Family

He never set up a claim to them until recently.

We read earlier of Violet Blount‘s successful attempt to gain custody of her grandsons, Oscar and Marcus Blount, who were first cousins to Samuel H. Vick. Though that battle played out in the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau, George W. Blount’s statement was filed in the Rocky Mount office. In it, he gave details about the relationship between the boys’ mother, Margaret Blount, and Samberry Battle.

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Statement of G.W. Blount.

Margarett was the name of the mother of the children. Oscar & Marcus, two colored children bound to B.H. Blount their former master by Wilson County Court. The mother of these children is dead and has been for several years. Samberry Battle did have the mother of the children for a wife & by her begot one child who is now of age & whose name is William. After the birth of William the mother became intimate with another man, by name Hillman, by whom she had two children, James & [illegible]. After the birth of the first of these two Samberry left the mother on account of her infidelity and took another woman and never after had anything to do with the mother of these. Marcus has a different father from Oscar, and there is yet another child by a different father. It is notorious among negros & whites that Samberry is not the father of any of the children except William and never set up a claim to them, until recently. He has never mentioned the mother to B.H. Blount in whose custody the children have always been. The grandmother of the children is living under the protection of B.H. Blount who will not see her suffer and said Grandmother protests against the claim of Samberry Battle. The fathers of the two children referred to above if living are not in this country & if so could not claim them as they were both begotten illegitimately. Therefore the binding by the Court without Notice to them is valid. The binding was regular & in accordance to law.

Roll 56, Miscellaneous Records, Rocky Mount Assistant Superintendent’s Records, North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, National Archives and Records Administration images, www.familysearch.org

 

The Harris Brothers.

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Elm City’s Harris Brothers Quartet. Left to right: Jesse Harris Jr., William Amos Harris, Archie Harris, James Roscoe Harris Sr., and Willie Richardson (on guitar). [The photo is dated about 1945, but likely was somewhat later, as William Amos Harris was born in 1932 and Archie Harris in 1933.]

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In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Jessie Harris, 34; wife Delphia, 36; and children Rosetta, 12, Alberta, 9, James, 2, and Jessie James, 1; and mother Rosa, 66.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jack Harris, 43; wife Delphia, 40; children Rosetta, 22, Odell, 20, Annie M., 15, James Oscar, 13, Jessie, 12, Thelma, 10, Amos, 8, Archie, 7, and Chaney Mae, 5; plus grandchildren Ned, 5, and Leroy, 1.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Harris (and printed in the Wilson Daily Times, 25 May 2018).

 

The Dardens secure their son’s start.

In March 1905, Charles H. and Diana Darden conveyed to their son Camillus L. Darden a one-quarter interest (with a life interest retained) in a lot on the south side of Nash Street “whereon is located the new shop and hall” in order to encourage his interest in a bicycle repair business. The elder Dardens also leased to C.L. Darden one-half of the first and second floors in the shop building. The lease was to continue year after year for five dollars per year as long as C.L. pursued his business. If C.L. ever wished to sell his interest in the property, his parents had right of first refusal to purchase it for $250.

Deed book 72, page 49, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

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 Eleanor 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.