Commerce

Bad debts.

Among the men whose debts to deceased Theophilus Grice were listed in an inventory of his assets were these free men of color — Lewis Artis, Thomas Ayers, Richard Artis and Jacob Artis. (Actually, Thomas Ayers’ ethnicity is ambiguous. He may have been white, but appears to have been closely related to free colored Ayerses in the county.) All likely were close neighbors of Grice in the area around Bloomery Swamp in western Wilson (then Nash) County.

Lewis Artis owed for two loans — $17.00 incurred in 1806, and $13.05 incurred in 1808. Thomas Ayers had owed $29.79 since 1818. Richard Artis owed $15.84 since 1819. Jacob Artis had owed $14.56 since 1810. All the debts were described as “desperate” and were unlikely to be recovered.

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Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

White people surprised by colored fair.

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Wilmington Morning Star, 30 December 1913.

The white people may have been surprised, but this was not the first “colored fair” in Wilson. The Wilson County Industrial Association, headed by Samuel H. Vick, sponsored fairs as early as 1887 and 1888. Politician and newspaper editor John C. Dancy was a featured speaker at the 1888 event, too.

Reid and Stanback stand trial.

A detailed newspaper account of the trial of J.D. Reid and Henry S. Stanback, who were charged with embezzlement and other crimes that led to the failure of Wilson’s Commercial Bank.

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 February 1930.

In summary:

Bank examiners closed Commercial Bank on 24 September 1929 after a suspicious fire. J.D. Reid was the bank’s vice-president, and Stanback, the cashier. They were indicted on six counts. One alleged that Reid and Stanback knowingly permitted others to make deposits to the bank, knowing it was insolvent, specifically these deposits: $66.50 by Alfred Robinson; $57.00 by Camillus L. Darden, treasurer of Saint John A.M.E. Zion; $10.00 by Ed Humphrey; $1100.00 by Edwin W. Fisher, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent; $10.00 by John Clark for Saint Mark’s Episcopal; $400.00 by Jarrette J. Langley; $35.00 by C.E. Artis and Company; and $200.00 by Shade’s Pharmacy.

Reid and Stanback were defended by W.A. Finch, Bryce Little, O.G. Rand, Wade Gardner, and Pete Bell, “Plymouth negro lawyer.”

The State first called certified public accountant C.A. Bean, who testified that he had examined the bank’s records and books on behalf of the North Carolina State Banking Department. Bean testified that pages from the bank’s ledger January 1929 until it closed were destroyed by fire, as well as a number of deposit records. Some documents were found strewn on the floor. He believed the bank was insolvent for four months before it closed. Records shows the bank had $565.84 in cash and checks on hand when it closed, against $72,000 owed to depositors and more than $53,000 in outstanding loans. Bean also found duplicate ledger sheets and a number of accounts under various names controlled by Stanback and Reid (including that of the Wilson Colored Hospital.) Further, he found numerous checks drawn but not charged to Stanback’s account, and well as checks  drawn by Stanback from others’ accounts from 1922 to 1928. Bean testified that Stanback told him one of the special accounts was set up for expenses related to operating the bank. Reid had similarly shady accounts. The bankers’ lawyers objected vigorously to the questions put to Bean.

The state next called several bank customers.

Alfred Robinson, secretary-treasurer of the “Grand Lodge of Negro Masons,” testified that he maintained a personal account and the lodge’s account at the bank. He made deposits in his personal account on September 17 and asked for balance statements for both. Stanback gave him the personal account balance, but said he was too busy to give the lodge’s. He put Robinson off again a few days later, then told him the fire had destroyed records before he could get the information. Robinson said Stanback and Reid told him rats and matches had caused the blaze.

The courtroom was packed with spectators — as many as five hundred, most African-American.

Ed Humphrey testified that he had traveled to Roxboro, North Carolina, with Reid to get a two or three thousand dollar check from Lee Clay. He said Reid offered him $25 to deposit $1880 in the bank, but Humphrey refused.

Edwin Fisher testified about deposits he made on behalf of N.C. Mutual and about a “bogus” deposit slip for $150 that Reid had given him to cover an overage at the bank.

Columbus E. Artis testified that his own balance sheets showed a balance of $1176.67, but the bank’s showed him $14 overdrawn. He further stated that once, when he had a balance of $1800, he had written a check for $500. Stanback had returned it to him unpaid, asking him “not to write such big checks as the bank was a little low on funds owing to the demands of farmers.”

