Health

Midwives and granny women.

Forty-three Wilson County midwives (41 black) met with state health officials to receive training. Wilson Daily Times, 17 June 1921.

Well into the 20th century, most babies in Wilson County were delivered by midwives, whose ranks were overwhelmingly comprised of African-American women. Here is a running list of them:

  • Rachel Armstrong Allen
  • Phereby Barnes Artis
  • Violet Barnes Barnes — in the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Benjamen Barnes, 52; wife Vilet, 54, midwife; and Elvy, 10, Ailcey, 7, and Spicey, 6.
  • Nannie Best — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Best Nannie midwife, h 332 S Lodge
  • Nancy Staton Boykin
  • Sarah Dawes Bunn
  • Charlotte Bynum — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bynum Charlotte, midwife 553 E Nash
  • Bertha Cade — in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cade Bertha midwife, h 412 E Walnut
  • Lucy Sorsby Dail — Lucy Dail died 15 March 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was born in Nash County to Nelson Salisbury and Carolina Cooper; was the widow of Jos. Dail; lived at 519 South Spring; and had been a midwife. Mary Proctor was informant.
  • Viney Drake
  • Mary Fuller
  • Mariah Battle Gaston
  • Maria Hicks — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Owens Smith, 49, minister; wife Adora, 30; son Jesse, 19; daughter Flossie, 4; widowed mother Maria Hicks, 78, a midwife; and boarder Carry Pettiford, a widowed teacher.
  • Fortune Hilliard
  • Nannie Kirby — Per death certificate, Kirby attended the stillbirth of Joseph Kent, son of Charlie and Victory Kent, on 6 October 1930 in Springhill township.
  • Anna Johnson — Per death certificate, Johnson attended the premature birth of Olive Frances Hannah, daughter of Lemore Hannah and Almeda Morgan, who was born 21 November 1930 and died 28 December 1930 in Wilson.

  • Olive Lindsey — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, Richard Lindsey, 51, mechanic; Olive, 42, midwife; and sons Richard, 14, Henry, 11, and Austin, 23, a drayman.
  • Mary Miller — in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Miller Mary, midwife h 405 N Pine
  • Charlotte Minor — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Minor Charlotte midwife, h 121 Manchester
  • Susan Mitchell — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Susiana Mitchel, 65, a “grannie,” and son Edd, 33, a barber. [A “granny-woman” was a midwife.]
  • Etta Plummer — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Plummer Etta midwife, h 1104 Wainwright Av
  • Cherry Rogers — in the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Watson Stanton, 65, wife Rosa, 53, children Richard, 15, Adeline, 13, Feribee, 8, and Louisa, 21; midwife Cherry Rogers, 80; and Hardy Barnes, 20.
  • Isabella Samuel — in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Samuel Isabella midwife, 509 Church [residence ditto]
  • Caroline Williamson Vick
  • Mittie Wood — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wood Mittie midwife, h 701 Railroad
  • Eliza Woodard — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Woodard Eliza midwife, h 1109 Woodard Av

1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, page 65.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 October 1921.

Suffer the little children: alimentary and gastrointestinal disorders.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away in sorrowful numbers. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children. Few children who died in Wilson County were buried in marked graves. In town, most early burials were in Oaklawn, Rountree, or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, Rountree was engulfed by pine forest, and their headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time.

