Someone to take care of her.

Like hundreds of others, Annie Mae Lewis likely came to Wilson during the Depression to seek work in the tobacco factories. She fell sick though, far from her family, and died in the winter of 1934.

Registrar Kate C. Daniels’ note on Lewis’ death certificate: “This girl came here from S.C. & the welfare dept got this woman at 313 Manchester St to take care of her.”


Studio shots, no. 152: Albert F. Hinnant.

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Albert Franklin Hinnant (1909-1988).

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Atlas Hinnant, 47; wife Hattie, 43; children Albert, 18, Cleo, 15, Mary, 13, and Paul, 9; plus mother Haley Lane, 62, widow.

In 1940, Albert Franklin Hinnant registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 23 March 1909 in Wilson; lived at R.F.D. #1, Lucama, Wilson County; his contact was mother Hattie Hinnant, R.F.D. #3, Kenly, Wilson County; and he worked for Walter Kirby, Lucama. He was described as 6’5″, 205 pounds.

On 28 December 1972, Albert Franklin Hinnant, single, born 23 March 1911, married Lillie Mae Brown, divorced, born 23 June 1915, in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Albert F. Hinnant died 5 May 1988 in Hampton, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 March 1911 in Wilson, N.C., to Atlas Hinnant and Hattie Pierce; was married to Lillie M. Hinnant; lived in Portsmouth, Virginia, and was a retired merchant seaman. He was buried in Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry user jmt1946808.

Studio shots, no. 151: Matilda Roberts Battle.

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Matilda Roberts Battle (1902-1954).

In the 1910 census of Suffolk, Virginia: furniture salesman W.M. Roberts, 37; wife Sally, 32; and children Leroy, 12, Matilda, 7, Sally A., 4, and Bessie May, 2, all born in North Carolina.

In the 1920 census of Suffolk, Virginia: William Roberts, 46, furniture salesman; wife Sallie, 40; and children Sallie Jr., 15, Leroy, 21, Matilda, 17, Bessie M., 12, Elizabeth, 9, Annie L., 4, and Rebecca F., 1. All the children after Matilda were born in Virginia.

In the 1930 census of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania: at 222 Plum, rented for $25/month, sewer pitman Wesley C. Battle, 27, restaurant porter; wife Matilda, 27; and four lodgers.

In the 1940 census of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania: sewer pitman Wesley Battle, 37; wife Matilda, 37; and children Alice, 10, James, 8, Evelyn, 7, Bessie, 3, and Sarah F., 1; and lodger John Majet, 43, roadwork laborer.

Matilda Battle died 28 April 1954 in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 August 1902 in Wilson, N.C., to William Roberts and Sallie Kaytes; was married; lived at 362 Tulpehocken Street, Reading; and Bessie James was informant.

Photo courtesy of Beverly Hines-Wright.

Funeral services for Mr. Johnnie Winstead.

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In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on State Highway, farmer Ned Winstead, 52, wife Annie, 47, and children Maggie, 18, Lizzie, 14, Daniel, 12, John, 9, Lee, 6, and Bryant, 4.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on State Highway, farmer Ned Winstead, 58, wife Annie, 50, and children Maggie, 23, John, 18, and Bryant, 13, plus granddaughter Annie Bell, 9.

Johnnie Winstead, 22, of Edgecombe County, son of Ned and Annie Winstead of Wilson County, married Carrie Lawrence, 22, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Allen and Carolina Lawrence, on 15 November 1922 in Edgecombe County.

In the 1930 census of Walnut Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Johnie Winstead, 30; wife Carrie, 27; and son Ananias, 5.

In the 1940 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 825 Lincoln Street, steamship company dockhand Johnnie Winstead, 39; wife Carrie, 40; and son A. Winstead, 16.

Funeral program courtesy of Lisa R.W. Sloan. 

George H. Washington is buried at Crown Hill.

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Indianapolis Recorder, 9 May 1936.


In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Jerry Washington, 42; wife Jane, 29; and children Georgiana, 14, Joshua, 12, William, 11, George H., 7, Andrew, 5, and Samuel, 2.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Jerry Washington, 52; wife Jane, 40; and children George H., 17, works in blacksmith shop, Andrew, 14, Samuel, 12, Anna Maria, 8, Paul, 6, Sarah Jane, 3, and Mary Cathren, 11 months.

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 brother of Samuel H. Vick‘s wife, Annie Washington Vick. She is the “Anna Vicks” erroneously listed as George’s daughter in the obituary.]

In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana: Marie Smith, 35, single, laundress, born in Kentucky, and George H. Washington, 50, widower, railroad company coach cleaner, born in North Carolina.

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. [Obviously, neither George nor Cora Washington was, in fact, a widower. They had been either separated (most likely) or divorced since George H. Washington had taken up residence in Indiana in 1903.]

In the 1920 census of Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana: Emma Lilly, 49, widow, laundress, born in Kentucky, and George Washington, 30 [sic], married, railroad employee, born in North Carolina.