Lee Clay, of Roxboro, testified that Reid had convinced him to transfer $2000.00 from a “white man’s bank” to Commercial about September 1.

Plummer A. Richardson testified in his capacity as officer of a Nash County fraternal organization. He testified that Reid and Stanback blamed the tobacco market for cashflow problems, and he had to make several trips to Wilson to get his checks cashed.

Coverage continued the next day under this headline:

Again, hundreds of dismayed African-Americans crowded the courtroom to hear witnesses pile on evidence against Stanback and Reid. Isaac A. Shade, an eight-year customer, testified that Stanback had explained discrepancies with his pharmacy’s checks as mere mistakes. Shade was later recalled and examined about the Commercial Realty Company, which he claimed to known little about. John H. Clark testified that, upon hearing rumors that the bank would close, he tried to cash out his account, and Stanback had told him that the bank was not open for business. John Melton had $860.00 to his credit when the bank closed. Nestus Freeman testified that he had $3100.00 in the bank when it closed.

H.D. Beverly, “colored superintendent” of a lodge called “Brothers and Sisters of Love and Charity,” testified that  Reid came to his home in Ahoskie, North Carolina, to solicit him to deposit his and the lodge’s money in the bank. Among other things, he said Reid instructed him to allow Stanback to fill out his savings account book to avoid messing up Stanback’s books. He heard the bank was about to fail, but Reid assured him it was not. Andrew Tate also testified.

Marland Jones of Durham testified at length. Jones opened an account after Stanback “kept after him” to do so.  “One morning he went after his money, and it was after the time for the bank to open. Reid came with a sack of money and witness asked what was the matter and if the bank was broke, and Reid said ‘Who said so.’ I wanted to draw out $172.00, and Stanback said that he was short on cash, and I said if you have trouble paying me $172.00, I want all of it.” Jones thought he got the money from Durham, as a Western Union boy came in the office with the money shortly after.

Bertie County depositor N.H. Cherry testified that he had opened an account at Reid’s request and had done so with $500. He later wrote Stanback two letters demanding return of his money. Reid showed up at Cherry’s in person, threatening to “jack up” Stanback for failing to respond and promising to pay Cherry $25 if he kept his money in the bank. Cherry never saw the $25 or his $500 either.

Oscar McCall and Ellen Tate testified about the bank’s shady practices, and Mr. Bean was recalled to testify about irregularities in Hattie Tate‘s account. The State rested, and the defense followed suit, calling no witnesses.

The case went to jury the next day. After just over an hour, they returned two guilty verdicts on the count of receiving deposits knowing that the bank was insolvent. Reid and Stanback were sentenced to five years hard labor, and the remaining charges were deferred to a later date. After abruptly withdrawing their appeals, Reid and Stanback entered state prison by the first of March.

 

Artis’ tobacco stick business.

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Wilson Daily Times, 11 November 1919.

John T.M. Artis announced his tobacco stick business in the Daily Times in November 1919.  Tobacco sticks were thin cuts of wood used to hang tobacco leaves from barn rafters for drying.

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On 24 February 1903, J.T. Artis, 21, of Wilson, son of Ben and Ferabee Artis, married Mattie Thomas, 20, of Gardners township, daughter of Peter and Margaret Thomas. Sidney Wheeler applied for the license, and Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Willis P. Evans, John Barnes and Henry Melton. E.L. Reid witnessed Williams sign an X.

John T. M. Artis registered for the World War I draft in Wilson in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 17 March 1880; lived on Route 5, Wilson; farmer for Petter Thomas; nearest relative, Simon Barnes.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer John Artis, 38; wife Mattie, 40; sister Hattie Sims, 40; mother Fariby Artis, 82; grandmother Rosa Barnes, 94; and nephew James Artis, 12.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Artis Jno T (c; Mattie) lab h 1114 Queen

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1114 Queen, rented for $9/month, Morison Artis, 63, and wife Mattie, 65, tobacco factory stemmer.

Mattie Artis died 21 October 1962 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 82 years old; was born in Wilson County to Peter Thomas and Maggie Barnes; was married to J. Marshall Artis; and was buried in Barnes cemetery.

John Marshall Artis died 6 January 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, je was born 17 March 1883 in Wilson County to unknown parents; lived at 1109 Washington Street; was married to Odessa R. Artis; and had worked as a laborer.

 

Master Shoe Shine Parlor.

