Civil War

Wiley Simms house.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 March 1975.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981): “Local tradition maintains that this house was built circa 1840 for James or Benjamin Simms, who were twins. The Simms brothers were born in 1787. Wiley Simms is said to have occupied the house after his marriage to Sarah E. Wilkins in 1862. Wiley Simms died in 1876 and the Simms family still owns the property. The house was built in the Greek Revival style and is similar to the Edwin Barnes House. The main section of the house is two stories high with a one-story shed extension at the rear and a one-story kitchen wing. Large, single-shoulder stepped chimneys are on the exterior ends. The attached porch is elegantly designed and is supported by tapered, reeded columns with a Greek key design below the capital. The two front windows and two front doors have typical reeded surrounds with square corner blocks. On the interior a hall-and-parlor plan is followed with a long narrow rear shed room giving access to an enclosed stair. The original woodwork has remained intact as have the unique floromorphic plaster medallions and cornices. Panelled wainscot is found in the two front rooms.”

For more on the 1922 tornado that struck the Evansdale community, see here.

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In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Willie Simms, 29, farmer. He reported $5178 real property. [“Willie” was the usual spelling of “Wiley” in 19th century eastern North Carolina.]

In the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County, Willie Simms is reported with 11 slaves, four women aged 23 to 60 and seven boys and men aged 1 to 45.

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Willie Simms, 38, farmer. Simms, a bachelor, reported $25,070 in real property and $39,140 in personal property.

In the 1860 slave schedule of Saratoga township, Wilson County, Willie Simms is reported with 30 slaves, 13 girls and women aged 3 to 50, and 17 men and boys, aged 1 to 52.

The 1870 census of Wilson County lists many African-Americans with the surname Simms in Wilson County, especially in the southeast section. These include Rose Simms, 37, with her children Milly, 10, Susan, 7, and Lucy Simms, 8 months (plus Mary Hall, 23), listed next-door to Willie Simms.

The estate of Jesse S. Barnes.

The children and grandchildren of Jesse and Edith Jordan Barnes were among Wilson County’s wealthiest planters. Elias Barnes’ estate records are especially rich sources of information about enslaved people, but it is not unique.

Barnes’ son Jesse Sharpe Barnes was, perhaps, family’s golden child. Born in 1838, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and established a prosperous law practice in Wilson. Jesse S. Barnes enlisted in a South Carolina militia company in 1860 and in the spring of 1861 recruited his friends and neighbors into the Wilson Light Infantry. In a few months, he mustered into Company F, 4th North Carolina State Troops as a captain. In April 1862, while enlisted, Barnes drafted his will, leaving all his property to his mother Mahala Sharpe Barnes. A little over a month later, he was killed at the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia.

This portrait of Jesse S. Barnes is in the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In “an inventory of the property of Jesse S. Barnes deceased which came into my hands as Executor this __ day of ___ A.D. 1863,” William Barnes Jr. itemized the eight enslaved people Jesse Barnes had possessed: “negro man Cooper Caroline negro woman Clarky negro woman, Wash negro boy Celia negro child John 1 year old Charles 8 months old Celia.” He also noted receipt of fifty-six dollars from John Oats for “the hire of a negro.”

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At the time of his death, Jesse Barnes still owned three of the enslaved people he had inherited from his father — Cooper, Clarky and Celia. Hardy was gone, and he had added an adult woman named Caroline and two small children, Charles and Celia. All returned to the community at Mahala Barnes’ plantation on what is now Stancil Town Road, a couple of miles east of Stantonsburg.

Will and Estate Records of Jesse S. Barnes, images available at North Carolina Wills and Estates 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The Civil War letters of J.R.P. Ellis, part 1.

The East Carolina University Manuscript Collection’s Josiah Robert Peele Ellis Papers contain photocopies of transcriptions of correspondence by J.R.P. Ellis of Wilson County, North Carolina, to his wife Elizabeth Grimes Ellis while he was serving in Company C of the 43rd N.C. Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

Hugh B. Johnston Jr.’s introduction to the letters describes Josiah R.P. Ellis as “a well-to-do planter who lived in Wilson County, about a mile northwest of Stantonsburg where the road forks in the respective directions of Black Creek and Wilson.” Ellis, born in 1821, was apparently inadvertently drafted, enlisted in the Confederate Army anyway, and was fatally wounded in 1864.

Several letters include references to free and enslaved African-Americans who lived in Ellis’ community, especially in regards to Ellis’ suggestions for hiring labor to work on the farm in his absence.

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Letter #1, undated, probably written late in 1863, to wife Betsy Ellis:

“I was glad to hear that Cole and Tomy got home safe. If any of you come, you will have to get a pass to come over the bridge. Direct your letters to J.R.P. Ellis, Kinston, 43 Reg’t., Co. C, Hoke’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division. I also desire your prayers. Your affectionate husband until death.   /s/ J.R.P. Ellis   P.S. They have stopped the daily mail. The mail only comes Monday and Thursday.”

