Church

The Saunders brothers.

The family of Bennie and Nathaniel Saunders paid tribute to them in Calvary Presbyterian Church‘s centennial anniversary booklet.

Bennie Saunders (1894-1980).

Nathaniel Saunders (1914-1991).

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In the 1900 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: fireman Branch Saunders, 41; wife Polly, 24, washerwoman; and sons Isah, 8, Bennie, 5, and Paul B., 1.

In the 1910 census of Dry Well township, Nash County, North Carolina: lumber mill laborer Branch Sanders, 50; wife Polly, 38; sons Isaah 17, and Benjamin, 16, both Lumber mill laborers, Paul B., 11, Marcus H., 9, and Richard T., 6; plus five boarders, all lumber mill laborers.

In the 1920 census of Dry Well township, Nash County: on Opossum Road, lumber mill engineer Branch Sanders, 60; wife Polly, 42; and sons Bennie, 24, and Mark, 18, both lumber mill laborers, Richard, 16, and Nathaniel, 6.

On 30 October 1927, Bennie Sanders, 30, of Wilson, son of Branch and Pollie Sanders, married Nannie Farmer, 36, of Wilson, daughter of Tom and Senora Farmer. Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the service in the presence of Vicia Thompson, Lula Bunn and Janie Diamonds, all of Wilson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 916 Washington Street, owned and valued at $2500, body plant laborer Benjamin Saunders, 36; wife Mamie, 43; father Branch, 71; and brother Nathaniel, 16.

In 1940, Nathaniel Saunders registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 2 December 1914 in Middlesex, North Carolina; resided at 102 North East Street, Wilson; his contact was Mrs. Nathaniel Saunders; and he worked for T.A. Loving Company, Goldsboro, North Carolina.

I joined to be with my husband.

On 25 October 2009, Wilson native Kay C. Westray sat for an interview with a member of Washington, D.C.’s Zion Baptist Church Historical and Preservation Commission’s Oral History Committee. Here is an excerpt:

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

BRISCOE: What is your name?
K. WESTRAY: My name is Kay C. Westray.
BRISCOE: When and when were you born?
K. WESTRAY: I was born on March 6, 1918 in Wilson, North Carolina.
BRISCOE: What were your parents’ names?
K. WESTRAY: My mother’s name was Melissa Hill and my father was named Lovet Hill.
BRISCOE: What is your educational background?
K. WESTRAY: I was educated in the Wilson, North Carolina public schools, and I graduated from Fayetteville State Secondary College in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
BRISCOE: What were the main jobs you have held?
K. WESTRAY: I worked as a clerk at the Veteran’s Administration. I quit that job in 1951. I am now retired.

BRISCOE: Tell me about your marital status and your family.
K. WESTRAY: Since September 6, 1947, I have been married to Lynwood C. Westray. We have been married for 62 years. We have one daughter, Gloria Westray Nuckles, who lives in Fort Stockton, Texas. She teaches at the prison school. We have no grandchildren.
BRISCOE: Where else have you lived?
K. WESTRAY: I lived in Wilson, North Carolina and in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where I went to college. I came to Washington, DC in 1939.
BRISCOE: Thank you for telling me about your life up to now. Our next set of questions will ask about your Faith Life.

FAITH LIFE

BRISCOE: When and where did you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior? What was the name of that church?
K. WESTRAY: I accepted Christ as my Savior and got baptized at 8 or 9 years of age. My father took me to St. Johns AME Zion Church in Wilson, North Carolina. Rev. B. P. Coward was the pastor.
BRISCOE: Why did you join Zion?
K. WESTRAY: I joined Zion in 1947 to be with my husband.

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In the 1920 census of Township 9, Craven County, North Carolina — farmer Hugh L. Hill, 34; wife Malissie, 32; and children Mamie, 8, Katie, 6, Evolena, 4, and William, 2.

Malissa Hill died 21 March 1929 in childbirth in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 38 years old and was born in Greene County, North Carolina, to Frank Jenkins of Pitt County and Allie Mae Fonville of Greene County. Henry L. Hill was informant.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 232 Manchester Street, rented for $18/month, widower Henry L. Hill, 44, sawmill laborer, and children Mamie E., 18; Evenlyne, 15, Katie B., 17, William, 2, Jessie M., 9, Emaniel, 7, Benjamin, 5, and Myrtina, 3.

Henry Lovet Hill died 25 August 1957 of a heart attack at Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. Per his death certificate, he was born 31 [sic] November 1871 in Craven County to William Jackson Hill and Emma Jane Hill; resided at 507 Hadley Street, Wilson; was married; worked as a preacher and laborer; and “as a lay preacher he had just finished his sermon, turned to sit down, when he slumped over.”

Katie C. Westray, age 100, died “[o]n Monday, May 13, 2013; loving and devoted wife of Lynwood C. Westray; beloved mother of Gloria J. Nuckles. She is also survived by her sister Mertina H. Hill; and a host of other relatives and friends. A Memorial Service will be held at Zion Baptist Church, 4850 Blagden Avenue NW on Tuesday, May 21 at 12 noon. Interment private. Services by Stewart.”

