Commerce

Sukey’s journey, part 1.

Recd. of Jas. B. Woodard a negro girl Sucky in his possession as Execr. of Obedience Brownrigg decd., the legacy of Alfred Brownrigg which said girl was sold by Alfred Brownrigg to Edwin Brownrigg in as good health & Condition as he recd. her under the will of Mrs. Brownrigg, and obligates to hold him the sd. Woodard harmless in Event any difficulty should rise from the delivery of sd. negro.    Feby. 14th 1842  Jno. Wright for Edwin Brownrigg

——

Waynesboro, N.C., 15 Feb. 1842

Edwin Barnes, Esq., Tosnot Depot

Dr Sir, You will please hand Mr. Barnes the above receipt for Sucky. If it does not suit him, write out any thing to give him such as will satisfy him. I am under many obligations to you for the trouble I have put you to in this and other matters of mine. I am much in hopes yr health will speedily return.

Yours Truly, Jno. Wright

——

This note and receipt are transcribed in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian, republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society in 2003. What is going on here?

Obedience Thomas Tartt Brownrigg died in 1840, likely on her plantation near White Oak Swamp in what was then Edgecombe County. She had drafted a will in April 1839, and among its many bequests were these:

  • to daughter Maria Burden [Borden] — “Tom Penny Dennis & William & Maria & Jim & Ellick
  • to son Alfred Brownrigg — “one negro girl by the name of Susan”
  • to daughter Obedience Wright — “one boy Henry one boy Lonor one negroe woman named Winny one boy Bryant one boy John also one girl named Angy & Anscy
  • also to daughter Obedience Wright — “one negro woman named Cloy one negro man named Joe and all my Table & Tea Spoons it it my Will and desire that the labor of Joe Shall Support the Old Woman Cloy her life time then Joe to Obedience Wright”

Obedience Brownrigg’s first husband was Elnathan Tartt, who died in 1796. As shown here, he bequeathed his wife an enslaved woman named Cloe [Chloe], who is surely the Cloy named above, and man named Ellic, who is probably Ellick.

Obedience’s second husband was George Brownrigg, who died without a will in 1821. An inventory of his estate included enslaved people Ellick, Chloe, Joe, Jem, Tom, Penny, Drury, Tom, Annie, Matilda, Suckey, Clara, Fereba, Sarah, Clarky, Anthony, Rachel, Mary, Nelson, Emily, Julia and Abram, and several others unnamed in a petition for division of negroes filed by his heirs in 1825. Ellick and Chloe surely are the man and woman Obedience brought to the marriage. I have not found evidence of the distribution of George Brownrigg’s enslaved property, but Joe, Tom, Penny and Susan seem to have passed to his wife Obedience. (Suckey, pronounced “Sooky,” was a common nickname for Susan.)

So, back to the receipt.

George Brownrigg bequeathed Susan “Sukey” to his widow Obedience about 1821. Obedience Brownrigg in turn left Sukey to her son Alfred Brownrigg. Alfred Brownrigg quickly sold Sukey to his brother Edwin Barnes Brownrigg. On 15 February 1842, Edwin’s representative John Wright took possession of Sukey from James B. Woodard, Obedience Brownrigg’s executor. Wright was married to Eliza Obedience Brownrigg Wright, daughter to Obedience Brownrigg and sister to Alfred and Edwin.

The note is less clear. Wright, who lived in Waynesborough (once the Wayne County seat, now long defunct) is asking someone (the unnamed “sir”) to deliver the receipt to Edwin Barnes of Toisnot Depot (now Wilson.) There were several Edwin Barneses in southeast Edgecombe (to become Wilson) County at that time.  And Edwin Brownrigg’s middle name was Barnes. Are Edwin Barnes and Edwin Brownrigg the same man, whose name was misgiven in one or the documents? In other words, should the receipt have been made out instead to the Edwin Barnes mentioned in the note? If this were the case, the note would make immediate sense. As to Sukey, I’ll explore a possible twist to her story in another post.]

Estate Records of Obedience Brownrigg, Estate Records of George Brownrigg, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

Colored insurance organization sued.

Samuel Vick‘s Lincoln Benefit Society did business well beyond Wilson. In 1909, Annie Graham, executrix of the estate of Fred Graham of Wilmington, North Carolina, sued Lincoln for a $500 benefit the company refused to pay out, claiming the Grahams paid the final premium to an unauthorized person.

Screen Shot 2019-07-19 at 10.54.46 PM.png

Wilmington Morning Star, 16 July 1909.

An accounting.

A financial statement prepared by the state bank commissioner on 1 August 1933 concerning the Commercial Bank, which had closed 23 September 1929. The defendants listed appear to be the bank’s shareholders. (As account holders, they were also victims of the shady business practices that led to the bank’s collapse.)

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 8.44.11 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 8.44.42 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 8.45.14 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 9.07.09 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 8.47.11 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 8.48.03 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 5 August 1933.

B.C. Griffin, Judge Fleming, Edwin W. Fisher, Mayme B. Ford, Cora Farmer, Stattie Cannon, James H. Ford, Jasper Coley, John F. Battle, Lucrean Barnes, Ethel L. Barber, Sallie M. Barbour, J.W. Black, Columbus E. Artis, S.D. Artis, Georgia Crockett Aiken, Julia Burnette Harrell, Ed Humphrey, Ruth E. Hooker [Coppedge], Amos Johnson, Levi H. Jones, Tempsie Jones, Columbus Mitchell, Laura Wardill McPhail, Raiford J. McPhail, J.O. Plummer [likely John O. Plummer of Warren County, father of E. Courtney Plummer Fitts], William Hines, Eleanor [Elna] J. Farmer Hooker, Louis Thomas, Charles S. Thomas, Turner Stokes, Isaac A. Shade, D.B. Swinson, J.D. Reid, Eleanor P. Reid, Alfred F. Rector (white; listed in the 1930 city directory as a ticket agent for the A.C.L. Rail Road Company), Joe Rogers, Lyda Rountree, Levi H. Peacock, L.T. Lucas (probably white), Green Taylor, E.A. Taylor, Samuel H. Vick, Christine Venters, James Whitfield, Marie Williams.

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.

007384023_01018

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.

img.jpg

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.

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.55.09 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.55.27 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.55.42 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.55.57 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.56.18 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.56.30 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.59.51 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.00.24 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.01.02 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.01.33 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.01.59 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.02.20 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.02.51 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.03.27 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.04.25 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 8.04.36 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.37.16 PM.png

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.

——

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.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 10.00.16 PM.png

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

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 9.58.07 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 8 March 1949.

——

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.

——

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.