I had some questions about the American Legion’s circus, and I still do. However, this article shows that it was an annual event, and the white Post sponsored one, too. In 1933, the circus featured a basketball game between Wilson and Greenville’s Black high schools and a dance featuring the “reorganized” Carolina Stompers.
“This description, or extract from the official records, is to be considered strictly confidential, and is furnished to the disbursing officer to enable him to detect frauds. He should question each claimant fully as to military history, and, in cases of deceased soldiers, the heirs should be questioned as to the military history of husband, father, brother, or son, as the case may be.
“Before making disbursements the disbursing officer should be fully satisfied that the parties claiming the money are the persons they represent themselves to be. In case of doubt as to the identity of the soldier, payment will be refused, and the disbursing officer will reduce to writing the questions and answers, and at once transmit the same to the Adjutant General of the Army, with a full report.”
Isaac Acot [Aycock]
Isaac Aycock named Wilson County natives Jerry Borden and Henry Borden as men who had enlisted at the same time and served in Company C of the 14th Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery.
Four months after the United States entered World War I, Wilson-born attorney Charles S. Darden (then living in Los Angeles, California) wrote Secretary of War Lindley Garrison on behalf of African-American men who had tried to enlist in the military’s “Aviation Department.” “I was informed, some time ago,” he wrote, “through the News Papers, that applications from young colored men would be acceptable to the government …, and I am now unable to understand where the local Recruiting Officers of of [sic] that Department get their instructions to the contrary.”
Signal Corps Captain Thomas H. McConnell responded quickly and succinctly: “At the present time no colored aero squadrons are being formed and applications from colored men for this branch of the service cannot be considered for that reason.”
United States War Department. Letter from Secretary of War to Charles S. Darden, August 11, 1917. W.E.B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
Thanks to Patricia Freeman to bringing this letter to my attention!
In response to President William McKinley’s call for volunteers upon the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, the 3rd Battalion of North Carolina Volunteers mustered in on 12 May 1898 at Fort Macon, North Carolina. Seven companies, including Corporal Willie Gay‘s Company I, joined the original three in July, forming the 3rd North Carolina Regiment. Though the 3rd N.C. was alerted to prepare to ship out to Cuba, the war ended before they saw action in battle. The Regiment moved west to Knoxville, Tennessee, in September 1898, where its disillusioned members wrote the plaintive letter below to Secretary of War Russell A. Alger. In November, the 3rd was sent to Macon, Georgia — where two Wilson County men were involved in a fatal altercation — then mustered out in January 1899.
Willie Gay’s grave is marked by the only Spanish-American War headstone I have found in Wilson County for an African-American soldier. However, 3rd N.C. veteran Turner H. Utley was also buried in this cemetery.
The following letter is reported to have been sent to Secretary of War Alger by members of this regiment. The names of those who signed the letter were not given to The Journal and Tribune reporter with the copy of the letter.
Third North Carolina Regiment (All companies) Sept. 23, 1898,
To the Secretary of War:
Dear Sir:–We the undersigned many soldiers, heard that you had been instructed that we wanted to stay in service as garrison duty, but my dear sir, we are now pleading with mercy and deny any such report as there had been reported and we feel that our superior officers has treated us wrong to hold us in service without we knowing anything about it.
We the undersigned did not join the service for garrison duty. We only sacrificed our lives and left our homes simply for the honor of our flag and the destruction of our country and families as the war was going on at that time, but now the war is over and we do feel that we might be mustered out of service because we are getting letters from our families every day or two stating the suffering condition, and oh my God, the way that we are treated. We have to drill harder than any other regiment on the grounds and after drilling so hard, we have to work so hard. We have to cut ditches, sink holes and fill up gullies, put in water pipes. We, the 3rd N.C. regiment soldiers has not had but one pair of pants, one coat, two undershirts, one top shirt. We are in a box fit. Our food is not fit to eat, and oh my dear sir, we are bound up in a little place about 400 feet long 3 feet wide. Just think of the confinement we are under just because we volunteered freely to fight for our country.
We the undersigned many soldiers did not volunteer for garrison duty and we do not think that our honorable government will take the advantage of willing and faithful men who came to the rescue of the flag, stars and stripes. We have a great deal more to tell you but we can not express ourselves like it ought to be done.
Down at Fort Macon we was misled. The question was asked who wanted to stay in the service and go to the front if necessary, called upon them to raise hands, but the question never was asked if we wanted to do garrison duty. If they had of asked that question we never would have been in Knoxville today. Why don’t you know as a good thinking man that we don’t want to leave our wives and families to go on garrison duty. Why if so you would have had more applications in the white house than the mail box would have helt.
