Lane Street Project + Seeds of Hope Wilson: ’tis the season!

Seeds of Hope Wilson has been a fantastic friend to Lane Street Project, and we want to return the love. Seeds of Hope occupies a nearly 115 year-old house on Viola Street and tends a teaching garden on adjoining lots. Located across from the current Samuel H. Vick Elementary, down the street from the original Vick school, and around the corner from the Vick house, Seeds of Hope feeds the community body and soul.

As you gear up for the holidays, please remember our neighbors in the heart of historic East Wilson. Unopened, unexpired, non-perishable foods, as well as basic toiletries, are much-needed and greatly appreciated. You can drop donations at the Seeds of Hope House, 906 Viola St East on Tuesday and Saturday mornings between 8 A.M. and 10 A.M. (Or place small quantities of food items directly in their pantry facing Carroll Street.)

Thank you!

A dinner party for the Community Playmakers choristers.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 October 1945.

This brief piece reveals a number of interesting tidbits:

  • There was a Community Playmakers Club.
  • It had a choral division and pianist — Jerry L. Cooke.
  • Sam Roberson was “one of Wilson’s most able caterers.” This is the first reference to an African-American caterer that I’ve come across. He is strangely elusive in census records, but is likely the 24 year-old cook living with his mother Sue Roberson, 42, and sister Nellie B. Roberson, 17, at  506 [South] Goldsboro Street in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County. If so, in the 1920 census of Wilson: at 510 [South] Goldsboro, widow Sue Robinson, 42; children John, 23, tobacco factory worker, Sam, 19, hotel bellboy, Sudie, 16, tobacco factory worker, and Nellie, 8; and grandson Kemmie, newborn.


Food demonstrations across the community.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 June 1943.


Recommended reading, no. 15: Ed Mitchell’s Barbeque.

On a quick escape to New Orleans during that first pandemic summer, I dropped by my cousin Zella Palmer’s for a little socially distanced catching up. Sitting on her front porch, she told me that she’d been contacted about writing a cookbook/memoir with Wilson barbecue pitmaster Ed Mitchell and his son Ryan. In a time of scarce good news, the alignment of family, friends, food, and folkways in this project felt especially serendipitous, and I urged her to do it. 

My copy of their collaboration, its recipes interwoven with piquant stories and lush photographs of the Mitchell family and East Wilson, arrived yesterday. Surely you’ve got yours, too. 

I will be glad to hear from you all.

Late in 1925, Rev. Thomas G. Clark, an African Methodist Episcopal minister in  Goshen, New York, pulled out a sheet of his official stationery to scrawl a short letter to his brother John H. Clark of Wilson.

Nov 29, 1925

Dear Bro. John,

I Trust you are well this leaves both of us well. I have not heard from you for some time. Nor any of the rest do you know how they are. Write & let me know. I am writing Jesse Barnes to send me some sweet potatoes & corn meal. How are you all getting on. I will be glad to hear from you all at any Time. I am

Yours, Tom


Jesse Barnes was very likely Jesse R. Barnes, whose farm adjoined the Clark family’s farm on what is now Bishop L.N. Forbes Street in Wilson. Jesse and Sarah Barnes Barnes sold their property to the Town of Wilson to establish Rest Haven Cemetery in 1933.

Original in my collection; thank you, J. Robert Boykin III.

A register of births of enslaved children, part 3.

The North Carolina State Archives’ Private Collections holds a remarkable and exceedingly rare document within the Virginia Pou Davis Doughton Papers. A small booklet, comprised of thirteen hand-sewn pages, holds list after list of the birthdates of enslaved women and the children they bore.

The provenance of the manuscript is unclear. The finding aid describes it as “Slaves of Bynum or Farmer Family in Edgecombe or Wilson Counties, 1825-1865.” However, in part 2, I argued that the booklet belonged to Robert Bynum, Virginia Doughton’s maternal grandfather, a substantial slaveholder.

While examining these pages, I realized that the penciled notes left-side and bottom right-side pages are lists of rations issued to enslaved people.


Mariah‘s children. Melissa was born May 1860. Jefferson Davis dead Dec 1861.

