Family

London Woodard, Penny Lassiter Woodard and the London Church.

On 14 February 1970, the Wilson Daily Times published a full-page article detailing the life of London Woodard, founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church.

London Woodard was born enslaved in 1792. He was recorded in the estates of Asa Woodard in 1816 and Julan Woodard in 1826 (in which he was recognized as a distiller of fine fruit brandies.) In 1827, James B. Woodard bought London at auction for $500. The same year, London married Venus, a woman enslaved by Woodard. In 1828, London was baptized and appears as a member in the minutes of Tosneot Baptist Church. Venus was baptized in 1838 and died in 1845.

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Transfer of title to “a negroe man by the name of Lonon” from Nathan Woodard to James B. Woodard, 1928.

J.B. Woodard’s second wife in 1837, and he hired Penelope Lassiter, a free woman of color, as a housekeeper and surrogate mother to his children. Lassiter, born 1814, was the daughter of Hardy Lassiter, who owned a small farm south of Wilson. She met London, who was working as overseer, at Woodard’s. In 1852, Penny Lassiter bought 106 acres for $242 about five miles east of Wilson on the Tarboro Road.

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In 1854, Penny Lassiter purchased her husband London, then about 62 or 63, from J.B. Woodard for $150. In 1858 Lassiter bought another 53 acres near her first tract and purchased 21 acres in 1859. The same year, she sold a small parcel to Jordan Thomas, a free man of color [who was married to her step-daughter Rose Woodard.] In 1866, the years after he was emancipated, London Woodard bought, subject to mortgage, a 200-acre parcel.

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In 1866, London Woodard was granted authority to preach “only among his acquaintances,” i.e. African-Americans. A member of Tosneot Baptist donated an acre of land to build a black church, regarded as the first in Wilson County. London Woodard was licensed to preach in 1870.

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London Woodard preached his last sermon on 13 November 1870. The next day, he suffered a stroke and fell into an open fireplace. Despite severe burns, he was able to dictate a will before his death.

The history of London Church for the 25 years after Woodard’s death is murky. In 1895, white churches Tosneot and Upper Town Creek dismissed several African-American members in order that they might establish an independent congregation at London’s. [London Church reorganized under the umbrella of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association in 1897.]

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By the terms of his will, London Woodard provided for his wife Penelope; sons William, Hardy, Haywood, Howell, Elvin, Amos and London; and daughters Treasy, Rose, Pharibee, Sarah, Harriet and Penninah. (Deceased son John’s daughter was apparently inadvertently omitted.)  “A few facts” about Woodard’s children follows.

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Receipts for payments for taxes and accounts for Penny Lassiter and London Woodard.

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This building was moved around the corner to London Church Road. It has long been abandoned and collapsed in 2017 after suffering serious storm damage the year before.

Reid reunion.

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Wilson Daily Times, 26 July 1971.

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In the 1900 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Gray Read, 47; wife Lucy, 37; and children Joseph R., 18, Nancy L., 7, Elija, 5, Mart Eva, 4, Jona, 3, and Lucy, 5 months.

In the 1910 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Amos Read, 64; lodger Gray Read, 57, and children Gray, 18, Eligh, 15, Margrett, 13, and John, 13.

Elijah Reid, 21, of Gardners township, son of Gray Reid, married Ida Hagans, 18, of Gardners, daughter of James and Hannah Hagans, on 13 January 1915 on the Old Whitehead farm. Witnesses were Robert Hilliard, Lawrence Hagans and J.B. Owens.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: James Hagans, 53; wife Nora, 50; sons John, 18, Joe, 18, and Laurence, 16; daughter Etta, 21; grandchildren Elizabeth, 15, Sudie M., 13, Leeoma, 10, David, 5, Bessie M., 3, Lillie M., 1, and Charlie Reid, 4; and daughter Ida Reid, 32.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco factory laborer Elijah Reid, 49; wife Ida, 44; and children Willie, 12, Troy, 8, Sudie, 20, Naomie, 17, David, 15, Bessie, 14, Eula, 9, and Ester, 6.

