Farmlife

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.

Farmer’s mare stolen.

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Wilson Advance, 21 June 1888.

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The 1900 census of Wilson County lists three men named Toby Farmer, any of whom might have been the man whose horse was stolen. (Though barber Tobias Farmer, who lived in town, is least likely.)

In Black Creek township: John Melton, 42, farmer; wife Lucy, 43; sons John, 15, and Samuel D., 3; stepson Johnson Farmer, 23; and father-in-law Tobious Farmer, 75, widower.

In Wilson township: Tobias Farmer, 70, wife Willie, 69, and son Warren, 48.

In Wilson town: day laborer Junius, 22, Rosa, 17, Freeda, 10, Robert, 7, Richard, 5, Mark, 2, and Ericker Farmer, 7 months, plus boarder Tobias Farmer, 48, barber.

Saddlebags.

Saddlebag houses like this one in the Evansdale area were common in the landscape of rural Wilson County as recently as the 1980s. I don’t know who lived in this particular house, but it is typical of those inhabited by tenant farmers, many of whom were African-American.

The basic saddlebag form consists of two rooms side-by-side, each with a front door. This house, however, has four rooms.

The headboard ceiling and walls are likely original, but the door communicating between the two rooms was probably cut through much later.

A view of the back two rooms. The door between these rooms is also likely a later addition.

Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2019.

The first line of defense is on the home front.

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Wilson Daily Times, 27 December 1941.

Negro Home Agent Jane Amos Boyd highlighted the efforts of homemaker Henrietta Ruffin to insure an ample food supply for her family and community. Ruffin canned 674 quarts of fruits, vegetables, and meats; bought 460 baby chicks; and sold more than eighty dollars worth of surplus eggs and chickens at a curb market.

Though Ruffin had a Pitt County address, she lived between Saratoga and the Wilson-Pitt County line.

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In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Howards Path, farmer Jesse Ward, 26; wife Arey, 32; and children William, 14, Walton, 10, Henrietta, 10, Susan, 6, Kizie, 5, and Juanita, 1 month.

Charlie Ruffin, 21, of Saratoga, son of Ida Ruffin, married Henretta Moore, 18, of Saratoga, daughter of Ara Moore, on 25 January 1920 in Saratoga township. Washington Littles, a Disciples minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of William Dupree, Henry Stewart, and Arluster McNair, all of Saratoga.

In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Fountain Road, farmer Charles Ruffin, 19; wife Henrietta, 19; mother Ida, 50, widow; sister Daisy, 13; and niece Mary, 12.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Ruffin, 30; wife Henritta, 28; and children Bertha, 9, Charles Jr., 8, James R., 6, Juntia, 2, and Gladis L., 10 months.

In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Charles Ruffin, 39; wife Henretta, 38; and children Bertha, 19, Charles, 17, James R., 16, Juanita, 12, Gladys Lee, 10, Christine, 8, Bruce, 7, Bertie Mae, 4, and Curtis, 10 months.

Henrietta Moore Ruffin died 29 November 2004.