Oral History

Karl Fleming’s Wilson.

The Wilson Daily Times is the source of many of the newspaper articles posted at Black Wide-Awake. I am not unmindful of the racist over- and undertones of many of the clippings, especially those reporting alleged criminal activity. Nevertheless, they have value as imperfect documentation of the existence of so many African-Americans whose lives went otherwise unrecorded. Journalist Karl Fleming made his name covering the Civil Rights movement — most notably, Freedom Summer — for Newsweek magazine in the early 1960s. Fleming’s newspaper career began about 1947 at the Daily Times, which, in Son of the Rough South: An Uncivil Memoir (2005), he credits with introducing him to the brutal racist policies of his native state.

Fleming devotes several chapters to his time in Wilson. His behind-the-scenes explanation of the Times‘ race conventions is illuminating:

“The style of the Daily Times decreed that unmarried black women of whatever age be called ‘girl.’ A married ‘colored’ woman after being identified by her whole name, perhaps, perhaps Elsie Smith, in the first mention, would in succeeding graphs be called ‘the Smith woman.’ This avoided the honorifics ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs.’ being applied to colored women. Colored men, of course, were never referred to as ‘Mr.,’ not even on the full page that ran ever Saturday headlined ‘News of the Colored Community,’ which catalogued the doings of the colored Charles L. Darden [sic] High School, church and Sunday school events, marriages, funerals, and social clubs. Darden ran the colored funeral home and a colored insurance agency and was the colored community’s most substantial citizen.”

His physical description of the town remains recognizable in many ways, even in the water fountains have been dismantled:

“Wilson and the surrounding county was half white and half colored. The town squatted in the sweltering heart of the table-flat and sandy North Carolina coastal plain, throughout which tobacco was the main cash crop. In the center of town, in front of a marble courthouse with six fluted Doric columns, two magnolia trees, and a confederate statue, were ‘White’ and ‘Colored’ water fountains.”

“The old train depot, the faded brick six-story Cherry Hotel alongside it, and the tracks of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad separated these black and white worlds.”

“What the colored people across the tracks may actually have felt about segregation in general and separate schools specifically no one in the white world knew. It was simply assumed that what they said to the white people was true — that they were content with the status quo. The pillars of the black community, the ministers and school teachers and the owners of the few colored businesses allowed to exist because whites wanted nothing to do with them — such as restaurant, beauty parlors, barber shops, funeral homes, pool halls, and juke joints patronized entirely by colored people — did not publicly protest or resist. There seemed to be among them a seeming general air of good-natured acceptance. When one of them excelled, or died, it was said that “he was a credit to his race,” suggesting that ordinary blackness was a debit somehow.”

Fleming exaggerates the uniform decrepitude of East Wilson’s building stock. As this blog has amply demonstrated, East Wilson was a lot more than shotgun rentals in need of whitewash. There were certainly a fair number of those though.

“The colored community was a close-packed warren of gray unpainted shotgun shacks rented from white landlords on dirt alleys across the railroad tracks. Its only paved roads were Nash Street, becoming Highway 41 [91] going east into the country towards the coast, and U.S. 301 going north and south, the principal highway from New York to Miami. Its inhabitants were for the most part menials of every sort, field hands on the surrounding tobacco farms, manual laborers for the city and county maintenance departments, and unskilled workers in the tobacco warehouses and wholesale packing houses.”

And then this observation, followed by a truism:

“Few white people ventured into ‘niggertown.’ … The arrival of a white man could mean nothing good. He was either ‘the law,’ a bill collector, or someone selling something — usually life of burial insurance.”

Fleming also offers a reporter’s assessment of (and white Wilson’s take on) the trial of Allen T. Reid, who was sentenced to death in 1949 for burglary.

 

The family of Tarrell and Minerva Locus Parker.

Courtesy of my collaborator Edith Jones Garnett comes this priceless set of photographs of several generations of a southern Wilson County family founded by Tarrell and Minerva Locus Parker. Several are accompanied by text drawn from a family history booklet, A Recorded History of the Descendants of Tarrell Parker, published, it appears, in the 1970s or ’80s.