By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

Diarrhea and dysentery

  • On 29 October 1909, Mary Perry, 2, of Wilson, daughter of Ed and Mary Perry, died of “supposed to be diarrhea.”
  • On 16 April 1910, Bettie Louise Askew, 5 months, of “corner of Vick Viola,” Wilson, daughter of John Askew and Dosia Boykin, died of diarrhea.
  • On 14 May 1910, Mary John Rodgers, 10 months, of Wilson, daughter of J.W. Rodgers and Mary E. Thomas, died of dysentery and bronchitis.
  • On 6 October 1910, Lillie Christine Foster, 1, of 132 Manchester Street, Wilson, daughter of Claud Foster and Cora White, died of “summer diarrhoea.”
  • On 20 May 1920, Clide Parker, 1, of Saratoga township, son of Henry Parker and Mary Barnes, died of dysentery and ileocolitis, with “too much rich food” as a contributing factor. [The certificate noted that Parker had been born on Edwards’ farm, WIlson County.]
  • On 29 June 1915, Estella Farmer, 15, of Stantonsburg township, daughter of Robert Farmer and Pennie Bynum, died of acute dysentery.
  • On 27 May 1917, Louis Armstrong, 12, of Black Creek township, son of Bill Armstrong, died of dysentery.
  • On 31 May 1917, Dorsey N. Powell, 10 months, of Wilson township, son of Dorsey Powell and Ella Hines, died. “No doctor. This child was cutting teeth, which effected the stomach, causing diarrhea.”
  • On 1 October 1917, Cecil Thomas Lucas, 1, of Elm City, daughter of Wiley Plymouth Lucas and Minnie Cooper, died of diarrhea and enteritis due to “faulty feeding.”
  • On 24 June 1918, Willis Edmundson, 21 months, of Saratoga township, son of Doc Edmundson and Mary Cullen, died of dysentery and was buried at Mrs. Eliza Barnes’ place.
  • On 30 June 1923, John Wesley Reid, 2, of 707 Harper Street, Wilson, son of John C. Reid and Byner Cutchon, died of summer complaint. [Summer complaint an acute condition of diarrhea, occurring chiefly in infants and children during weather and caused by bacterial contamination of food. The condition is associated with poor hygiene.]

Stomach disorders and conditions

  • On 16 October 1910, Chas. H. Gunn, 1, of Wilson, son of Moses Gunn and Annie Barnes, died of gastritis.
  • On 21 November 1910, Joseph Batts, 13 months, of Wilson, son of Willie and Oliver Batts, died of gastritis.
  • On 17 May 1917, Naomi Petway, 2, of Toisnot township, daughter of Allen Petway and Annie Mercer, “started with a very sick stomach, died in 24 hours.”
  • On 11 July 1917, Emma Davis, 1, of Wilson township, daughter of David Davis and Mary Johnson, died of gastritis.
  • On 24 July 1930, Detha Lee Mitchell, 22 days, of Taylors township, daughter of Gus Mitchell and Cora Hicks, died of starvation and dehydration and congenital pyloric stenosis.
  • On 8 August 1930, Ben Dalton Ricks, 27 days, of Toisnot township, son of Dalton Ricks and Quinnie Farmer, died of pyloric stenosis.
  • On 30 August 1930, Laura Mae Dew, 2 months, of 412 Lodge Street, Wilson, daughter of William Dew and Laura Cogdell, died of gastritis, with bad milk a contributor.

Indigestion

  • On 23 December 1910, Lucial Whitehead, 1, of Wilson, daughter of Henry Whitehead and Victora Ennis, died of “don’t know, was suffering from indigestion at the time.”

Pellagra

  • On 30 June 1916, Mark Parker, 6, school boy, of Wilson, son of Herbert Parker and Mary Simms, died of probable pellagra. [Pellagra is a disease caused by lack of niacin in the diet.  In the early 1900s, it reached nearly epidemic levels among poor people in the South as a result of over-reliance on milled corn in the diet.]
  • On 19 June 1918, Johnnie Hagans, 5, of Wilson, son of Alonza Hagans and Fronney Anderson, died of pellagra.

