Economics

Loafers are not wanted here.

JOSEPH ELLIS.

I am from Wilson, N.C.; I have been here three weeks. I found employment readily, and a good home. I live and work with Mr. F.B. Gardner, a good farmer in Russell township, Putnam county. He pays me $13 per month until spring, and then he will give me more. I find him a very kind and good man to me in the way of accommodations. Mr. Gardner could not get possession of his own house for me until the first of March, but he procured from his brother-in-law, Mr. D. Evans, a good and comfortable house for us until he can get the use of his. I am well pleased with my situation, and like this country finely. I would not go back to North Carolina for any consideration, and I would advise all my friends in that State to come to this county, as they can better their condition. But they should not come unless they expect to do good work, as loafers are not wanted here.

——

In the 1880 census of Russell township, Putnam County, Indiana: laborer Joseph Ellis, 27, and wife Prissa, 23, both born in North Carolina.

In the 1900 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: widowed day laborer Joseph Ellis, 48; son Theodore, 16, and daughters Margaret, 10, and Vera, 8.

Senate Report 693, Part 2, 2nd Session, 46th Congress.  Proceedings of the Select Committee of the United States Senate to Investigate the Causes of the Removal of the Negroes from the Southern States to the Northern States (1880).  U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

Nadal’s neighbors.

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This plat, drawn in September 1905, shows an irregular plot of land near Nash and Pended Streets. Part of the Anthony Nadal estate, the tract measured just under three acres. Wilson’s African-American community had begun to coalesce east of Pender, across from First Baptist Church, Saint John’s A.M.E. Zion and Calvary Presbyterian, and a close look at the plat shows some of Nadal’s neighbors.

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  1. John Mack Barnes, master builder, carpenter and brickmason, who would soon built Saint John, among other fine brick buildings.
  2. John W. Aiken, a horse dealer and liveryman.
  3. Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, just returned from his stint as consul to Liberia.
  4. John S. Spell, carpenter and contractor.
  5. Darden Alley, named for the Charles H. Darden family and called so to this day.

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Plat Book 1, page 17, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

As different as chalk and cheese.

WILLIAM CROOM.

The man is working for Daniel Evans, near Russellville, Putnam County. He has a nice brick house to live in, has a nice garden spot, fire-wood, and a team to haul it, a milch-cow and food to feed her, and $15 in cash each month; in all, equivalent to about $24 a month. He is delighted with Indiana, and urges that all his people come to our State as soon as they can get there. In an interview with me, he said: “Neither you nor any other Republican in Greencastle ever said a word to me about voting, nor asked me how I was gaining to vote; nor have I known of your asking any of our people how they were going to vote. All that has been said to us was about finding us homes and work, and taking care of us. They have done all for us they could, and our people are grateful to them for it. None of us want to go back to North Carolina; neither does any man who is honest and has sound judgment. I would take my oath on that. Most of our people who have come here are religious. I belong to the Missionary Baptist church, and am a licensed preacher. I came here to better the condition of myself and family, and to raise them respectably. I have found it better than I expected. Indeed, I don’t think that I hardly deserve as good treatment as I have received and am still receiving. From my own experience, I know that my people in North Carolina could greatly better their condition by coming here, and if they knew the facts they would come.

In a subsequent interview Croom said:

“I came from Wilson County, North Carolina. Have been here several weeks. I came because I had heard that colored men could do better here than in North Carolina, and I find that it was a true statement. There is as much difference between there and here as there is between chalk and cheese. It is altogether different. Here we are men just like the whites, get good wages, have good homes, and there are good schools for our children. The climate is no worse for us here than there. I have not yet seen as cold weather in Indiana as I have seen in North Carolina. And then the people are so different. They are just as kind to us as they can be. It seems as though they can’t do enough for us.”

——

Possibly: William Croom died 17 July 1910 in Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was 57 years old; was born in North Carolina to Sam Croom and Cherry Latta; was married to Diana Croom; and was a farmer. He was buried in Mount Jackson cemetery.