In footnotes, Johnston noted that Cole and Tomy are believed to have been men enslaved by the J.R.P. and Betsy Ellis.

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Letter #2, dated “Camp near Modern Ford, Dec. 4/63”:

“Dear Wife and Children:

“Having a favorable opportunity I will endeavor to drop you a few lines to let you know I am still living. I left Kinston on Sunday, the 22nd of November. I was sent to Goldsboro and then to Raleigh, and then to Camp Holmes and was enrolled. They told me that I had to go to Lee’s Army or Bragg’s, so I am with the 43 Regt. with Rufus and Edwin Amerson. I got to this Company last Thursday night at 11 o’clock. We left Orange Court House about sunset and walked 15 miles. I had been there about 30 minutes when we received orders to march, so we had to start and march 7 or 8 miles. We were then marched to a line of battle and remained there until day. And then we started and marched until about 9 o’clock and then we met the Yankees and throwed in a line of battle. And then in about ten minutes the sharpshooters were firing. They kept up shooting until night, and then we fell back some 2 or 3 miles and went to throwing up breastworks, and if if you ever saw poor fellows work, then was the time.

“About sunrise the sharpshooters were sent out again. I was sent with them and by the time we got to our post we saw the Yanks coming, and in about 5 minutes they were shooting us and the bullets were coming whistling. In about 10 minutes a ball struck a man in the face, and I had to help tote him off the field with the balls striking all around me. Two struck a man that was on my side a-touching me. There is no use in telling you about being scared, for it will scare the most of the time. We got our breastworks done and I felt tolerable easy under the circumstances. We lay there 4 days a-waiting for the Yanks to advance on us, but on the 4 night they left us and we started after them, but I did not want to catch them much, so we ran them over the Rapidan and then we turned back and marched some 8 or 10 miles and struck up camp and stayed all night, so we started back to our old camp. I helped bury a dead man this morning.

“I received your letter that you send my by A.J. Ellis and was glad to that you and children were tolerable well except colds, and I still hope that you are still enjoying the same blessing. You said something about hiring Eas and Emily. You can do as you please, but I think you had better hire them if they don’t ask too much for them. You had better try to make support if you can. Encourage the children to be smart and saving and careful, for you and they are left dependent on your own exertions for a living, and I sincerely hope you will do well.

“I must come to a close.  /s/ J.R.P. Ellis”

Per Johnston’s footnotes: Eas [Eason] and Emily were “Edmundson slaves.” This reference may be to Wright Edmundson.

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Letter #3, dated “The Camp of the 43rd, Dec. 9th 1863”:

“Dear Wife and Children:

“This may inform you and family that I am very unwell though I am up. I have a very heavy cold and cough. I have to lie out and take the weather as it comes. We have no shelter at all to protect us. I have to drill 4 hours a day. Cooking and drilling take all our time. We have to tote our wood nearly a half-mile. It is very cold here now, and I suffer with cold a-nights. I have not cover enough to keep me warm. I have as much as I can tote, and in fact more if I have to march much, so don’t send me any clothes or cover. I got a permit to go see the boys in Staton’s old Co. I am with the boys now. They all seem glad to see me and it makes me feel proud to see so many of my old friends. The boys are all well here.

“You have no idea how badly I want to see you and the children. I would give all the money you have got to be with you and if I could stay and not be troubled, but that time has passed, I am afraid.  Lieut. Killet wants Wyatt Lynch to bring him a qt. of the old peach brandy. You can let him have it, and T. Barnes wants a qt., too. You can send it, also, and send me a qt. by Wyatt if he will bring it. They want it for Christmas. They will pay me for it.

“Thomas Mumford wants 1/2 bushel of potatoes. Send them if you can by anybody. Write as soon as this comes to hand. Don’t put it off a minute, for I want to hear from you once a week without fail. I must come to a close as Tom wants to send some in this letter, so nothing more, only I remain yours as ever.   /s/ J.R.P. Ellis”

Johnston’s footnote: “Wyatt Lynch (born 1830) was a highly regarded free black of Wilson County. He followed the trade of plasterer and brickmason.” Captain Ruffin Barnes also made reference to Wyatt Lynch, as well as Lynch’s wife Nicey Caroline Lynch, in his correspondence. As a free man of color, Lynch was not subject to conscription as a Confederate soldier and could freely travel the countryside (carrying at all times evidence of his free status), which made him useful as a courier over the relatively short distance from Wilson County to encampments near Kinston, North Carolina.

 

Mrs. Johnson seeks a pension.

In March 1933, Lula Johnson applied to the North Carolina Confederate Pension Board for a widow’s pension.