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Color was a monthly entertainment news magazine targeted to an African-American audience. Wilson Daily Times, 6 April 1946.

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 March 1949.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Gay Street, plumbing shop laborer Cooper Bynum, 47; wife Annie, 33; and children Ruth, 12, house servant, Joe, 9, Curley, 8, Lucy, 5, Phebia, 3, and Floyd, 9 months.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 511 Narroway, widow Annie Bynum, 47, and children Ruth, 23, Joseph, 17, Curley C., 16, Feedy, 14, Lucy, 15, and Lizzie M., 7.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 East Street, rented for $20/month, widow Annie Bynum, 48, cook; children Joseph, 21, grocery store delivery boy, Curley, plumber, 20, Lucy, 19, cook, Feba, 18, cook, and Lizzie, 16; and granddaughter Annie, 4.

Lizzie Bynum died 16 April 1932 of pulmonary tuberculosis. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1909 to Cooper and Emma Woodard Bynum, both born in Edgecombe County; was a student; and the family resided at 208 North East Street. Curley Bynum was informant.

On 25 January 1933, Curley Bynum, 22, son of Cooper and Wen Ann Bynum, married Pearl Emanuel, 20, daughter of M.P. and Pattie Emanuel, in Wilson.

In 1942, Curley Bynum registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was 25 December 1902 in Wilson; resided at 109 North East Street; his contact was Febie Bynum, 109 North East; and he worked as a plumbers helper for Mr. Singletary, Gov. Camp, Holiridge [Holly Ridge], N.C.

Pearl Bynum died 21 November 1949 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1910 in South Carolina to Pertis and Pattie Emanuel; was married; lived at 102 North Pender; and worked as a domestic and clerk. Informant was Curly Bynum.

On 27 June 1955, Curley Bynum, 54, of 511 East Green Street, son of Cooper Bynum and Annie Woodard Bynum, married Martha Dawes, 48, of 508 Smith Street, daughter of Arthur Grooms and Minnie Skeeters Grooms, in Wilson.

Curly Bynum died 9 January 1965 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 December 1901 in Wilson County to Cooper Bynum and Annie Woodard; lived at 810 East Vance Street; and had worked as a laborer.

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In an interview in February 2019, Samuel C. Lathan, who grew up in the 500 block of East Nash Street, recalled that Curley Bynum’s shoeshine parlor had twenty “legs,” i.e. ten stands. In the 1930s, seven or eight boys worked for Bynum, charging 15 cents a shine. The boys turned over their earnings to Pearl Bynum, who issued them a ticket for each shine. On Saturday evening, they cashed out, taking home seven cents for each ticket.

Colored businesses.

Among the businesses highlighted in the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, were these:

PARAGON SHAVING PARLOR — The establishment is located at 213 East Nash street in Briggs Hotel Block, and it can truthfully be said that it is the most popular Tonsorial parlor in the city of Wilson. It is owned and managed by N.J. Tate and W.S. Hines, both of whom are skilled barbers of long experience. Their genial manner and high class work have won for them the liberal share of the best patronage of the city. Their shop is fully equipped with all the latest appurtenances, and a short visit to this establishment will after passing through their hands, convince you of what the modern, up-to-date barber shops can do to put a man in good humor with himself and the rest of mankind. The shop is equipped with five chairs, each in charge of a professional barber. Go there for your next slave.

JAMES HARDY, SUCCESSOR TO HARDY BROS. — Feed and Livery Stables. This business is located on South Goldsboro street between Nash and Barnes streets and the business has been established for the last four years. The proprietor has succeeded in building up a good patronage. He is very prompt in answering calls and his prices for Livery are very reasonable. Telephone Number 9. Hack and Dray work solicited. The proprietor wants your patronage and guarantees the right sort of treatment. He is a colored man and has the good wishes of all.

  • James Hardy — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: livery stable laborer Jim Hardy, 32; wife Lizzie, 31; sons James, 8, and Lovelace, 6; and boarders Lincoln Sellers, 29, widower and brick yard laborer, and [blank] Batts, 37, water works laborer. James P. Hardy died 20 April 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 April 1879 in Greene County to Petter Hardy and Jane Foreman; was married; lived at 508 Vance Street; and was a livery stable employer. Lizzie Hardy was informant. [Who was the other Hardy Brother?]