Cora Allen died 9 November 1925 at Provident Sanitarium in Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 May 1884 in Indiana to William Croom and Diana Ellis, both of North Carolina and was married to James Allen. She was buried in Floral Park cemetery.

Senate Report 693, Part 2, 2nd Session, 46th Congress.  Proceedings of the Select Committee of the United States Senate to Investigate the Causes of the Removal of the Negroes from the Southern States to the Northern States (1880).  U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

The Knights of Labor and the Tobacco Workers union.

The Knights of Labor was the largest and one of the most important American labor organizations of the late 19th century. The Knights promoted the social and cultural uplift of the working man, rejected socialism and anarchism, demanded the eight-hour day, and supported efforts to end child and convict labor. After a rapid expansion in the mid-1880s — ballooning to nearly 800,000 — it quickly lost new members and became a small operation again. The Knights of Labor had a mixed history of inclusiveness and exclusiveness, accepting women and African-Americans (after 1878) and their employers as members and advocating the admission of blacks into local assemblies, but tolerating the segregation of assemblies in the South and strongly supporting the Chinese Exclusion Act.

On the basis of local newspaper coverage, the Knights of Labor seem to have been most active in Wilson County in about 1888. Though its strength had peaked elsewhere by that time, the organization boasted 100 locals in North Carolina, the most of any Southern state.

Wilson Advance, 21 June 1888.

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Dues cards for Jane Bynum, a member of Wilson’s Knights of Labor lodge.

Many decades later, tobacco factory workers ushered into Wilson County a new era of labor organizing.

A North Carolina Highway Historical Marker in 18 miles north in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, reads: “Black leaf house workers in eastern N.C. unionized in 1946. First pro-union vote, at tobacco factory 1 block W., precursor to civil rights movement.”

Per the marker program’s essay: “In the summer of 1946, nearly 10,000 tobacco “leaf house” workers in eastern North Carolina, primarily African American women, joined unions in a mass organizing campaign (tagged ‘Operation Dixie’) headed by the Tobacco Workers International Union (TWIU-AFL) and the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural & Allied Workers of America (FTA-CIO). From South Boston, Virginia, to Lumberton, North Carolina, workers secured union contracts in nearly thirty tobacco leaf houses.”

“The labor protest and organization campaign followed the 1943 effort that took place at R. J. Reynolds factories in Winston-Salem. The 1946 campaign differed in that it not only focused on labor rights, but also resulted in important strides in civil rights for African Americans. Efforts were made by the union organizers to increase black voter registration and to instigate political action against segregation within the leaf houses. Nearly ten years before the Montgomery bus boycott, black workers in eastern North Carolina worked for civil rights through ‘unionism.’ As one participant recorded, ‘We’re not just an organizing campaign, we’re a social revolution.’ And another, ‘It wasn’t just wages we wanted, but freedom.’

“While the movement began with the TWIU-AFL organizing locals and securing contracts in six leaf houses in Wilson and one in Rocky Mount in the summer of 1946, the first official union election, which was won by the FTA-CIO in September 1946, took place at China American Tobacco Company in Rocky Mount. After that election the FTA-CIO won 22 of 24 elections in North Carolina. The consequence was that the organizers established a significant union presence in eastern North Carolina leaf houses, benefitting the tobacco workers of the area. Today only two union locals remain.”

One is in Wilson.

This early National Labor Relations Board decision, reported at 73 NLRB 207 (1947), offers a peek at the earliest days of this movement. Food, Tobacco, Agricultural & Allied Workers Union filed a petition to represent a unit of employees at a Liggett & Myers stemmery in Wilson. TWIU intervened, claiming to have beat FTA to the punch by securing voluntary recognition of its bargaining representative status a few weeks prior to FTA’s petition. The Board upheld the hearing officer’s rulings in the matter and dismissed FTA’s petition.

