The Edwin Barnes house, no. 2.

We read of Dr. Edwin Barnes’ plantation house here, of the church at which many of its formerly enslaved people worshipped here, and of some of those people here.

Virginia Pou Doughton’s papers contain 1981 photograph of the house, which was built about 1840 and staffed by a large complement of enslaved people.

The Edwin Barnes house was destroyed by arson in June 2005.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 June 2005.

Photographs — Edwin Barnes House, Stantonsburg, 1981, P.C. 1981.7; Virginia Pou Doughton Family Papers, Private Collections, State Archives of North Carolina. Thanks to Jennifer Johnson for bringing this collection to my attention. Librarians rock!  

The enslaved people of Scarborough House.

Folk LOOVVVE an antebellum house … but don’t love an antebellum house. Mention “slavery,” and it’s all sighs and glazed eyes. Kudos, then, to Scarborough House Resort for facing head on and with loving action the complicated legacy of their 1821 Federal-style plantation house.

As Scarborough House prepared to host a fundraising tea to benefit Preservation of Wilson, I was brought in to research the African-Americans who labored under the yoke of Major James Scarborough and his descendants. My 15-page report drew upon census records, a Bible, deeds, bills of sale, wills, and estate records to sketch the lives of twenty or so enslaved men and women — sixteen of whom we can now call by name: Bluford, Guilford, Nan, Aggy, Silvia, Bunny, Milly, Lemon, Washington, Tom Sumter, Young Aggy, Haywood, Luke, Orange, Willis, and Treasy.

A sample page from the report:

Of the sixteen enslaved people I was able to identify by name, six have been traced forward into Freedom. None adopted the surname Scarborough, but four chose Eason, the surname of James Scarborough’s grandchildren and heirs. If you recognize your ancestors below, please let me know.

Silvia was the mother of four young children in the early years of James Scarborough estate’s probate — Milly, Aggy, Haywood, and Bunny. After Emancipation, having adopted the surname Eason, she lived with her youngest daughter Bunny Ann Eason Hines and family in the Saratoga area. Silvia Eason apparently died between 1870 and 1880.

  • In 1868, Calvin Hines and Bunny Ann Eason, daughter of Cilva Eason, applied for a Wilson County marriage license.
  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Calvin Hines, 26; wife Burnett [Bunny Ann], 25; and children Harriett, 6, and Caroline, 4; Silva Eason, 48; Milly Forbs, 31, and her children John, 3, and Vesta, 1; and William Smith.

Silvia’s daughter Milly also lived briefly with her sister and mother. Her chosen surname, Forbes, may reflect her unknown father’s name. By 1870, she had at least two living children, both born after slavery. Though she likely had older children, none have been identified. In 1874, Milly married Jacob Ellis and began a second family with him. Milly Forbes Ellis died between 1900 and 1910.

  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Calvin Hines, 26; wife Burnett, 25; and children Harriett, 6, and Caroline, 4; Silva Eason, 48; Milly Forbs, 31, and her children John, 3, and Vesta, 1; and William Smith.
  • Milly Forbs, 35, married Jacob Ellis, 22, on 28 February 1874 in Wilson County.
  • In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jacob Ellis, 27; wife Milly, 33; and children Thadeus, 4, and Rufus, 2.
  • On 6 February 1884, Vesta Forbes, 14, married Andrew Eason, 20, at Jacob Ellis’ residence in Wilson County. [Andrew Eason was the son of Lemon Eason, who was also enslaved at Scarborough House. See below.]
  • In the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jacob Ellis, 81 [sic], and Milly, 64. Also, George Ellis, 29; sister Vesty, 35; and Rufus, 4.
  • On 22 February 1903, Vestie Eason, 37, of Saratoga, daughter of Ben Moore and Millie Ellis, married Freeman Speight, 57, of Greene County, son of Paul and Mary Speight, at Pine Grove Church in Saratoga.
  • Jacob Ellis died 31 August 1926 in Speights Bridge township, Greene County. Per his death certificate, he was about 48 years old [actually, he was about 74]; was born in Wilson County to Isom Ellis and Patience Ellis; was the widower of Millie Ellis; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. George W. Ellis of Wilson was informant.
  • Rufus Ellis died 23 February 1931 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born May 1878 in Wilson County to Jacob Ellis and Milly Forbes; was a widower; and worked as a tenant farmer. George Ellis was informant.
  • Vesta Ellis died 10 August 1955 in Saratoga, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 July 1851 [actually, circa 1869] to Jacob Ellis and Millie Forbes; resided in Holdens Crossroads; and was buried in Saints Delight Cemetery, Greene County. General Ellis of Wilson was informant.