You know that these officers is getting a very good salary and they would go in three miles of hell after that dollar, but we who are brave men did not come for the sake of that $15.60, but we gloried in the flag and come to hold it up by the balls and shells. So as we did not get a chance to do so we hope that you will consider this matter. Look it over, give us the judgment of justice and if you do we will go home to our families who are in a suffering condition, so we will not write any more.
We the undersigned await your earliest reply. Many soldiers of the Third North Carolina regiment. We want to go home.
Journal and Tribune (Knoxville, Tennessee), 5 October 1898.
We met Jerry Bordenhere and here. At the time of that post, I had not been able to locate him in post-Reconstruction records. However, thanks to a tip from a descendant, I found Borden’s death certificate, which reports that he died in New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina, on 20 August 1914; was born 10 May 1840 to Axell Symns and an unknown mother [sic]; was a “U.S. retired soldier”; and was buried in a national cemetery.
Borden, of course, had been a private in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. He was born in what is now Wilson County to Washington Simms and Exie Barnes Simms and enlisted in U.S.C.T. in 1864 in Morehead City, North Carolina.
In the 1890 veterans schedule of Pamlico County: Jerry Borden; private; Company C; date of enlistment 25 April 1864; date of discharge 11 December 1865.
On 24 December 1895, Marshel Faison, 25, of No. 5 township, Pamlico County, son of Rufus Faison and Barbara York, married Sarah Borden, 23, of No. 5 township, daughter of Jerah and Mary Borden, at Oriental, North Carolina.
In the 1900 census of Township 5, Pamlico County: farmer Jerry B. Borden, 57; wife Mary E., 50; and sons John H., 18, Willie, 16, and George E., 13.
On 28 October 1907, George Borden, 22, of No. 5 township, son of Jerry and Mary Borden, married Annie Allen, 19, of No. 5 township, daughter of John and Adeline Allen, in Oriental, No. 5 township, Pamlico County.
In the 1910 census of Township 5, Pamlico County: odd jobs laborer Jury B. Borden, 67; wife Mary L., 51; son George, 23; daughter-in-law Annie, 21; and grandchildren Hugh, 1, and Audrey, 4 months.
Jerry Borden died 20 August 1914.
U.S. Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries, 1862-1960, www.ancestry.com.
Jerry Borden, New Bern National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Findagrave.com.
On 20 September 1925, John Borden, 37, of Nahunta township, Wayne County, N.C., son of Jerry and Mary Borden of Craven County, N.C., married Alicy Lane, 45, of Nahunta township, daughter of Wright and Sindia Lane, in Goldsboro, N.C. Presbyterian minister Clarence Dillard performed the ceremony.
Willie Amos Burden died 22 May 1929 in Township 5, Pamlico County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1884 in Mattoxville, N.C., to Jerry Borden of Wilson County and Mary Mumford of Onslow County, N.C.; was married to Olivia Borden; was a laborer. M.H. Borden, Oriental, N.C., was informant.
Sarah A. Faison died 29 October 1948 in New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 June 1886 in Pamlico County, N.C., to Jerry Borden of Wilson County and Mary Mumford of Onslow County; lived at 1023 Broad Street, New Bern; was married to Marshall Faison; and was buried in Saint Stephens, Pamlico County.
William Henry Borden died 31 October 1960 in Oriental, Pamlico County. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 May 1892 in Oriental to Jerry Borden and Mary Mattocks; was married to Gertrude Borden; and worked as a grocery merchant.
By time illustrations were made for the 1930 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson, the two-story Normal and Industrial Institute had reverted to use as an apartment building, marked as “flats” at 604 East Vance Street. The tall staircase my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks recalled is clearly marked on its front facade. She was 8 years old when the school opened in late 1918: “First of the year I went to school, and [then] I didn’t go back no more to the Graded School. They opened the Wilson Training School on Vance Street, with that old long stairway up that old building down there — well, I went over there.”
A Turner Harris registered for the World War II draft in Union County, Pennsylvania, in May 1945, and his registration card was sent to a local draft board in Washington, D.C. Harris was born 8 September 1923 in Rocky Mountain [sic; Mount], North Carolina; lived at 67 N Street N.W., Washington; and his contact was mother Maggie Whitehead. However, if this is the man the Times speculated about when “it was learned later,” the paper seems to have placed blame on the wrong Turner Harris. The Turner Harris whose family moved to Washington, D.C., did not register for the draft until five months after Harris the black marketeer was convicted and sentenced to 30 years.
However, records of United States Army Enlistments, found online at Ancestry.com, show that a Turner Harris, born in 1922, resident of Wilson, N.C., enlisted at Fort Bragg, N.C., on 3 June 1941. I have found no other details of his service.