Intestinal disorders and conditions

  • On 14 November 1909, E.G. Bostis, 1, of Wilson, son of E.G. and Julie Bostis, died of “supposed to be bowel trouble.”
  • On 27 April 1910, John William Barnes, 11 months, of Wilson, son of J.M. Barnes and Annie Darden, died of “inflammation of bowels.”
  • On 9 June 1910, Johnnie Bryant, 10 months, of Wilson, son of Anthony Bryant and Bertha Best, died of entero-colitis.
  • On 11 July 1910, Marie R. Taylor, 4 months, of Wilson, daughter of Rev. H.B. Taylor and M.L. Taylor, died of entero-colitis.
  • On 29 June 1911, Charles Fletcher Morgan, 1, of 504 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson, son of Calvin Morgan and Almater Bynum, died of intestinal cramps.
  • On 2 June 1914, William Maning Barnes, 3, of 109 East Street, Wilson, son of Lemon Barnes and Lizzie Smith, died of intestinal catarrh.
  • On 3 June 1914, Vanjaline Williamson, 4, of Wilson, daughter of William and Hattie Williamson, died of an “obstructed bowel, cause unknown, should have been operated on.”
  • On 24 June 1914, Ernest Artis, 12, of Stantonsburg township, son of Willie and Mollie Artis, died of an intestinal perforation, with typhoid fever as a contributing cause.
  • On 29 July 1915, Howard Simmons, 13, of Wilson, son of John Simmons and Emma Bray, died of intestinal obstruction.
  • On 26 April 1917, Davis Snookums Barnes, 1, of Old Fields township, son of Wiley Barnes and Martha Homes, died of “acute enteritis caused from eating fresh green vegetables.”
  • On 9 May 1917, Willie Moore, 1, of Wilson township, son of Samuel Smith and Clara Moore, died of “possibly bowel trouble and teething.”
  • On 20 August 1917, McChata Barnes, 1, of Wilson, son of William Barnes and Maedie Taylor, probably died of ileocolitis.
  • On 12 September 1918, Novilla Barnes, 13, “in school,” of Saratoga township, daughter of Ned Barnes and Allice Locust, died of an intestinal hemorrhage, with typhoid fever as a complicating factor.
  • On 24 December 1918, Pauline David, 3, of Taylors township, daughter of Herman David and Annie Parker, died of “elleo-colitis, probable cause.”
  • On 10 June 1922, Jessy Hussey, 12, “school child,” of Wilson township, son of Willie Hussey and Bessie Holmes, died of gastroenteritis with “non-ripe berries” a contributing cause.
  • On 6 September 1922, Rematha Barnes, 8, of Stantonsburg, daughter of L.R.S. Barnes and Edealia Scott, died of an intestinal obstruction.
  • On 15 April 1929, Jessie Henderson Jr., 5 months, of Wilson, son of Jessie Henderson and Pauline Artis, died of ileo-colitis. He was buried in Rountree cemetery.
  • On 21 February 1930, Euraline Thompson, 7 months, of Cross Roads township, daughter of Addie Thompson and Lenetta Newsome, died of acute intestinal toxemia improper feeding.
  • On 17 June 1930, Herline Fulton, 8 months, of Taylors township, daughter of Rufus Fulton and Maggie Blackburn, died of “acidosis and dehydration. Undetermined. Possible intestinal obstruction operation too hazardous to attempt.”

Poisoning and esophageal burns

  • On 15 March 1916, Lee Roy Vick, 1, of Black Creek township, son of Willie Vick and Nancy Lewis, died from eating lye.
  • On 12 June 1916, Claude Homes, 4, “farmer’s child,” of Stantonsburg township, son of Stanford Homes and Louisa Pate, died of “poison from potash, accidental.”
  • On 23 October 1917, Allie Hunter, 8, of Old Fields township, daughter of James Hunter and Rosetta Barnes died of “ptomaine poisoning from eating sour vegetables.” [Ptomaine is “any of a group of amine compounds of unpleasant taste and odor formed in putrefying animal and vegetable matter and formerly thought to cause food poisoning.” Ptomaine poisoning, then, is a non-scientific term, no longer in use, for food poisoning.]
  • On 13 May 1917, Willie Benjamin Wells, 1, of Wilson, son of Willie Wells and Mazie Holland, died of “ptomaine poisoning from eating fish.”
  • On 18 June 1917, Ruffin Rowe, 8, of Lucama, son of Ruffin Rowe and Piety Tucker, died of “ptomaine poisoning ate cold cabbage not thoroughly cooked & highly seasoned with meat.” He was buried in the Rose graveyard.
  • On 18 March 1918, Olivia Dickens, 3, of Wilson, daughter of R.D. Dickens and Nora Joyner, died “supposed of poisoned milk.”
  • On 29 May 1919, George Braswell Jr., 2, of Old Fields township, son of George Braswell and Lizzie Bridges, died of “stricture esophagus for caustic lye.”
  • On 20 December 1918, Andrew Tinley, 3, of 117 Manchester Street, son of James Tinley and Lula Coppedge, died of “constriction of esophagus” as a result of drinking of boiling water from tea kettle.”
  • On 20 December 1923, Connie Barnes, 2, of Spring Hill township, daughter of Fletcher Barnes and Jemima(?) Wilder, died of accidental poisoning with lye. He was buried at Rocky Branch.

