Family

State vs. Lee Simms.

In the summer of 1913, justice of the peace Elias G. Barnes issued an arrest warrant for Lee Simms for assault with a deadly weapon against his wife Mary Simms.

Barnes took this testimony in support of the charge:

State vs. Lee Simms  }   Before Elias G. Barnes J.P.

Mary Simms, witness for the State, being sworn says: I am Lee Simms’ wife. On Sunday the 15th day of June 1913, in the morning I asked Lee to cut some stove-wood for me. He got his gun and tried to shoot me, but my daughter and myself got hold of the gun and prevented his shooting me. While we were strugling for the gun, Lee fired it off, but it did not hit any one.

Maggie Simms, being duly sworn says: Mother asked pappa to cut her some stove-wood. He said he would stop her from following him. He went into a room, and got his gun. I took hold of his gun. We went into the yard. Mother helped me, and we kept him from shooting her. While we were scuffling over the gun, father fired it off, but it did not hit any one.

W.M. Michener [Mitchner], being sworn, says: I was passing Lee Simms’ on Sunday morning, and saw him, his wife, and daughter in the yard, they seemed to be scuffling over something. His wife asked me to come and help her. I thought they were playing. While I while I [sic] was noticing a gun fired.

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On 12 August 1887, Lee Simms 23, and Mary Harriss, 16, were married in Wilson County. Disciples minister P.E. Hines performed the ceremony in the presence of Joe Patterson, Martha Winstead, and Addie Blount.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason Lee Simes, 35; wife Marry, 29, washing; daughters Bessie, 13, tobacco stemmer, and Maggie, 9.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, Lee Sims, 44; wife Mary, 40, laundress; and daughter Maggie, 18.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Simms Lee (c) bricklyr h south of Nash nr Carroll

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Simms Lee (c) bricklyr h 813 E Nash

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Simms Lee (c) bricklyr h 648 Wainwright

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 648 Wainwright Street, Lee Simms, 56; wife Mary, 47; daughter Maggie Williams, 25; and son-in-law Sam Williams, 26.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Simms Lee (c; Mary) brklyr h 410 Hadley

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 410 Hadley Street, owned and valued at $1300, Lee Simms, 66, building bricklayer; wife Mary L., 60, laundress; and adopted son Clarence Williams, 6.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: ay 205 South Vick, widow Mary Simms, 70; daughter Bessie Woodard, 52, tobacco factory laborer; son-in-law Luther Woodard, 53, oil mill laborer; and grandson Clarence Woodard, 16; daughter Maggie Sharpe, 45; and son-in-law Van Sharpe, 45.

Criminal Action Papers, 1913, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

He said he would shoot her head off.

On 21 August 1911, Martha Atkinson pressed charges against her husband, Dock Atkinson, for assault with a deadly weapon. She and her daughters testified in support of the arrest warrant:

Martha Atkinson being sworn says: That the defendant drew a double barrel shot gun on her at her house on Sunday night Aug 19th & swore that he would shoot her head off. That she ran out of the house & hid under the house until she thought her husband had gone to sleep, then she went out in the cotton patch & stayed until 3 o’clock, & from there to the house of another woman in the neighborhood, & that she has not been back home since, & is afraid to go.

Daisy Atkinson corroborates her mother almost verbatim.

Rosa Atkinson says that her father took the gun from the rack & pointed it at her mother & said he would blow her brains out.

——

In the 1870 census of Selma township, Johnston County, North Carolina: farmer Louis Atkinson, 60; wife Rose, 50; and children Jimmima, 20, Raiford, 17, Henrietta, 15, Allen, 10, Hardy, 8, Dock, 6, and Cook, 2.

In the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: Vinous Bullock, 50; Mike Bullock, 60, farmer; [Mike’s wife?] Gatsey, 50; Alexander, 29; his wife Hannah, 23; and their children Martha, 4, Charley, 2, and General Grant, 5 months.

In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: laborer Alex Bullock, 30; wife Hannah, 34; and children Martha, 14, Charlie, 13, Gen’l Grant, 8, George, 7, Puss, 7, Mary, 5, Nannie, 3, and Orren, 4 months.

On 20 September 1884, Blount Powell, 21, married Martha Bullock, 19, in Edgecombe County.