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Tarrell Parker (ca. 1835-1922).

In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Terrell Parker, 23, living in the household of white farmer Elias Farrell, 40.

In the 1880 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farmer Tarrell Parker, 45; wife Minerva, 18; and children Trecy, 5, Jesse, 3, and Mancy Ann, 1.

In the 1900 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farmer Tarrel Parker, 65; daughter Nancy, 20; and her children William H., 6, Leonora, 3, Georg L., 1, and Jesse, 0.

In the 1910 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farmer Tarrell Parker, 74, and grandson William H. Parker, 16, farm laborer.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer George Carter, 49; wife Nancy A., 40; and children Leonard, 19; Jessie, 18; Lillie, 18; Ada, 14; Ida, 12; Robie, 7; Trecie, 5; and Rosetta, 4; plus father-in-law Thomas [sic, Tarrell] W. Parker, 88.

Tarrell Parker died 23 April 1922 in Springhill township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was a widower; born 30 May 1832 in Wilson County to Treasy Parker; and worked as a tenant farmer for Wiley Williamson. William Henry Parker was informant.

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Nancy Parker Carter (1884-1959).

“Nancy Ann Parker was born May 16, 1884 to Tarrell and Manerver Parker. She was the baby girl, with an older brother named Jessie and a older sister named Trecia. She met and married George Carter as an early age. They had ten living children who are our parents, Grandparents, Great-Grandparents etc… Most of us remember her as Mama Nancy. Mama Nancy was employed at a sewing plant in Lucama and was the only black seamstress who worked there at that time. She loved and enjoyed children and helped to raise many of her grandchildren. She was a very religious person and a dedicated member of Mary Grove Baptist Church. She enjoyed reading her Bible daily, Bible study, Prayer meetings and traveling to visit her children and grandchildren. She was a beautiful woman.”

George W. Carter (1877-1943).

“George Washington Carter was born in the year 1877 to Peter and Julia Carter. He was born in Rockingham, North Carolina, and had one sister named Lenora and two brothers named Andrew and Henry. His father was part Indian. Grandpa George was a member of Mary Grove Baptist Church and served on the Deacon Board until his illness. He worked as a sharecropper and did well on the farm. Grandpa George was a hard worker and a good provider for his family. However, he had a stroke and family obligations were assumed by his wife Nancy.”

George and Nancy Parker Carter.

George Carter, 25, married Nancy Ann Parker, 22, daughter of T.W. and Manervia Parker, on 10 March 1902 in Black Creek township. Willie B. Barnes, Frank Barnes and Haywood W. Sessums were witnesses.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: George Carter, 39; wife Nancy A., 27; and children Lenora, 12, George L., 10, Jesse W., 8, Lilly M., 6, Ada L., 4, and Ida, 2. [Next door, on one side, Nancy’s father Tarrell Parker, and on the other the household of Wright and Sallie Barnes Creech.]

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer George Carter, 49; wife Nancy A., 40; and children Leonard, 19; Jessie, 18; Lillie, 18; Ada, 14; Ida, 12; Robie, 7; Trecie, 5; and Rosetta, 4; plus father-in-law Thomas [sic, Tarrell] W. Parker, 88.

In the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer George Carter, 60; wife Nancy A., 52; and children Robie, 18, and Rosetta Carter, 14, and Mary Ida Brockington, 22.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Jessie Carter, 39; his wife Pauline, 31; and children Robert, 11, Flossie May, 9, Leloe, 7, and Rematha, 2; plus father George, 70; mother Nancy, 60; and brother Roby, 28.

George Carter died 31 January 1943 in Lucama, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1877 in Rockingham County, North Carolina, to Peter and Julia Carter; was a farmer; and was buried in Williamson cemetery.

Nancy Ann Carter died 5 October 1959 at her home on Route 1, Lucama. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 March 1884 in Wilson County to Terrel Williams; was widowed; and was buried in Renfrow cemetery. Lillie Jones was informant.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 October 1959.

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William Henry Parker (1894-1972), Pullman porter.

