Letters

Epps’ two cents.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 October 1933.

As far as I am able to tell, Charles Montgomery Epps never lived in Wilson, but he had a whole lot to say about Black Wilson’s education affairs. A former school principal in Tarboro and Greenville, North Carolina, Epps was the first outsider on the scene in the wake of school superintendent Charles L. Coon’s slap of African-American teacher Mary C. Euell. Black Wilsonians promptly sent him packing

Here, Epps lambastes Fletcher F. Pierce, a “young man of Wilson,” for criticizing the Executive Secretary of the North Carolina Negro Teachers Association in a letter published in the Greensboro Daily News. I have not been able to find Pierce’s letter. Epps’ admonishment is par for his course, though — lots of cautions to African-Americans not to stir up anything or risk disturbing “the beautiful relations existing between both races.”

“We get no inspiration from the fiery enemies of our race,” but cheers to George W. Connor.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 September 1913.

Signed only “Colored Citizen,” this anonymous tribute to George Whitfield Connor gets in a little pointed jabs at the “enemies of our race” while praising Connor, who had been appointed resident judge of North Carolina’s Second Judicial Circuit six months earlier. Connor, like his father Henry G. Connor, later was appointed a North Carolina Supreme Court justice. 

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

A call for help from Istanbul.

We first met entertainer Isaiah Prophet Thorne via passport applications, here. In 1941, Thorne wrote the Daily Times, asking for help locating his family.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 June 1942.

Isaiah Thorne’s family appears in the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Preston Thorne, 23; wife Julia, 22; William, 3, James, 1, Charity, 5 months, and Alice, 10; and John Bullock, 18.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, farmer Preston Thorne, 37; wife Edney, 36; and children William, 13, Eugene, 11, Hattie, 6, and Annie, 4.

On 12 March 1890, Hattie Thorne, 17, daughter of Preston and Edney Thorne, married Willis Grissom, 21, son of Willis and Carry Grissom, in Wilson.

Isaiah Thorne’s sister, Hattie Grissom Henry, died 21 November 1930 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in Wilson County to Preston Thorn of Edgecombe County and Eddie Adams of Greene County; lived at 203 Vick Street; was a widow; and worked in nursing. Lydia Grissom was informant.

I have not found anything else about Thorne’s family, including anything about his father and brothers in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Pfc. Thomas writes his family.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 December 1918. 

Wilson Daily Times, 27 December 1918.

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The Daily Times published a handful of letters from African-American soldiers written during World War I, including these from Elton Thomas and two from Arthur N. Darden.

Despite their hopes, Thomas and his buddies did not get home until March 1919. Dave Barnes suffered the effects of his gas attack the rest of his life. This history of Company H, 365th Infantry’s battles in France suggests that the date of injury was November 10, not the 18th.

This service card provides details of Thomas’ time in the Army.

North Carolina World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, www.ancestry.com

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  • Elton Thomas

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 38, printing office pressman; wife Sarah, 33; children Elton, 9, Louis, 8, Elizabeth, 6, and Hattie May, 2; and lodgers Manse Wilson, 36, and Johnnie Lewis, 21, both carpenters.

In the 1908 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Thomas Elton (c) lather h 616 E Green

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month.

In 1917, Elton Thomas registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 17 July 1889 in Wilson; lived at 616 East Green Street; was single; and worked as lathing contractor for Kittrell & Wilkins. 

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Clarence Dawson, 23, barber; wife Elizabeth, 22; and daughter Eris, 2; widower father-in-law Charley Thomas, 59; brother-in-law Clifton Venters, 24, his wife Hattie, 20; and in-laws Elton, 29, Marie, 15, Sarah, 10, and Beatrice Thomas, 8.

In the 1927, 1929, 1930, 1934, and 1942 Newark, New Jersey, city directories, Elton H. Thomas is listed at several addresses, including 117 Summer Avenue, 105 Somerset Avenue, and 109 Sherman Avenue.

In 1942, Elton Henry Thomas registered for the World War II draft in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1894 in Wilson; resided at 108 Sherman Road, Newark; his contact was Charles Thomas, 619 East Green Street, Wilson; and worked for Julius Rose, 327 Amherst Street, Orange, New Jersey. 

