Studio shots, no. 90: Edna E. Gaston.

Per an eBay listing for a reproduction of this photo: “Photo. North Carolina. Black girl and doll carriage. The girl’s name is Edna Earl Gaston. She was the niece of John Clark who was a founder of St Mark’s Episcopal Church. He was also the first Black mail carrier in Wilson, North Carolina. 1925.”

In fact, Edna Earline Gaston was the daughter of Albert Sessle Gaston of Wilson and Annie House Gaston of Moore County, North Carolina. John H. Clark was her great-uncle, brother of Albert Gaston’s mother Ella Clark Gaston.


In the 1900 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Ella Gaston, 30, divorced, with sons Ralph, 10, and Albert, 2. [Also in the 1900 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson township, North Carolina: 44 year-old barber John Gaston, [second] wife Sabrina [Sattena] 22, and children Theodore, 13, Cicero, 10, George, 8, and Caroline, 2 months. John A. Gaston was Albert Gaston’s father.]

In 1918, Albert Gaston registered for the World War I draft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his registration card, he was born 16 August 1897 in Wilson, N.C.; resided at 2105 Nassau Street, Philadelphia; worked as a longshoreman; and his nearest relative was Anna Gaston.

In the 1920 census of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: at 2105 Nassau Street, building laborer Albert Gaston, 22; wife Anne T., 23; daughter Edna E., 1;  lodger Harry Jenkins, 19, a laundry laborer; and “mother” Hellen Hunton, 53. All were born in North Carolina.

Shortly after the census, the Gastons returned to North Carolina, where they took positions in Annie H. Gaston’s home county. On 28 April 1921, The Moore County News of Carthage printed principal Albert Gaston’s address to the Shady Grove colored school.

By October 1921, Gaston had take over as head of the struggling Addor school. Per this 1997 National Register of Historic Places nomination report, the Gastons began an energetic campaign to raise money for a Rosenwald School, and the Lincoln Park school near Pinebluff was the result.

Albert Sessel Gaston registered for the World War II draft in 1942 in Raeford, Hoke County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1897 in Wilson; was employed by the Board of Education in Raeford; and his contact was Annie L. Gaston, 119 Lincoln Street, Hampton, Virginia.

Annie Lillian Gaston died 2 June 1952 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 July 1896 in Moore County to John House and Maggie Gunter; was a schoolteacher; and was married. Albert Gaston was informant.

Per the Social Security Death Index, Albert Gaston died November 1979 and Edna Gaston Coles died 25 July 1999, both in Philadelphia.

Signatures, no. 5.

Signatures are often-overlooked scraps of information that yield not only obvious clues about literacy, but also subtleties like depth and quality of education and preferred names, spellings and pronunciations. They are also, in original documents, tangible traces of our forebears’ corporality — evidence that that they were once here.

This is the fifth in a series of posts featuring the signatures of men and women born before 1900, men and women who could not take even a basic education for granted.

  • Alexander Barnes Joyner (1896-?), 1917, World War I draft registration card, Wilson; 1942, World War II draft registration card, New York, New York.

  • William M. King, 1912, the marriage license of Banks Blow and Mag Parker, Wilson.

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Back to school!

More Raines and Cox photographs of Saint Alphonsus School, these taken in 1949.

Book Week.

Your Best Friends Read Good Books.

This photo, perhaps also shot by Raines and Cox, appears to date from the 1950s.


Saint Alphonsus School Drum & Bugle Corps.

[On a personal note: One day when I was 4, I followed another child out the front of Kiddie Kollege of Knowledge (formerly St. Alphonsus School) with my arms spread wide. In the inexplicable way that crazy things happen to little kids, my pinky got caught and crushed between the heavy double doors seen in the third image above. My aunt, Hattie H. Ellis, came up Carroll Street from Darden High School — she was a guidance counselor — to take me to the doctor, and I proudly showed off my little cast when I returned to school the next day.]

Top photos: many thanks to John Teel for sharing these images from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. They are catalogued as PhC_196_CW_StAlphonsusClassroom3 and
PhC_196_CW_StAlphonsusClassroom2. Bottom: courtesy of Wilson Community Improvement Association.

Colored graded school honor roll.

WCGS students

Wilson Daily Times, 10 March 1922.