Naomi Reid, 21, born in Wilson to Elijah Reid and Ida Hagans, married Oliver Lee Howard, born in Wilson to Will Lucas and Lena Howard, were married 28 January 1943 in Norfolk, Virginia, where both resided.

Lillie Mae Reid, 20, daughter of Eligha and Ida Reid, married William Atkinson, 26, son of Lester and Martha Moore Atkinson, on 25 February 1951 at 300 South East Street, Wilson. Witnesses were Mildred Reid, 911 Washington Street; Howard Hopkins, 703 Manchester Street; and David Reid, 300 South East STreet.

Ida Hagans Reid died 29 June 1967 at her home at 300 South East Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 21 August 1896 in WIlson County to James Hagans and Hannah Bynum; was married to Elijah Reid; and worked as a tobacco factoryhand. Elizabeth Reid was informant.

Elijah R. Reid Jr. died 26 March 1977 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 October 1917 in Wilson to Elijah Reid Sr. and Ida Hagans; was married to Mildred Coel; worked as a minister; and resided at 911 Washington Street.

Elijah Reid Sr. died 24 August 1982 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 August 1894 in Edgecombe County to Gray Reid and an unknown mother; resided at 804 Hines Street, Wilson; was a widower; and worked as a self-employed repairman. Eula Wilkins of Washington, D.C., was informant.

The children and grandchildren of Frank and Elna Farmer Hooker.

Hooker family reunion, Wilson, 1947. “L. to R. 1st Row: Catherine, Alice, Frankie. 2nd Row: Dewey, Montez, Theodore, Inez, Clementine. 3rd Row: Gray, Bernice, Sylvester. Steps: Elynore, Merida, Steven, William.” 

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On 26 December 1900, Frank Hooker, 26, of Wilson County, married Elner T. Farmer, 24, of Wilson County, daughter of Gray and Argent Farmer, in Wilson. W.H. Kittrell applied for the license, and Rev. C[larence]. Dillard, Presbyterian, performed the ceremony in the presence of S.H. Vick and J.T. Harper of Wilson and Daisy Dillard of Goldsboro.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, Frank Hooker, 57 [sic], wood sawyer; wife Ella, 33; and children Emma R., 8, Grey, 6, Clarence D., 4, and Argent, [age illegible.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 656 Viola Street, Frank Hooker, 47, woodyard sawyer; wife Elinor, 37, sewing woman; and children Ruth, 17, Gray, 14, Henry, 12, Inez, 19, Irmadeen, 7, Sylvester, 4, and Theodore, 2.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 717 Green Street, Ellen Hooker, 47, widowed teacher; children Ruth, 25, Cilvesta, 14, and Theodo, 11; and grandchildren Montez, 8, and Clementine, 6.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 708 Green Street, Eleanor Hooker, 59, widowed teacher; daughter Inez, 27, cook; and roomer Willie Boykin, 35, bricklayer, of Lawrenceville, Virginia.

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

In loving memory.

I have remarked at length about the artistry of Clarence B. Best‘s hand-carved gravestones here and here. In Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, a booklet commemorating the 100th anniversary of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Best’s son Clarence H. Best and daughter-in-law published an ad honoring Best and wife Geneva “Eva” Smith Best.

Best made special mention of his father’s nickname, The Tombstone Man, and memorialized the elder Bests’ gift of a hand-crafted baptismal font, which is still in use. The carving on the edge of the basin block is classic Bestian.

This inscription may have been added later. Though apparently hand-carved, it does not appear to be Best’s work.

Many thanks to Tracey Ellis Leon, a life-long member of Calvary, for lending me a copy of Adventures in Faith and for taking the photos above.

Williamson v. Williamson, 57 N.C. 272 (1858).

This case was filed in Wilson County Court of Equity by Garry Williamson and Jesse Fulgham, executors of the will of Thomas Williamson, concerning the distribution of certain enslaved people for whom Williamson claimed ownership. The principle question posed to the North Carolina Supreme Court was whether enslaved children, born before Williamson died, passed with their mothers to the designated legatees. “The general rule is clearly settled that the bequest simply of a female slave and her increase passes the mother only, and not the increase which she may have had before the will was executed, or between that time and the death of the testator.” An exception would be where the testator’s intent to include the children can be inferred from a reference to the enslaved woman having previously been in the possession of the legatee. Otherwise, the children become part of the “residue,” i.e. property to be liquidated and the proceeds equally divided among legatees.