Dock Atkinson, 26, of Stantonsburg, son of Louie and Rosa Atkinson, married Martha Powell, 20, daughter of Alex Bullock, in Stantonsburg township, on 9 December 1897. Daniel Ellis applied for the application.

In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Dock Atkinson, 35; wife Martha, 32; daughters-in-law [stepdaughters] Mary E., 14, Martha, 13, and Daisey Powell, 11; daughter Rosella Atkinson, 4; son Lewy Atkinson, 6 months; and cousin Jollie Bullock, 24.

In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Dock Atkinson, no age given; wife Martha, no age given; and children Daisey, 17, Rosetta, 14, Louie, 10, Ida, 7, Alexander, 5, and William A., 4.

Lewis Atkinson died 25 July 1919 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 October 1899 in Wilson County to Dock Atkinson and Martha Bullock; was single; and worked as a tenant farmer.

Martha Adkison died 29 October 1932 in Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born February 1866 in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Alex Bullock and Hannah Bennett; and was a widow.

Martha Farmer died 1 December 1965 in Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 July 1889 in Edgecombe County to Blount Powell and Martha Bullock.

Criminal Action Papers, 1911, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

State vs. Daniel Sharp.

To stave off responsibility for caring for poor women and their children, unwed mothers were regularly brought before justices of the peace to answer sharp questions about their circumstances. 

On 29 March 1866, Nancy Williford admitted to Wilson County justice of the peace William D. Farmer that she was a single woman, that she was pregnant, and that Daniel Sharp was the child’s father. Farmer ordered that Sharp be arrested and taken to a justice to answer Williford’s charge.

Two years later, Williford, who was white, and Sharp, who was Black, were charged with adultery and fornication. By then they had had two children together, John B. Williford, born about 1866, and Mary E. Williford, born about 1867.

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In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Williford, 46; [second] wife Nancy, 26; and children Mary A., 18, John T., 16, Nancy T., 14, Caroline, 11, Arabella, 5, Elijah A., 4, and James C., 1. 

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Nancy Williford, 34, and children John B., 3, and Mary E., 2. All were described as white. [I initially assumed that this Nancy was James G. Williford’s daughter. However, her age as listed in the 1870 and 1880 censuses is more consistent with that of Williford’s wife Nancy Mears Williford. Williford died in 1861. His and Nancy’s son Elijah Elbert is listed in the 1870 census as Bertie Williford, 14 year-old apprentice to Hickman Barnes, and daughter “Arvilla” is listed in the household of her half-brother William Williford. Did Nancy lose custody of her children as a result of her relationship with Daniel Sharp?]

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Benjamin Tillery, 27; wife Cherry; and daughter Jane, 3; Lucy Taylor, 23, and son Columbus, 8 months; and Daniel Sharp, 26, farm laborer.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Nancy Williford, 42, and children John, 13, farm laborer, and Mary E., 12. Here, Nancy’s children were described as mulatto.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Daniel Sharp, 40, farmer.

Mary Williford, 18, daughter of Nancy Williford, and Lorenzo Barnes, 22, son of William and Sarah Barnes, obtained (but did not return) a marriage license in Wilson County on 15 April 1891.

On 20 February 1895, John Williford, 28, married Mary Ella Barnes, 21, in Toisnot township. G.A. Gaston, J.C. Ellis and Buck Dew witnessed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widower John Williford, 34, farmer; daughter Mary B., 4; and boarder Sammie Barnes. 19.

On 29 October 1893, Daniel Sharp, 52, of Toisnot, married Cynda Parker, 19, of Toisnot, in the presence of John Williford, Mose Parker and Jason Barnes.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Daniel Sharp, 58, farmer; wife Lucinda, 25; and children Joseph, 6, George W., 4, and James H., 2.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Renza Barnes, 26; wife Mary, 32; daughters Nanny, 11, and Minnie, 8; and niece Bertha Williford, 4.

