Land

Purchase option for nine areas just south of town.

In 1909, Daniel C. Suggs gave attorney Sidney A. Woodard a $3600 purchase option on nine-acre lot just outside town limits adjacent to the Wilmington & Weldon and Norfolk & Southern railroads. The option included the grant of a right of way for construction of a railroad siding “beginning at the second or third telegraph pole from Floyd Bynum’s house” to run through the property.

The description suggests that the nine acres was located in the lowest quadrant of the X formed by the railroads just below Contentnea Guano Company, as shown in this detail from the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

Here is the area today, per Google Maps:

Littleton Ellis’ land division.

Littleton Ellis‘ land was surveyed, divided and platted in the spring of 1942, several decades years after his death between 1900 and 1910. The road slicing across the middle of the plat appears to be today’s Forest Hills Road, with directions east “To U.S. Hwy. No. 301” and west “To Road Leading to the Wilson Via of Winstead Sch.”

Plat book 2, page 175, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

The division of Mary Eliza Farmer’s land.

In late September 1934, a surveyor walked the land of Mary Eliza Farmer and prepared a plat dividing it into five equal sections. Mary Eliza had inherited a life estate in the property from her husband Valentine Farmer, and upon her death or remarriage it was to pass to her children and step-children. The double line at the left edge of the plat denotes a road and fronting it, in the fourth strip of lad, a pack house and dwelling are marked.

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On 5 February 1882, Vaul Farmer, 52, married Mary E. Ruffin, 43, in Wilson County.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Valintine Farmer, 70, wife Mary, 58, children Mattie, 30, Elizabeth, 26, Mary J., 24, and Elizar, 22, son-in-law Charly Freeman and daughter Carolina. All did farm work except Elizabeth, who was a cook, and Elizar, who was a schoolteacher.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widowed farmer Mary L. Farmer, 64; daughter Mattie, 48; and granddaughter Mary Batts, 28.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Winstead Road, widowed farmer Mary Farmer, 75, and daughter Mattie, 40.

Mary Eliza Farmer died 31 October 1928. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 February 1836 in Wilson County to Bob Shelley and Minerva Barnes; was the widow of Vol Farmer; and her informant was Mattie Stallings.

Plat book 2, page 101, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Plans for future growth.

This map was produced just past the period of focus of Black Wide-Awake, but I post it for the crystal-clear view it gives of mid-century Wilson’s residential segregation patterns.  It appeared in the 14 April 1951 issue of the Wilson Daily Times under the heading “Map Shows Zoning Plans for Future Growth of the City of Wilson.”

Here’s the key:

The dot-and-dash of proposed zone RA 5 Residential not coincidentally was coterminous with the East Wilson and Daniel Hill neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were black, and the “plans for future growth” intended to keep them that way.

The land formerly owned by Orrin Best.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 October 1928.

Here’s the plat of Orren and Hancy Best‘s former Grab Neck property mentioned in the notice of sale, with lots 12 and 13 clearly marked:

Here is the current landscape, showing that five houses sit on the 11 platted lots facing Cone between West Nash and West Vance.

Lots 12 and 13 (and a sliver of 11) are now 111 Cone Street North, a four-bedroom Colonial Revival cottage built circa 1928.

Photos courtesy of Google Maps.

The demise of Grabneck, pt. 2.

The sentiment prevailing in 1924, as expressed in the Wilson Daily Times, bears repeating:

“The history of this Grab Neck property is interesting. Four years ago there were in this locality a number of small houses, that stood in the way of the progress of the city, and Mr. Roscoe Briggs put up the money in order to remove this obstacle.”

The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson’s West Nash Street corridor makes this obstacle plain:

At the end of the 19th century and through World War II, Wilson’s tobacco barons and other wealthy businessmen and professionals lined blocks of Nash west of downtown with fine homes in a variety of architectural styles. By 1920, several blocks away, just beyond city limits, developers laid out West End Park in a tidy grid of new streets, including West End, Kincaid and Clyde Avenues. Between these neighborhoods, like a foot wedged in a door, was a large uncharted expanse whose few tiny clapboard houses clustered in the 1100 block of Nash. Who owned this land?

By and large, one family — the children and grandchildren of Daniel and Jane Best.