Per the decision: “The Wilson, North Carolina, plant, the only plant involved in this proceeding, is a subsidiary of the Durham, North Carolina, plant, which is the main factory of the Employer. The Wilson plant receives tobacco from various markets in North Carolina and engages in a process called redrying and tobacco stemming. A portion of the tobacco is stored in Wilson, and the remainder in Durham. All of the tobacco processed by the Wilson plant ultimately reaches the Durham plant, where it is  manufactured into cigarettes and pipe tobacco and shipped throughout the United States. The Wilson plant normally operates from 3 to 4 months a year, August to November, and processes from 8 to 12 million pounds of tobacco per season at an estimated value of $5,500,000. In 1946, during the off season, the plant employed 12 employees, and at its peak employed 217 employees.”

On 19 August 1946, when three of the facility’s five departments were operating, Liggett and TWIU conducted an informal card check that revealed that TWIU represented a majority of 123 employees then employed at Wilson. The same day, they entered into a one-year contract. The next day, all five departments were up and operated by the same 123 employees. FTA asserted that on 16 August 1946 it had written a letter to Liggett claiming to represent a majority of its employees. There was no evidence that the letter was mailed, and Liggett denied receipt. On 21 August, FTA sent Liggett a letter that made no claims of representation and did not reference the August 19 letter. On August 29, FTA sent another letter demanding recognition and claiming majority representation, and the Union filed a petition on September 3, at which time the Employer had reached its peak 217 employees. TWIU claimed its contract barred FTA’s claim, and the Board agreed.

BCTGM Local 270-T, 121 South Pettigrew Street.

TWIU merged with Bakery & Confectionary Workers International Union in 1978 to form Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union. For the Union’s history in its own words, see here. For more on the Union’s involvement in early civil rights efforts in Wilson, see Charles W. McKinney’s Greater Freedoms: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina (2010).

 Copies of union cards courtesy of Deborah Moore Vles; photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2016.

Insolvent tax list.

A taxpayer is insolvent when his or her total liabilities exceed his or her total assets. Not surprisingly, less than twenty years into freedom, African-American farmers struggled disproportionately to meet their tax obligations.

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Wilson Advance, 5 September 1884.

Wilson township: Frank Allen, James Armstrong, Windsor Brian, Johnson Blew, Patterson Brewer, Jerome Barden, Jack Battle, Jospeh Best, Frank Edwards, Reddick Edwards, Luke Fleming, Thomas Gay, Willey Gay, James Horn, Simon Jordan, Richard Johnson, Burton Locus, James H. Lawrence, Wright Lamm, William Melton, Dock Owens, Mack Proctor, Albert Renfrew, Abram Smith, Harry Spicer, Vines Thompson, Robert Vick, Shade Woodard, James Williams, Henry Waters, Gray Washington, and George Washington.

Toisnot township: Austin Barnes, Amos Bynum, Dallis Bowser, Burd Bunting, Joseph Battle, Alfred Batts, Richard Bryant, George Bynum, Hyman Bunn, Tom Butler, John Brown, Jack Bullock, William Collins, John Cox, Amos Dew, Grey Dodson, Alfred Drake, Daniel Davis, John Ellis, Titus Farmer, Esseck Farmer, Esseck Farmer Jr., William Hill Jr., Charley Hardy, W.T. Jones, Haywood Joyner, Ben Jones, Henry Rice, Warren Staton, Isaac Taylor, Charles Taymor, Hardy Winstead, William Wells, Haywood Winstead, Isaac Winstead.

Gardners township: Red Barnes, Ben Barnes, Blount Bennett, Prim Boddie, John Brown, Jack Boyett, Grey Braswell, Jospeh Davis, Aaron Edwards, Holloway Ethridge, Handy Gulley, William Hussy, Alex Harrison, Frank Johnson, Peter Williams, Ruffin Walker.

Saratoga township: James E. Barnes, Grey Davis, William Edwards, Sand Mitchell, Calvin Tate.

Stantonsburg township: Henry Applewhite, Saml. Jones, John Perry.