On 27 November 1947, Elton Thomas, 52, of Wilson, son of Charlie and Sarah Best Thomas, married Rebecca Williams, 44, of 804 East Vance Street, Wilson, daughter of Solomon and Lettie Kittrell in Wilson. Free Will Baptist minister E.H. Cox performed the ceremony in the presence of Lillie J. Thomas, 715 East Green; Harold E. Gay, 623 East Green; and Louis Thomas Jr., 715 East Green.

Elton Thomas died 15 December 1970 in Goldsboro, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 July 1891 to Charlie Thomas and Sarah Best; was married to Rebecca Thomas; resided in Wilson; and had worked in lathing construction.

  • Miss Richardson
  • Rev. Coward — Bryant P. Coward, pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church.

 

Cemetery records request update, no. 7: burials at Vick Cemetery.

I submitted my most recent public records request to the Wilson Cemetery Commission on 16 December 2021. In pertinent part, it read:

The response was quick. At this time, the Cemetery Commission has no record of any burials made in Vick Cemetery and cannot identify the reference to 37 burials made between 1949 and 1955. Further, the Cemetery Commission has no record of a 1990 report.

The re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan.

On 21 December 1920, Dr. Frank S. Hargrave penned a letter to the editor of the Wilson Daily Times expressing quiet alarm about anonymous invitations sent to white men to become members of “the most powerful secret organization in America,” the Ku Klux Klan.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 December 1920.

Though not framed as a direct response, the Times published a tepid editorial a week later in which it cautioned against the rise of secret societies comprising the “worst,” not the “best” men in the county. “We just throw this out as food for thought, for we believe we know some of the gentlemen who are members of the Ku Klux Klan, and we believe also that they would not have joined if they had for one moment suspected that they had a single member in the fraternity with brains so small and intelligence so little” as to have written J.D. Gold an unspecified note — perhaps the invitation to which Dr. Hargrave referred?

Wilson Daily Times, 31 December 1920.

As we now know, Gold gave the “best men” of Wilson too much credit. By the end of the decade, the Klan held its regular meetings in the white Odd Fellows Hall upstairs at 208 South Goldsboro Street, along with all of the other white-only benevolent and fraternal organizations except the Masons.

Santa, I am sitting here thinking of no one but you.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 December 1936.

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In the 1930 census of Ormonds township, Greene County, N.C.:  farmer Clearance Murphy, 32; wife Mittie, 25; and children Mamie, 6, Laura M., 4, Clearance Jr., 3, and Walter, 1.

On 23 September 1955, Laura Mae Murphy, 30, of Wilson, daughter of Clarence Murphy and Mittie Wilks Murphy, married John H. Wm. Baker, 48, son of Haywood Baker and Ora Harper Baker, in Wilson.

On 1 December 1988, the Wilson Daily Times ran an obituary for Laura Mae Murphy Baker of Wilmington, formerly of Wilson. The notice noted that she was survived by husband Rev. John H. Baker; daughters Brenda James and Ora Jean Willoughby of Durham, N.C., and Joann Baker of Raleigh, N.C.; sons Carl and Peter Baker of Durham and Reginald Baker of Bolivia, N.C.; sisters Addie L. Murphy of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Mamie Tyson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and brothers, Clarence Paul Murphy Jr. of Los Angeles, California, Charlie Murphy of Wilson, and Walter Murphy of Long Island, N.Y.; plus six grandchildren.

Bring me a bicycle and some nuts and apples.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 December 1924.

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Albert Gay, whose letter to Santa was published in 1924, was the son of Albert S. Gay Sr. and Annie Bell Jacobs Gay. At that time, his brothers were Jesse, Harold, and baby Samuel. (Albert Jr. apparently received the bicycle he wished for — seven months later, he broke three ribs when he and his bike collided with an automobile.)

Family ties, no. 7: “They’ll skin a flea for his hide and tallow.”

