Court Actions

Gone fishing.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 June 1948.

Two couples and a set of sisters learned the hard way that Wiggins Mill pond was not open to free fishing.

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  • Rosetta Tune and Willie James Tune — in the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Willie Tune, 29; wife Rosetta, 29; and son Willie Lee, 10.
  • Bessie Dew — Bessie Dupree Dew. In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: William Dupree, 26; wife Nettar, 17; son Sylvester, 5 months; brother Ernest, 20; and Ernest’s wife Ora Lee, 19; sister Sudie, 16; brother Frank Jr., 19; sister Bessie, 15, Charity, 12, and Ada, 9; and nephew James Petway, 6. On 17 September 1941, Moses Dew, 23, of Wilson, son of Moses and Eliza Dew, married Bessie Dupree, 19, of Wilson, son of Preston and Ada Dupree, in Wilson.   
  • Moses Dew — in the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County [next door to the Tunes]: widow Eliza Dew, 69; daughter-in-law Naomi, 28, widow; son Moses, 21, farmer; niece Elizabeth, 13; and grandchildren Catherine, 7, and Eva, 5 months.
  • Lizzie Vick and Mary Vick — probably, in the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: John Vick, 55, divorced, boiler tender at auto body company; sister Mary Vick Hooks, 44, widow, farming hired hand; sister Lizzie Vick, 38, widow, farming hired hand; nephew Charlie Hooks, 19, farm laborer; niece Betty May Hooks, 15; and daughter Lumizer Vick, 26, divorced, private family cook.

Singers lose their clothes.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 June 1922.

Two unnamed African-American entertainers, described as “singers of note and the highest priced among their race,” were robbed of their wardrobes before a performance at the Globe Theatre. Booker Dew and Sylvester Jones were charged with the theft, and Gussie Davis, Marie Wallace, and Maggie Jefferson with receiving stolen goods. Globe owner Samuel H. Vick, Allen Armstrong, and Noah Tate appeared in court as witnesses.

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  • Booker Washington Dew — Booker T. Washington was a popular inspiration for names of African-American boys in the early 20th century. Almost universally, however, such children were named “Booker T.,” rather than “Booker W.” Thus, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 602 Stantonsburg Street, widow Maggie Dew, 48, and children Maggie, 21, Alfred, 18, T. Booker, 14, and Mildred, 3. Booker T. Dew died 22 May 1923. Per his death certificate, he was born 20 July 1905 in Wilson to Jackson Dew and Maggie Thompson; worked as a day laborer; and lived at 602 Stantonsburg Street. Maggie Belle Rutherford was informant.
  • Sylvester Jones
  • Gussie Davis
  • Marie Wallace
  • Maggie Jefferson — perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 607 Spring Street, carpenter John Jefferson, 68, and wife Maggie, 31. And/or, in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jefferson Maggie tobwkr 622 Wiggins
  • Samuel H. Vick
  • Allen Armstrong — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: public laborer Allen Armstrong, 35, and mother Ellen Armstrong, 70, widow, cook. [Both were described as born in Texas, but other records indicate the more likely North Carolina.]
  • Noah Tate

Hotel proprietors busted running whiskey and numbers.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 March 1936.

Wilson’s Green Book-listed Biltmore Hotel offered more than a place to stay.

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  • Walcott Darden — Charles Walcott Darden, a native of Nash County, North Carolina. In the 1940 census of Washington, District of Columbia: at 2130 – 11th Street N.W., whiskey wholesale truck driver Walcott Darden, 30, and wife Annabelle, 33. Both had been living in Wilson, North Carolina, in 1935.
  • Floyd Fisher — Floyd Fisher also moved on after this misadventure. The son of Edwin W. and Nanny D. Fisher, Floyd Fisher had been born in New Haven, Connecticut, and arrived in Wilson in the 1920s. In the 1940 census of New York, New York: at 582 Saint Nicholas Avenue, paying $65/month rent for an apartment, Ann Snipes, 35, born in Connecticut; her daughter Robnette Smipes, 18, born in Virginia; her brother Floyd Fisher, hotel bellhop, born in Connecticut; and lodger Louise Evans, 28, artists’ studio maid, born in North Carolina. Five years prior, Fisher had been living in Wilson, and Evans was in Wilberforce, Ohio (presumably as a student.) The Snipes women each reported two years of college; Fisher and Evans, four.

