Family

Family ties, no. 5: I wish it was so that I could come to you & family.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the fifth in a series of excerpts from documents and interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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Sarah Silver died of a massive heart attack on a train platform on 8 January 1938 while on her way from Wilson to Greensboro, North Carolina. After receiving the news via a shocking and confusing telegram, my grandmother sent word of Sarah’s death to other relatives. One went to Sarah’s widowed sister-in-law Carrie L. Henderson Borrero, who replied via letter immediately:

Sunday Jan. 9. 38

My Dear Hattie

I received your telegram to-day. 1 P.M. it was certainly a shock to me you & family certainly have my deepest sympathy & also from my family.

I did not know your mother was sick you must write later and let me know about her illness.

It is so strange I have been dreaming of my husband Caswell so much for the past two weeks he always tells me that has something to tell me & that he feels so well so I guess this is what I was going to hear about your mother.

I wish it was so that I could come to you & family but times are so different now seems as if we cannot be prepared to meet emergencies any more but you must know that my heart & love is with you & family.

I am just writing to you a short note now will write you again. Let me hear from you when you get time to write

From

Your Aunt in law

Carrie L. Borrero

322 E. 100th St.  N. Y City

Letter in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

The apprenticeship of the Hagans siblings.

On 4 December 1869, a Wilson County Probate Court judge ordered 15 year-old Joseph Hagans, described as an orphan, to serve James S. Barnes until he was 21 years of age. Joseph’s siblings Penny, 13, Edwin, 11, George, and Sarah Hagans, 6, were placed under Barnes’ control the same day.

The Haganses were the children of Robert and Sarah Hagans. In the 1860 census of Fields district, Greene County: day laborer Robert Hagans, 31; wife Sarah, 30; and children Mary, 12, Joseph, 8, Penelope, 5, and Edwin, 1. Robert and Sarah Hagans apparently died between 1864 and 1869.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: siblings Joseph, 15, Penelope, 12, Edwin, 11, Sarah, 8, and George Hagans, 6, all described as “farmer’s apprentices.” Their household is listed next to James R. Barnes, a wealthy farmer who reported owning $18,000 in real property. (This is a different James Barnes from the one who apprenticed the Hagans children. James S. Barnes died in 1871. With the exception of Penny — see link above — I have not found the Hagans siblings after 1870.)

United States, Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at https://familysearch.org.

A visit to Oklahoma.

The Black Dispatch (Oklahoma City), 25 May 1922.

Ada G. Battle and Nicholas R. Battle, both born in Wilson County, were the children of Charles Battle.

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In the 1880 census, Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Charles Battle, 35, wife Leah, 30, and children Adelia, 5, Geneva, 2, Virgil, 1 month, and Nicholas, 18.

On 27 February 1901, Nicholas R. Battle, 37, born in North Carolina, residing in Chandler, Oklahoma, married Mrs. Dora J. Bolton, 39, born in Mississippi, residing in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in Logan County, Oklahoma.

In the 1910 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nicklos Battle, 46; wife Dora, 41; adopted children Charley Suggs, 5, and Henry Caldwell, 3; and hired man Cleveland Smith, 24.

In the 1920 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nichols Battles, 56; wife Dora J., 58; and son Henery N., 12.

Dora Battle died 10 November 1921 in Chandler, Oklahoma.

In the 1930 census of Chandler, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Henry Battle, 22; wife Vannie, 23; son Henry Jr., 3; and father Nicholas B. Battle, 64, widower, farmer.

In the 1940 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nichols Battles, 75; wife Ella, 39; and children Ada L., 5, Nicholas R., 3, and Evelene, 1.

Nicholas R. Battle died 24 December 1946 in Chandler, Oklahoma.

Henrietta Ruffin, champion canner.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 August 1944.

Once again, Henrietta Ruffin was recognized for her canning prowess, here crowned Wilson County champion canner by the Farm Security Administration. Using a pressure cooker obtained via an FSA loan, Ruffin planned to can 800 quarts of fruit, meat, and vegetables in 1944, topping her 550-quart total the year before.

Family ties, no. 4: I pray for the whole family.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the fourth in a series of excerpts from interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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A few months after my grandmother passed away in January 2001, my father, mother, sister, and I converged on her little rowhouse at 5549 Wyalusing Avenue, Philadelphia, to clean it out. In a drawer of a large steel desk in the basement, I found a packet of papers. In them, a letter I’d never known existed, from my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson‘s brother Caswell C. Henderson to their sister, Sarah H. Jacobs, who reared my grandmother. It is dated 16 August 1926 and was mailed to Sarah in Greensboro, N.C., where she was visiting their niece, Mamie Henderson Holt.