Agnes “Young Aggy” Eason lived in the Saratoga area with her children Ellen Eason Scarborough and Jerry Eason. Agnes also likely had older children. Agnes Eason seems to have died between 1880 and 1900.

  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Agnes Eason, 43, with Ellen, 15, Abraham, 3 months, and Jerry, 6.
  • Ellen Eason, 19, married Ashley Scarboro, 22, on 29 August 1872 in Wilson.[Ashley Scarborough’s parents were William and Victoria Scarborough, and he and his father appear in the estate records of James Scarborough’s son Isaac Scarborough’s estate records.]
  • In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Ashley Scarboro, 23 [sic]; wife Ella, 22; children Abraham, 9, Jesse, 8, Peter, 4, James F., 3, and John O.P., 2; mother-in-law Aggie Eason, 40; and brother-in-law Jerry Eason, 15.
  • On 3 January 1889, Jerry Eason, 21, son of Washington Forbes and Agie Eason, married Mary Bynum, 23, daughter of George and Fereby Bynum, in Saratoga township, Wilson County.
  • In 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Jerry Eason, 36; wife Mary, 35; and children Hattie, 10, Ad, 9, Georgianna, 8; Ferebee, 7; Lou, 3; and Charley, 2.
  • In 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Jerry Eason, 43; wife Mary, 42; and children Addie, 20, Georgianna, 19, Ferebee, 17, Lear E., 13, Charlie, 12, Joe, 10, and Mary, 2.
  • In 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Jerry Eason, 55; wife Mary, 53; Hattie, 30; Addie, 27; Mary, 12; Archie, 7; Virginia, 5; Zeelas, 2; Charlie, 20; and Joe Henry, 18.
  • In 1930 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County: farmer Jerry Eason, 54; wife Mary, 50; Addie, 36; Earl, 12; Roma, 6; and Daisey, 3 months.
  • Jerry Eason died 19 October 1938 in Saratoga, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 20 May 1866 in Edgecombe County to Wash Forbs and Aggie [no maiden name listed].

Lemon Eason and his wife Chaney remained in the Saratoga area. Lemon appears to have died between 1880 and 1900.

  • On 26 July 1866, Lemon Eason and Chaney Scarborough registered their 14-year marriage with a Wilson County justice of the peace. [Chaney was enslaved by Isaac and Nancy Scarborough. Isaac’s estate records show that Chaney had several small children during the period of probate 1858-1865, but I have not identified them by name.]
  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Isaac Simms, 21; wife Elvy, 18; Lemon Eason, 46; wife Chaney, 27 [sic; she likely was at least a decade older]; and children Andrew, 5, and Columbus, 2. [Elvy may have been a daughter of Lemon and Chaney Eason.]
  • In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lemon Eason, 55, and children Andrew, 16, Columbus, 12, Larence, 10, Mary L., 7, Randal, 5, and Jane, 3.
  • On 22 December 1889, Lawrence Eason, 20, married Henrietta Price, 20, in Wilson County.
  • On 27 April 1897, Jane Eason married Henry Ward in Wilson County.
  • On 18 December 1901, Andrew Eason, 35, son of Lemon and Chaney Eason, married Nancy Smith in Wilson County.

