Farmlife

The mysterious deaths of Miles and Annie Pearson.

An anonymous letter arrived at the sheriff’s office on 13 January 1922. Miles Pearson had killed his wife, it said, and fled the scene, leaving her lying the yard. The sheriff and several deputies rushed to the scene to find Annie Pearson‘s body, shot through the heart and mutilated by hungry animals. 

“Pistol shot wound through the heart. Murdered by husband”

The Daily Times reported on 14 January that the Pearsons were sharecroppers who had been on this farm, owned by Lithuanian Jewish brothers-in-law Morris Barker and Morris Popkin, just weeks. Their animals were found tied up and famished. 

… and then Miles Pearson was found in the woods, shot in the back.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 January 1922.

A Black man named Jim McCullen and two white men, prowling about the farm, found Pearson’s body stretched out behind a log with a shotgun nearby. Suddenly, it seems, everyone recalled a man and woman who’d been living with the Pearsons and were nowhere to be found. A week earlier, some said, they had briefly borrowed a horse and buggy from George Barnes, but had not been seen since.

“Pistol shot wound Murdered by unknown parties No Doctor in Attendance”

Were the Pearson murders ever solved?

Shelling corn.

In the summer of 1938, “Baker” photographed farming scenes across North Carolina for the state Department of Conservation and Development. In July, he captured in quick succession two images of a small group of white and African-American men and boys shelling corn on a farm “near Wilson.”

Close-ups of the two photographs: 

Shelling Corn near Wilson July 1938, Department of Conservation and Development, Travel Information Division Photographs 1937-1973, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh.

Henry Joyner, whose credit is good.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 September 1929.

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In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Simon Joyner, 38; wife Venus, 36; and children Mary A.F., 14, William H., 11, Dossy, 9, Jacen, 7, and Charley, 2.

On 5 January 1895, Henry Joyner, 26, of Taylors township, son of Simon and Venus Winstead, married Margaret Winstead, 27, of Taylors township, daughter of Berry and Luenda Winstead, in Taylors township.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Jones, 31; wife Margret, 31; and children James, 14, Lou, 10, William H., 6, Herbert, 4, Maggie, 3, and Anna, 1 month.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Thompson Road, farmer Henry Joyner, 42; wife Margaret, 42; and children Lula, 18, William, 17, Hubbert, 15, Maggie, 13, Annie, 10, Obie, 8, Bettie, 4, Luther, 2, Theodore, 3 months, and James, 24.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Joyner, 52; wife Margaret, 51; and children Annie, 20, Obie, 18, Bettie, 13, Luther, 11, Theodore, 9, and Lizzie, 6; and grandson Nathan, 6 months.

In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County, North Carolina: farmer Henry Joyner, 60; wife Margaret, 60; children Anne, 26, Obie, 25, Bettie, 24, Luther, 21, Lizzie, 16, and Nathan, 10; and grandchildren Josephine, 14, Rosella, 12, Edward, 10, and Elmus Eatmon, 8.

In the 1940 census of Jackson township, Nash County: Obie Joyner, 38; wife Gladys, 20; father Henry Joyner, 71; mother Margret Joyner, 70; sister Annie, 40; brother Luther, 30; nephew Curtis, 7; niece Leona Eatmon, 28; nephew Nathan Eatmon, 28; and lodger Elmus Eatmon, 19.

Henry Joyner died 13 June 1944 in Jackson township, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was 78 years old; was born in Wilson County to Simon and Venus Joyner of Wilson County; was a farmer; was married to Margaret Joyner; and was buried in Granite Point cemetery, Wilson County. Obie Joyner was informant.

Margaret Joyner died 18 October 1944 in Jackson township, Nash County. Per her death certificate, she was 77 years old; was a widow; was born in Nash County to Berry and Lurenda Winstead of Nash County; and was buried in Granite Point cemetery, Wilson County. Obie Joyner was informant.

Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for the clipping.

