Letters

Letter from a colored soldier.

Pages from WDT articles

Wilson Daily Times, 4 June 1918.

  • Tate — Most likely, barber Noah J. Tate.
  • Walter Hines – Barber Walter S. Hines.
  • Dr. Bess
  • J.F. Freeman — Julius F. Freeman Jr. was among scores of Wilson County men ordered to report for military duty in the spring of 1918.
  • Robert Best — Robert Best registered for the draft in June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 17 July 1895 in Wilson and worked as bellhop at the Yarmouth Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He signed his name “J. Robert Bess.” (In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: house carpenter Orange Best, 67; wife Hansy, 60, laundress; son Oscar, a widowed grocery owner; daughters Roberta, 22, laundress, and Bethena, 19; son Robert, 17, laborer; and granddaughter Sarah, 8.
  • “Old Dr.”
  • Mike — perhaps Roderick “Mike” Taylor.
  • Floyd — perhaps Floyd A. Mitchell.
  • Faulk
  • Milton
  • Arthur — Perhaps Arthur Darring or, more likely, Arthur N. Darden, both of whom were called up in March 1918.

Cora Miller Washington Artis and family.

The time, did I tell you about that time me and Cora Miller got drunk off tobacco? We were under the buggy shelter chewing it — Papa’s tobacco. We got drunk, we got sick. Mama said we were sick, but we were drunk from that stuff. She thought we had been eating sour apples.  — Hattie Henderson Ricks

cora-mw

Cora Miller Washington Artis, circa 1930s.

On 15 August 1901, George Henry Washington, 38, of Wilson, son of Jerry and Jane Washington, married Cora Miller, 25, of Wilson , daughter of Cynthia Miller, at the bride’s residence on Green Street. A.M.E. Zion minister C.L. Alexander performed the service in the presence of Sallie M. Barbour and Alice F. Moore. [George Washington was the sister of Samuel H. Vick‘s wife, Annie Washington Vick.]

Per a delayed birth certificate filed in Wilson County, Irene Washington was born in 1903 to George Henry Washington and Cora Miller.

Per a delayed birth certificate filed in Wilson County, Janie Louise Washington was born in 1906 to G.H. Washington and Cora Miller.

Per a delayed birth certificate filed in Wilson County, Cora M[iller]. Washington was born in 1909 to George Henry Washington and Cora Miller.

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. [“Lou” apparently is the Cynthia Miller named on Cora Washington’s marriage license. Also, Cora’s second child was in fact a girl named Janie, not a boy James. Though no street is identified on the enumeration sheet, it is clear from the names of the Miller-Washingtons’ neighbors that they lived on or just off East Green Street.]

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 1925 Wilson city directory, Cora, Irene and Janie Washington are listed at 701 East Green, and their occupations are given as student, teacher and cook. That year, Janie gave birth to a son, James Robert Farmer (later known as Washington). [Per a United States Social Security Applications and Claims Index, James Robert, who died 23 November 2002, listed his parents as Roger Washington and Janie Farmer on his Social Security application.]

On 28 June 1926, Irene Washington, 21, daughter of George Washington and Cora Washington Farmer, married Macon Lucas, 23, son of Sammie and Mary L. Lucas, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister H.W. Farrior performed the ceremony at the homes of John Hines Hinton in the presence of Hinton, Elizabeth Hinnant and Janie Washington.

In the 1928 Wilson city directory, Cora and Janie Washington are listed at 701 East Green, and their occupations are given as teacher and elevator operator at Efirds department store.

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. Five year-old James Robert was not listed in the household.]

jrf-invitation-front

An invitation to James Robert Farmer’s 8th birthday party in 1933.

jrf-invitation-back

The invitation was addressed to brothers Lucian and Jesse Henderson, who lived at 303 Elba Street.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 701 East Green Street, public school teacher Cora M. Washington, 30, and nephew James R. Washington, 15.

jr-farmer

James Robert Farmer, alias James Robert Washington.

The day after his 18th birthday, James Robert Washington registered for the World War II draft. His registration card reports that he resided at 701 East Green; was born 3 January 1925 in Wilson; was going to school; and his aunt Cora Washington was his closest relative.

janie-farmer

Janie Washington alias Farmer.

