Church

Anatomy of a photograph: First Baptist Church.

This image of First Missionary Baptist Church (later Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church) was taken by an unknown photographer circa 1920.

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Below, detail of the original entry facing Pender Street. A girl in a hat stands near the cornerstone and what appears to be a street sign at the corner of Nash and Pender Streets. Today, this entrance is seldom if ever used and features a solid set of steps lined with wrought-iron railings leading down to a landing, then turning left toward Church Street.

The close-up below reveals that the boy and man (or perhaps man and taller man) at far right of the image are standing next to their bicycles, which may have purchased cattycorner across the street at C.L. Darden‘s bicycle shop.)

Photograph courtesy of the Monk Moore Collection, digitized at digitalnc.org.

Nestus Freeman’s crew at work. (But where?)

This copy of a photograph is said to show O. Nestus Freeman‘s workmen building Our Redeemer Lutheran Church on West Vance Street, Wilson. Does it though?

Freeman came out of retirement to direct the stonework at Our Redeemer, which was completed after World War II. The photo above is undated, but appears to date from earlier in the twentieth century. Moreover, this crew is clearly building an addition to a pre-existing church.

Here’s a photo of Our Redeemer published at the church’s 25th anniversary at the Vance and Rountree Streets site. (The building itself was not completed until after 1941.) This does not appear to be the same church as the one above. The men above are laying brick, not stone. The buttresses between the windows below do not appear in the image above. And the windows themselves are much taller in the image above. The church’s raised stone rake is also missing from the gable end above.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 May 1966.

On 1 September 2001, the Daily Times featured a long piece contributed by Robert B. Lineberger, whose father was pastor at Our Redeemer in the early 1940s. In pertinent part, here is Lineberger’s recollection: 

“Oliver Nestus Freeman was the stone mason for the church. The stone was delivered to the lot in 1942. It was supposed to be 4 inches thick, and the supplier brought half to it from the quarry at Roleville [Rolesville, in Wake County, N.C.] and dumped it on the lot when no one was there. It was 8 inches thick. When the quarry realized its mistake, they said Dad could have it at half price if he would accept it where it was.

“He asked what he could do with it that thick. They indicated it could be split just like a cake of ice … except you would use a sledge hammer with a pointed side to it instead of an ice pick. Tap it on one side, roll it, tap it on the second side, roll it, tap it on the third side, roll it … and when you tap it on the fourth side, it would split in half. That meant the church got the stone for 25 percent of the original price!

“[My father] acted as general contractor for the church. During the early war years contractors and builders were doing all the work they could at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and Camp Lejeune. He hired Mr. Freeman, who came out of retirement to build the church.

“Mr. Freeman then lived in a stone house off of East Nash …. I mixed mortar for him and placed the stones at his directions on the scaffold on which he worked. He chose each stone for a particular place as he worked. I worked with him for a long time during the summer and after school of the year the church was built.

“Mr. Freeman was a fine man, and I learned a lot about stone masonry, mixing mortar and life from him. …”

Lineberger provided some photographs of construction, including these:

Wilson Daily Times, 1 September 2001.

These images further strengthen my belief that the first photograph depicts Freeman’s crew working on some church other than Our Redeemer.

Any thoughts?

Our Redeemer Lutheran today.

Top photo courtesy of Freeman Round House and Museum, Wilson, N.C., digitized at Images of North Carolina, digitalnc.org; bottom photo by Lisa Y. Henderson.

Rev. R.A.G. Foster through the years.

Marianne Foster generously shared these photos of her father, Rev. Richard A.G. Foster, who served as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church in the late 1930s and made strident calls for equal rights and social justice from his Pender Street pulpit.

In the pulpit at Varrick A.M.E. Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut, 1940s.

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New Haven, Connecticut.

Oakland, California, 1958.

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Oakland, California, 1968.

Rocky Branch celebrates 150 years.

Louretha Renfrow Johnson approached me after my talk at the public library last February.  As its 150th anniversary approached, would I be willing to speak to church members about ways to document the church’s rich history? I leapt at the opportunity, and we set a date for mid-April. Coronavirus, of course, had other plans.

All the more reason that I’m happy to see that Rocky Branch United Church of Christ has found a scaled-back way to mark its sesquicentennial milestone and plans to go all out next year if conditions permit. I’m hoping they’ll still have me.

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See the 14 August 2020 Wilson Times article here.

The history of Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church.

BETHEL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

The Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church was founded in 1900 on a bank of Contentnea Creek at Woodard’s (also called Peacock’s or Ruffin’s) Bridge in an old stall. The pastor was the Reverend Mack Daniel.

Water from the creek flooded the floor causing it to decay. By a deed dated July 1, 1900, Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Stanton, Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Hales, Mr. and Mrs. H.E. Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. L.F. Hales, and Mr. G.W. Stanton transferred to Mr. Henry Bernie, Mr. Daniel Harriss, Mr. George Applewhite, Mr. Green Edmundson, Mr. William Edmundson, and Mr. Joseph Jones, trustees of Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church, a lot on the road from Moyton along the road to Ruffin’s Bridge. On this lot measuring thirty five yards along the road and seventy-five yards deep a church building was erected.