The ax slaying of Ollie Richardson.

White farmer Walter Butts split open the head of farm worker Ollie Richardson after an argument. The next day, following a preliminary hearing, a justice of the peace dismissed charges against Butts.

A guide to the article: the lighter text in the second half, beginning “A preliminary hearing …,” is the first edition version. The heavier text at the beginning, which details what happened at the hearing, was inserted later.

In a nutshell, deputy sheriffs responding to the scene arrested Butts and William Moore, an African-American material witness, who was later allowed to post bond. (After all, he was not accused of committing any crime.) Butts did not testify at the hearing the next day. Moore  testified that Butts and Richardson argued, and Richardson said he was going to straighten Butts out and advanced on Butts, but Moore did not actually see anything in Richardson’s hands. “Two Negro girls” testified to something similar. Unnamed others testified that they saw a pitchfork under Richardson’s body after he’d been brained. In other words, there was no actual testimony that Richardson had threatened Butts with a pitchfork before Butts smashed him in the skull with an ax. Nonetheless, a justice of the peace declared the incident a justifiable homicide and let Butts go.

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Wilson Daily Times, 2 July 1946.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Frank Richardson, 28; wife Mary W., 24; and children Lonie, 7, Ollie, 5, Bettie, 3, and Earlie, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson Mills township, Johnston County: Frank Richardson, 40; wife Harriet, 27; and children Lonie, 17, Bettie, 16, Ollie, 14, Early, 13, Beatrice, 10, Earnest L., 11, Vernell, 8, Gertrue, 6, Dump, 5, Tobus W., 5, Odel, 6 months, and Rosevelt, 2.

On 23 September 1935, Ollie F. Richardson, 21, of Cross Roads, son of Frank and Mary Richardson, married Crematha Wiggins, 20, of Wilson, daughter of Littleton Wiggins and Annie Royal, in Wilson in the presence of Oscar Eatman, Frank Richardson and Anna H. Royal.

In 1940, Ollie Frank Richardson registered for the World War II in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 20 August 1914 in Wilson; his contact was wife Crematha Richardson; and he worked for Otis Nichols, Bailey, Johnston County.

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An abundance of good grazing.

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Wilson Daily Times, 27 July 1944.

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  • Henry Armstrong — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Armstrong, 52; wife Minnie, 42; and children Mary, 19, Fred, 18, Rosa, 16, Clarence, 14, Nathan, 11, Daniel, 9, Louise, 8, David, 6, and Henry, 3.
  • Sugar Hill section — There is a Sugar Hill neighborhood on the western outskirts of the town of Simms and a Sugar Hill Road that runs just east of and parallel to Interstate 95 near the Nash County line. Neither is in Toisnot township. Henry Armstrong’s family’s land was east of Elm City near Edgecombe County. Can anyone pinpoint the location of Armstrong’s Sugar Hill? [Update, 7/28/2020: Jack Cherry identified Sugar Hill as a community along East Langley Road between Town Creek and Temperance Hall United Methodist Church (which is just across the line in Edgecombe County.) His great-grandfather operated a small general store and gas station at the heart of the community and lent his name to Cherry Chapel Baptist Church.]

Google Street View of the old Cherry’s Store.

Lightning strike kills two.

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Wilson Daily Times, 6 July 1926.

This article does not reveal the depths of this tragedy — FrankJames, and Herbert Barnes were brothers, and Herbert was only 17 years old.

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  • Frank Barnes
  • James Barnes
  • Herbert Barnes

In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Drew Barnes, 31; wife Stella, 26; and children John, 10, Wade, 6, Frank, 5, James, 3, Lula, 2, and Andrew, 5 months.

In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer Andrew Barnes, 40; wife Estella, 37; and children John W., 20, Wade, 16, Frank, 15, James, 13, Lula,12, Andrew 10, Maggie, 8, Fransis, 6, Joseph, 4, Ella, 3, and Hubbard, 15 months.