The chart below summarizes the fates of 26 of the enslaved people — all women and children — that Thomas Williamson owned. It is a stark encapsulation of the devastating impact of slavery on African-American families. And where were their men? An examination of Williamson’s will, drafted in August 1852, reveals further separation. Thomas Williamson had separately bequeathed Turner, Patrick and Dennis to his wife Keziah Williamson, and Jack to son Garry Williamson.

 

Russell L. Darden.

“Russell Darden — front row, second from left, in his class at Biddle, now Johnson C. Smith.”

“… [O]ne of the first funerals under [Camillus and Arthur Darden‘s] direction was that of their younger brother, Russell, who was in his last year at Howard University Law School. Russell had gone to New York City to look for adventure during the Christmas vacation. While there, he caught pneumonia and died at Harlem Hospital before any of the family could reach him. Russell had been a daring, fun-loving, robust, athletic young man known for his prowess on the football field. [His brother Walter T. Darden remembered] that the last time he saw Russell play football was at Livingston[e] College. The score was Livingston[e] 3, Biddle 3. The ball was snapped and thrown to Russell. He was running hard. The opposition tried for the tackle but missed and tore off the seat of his pants instead. Oblivious to the cheers and laughter of the crowd, Russell kept running and won the game 9-3 with his rear end showing. He had an aggressive spirit and was the pride and joy of his family. His death left an aching gap in the family circle.”

N.J. and C. Darden, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine (1978).

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wheelwright Charles Dardin, 44; wife Dianna, 40, sewing; and children Annie, 21, sewing; Comilous, 15, tobacco stemmer; Arthor, 12; Artelia, 10; Russell, 5; and Walter, 4.

In the 1908 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Darden, Russell, carpenter, h 110 Pender. [At age 15?]

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Charlie Darden, 55; wife Dianah, 48; and children Cermillus, 24, bicycle shop owner; Arthur, 22, teacher; Artelia, 18, teacher; Russel, 16; and Walter, 14.

In the 1912 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Darden, Russell, porter, h 110 Pender.

In the 1913 Charlotte, N.C., city directory: Darden, Russell, bds [boards] Seversville.

In 1917, Russell Lenoir Darden registered for the World War I draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 9 June 1893 in Wilson, N.C.; resided at 940 Westminster Street, Washington, D.C.; was a student; was single; and was stout and of medium height.

Russell Darden died 26 January 1918 in Manhattan, New York, New York.

A brief mention in the New York Age suggests that C.L. and Arthur could not, after all, bring themselves to bury their brother and called in Calvin E. Lightner of Raleigh to assist.

New York Age, 9 February 1918.

 

He abandoned and left his wife.

On 5 August 1893, Charity Jones swore that her husband Jesse H. Jones had abandoned her and left her without support. Her father Noel Jones testified on her behalf, and Martha Williamson on Jesse Jones’.  A justice of the peace sustained the charge, ordering Jones’ arrest. He was picked up a week later.

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In the 1870 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Noel Jones, 26; wife Sarah, 23; and children Josiah, 3, Charity, 1, and Edith, 4 months.

Also in the 1870 census of Old Fields township: Jno. A. Jones, 22; wife Susan, 19; sons Thomas, 2, and Jesse B., 7 months; and Rosett Boykin, 70. [Jesse Jones’ middle initial is given as B., rather than H., in records other than that shown above.]

In the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Noel Jones, 34; wife Sarah, 32; and children Josiah, 13, Charity, 12, Edieth J., 10, and Noel J., 6.

Also: Demsy Powell, 57; wife Sallie, 46; and daughter Susan A., 27; [Susan Powell Jones’ husband] John A. Jones, 34; and their children Thomas A., 12, Jessie B., 11, James A., 7, Celia C., 5, Sallie C., 4, and John A., 1; and W.D. Lucus, 21.