George H. Washington died 28 April 1936 in Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1856 in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Jerry Washington; was the widower of Cora Washington; was a laborer; and lived at 802 1/2 Indiana Avenue.

Madam Walker and Doctor Ward.

The Netflix limited series Self Made is refocusing attention on Madam C.J. Walker, the millionaire entrepreneur and empowerer of women best known for her haircare empire. The series is honest about being more “inspired by” Madam Walker’s life than true to it. Chockablock with B-list black star power (plus Octavia Spencer), Self Made is entertaining if you don’t think about it too hard. Ultimately, however, its heavy-handed resort to tropes and types and its soap opera style do a disservice to her story. Anyone wanting a closer truth should turn to A’Lelia Bundles’ On Her Own Ground, or my fave, Beverly Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker. Among other things, you’ll find an important part of Walker’s story completely omitted from Self-Made — her relationship with Dr. Joseph H. Ward, an African-American physician born in Wilson about 1872.

When she first arrived in Indianapolis in 1910, Walker boarded with Joseph and Zella Locklear Ward and gave beauty culture demonstrations in their parlor.

Indianapolis Recorder, 12 February 1910.

Indianapolis Recorder, 5 March 1910.

Walker and her daughter Lelia Robinson grew close to the Wards, and Dr. Ward was Madam’s personal physician the remainder of her life. He was at her bedside when she died.

The Wards accompanied Madam Walker on a drive to Kansas City, Missouri, where she addressed the National Educational Congress on “How the Negro Woman May Success in Business.” Indianapolis Star, 13 July 1913.

On a drive from Saint Louis to Kansas City, the automobile in which the Wards and Walker were traveling was jumped by a wild animal. Indianapolis Star, 28 September 1913.

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Also in 1913, on the steps of the newly dedicated Y.M.C.A., Madam Walker with Booker T. Washington and, behind them, her lawyer Freeman Ransom and Dr. Joseph H. Ward.  

From Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams:

“By Friday, Ward informs the household that Madame Walker cannot last longer than Sunday. On Saturday night, about midnight, she slips into unconsciousness. And her faithful friends and doctors and family gather around her bed; they are religious people who also believe in love and company, and that no one should pass from this life into the next alone. And so they wait, hushed, whispering, watching her, waiting.

“Sunday dawns warms and clear, and early rays of the sun crack through the drawn damask curtains and perhaps fall in splinters across the rose silk coverlet on Madame’s bed. At seven o’clock her people are still there, but no one feels her go and no one knows when she dies until Ward turns and says, ‘It’s over.’

“And if they weep it is with relief, for the end of her suffering. Her dying words, Ward later reports, were ‘I want to live to help my race.'”

Photo courtesy of Madam Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society.


Fourteen year-old Lessie Manor, described as “colored,” died of heart disease in April 1927. She was a student living in Saratoga township, and her parents were listed as M.E. Manor and Minnie Henderson. Of Australia and Arizona. … What?

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Lessie’s birthplace was also listed as Arizona, though the person completing the form had begun to write “California” in the field. It is not impossible that Australians and Arizonans were living in Saratoga in the 1920s, but it’s unlikely. Did “colored” mean Aborigine? Native American? What is the story here?

A little digging turns up Lessie’s sister’s death certificate.

Lena Mainor died 16 October 1923 at the Colored Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was Negro and was born 17 August 1908 in North Carolina to M.E. Mainor of Milburn, Australia, and Minnie Henderson of Arizona.

Lessie and Lena’s mother’s death certificate yields important answers. Minnie Maynard, colored, died in March 1920 in Wilson township. Her birthplace? Troy, Alabama. Her parents were described as Alabama-born as well. M.E. Maynard was informant. The Arizona attribution, then, began after Minnie Maynard’s death.

M.E. Mainor remarried quickly. On 10 October 1920, in Black Creek, M.E. Mainor, 31, colored, of Wilson, son of Charles and Julia Mainor of Alabama, married Rebecca Blackman, 19, colored, of Black Creek, daughter of Green and Lizzie Blackman. A.M.E. Zion minister B.J. Kornegay performed the ceremony in the presence of John Ellis, Lira Clay, and Joseph Clay. (Per the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Blackman was a Georgia native and was black.)

Rebecker Maynard died 7 June 1928 in Black Creek township. Per her death certificate, she was colored; was born 13 May 1903 in Wilson County to Green Blackwell of Caseda, Georgia, and Lizzie Burk of Steward County, Georgia; was married to M.E. Maynard; and farmer for Wade Brooks.

Evilla Rebecca Brown died in 1973 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Her death certificate, with information provided by sister Lucille Speight of Stantonsburg, identified her parents as Moyed Efford Maynor and Rebecca Blackmon. And she was Negro.

Evidence of Lessie and Lena Maynor’s death certificates notwithstanding, it appears that the family was African-American and its roots were in Alabama.