In 1917, Frank Barnes registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 2 April 1895 in Wilson County; lived on R.F.D. #6, Wilson; was a laborer/farmhand for Drew Barnes; and was single. He signed his full name to the document.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Drue Barnes, 51; wife Stella, 49; and children Wade, 25, Frank, 23, James H., 22, Lula D., 21, Andrew, 20, Maggie, 18, Francis, 17, Hubert, 10, Lanciel, 7, and Estella, 5.

“Killed by Lightning while in field ploughing Death was sudden”

Hat tip to J. Robert Boykin III for passing along this article.

Tornado blows off porch.

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Wilson Daily Times, 14 July 1911.

  • Reubin Ellis — probably, in the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer Rheubin Ellis, 76; wife Clarkie Ellis, 72; daughters Henrietta, 23, Joemima, 22, and Cherrie Ellis, 19; and grandchildren Annie, 14, Ashley, 12, Rheubin, 11, and Lucy, 11 months. [Actually, grandchildren Ashley and Reuben’s surname was Simms.]

We had farm labor as a natural resource back then.

The collection in Wilson County Public Library’s Local History Room includes the transcript of a 1986 interview with Clifton Tomlinson, a farmer who had grown up in the Black Creek-Lucama area.

These pages include recollections of the some of the African-Americans who had been his family’s tenants and neighbors.

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  • Sidney and Milbry Ramseur

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Sidney Johnson [sic], 56, and wife Millie, __, both laborers working out.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: on Black Creek and Lucama Road, farmer Sidney R. Ramseur, 69, and wife Milly, 60.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Sidney Ramsoo, 73, and wife Millie, 70.

Sidney Ramseur died 30 October 1941 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 90 years old; was born in Wilson County; lived on Viola Street; and was the widower of Milbry Ramseur. Informant was J. Clifton Tomlinson, Black Creek.

  • John and Robert Clay

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Clay, 45; wife Elizabeth, 46; and children Maggie, 21, Charlie, 20, Joseph, 17, Pearle, 15, Levi, 13, Johnnie, 10, Esrayson, 8, Bettie, 7, and Earl, 2; plus nephew Sam, 15, and widowed mother Mariah, 84.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Robert Clay, 24; wife Mary, 23; son James, 7 months; and sister-in-law Hattie Artis, 12.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John H. Clay, 54, wife Elizabeth, 54, and children Lary, 24, Bettie, 16, and Early, 12; next door, farmer Robert Clay, 33, wife Mary, 32, and children James, 10, Ollie,  6, and Lottie, 3; and next door to them Joseph Clay, 28, wife Essa, 22, and children Ethel, 2, and Joseph, 9 months.

  • John Edward Artis

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg & Wilson Road, John Ed Artis, 31, tenant farmer; wife Maggie, 32; and children Jessie, 9, Rosa, 7, Henry, 5, Claud, 2, Lyra, 2, and Ella, 6 months.

In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: John E. Artis, 41, farmer, widower, and children Jesse, 19, Rosa, 18, Henry, 15, Claud, 13, Larry, 12, Mary, 10, Eddie, 8, Mamie, 6, Carry L., 4, and Maggie, 2.

  • Ruthie and Anderson Hunter

Anderson Hunter, 45, of Toisnot township, applied for a license to marry Lula Farmer, 23, of Toisnot township, on 7 May 1901.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Anderson Hunter, 50; wife Lula, 33; and children Chanie, 18, Sam, 16, Emma, 15, Robert, 11, Annie, 6, and Clyde, 2.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Anderson Hunter, 62; wife Lula, 39; and children Emma, 25, Robert, 21, Annie, 15, Clyde, 11, and Hazel, 4.

In the 1930 census of Town of Sharpsburg, Edgecombe County: cotton and tobacco farmer Anderson Hunter, 71; wife Lula, 47; and children Clyde, 22, Hazel, 14, and James C., 9.

I have not found record of Ruthie Hunter.