Newspapers

The obituary of Moses Parker: he said he was going to live with Jesus.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 September 1936.

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In the 1870 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: farm laborer Jason Parker, 35; wife Annis, 24; and children Moses, 8, Harriet, 5, Jerry, 4, and Sophy, 1.

In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: farmer Jason Parker, 43; wife Annis, 39; and children Moses, 17, Harriet, 15, Jere, 13, Sophia, 10, Mathew, 9, Cintha, 7, Susan, 5, and Abel, 2.

On 5 March 1892, Moses Parker, 29, married Henrietta Woodard, 27, at Isaac Farmer‘s residence in Wilson County. Free Will Baptist minister Crockett Best performed the ceremony in the presence of Jordan Braswell, Jno. W. Williford, and J.G. Barnes.

On 17 June 1897, Moses Parker, 33, married Sallie Reid, 27, at William Taylor’s residence in Wilson County. Jason Parker was a witness.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Mosses Parker, 40; wife Sarah, 30; and daughters Jennie, 14, and Mary, 12. (Next door, Moses’ brother Abel Parker, 21, farmer, wife Sarah, 20, son Jerry, 6 months, and boarder Thomas Horn, 60, widower, farm laborer.)

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 415 Goldsboro Street, widower Moses Parker, 45, house carpenter; daughters Mary, 21, and Nera, 23, private family cook; and granddaughter Lee Parker, 4.

On 7 September 1911, Moses Parker, 47, of Wilson, married Charity Holland, 50, of Wilson, in Wilson township. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony at Charity Holland’s residence in the presence of John Battle, George W. Wood, and John H. Akins.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 417 Goldsboro Street, general public drayman Moses Parker, 59, and wife Charity, 64.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 June 1921.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1004 East Nash Street, owned and valued at $1700, grocery store proprietor Moses Parker, 63; wife Charity, 60; and roomer Elizabeth Simms, 17.

Moses Parker died 23 September 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 73 years old; was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Jason Parker and Annis Parker; was married to Charity Parker; lived at 1004 East Nash Street; and worked as a carpenter.

Negroes to receive lifetime pension for amputated feet.

When I stumbled upon this article, I was not sure if the terrible incident it described involved African-Americans from Wilson County. (It turns out they were not.) I did know, however, that state legislator Troy T. Barnes of Wilson co-sponsored a bill to award the victims pensions, and I knew I wanted to know more.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 March 1935.

A review of the widespread state news coverage reveals:

  • In December 1934, Woodrow Wilson Shropshire, 19, was sentenced to 120 days on a chain gang for drunkenness and drunk driving. In January 1935, Robert Barnes, also 19, was sentenced to a year “on the road” for possession of a stolen camera. Both were sent to a Mecklenburg County labor camp.
  • In January 1935, Shropshire and Barnes were placed in solitary confinement for alleged insubordination and cursing at a guard. The men were chained in a standing position against a wall for eight hours a day for four days. During the cold nights, they slept in an unheated room with little covering. The camp doctor failed to check on them as required by law. Both suffered severe damage to their feet that led to gangrene.
  • In early March, Wilson and Barnes were taken to Central State Prison in Raleigh where their feet were amputated. The following week, the state legislature opened an investigation into the matter. 
  • Per testimony, the men originally been held at Mecklenburg County camp #411. When they attempted to warm themselves at a fire without permission during frigid January temperatures, a guard warned them away and Shropshire cursed him. Because camp #411 had no solitary confinement, they were moved to camp #413. Barnes, Shropshire, and a former prisoner named John Reid testified that a prison guard beat Barnes unconscious for spitting on the floor. The men were fed half a biscuit twice a day and a small amount of water. Prison officials claimed the men’s feet had been damaged by erysipelas, a strep bacterial infection. And/or their gangrene had been caused by the men stuffing rags too tightly between their skin and shackles. (“It is astonishing,” [testified prison physician] Coleman, “how some prisoners will mutilate themselves to escape work.”]
  • The investigation turned up an additional atrocity — the secret burials of Black convicts in a Watauga County cornfield during construction of the Boone Trail state highway in 1930. (The men had been reported as escapees.) Legislators had questions about the laws concerning prisoners in state camp, the limits (or lack thereof) on the kind of punishment guards could mete out, and the practice of transferring prisoners to camps with “little dark houses” used for solitary confinement. Three state representatives, including Barnes of Wilson, sponsored a bill providing a lifetime pension for Shropshire and Barnes.
  • In early April, the camp superintendent, camp physician, and three guards were arrested and charged with crimes including neglect, torture, maiming, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Shropshire was taken by ambulance from Raleigh to testify before a Mecklenburg County grand jury; Barnes was still too weak from his injuries.
  • The committee’s recommendation, issued in late April, was conservative. North Carolina penal camps could continue using whips and “dark cells” to punish prisoners. On the bright side, Shropshire and Barnes were to receive prosthetic feet and jobs in the highway or prison departments. 
  • By mid-May, the State had spent $500 for four sets of artificial limbs for the two men, but neither was strong enough to use them.
  • The trial got underway in mid-July. Surprise — all defendants were acquitted!
  • Shropshire made good progress adjusting to his prosthetics. He declined a job in Raleigh, preferring to return to Mecklenburg to be near family, and the State promised to find him a job there. Barnes continued to struggle. In 1940, when he registered for the World War II draft, he was described as unemployed. His card noted “both feet amputated below knees.” 

