 90′ by 90′ lot in Taylors township adjacent to the lands of U.H. Cozart and Ace Lucas. The lot was to be used for Missionary Baptist church building and would revert to the Lucases otherwise. The purchase was recorded 17 November 1917 in Deed Book 111, page 423, Register of Deeds office, Wilson. [Sandy Fork’s current church is just across the county line in Nash County.]
  • On 24 February 1919, Jesse R. Barnes and wife Sarah L. Barnes, having borrowed $300 from George W. Harris, W.M. Pearce, and E.H. Haskins, trustees of the Christian Aid Society of Rountree Missionary Baptist Church, signed over to the Society 3.44 acres on “Colored Masonic Cemetery Road” [Lane Street] adjacent to the lands of Dollison Powell, Margaret Artis, Raleigh Real Estate and Trust Company and S.H. Vick. The Barneses had purchased this property from S.H. and Annie Vick on 26 April 1913, per Deed Book 91, page 580, and the $300 went to pay them off. The loan to the Society was due 24 February 1920. If the Barneses were to default, the Society’s trustees were to sell the land at auction, recoup the debt, and pay any remainder to the Barneses. On the other hand, if the note were satisfied, the deed was void. The deed, filed at Deed Book 117, page 285, was marked paid on 8 February 1923. [This parcel was much smaller than the Barnes land that ultimately became Rest Haven cemetery.]
  • On 9 March 1926, Glenn S. McBrayer and wife Lillian L. McBrayer sold W.H. Brown, W.H. Kittrell, A.C. Winstead, Jno. A. Parker, and Jesse Holden, trustees of Marshall Lodge No. 297, Approved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, a lot at the corner of Vick and Nash Streets, being part of Lot No. 1 of Block B of the Rountree property recorded in Deed Book 78, pages 62-63, Register of Deeds office, Wilson. The purchase was recorded 29 May 1926 in Deed Book 161, page 608, Register of Deeds office, Wilson.

Deed Book 161, page 608.

African-American members of Lower Black Creek Primitive Baptist Church.

Lower Black Creek Primitive Baptist Church, founded in 1783, was the second church organized in what is now Wilson County. The church’s nineteenth-century records includes names of enslaved and freed African-American members, who worshipped with the congregation as second-class Christians even after Emancipation.

Below are African-Americans included in a circa 1877 “List of Names Now Alive” with dates they were baptized and notes about church discipline. (The Primitive Baptists were hardcore about infractions of church rules, and it seems most members were “cut off” sooner or later.)

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  • Channey Pacock, col August 1871

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Chany Peacock, 46; son Geoge, 23; and grandson Preston Barne, 7.

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Benj’n Hardy, 25; wife Mary A., 30, farm laborer; and Litha, 14, farm laborer.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Hardy, 38; wife Mary Ann, 40; daughter Tillitha, 22; and mother-in-law Hester Hinnant, 65 [next door to Woodard Hooks, below.]

  • Isirah Lane, col Aug 14 1871, cut off

Perhaps, in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Isiah Lane, 40, keeping eating saloon, and wife Harriet, 38.

  • Milbry Hinnant col  Dec 10 1871

Perhaps, in the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Hinnant, 26; wife Milbary, 24; and children Sally, 4, John, 3, and Everet, 1.

  • Rhoda Hollan col, Mar 9 1872, “cut off Aug the 12th 1876”
  • Fany Woodard col, Mar 9 1872, cut off
  • Sarah Brook col, June 9 1872
  • Woodard Hooks col, date of baptism unknown, excluded

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Woodard Hooks, 52; wife Venus, 53; and children Mahaly, 20, Mariah, 18, Gabriel, 16, Isaac, 14,  Bardin, 11, and Grant, 10. [Cross Roads township is adjacent to Black Creek township, and the boundary is within a very few miles from the town of Black Creek.]