C.H. DARDEN & SON — This is the only colored firm of undertakers and funeral directors in Wilson, and has been established by the senior member of the firm, C.H. Darden, for some thirty years. His son C.L. Darden has been a member for twelve years years. This place is located at 615 East Nash street, and every branch of the undertaking and Funeral Director business is executed. The equipment includes two Hearses, as well as all other necessary appliances pertaining to the business. They also handle Bicycles and Fire Arms, Victor Talking Machines, Records, Bicycle Sundries, etc. Special attention given to repairs. Their telephone number is 60 and all calls are promptly answered.

OATES & ARTIS — Family groceries. This firm is located at 601 East Nash Street, with telephone connection 456. The business was established in August 1910 and has steadily increased from the beginning. The stock includes all kinds of Groceries, both staple and fancy, Produce, Teas and Coffee, Tobacco and Cigars and the prices are very reasonable. The members of the firm are Wiley Oates, a native of this county, and who has been residing in the City for two years, and Cain Artis, who is also a native of the county, but who has resided in Wilson for twenty-two years. Both are colored men and they are ably attending to the business.

  • Wiley Oates — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vick Street, dredge boat laborer Wiley Oats, 32; wife Nettie, 28; and daughters Dollena, 8, and Dottie Lee, 13 months. Wily Oates died 23 July 1913 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, she was born 26 September 1879 to Adam and Amanda Oates; was a farmer; and was married.
  • Cain Artis

IDEAL PHARMACY — This is the only colored Drug store in Wilson, and it has been established for about seven years. The proprietors, D.C. Yancy, Ph.G., receiving his degree from the Leonard School of Pharmacy, Shaw University Class of 1905-06, has been connected with the store for the past three years and gas been sole proprietor for the past year and a half. He reports that the business is constantly growing and he hopes within a very few years to have one of the largest stores in the City. He personally presses over the prescription department and absolute accuracy is his watchword. His motto is “Not how cheap but how pure.” The general stock includes fresh drugs, patent medicines, Tobacco, Sundries, etc, soda fountain in connection. 109 South Goldsboro street, phone 219.

 

Ambrose Floyd buys a piano.

On 18 December 1934 (during the depths of the Great Depression), Ambrose Floyd purchased a Gulbransen piano and bench from the R.C. Bristow & Company of Petersburg, Virginia. Floyd paid $345 for instrument, to be remitted in eight-dollar installments. Delivery was to be made to his address at 1214 East Washington Street, Wilson.

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In the 1910 census of Back Swamp, Robeson County: Troy Floyd, 48; wife Cary, 36; and children Clara, 15, Harvey, 11, Ambrose, 9, Winford, 7, Hayden, 5, and Ada, 3.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 622 [West] Nash, general store merchant Paul L. Woodard, 50; wife Ida F., 43; servant/laborer Ambrus Floyd, 19; and servant/cook Elinor(?) Moses, 34.

On 19 February 1921, Ambrose Floyd, 21, of Wilson County, son of Troy and Cattie Floyd of Wilson County, married Mattie Moye, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of Delia Moye of Wilson County, in Wilson. Hardy Tate applied for the marriage license, and A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Rosa E. McCullers, Clarence McCullers and Beatrice Wood.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1011 Washington Street, rented at $17/month, taxi chauffeur Ambrose Floyd, 28; wife Mattie, 29; and children William A., 9, James, 8, Mateel, 6, Earnsteen, 5, and Hattie M., 1; plus Hattie McLoran, 29, cook.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1214 Washington Street, owned and valued at $1800, shoe shop and taxi owner Ambrose Floyd, 39; wife Mattie, 39, cleaner; and children Mattelene, 17, James, 18, Ernest, 15, and Hattie, 12.

In 1942, Ambrose Floyd registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1901 in Lumberton, North Carolina; resided at 1214 East Nash Street; his contact was Clara Smith; and he was employed by Gary Fulghum, 901 Branch Street, United States Post Office.

Also in 1942, Neal Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 October in Littleton, North Carolina; resided at 913 Atlantic Street; his contact was Ambrose Floyd, 1214 Washington Street; and he “drives a truck for Ambrose Floyd.”

Mattie Moye Floyd died 11 January 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 22 June 1900 to Boston Moye and Delia Malone; was married to Ambrose Floyd; and resided at 1214 Washington Street.

Ambrose Floyd died 23 October 1981.

Book 213, pages 18-19, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

How Dew’s Rest Home got financed.