Black Creek township: Robt. Anderson, Telfair Baker, Jackson Barnes, Raiford Daniel Jr., James Edmonson, John Hubbard, David Heath, George Mercer, Ben Rountree, W.R. Williams Jr.

Cross Roads township: William Dew, W.R. Riggs.

Spring Hill township: Henderson Deans, Cain Hocutt.

Old Fields township: Kinchen Flowers, Isham Gay, David Jones, James Locus Sr.

Taylors township: Esau Freeman, Macajah Lucas, Isham Latham, Deat Locus, Alex Parker, Joseph Royal, Joseph Taylor, Nathan Jones.

 

Calvin Bone supports his claim.

More on the contract dispute with Jourdin Artis that Calvin Bone brought to the attention of the Freedmen’s Bureau:

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Black creek N.C., July 3 1867.

Mr. O Compton, I Received your note yesterday in closed you will find the am of my Acct against Jourdin Artis, allso an Acct he should of had to of settled with his hands. Jourdin has never bin to me for asettlement nor nor finished the contract he is oing me right smart Am. now. I thought all last fall he would come & complete the egagement you want the Am of labour done there has bin only 6423 bushels of marl thrown out & agreeable to contract he should of thrown out 26000 bushels. I would go down at once & see you but my crop is allmost ruined with grass I have narry dutiful Sevent or that will do to risk. if you request my going to your office let me hear from you again I shall be at this post office again in five or six days.  Verry Respectfully yrs., Calvin Bone.

Bone attached pages and pages documenting supplies advanced to Artis for laborers Artis employed — tobacco, flour, sugar, whiskey, herrings, mullet, shoes, clothing.

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Including documents that named the workers. Though Bone lived in Black Creek, Wilson County, Artis appears — per the 1870 census — to have hired his hands from nearby Wayne County communities.

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The contract itself:

 

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Witnesseth that the said Jourdin Artis agrees with the Said Calvin Bone that he will clear off dig & threw out twenty six thousand bushels of pure marl on the farm of the said Calvin Bones in the mill Swamp on or before the first of Dcr next

and the said Calvin Bone in consideration of the fourgoing agreement promises and agrees, to and with the Said Jourdin Artis pay one cent a bushel in Specie or its value in Something wee can agree on, and the said Calvin Bone do further to furnish the said Jourdin Artis with one hundred & eighty lbs of bacon or its adequate in herrings & ten bushels of meal during the time he is labouring & digging the above named marl, & the said Jourdin Artis is to give the said Calvin Bone his trade whilst he is performing the above named labour this the twenty third day of July one thousand eight hundred Sixty Six in witnesseth whereoff wee set our hands and seals 

This is a true coppy of the contract with me and Jourdin Artis there was only one ritten Ys truly Calvin Bone

 

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Assistant Commissioner Records 1862-1870, http://www.familysearch.org.

 

 

 

William Hines, making good.

In March 1913, the Indianapolis Recorder, a nationally focused African-American newspaper, ran a front-page feature on William Hines, a “native of [Wilson] and a forceful character for the intellectual, moral, spiritual, social and economic development of young North Carolinians.”

Citing Samuel H. Vick and Biddle University as Hines’ influences, the article detailed his entry into the real estate business after establishing a successful barber shop. In just five years, Hines had accumulated 11 houses and “a number of very desirable lots.”

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Indianapolis Recorder, 1 March 1913.

Hines’ real estate investments eventually made him one of the largest builder-owners of rental property in east Wilson. His barber shop operated for many decades, and his varied civic involvement included work as leader in the World War I Liberty Loan Campaign, charter investor in the Commercial Bank of Wilson, founding member of the Men’s Civic Clubboard of trustees of the Negro Library, board of directors of the Reid Street Community Center, and administrator of Mercy Hospital.

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William Hines, a little later in life.

William Hines was born 29 October 1883 in Edgecombe County and died 17 October 1981 in Wilson. He is buried in Rest Haven cemetery.