On 19 December 1900, John Williford, 34, son of Dan Sharp, married Lena Locust, 19, daughter of Elbert and Rose Locust, in Elm City in the presence of J.C. Ellis, Lucian Norfleet, Willie Locus, and George Braswell.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: John Williford, 43; wife Lena, 28; and children Bertha, 14, Beatrice, 7, John L., 6, Edward, 4, Arnold, 2, and Odell, 2 months.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: well digger John Williford, 53; wife Lena, 38; and children John, 15, Edwin, 13, Arnel, 12, Frank, 8, and Inez, 17 months.

In the 1930 census of Elm City town, Toisnot township: John Gaston, 48, brickmason; wife Nannie, 41; daughters Pricilla, 21, and Minnie, 18; plus mother-in-law Mary Barnes, 62.

Mary [Williford] Barnes died 6 April 1949 in Elm City. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1868 in Wilson County to unknown parents and was a widow. Nannie Gaston was informant.

Bastardy Bonds, 1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Funeral directors argue over girl’s body.

The competition between rival undertakers was ferocious. Martha Lucas died two days after her twelfth birthday. Unbeknownst to the family, a nurse at the “local colored hospital” (later known as Mercy Hospital) called Batts Brothers and Artis undertaking firm to prepare the girl’s body for burial. Later, the Lucas family asked C.H. Darden & Sons to perform the service. When Darden discovered the body missing, they showed up at Batts and Artis demanding possession. Batts and Artis refused to hand her over unless Darden paid transportation expenses. Darden went to court.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 August 1921.

Three days later, Martha’s father Wiley Lucas and Camillus L. Darden also appealed to the court of public opinion. Lucas stated that he, not Darden, had caused the sheriff’s department to file a claim and delivery action on the advice of police when Amos Batts dramatically claimed he would rather die than surrender Martha’s body. (Replevin, or claim and delivery, is a legal remedy that enables a person to recover personal property taken unlawfully and to obtain compensation for resulting losses.) Lucas “emphatically [denied] that any undertakers but C.H. Darden & Sons were instructed to attend to the funeral arrangements, as I knew of no other colored funeral directors in Wilson at the time ….”

C.L. Darden chimed in to direct readers to the magistrate’s record for the facts, noting that Batts had been told he could sue the hospital if he felt aggrieved. “But Batts knows as the public knows — as I can prove if it comes to a showdown — that Artis’ wife, who is head nurse in the institution, solicits in the hospital for the firm of Batts Bros. & Artis, of which her husband is a member of the firm.” “Artis” was Columbus E. Artis, and his wife was registered nurse Ada Artis.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 August 1921.

Batts Brothers and Artis responded three days after that, “that the public may not be misled.”  They denied having refused to give up the girl’s body, contending that they only sought to be paid for services rendered. The firm claimed the trial justice agreed they were entitled to a “small fee,” but, perhaps taking the temperature of public sentiment, they agreed to drop their claim and pay court costs.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 August 1921.

Martha Lucas’ death certificate.

Barnes-Edwards family portrait.

The family of Lee John Edwards, circa mid-1940s.

This lovely colorized photograph depicts three generations of Lee John Edwards‘ family and dates to the mid-1940s. Edwards stands on the porch beside his second wife, Maggie Speight Edwards. who is holding baby John Henry Edwards. Lee Edwards’ daughter Elizabeth Edwards Barnes sits at right, her husband Frank W. Barnes stands at left, and her stepson Frank W. Barnes Jr. stands on the steps beside his young uncle, A.J. Edwards. On the bottom step are Marvin, Hattie Mae, and S.T. Edwards. Willie Edwards stands behind his sister Elizabeth.

——

On 21 January 1912, Lee John Edwards, 21, of Greene County, son of Elizabeth Edwards, married Almira Rowe, 18, of Greene County, daughter of Julus and Sarah Rowe, in Bullhead township, Greene County, North Carolina.

Lee John Edwards, 21, registered for the World War I draft in Greene County in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born April 1896 in Greene County; was a farmer; and was single.

On 8 February 1920, Lee J. Edwards, 24, of Saratoga, son of Isaac and Elizabeth Edwards, married Tessie Ward, 19, of Saratoga, daughter of Dug and Sallie Ward, in Wilson County.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Lee J. Edwards, 24; wife Tessie, 19; and son Lee, 16 months.

Lee McKinley Edwards died 12 November 1925 in Saratoga, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in June 1919 to Lee Edwards and Tessie Ward.