Parker refuses to give up his seat on the bus.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 April 1943.

Meet James Parker, American hero.

In April 1943, Parker boarded a Wilson city bus on Saturday evening. He sat down in the white section and remained firmly ensconced when the driver asked him to move. The driver, James Batchelor, abandoned his route to drive the bus to the police station, where Parker was arrested and charged with violating North Carolina’s “passenger law,” which allowed for the designation of colored and white sections in commercial transport vehicles. Parker was adjudged guilty and given a thirty-day suspended sentence provided he remain “in good behavior.” Per the Daily Times, Parker was the first person to challenge Jim Crow laws in Wilson County in 25 years.  

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Computing scales, a massage machine, and a release: miscellaneous transactions, no. 3.

Most “deed” books stacked in the search room of the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office contain just deeds, but others, like Volume 72, contain miscellaneous records of sales agreements, leases, contracts, chattel mortgages, and other transactions. These documents offer rare glimpses of the commercial and farming lives of Black Wilsonians.

  • On 19 December 1908, Charity Robbins rented a heater pipe and fire board for $11.65 from Dildy & Agnew. Deed Book 72, page 414.
  • On 1 October 1907, George W. Suggs rented a range and fixtures for $23 from Dildy & Agnew. Though the full price was to be paid by 1 January 1908, the contract was not recorded until 11 March 1909, when Beatrice Suggs signed instead of G.W. Suggs. Deed Book 72, page 416. [This would seem to be Washington Suggs, but if so, who is Beatrice Suggs? She was not one of his daughters.]
  • On 9 April 1909, Oscar Best, “owner of store,” agreed to pay Strubler Computing Scale Company, Elkhart, Indiana, $85.00 for a Number Two “computing scales green finish.” Deed Book 72, page 443.
  • On 23 July 1909, Levi Jones gave a mortgage to The Eugene Berninghaus Company for a Birkman massage machine to secure a $28 debt. Deed Book, page 472.
  • On 19 August 1909, D.C. Suggs granted Sidney A. Woodard an option to purchase for $3600 a nine-acre parcel of land bounded in part by the intersection of the Norfolk & Southern and Wilmington & Weldon railroads. The option included this provision: “I also agree to allow a Rail Road siding beginning at the 2 or 3 third telegraph pole from Floyd Bynum’s house to enter said plot of land passing through my land and to sign such papers as are necessary for a right of way.” Deed Book 72, page 475.
  • On 16 November 1909, for $300, O.L.W. Smith released Norfolk & Southern Railway Company from any damage to him or his property at Goldsboro and Banks Streets resulting from the building and construction of a railroad, railbed, roadways, bankments, and excavations adjacent to Smith’s property. Deed Book 72, page 505.

Interracial cooperation in the bootlegging business.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 March 1944.

Briggs Hotel, like the Cherry, catered primarily to salesmen or other businessmen arriving to Wilson at the Atlantic Coast Line or Norfolk & Southern passenger rail stations. These men sometimes liked a good time, and taxi drivers and bellhops were a ready-made supply chain for after-hours liquor (and prostitutes.) Here, two white cabbies and three bellmen teamed up to resell at a sizeable mark-up liquor purchased at a local Alcoholic Beverage Commission store. (Probably the one in the 300 block of East Nash Street, recognized as North Carolina’s first ABC store.) 

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  • Theodore Burroughs
  • Prince Cunningham — Cunningham owned a sweet shop in the 500 block of East Nash in the 1930s.
  • Caesar Williams — in 1940, Caesar Julius Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 12 February 1912 in Wilson; lived at 209 North Ashe Street; his nearest relative was mother Daisy Williams, same address; and he worked at Briggs Hotel, Nash Street. 