The Bests and their small houses were standing in the way of Wilson’s westward progress, and Briggs bought them out. On 27 March 1920, he did business with four sets of Bests:

  • from Clinton and Minnie Best [who preferred the spelling “Bess”] for $4250, Briggs bought three lots in Grabneck adjoining other Bests, Leah Holloway, U.H. Cozart, Tobe Barnes and Henry Barnes. (Deed book 125, page 62)
  • from Orren and Hancy Best, for $5000, Briggs bought “all of the land owned by Orren Best in Grabneck,” two lots on Nash Road adjoining Jeff Holloway and Frank and Noah Best (Deed book 125, page 64)
  • from Frank and Mamie Best, in exchange for a house to be built in Griffin Hill by John H. Griffin, Briggs purchased one lot.  (Deed book 125, page 65)
  • from Noah Best, for $8250, Briggs bought four lots. (Deed book 125, page 65)

These sales set the stage for the auction described in the Times article, but there were still some holdouts. The red arrow on the Sanborn map indicates this one-story dwelling at 1105 Nash:

It was the home of Wilson and Ada Best. In October 1925, they finally relented, accepting $4000 from H.W. and Margaret Abbitt for their 66 by 200-foot lot on Nash Street.

The Abbitts quickly tore down the Bests’ little frame house, and in 1926 erected an impressive Colonial Revival residence. The 1930 Sanborn fire insurance map shows how quickly developers moved into the area vacated by the Bests.  On the northeast side of West Nash Street, a sinuous extension of Vance Street was cut through, and houses sprang up along West Cone and West Gold.

On the southeast side, all of the Bests’ houses were razed to make room for the muscular brick showplaces of white Wilson’s elite.

Grabneck was gone.

The Abbitt house, 1105 West Nash Street.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2018.

Rountree Place.

Though undated, this plat likely was surveyed in the first decade of the 20th century. The grid is readily recognizable today, though the names of several interior streets have changed (or never received the planned names in the first place) and Wiggins Street was lost to the Hines Street Connector project in the early 1970s. Robeson, Manchester and Nash Streets follow the same paths today. East is largely the same, thought lost its tip at what is now Hines Street. Of the numbered streets, only Fourth remains. Second is the doglegged continuation of Vick Street, as Third is of Reid. Fifth Street was once renamed to continue Carroll, but now, running behind the Freeman Round House Museum, is Bill Myers Avenue.

The designation of the block between Manchester, Nash, East and Robeson as “Little Richmond” is puzzling, as that neighborhood is described as having been near the railroad tracks and the Richmond Maury stemmery. Maybe not though, as this notice clears makes reference to the lot marked above:

Wilson Daily Times, 1922.

Plat Book 78, pages 34-35, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson; image of modern grid courtesy of Bing.com.

The Masons buy land.

In October 1900, Cain and Margaret Barnes Artis sold a large lot in southeast Wilson to Mount Hebron Lodge No. 42, Prince Hall Masons.

North Carolina, Wilson County }

This Deed made this the 8th day of October, 1900 by Cain Artis and wife Margaret Artis, the parties of the first part to Austin J. Lindsey, Worshipful Master, Lee A. Moore, Senior Warden and John Barnes, Junior Warden, acting officers of Mount Hebron Lodge No. 42 F & A Mason and their successors in office, the parties of the second part, all of said parties being of the aforesaid County and State.

Witnesseth: That the said parties of the first part, for and in consideration of the sum of One Hundred Dollars in hand paid by the said trustees, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, have bargained, sold and conveyed and do by these presents bargain, sell and convey unto the said trustees and their successors in office, that certain to or parcel of land lying and being situate in Wilson Township, County and State aforesaid, the same being near the Colored Graded School building and adjoining the lands of Charley Battle, Cain Artis, and Daniel Vick and described as follows:

Beginning at a pine stump on road (commonly called path) in Charley Battle’s corner, thence with his line N. 87. 35 E 264 feet to a stake, thence S. 36. 15 E. with Cain Artiss line 172 1/2 feet to a stake, thence S. 53. 45 W. 230 feet with Cain Artis line to a stake on the road or path thence along said path N. 36. 15 W 308 feet to the first station, containing 57,900 square feet.

To Have and to hold the aforesaid lot of land to them the said trustees and their successors in office in fee simple forever. And the said parties of the first part covenant to and with the said parties of the second part and their successors in office that they will warrant and defend the title to the said land against the lawful claim or claims of any and all persons whatsoever.

In Witness whereof the said Cain Artis and wife Margaret Artis have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year above written.  Cain (X) Artis, Margaret (X) Artis    J.D. Borden cofc [clerk of court]

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On 14 December 1876, Cain Artice, 23, of Wayne County, married Ann Thompson, 24, of Wilson in Wilson County. T. Felton, Jno. Newsome and Louisa Thompson were witnesses.