Lee John Edwards Jr. died 30 May 1928 in Saratoga, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 May 1928 to Lee Edwards and Tessie Ward.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lee Edwards, 34; wife Tessie, 28; and children Elizabeth, 8, Tinsie, 7, and Eddie, 9 months.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Lee Edwards, 46; wife Maggie, 25; and children A.J., 4, Elizabeth, 19, Marie, 18, Eddie, 11, and Willie, 8.

In the 1950 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm operator Lee J. Edwards, 54; wife Maggy, 39; and children Eddy H., 20, Willy J., 19, A.J., 15, Marvin Lee, 12, S.T., 10, Haddy May, 8, John Henry, 5, and Isaac Lee, 2.

Lee John Edwards, 65, of Black Creek, married Maggie Speight, 40, on 10 July 1959 in Wilson County.

Lee John Edwards died 24 July 1959 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 July 1894 in Greene County; was married to Maggie Edwards; resided at Route 3, Wilson; and was engaged in farming. A.J. Edwards was informant.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 August 1959.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Frazier and Dr. Michael Barnes — thank you for sharing!; World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, online at http://www.ancestry.com.

Peoples suffers fatal heart attack while driving.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 March 1950.

Tragedy befell Eugene “Genie” Peoples and his son Earnest Peoples at nearly the same spot south of Elm City two years apart.

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In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: odd jobs farm laborer Jennie Peoples, 52; wife Ella, 51; and children Gennie, 19, garage laborer, William, 13, Ernest, 10, Clifton, 8, and Annie, 5.

Earnest Peoples registered twice for the World War II draft, first in 1941 in Wilson County. On that registration card, he was born 5 January 1922 in Wilson County; lived in Elm City; his contact was his brother-in-law McKinley Whitley; and he was unemployed. In 1942, he registered in Union County, New Jersey. Per that registration card, he was born 5 January 1922 in Elm City, N.C.; lived at 276 Carnegie Place, Vaux Hall, Union County; his contact was Pattie Johnson of the same address; and he was employed by Woolworth Company, Irvington, New Jersey.

Ernest Peoples died 30 April 1948. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 January 1922 in Wilson County to Genie Peoples and Ella Parker, both born in Northampton County; lived on Railroad Street, Elm City; and worked as a laborer. His cause of death: “decapitation and dismemberment of body due to Train #91 South Atlantic Coast Line R.R. passing over body.”

Genie Peoples died 15 March 1950 in Elm City, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born November 1886 in Jackson, Nash County, to Henry Peoples and Leair Peoples; resided on Railroad Street, Elm City; was married; and worked as a carpenter. Informant was Cora Robbins, Elm City.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The deaths of James and Oscar Lewis.

In this follow-up to yesterday’s post about James W. Lewis‘ murder of his wife Annie Bethune Lewis, we learn who killed James Lewis seven years later — James’ son (and Annie’s stepson) Oscar Lewis, who drowned himself after.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 December 1949.

“Asphyxiation die to drowning (in Great Swamp at tressle along A.C.L.R.R. near Black Creek NC; aggravated by his homicide of his father; suicide by drowning.”

The last will and testament of Annie Gunn.

Annie Gunn‘s will, drafted three years before she died in 1919, reveals unusual wealth and interesting family dynamics.

To her husband Daniel Gunn, Annie Gunn bequeathed the use and enjoyment of a room in their house (clearly, her house) on Lodge Street, specifically, the room next to the adjoining grocery store. Daniel Gunn was to live in the room, not rent it, and if he did not want to live there, the provision was moot. Annie Gunn also left her husband an interest in the store building for the duration of his lifetime, as long as he paid taxes, insurance, and made necessary repairs. Last, Daniel Gunn was to receive all his wife’s “wearing apparel” and her kitchen and household furnishings, except her clock, “machine,” and piano. Anything he didn’t want, he could “distribute among [her] own people as he may deem best.”

To nephew Thomas Deans, Gunn bequeathed her house at 514 South Lodge Street, the adjoining store, the piano, and the clock.

514 and 512 [now 510] South Lodge Street, with the grocery store between them, as drawn in the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson. (Is the small building behind the grocery the “room” bequeathed to Daniel Gunn?)