Johnson’s application noted that she was 60+ years of age; resided at 608 East Nash Street, Wilson; and her late husband was John Streeter, also known as John Johnson. She did not know when or where Streeter/Johnson enlisted, but claimed he was a member of “Company H, 14 W.S. Colord Heavy Artillery.” The couple had married in 1922, and Streeter/Johnson died in June 1932, three years after he had begun to draw a pension. Arthur N. Darden and Darcey C. Yancey were witnesses to her application, which Yancey stamped as notary public.

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Lula Johnson’s application was denied. She was “not eligible” (underscored) for a pension. (To boot, she was “Negro,” underscored four times.) Though the Pension Board did not set forth a reason for denying Johnson’s claim, there is a glaringly obvious one. The 14th Regiment, Colored Heavy Artillery, were United States Army troops, not Confederate. The regiment — comprised of runaway enslaved men and free men of color — was organized in New Bern and Morehead City, North Carolina, in March 1864; primarily served garrison duty in New Bern and other points along the coast; and mustered out in December 1865.

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Here is a record of the military service of John Streeter, alias Johnson. He was born in Greene County about 1846 and had enlisted in the Army in New Bern in 1865. Three months later, he was promoted to corporal. John Johnson had served his country honorably, which did not entitle his widow to Confederate benefits.

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I did not find any evidence that the Johnsons actually lived in Wilson County. The address Lula Johnson listed as her own was that of C.H. Darden & Sons Funeral Home, the family business at which Arthur Darden worked. Was she (or her husband) related to the Dardens? Census records show John Johnson and his wife Mary in Leflore County, Mississippi, in 1900 and 1910, but Mary Moore Johnson died in Farmville, Pitt County, in 1913.

John Johnson died in Farmville, Pitt County, North Carolina, on 8 June 1932. Per his death certificate, he was about 90 years old; was married to Lula Johnson; had been a preacher; and was born in Greene County to Ned and Manervie Johnson. He was buried in Farmville, and Darden & Sons handled the funeral. (Charles H. Darden was also a Greene County native. )

Act of 1901 Pension Applications, Office of the State Auditor, North Carolina State Archives [online]; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865  [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The 135th.

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Wilson County Public Library will present a lecture on the little-known 135th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops on November 15, 2018. The 135th mustered in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in March 1865 near the end of the Civil War. Approximately 200 of the 1200 soldiers in this regiment were from North Carolina. Though none are known to have been born in Wilson County, some of the many Wayne County enlistees likely had family connections across the county line, including Jack Sherrod.

 

Ready to take the field.

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Many of the men who enlisted in the Union Army after escaping bondage in Wilson County joined the 14th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, Heavy Artillery, at Fort Macon, south of Morehead City, North Carolina. Prior to its federal designation, this militia unit was organized as the 1st North Carolina Colored Heavy Artillery.

Men who marched under the flag above included Hendy Barnes and Jeremiah Barden of Company C; Lawyer Maree (alias Lawyer Barnes) of Company F; Sampson Bailey and Thomas Dean of Company H; and Amos Hinnant of Company K.

Many thanks to Jerilyn James Lee for sharing this image.

I do like they done.

Martha Ann Tyson Dixon of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, sat for an interview with a Federal Writers Project worker in the late 1930s. Dixon had spent her childhood enslaved near Saratoga, Wilson County, and she and her husband Luke D. Dixon had migrated west in the late 1880s. More than 50 years after Emancipation, she vividly described the hardships of life during and after slavery.

“I am eighty-one years old. I was born close to Saratoga, North Carolina. My mother died before I can recollect and my grandmother raised me. They said my father was a white man. They said Jim Beckton [Becton]. I don’t recollect him. My mother was named Mariah Tyson.

“I recollect how things was. My grandmother was Miss Nancy Tyson’s cook. She had one son named Mr. Seth Tyson. He run her farm. They et in the dining room, we et in the kitchen. Clothes and somethng to eat was scarce. I worked at whatever I was told to do. Grandma told me things to do and Miss Nancy told me what to do. I went to the field when I was pretty little. Once my uncle left the mule standing out in the field and went off to do something else. It come up a hard shower. I crawled under the mule. If I had been still it would have been all right but my hair stood up and tickled the mule’s stomach. The mule jumped and the plough hit me in my hip here at the side. It is a wonder I didn’t get killed.

“After the Civil War was times like now. Money scarce and prices high, and you had to start all over new. Pigs was hard to start, mules and horses was mighty scarce. Seed was scarce. Everything had to be started from the stump. Something to eat was mighty plain and scarce and one or two dresses a year had to do. Folks didn’t study about going so much.”