In February 1959, Hattie Henderson Ricks, formerly of Wilson, received this letter from her childhood friend Cora Miller Washington Artis. Artis was then living in Kinston, North Carolina, and teaching at the State Training School for Negro Girls, a “reformatory” for African-American girls in the juvenile justice system.

lhenders-20175131045111_page_1

lhenders-20175131045111_page_2

cw-artis-envelope

  • Jesse A. Jacobs, Jr. and Sarah Henderson Jacobs, “Papa” and “Mama” — adoptive parents (and great-uncle and great-aunt) of Hattie Henderson Ricks; resided at 303 Elba Street, around the corner from 701 East Green.
  • Julia Harrell — Julia Burnette Harrell died 30 January 1959. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 January 1894 in Florence, South Carolina, to Dozier W. Davis and Jeanette Edwards; was widowed; worked as a teacher for Wilson City School System; and resided at 1116 East Nash Street. Louise C. Sherrod, same address, was the informant.
  • Blanche Gay Farmer — daughter of Samuel and Ella Tate Gay, grew up at 623 East Green Street, a half-block west of Cora’s family home. She died 27 March 1959.
  • “Callie” —
  • Beatrice Gay Holden, “Bea” — daughter of Samuel and Ella Tate Gay, resided at 623 East Green Street.
  • Lula Sutton Hayes
  • “James” — presumably, Cora Washington Artis’ husband.
  • “Pet” Reid
  • Beatrice Odessa Reid, “Odessa” — daughter of Elijah and Ietta R.M. Reid.

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-7-35-44-pm

1922 Sanborn insurance map, Wilson.

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, database on-line, http://www.ancestry.com; photographs and ephemera in the possession of Lisa Y. Henderson; interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

The family is doing well.

record-image_939d-x72w-l

Bureau R.F. & A.L., Sub. Dist. Goldsboro, Goldsboro, N.C. Novr. 9th 1866

Bvt.Col. A.G. Brady, Supt. Central Dist. N.C., Raleigh N.C. 

Col., I had the honor about ten (10) days since to receive through you a communication from a man in Boston inquiring about a family of freedmen in Wilson Co. which I sent to Mr. J.J. Lutts in Wilson and he replied that the family was then doing well etc. but I mislaid the communication so I cannot find it or it may have been taken or dropped from my pocket, or I fear most torn up and swep out with waste paper and you will much oblige by sending a copy of the breif with endorsements. The family inquire about was Taylor and Barnes. Your kind attention and early reply is respectfully solicited. Very respectfully, yr obt. Svt., Jas.W.H. Stickney [illegible]

screen-shot-2015-11-01-at-7-07-17-pm

Bureau of Refugees Freedmen &c., Hd.Qrs. Asst. Commissioners, Raleigh N.C. Dec 14th 1866

Bell Jas B., Boston Mass

Sir, In answer to your communication of Oct 19th [illegible] in relation to whereabout of certain colored people. I quote language of Asst Supt at Goldsboro N.C.

“This family inquired for are living in the town of Wilson Wilson County N.C. are doing well and any communications for them can be addressed to Mr Benjamin Woods or to his care at Wilson”

Your communication having been mislaid the names of the family cannot be given.

Very respectfully, Your Obdt Servant, Jacob F. Ohm, Bt.Lt.Col. & A.A.A.G.

North Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, http://FamilySearch.org.

They have urged me to take them from their father.

Bu.R.F.&A.L., Office Asst. Sub. Asst. Com, Rocky Mount N.C. Dec 3rd 1867

Brt.Lt.Col. C.E. Compton, Sub. Asst. Com.

Colonel

There is a colored man living in Wilson County by the name of Exum Joyner, who has five children, the oldest is about fifteen years of age.

The children have been to me twice and urged me to take them from their father & send them to some place where they could earn a comfortable support & protect them in so doing. I told them I had no authority to take them away from their father & sent them back to him.

I have made enquiries of both White & Black men who are neighbors, and know Exum’s character & the response has been, in every case, that he is Lazy worthless fellow & that he does not take [care] of his children.

They were certainly in a pitiable condition when they came to my office.

Would it be proper for me to ask the court in Wilson County to appoint a guardian for them

These children have a half brother who is twenty five years old, and he is an active, intelligent man; he is willing to take charge of them, providing he can be properly authorized.

I have the honor to be, Very Respectfully, Your Obed’t Svt.,

Wm. H. Culler, Brt.Lt.Col. & A.S.A.C.

Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 [database online], http://www.ancestry.com.

Tartt’s negroes, pt. 2.

Thirty-five years after his death, Jonathan Tartt‘s sons and grandsons, which included a bewildering number of Jonathans, Jameses and Elnathans, joined the stream of whites flooding into lands wrested from the Choctaw under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Several settled in and around Sumter County in far southwestern Alabama.

