Military

The Singing Engineers.

“Billy Rowe’s Note Book” was a regular music column published in the Pittsburgh Courier. In late summer 1943, Edgar T. Rouseau filled in for the vacationing Rowe. Rouseau, with the American Allied Forces “somewhere in the Mediterranean,” shined a spotlight on “sepia bands” whose members were soldiers, including that of the famous Singing Engineers of the all-black 41st Engineer Regiment.

 

Pittsburgh Courier, 11 September 1943.

William Coleman, of Wilson, N.C., plays the alto sax. He is an experienced player who was formerly with Snookum Russell’s Min[illegible], the Frank H. Young Shows and the Carolina Stompers.”

The “colored” who gave all.

The walls of the narrow entryway into the Wilson County Court House are lined with large bronze plaques commemorating the county’s war dead. Look carefully at the World War I and World War II/Korean Conflict plaques. The areas containing veterans’ names are lighter than the surrounding surfaces; the names are picked out in a shinier paint. Why?

The names are embossed on plates secured to the plaques at each corner by small rosettes disguising bolts. These plates are replacements. The originals contained segregated lists. In other words, “colored” men “who gave the last full measure of devotion” were listed separately from their white counterparts.

A 10 April 1976 Wilson Daily Times article about the installation of a Vietnam vets plaque reveals photographs of the original plaques for the earlier wars:

The colored: Henry Ellis, killed 6 October 1918 (Wilson’s African-American post of the American Legion was named for Ellis); Benjamin Horne, died 10 October 1918; Pharaoh Coleman, died 17 October 1918; Luther Harris, died 17 October 1918; Strat Barnes, died 5 December 1918; West Vick, died 11 March 1919; Charles Barnes, died 28 July 1919; and Charles Samuel Clay, died 17 August 1919.

The colored: Levi Adger, Robert E. Ashford, Norman Gilliam, Victor Emanuel Hayes, Less Hinnant, Bobby H. Hyman, James Johnson, Thomas Jones Jr., Claude Kenan Jr., Willie J. Lassiter, Charles Leak, William R. Robinson, Thomas J. Rutland, Herbert L. Simms, Bekay Thompson and Mayo Ward.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2019.

Studio shots, no. 115: Charles Eugene Freeman.

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Charles Eugene Freeman (1926-1960), probably in the 1940s. 

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In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1113 Washington Street, owned and valued at $3000, brickmason Julious F. Freman, 42; wife Hattie [Pattie], 31; and children Julious, 10, Doloris, 9, Robert P. and Richard P., 8, John C., 6, Charles E., 4, Patricia E., 3, Mary E., 1, and Rubey, 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1114 Washington Street, owned and valued at $3000, brick mason Julius Freeman, 52; wife Pattie, 40; and children Julius L., 20, Doris, 19, Robert and Richard, 18, John, 16, Charles, 14, Eunice, 12, Mary, 11, Ruby, 10, Tom, 9, Dan, 8, Lillian, 6, and Henry, 2.

Charles Eugene Freeman registered for the World War II draft in 1944:

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On 20 April 1944, Charles Freeman, 18, son of Julius and Pattie Hagans Freeman, married Carrie Lee Hardy, 15, daughter of Cornelius and Carrie Hardy, in Wilson.

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Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1960.

As a World War II veteran, Charles E. Freeman received a military headstone. His mother, Pattie H. Freeman, submitted the application for the marker.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry user Delwyn Eugene Caniglia; Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963 [database on-line], Ancestry.com.

Randall James’ many hats.

In the early 1940s, Randall Roland James Jr., grandson of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden, supplemented his duties as an undertaker in the family business with gigs as a federal censustaker and registrar for Local Draft Board 1. (James’ uncle, Arthur N. Darden, had been appointed an enumerator for the 1920 census.)

John G. Thomas’ quasi-gossip column, “Wilsonia,” noted the appointment of Robert E. Vick and James:

Wilson Daily Times, 2 April 1940.