  • Blount, Hellen — Born about 1915 to Mark and Mary Alice Black, Blount. Helen died 15 April 1932 of pulmonary tuberculosis. She lived at 113 South East Street.
  • Williams, Edmund — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 701 Vance Street, A.C.L. station laborer Allen Williams; wife Fennie, 39, laundress; and children Guss, 23, barber; Osca, 20, barber; Rosca, 20, A.C.L. station laborer; Lenard, 16; Edmond, 12, Albert, 10; Lizzie, 11; and Frederick, 3.
  • Boykin, Lila Ruth — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 900 Viola Street, valued at $4000, Christian church clergyman James Boykin, 44; wife Nancy S., 59; daughter Lila R., 19; and roomers Ines Williams, 23, widow, and Minnie Nelson, 20, who both worked as servants.
  • Haskins, Estelle — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Warren Street, Robert Haskins, 37, bottling company laborer; wife Gertrude, 28; and children Mandy, 14, Elizabeth, 12, Estelle, 10, Robert, 7, Lossie, 5, Lawrence, 4, and Thomas, 1. Estelle H. Goodman died 6 January 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 February 1911 in Wilson to Robert Haskins Sr. and Gertrude Farmer; was married to Arthur Goodman; and resided at 1224 Queen Street.
  • Cooke, Clementine — Perhaps, Cook Clementine (c) cook Cherry Hotel h 605 Nash.
  • Freeman, Naomi — Naomi Olivia Freeman. In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, Oliver N. Freeman, 38; wife Willie May, 31; and children Naomi, 8, Oliver N. Jr., 7, Mary F., 5, and Connie, 4.
  • Wilson, Irene — Probably, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 302 Vick, Mollie Wilson, 46; son Lennie, 25, house carpenter; daughter-in-law Georgia, 23; grandson Lennie Jr., 2; and children John A., 22, house carpenter; Annie D., 19, Sarah, 17, Bunyon, 16, Hirmon, 14, William H., 12, James J., 10, and Ire, 7.
  • Gilliam, Matthew — In 1940, Matthew Stanley Gilliam registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 19 August 1913 in Wilson; his contact was mother Annie Lee Gilliam; and he was employed by State Department (K.R. Curtis), Court House, Wilson. [His father was physician Matthew S. Gilliam.]
  • Bynum, Lizzie Mae — Probably, 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. 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. [Three blocks from Hellen Blount, above, who died the day before Lizzie.]
  • Brooks, William
  • Cox, Ebenezer — in the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Eddie Cox, 27, wife Mattie, 27, and son Ebernezer Cox, 11. In the 1925 Wilson city directory, Ebenezer is listed as a resident at 111 Carroll Street, the address at which his father operated Cox’s Pressing Club.
  • Williams, Martha — Perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laundress Minnie Williams, 27, and children Martha, 11, and Lawrence, 9, on Bynum Street.
  • Speight, Inez L.
  • Barnes, Frank Washington — Frank W. Barnes (25 March 1911-21 March 1982) was the son of Jesse Reese Barnes and Sarah Eliza Barnes. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Jesse Barnes, 46; wife Sarah, 47; and children Ned, 23, farm laborer; Nancy, 22, college student; Lemon, 20, pressing club laborer; Jessie Belle, 18, high school student; Maggie, 15; Ardenia, 13; Frank, 11; James, 6; and Mildred, 3.
  • Brown, James
  • Purdie, Esther — in the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Street P. Purdie, 49; wife Lenora, 28; and children Ethel, 20, Jane, 19, Raleigh, 20, Needie, 18, Mittie, 16, Esther, 14, Niney, 7, Paul, 6, Samuel, 5, and Erand, 3.
  • Williams, John
  • Blount, Florence — Florence Blount Hollingsworth English (26 March 1912-26 February 1988) was the sister of Hellen Blount, above. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cafe cook Mark Blount, 67; wife Alice, 31; children Florence, 10, and Helen, 7; son-in-law Boston Griffin, 39, furniture company delivery man; and roomer David Carrol, 40, tobacco factory worker.
  • Griffith, Mildred
  • Bullock, Viola — perhaps Viola Bullock Sams, who died 14 May 1974 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 March 1909 in South Carolina to Sam Bullock and Martell Coper; was widowed; resided at 415 South Pender Street. Fred Woodard was informant.