“I had to rake up leaves and fetch em to the barn to make beds for the little pigs in cold weather. The rake was made out of wood. It had hickory wood teeth and about a foot long. It was heavy. I put my leaves in a basket bout so high [three or four feet high.] I couldn’t tote it — I drug it. I had to get leaves in to do a long time and wait till the snow got off before I could get more. It seem like it snowed a lot. The pigs rooted the leaves all about in day and back up in the corners at night. It was ditched all around. It didn’t get very muddy. Rattle snakes was bad in the mountains. I used to tote water — one bucketful on my head and one bucketful in each hand. We used wooden buckets. It was a lot of fun to hunt guinea nests and turkey nests. When other little children come visiting that is what we would do. We didn’t set around and listen at the grown folks. We toted up rocks and then they made rows [terraces] and rock fences about the yard and garden. They looked so pretty. Some of them would be white, some gray, sometimes it would be mixed. They walled wells with rocks too. All we done or knowed was work. When we got tired there was places to set and rest. The men made plough stocks and hoe handles and worked at the blacksmith shop in snowy weather. I used to pick up literd [lightwood] knots and pile them in piles along the road so they could take them to the house to burn. They made a good light and kindling wood.

“They didn’t whoop Grandma but she whooped me a plenty.

“After the war some white folks would tell Grandma one thing and some others tell her something else.  She kept me and”

“cooked right on. I didn’t know what freedom was. Seemed like most of them I knowed didn’t know what to do. Most of the slaves left the white folks where I was raised. It took a long time to ever get fixed. Some of them died, some went to the cities, some up North, some come to the country. I married and come to Fredonia, Arkansas in 1889. I had been married since I was a young girl. But as I was saying the slaves still hunting a better place and more freedom. Grandma learnt me to set down and be content. We have done better out here than we could done in North Carolina but I don’t believe in so much rambling.

“We come on the passenger train and paid our own way to Arkansas. It was a wild and sickly country and has changed. Not like living in the same country. I try to live like the white folks and Grandma raised me. I do like they done. I think is the reason we have saved and have good a living as we got. We do on as little as we can and save a little for the rainy day.”

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In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Nancy Scarborough, 47; Victoria, 10, Susan, 6, and Laurina Scarborough, 3; farm manager Seth Tyson, 23; and Julia, 18, Nancy, 17, Aaron, 15, and Abner Tyson, 13.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Mary Tyson, 62, with Edith, 23, John, 21, Abraham, 16, and Martha Tyson, 11.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Martha Tyson, 20, was a cook in the household of white marchant/farmer Mark Atkinson.

Martha Tyson, 26, married Luke Dixon, 26, in Wilson County on 12 February 1885. Minister E.H. Ward performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles Batts, Tempey Cotton and Green Taylor.

In the 1910 census of Watensaw township, Prairie County, Arkansas: Luke Dixon, 49, saw filer at Bar factory, and wife Martha M., 52.

In the 1920 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cedar Street, farmer Luke Dixon, 58; wife Martha, 59; and cousins Margaret Tyson, 14, and Oleo McClarin, 9.

In the 1930 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke D. Dixon, 70, born in Virginia, and wife Martha, 70, born in North Carolina, with cousin Allen Reaves, 8.

In the 1940 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke Dixon, 84, born in Virginia, and wife Martha A., 84, born in North Carolina.

Federal Writers’ Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 2, Arkansas, Part 2, Cannon-Evans, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mesn.022.

A true representative.

Wilson Advance, 12 November 1891.

Richard Hagans married Ann Faithful 1 May 1849 in Edgecombe County. Lemon S. Dunn was bondsman, and John Norfleet, witness.

In the 1860 census of Edgecombe County: Richd. Hagans, 33, wife Alley, 31, and children Lawrence, 10, Laura, 8, Margaret, 6, Richard, 5, Neely, 3, and Charles Hagans, 3 months.

The family is not found in the 1870 census.

On 30 December 1874, Lawrence Hagan, 25, married Mollie Pender, 20, at the residence of William Woodard in Wilson County. Witnesses were R. Hagan, Dobson Powell and Anderson White.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Laurence Hagans, 30, wife Mary, 24, and children James, 6, and Elizabeth, 3. Next door, Lawrence’s father Richard Hagans, 52, mother Alley, 51, and brothers Charley, 20, Julus, 16, Bisco, 14, Thomas, 11, and Joe, 1.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Larnce Haggan, 49, wife Etha, 44, and children Joe, 21, Augustus, 19, Oscar, 18, Charlie, 16, Annie, 13, Connie, 10, Lena, 8, Mollie, 7, William L., 4, Minnie, 3, and Pattie, 1, and Lawrence’s widowed mother Alice, 70.

[I have found no evidence that Richard Hagans served the Confederacy, either as a body servant (or in the less likely role of soldier throughout.) I will continue to search.]