James B. Tartt, son of Jonathan’s son Elnathan Tartt, was an early arrival. A notice he placed in the 26 September 1828 edition of the Raleigh Register signaled his intent to file a claim for a lost hundred dollar note that Thomas E. Tartt had mailed to him at Stantonsburg the year before. By time he posted the ad, however, James had joined Thomas in Lagrange, Alabama. Within a few years, as the Choctaw were pushed out, he shifted across the state to Sumter County.

In October 1832, this ad appeared in North Carolina Free Press:

NC free press 10 2 1832

North Carolina Free Press, 2 October 1832.

Had Adam actually made it more than 700 miles back to Edgecombe County from Sumter? Or had he missed the boat, so to speak, by running away to avoid joining the coffle headed deep South? I do not know if Adam was ever returned to James B. Tartt.

James Tartt did not relinquish all his Edgecombe County possessions immediately, and here is an 1837 advertisement for the sale of 1400 acres he owned at the fork of Toisnot and White Oak Swamps in what is now Wilson County.

Tarboro' Press 10 28 1837

Tarboro Press, 28 October 1837.

By the 1840s, however, he and his children were well established in Sumter County. In the personal letter below, “old man” James B. Tartt’s son Elnathan wrote home to relatives — the envelope is addressed to “Edwin or Washington Barnes,” Stantonsburgh, Edgecombe County NC. He chatted a little about his sisters, but was primarily occupied with another runaway, Calvin, who had absconded on the way from North Carolina to Alabama:

Sumitvill Ala February 3rd 1848

Dear Cousins

I arrived home about three weeks ago and found my folks verry well, we had a verry pleasant trip. No axident hapened at all, the girls was verry much pleased with their trip, I left Elizabeth in Mobile to go to school. I was in Mobile three days. Mr. Stewarts & Pratts famileys wer all verry well.

I have noght bought any place for the old man yet and I doant recon I shall this spring, as it is verry late, and the people have calculated to make a nother crop and will not sell at any thing reasonable, I shall rent a place for him to make a corn crop, he says if he can get him a small place to work his preasant force on he is willing to give the Ballance of his money to his children, the old man don think of any thing but marring thats all his talk, says he is determine to have him a wife. Margret is at my house, going to scool. I receivd a letter from Arch the other day informing me that Calvin had run away. He left the night after they passed Raleigh. I have not heard from them since they left Pittsborough No Carolina but I am looking for them every day. I want you to manage to get Calvin in, some how, make out that you have bought him, or that you are otherwise to sell him and make a shamm sale of him to some one. I think we had better sell him if we can get a fair price, as it will cost a great deal to get him hir even if we could get holt of him. The old man is willing to sell him but I want him to come out hir if it will not cost to much if you can manager to get holt of him put him in jail and let me know it. Or if you know of any person coming out that will bring him I will pay them well. If any person is coming out by the rail road, he would not be but verry little troble — try and see what you can get for him and let me know what the prospects to get holt of him or sell him. Write to me and let me have your opinion what way I had best proceed about him, one relation are all well nothing moor but Rema[ining] yours  /s/ Elnathan Tartt

Give my respects to your family write to me and let me know all the nuse since I lelft, I settle all my buisness befor I left

——

“Arch” was Elnathan’s brother Archelaus B. Tartt.  Margaret and Elizabeth were their sisters. (Elizabeth returned to Wilson, married John Thomas Barnes, and is buried in Maplewood cemetery. Her sisters Penninah Tartt Eason and Margaret B. Tartt also went back to North Carolina.) The family appears in 1850 census of Sumter County in two side-by-side households. At #227: farmer James Tartt, 58, with children Edwin, 20, Elizabeth, 18, Margaret, 14, Paninah, 29, and Arch B., 23, all born in North Carolina. At #228, clerk Elnathan Tartt, 24, wife Mary, 27, and Alabama-born son John, 6, plus 8 year-old Louisa Randolph.