Dr. Darden makes good.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 September 1936.

“Darden and Family at Pharmacy.” This unattributed photo is posted at “First Black Doctor in Opelika, AL,” Valle Vision News blog, 22 February 2018. Dr. Darden is at center, with his wife Maude Jean Logan Darden to the left, standing in front of his Opelika pharmacy. The man at far right may be J.B. Darden, a pharmacist who worked in his brother’s shop before settling in Virginia.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Sanders slain by Officer Hartis.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 October 1935.

In his 2005 memoir Son of the Rough South, journalist Karl Fleming painted a dark picture of police officer Philemon Ray Hartis in the late 1940s, a dozen years after he shot Ernest Sanders to death. In a chapter titled “My First Bad Cop,” Fleming introduced Hartis as the detective whose job it was to follow what was happening across the tracks in “n*ggertown” and in other pockets of the town’s demimonde, who ran white madames and black bootleggers as informants, who hoarded the dirty secrets of the white upper class, and who smacked around any black body he deemed deserving.

Earnest Sanders’ death was ruled a justifiable homicide, “shot by policeman.”

Enough to close the place.

An article about the results of hearings for businesses charged with liquor law violations contains an interesting tidbit. Effie Boswell, a white woman who ran a roadhouse “just off the Wilson-Lucama Highway,” i.e. today’s U.S. Highway 301, was ordered to reduce her hours and pay a five hundred dollar bond to keep her place open pending her next hearing. The order also provided that “there was to be no more mixed dancing of white and negro persons at the place,” an allegation the judge considered was alone sufficient to shut the place down.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 April 1939.

An earlier article reported that Boswell’s place, described as a grocery store and filling station, had been closed initially, but the judge had amended his order after legions of upstanding citizens vouched for her good character. Nevertheless, by May 1939, Boswell had agreed to shut her doors permanently, and the State dropped its prosecution.

  • Effie Boswell — Per her death certificate, Effie Lamm Boswell was born 21 January 1889 in Wilson County to Edwin and Zillah Bass Boswell. She died 13 September 1970. She was the widow of Jesse Boswell.

Theft by trickery.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 September 1945.

  • William Lee McMillan — perhaps: William Lee McMillian died 8 May 1957 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 20 December 1884 in Robeson County, N.C., to Henry McMillian and Annie Willis; was the widower of Julia McMillan; lived at 708 Manchester Street, Wilson; and was a laborer.

A visit to Oklahoma.

The Black Dispatch (Oklahoma City), 25 May 1922.

Ada G. Battle and Nicholas R. Battle, both born in Wilson County, were the children of Charles Battle.

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In the 1880 census, Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Charles Battle, 35, wife Leah, 30, and children Adelia, 5, Geneva, 2, Virgil, 1 month, and Nicholas, 18.

On 27 February 1901, Nicholas R. Battle, 37, born in North Carolina, residing in Chandler, Oklahoma, married Mrs. Dora J. Bolton, 39, born in Mississippi, residing in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in Logan County, Oklahoma.

In the 1910 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nicklos Battle, 46; wife Dora, 41; adopted children Charley Suggs, 5, and Henry Caldwell, 3; and hired man Cleveland Smith, 24.

In the 1920 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nichols Battles, 56; wife Dora J., 58; and son Henery N., 12.

Dora Battle died 10 November 1921 in Chandler, Oklahoma.

In the 1930 census of Chandler, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Henry Battle, 22; wife Vannie, 23; son Henry Jr., 3; and father Nicholas B. Battle, 64, widower, farmer.

In the 1940 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nichols Battles, 75; wife Ella, 39; and children Ada L., 5, Nicholas R., 3, and Evelene, 1.

Nicholas R. Battle died 24 December 1946 in Chandler, Oklahoma.

An affray.


Wilson News, 5 October 1899.

A restatement:

Bud King protested when ordered to leave Watson’s Warehouse. K.P. Watson hit him with a barrel stave. King snatched up a brick, but fled when J.S. Farmer intervened. Watson and Farmer shot at King while chasing him, but missed. King went to the police, who charged all three with affray (basically, fighting in public.) A judge split court costs among the three defendants and fined Watson and Farmer five cents. King drew a three-dollar fine, which he could not pay. He went to jail.