Reverse side of the registration card of Luther Jones, Wilson, N.C., signed by James as registrar on 16 February 1942.

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In the 1920 census of Newark, Essex County, New Jersey: at 188 McWhorter Street, Randall James, 30, born in Texas; wife Elizabeth, 31, born in North Carolina; and sons Charles, 5, born in Alabama, and Randall, 3, born in North Carolina.

In 1940, Randall Roland James registered for the World War II in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 10 June 1916 In Wilson; resided at 111 Pender Street; his contact was wife Ruth Vashti James; and he worked for C.H. Darden & Sons, 608 East Nash.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 111 Pender Street, Elizabeth James, 45, nursery school cook; son Randle James, 23, assistant undertaker at Darden Funeral, his wife Ruth, 22, and their daughter Dianne, 1; son Charles, 26, undertaker at Darden Funeral; cousin Eugene Tennessee, 22, field agent for Darden Funeral; and brother Arthur Darden, 40, [occupation illegible.]

Randall R. James Jr. died 9 June 1981 in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Randall R. James Jr., Wilson Daily Times, 15 August 1952.

U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Where did they go?: Arkansas World War II draft registrations, no. 2.

In the 1880s and ’90s, thousands of African-Americans left North Carolina for Arkansas, seeking better fortune. Many settled in the east-central part of the state, including the families of these World War II draft registrants.

  • Edward Adams

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  • Fred Barnes

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In the 1930 census of Johnson township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: cotton and corn farmer Fred Barnes, 39; wife Rosy, 24; and son Edward, 8.

  • Sidney Watson Cooper

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In the 1900 census of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas: Smithee Baker, 44, day laborer, and sons George, 22, Sidny, 19, and Bruce Cooper, 9, all born in North Carolina.

In the 1920 census of Melton township, Jefferson County, Arkansas: widower Sidney Cooper, 40, farmer.

  • William Henry Daniels

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In the 1900 census of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas: at 1013 West 8th Avenue, Henry Daniels, 55; wife Elizabeth, 46; and children William H. 17, Matilda A., 15, Mary J., 13, and Rice B., 4. Only Rice was born in Arkansas.

In the 1940 census of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas: steam railway laborer Wm. H. Daniel, 56; wife Willie M., 52, laundress; children Dorotha, 19, Wm. Henry Jr., Zereta, 14, Floyd, 13, Eloise, 11, and Robert 9; and father[-in-law] William Floyd, 83.

  • Eli Farmer

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In the 1900 census of Cold Water township, Cross County, Arkansas: farmer Peter Farmer, 73; wife Mariah, 51; children John Farmer, 28, widow Margaret Bunn, 21, and Isaac, 18, Eley, 17, and Louisa Farmer, 15; and grandchildren Sanders, 6, and Theodrick Bunn, 5. All but the grandchildren were born in North Carolina.

In the 1940 census of Wappanocca township, Crittenden County, Arkansas: widower Eli Farmer, 58, farm operator, and widowed sister Maggie Newson, 60, both born in North Carolina.

  • Henry Horn

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In the 1940 census of Dermott township, Chicot County, Arkansas: Nazzie Horn, 43; North Carolina-born husband Henry, 52; and widowed sister Sallie Garman, 64.

  • Hardy William Lassiter

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In the 1930 census of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas: at 910 East 19th Avenue, Hardy Lassiter, 40, sealer of cars for freight office; wife Ruby, 37; and widowed mother-in-law Ella Epperson, 56, washerwoman. Per Find-A-Grave.com, Hardy Lassiter, born 31 January 1887 and died 26 November 1976, was buried in Little Rock National Cemetery, Little Rock, Arkansas.

  • Will Lewis

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In the 1900 census of Spring Creek township, Lee County, Arkansas: farmer Kention Lewis, 50; daughter Cora, 23; and sons John, 22, Bill, 17, and Arthur, 15. The sons were born in Arkansas.

