Church

A closer look at the Simon and Penninah Woodard Barnes family.

As previously explored here, on 14 February 1970, the Wilson Daily Times published a full-page article by local historian Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., detailing the life of London Woodard, founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church. Near the end of the piece, Johnston outlined the family of London and Penny Lassiter Woodard‘s daughter Penninah Woodard, who married Simon Barnes.

In February of this year, I undertook an unsuccessful search for the Barnes-Woodard cemetery with Bernard Patterson, a descendant. Below, please find Johnston’s notes about the family (with a few of my annotations.)

“Pennina Woodard was born on January 30, 1859, and died on February 24, 1919. On January 1, 1877, she married Simon Barnes, son of Silas Barnes and wife Rosetta (Rose) Farmer. He was born September 11, 1848, and died on April 15, 1923. His mother was born in March of 1831 and died on August 1, 1921. The exact date was not given, but her position on the roll of members of old Toisnot Baptist Church indicates that she was received about 1861. “Big Simon” Barnes was an industrious and highly respected citizen of the western section of Gardners township, and he and his good wife reared a large and commendable family on the farm that she had inherited after the death of her three brothers.

  • Rosetta Barnes married 1st Henry Pleasant and 2nd the Rev. John Dillahunt. [John Washington Dillahunt was a native of New Bern, N.C.]
  • James Walter (Bud) Barnes was born in 1878 and died August 18, 1931. He married Adeline Pitt but had no children. In addition to a farming operation, he had quite a widespread reputation as an “herb doctor.” The writer of this article also remembers that as late as 1919 he operated a cane press and vat which he transported from farm to farm at the end of the summer in order to make the molasses that in those days was considered a great delicacy by a great many people in Wilson and Wilson County
  • Hardy Barnes died October 11, 1954. He married 1st Martha Ann Pitt and 2nd Maggie Barnes [Maggie Bullock].
  • Chaney Barnes was born October 28, 1882. She married Frank Barnes, son of Silas Barnes and wife Mary Coleman. She lives with a daughter, Mrs. Jesse T. McPhail [Minnie Barnes McPhail] of 1316 Carolina Street, whose husband is a retired post office employee and friend of the writer.
  • Penny Barnes died on November 27, 1923. She married Turner Hines.
  • Leonard Barnes was born on June 26, 1888, and died on November 19, 1952. He served in World War I. His wife was Adelaide White.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 November 1952.

  • Silas Barnes died on February 2, 1945. He married Gertrude and lived in Richmond, Va.
  • Priscilla Barnes was born in 1891 and died on October 24, 1919. She married the Rev. Ed [Zeb] Hardy.
  • Simon Barnes, Jr., was born on October 15, 1895. On September 14, 1921, he married Roselee McCoy who was born on January 26, 1904. He served in World War I and now owns and occupies part of the farm that his maternal grandmother purchased prior to the Civil War. He is a lifelong and esteemed friend of the writer of this article as he was of my father before me.

Simon Grove Holiness Church was named in honor of Simon Barnes Jr., who donated the land upon which the church, to which his wife belonged, was built. This land, on N.C. Highway 42 East, is part of the acreage Penny Lassiter Woodard accumulated as a free woman of color.

  • Mary Eliza Barnes was born in April of 1896 and died on May 19, 1931. She was the second wife of Turner Hines above.
  • Treacy Barnes was born on June 4, 1900, and died on December 23, 1954. She married Calvin Atkinson.
  • Amy Barnes was born on August 25, 1904. On February 11, 1926, she married Luther Petway, son of Joe Petway. They reside at 1209 Queen Street and her husband is an old friend of the writer.”

Wilson Daily Times, 26 May 1971.

Thanks to Bernard Patterson for information regarding the history of Simon Grove; photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2019.

Visitor to Saint Mark’s.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 August 1934.

Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, 106 South Reid Street. This building replaced an earlier one on the site. Saint Mark’s sanctuary now serves its historic African-American congregation as well as a Latino mission, La Iglesia de la Guadelupana.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2019.

Postcards of East Wilson.

The on-line guide to Newberry Library’s Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection features digitized versions of the geographical index to the company’s historical postcards. The index cards are arranged alphabetically by state and then town or other geographic entity. Here is the Wilson, N.C., card listing the four postcards with African-American subjects. Numbered in sequence, all were taken in 1923.

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A view of Saint John.

A gift from Samuel C. Lathan arrived in the mail recently:

It’s a Curt Teich & Company postcard depicting Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. Per the Guide to Dating Curt Teich Postcards, this one was issued in 1923, and was perhaps meant to commemorate the church building’s tenth anniversary.

Here’s a cleaned-up version:

Colored churches of Wilson.

The Wilson Daily Times posted this list of “colored” churches in Wilson and Wilson County in August 1946. It’s a long roster, but incomplete. Notable omissions — all still meeting in 2019 — include London Primitive Baptist Church, Ellis Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, William Chapel Baptist Church, Rocky Branch United Church of Christ, Jerusalem Grove Primitive Baptist Church, Mary Grove Missionary Baptist Church, New Vester Missionary Baptist Church, Oaky Grove Primitive Baptist Church, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Saint Delight Missionary Baptist near Walstonsburg, which is actually in Greene County, is listed, but not Saint Delight Original Free Will Baptist, just north of Kenly. These churches are now defunct, but were certainly active during the 1940s: Friendship Baptist, Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist, and Little Union Primitive Baptist.