Saint Mark’s Episcopal parochial school.

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Wilson Daily Times, 15 August 1980.

Notes and comments:

  • The assertion that the first school in East Wilson opened in 1910 is incorrect. Here are references to African-American education in 1869, 1871, 1877, 18831890, 1895, 1897, and 1897. (Further, the colored graded school was not called the Sallie Barbour School until the late 1930s.)
  • Per this article, the Episcopal school operated from 1891 to 1912 and perhaps into the 1920s.
  • The school taught 50-90 students per year until 1909, when two teachers served 203 pupils.
  • A permanent school space eventually was built was next door to the church at South and Lodge Streets. “We used to call that Little Washington,” Marie Wells Lucas said. (And thus cleared up a mystery about the location of that neighborhood.)
  • Families provided firewood to heat the school.
  • In 1934, Carolina Builders bought the lot on which the church and school stood.

The Episcopal church and school. This photo of John Boykin, Rev. Robert N. Perry and John H. Clark was taken below the stained glass windows in the church’s gable end.

Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C. (1922).

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wheelwright Mack Wells, 40; wife Cherry, 38; and children Bertha, 11, Willie, 9, Clifton, 6, Lillie, 4, and Marry, 2.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 624 Viola, blacksmith Mack Wells. 57; wife Cherry, 55, washing and ironing; children Clifton, 25, blacksmith, and Marie, 22, washing and ironing; and granddaughter Minnie Green, 8.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory; Wells C Malachi (c; Cherry) gunsmith h 615 Viola. Also, Wells, Marie school tchr h 615 Viola

On 25 December 1934, Joe Lucas, 20, of Nash County, son of John Lucas, married Marie Wells, 30, of Wilson, daughter of Mack and Cherry Wells, at Mack Wells’ on Viola Street.

Charles Malacih [Malachi] Wells died 22 August 1939 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 October 1862 in Nash County to Dennis Wells of Nash and Nellie Adams of Nash; was married; resided at 615 Viola; and was a self-employed machinist at Wells Machinery. Informant was Clifton Wells, 700 Warren Street, Wilson.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 615 Viola Street, owned and valued at $1500, Cherry Wells, 74; machine shop blacksmith William, 47; lumber mill laborer Joseph Lucas, 43; Marie W., 42, teacher; and John D. Lucas, age illegible.

Cherry Wells died 22 September 1951 at 615 Viola Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was a widow; was about 86 years old; and was born in Edgecombe County to Jones Williams and Olive [no last name given]. Informant was Marie Lucas, 615 Viola.

Clifton Wells died 6 August 1971 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 19 July 1894 to Charles M. Wells and Cherrie Hines; resided at 501 North Carroll Street; was self-employed at C.M. Wells General Repair; and was married to Maggie Young. Informant was Marguerite Wells Murrain, Goldsboro.

Marie Wells Lucas died 6 October 1997 in Wilson, aged 99.

South and Lodge Streets, today, per Google Maps.

Photo of church and school courtesy of Patrick M. Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches in Wilson, North Carolina 1856-1995 (1996).

London Woodard, Penny Lassiter Woodard and the London Church.

On 14 February 1970, the Wilson Daily Times published a full-page article detailing the life of London Woodard, founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church.

London Woodard was born enslaved in 1792. He was recorded in the estates of Asa Woodard in 1816 and Julan Woodard in 1826 (in which he was recognized as a distiller of fine fruit brandies.) In 1827, James B. Woodard bought London at auction for $500. The same year, London married Venus, a woman enslaved by Woodard. In 1828, London was baptized and appears as a member in the minutes of Tosneot Baptist Church. Venus was baptized in 1838 and died in 1845.

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Transfer of title to “a negroe man by the name of Lonon” from Nathan Woodard to James B. Woodard, 1928.

J.B. Woodard’s second wife in 1837, and he hired Penelope Lassiter, a free woman of color, as a housekeeper and surrogate mother to his children. Lassiter, born 1814, was the daughter of Hardy Lassiter, who owned a small farm south of Wilson. She met London, who was working as overseer, at Woodard’s. In 1852, Penny Lassiter bought 106 acres for $242 about five miles east of Wilson on the Tarboro Road.

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In 1854, Penny Lassiter purchased her husband London, then about 62 or 63, from J.B. Woodard for $150. In 1858 Lassiter bought another 53 acres near her first tract and purchased 21 acres in 1859. The same year, she sold a small parcel to Jordan Thomas, a free man of color [who was married to her step-daughter Rose Woodard.] In 1866, the years after he was emancipated, London Woodard bought, subject to mortgage, a 200-acre parcel.

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In 1866, London Woodard was granted authority to preach “only among his acquaintances,” i.e. African-Americans. A member of Tosneot Baptist donated an acre of land to build a black church, regarded as the first in Wilson County. London Woodard was licensed to preach in 1870.

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London Woodard preached his last sermon on 13 November 1870. The next day, he suffered a stroke and fell into an open fireplace. Despite severe burns, he was able to dictate a will before his death.