  • Battle, Daisy — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 404 Spring Street, Mary Battle, 41, tobacco factory worker, and children Flonnie, 12, Daisy, 12, David, 22, railroad crossing flagman, Jimmie, 7, and John, 5.
  • Farmer, Alice Gray — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 506 Hines Street, tobacco factory worker Jeff Farmer, 57; wife Blanche, 47, laundress; and children Charlie, 24, a tobacco factory worker, Jeff Jr., 18, a grocery company truck driver, Henry, 14, Alice, 12, Sam, 8, and Blanche, 5.
  • Jones, Gertrude — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 808 East Nash, Butler Jones, 39, painter; wife Myrtle, 36; and children Gertrude, 12, Louise, 6, Joseph, 5, Ruth M., 3, and Willard, 3 months.
  • Parker, Lucile — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wagon factory laborer Allison Parker, 46; wife Mary, 40, a tobacco factory worker; and children Marie, 14, Martha, 11, and Lucille, 8, at 901 Nash Street.
  • Taylor, Ossie Mae — Ossie Taylor Barnes died 12 February 1970 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was a widow; was born 4 July 1908 in Wilson to Joseph and Martha Taylor and resided at 202 North East Street. Informant was Ida Edmundson, 711 Suggs Street.
  • Wilkerson, Maggie Belle
  • Barnes, Frank
  • Bowens, Nathan — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 South Lodge Street, rented for $10/month, North Carolina native Flora Royal, 42, tobacco factory worker, and her Florida-born son Nathan Bowens, 22, tobacco factory laborer.
  • Ellis, Robert — perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 640 Nash Street, sawmill laborer Robert Ellis, 30; wife Ella, 28; and children Robert, 9, John H., 7, James H., 6, and Ella P., 4; plus sister-in-law Hermenetta, 25.
  • Gardner, Levi — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, tobacco factory worker Will Gardner, 44; wife Mary, 40; and son Levi, 9.
  • Perry, Samuel — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, wagon factory laborer Sam Perry, 39; wife Sis, 36, tobacco factory worker; and children David, 11, Samuel, 9, and Nettie, 7.
  • Perry, David — see above.
  • Townsend, Haywood — Haywood Townsend’s delayed birth certificate indicates that he was born in Wilson in 1909 to Andrew Townsend and Lula McCoy. In the 1928 Wilson city directory, Townsend Haywood (c) student h 506 Banks.
  • Battle, Clara — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 304 East South Street, rented for $24/month, Joseph Battle, 50, janitor at colored high school; wife Gertrude, 42; and daughter Clara, 22; and roomers Earnest Heath, 24, cook, barber James Pettiford, 32, Robert McNeal, 23, servant, Essie M. Anderson, 18, servant, and Viola McLean, 24, “sick.”
  • Tarboro, Emma Lou — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, ice plant laborer Issac Tarboro, 39; wife Emma, 38; and children Thomas, 14, Emma Lou, 12, Issac Jr., 8, John, 5, Virginia, 3, and Richard, 8 months.
  • Weaver, Lewis — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 620 Stantonsburg Street, oil mill laborer Nathan Weaver, 47; wife Pattie, 45; and sons Lewis, 12, and Perry, 6.
  • Spells, E____
  • Williams, Marie — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1004 Nash Street, Edd Williams, 39; wife Minnie, 37; and children Marie, 14, Reges, 12, Gency, 10, and Jessie, 5 months.
  • Best, Herman — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1107 Nash Street, William Best, 37; wife Ada, 39; children Dorthy L., 6, Andrew(?), 12, Herman, 11, and Elizabeth, 8; plus brothers-in-law James Sims, 48, and Willie Sims, 38.
  • Woo[dard?], George A.
  • Ruffin, ____
  • DuBerry, Sherman — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 307 Stantonsburg Street, rented for $12/month, tobacco factory worker Linda Deberry, 70, widow, and sons Sherman, 19, tobacco factory worker, and Herman, 10.
  • Venters, ____
  • Shade, Sarah — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 535 Nash Street, Turner Stokes, 50, carpenter; wife Morah, 39; mother-in-law Martha Pitt, 83; and boarders Isac Shade, 44, drugstore manager; wife Estella, 38; and children Kenneth, 13, and Sarah, 9.
  • Shade, Kenneth — see above.
  • Huzzy, [Eliza]beth
  • Baker, Irene
  • Peacock, Susan — Susan Peacock Prince.