In 1920, the church was moved into the town of Stantonsburg. Mr. John Yelverton transferred a lot adjoining Mr. Macon Whitley to the trustees.

The Reverend A.J. Jones, the church’s second pastor, was serving at the time of the move. Serving on the trustee board at this time were Mr. Robert Farmer, Mr. Daniel Harris, Mr. Jesse Ruffin, Mr. John Edwards, Mr. Sampson Edwards, and Mr. Henry Bernie. Serving on the mother board were Mrs. Annie Edwards (mother of John Edwards), Mrs. Arkansas Harris, Mrs. Hannah Bernie, and Mrs. Nelia Edwards (daughter of Robert Farmer.)

Two years after the church was built, the Reverend Rose resigned. Following him in order and with their approximate times of service were: Reverend A.G. Dunston, Reverend (Slender) Jones, Reverend C.W. Jones — 1933-1935, Reverend Stewart — late 1930s, Reverend Pridgen — 1940 (1 year), Reverend Pearsall — 1950 (less than one year), Reverend W.B. McCoy — 1958-1959, Reverend L.V. Kennedy — 1960-1967.

During this time the church building destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in the 1960s. The Reverend Kennedy returned and stayed until his death in late 1968. The Reverend Dunston returned and served until the end of the year. Reverend H.R. Campbell — 1968-1977, Reverend H.B. Shaw — 1978 (1 year), Reverend C.C. Cornelius — 1978 (serving 1981).

Stantonsburg Historical Society, A History of Stantonsburg (1981).

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[N.B. This history does not square with the 1877 deed for the purchase of a lot by Lawrence Ward on behalf of “the A.M.E. church known as Bethel.” The 1877 lot appears to be the same one described above.

Bethel buys its acre.

In November 1877, steward Lawrence Ward, acting on behalf of Bethel A.M.E. [Zion] Church, purchased the acre of land on which its church stood on the road leading from Stantonsburg to Contentnea Creek near Ruffin’s Bridge. The church is now located about a mile north of Stantonsburg, but its cemetery remains on the original acre. Ruffin’s Bridge was originally known as Peacock’s Bridge, and Peacock’s Bridge Road runs east of present-day NC Highway 58. 

Deed Book 14, page 366.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County } This deed made this the 16th day of November 1877 by F.M. Moye of Wilson County and State of North Carolina to Lawrence Ward of said County & State holding the office of Steward in the A.M.E. church known as Bethel Witnesseth that the said F.M. Moye in consideration of Twenty Five Dollars to him paid by the said Lawrence Ward as the representative of said church the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged have bargained & sold by these presents do bargain & sell & convey to the said Lawrence Ward and his successors in office for the benefit & use of said Church a certain lot of land in said county, it being the land on which the building of the said church is situated on the North side of Big Contentnea creek near Ruffins bridge and on the east side of the road leading to said Bridge and is a part of the tract of land Known as the Davis land containing one acre To have and to hold the aforesaid lot of and all privileges thereto belonging to the said Lawrence Ward and his successors in office for the benefit & use of said church And the said F.M. Moye covenant that he is seized of said lot of land in fee and has the right to convey the same in fee simple and that he will warrant & defend the said title to the same against the claims of all persons whatsoever In testimony whereof the said F.M. Moye have hereunto set his hand & seal the say & year above written  /s/ F.M. Moye   Attest J.K. Peacock, J.S. Ellis 

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In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lawrence Ward, 25, farmer, owned $1000 in real property; wife Mary, 20; and daughter Mary A., 3; Chloie, 14, Lydia, 11, Jennie, 10, and Patrick Pope, 7; and Sophia Ward, 48.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Lawrence Ward, 38; wife Mary, 29; daughter Mary, 14; mother Sophia, 58; and farm worker Henry Lane, 12. [Their proximity in 1870 and 1880 to the house and plantation of Dr. David G.W. Ward suggests that Lawrence and Sophia Ward had been owned by the doctor in slavery.]

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: Laurence Ward, 55, farmer; wife Mary, 43; mother Sophia, 84; and granddaughter Amie Yelverton, 13.

In the 1910 census of Pikeville township, Wayne County: Lawrence Ward, 66, farmer; mother Sophia, 98; wife Mary, 60; and granddaughter Amy Yelverton, 21.

Lawrence Ward died 29 August 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1831  in Wilson County to Sophia Ward; was married; was a retired farmer; and was buried in Wayne County.

Deed book 14, page 366, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.

While building Saint Alphonsus.

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“St. Alphonsus Catholic Church met at Reid Street Center in 1938 while the church was being built. The photograph was submitted by James “Casey” Ellis.” Wilson Daily Times, 20 April 1999.

If you can identify any of the parishioners, please let me know.