Nutritional disorders, marasmus and inanition

  • On 27 July 1916, Timothy Vick, 1, of Cross Roads township, son of John Vick and Thanie Williamson, died of “nursing from a pregnant mother — unknown.” He was buried at Williamson cemetery.
  • On 7 March 1917, Louisa Speights, 3, of Wilson, daughter of Jacob Speights and Rebecca Robbins, died of malnutrition.
  • On 16 July 1917, William Alonzo Finch, 20 days, of Elm City, son of Alonzo Finch and Annie Hall, died of “inanition due to inability of mother to nurse and lack of suitable diet.” [Inanition was a term for exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment.]
  • On 12 August 1917, David Junius Smith, 10 months, of Toisnot township, son of David Smith and Lessie Dawes, died of inanition resulting from improper feeding.
  • On 14 August 1917, Matha Matlena Braswell, 9 months, of Stantonsburg township, daughter of Ezecial Braswell and Minnie Barnes, died of morasmus and improper feeding. She was buried at the Jack Sherard place. [Marasmus is severe malnutrition causing a child to be significantly underweight.]
  • On 18 January 1919, Mayetta Jones, 1, of Saratoga township, daughter of Oscar Jones and Sue Edwards, died of “some wasting disease, don’t know exactly, looked like morasmus, don’t know cause unless was tuberculosis.”
  • On 10 November 1930, Gonnell Wallice Hagans, 2, of Wilson, son of Isaac Hagans and Essie Mae Farmer, died of rickets. [Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency. It is not, in and of itself, a fatal disorder.]

Influenza cases.

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Wilson Times, 7 January 1919.

  • Frank Mitchell, Grab Neck — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, laborer Frank Mitchell, 27, wife Alice, 23, daughter Nora M., 1, and boarder Noah Bess, 63.
  • Alex Hall, Elm City — in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widower Alex Farmer, 50; his mother Saro, 80; sister Maggie, 45; and children Leaston, 18, Randolf, 17, and Annie, 8.
  • Albert Wright, South Elm City — Albert Wright registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 17 May 1890 in Clinton, N.C.; resided in Elm City; farmed for Jno. D. Bailey in Toisnot township; had a wife and four children; and had a “stiff foot.”
  • Kirby Haskins, Stantonsburg — in the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Kirby Hoskins, 22, wife Lula, 24, and son Eddie, 7 months.
  • Maria Lipscomb, Route 1, Wilson

Dr. Rosemond, D.D.S., opens a practice.

In late fall of 1948, Dr. Julian Brown Rosemond, a South Carolina native, announced the opening of dental office at 527 1/2 East Nash Street, above Isaac and Kenneth Shade‘s pharmacy. He later built a small office building at 548 East Nash.

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Wilson Daily Times, 3 November 1948.

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Dr. Rosemond during his World War II service, a few years before arriving in Wilson.

Photo courtesy of Maria Rosemond Logan.

Benefit for Mercy Hospital.

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“All receipts given to colored hospital,” Wilson Daily Times, 11 April 1930.

This advertisement touts a midnight variety show and movie screening to benefit Mercy Hospital. The institution, in continuous financial straits, had recently been sold at auction to businessman Wade H. Gardner.

Though the ad is not explicit, it seems to be directed at a white audience. James Edward Andrews, Carl S. Hinnant (described in the 1930 federal census of Wilson as an orchestra musician), Sidney Willoughby and Lester Rose were local white men, and a “black face comedy act” would not have had primary appeal to an African-American audience.

 

The United Service Mission: to improve health and aid the poor.

In the summer of 1946, Rev. James M. Stallings led a public meeting of the newly formed United Service Mission at Reid Street Community Center.

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Wilson Daily Times, 13 June 1946.

Per the Biennial Report of the Secretary of State of North Carolina 1946-1948, United Service Mission Assistance incorporated in Wilson on 11 October 1947 as a non-stock corporation.  As the article below noted, the organization’s purpose was to “operate a board of health for the protection and improvement of the health of its members and the community” and “to aid the poor and the suffering and assist in the finding of employment for its members.”