  • Elizath Horn col, date of baptism unknown, deceased
  • James Barnes col, date of baptism unknown, deceased
  • Nathon Barnes col, date of baptism unknown, excluded
  • Mardel(?) Thompson, date of baptism unknown, cut off
  • Wister Barnes, date of baptism unknown
  • Petter Woodard col, June 8th 1873

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Peter Woodard, 60; wife Renda, 60; farm laborer Adline Privett, 25, and her daughter Margaret, 6 months; and granddaughter Hetiway Ward, 3.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Peter Woodard, 70; wife Rendy, 52; and Jane, 13.

  • Trecy Woodard, June 8th 1873
  • F[illegible] Simms col, June 8th 1873, cut off
  • Mary Hardy col, Augst 11th 1873

See Benjamin Hardy, above.

  • Tilitha Hardy col, Augst 11th 1873

See Benjamin Hardy, above.

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Blaney Barnes, 20, farm laborer.

Blany Barnes married Rachel Cooper on 10 August 1873 at J. Barden’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Blany Barnes, 27; wife Rachel, 25; and children Larry, 6, Mary Ann, 4, and William Anderson, 2.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: R.R. [railroad] laborer Blaney Barnes, 47; wife Rachell, 44; and children Anderson W., 21, Louettie, 16, and Charlie, 11; and boarder Dorch Wade, 23.

On 22 September 1903, Blaney Barnes, 50, married Diana Ricks, 45, in Spring Hill township.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County:  Blaney Barnes, 55, sawmill log hauler; wife Dianna, 44, farm laborer; daughter-in-law Louvenia Furgerson, 21, divorced; daughter-in-law Jane Barnes, 19; grandsons Hiliard, 7, and Joseph N. Barnes, 5; grandson Willie Furgerson, 4; and grandchildren Martha J. Barnes, 12, and boarder Troy Barnes, 23.

Blaney Barnes died 26 April 1915 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1844 in Wilson County to Sip Barnes of Wayne County, N.C.; was married; was a farmer; and was buried in Barnes graveyard. Wiley H. Johnson, Lucama, was informant.

  • Levi Bass col, July 12 1874, fined

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Levi Bass, 23; wife Heggar, 22; and children Burket, 3, and Lydia, 2.

  • Caroline Dawson col, Aug 8th 1874
  • Rufus Bass col

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Rufus Bass, 30; wife Caroline, 25; and Josiah, 6, Willie A., Rufus H., 4, and Rebecca F., 1 month; plus

  • Smithie Cooper col, Sept 12th 1874

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Watson Cooper, 26; wife Smithy, 25; and children Martha, 9, Margaret, 4, George, 3, and Sidney, 9 months.

  • Nellie Williams col, June 15th 1875

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer W. Williams, 50; wife Nellie, 43; servants Laura Williams, 15, and Nancy Winstead, 22, farm laborers; and Winnie Monday, 10, “no relation.”

  • Harriet Bass col, Oct 14 1875
  • Sarah Hagans col, Oct 14 1875

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer John Hegans, 31; wife Sarah, 20; children John, 3, Nancy A., 2, and Amos, 10; and Susan Hagans, 40, farm worker.

  • Julia Fealds col, Jan 8th 1876

George W. Fields married Julia Moore on 26 March 1869 in Pitt County, North Carolina.

In the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County: farmer Wash Fields, 35; wife Julia, 35; and children Haywood, 10, Mary, 4, and Jane, 1.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Washington Fields, 30; wife Julia, 35; and children Renda, 12, Penninah, 11, Jane, 9, Christany, 8, London, 6, William, 5, and twins Isaac and Jacob, 3.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Washington Fields, 60; wife Julia, 53; daughters Chrischanie, 25, Amanda, 15, and Lutory, 10; grandson Peter, 10; and granddaughters Julia, 5, and Lillie, 7 months.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Washington Fields, 68; wife Julia, 70; grandson Peter J., 18; and granddaughters Julia A., 14, and Mary Lilly, 9.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer George W. Fields, 65; wife Julia M., 70; daughter Christina, 48; and grandson Willie, 10.

Julia Fields died 20 June 1924 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 102 years old; was married to Wash Fields; was born in Greene County, N.C., to Peter Woodard and Renda Woodard; and was buried in a family cemetery. William Fields was informant. [See Peter Woodard, above.]