Churches marked * remain active today.

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 August 1946.

  • Saint Mark’s Church, Rev. F.W. Williams
  • Saint Mary’s Church, Rev. F.W. Williams
  • Dixon Chapel, Rev. C.B. Smith
  • Bethel Mount Zion Church, Rev. W.B. McCoy [Bethel A.M.E. Zion?]
  • Saint James [Holy] Church,* Rev. W.H. Holliday
  • Saint Delight,* Rev. W.C. Cotton
  • Saint Joseph A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. C.D. Cotton
  • Saint Joseph A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. C.D. Ward [sic]
  • Patterson Chapel Holiness Church of God,* Rev. Carrie Tabron
  • Saint Paul’s Holiness Church, Rev. E.Z. Coley
  • Hardy’s Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. C.D. Ward
  • Mount Olive A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. R.A. Murphy
  • Saint Rose Pentecostal Church,* Rev. W.H. Bailey
  • Owens Chapel Free Will Baptist Church,* Rev. N.D. Beamon [actually, this is a white church]

Another history of London Woodard and his church.

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Rocky Mount Telegram, 29 January 1960.

The take-away:

  • London’s Primitive Baptist is possibly the oldest African-American church in Wilson County.
  • London Woodard was born in 1808. In 1827, James Bullock Woodard purchased him for $500 from the estate of Julan Woodard.
  • In 1828, London Woodard was baptized at Toisnot Primitive Baptist.
  • In 1866, he sought permission to preach among his people.
  • In 1870, he was “dismissed” from Toisnot so that he could pastor the church he founded. He died lass than a month later.
  • London Church appears to have become disorganized after Woodard’s death, but in 1895, Toisnot P.B. dismissed several “colored brethren and sisters” who wanted to reestablish worship at London’s. The same year Union (now Upper Town Creek) P.B. released Haywood Pender, George Braswell, Dublin Barnes, and couple Charles and Rebeckah Barnes for the same purpose.
  • London Woodard married Pennie Lassiter, born free about 1810 and possessed of considerable property, including 29 acres purchased from James B. Woodard in 1859. [Penelope Lassiter was his second wife. His first, Venus, was enslaved.]
  • London and Pennie Woodard’s children were Priscilla (1846), Theresa (1848), Hardy (1850), Haywood (1852), William (1854), and Penina (1858). “Another child was probably named Elba, born in 1844; she was working for the John Batts family in 1860.” [London and Venus Woodard had nine children; Elba was not among either set.]
  • Many “old-time colored Christians” remained members of the churches they attended during slavery. Their children and grandchildren, however, gradually formed separate congregations.

——

  • Haywood Pender — in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Haywood Pender, 50, farmer; wife Feraby, 45; children Mollie, 39, and Ann, 8; and grandchildren Gold, 5, Nancy, 3, and Willie, 16. Haywood Pender died 15 July 1942 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 October 1852 in Wilson County to Abram Sharp and Sookie Pender; was a farmer; was a widower; and was buried in Piney Grove cemetery, Elm City.
  • Dublin Barnes — in the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Doublin Barnes, 25; wife Eliza, 21; daughter Sattena, 2; and Jane Thomas, 12, farmhand.
  • Charles and Rebecca Barnes — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmhand Charley Barnes, 50; wife Rebecca, 57; and children John, 26, William, 23, Annie, 17, Tom, 18, and Corah, 12.
  • George Braswell

Saint Luke’s Christmas news; or “I will pray for the many white people who gave the tree.”

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 December 1940.

  • Rev. A. Betha
  • Ella Bryant — possibly, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: William Bryant, 55; wife Ella, 53; and niece Willie Merrill, 23. William was a hospital cook; Ella and Willie, cooks in private homes.
  • Rev. M.C. McNeil

And, again in 1942, prayers for white people (though “a few colored contributed.”)

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 December 1942.

  • Marilla Murphy
  • Mary Robinson
  • George M. Mason
  • Rev. Muggin 

Four years later, Bryant was still thanking the Good White Folks for their generosity.

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 December 1944.

  • Rev. McIntyre
  • Mattie Poole — possibly, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 309 Stantonsburg Street, Jim Poole, 55, and wife Mattie, 45, both tobacco factory laborers, and daughter Odell, 10.
  • Helen Mears

Saint Luke A.M.E. Church, Christmas 2018.

“The official business of Christ.”

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The Carolina Times, 20 November 1937.

Elder C.L. Faison is elusive in census records and directories of Wilson, and apparently divided his time between Wide-Awake and Durham, North Carolina, where his Church of God in Jesus Christ, New Deal, Inc., was incorporated. Per his death certificate, Cluster L. Faison died 27 March 1963 in Durham. He was born 9 September 1889 in McCrae [McRae], Georgia, to Eli Faison and Della Thorpe; was a clergyman; and was married to Isabelle Faison.