To Claudia Wooten, Gunn bequeathed a life interest in the house and lot at what is now 510 South Lodge and a sewing machine. At Wooten’s death, the house was to be sold to pay off debts, expenses, and inheritance taxes and to pay out these bequests:

  • to friend Mrs. Vene Davis, Greenville, N.C., $100
  • to Davis’ daughter, Mrs. Lourine Skinner, Greenville, N.C., $100
  • to friend Mrs. Minnie Cobb, wife of John Cobb, $50
  • to nephew Henry Battle, $50
  • to Charles Barnes, $50
  • to niece Fatina Battle, $50
  • to brother Isaac Matthews, $50
  • to Clara Ann Viverett, Bryant Winstead, and Ned Winstead, her sister’s children, $50
  • to Cora Gunn, $50
  • to Braswell Winstead, $50
  • to trustees of A.M.E. Zion Church of Wilson, $50
  • to Belle Holden, $50

Almost twenty years after Annie Gunn died, the house she left Claudia Wooten went up for auction. The notice of sale mentioned that the lot was a portion of the land Gunn (then Barnes) had purchased in 1897.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 June 1938.

——

  • Annie Gunn

On 17 September 1895, Geo. Bynum, 40, of Wilson, son of Amos Pitt and Lucy Bynum, married Annie Barnes, 35, of Wilson, at Fan[?] Johnson’s residence. A.M.E.Z. minister L.B. Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Berry Bynum, Ella Allen, and Howell G. Bynum.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Annie Bynum, 40; Maggie Eanox, 24, widow, her children Addie M., 9, and Joseph Eanox, 7, and sister Bertie Eanox, 17; and boarder Mary Corbett, 24.

On 22 May 1901, Daniel Gunn, 40, of Wilson County, son of Ruffin and Lizzie Gunn, married Annie A. Bynum, 42, of Wilson County, at her residence in Wilson. Free Will Baptist minister Crocket Best performed the ceremony in the presence of Cora Beckwith, Mary Thorne, and Debsel [Delzelle] Beckwith. [The Beckwiths were Annie Gunn’s next-door neighbors.]

In the 1908 and 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Gunn Anna (c) clothing h 514 S Lodge

Annie Gunn died 30 January 1919 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she lived at 514 Lodge Street; was 68 years old; was born in Nash County, N.C., to “Dr. Shaw, white” and an unknown mother; and was married to Daniel Gunn.

  • Daniel Gunn

In the 1908 and 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Gunn Daniel (c) grocer 512 1/2 S Lodge h 514 S Lodge

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Gunn Daniel (c) lab h 514 S Lodge

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 514 Lodge Street, school principal James T. Deans, 53, wife Mary, 34, and children Rosevelt, 16, James Jr., 9, Walter, 5, Therodore, 3, and Dixie, 2 months, and boarder Daniel Gunn, 57, a tobacco factory worker.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Gunn Daniel tob grader 512 S Lodge h 514 S Lodge

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Gunn Daniel (c) lab h 514 S Lodge

Daniel Gunn died 25 May 1929 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 68 years old; was a widower; was born in Danville, Virginia; lived at 514 Lodge Street; and worked as a tobacconist (grading). Addie E. Hall was informant.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Clauda Wooten, 37, son Sidney, 18, farm laborer, and brother Irdel, 35, day laborer.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Goldsboro Street, widow Clauda Wooten, 47, laundress, and son Sim, 28, wagon factory laborer.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 512 South Lodge, Claudie Wooten, 57, widow, and son Sim, 37, wagon factory laborer.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 510 South Lodge, owned and valued at $1000, widow Claudia Wooten, 67, and son Sim, 48, widower, carpenter at Hackney Wagon.

Claudia Wooten died 9 August 1935 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 73 years old; was born in Nash County to Henry Shaw and Jane Shaw; was a widow; and lived at 510 Lodge Street. Informant was Sim Wooten, 510 Lodge.

  • Vene Davis and Lourine Skinner

Lavenia Blount Davis (1854-1942) and her daughter Laurine Davis Skinner (1881-1959) were Wilson natives. That they were white is signaled by the inclusion of an honorific before their names. I do not know Annie Gunn’s relationship to them or why she would leave them such large sums of money.