  • Jane Barnes col, March 4th 1876, “Jane Hooks by Marridge”

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Stewart Hooks, 31, and wife Jane, 23.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: basket mechanic Stewart Hooks, 51, and wife Jane, 43, dressmaker.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek town, Black Creek township, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, Stewart Hooks, 60, basketmaker with own shop, and wife Jane, 50, dressmaker.

Jane Hooks died 6 April 1929 at the Wilson County Home. Per her death certificate, she was 64 years old; a widow; and was born in Wilson County to Ben Barnes and Hester Horn. Lovett Barnes was informant.

  • Phillis Daniel col, July 8th 1876, “fort by a Marridge Philis fort”
  • Nicie(?) Barden col, July 9th 1876
  • Fanie Newsom col, June 11th 1876, “Restored Sept 8th 1876”
  • Ester Barnes col, April 12 1877
  • Liddy Jordon col, June [illegible] 1877, [illegible]

Copy of documents courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III. Originals now housed at North Carolina State Archives.

Bellamy Chapel Primitive Baptist Church.

I wrote here of my discovery of Sharpsburg’s traditional African-American section, which lies mostly in Wilson County. Below, a better photo of old Bellamy Chapel Primitive Baptist Church (first known as Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church).

The church’s trustees purchased the property in 1915. The church building was already on the lot and, unusually, the deed contained a stipulation that the property would always be used for “church purposes.” If not, it would revert to J.H. Bellamy (whom I have not been able to identify.) At deed book 102, page 578, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office:

North Carolina, Wilson County } THIS DEED, made this September 24th, 1915, by and between M.V. Barnhill, Trustee, party of the first part, and Henry Reid, Robert Lewis and George Drake, as Trustees of the Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church, parties of the second part; WITNESSETH

THAT for and in consideration of the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00) to him in hand paid, the receipt whereof expressly acknowledged, the said party of the first part, has bargained, sold, aliened and conveyed, and by these presents does bargain, sell and convey unto them, the said Henry Reid, Robert Lewis and George Drake, as Trustees as aforesaid, their successors in office and assigns, all that certain lot or parcel of land lying and being situate in Toisnot Township, Wilson County, North Carolina, being the unnumbered lot as is shown by plat of the Bellamy property, recorded in Book 78, page 170, Wilson County registry, to which plat and survey reference is hereby made for a more specific description of said lot; it being the lands upon which the Church aforesaid is now situate, said lot fronting thirty (30) feet on the East side of Railroad Street and running back seventy-five (75) feet. 

TO HAVE AND HOLD the aforesaid land and premises, together with all and singular, the rights, easements and appurtenances thereunto in any wise belonging unto them, the said parties of the second part, as Trustees as aforesaid, their successors in office and assigns so long as said premises may be used for church purposes, and no longer. Should the said premises cease to be used for church purposes, then and in that event said land shall revert to and become the property of J.H. Bellamy, and this Deed shall be held and deemed to be null and void.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, the said party of the first part has hereunto set his hand and seal, this the day and year first above written.  M.V. Barnhill, Trustee

Deed book 78, page 170, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

[Update, 4/26/2021 — As reader DC pointed out, I actually do know who J.H. Bellamy was. I needed merely to search my own blog. From C.L. Spellman‘s treatise on Elm City’s Black community: “J.H. Bellamy and his wife Cherry were among the first Negroes to move into the Sharpsburg vicinity. Bellamy was a preacher and a teacher. He did some good work in the general section in both these capacities. Together these two acquired a small tract of farm land. This was held up in his preaching and teaching as an example of what Negroes generally should do in order to succeed in life.”]

Regret for the death of Russell Owings.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 October 1938.

I missed the cues, and at first could find no record of an African-American Russell Owings living in Wilson. But that was because Owings was not Black. He was instead a “faithful and courageous friend of [their] interest.” Owings, freshly graduated from Atlantic Christian [now Barton] College, was a white man who — much in the spirit of Rev. R.A.G. Foster’s outreach — crossed the color line to teach voice lessons and direct a choral group at Saint John A.M.E. Zion. He died in a car accident in late October 1938.