Photo of Hines courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

Shrewd, pugnacious, saucy, intelligent Negro gives advice.

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Wilson Advance, 11 June 1891.

  • Charles H. Darden
  • Susie Harris — Susie J. Harris, age illegible, married James J. Wilson, 23, on 5 January 1893 in Wilson. L.J. Melton, Presbyterian minister, performed the ceremony at the Baptist church in the presence of M.H. Cotton, S.H. Vick, and Edmund Pool. In the 1910 census of Wadesboro, Anson County: clergyman James J. Wilson, 43; wife Susie, 43, a schoolteacher; and children Mattie M., 13, Frank T., 11, Nannie R., 8, Charles E., 6, and Ophelia, 4. In the 1920 census of Wadesboro, Anson County: Presbyterian minister James J. Wilson, 52; wife Susie J., 52; and children Frank T., 20, Nannie R., 18, a teacher, Charles E., 16, Ophelia A., 13, and Lena, 8. Susie J. Wilson died 13 October 1925 in Wadesboro, Anson County. Per her death certificate: she was 57 years old; was born in Wilson to Jas. Harris and Nancy Hill; was married to Rev. J.J. Wilson; and worked as county superintendent for the North Carolina Board of Education. Informant was F.T. Wilson, 213 Oakwood Drive, Orange, New Jersey.
  • Charles H. Bynum

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The Messenger and Intelligencer (Wadesboro), 1 May 1919.

Colored tax delinquents.

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Wilson Daily Times, 26 May 1911.

