In addition to free people of color Wyatt and Caroline Lynch, letters transcribed in Hugh Buckner Johnston, Jr., ed., “The Confederate Letters of Ruffin Barnes of Wilson County,” North Carolina Historical Review, vol. XXI, no. 1 (January 1954), mention several enslaved people.
In a letter to wife Mary Bryant Barnes dated 21 October 1863, a reference to Cato:
In a letter to his wife dated 23 May 1864, a reference to Penny (and free man of color Wyatt Lynch):
In a letter to his wife dated 23 July 1864, a reference to Elias. Per Johnston’s annotation, “Elias is thought to have been a slave from the Black Creek community. Many trusted family retainers were sent to the scene of war to carry messages, food, or clothing to their young masters.”
Four years later, Mary Barnes’ younger sister wrote Santa:
Wilson Daily Times, 22 December 1934.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1020 [Wainwright], William Barnes, 58, cotton mill engineer; wife Julia, 55; children Evylene, 25, beautician in beauty parlor, Mary, 19, and William, 17, shoeshine boy in shoe shop; and “adopted daughter” Nebraska, 11.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 ClarenceMurphy 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.