Though he does not say so directly, Caswell Henderson seems to have been responding to the news of the death of Sarah’s husband Jesse A. Jacobs about five weeks earlier. Sarah has asked him to come to North Carolina, for a visit or perhaps permanently, but he cannot, pleading health and finances. (Caswell worked as a messenger for the United States Custom House in lower Manhattan.) He is hopeful, though, that soon they will be together to “help one another.” He expresses the importance of his family by sending greetings to his great-nieces (my grandmother Hattie and her sister Mamie) and inquiring after niece Minnie Simmons Budd, who had migrated to Philadelphia from Mount Olive, North Carolina. Of course, while “prayers are wonderful when said in all sincerity from the heart,” the prayers of his friends could not keep Caswell C. Henderson forever, and he died 16 January 1927.

Family ties, no. 3: she said she wont going back.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the third in a series of excerpts and adaptations of interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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Mamie Henderson Holt (1907-2000), taken not long after she married.

My grandmother arrived in Wilson as a baby in early 1911, shortly after her mother died. Her three-year-old sister Mamie remained in Dudley with their great-grandparents, Lewis and Margaret Balkcum Henderson, until their deaths. Mamie finally came to Wilson when she was about eight years old, but her adjustment was difficult. The sisters were delighted to be united, but Jesse Jacobs did not like Mamie and treated her badly.

My grandmother told the tale of her sister’s escape from Wilson often, and I recorded it several times. Here, a composite, using her own words, that sets out the story in all its heartbreaking emotional complexity.

In late 1922, Sarah H. Jacobs separated from Jesse Jacobs, taking Hattie and Mamie to Greensboro, N.C., where they moved in with Sarah’s aunt, Julia “Mollie” Henderson Hall Holt. Sarah’s health was poor, and she may also have been seeking better care and support. Jesse soon arrived, however, begging Sarah to return to Wilson. [He did not rely on his persuasive skills alone. To read about Jesse’s rootwork reinforcement, see here.]

“[Papa] come up to Greensboro and talked to Mama, and so she promised him she’d come back, [but] Mamie wouldn’t come home. She said Papa told her, said, ‘If your mammy ever leave here and take you with her, don’t you never come back here. Don’t never set foot in this door.’ He told Mamie that. But he told me, if I wanted to stay with him, I could stay, and if he didn’t have but one biscuit, he’d divide it and give me one half, and he’d have the other half.

“But I know Mama was sick, so she come up to Greensboro, and he asked her ‘bout coming back.  And she told him she would come back, but she got sick. Mama didn’t work all the time, she wasn’t able to work, and so staying with A’nt Molly and them always looking at her and talking — wasn’t half-talking to her, and so she knew she had to get out from there, she wont paying no rent. [So] we moved in this house, and we hadn’t been in there but ‘bout a week, and Mamie wouldn’t come [to this house.]  She stayed over there with A’nt Molly and Sadie [Hall Whitfield Farrar, Molly’s daughter.] And so that’s where I come on back to get Mamie and tell her about [going back to Wilson], and so Mamie said she wont going back.

“So [when I was] over there to Sadie’s house, I said to ‘em, I said, ‘What, y’all having a party tonight?’ And didn’t know Mamie was getting married that night. Mamie didn’t even tell me. And so they said, ‘Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we gon play some cards.’  And they wanted to get rid of me. Because they hadn’t told us nothing ‘bout it. And so the house was all clean, Sadie’s house was all cleaned up, and tables sitting all around the room. Well, they played cards all the time, so I didn’t think nothing ‘bout it, [but] they had to wait ‘til I left so Mamie and Bazel [Holt] could get married. And didn’t tell me a word about it. And they were getting married that night. Sadie went with Mamie to the courthouse to get the license and everything, and so Mamie didn’t want to come back to Wilson ‘cause Papa wasn’t good to her. He was always snapping at her or something, and he’d throw things and hit her or …. And so she said she marry a dog before she’d come back to Wilson. So Bazel, I don’t know how they got into it, but Bazel was staying with Sadie and A’nt Molly. We all was staying down A’nt Molly’s house ‘cause Molly married Bazel’s uncle [Walter Holt.] So Mamie married Bazel. To keep from coming back. But Mamie was 15 when she got married.  She told Bazel she wont coming back home.