Henry To 2 plugs tobacco

Mr Oliver To 2 galls molasses to 6 lbs meat 2 bbls [barrels] corn

  • Mariah and her children
  • Henry


Thane‘s children. Fanny was born in 1857. Redmond was born in Aug. 1860. Oscar was born Nov. 1862. Oliver was born Nov. 1863. Polly ”  ”  ” ” [was born Nov. 1862?]

Howel To 1 plug tobacco

  • Thaney and children

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Thomas Bynum, 30; wife Bethana, 28; children James, 11, Oliver, 9, Mary, 6, Lavinia, 4, “no name,” 2; and Lucy Pitt, 53.

In the 1900 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: lumber mill fireman Oliver Bynum, 38; wife Harriet, 50, laundress; sister-in-law Susan Smith, 56; and servant Adaline Carter, 13.

On 27 September 1882, Redmond Bynum, 23, of Wilson County, son of Thomas and Bettie Bynum, married Allice Farmer, 22, of Wilson County, daughter of Belford and Peggie Farmer, at Alice Farmer’s residence in Wilson township. Methodist minister P.W. Howard performed the ceremony in the presence of Johnson Blue, Washington Simms, and H.C. Lassiter.

  • Howell


Dilsey‘s Children. Edney dead was born the 28 day Augst 1861. Diana dead was born 24 June 1863. Charlie

Jolly To 1 Plug tobacco

Church To 1 plug tobacco 1/2 gallon molasses

  • Dilsey and children
  • Jolly

In 1866, Jolly Bynum and Amy Pender registered their 30-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Jolly Bynum, 60, farm laborer; wife Amy, 54; and Isaac Bynum, 15, farm laborer. [Jolly Bynum indentured Isaac Bynum as an apprentice in 186x. Isaac, described as an orphan, may have been the Bynum’s grandson.]

  • Church

On 19 July 1866, Church Bynum and Thaney Farmer registered their 30-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

On 5 March 1868, Emla Sharp, daughter of Church Bynum and Thaney Sharpe, married Mac Harrison, son of Lindsay Melton and Eliza Bynum, at the courthouse in Wilson.

On 12 January 1869, Abram Sharp, son of Church Bynum and Thanee Sharp, married Caroline Hines, daughter of Allen and Harriet Hines.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Church Bynum, 66, farm laborer; wife Thanah, 65; and Columbus Bynum, 10.

On 25 December 1870, James Bynum, son of Church Bynum, married Mary Rountree, daughter of Jesse and Rebecca Rountree, in Wilson.

On 28 December 1871, Jerry Bynum, son of Church and Thaney Bynum, married Florence Rountree, daughter of Warren and Sarah Rountree, at Josh Rountree’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Church Bynum, 78, farmer; wife Thaney, 70; son Collumbus, 30; and granddaughter Francis Lipcond, 4.

Slaves — Bynum or Farmer Families, Edgecombe, Wilson Counties, 1825-1865, P.C. 1981.3; Virginia Pou Doughton Family Papers, Private Collections, State Archives of North Carolina. Thanks to Jennifer Johnson for bringing this collection to my attention. 

Recommended reading, no. 12: crossroads.

I am a champion of oral histories and memoirs as sources of information that adds texture and nuance to the dry data of documents. In Crossroads: Stories of the Rural South, Montress Greene has published her recollection of growing up in Pender’s Crossroads, a community anchored around Bridgers Grocery and Farm Supply, her family’s country store, in the 1940s and ’50s. Though Greene’s focuses her memories largely though the prism of family life, she offers invaluable granular detail for our imagining of the world through which the men and women of this blog moved. Though that world was legally segregated, whites and African-Americans interacted closely and regularly, and Greene addresses race relations forthrightly, if through the eyes of a child. “Much of this will revolve around the strength of women and especially black women,” she writes. Beyond these personal stories, however, Crossroads reveals the country store as public space vital to all in the community. 

Montress Greene in the early 1940s outside Bridgers Store. An older African-American man is seated on a box behind her.

Shaw brothers win corn show prize.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 January 1936.


  • C.L. Spellman — Cecil L. Spellman.
  • S.T. Shaw — Seth T. Shaw.
  • L.J. Wilder — Luther J. Wilder.
  • J.R. Shaw — James R. Shaw. In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer James Shaw, 40; wife Lossie, 35; and nieces Eunice, 11, and Nora, 10.