The history of London Church for the 25 years after Woodard’s death is murky. In 1895, white churches Tosneot and Upper Town Creek dismissed several African-American members in order that they might establish an independent congregation at London’s. [London Church reorganized under the umbrella of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association in 1897.]

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By the terms of his will, London Woodard provided for his wife Penelope; sons William, Hardy, Haywood, Howell, Elvin, Amos and London; and daughters Treasy, Rose, Pharibee, Sarah, Harriet and Penninah. (Deceased son John’s daughter was apparently inadvertently omitted.)  “A few facts” about Woodard’s children follows.

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Receipts for payments for taxes and accounts for Penny Lassiter and London Woodard.

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This building was moved around the corner to London Church Road. It has long been abandoned and collapsed in 2017 after suffering serious storm damage the year before.

Clergymen.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1947).

  • William W. Askew, Baptist — William Wesley Askew. Per his death certificate, William Askew died 2 March 1956 in Wilson; was born 13 March 1890 in Bertie County, North Carolina, to Isaac and Mance Askew; was married to Elizabeth Askew; worked as a minister; and resided at 1104 Rountree Avenue.
  • W. Samuel Barnes, Baptist — pastor of a Missionary Baptist church.
  • Frank F. Battle, Baptist — pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist church.
  • Chester B. Beamon, Methodist — A.M.E. Zion minister.
  • Walter Bobbitt, Baptist– Walter Lee Bobbitt, pastor of Saint John Free Will Baptist. Per his death certificate, Bobbitt died 26 February 1952 at his home at 109 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; was born 19 November 1896 in Pitt County to Sidney Bobbitt and Millie Payton; was a minister; and was married to Annie Bobbitt.
  • Edward H. Cox, Baptist — Eddie Harrison Cox, pastor of Piney Grove Free Will Baptist. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: minister Eddie H Cox, 49, and wife Carrie H., 32.
  • Hattie Daniels, Holiness — Hattie Owens Daniels. Per her death certificate, Hattie Daniels died 25 April 1979 in Wilson; was born 4 July 1900 in Chester County, Georgia, to Mack Owens and Mary Gardner; was widowed; resided at 908 Wainwright Street; and was a minister and kindergarten teacher. Informant was daughter Deborah Daniels of the home.
  • Fred M. Davis, Baptist — Fred Marshon Davis Sr., pastor of Jackson Chapel First Baptist and others.
  • Jacob Edwards, Holiness
  • John A. Everette, Methodist — pastor of Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church.
  • John L. Hart, Apostolic — John L. Hart died 6 February 1963 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 January 1901 in Wilson County to Benjamin Hart and Temie Ann Jones; was married; was a minister. Elouise Hart, 1200 Washington Street, was informant.
  • Obra J. Hawkins, Presbyterian — Obra Jeffrey Hawkins, pastor of Calvary Presbyterian.
  • William A. Hilliard, Methodist — William Alexander Hilliard was pastor at Saint John’s A.M.E. Zion Church. In 1942, he registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card: he resided at 119 Pender; his mailing address was 2449 Woodland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri; he was born 14 September 1904 in Greenville, Texas; his contact was Mrs. Veta Watson of 2449 Woodland; he was employed as a minister in the A.M.E. Zion connection serving in Wilson.
  • Jefferson Holloway, Methodist — pastor of an A.M.E. Zion church. Jefferson Davis Holloway died 7 November 1982 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 November 1885 in Wilson County; was married to Ella Holloway; and resided at 323 Griffin Street.
  • Edward Ingram, Holiness — pastor of Nazarene Holiness Church.
  • Robert Johnson, Episcopal — Robert Josiah Johnson, Saint Mark’s Episcopal.
  • Charles T. Jones, Baptist — Charles Thomas Jones, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
  • George Little, Baptist — pastor of Mount Zion Free Will Baptist Church. George Washington Little died 1 April 1957 on the A.C.L. railroad tracks near Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 July 1910 in Wilson County to Wash Little and Louise Barnes; worked as a minister and laborer; resided at 606 North Carroll Street. Louise Little was informant.
  • William McLondon, Holiness — pastor of Mount Zion Holiness Church.
  • Otto E. Sanders, Presbyterian — Otto Edward Sanders, former pastor of Calvary Presbyterian.
  • R. Buxton Taylor, Methodist — Russell Buxton Taylor, A.M.E. Zion minister.
  • William Thomas, Baptist — pastor of a Missionary Baptist church.
  • Cleveland Thompson, Holiness
  • Roosevelt Wheeler, Holiness — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 812 East Vance, minister Roosevelt Wheeler, 26; wife Minnie, 24; and lodger Jessie Edwards, 17.
  • William E. Willoughby, Holiness

Contributions to Mercy, part 2.

On 30 January 1947, the Wilson Daily Times published a lengthy list of contributors to the fundraising drive of the Mercy Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. The list, reproduced here in five parts, included many of black Wilson’s leading individuals, businesses and institutions.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 January 1947.

All annotations, some edited for clarity, are entries in Hill’s Wilson City Directory 1947-48.