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

He made fight for the chief.

We read here several accounts of the fatal shooting of Phillip Worth by Wilson police chief Wiggs in April 1916. Below, the newspaper report of the coroner’s inquest into the matter.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 April 1916.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Coley v. Artis, pt. 8: They call me Tom Pig.

The eighth in a series excerpting testimony from the transcript of the trial in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis, Wayne County Superior Court, November 1908. The dispute centered on 30 acres of land. Thomas “Tom Pig” Artis began renting the property in 1881 from William J. Exum, a wealthy white farmer. In 1892, Exum’s widow Mary sold the land to Napoleon Hagans. Hagans died in 1896, and the land passed to his sons Henry and William S. Hagans. In 1899, Henry sold his interest to his brother William, who sold the 30 acres in 1908 to J. Frank Coley, a young white farmer. Tom Artis laid claim to the property, arguing that Napoleon Hagans had sold it to him. Coley filed suit and, after hearing the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses, the court decided in his favor. (Paragraph breaks and some punctuation have been inserted for better readability.)

Defendant introduces TOM ARTIS, who being duly sworn, testifies:

My name is Tom Artis. They call me Tom Pig. I own some land, 30 acres. (Plaintiff objects.) I have been living on the 30 acre tract of land 25 years, except one year. I mortgaged this land to Mr. [William J.] Exum. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know about how long it was. About 25 or 30 years. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know what became of that mortgage. I got [Napoleon] Hagans to take it up. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know who was present when I got Hagans to take it up. When Hagans agreed to take it up, Mrs. Exum, Hagans and myself were present. I own the 30 acre tract and lived on the tract adjoining. After Hagans took up the papers, he told me that I could build on that place, or on the 24 acre piece. He said he thought it best for me to build on mine, he might die sometime, and there might be some trouble about me holding the house. I did so. He furnished the lumber, and I did the work. I decided to build on his side. After I built there I had been paying the 800 lb. of lint cotton year in and year out. (Plaintiff objects to each and every statement of the foregoing evidence.) The 800 lb. of cotton was to keep up the taxes and the interest of the money. (Plaintiff objects.) I have been paying this 800 lb. of cotton all the time. (Plaintiff objects.) I left that place one year. I left because my house got in such a bad fix, and I couldn’t stay there and run my business like I wanted to, and I went over to Mr. Jones’. I rented the land. I rented it to Simon Exum. He gave me 950 lb. for the 30 acre place. I rented the Calv[in Artis] Place and the Adam Artis place. I moved back after one year at Mr. Jones’ place. I built on the Hagans place. Since then I built the piaza and shed room, to my own expense. Borrowed money from Hagans. I paid him back. He didn’t pay for the repairing of it. He furnished some shingles. Got 1/4 covered. I never asked W.S. Hagans to sell the 30 acre tract of land. I never said to Hagans in the presence of [Henry S.] Reid or anybody else that I wanted him to sell it. I never asked anybody to buy the 30 acre tract of Hagans. Not the 30 acre tract. I had a conversation with Mr. [J. Frank] Coley with reference to buying that land. I was talking about the Calv place. My land wasn’t brought in. The Calv place is the place I rented and lived on. That’s the land I spoke to Mr. Coley about buying from Hagans. He said if Mr. Cook and Hagans didn’t trade to send him a note. I told Hagans, he said tell him Coley, if his hands were not tied. I remember going over to Mr. Coley’s mill with Hagans. I didn’t hear any conversation between Hagans and Coley with reference to buying this tract of land. They were off from me. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I heard them say when they came back to the buggy, Hagans said that he would see him again shortly. I don’t know if he said what day. Next I heard after that was that Hagans had sold it all to Mr. Coley, mine and all. I never rented the 30 acre tract of land. I know Jno. Rountree. I never asked him to go to Will Hagans and ask him to give me an opportunity of buying the 30 acre piece of land. I never said to Will Hagans, Jno. Rountree or Henry Reid, or anybody that I wanted Hagans to give me the opportunity of seeing my boys in Norfolk, so I could buy the 30 acre piece. I asked Hagans what he would take for the acre back of my house, of the Calv place. I told him I would buy that. His answer was, “Can you find a buyer for the other part of the Calv place.” I told him I didn’t know. He walked about his buggy house door. He said, “Uncle Tom, I can’t take what that mortgage calls for for your land, land is so much more valuable now than it was when yours was given.” It passed off at that. Next I heard he had sold it to Coley.