Wilson Daily Times, 20 December 1947.

  • Fred M. Davis
  • James M. Stallings — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: W.P.A. project laborer James Stallings, 23; wife Kattie, 22; and step-son William, 1. Also in 1940, James Mayo Stallings registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 27 May 1917 in Duplin County, North Carolina; was married to Katie May Stallings; resided at 709 Suggs Street; and was unemployed. James M. Stallings died 18 March 1999 in Scotland Neck, North Carolina.

Practicing midwifery without a license.

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Wilson Daily Times, 19 January 1938.

Mariah Battle Gaston‘s plight was a common one for midwives in the early twentieth century. As the practice of medicine professionalized, and backed by the twin pressures of sexism and racism, doctors began to usurp the traditional role of granny midwives and to criminalize their practice of their vocation.

——

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Frank Battle, 48; wife Martha, 49; and children Dolly, 25, Patsey, 17, and Mariah, 14.

On 16 July 1874, William Gaston, 22, married Mariah Battle, 20, in Toisnot township.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer William Gaston, 28; wife Maria, 21; and children Willie, 7, Lola E., 5, Clara, 4, and Nannie, 2; plus schoolteacher George Harrison, 35.

In the 1900 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: washerwoman Mirah Gaston, 35, widow; children Lola, 22, Nancy, 19, Lula, 16, Eddie, 15, Cora, 13, Fredrick, 8, and Elma, 6; and “orphans” Eva, 11, and Mary Barnes, 20.

On 23 October 1906, Ed Gaston, 22, son of Mariah Gaston, married Stella Williams, 22, in Elm City.

In the 1910 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on East Main Street, widow Maria Gaston, 49, washer woman, and sons Eddie, 24, lumber mill laborer, Fred, 21, Elma, 17, odd jobs laborer, Arma, 15, and Willie, 12.

Fred Gaston died 17 November 1916 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 27 years old; was born in Elm City to William Gaston of Virginia and Marriah Battle of North Carolina; and worked as a farm hand.

On 19 October 1920, Ed Gaston, 40, of Toisnot, married Ida Price, 39, in Elm City. Jesse Wynn applied for the license.

In the 1940 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Nash Street, widow Mariah Gaston, 79, and son Ed, 53, a laborer at Williams Lumber.

Myria Gaston died 18 March 1947 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 December 1880 in Wilson County to Frank and Martha Battle of Wilson County and was the widow of William Gaston. She was buried in Elm City cemetery, and Lula Dawson of Elm City was informant.

Eddie Gaston died 10 November 1951 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 February 1886 in Wilson County to William Gaston and Mariah Battle; was a widower; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Elm City cemetery. Lula Lawson was informant.

Cora Gaston Latham died 9 January 1964 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 August 1891 in Wilson County to William Gaston and Mariah Battle; was widowed; and resided in Elm City. Maxine Kelly of Elm City was informant.

Registered nurses.

Early African American Registered Nurses in NC lists all known African-American nurses in the state to 1935, including two in Wilson:

(The number presumably refers to the nurse’s license and the date to the date she was certified or registered to practice.)

Ada Artis died 31 December 1950 at her home at 611 East Green Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 18 June 1891 in Brooks County, Georgia, to William Adams and Elizabeth Troup; was married [to Columbus E. Artis]; and worked as a “R.N. nurse.” Katie Creigh of Waycross, Georgia, was informant and her husband’s firm handled her burial.

Henrietta Colvert was from Statesville, North Carolina, and trained at Raleigh’s Saint Agnes Hospital, prior to Good Samaritan, a large African-American hospital in Charlotte.

Many thanks to Renate Yarbrough Sanders for bringing this article to my attention.

The disgraceful condition of Stantonsburg road.

Wilson Advance, 16 March 1893.

Into the early years of the twentieth century, Stantonsburg road started at Nash as the continuation of Pender Street and continued past the Colored Graded School along what is now Black Creek Road. Its neglected condition alarmed the paper not so from concern for the African-Americans who crowded its neighborhoods, but for the threat they posed to white Wilson if cholera broke out.