Naomi Elizabeth Morris (1921–1986), who grew up in Wilson, served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 1967 through 1982. She was Chief Judge of that court from 1978 through 1982. In an interview conducted in 1983, Judge Morris recollected her efforts to assist the establishment in the 1950s of Wilson’s first sanctioned nursing home for African-Americans. Though considered progressive for her time and place, Judge Morris’ notions of privilege and segregationist propriety (and that of the interviewer) peek through here.

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PAT DEVINE: One story that I encountered which struck me with interest as something that I’d love to hear you talk more about was, you alluded to one experience you had in helping to do the legal background work for the founding of the first or only home for indigent blacks in Wilson.

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Not indigent blacks. No, this was a nursing home for blacks. The office had had this woman as a client for many years. She ran a restaurant at one time. She was quite an aggressive, hardworking woman, and she came to me and said that the director of public welfare, Mr. Monroe Fordham [Fulghum], had asked her to open a nursing home for blacks. She had at that time taken in two or three aged people in her home to take care of, under the auspices of the welfare department, and Monroe Fordham had asked her if she would open a nursing home for blacks. She told him that she would if she could get the money, so she came to me to get the money. We went many places to borrow money, including from the black insurance company in Durham, and they would not let her have the money. Although she had sufficient property to secure the note, they would not let her have the money, and that made me perfectly furious. I came back to Wilson and called the Branch Bank and told them the situation. I said, “You will be missing a very good opportunity if you don’t let this woman have the money,” so they said they would. They required a lot of her that they might not have required of a white person in the same situation — I don’t know — but this was something new and untried. The man who did the electrical work took her note for the electrical work without any security. We worked it out to the point that she had her financing, and she paid everybody back ahead of time. One way she did it, in the summer when the crops would be coming in and the people would have gotten their crops harvested from the field, she would get permission to go out to that field and get what was left [gleaning], the small potatoes that they didn’t pick up, the beans on the bottom part of the vine. She would go get those, and that’s the way she fed her people and was able to feed them cheaper than a lot of people could run a home. Extremely well run.

PAT DEVINE: Is it still there?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Oh, yes, it’s still there. About five years after she borrowed the money, the Branch Bank called me and asked me if she would be interested in adding onto her home, that they would be glad to let her have the money. I always wanted to write the insurance company in Durham and say something to them, but I didn’t.

PAT DEVINE: That’s hard to understand.

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: It is hard. It was very difficult for me to understand, because they always talk about looking after their own and the fact that white people don’t do things they ought to for them.

PAT DEVINE: What is this woman’s name?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Geneva Dew.

PAT DEVINE: Is she alive?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Oh, yes, she’s alive and doing well. I hear from her at least twice a year. She attended my swearing-in ceremony and the party that was given afterward. I’m very fond of her. She’s a very fine person.

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Nina Aldridge Faison Hardy at Dew’s Rest Home, circa mid 1960s.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer William Winn, 59; wife Jennie, 48; and children Charley, 21, John, 19, Dorch, 13, Pink, 10, and Jeneva, 8.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Willie Winn, 62; wife Jennie, 60; children Roy, 23, and Pink, 20; and lodger Lula Ward, 45.

On 27 July 1935, Ernest Dew, 26, of Wilson County, son of Frank Dew, married Geneva Dew, 23, of Wilson County, daughter of Willie and Jennie Wynn, in Nashville, Nash County.

Willie Wynn Jr. died 11 February 1940. Per his death certificate, he died 11 February 1940 in Wilson; had been married to Jennie Wynn, but was a widower; resided at 1102 Atlantic Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer; was the son of Willie Wynn and Annie Williams. Geneva Dew, 1102 East Atlantic Street, was informant, and he was buried in Elm City.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Dew Geneva (c) beer 315 Stantonsburg h 203 Stantonsburg. (In the 1947 city directory, the address has shifted 319 Stantonsburg.) The 1950 city directory also shows Dew as owner of a beer establishment.

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Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1960).

Earnest Dew died 15 March 1969 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 May 1910 to Frank Dew and Cora Braswell; was married to Geneva Wynn; resided at 501 Spaulding Street, Wilson; and was a rest home operator.

Geneva Wynn Dew died 6 November 1984 in Wilson.

Dew’s celebrates a move to new quarters. Wilson Daily Times, 20 June 1964. 

Excerpt from oral history interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; photo of N. Hardy in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson. Many thanks to Bob Martin for the correction of Monroe Fulghum’s surname.