“And so [the next] day, Mama didn’t feel like going to the restaurant where she had over there, and so I sat there looking out the window, and I said to Mama, ‘Mamie’s coming up, and she’s got a suitcase! I wonder where she’s going.’ So she came on in, and she told Mama that she had got married last night and was coming to get her clothes. And Mama told her she ought not to let her have them. ‘You didn’t tell me nothing ‘bout it. If you was gon get married, and you’d a told me, [you could have] got married and had a little social or something.’ And Mama was mad with her because she got married. Mama had told her that, ‘If you don’t go back, I’ll put the law on you and make you go back ‘cause you underage.’  And that’s how come Mamie didn’t let her know nothing ‘bout nothing. So Mamie just got her clothes. Some of ‘em. And crammed ‘em in a suitcase and went back over …. And, now, she … had just met [Bazel], and he told her, ‘Well, we’ll get married if you want to stay here. We’ll get married.’ And so he married her. That night. But I didn’t know they was getting married that night, and so I fussed her out and: ‘How come you didn’t let me know where I could have stayed to the wedding? I wanted to see you get married.’  ‘Well, it wont no wedding – we was just getting married! Getting that old piece of paper. [‘Cause] I’m not going back to Wilson, so – you know Uncle Jesse don’t like me nohow. And I don’t want to go back to Wilson.’ So that’s how come Mamie got married.”

“That old piece of paper.” Mamie told the registrar she was 19 years old (she was 15) and that her adoptive parents were dead (they were not.) A Baptist minister married the couple on Valentine’s Day 1923 at the home of Henry Farrar, the husband of Mamie’s cousin Sadie Hall Farrar. Sadie’s mother Julia “Mollie” Henderson Holt was a witness to the ceremony.

Hattie Henderson returned to Wilson with Sarah H. Jacobs, but she and her sister Mamie remained exceptionally close throughout their long lives. Mamie and Bazel had six children together and were together until his death in 1954. Trips to Greensboro to visit my great-aunt and cousins were a staple of my childhood and a testament to the sisters’ bond.

Hattie Henderson and daughter Hattie Margaret Henderson with Mamie Henderson Holt, center, late 1940s, probably during a visit to Greensboro.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson adapted and edited for clarity. Copyright 1994, 1996. All rights reserved. Photos in collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Snaps, no. 89: John H. Lassiter and Ora Lassiter Covington.

John H. Lassiter and granddaughter Ora Lassiter, probably not long before his death in 1915.

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In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Silas Lassiter, 38; wife Orpie, 34; children Sallie, 12, Mary, 11, James, 9, John, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Penina, 4, Hardy, 3, Silas, 1, and George, 2 months; and Delpha Simpson, 14.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: James Lassiter, 19, and John Lassiter, 18, farm laborers.

On 17 December 1874, John Lassiter, 21, married Lizzie Lunsford, 21, in Johnston County, North Carolina.

In the 1880 census of Pikeville township, Wayne County, North Carolina: John Lassiter, 28, farm hand.

On 26 October 1886, J.H. Lassiter, 34, of Wilson County, son of Silas and Orphy Lassiter, married Isabella Gear, 21, of Wilson County, in Wilson. Carline Vick, Martie Brooks, and John Vick were witnesses, and Baptist minister E.H. Ward performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: drayman John Lassiter, 50; wife Isabella, 33, wash woman; and children and grandchildren Ida, 17, Henry G., 9, Marcellus, 7, Hardy, 5, and Ora, 7 months.

On 8 January 1908, John H. Lassiter, 50, of Wilson, son of S. and O. Lassiter, married Pattie D. Hunder, 29, of Richmond, Virginia, in Wilson. Joseph S. Jackson, A.M.E. Zion minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Jim Watson, Harry Mercer and Rev. John Scarboro.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, John H. Lassiter, 57, and children and grandchildren Marcellious, 18, Hardie, 16, and Oeta, 14, all odd jobs laborers.

John Lassiter died 15 June 1915 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 63 years old; was born in Wilson County to Silas Lassiter and Ophie Simpson; and was married. Henry Lassiter was informant.

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lassiter Ora (c) dom h 512 Stantonsburg rd

On 5 May 1918, Albert Covington, 23, of Wilson, son of Noah and Sarah Covington of Harnett County, married Ora Lassiter, 19, of Wilson, daughter of Henry and Lizzie Lassiter, in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 101 East Street, furniture store truck driver Albert Covington, 23; wife Ora, 20; son John, 4 months; roomer Will McNeal, 22, oil mill laborer; and brother-in-law Marcellus Lassiter, 24, tobacco company laborer.

In the 1928 Baltimore, Maryland, city directory: Covington Albert (Ora) chauf h 505 Robert

Detail of photo courtesy of Bernard Patterson.