Play with all your might.

On 12 May 1946, Charles Raines and/or Guy Cox visited Saint Alphonsus Catholic School to take these priceless photos of young pupils. Can you identify any of the children?

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Many thanks to John Teel for sharing these images from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. They are catalogued as  PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool1,  PhC_196_CW_104H_StAlphonseSchool2 and

The obituary of Lauraetta J. Taylor.

Lauraetta J. Taylor (1916-1977), daughter of Russell Buxton and Viola Gaither Taylor, was a legendary women’s basketball coach at Fayetteville State University. A gymnasium on campus is named in her honor.

Pittsburgh Courier, 26 March 1977.


In the 1920 census of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: on Johnston Bow, preacher Russell B. Taylor, 35; wife Viola, 31, seamstress; and children Beatrice, 7, Janett, 5, and Sarah, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on East Nash Street, Methodist minister Russell B. Taylor, 48, widower; children Laura, 14, Sarah, 11, Christopher, 7, and William, 4; daughter Beatrice Barnes, 18, public school teacher, and her son Elroy, 1; and lodgers Cora Speight, 49, laundress, and Mamie Williams, 30, ironer, and Roscoe McCoy, 32, farm laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 536 East Nash, preacher and public school teacher Russell B. Taylor, 52; children Loretta, 23, and Sarah, 21, both teachers, Leonard, 16, and William, 14; grandson Elroy Barnes, 11; and lodgers Isiar Jones, 36, Virginia-born construction laborer; Mitchell Frazier, 32, South Carolina-born truck driver; John Baldwin, 29, Lumberton, N.C.-born tobacco redrying factory laborer, and his wife Clyde, 26, a native of Wilmington, N.C.

1939 edition of The Ayantee, the yearbook of North Carolina State A.&T. University in Greensboro. Taylor’s sister Sarah G. Taylor graduated from A.&T. that year.

Smith student attains distinction.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 March 1935.


In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Warren Street, Hester Haskins, 56; and children Estella, 18, Annie, 22, Martha, 36, Ernest, 21, Ambroga, 17, Damp, 12, and [grandson] Joseph, 8.

On 15 November 1922, George Pitt, 31, of Nash County, son of Wiley Pitt and Ida McNair, married Martha Haskins, 30, of Wilson, daughter of Damp and Hester Haskins. James Haskins applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister John A. Mebane performed the ceremony in the presence of Glenn S. McBrayer, Jeff Holloway and Eula Farmer.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1200 Wainwright Street, owned and valued at $1700, Damp Haskins, 24, laborer at Coca-Cola plant; wife Sudie B., 21; children Damp Jr., 2, and Hellen, 6 months; widowed mother Hester, 72; brother [nephew] Joseph, 18; Martha Pitt, 52; and nephew Jim R. Haskins, 10.

On 18 February 1931, Jos. F. Haskins, 19, son of Jas. Haskins and Martha H. Pitt, married Beatrice O. Bryant, 17, daughter of Isham and Rossie Bryant. Rev. J.T. Douglas performed the ceremony at Calvary Presbyterian Church in the presence of Judge Mitchell and the Bryants.

In the 1940 census of Washington, D.C.: at 1231 W Street, N.W.: at 1231 W Street N.W., barber John Jones, 37, wife Sarah, 37, and daughter Ruby, 13; and hotel waiter Joseph Haskins, 27, mother Martha, 58, and uncle James, 36, post office department laborer. Both Joseph and Martha reported being divorced, and both had lived in Wilson, North Carolina, five years previously. [Joseph also reported that he had completed three years of college, which suggests that did not finish Johnson C. Smith.]

In 1940, Joseph Franklin Haskins registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 8 January 1913 in Durham, North Carolina; resided at 1231 W Street, N.W.; his contact was mother Martha Whitehead Haskins, 1231 W Street, N.W.; and he worked for Dr. R.M. Williams, 1914 – 11th Street, N.W.

On 11 April 1942, Joseph Franklin Haskins married Florence Windom Green in Washington, D.C.

Joseph Franklin Haskins died 16 September 1983 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Johnson C. Smith University Bulletin (1935), page 109.

Work and that woman has kept me right.

Martha Tyson Dixon‘s husband Luke D. Dixon consented to a Federal Writers Project interview, too. His story, starting with his Africa-born grandparents, is electric.

“My father’s owner was Jim Dixon in Elmo County, Virginia. That is where I was born. I am 81 years old. Jim Dixon had several boys — Baldwin and Joe. Joe took some of the slaves his pa gave him, and went to New Mexico to shun the war. Uncle and Pa went in the war as waiters. They went in at the ending up. We lived on the big road that run to the Atlantic Ocean. Not far from Richmond. Ma lived three or four miles from Pa. She lived across big creek — now they call it Farrohs Run. Ma belonged to Harper Williams. Pa’s folks was very good but Ma’s folks was unpleasant.