On 9 November 1890, Jesse Jones, 21, son of John and Susan Jones, married Charity Jones, 23, daughter of Noah and Sarah Jones, in Wilson County. Josiah Jones applied for the license.

Miscellaneous Records, Records of Wilson County, North Carolina State Archives.

The Edward and Cora Brantley Locus family.

This portrait of family members gathered for the funeral of  Edward Locus (also known as Edward Lucas) was taken in 1947 in Taylor township, Wilson County.

Front: Edward Locus’s grandson L.J. Lucas First row: children Quentin Lucas (1920-??), Lottie Lucas McKinnon (1925-1978), Kennie Lucas (1924-??), Winnie Locus Rankin (1915-1961), John Edd Locus (1918-??), Nancy Locus Farmer (1930-1973), and Frank Locus (1928-2001). Back row: daughters Redelphia Locus Pone (1916-2000), Ella Lucas (1916-??), Maggie Lucas Dew (1914-1992), widow Cora Brantley Locus (circa 1892-1962), and sister Dora Locus Battle (1872-1960).

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On 19 July 1906, Ed Lucas, 21, of Wilson County, son of John and Delphy Lucas, married Cora Brantley, 18, of Nash County, daughter of Margaret Lucas, in Nash County.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Edward Locus, 37; wife Cora, 27; and children Linwood, 10, Maggie, 9, Beulah, 8, Winnie, 6, Chicken, 4, Delphy, 3, John Ed., 1, and Quinton, 6 months.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ed Locus, 47; wife Cora, 35; and children Linward, 20, Maggie, 19, Ula, 18, Winnie, 17, Alma, 16, Redelpha, 13, John E., 11, Clinton, 10, Kenny, 9, Josephine, 7, Easter, 5, Louise, 4, Frank, 3, and Nancy, an infant.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Ed Locus, 55; wife Clara, 45; and children Ella, 26, Redelphine, 23, Jhonnie Ed, 21, Qunnion, 19, Kerney, 18, Jasperine, 17, Lottie and Louise, 15, Frank, 12, and Nancy, 10.

Eddie Lucas died 14 June 1947 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 October 1883 in Wilson County to John Locus and Louise Howard; was married to Cora Lucas; worked as a farmer; and was buried in the Lucas family cemetery, Wilson County.

Photograph courtesy of Locus/Lucas family historian Europe A. Farmer.

The once moral man is the father of the bastard child.

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News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 2 November 1909.

Rev. Owen L.W. Smith had, of course, been a Presiding Elder of the A.M.E. Zion Church and United States minister to Liberia. The News & Observer‘s restraint in covering his downfall is especially remarkable when earlier coverage of the affair is considered. The Smith-Moye had scandalized black Wilson. Moye not only worked for the church, she was married, and her husband had been driven off by Smith’s peremptory claims to her time. Just as shocking — the magistrate’s dismissal of Smith’s suit!

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News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 27 August 1908. 

“Delia R. Moye” was Delia A. Moye, listed in the 1908 city directory as a teacher residing at Goldsboro near Bank. Also at that address, her teenaged son, porter Albert Moye. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 459 Goldsboro Street, widowed laundress Della Moye, 31, with her children Albert, 17, twins Hattie and Mattie, 9, and Ethel, 2, who was Smith’s child. (In subsequent city directories, too, Delia Moye was described as a laundress. She lost her teaching job as a result of her pregnancy. She also likely was not actually a widow.)

On 18 August 1944, Ethel Mae Moye, 35, daughter of O.L.W. Smith and Della Smith [sic], married David H. Coley, 49, son of W.H. and Luanna Coley, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister W.A. Hilliard performed the ceremony in the presence of C.L. Darden, Norma Darden and Mrs. Ambrose Floyd.

Delia Ann Moye died 19 April 1955 at her home at 1207 East Washington Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 March 1882 in Greene County to Sandy Malone and Mattie [maiden name unknown; was widowed; and was a retired school teacher. Informant was Ethel M. Coley, 1207 East Washington.