  • Minnie Cobb — Minnie Warren Cobb (1884-1964), either.
  • Henry Battle
  • Charles Barnes
  • Fatina Battle
  • Isaac Matthews

In the 1870 census of Chesterfield township, Nash County, North Carolina: Clara Matthews, 55, and son Isaac, 19, farm laborer.

On 12 April 1871, Isaac Matthews, son of Stephen Powell and C. Mathews, married Sidney Powell, daughter of Calvin Powell and Penny Lucus, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: in the household of white farmer Mark M. Matthews, 40, hirelings Charly G. Howard, 24, Isaac Matthews, 28, George Locust, 50, and Calvin Powell, 50, and his son Thomas, 14.

  • Clara Ann Viverett —

In the 1870 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: d[omestic] servant Anna Oats, 28; Milly Winsted, 16, d[omestic] servant, Ned Winsted, 13, farm laborer, and Clara Winsted, 12, d[omestic] servant; and John Batts, 22, white, liquor dealer.

Henry Viverett, 42, of Toisnot township, Wilson County, married Clara Winstead, 30, of Toisnot township, on 19 March 1896.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Vivrett, 47; wife Clory, 34; and children Isabella, 18, Arthur, 14, Willie, 10, Ella, 6, Victora, 3, and Henry, 1.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Henry Viverett, 56; wife Clara, 46; and children Ella, 17, Victoria, 13, Henry, 10, and Troy, 5.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Virrett, 55; wife Clara, 53; and son Willie, 15.

  • Bryant Winstead

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Bryant Winsted, 18, Jack Hardy, 22, and Matilda Hardy, 20, all farm laborers.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Bryant Winstead, 30; wide Blessing, 28; grandmother Millie Batchelor, 83; and niece Ellen Heggins, 12.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Bryant Winstead, 49, and wife Blessing, 45.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Bryant Winstead, 54, and wife Blessing, 48.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Bryant Winstead, 65, and wife Blessing, 65.

Bryant Winstead died 2 October 1933 in Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was

James H. Holden, 35, of Wilson, son of Rachel Holden, married Isabell Deans, 25, on 25 January 1900 in Wilson. Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of J.T. Deans, Cora Beckwith and Goodsey Holden.

N.B. Annie Barnes Bynum Gunn is not to be confused with Annie Barnes Gunn (1874-1973), whose husband was Moses Gunn.

I am not yet clear on Annie B.B. Gunn’s birth family. Her marriage licenses do not list her parents. Her death certificate lists only her father, a white physician named Shaw. Bryant, Clara, and Ned Winstead are described as Annie Gunn’s sister’s children; records name their mother variously as Iseley and Essie Winstead. (They had different fathers.) Claudia Wooten is not described as Annie Gunn’s relative, but her parents’ surnames are listed as Shaw on her death certificate. Braswell Winstead, son of Riley Robbins and Malissa Winstead, is not described as Annie Gunn’s relative, but have been. J. Thomas Deans, son of Sarah Deans, was described as her nephew. Isaac Matthews is described as her brother, but his mother was Clara Matthews. Henry and Fatina Battle are described as her nephew and niece.

The death of John Jenkins (alias Thomas Washington).

Wilson Daily Times, 3 July 1931.

According to this news account, Minerva Barnes slashed her brother-in-law John Jenkins across the forearm because he had slapped her sister. However, the dead man’s death certificate reports his name as Thomas Washington

Minerva Barnes’ charges were eventually upgraded to manslaughter, but she was acquitted in February 1932.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1932.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Lane Street Project: seek and ye shall find.

Drought has seized Wilson County, leaving wild grasses brown and brittle.

… and revealing the stark truth of Vick Cemetery.

George Freeney Jr. launched a drone over Vick recently, thinking to snag a few images as mementoes of his time in Wilson. What he captured stopped my heart.

Those little lozenges where the grass is growing greener and lusher? These are the ancestors revealed in plain sight. These are the graves of our people.

Last month, when I spoke at a Wilson City Council meeting to give thanks to all who made radar survey of Vick Cemetery possible, I stated as one reason the work is important is that the dead cannot speak.