Like Milly, Washington appears to have taken the surname Forbes. He fathered a son, Jerry Eason, by Aggie Eason circa 1865. He married a woman enslaved in Pitt County, N.C., about 1863; they settled in the Saratoga area. Washington Forbes likely died between 1880 and 1900.

  • Washington Forbes and Pattie Forbes applied for a marriage license in Wilson County on 3 April 1866, but apparently did not return it or marry.
  • On 28 July 1866, Washington Forbes and Priscilla Harrell registered their cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.
  • In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Washington Forbs, 47; wife Priscilla, 25; and children Rachel, 11, Ervin, 5, Adeline, 3, and Kate, 1.
  • In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Washington Forbs, 55; wife Priscilla, 35; and children Rachel, 18, Earvin, 15, Adline, 13, Caite, 10, Anderson, 8, Arie, 8, Mariah, 4, and July, 11 months.

Scarborough House Resort recently dedicated this memorial bench hewn from a white oak felled on the property. Photo courtesy of Mahalia Witter-Merithew.

Small fire at Lou Miller’s.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 April 1912.

  • Lou Miller

In the 1908 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Miller Lou (c) grocer Elba nr E Green h 630 E Green

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widowed cook Lou Miller; her daughter Cora Washington, 34, a widowed school teacher; her grandchildren Irene, 7, James, 4, and Cora Washington, 1; and two boarders, Mary Hadley, 20, cook, and Mary Pender, 60, widowed servant. 

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 630 Elmo [Elba] Street, teacher Cora Washington, 39; daughters Irene, 16, Janie, 13, and Cora, 10; mother Lou Miller, 70; and boarders Isic Hicks, 28, carpenter, Manuel Wooten, 22, hotel laborer, Dalis Cutter, 20, barbershop laborer, and Eliza Henderson, 42, teacher.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 701 East Green Street, George Farmer, 55, porter for A.C.L.R.R.; wife Cora, 51, school teacher; daughters Lena, 20, teacher, and Janie L., 23, department store elevator girl; stepdaughter Cora M. Washington, 21 (marked as “absent”); mother-in-law Lou Miller, 75; and boarders Mildred Norfleet, 23, courthouse elevator girl; and Amos Moor, 35, hotel porter. [Janie, in fact, was Cora’s daughter and George’s step-daughter.]

Commemoration and celebration at Scarborough House.

Black Wide-Awake has featured several of Wilson County’s remaining antebellum plantation houses, including the James Scarborough house, built circa 1821, just outside Saratoga.

Now an event space and bed-and-breakfast, “Scarborough House Resort is committed to a long-term and ongoing effort to more deeply understand and respond to the historic role this property contributed to the injustice of slavery, as well as the legacies of enslavement on the Scarborough Plantation. Through engagement with the members of the Preservation of Wilson, collaborative projects with our surrounding community, and continued initiatives of learning and research, the Scarborough House Resort resolves to memorialize and reconcile with the wrongs of the past. We aim to follow a path of love and respect for all humanity, creating an inclusive environment, where all people will feel welcomed.” The site goes on to request that anyone with information, photographs, documents or other artifacts pertaining to Scarborough Plantation or its residents, enslaved or free, to contact or reach out to the Scarborough staff.

I am thrilled and honored that Scarborough House has engaged me to research the property’s African-American past, a first step toward respect and reconciliation. On 22 April 2023 Scarborough House Resort is hosting a tea party to benefit Preservation of Wilson. Guests will enjoy a tree-planting in honor of Earth Day, learn the history of the house and its original inhabitants, and join in the dedication of a bench memorializing the lives of enslaved people who worked its land.

Photo collage courtesy of Scarborough House Resort.


By time illustrations were made for the 1930 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson, the two-story Normal and Industrial Institute had reverted to use as an apartment building, marked as “flats” at 604 East Vance Street. The tall staircase my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks recalled is clearly marked on its front facade. She was 8 years old when the school opened in late 1918: “First of the year I went to school, and [then] I didn’t go back no more to the Graded School. They opened the Wilson Training School on Vance Street, with that old long stairway up that old building down there — well, I went over there.”