  • Luther Lucas

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In the 1900 census of Searcy township, Cross County, Arkansas: farmer Ephram Lucas, 44; wife Annie, 34; and children Luther, 11, Annie, 5, Rezella, 4, and Etta, 1. Luther and his parents were born in North Carolina, Annie in Mississippi, and the youngest children in Arkansas.

  • Charley McDowell

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In the 1940 census of Pennington, Bradley County, Arkansas: North Carolina-born Charlie McDowell, 46, contract lumber stacker at saw mill; wife Minny, 37; and children Herbert, 21, Floyd C., 18, James L., 16, Edward, 13, and Don A[illegible], 1.

U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

T/5 Jones killed in New Guinea.

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Rocky Mount Telegraph, 21 March 1944.

Technician Fifth Grade Thomas Jones Jr. died in an automobile accident in New Guinea in March 1944.

Jones registered for the draft in 1942 in Cambridge, Maryland. Per his registration card, he was born 25 December 1923 in Wilson; he lived at various locations in Cambridge and Dorchester, Maryland; his contact was Henrietta Whitlock; and he was employed by E.T. Webb, Jamesville, Virginia.

His body was returned to Wilson for burial. Howard M. Fitts Sr. handled arrangements for a military headstone to mark Jones grave in Rest Haven cemetery.

Though a corrected birth date is penciled in on the application, Jones’ stone was delivered with an incorrect date. This photo is found at www.findagrave.com.

He is a Wilson negro and a bad one at that.

One hundred years ago today:

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The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 16 March 1919.

  • Kit Shaw
  • Luther Barbour — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 809 East Nash, John Barber, 27; wife Ethel, 26; mother Sallie, 59, teacher; and brother Luther, 32. Luther is described as single.

Mrs. Johnson seeks a pension.

In March 1933, Lula Johnson applied to the North Carolina Confederate Pension Board for a widow’s pension.

Johnson’s application noted that she was 60+ years of age; resided at 608 East Nash Street, Wilson; and her late husband was John Streeter, also known as John Johnson. She did not know when or where Streeter/Johnson enlisted, but claimed he was a member of “Company H, 14 W.S. Colord Heavy Artillery.” The couple had married in 1922, and Streeter/Johnson died in June 1932, three years after he had begun to draw a pension. Arthur N. Darden and Darcey C. Yancey were witnesses to her application, which Yancey stamped as notary public.

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Lula Johnson’s application was denied. She was “not eligible” (underscored) for a pension. (To boot, she was “Negro,” underscored four times.) Though the Pension Board did not set forth a reason for denying Johnson’s claim, there is a glaringly obvious one. The 14th Regiment, Colored Heavy Artillery, were United States Army troops, not Confederate. The regiment — comprised of runaway enslaved men and free men of color — was organized in New Bern and Morehead City, North Carolina, in March 1864; primarily served garrison duty in New Bern and other points along the coast; and mustered out in December 1865.

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Here is a record of the military service of John Streeter, alias Johnson. He was born in Greene County about 1846 and had enlisted in the Army in New Bern in 1865. Three months later, he was promoted to corporal. John Johnson had served his country honorably, which did not entitle his widow to Confederate benefits.

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I did not find any evidence that the Johnsons actually lived in Wilson County. The address Lula Johnson listed as her own was that of C.H. Darden & Sons Funeral Home, the family business at which Arthur Darden worked. Was she (or her husband) related to the Dardens? Census records show John Johnson and his wife Mary in Leflore County, Mississippi, in 1900 and 1910, but Mary Moore Johnson died in Farmville, Pitt County, in 1913.

John Johnson died in Farmville, Pitt County, North Carolina, on 8 June 1932. Per his death certificate, he was about 90 years old; was married to Lula Johnson; had been a preacher; and was born in Greene County to Ned and Manervie Johnson. He was buried in Farmville, and Darden & Sons handled the funeral. (Charles H. Darden was also a Greene County native. )

Act of 1901 Pension Applications, Office of the State Auditor, North Carolina State Archives [online]; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865  [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.