“Ma lived to be 103 years old. Pa died in 1905 and was 105 years old. I used to set on Grandma’s lap and she told me about how they used to catch people in Africa. They herded them up like cattle and put them in stalls and brought them on the ship and sold them. She said some they captured they left bound till they come back and sometimes they never went back to get them. They died. They had room in the stalls on the boat to set down or lie down. They put several together. Put the men to themselves and the women to themselves. When they sold Grandma and Grandpa at a fishing dock called New Port, Va., they had their feet bound down and their hands bound crossed, up on a platform. They sold Grandma’s daughter to somebody in

“Texas. She cried and she begged to let them be together. They didn’t pay no ‘tension to her. She couldn’t talk but she made them know she didn’t want to be parted. Six years after slavery they got together. When a boat was to come in people come and wait to buy slaves. They had several days of selling. I never seen this but that is the way it was told to me.

“The white folks had a iron clip that fastened the thumbs together and they would swing the man or woman up in a tree and whoop them. I seen that done in Virginia across from where I lived. I don’t know what the folks had done. They pulled the man up with block and tackle.

“Another thing I seen done was put three or four chinquapin switches together green, twist them and dry them. They would dry like a leather whip. They whooped the slaves with them.

“Grandpa was named Sam Abraham and Phillis Abraham was his mate. They was sold twice. Once she was sold away from her husband to a speculator. Well, it was hard on the Africans to be treated like animals. I never heard of the Nat Turner rebellion. I have heard of slaves buying their own freedom. I don’t know how it was done. I have heard of folks being helped to run off. Grandma on mother’s side had a brother run off from Dalton, Mississippi to the North. After the war he come to Virginia.

“When freedom was declared we left and went to Wilmington and Wilson, North Carolina. Dixon never told us we was free but at the end of the year he gave my father a gray mule he had ploughed for a long time and part of the crop. My mother jes

“picked us up and left her folks now. She was cooking then I recollect. Folks jes went wild when they got turned loose.

“My parents was first married under a twenty five cents license law in Virginia. After freedom they was remarried under a new law and the license cost more but I forgot how much. They had fourteen children to my knowing. After the war you could register under any name you give yourself. My father went by the name of Right Dixon and my mother Jilly Dixon.

“The Ku Klux was bad. They was a band of land owners what took the law in hand. I was a boy. I scared to be caught out. They took the place of pattyrollers before freedom.

“I never went to public school but two days in my life. I went to night school and paid Mr. J.C. Price and Mr. S.H. Vick to teach me. My father got his leg shot off and I had to work. It kept me out of meanness. Work and that woman has kept me right. I come to Arkansas, brought my wife and one child, April 5, 1889. We come from Wilson, North Carolina. Her people come from North Carolina and Moultrie, Georgia.

“I do vote. I sell eggs or a little something and keep my taxes paid up. It look like I’m the kind of folks the government would help — them that works and tries hard to have something — but seems like they don’t get no help. They wouldn’t help me if I was bout to starve. I vote a Republican ticket.”

NOTE: On the wall in the dining room, used as a sitting room, was framed picture of Booker T. Washington and Teddy Roosevelt sitting at a round-shaped hotel dining table ready to be

“served. Underneath the picture in large print was “Equality.” I didn’t appear to ever see the picture.

This negro is well-fixed for living at home. He is large and very black, but his wife is a light mulatto with curly, nearly straightened hair.


This is the image that Luke Dixon’s interviewer so studiously ignored. The event it depicted, which scandalized white America in 1901, is the subject of Deborah Davis’ recent book, Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation (2012).

I have not found Luke Dixon or his parents in the censuses of Virginia. There is no “Elmo County,” Virginia, but New Port may have been Newport News, which was little more than a fishing village in the antebellum era.

Dixon apparently attended night school at Wilson Academy, but it is not clear when. Joseph C. Price headed the school from 1871 to 1873, when Samuel H. Vick was just a child. Vick assumed the helm at age 21 after graduating from Lincoln University.

I hope my white friends will remember me.

I do not know the context of this puzzling letter Rev. Jeremiah Scarborough wrote to the editor of Wilson Times.

Wilson Times, 15 September 1899.

Twenty years later, Scarborough was still preaching the gospel of accommodationism.

Wilson Times, 2 June 1919.


Scarborough is elusive in records, too. He appears in the 1877 edition of Shaw University’s catalog as a Wake Forest native and graduate of its Normal School division. He is also listed in Claude Trotter’s History of the Wake Baptist Association, Its Auxiliaries and Churches, 1866-1966 (1876) as a pastor in 1878 at Wake County’s Friendship Chapel, near Wake Forest.