The last will and testament of Hardy Horn.

On 25 January 1830, Hardy Horn of Wayne County dictated a will that included these provisions:

  • sell one Negro boy by the name of Arnold
  • to his wife Edah “nine Negros LigePatienceFannyWarrenDinahJimWinnyAbram & linnet” and their future children until his daughter Sally reached age 15
  • at that time, half of the named enslaved people were to be divided among his daughters Nancy Barnes and Sally, Zilly, and Rebeckah Barnes, and half their increase were to remain with his wife Edah during her lifetime
  • at Edah’s death those enslaved people were to be divided among the children as she saw fit

Horn’s estate entered probate in Wayne County Fall County 1839. After setting aside two-eighths of the enslaved for later distribution to two children born after Horn made his will, on 14 April 1840 commissioners divided the group as follows:

  • widow Edah received Lije ($850); Linnet ($650); Patience and child Hilard ($750); Will ($300); Litha ($350); and Jeffrey ($125)
  • Rebecca Horne received Jim ($800); Jonathan Barnes and wife Nancy Horne Barnes, Warren ($650); James Newsom and wife Sally Horn Newsom, Fanny and child Henry ($750); and Zilla Horn, Pearcy ($350); and Jo ($300)

In a separate transaction the same day, Horn’s youngest children, Mary Ann and Elizabeth, received their joint share — Abram ($750), Diner ($400), Esther ($400), and Hester ($375).

Horn lived between Great Cabin Branch and Black Creek in what is now Wilson County.

Estate of Hardy Horn, Wayne County, North Carolina Estate Files 1883-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

Coley v. Artis, pt. 7: A home for his lifetime.

The seventh in a series excerpting testimony from the transcript of the trial in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis, Wayne County Superior Court, November 1908. The dispute centered on 30 acres of land. Thomas “Tom Pig” Artis began renting the property in 1881 from William J. Exum, a wealthy white farmer. In 1892, Exum’s widow Mary sold the land to Napoleon Hagans. Hagans died in 1896, and the land passed to his sons Henry and William S. Hagans. In 1899, Henry sold his interest to his brother William, who sold the 30 acres in 1908 to J. Frank Coley, a young white farmer. Tom Artis laid claim to the property, arguing that Napoleon Hagans had sold it to him. Coley filed suit and, after hearing the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses, the court decided in his favor. (Paragraph breaks and some punctuation have been inserted for better readability.)

Defendant introduces JESSE ARTIS who being duly sworn, testified:

I had a conversation with Tom Artis and [Napoleon] Hagans about this land. I was working there for Hagans (Plaintiff objects) as carpenter. Tom Artis was working with me. The old man Hagans was talking to Tom about the claim which Mrs. Exum had on his land, and was telling him that he had some money at that time, and was would take it up if he wanted to, and give him a home for his lifetime. He left us, and Tom talked to me. I told him he did not know whether he would have a home all his life or not. I advised Tom to let Hagans take up the papers, and Tom did so. Hagans told me next day that if Tom should pay him 800 lb. of cotton he should stay there his life time. When he paid him his money back, the place was his. I don’t know that Tom and I are any kin. Just by marriage. We are not a member of the same Church.

CROSS EXAMINED.

When I was a carpenter ‘Pole told me all about this on his place. He took me into his confidence. I don’t know whether he told me all. He told me a good deal.

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Jesse Artis was a brother of Adam T. Artis, Jonah Williams, and Tom Artis’ wife Loumiza Artis Artis.