Apparently, one of the many schemes Elnathan mused about worked, and Calvin was returned to the fold. Seven months after Elnathan’s letter, James B. Tartt recorded a deed of gift in Sumter County in which he — in keeping with Elnathan’s hopes — transferred his wealth to his children. On 11 September 1848, “in consideration of the natural love and affection I have for my children” Elnathan Tartt, Enos Tartt, Martha Tartt Adams, Penninah Tartt, Archelaus Tartt, Edwin Tartt, Elizabeth Tartt, Margaret Tartt and Jonathan Tartt, James B. Tartt named his brother Thomas M. Tartt trustee and made the following transfers and distributions: (1) notes, drafts, checks, etc., totaling about $11000, (2) “the following negro slaves one negro named Gray about 26 years old and dark yellow complexion, a negro slave Calvin black and about 27 years old, Warren of dark yellow complexion and about 24 years of age, Sarah a negro woman about 50 years old, a negro girl Mary about 18 years old of yellow complexion, Lizzy black and about 11 years old, Peter, a child, black and about 2 years old and Rose the child of Mary about 1 year old,” (3) mules and wagons, and (4) moneys to secure for himself “a comfortable home and liberal living” and educations and comfortable livings until marriage for his daughters (with Penninah’s portion reduced because she had already been given a nine year-old enslaved girl, Julia). The document also contained provisions for the distribution of any property that remained at James’ death.

31075_174438-00226

The Tartts enumerated in Alabama’s 1855 state census. James B. Tartt, having given them away, is listed with no slaves. His older sons Enos and Elnathan owned a total of 33 men and women, and his brother Thomas M. Tartt held another 17 in trust.

The first post-Emancipation federal census, counted in 1870, lists 13 North Carolina-born African-Americans named Tartt in Sumter County. Their names and approximate birth years: Hilyard (1795), David (1805), Jessy (1805), Belfer (1810), Burwell (1810), Bettie (1815), Cherry (1816), Howell (1820), Hager (1825), Chaney (1835), Hugh (1810), Zarah (1820) … and Cal (1830).

Many, many thanks to a James B. Tartt descendant for sharing a copy of Elnathan Tartt’s letter. Privately held documents like this are an invaluable resource for African-American researchers.

She commenced giving me some slack jaw.

Agent of Freedmans Bureau

Dr Sir

A few days ago a negro Woman refused to obey an order I gave her about cooking some Tomatoes. I ordered her again. She very violently refused to obey. The land lady was absent at the time. After a lapse of two hours She returned I told that I intended to give her a good whipping if she did not Cook them. The negro was standing out a few feet from the door and commenced giving me some “slack jaw” where upon I gave her a good beating by kicks and knocks.

Being a stranger to you and to your mode of proceeding and learning that you had jurisdiction in this County I address you this letter, becoming informer against myself and holding myself amenable to your order whenever called upon or to the civil authorities I care not which. So there is but one to whom I must answer for the offense if I have committed any.

It is my opinion that you had better come up as you can by Enquiry find many who condemn the act, Justify the negro and blame me for the Course I pursued. While I have never been raised to take a taunt from a white man and can certainly never become so loyal as to take it from a negro, while I honest profess to be as loyal as any Extremist in this Country I was an Original Cessession. I have been whipped in a Contest of Arms, after the surrender of Genl Lee I accepted the situation as it was. I took an oath of allegiance to the United States Government by that I have abided. You will please write me if you wish me to appear at Goldsboro and if you wish any reference you can apply to J.J. Baker, C.A.W. Barham, Dr. Wm. H. Thompson, Dr. J.W. Davis of Goldsboro & J.J. Lutts Esqr. of this place.  Let me hear  from you soon.              Very respectfully, R.G. Barham M.D.

——

Virginia-born physician R.G. [Roscoe G.] Barham was 25 years old when the 1860 census of the town of Wilson. He died about 1880.

Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

I think a school would be sufficiently supported.

Wilson Co schools

In a letter to Brevet Lt. Col. Charles E. Compton, Assistant Commissioner of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau), Israel Barden provided information about the state of education for freedmen in Wilson County. There were two schools, he reported, one at Joyners Depot (later Elm City) and one in Wilson, and support for a new school building would justify its expense.

Records of Assistant Commissioner of the State of North Carolina; Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands; Record Group 105, National Archives; Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 [database on-line], Ancestry.com.

Please send for your negro.

Mr. W.W. Batts

Please send for your Negro and get mine and bring her to your house, if you please, and I will come to your house this Evening.

Jany the 1 1860                           W.H. Edwards

——

William Woodard Batts wrote on the back of the above letter: “Permit Lewis to carry this to W.H. Edwards, W.W. Batts”

Across the face of the letter he wrote: “Henry, I will do what this calls for. I will bring her as far as my house. W.W. Batts.”

——

From The Confederate Letters of William Henry Edwards of Wilson County, North Carolina, Hugh B. Johnston, editor (1977).