In the 1880 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Cain Artis, 25; wife Annie, 25; and children Ivey C., 2, and Appie, 1.

On 11 November 1888, Cain Artis, 35, of Wayne County, son of Adam Artis and Winny Artis, married Margaret Barnes, 38, of Wilson, daughter of Sherard Edmundson, at Margaret Barnes’ house in Wilson. Primitive Baptist minister P.D. Gold performed the service in the presence of H.C. Phillips, Henrietta Clarke and Mary J. Davis. Charles Battle applied for the license.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Margaret Artis, 50; daughters Appie, 21, and Mary F., 20; and boarder William Watson, 22. Margaret was described as married; Cain is not found in the 1900 census. Appie was his daughter, and Margaret’s step-daughter.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Artis Cain (Oates & A) h E Nash extd bey limits. Also: Oates & Artis (Wiley Oates – Cain Artis) grocers 601 E Nash.

Appie Artis died 28 May 1916 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born August 1879 in Wayne County to Cain Artis and Annie Thompson of Wayne County; was single; worked as a laborer; and died of pulmonary tuberculosis. Cain Artis, Wilson, was informant.

Cain Artis died 23 March 1917 in Wilson township, also of pulmonary tuberculosis. Per his death certificate, he was born March 1851 in Wayne County to Adam T. Artis and Winnie Coley; was married; and was a farmer. W.M. Coley of Wilson was informant.

Margaret Artis’ will entered probate in January 1919. Though the document is dated 1909, it seems actually to have been executed days before she died in 1919. Her sole heir is her daughter Sarah Barnes Barnes. She makes no mention of husband Cain Artis, and the 44 acres she bequeathed seems to have been that she had jointly owned or inherited from him.

Deed book 55, page 434, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

 

 

London Woodard, Penny Lassiter Woodard and the London Church.

On 14 February 1970, the Wilson Daily Times published a full-page article detailing the life of London Woodard, founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church.

London Woodard was born enslaved in 1792. He was recorded in the estates of Asa Woodard in 1816 and Julan Woodard in 1826 (in which he was recognized as a distiller of fine fruit brandies.) In 1827, James B. Woodard bought London at auction for $500. The same year, London married Venus, a woman enslaved by Woodard. In 1828, London was baptized and appears as a member in the minutes of Tosneot Baptist Church. Venus was baptized in 1838 and died in 1845.

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Transfer of title to “a negroe man by the name of Lonon” from Nathan Woodard to James B. Woodard, 1928.

J.B. Woodard’s second wife in 1837, and he hired Penelope Lassiter, a free woman of color, as a housekeeper and surrogate mother to his children. Lassiter, born 1814, was the daughter of Hardy Lassiter, who owned a small farm south of Wilson. She met London, who was working as overseer, at Woodard’s. In 1852, Penny Lassiter bought 106 acres for $242 about five miles east of Wilson on the Tarboro Road.

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In 1854, Penny Lassiter purchased her husband London, then about 62 or 63, from J.B. Woodard for $150. In 1858 Lassiter bought another 53 acres near her first tract and purchased 21 acres in 1859. The same year, she sold a small parcel to Jordan Thomas, a free man of color [who was married to her step-daughter Rose Woodard.] In 1866, the years after he was emancipated, London Woodard bought, subject to mortgage, a 200-acre parcel.

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In 1866, London Woodard was granted authority to preach “only among his acquaintances,” i.e. African-Americans. A member of Tosneot Baptist donated an acre of land to build a black church, regarded as the first in Wilson County. London Woodard was licensed to preach in 1870.

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London Woodard preached his last sermon on 13 November 1870. The next day, he suffered a stroke and fell into an open fireplace. Despite severe burns, he was able to dictate a will before his death.

The history of London Church for the 25 years after Woodard’s death is murky. In 1895, white churches Tosneot and Upper Town Creek dismissed several African-American members in order that they might establish an independent congregation at London’s. [London Church reorganized under the umbrella of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association in 1897.]

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By the terms of his will, London Woodard provided for his wife Penelope; sons William, Hardy, Haywood, Howell, Elvin, Amos and London; and daughters Treasy, Rose, Pharibee, Sarah, Harriet and Penninah. (Deceased son John’s daughter was apparently inadvertently omitted.)  “A few facts” about Woodard’s children follows.

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Receipts for payments for taxes and accounts for Penny Lassiter and London Woodard.

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This building was moved around the corner to London Church Road. It has long been abandoned and collapsed in 2017 after suffering serious storm damage the year before.