I was wrong.

Row after row. Side by side. Despite decades in which its stewards allowed a forest to spring up over it, and tires to pile high in its weeds, and power poles to punch through its sacred soil, and its headstones to be ripped up and cast away,  Vick Cemetery’s dead — my father’s baby brother, my cousins, your grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles — are speaking loudly and clearly: WE ARE NOT LOST. WE ARE HERE.

Last month, I also placed signs in Vick Cemetery reading “1000s of graves lie here.”

That time I was right.

We rejoice, we give thanks, we renew our vows to restore recognition and dignity to our dead.

The prayers of the righteous availeth much.

——

Radar locates ‘thousands of graves’: scan pinpoints Vick Cemetery’s lost burial sites

by Drew C. Wilson, Wilson Times, 7 July 2022

Researchers who spent two weeks using ground-penetrating radar to examine Vick Cemetery said Thursday that the graveyard is “quite dense” and “a well-populated cemetery.”

Jordan Cole, an assistant geophysics specialist with Greensboro-based New South Associates, supervised a radar survey of more than 7 acres of land off Bishop L.N. Forbes Street from June 20-30.

“It is what we expected, there are thousands of graves there,” Cole said. “It looks really quite dense like a well-populated cemetery, you might say.”

Cole said the actual number of graves has not been calculated from the 13 grids into which the site was divided.

“In our process, when Jordan was out in the field, he collected thousands of transects out in the field,” said Sarah Lowry, director of geophysics at New South Associates. “They take those all in and eventually stack them all together to create three-dimensional blocks of data. We put those all together and create a three-dimensional block of changes below the ground.”

Lowry said analysis of the 3D blocks “is the tedious part.”

“Jordan is about to embark upon that stage of data processing and interpretation, so that is the stage that he is in,” Lowry said. “This is where the real information comes from. He is going to go through every single two-dimensional transect and all of those three-dimensional data blocks and map out each individual possible burial in the ground.”

Cole said that in addition to individual graves, the GPR data, which looks at changes in soil densities, was able to detect other features that could aid research into the arrangement of the graveyard.

“We were able to discern some little land features like there might be a couple of roads or pathways that we can try to map and figure out the layout of the cemetery in a little more detail,” Cole said.

Lowry said it is the careful, methodical data analysis that will assist in finding the site’s older graves.

“Those hard-to-detect ones are going to be people who were buried in more ephemeral burial containers or the older graves or maybe children or infants in smaller graves,” she said. “Those are harder to map.”

‘SACRED GROUND’

Last week, photographer George Freeney flew his drone over Vick Cemetery and immediately recognized a series of rectangles in the first photograph he captured.

Freeney recognized the repetitive rectangles as soon as he saw the photograph.

“It was completely obvious,” said Freeney, who has relatives in the graveyard. “I know that I have people out here. I know they are at rest. They are at rest. We just don’t know who they are.”

Cole said especially on the western side of the cemetery, there seemed to be a lot of visible graves that were “right there in front of us.”

“When we showed up on the first day, they had recently mowed. We were there for two weeks and by the end of the two weeks, you could see taller and lusher grass growing where the graves were,” Cole said. “When it became a little more overgrown, it was even clearer to see those graves.”

“As African Americans, we are looking for relics. We are looking for things that we can hold onto to build our heritage because we just don’t know,” Freeney said. “This is absolutely sacred ground.”

Cole said he will spend the next two weeks looking through the data.

“It will be a couple of months until we have a complete report,” Lowry said. “That report will include all of our methods as well as a lot of maps showing where we did find graves, the numbers and depth estimates for the graves.”

“It is just a lot of grinding work  to sort it through,” Cole said.

The only place not scanned with ground-penetrating radar was a large area of vegetation around the monument the city installed in May 1996.

The city of Wilson spent nearly $29,159 to undertake the GPR work.

The city has owned Vick Cemetery since 1913. In 1990, the city razed the cemetery’s grave markers and removed debris. In doing so, much of the history of Wilson’s African American residents were lost. 

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For more about Lane Street Project’s efforts at Vick Cemetery, start here — note especially the survey map included in the post — and search this blog for more.

Photos courtesy of George E. Freeney Jr., all rights reserved.