  • Thad. Arrington
  • Willie Austin — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Austin William, farmer, h[ome] Mercer nr Mill rd
  • Ed. Barnes — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Barnes Edward, painter, h 711 e Spring
  • Burt Bowser — Burt Bowser married Sarah Rountree, daughter of Peter and Lucinda Rountree, on 4 December 1888 in Wilson. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Peter Rountree, 76, wife Lucinda, 53, daughter Sarah Bowser, 32, son-in-law Burt L. Bowser, 36, grandsons Russell, 9, Astor B., 3, and Thomas F., 1, stepdaughters (?) Manda L., 18, and Rosa E. Rountree, 14. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: poolroom conductor Best Bowser, 48, wife Sarah, 40, a seamstress, sons Russell, 19, Astor B., 13, and Thomas F., 11, plus sister-in-law Rosa Rountree, 21, a teacher, and James Rountree, 14, a servant in a milliner’s store. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook in cafe Bert L. Brown [sic], 56, wife Sarah M., 48, sons Astor B., 25, and Thomas, 23, and daughter-in-law Georgia B., 20, plus mother-in-law Lucinda Rountree, 78. Burt Landers Bowser died 12 July 1920 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 August 1861 in Halifax County, North Carolina, to Samuel and Isabella Bowser; was married to Sarah Bowser; and was a self-employed cook.
  • Oscar Best — Oscar Best is listed in the 1908 Wilson city directory as a grocer living at Nash near Bynum. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: carpenter Orange Best, 67, wife Hansey, 61, children Oscar, 37, a widowed grocer, Roberta, 22, Bethena, 19, Robert, 17, and granddaughter Sarah, 8.
  • Wright Barnes — Wright Barnes, son of Harry Taylor and Nelly Barnes, married Jane Strickland, daughter of Reddick and Mary Strickland, on 12 January 1868 in Wilson County. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Finches Mill Road, farmer Wright Barnes, 61, wife Jane, 58, children Mary A., 17, George, 15, and Jane, 14, and granddaughter Fannie, 13.
  • Sarah Battle 
  • Gen. Wash. Coppedge — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Coppedge General, bricklayer, h 133 e Nash
  • J.G. Coppedge — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Coppedge James G Rev, pastor Second Baptist Church, h 113 Manchester. James G. Coppedge died 16 July 1913 in Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born in 1861 to Washington Coppedge and an unnamed mother; he resided on Manchester Street; and he worked as a butler. G.W. Coppedge was informant.
  • Wiley Farmer — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Farmer Wiley, laborer, h Harper’s ln
  • Jesse Farmer
  • Chas. Hayswood — on 28 July 1901, Charlie Hayswood, 28, married Bettie Brinkley, 28, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony. Witnesses were Willie Barnes, Jane Branch and Sarah Alston. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, Charles Hayswood, 36, factory fireman, and wife Bettie, 33, cook.
  • G. Wash. Joyner — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Joyner Washington, painter, h 616 Viola
  • Levi Jones — Levi Hunter Jones. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Levi Jones, 32, barber, with sister Nancy, 24, brothers Butler, 28, house carpenter, and Harvey, 12, and mother, Susan Jones, 50.
  • Chas. Knight — on 26 December 1898, Charles Knight, 21, of Wilson County, married Elsie McCullows, 21, of Wilson County. Baptist minister W.T.H. Woodard performed the ceremony in the presence of Annie Jackson, Lizzie McCullers, and Florence Whitfield. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Charles Knight, 35, wife Elsie, 37, and sons Charles, 8, and Frank, 6, plus boarders Ethel Coleman, 23, and Sarah Jackson, 28, both school teachers. Charles Henry Knight registered for the World War I in September 1918. Per his registration card: he was born 12 February 1875; resided at 115 Pender Street; was a self-employed barber at 533 East Nash Street; his nearest relative was Elsie Knight; was tall and of medium build; and “has rheumatism very badly cannot walk well.” He signed his card with a shaky “C.H. Knight.”
  • Ed. McCullom — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: McCollum Edward, furniture repair, h 118 Manchester
  • Geo. Pender
  • Amos Pender — perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Amos Pender, 60, and wife Annie, 59.
  • Ben. Parker or Parks — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Parks Benj., laborer, h 623 e Nash
  • J. Wesley Rodgers — per the city directory, in 1922, John Wesley Rogers lived at 548 East Nash Street and worked as a porter at Oettinger’s department store. His wife,  a native of Johnston County, was Mary Elizabeth Thomas Rogers (1878-1950). Rogers was born in Durham County in 1870 and died in Wilson in 1951.
  • Isaac Thompson — on 3 June 1891, Isaac Thompson, 21, married Lizzie Davis, 23, at the Baptist church in Wilson. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony before John Jeffreys, Samuel Williams and Wm. Baker. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 326 Spring Street, whitewasher Isaac Thompson, 40, wife Lizzie, 43, and children James, 19, Annie, 18, Edwin, 11, Ernest, 9, Herbert, 8, Rowland, 5, and Windford, 7 months.
  • John Williams
  • Allen Williams — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Williams Allen, laborer, h Vance cor Vick
  • Alex Warren — Alexander Warren. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 367 Spring Street, ice factory blocker Alex Warren, 34, wife Ada, 36, and son John, 19, the latter two, factory workers. Alexander Warren died 4 January 1948 in Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born about 1879 in Wilson County to Pompie and Della Warren; had worked as a laborer; resided at 403 E. Walnut Street; and was buried at Rountree cemetery. His neighbor John Parks of 405 E. Walnut was informant.
  • Ella Woodard
  • Junius Williams — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Winona Road, sawmill laborer Junius Williams, 33, and wife Mollie, 36, tobacco factory laborer. Junius Williams died 28 December 1941 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 August 1877 in Franklin County to Pompie Williams and Dora Stones of Franklin County; was married to Mollie Williams; worked as a cooper man at Watson Tobacco Company; lived at 1009 Atlantic Street; and was buried at Rountree cemetery.
  • C. Mack Wells — in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: wheelwright Mack Wells, 40; wife Cherry, 38; and children Bertha, 11, Willie, 9, Clifton, 5, Lillie, 4, and Mary, 2.
  • S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Samuel Vick, 47, dealer in real estate, wife Annie, 38, and children Elma, 16, Daniel L., 13, Samuel W., 10, George, 7, Anna, 5, and Robert, 2.