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the seventh in a series of excerpts from documents and interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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As discussed here, after Jesse A. Jacobs Jr.’s death, Sarah Henderson Jacobs married Rev. Joseph C. Silver. Sarah died just a few years later, and in 1943 Rev. Silver married Martha C. Hawkins Henderson Aldridge.

Shortly after Rev. Silver’s death in January 1958, his widow Martha sent my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (who had formerly been known as Hattie Jacobs) a letter addressed to her workplace, the Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium. Martha Silver mentioned their mutual family connections and offered advice on reclaiming household furnishings that Sarah Silver had brought to the marriage.

P.O. Box 193 Nashville

N.C.   c/o Brake

Feb. 2, 1958

Dear Hattie –

You heard of Rev. Silver’s death Jan. 7th although I didn’t notify you as I was sick and still is sick but not confine to bed. Sarah had some things in the home.  A bed which I am sure you wouldn’t care for and a folding single bed which I am going to get but my main reason for writing you she has an oak dresser and washstand that Rev. Silver told me you wanted and said he told you you could get it if you would send for it so it is still there and it is good material if you want it. Amos has already seen a second hand furniture man about buying it. The Silver’s will “skin a flea for his hide and tallow.” The Aldridges holds a very warm place in my heart and always will. If you wish to do so you may write to Rev. Amos Silver Route 3 Box 82 Enfield and ask him if your mother Sarah’s furniture is still there. There is also a carpet on the floor in the living room you need not mention my name. I am very fond of Johnnie Aldridge of Dudly. Come to see me whenever you can I think you might get with Reka at Fremont some times, she and Luke come to Enfield to see me occasionally  I am going to write Reka next week. I married your great uncle Rev Joseph Aldridge write me

Your friend and great aunt by marriage.

M.C. (Aldridge) Silver

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Martha Silver, seated second from right, with her husband Joseph’s children Daniel W. Aldridge, Allen Aldridge, and Mary Aldridge Sawyer, seated, and William J.B. Aldridge, Milford Aldridge, Lillie Aldridge Holt, George M. Aldridge, and Joseph L. Aldridge. Occasion unknown, but well after Joseph Aldridge’s death in 1934.

Though Martha Silver was not a Wilson native, she and her second husband Joseph Aldridge (my grandmother’s great-uncle, Johnnie Aldridge was her uncle) were married in Wilson. Rev. Silver (who would become Martha’s third husband) performed the marriage ceremony on 16 December 1925. C.E. Artis applied for the license, and William A. Mitchner, Hattie Tate, and Callie Barnes were witnesses. I have seen no evidence that either Martha or Joseph lived in Wilson, and I do not know why they chose to be married there. C.E. Artis was Joseph Aldridge’s nephew, but there are no obvious relationships between either bride or groom and Dr. Mitchner, Hattie Tate (she was Artis’ next-door neighbor — was she simply a stand-in?), or Callie Barnes (who was a close neighbor of my grandmother on Elba Street).

Letter and copy of photo in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Family ties, no. 5: I wish it was so that I could come to you & family.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the fifth in a series of excerpts from documents and interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

——

Sarah Silver died of a massive heart attack on a train platform on 8 January 1938 while on her way from Wilson to Greensboro, North Carolina. After receiving the news via a shocking and confusing telegram, my grandmother sent word of Sarah’s death to other relatives. One went to Sarah’s widowed sister-in-law Carrie L. Henderson Borrero, who replied via letter immediately:

Sunday Jan. 9. 38

My Dear Hattie

I received your telegram to-day. 1 P.M. it was certainly a shock to me you & family certainly have my deepest sympathy & also from my family.

I did not know your mother was sick you must write later and let me know about her illness.

It is so strange I have been dreaming of my husband Caswell so much for the past two weeks he always tells me that has something to tell me & that he feels so well so I guess this is what I was going to hear about your mother.

I wish it was so that I could come to you & family but times are so different now seems as if we cannot be prepared to meet emergencies any more but you must know that my heart & love is with you & family.

I am just writing to you a short note now will write you again. Let me hear from you when you get time to write

From

Your Aunt in law

Carrie L. Borrero

322 E. 100th St.  N. Y City

Letter in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.