“William Henry was born on December 26, 1894 in Wilson County, North Carolina. Henry attended gramma school and later attended Dobe School of Mechanical Drafting. He married Ora Renfrow on January 6, 1918 in Wilson, North Carolina. To this union were born five children. Clovis, Margaret (deceased), Tarrell, Dorothy and Henry (deceased). He farmed in North Carolina and worked with the school district of Wilson. He later moved his family to Philadelphia and there he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Henry then went to work for the Government (Frankford Arsenal) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had many interests and hobbies. He enjoyed reading, repairing things, traveling, shopping for antiques and inventing different things. He invented a new metal clip, and obtained a patent for it on March 24, 1964. (See below) In his later years, he operated a clock repair/antique shop. He was very well known for his workmanship. William Henry died on October 28, 1972 of a heart attack.”

William H. Parker’s patented metal clip.

W.H. Parker, 24, of Springhill township, son of Nancy Parker, married Ora Renfrow, 19, of Old Fields township, daughter of John and Margarette Renfrow, on 6 January 1918 in Old Fields. G.W. Carter applied for the license.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer William H. Parker, 26; wife Ora, 21; and son Clovis, 10 months.

In the 1930 census of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: at 3905 Folsom Street, railroad porter Henry Parker, 36; wife Ora, 31; and children Clovis, 11, Tarrel, 9, Dorothy, 7, and Henry, 5.

In the 1940 census of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: at 3905 Folsom Street, Pullman Company porter Henry Parker, 45; wife Ora, 40; and children Clovis, 21, retail store porter, Henry, 18, truck driver, and Dorthy, 17.

In 1942, William Henry Parker registered for the World War II draft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his registration card, he resided at 3905 Folsom Street; was born 26 December 1894 in Wilson County, North Carolina; worked for the Pullman Company, P.R.R. 30th Street Station, Philadelphia; and his contact person was Mrs. Ora Parker.

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Lenora Carter Barnes (1897-1988) and children Willie, Lenetta and Clinton, circa 1920.

On 10 December 1916, Elijah Barnes, 22, son of Joe and Cherry Barnes, of Springhill, married Lena Carter, 20, of Springhill, daughter of George and Nancy Carter. Missionary Baptist minister Robert Crockett performed the ceremony at Mary Grove Baptist Church in the presence of Guilford Ellis, Lannie Sutton and J.H. Battle.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Elijah Barnes, 26; wife Lenora C., 22; and children Wilie, 5, Lenetta, 2, and Clenon, 1.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Middlesex Kenly Road, farmer Elija Barnes, 36; wife Lenora, 32; and children Willie G., 15, Lenetta, 12, Joseph C., 11, Eliza, 10, Nancy V., 7, James F., 5, Andrew, 3, and Mary E., 1.

In the 1940 census of O’Neals, Johnston County: farm renter Elijah Barnes, 46; wife Lenora, 43; and children Willie, 23, Clinton, 21, Elijah Jr., 17, Varnell, 18, George, 17, Floyd, 15, Andrew, 14, S.L., 12, Genetta, 9, Odessia, 8, Blonnie, 5, and Sarah, 2.

Lenora Carter Barnes died 17 September 1988 in Johnston County, North Carolina.

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George Leonard Carter (1899-1971).

George Leonard Carter registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 3 February 1900; resided at Route 3, Lucama; and was a farmer for George Carter, Springhill township near Rock Ridge.

On 14 October 1920, George L. Carter, 21, of Springhill, son of George and Nancy Carter, married Elvira Boykin, 19, of Springhill, daughter of Troy Boykin, in Oldfields township. G.W. Carter applied for the license.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer George L. Carter, 31; wife Roxia A., 24; and children Mittie M., 8, George W., 4, Thelma, 3, and Josephine, 2.

Leonard Carter registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 3 February 1899 in Wilson County; resided at 709-6th Street, N.E.; worked for Charles H. Tompkins of Charles H. Tompkins & Co., contractors, at 907-16th Street, N.W. His contact was Roxie Carter.

Rev. Leonard Carter died 17 May 1971 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 February 1899 to George and Nancy A. Carter; was a minister; was married to Lydia Freeman; and resided at 627 Suggs Street. He was buried at Mary Grove church cemetery.

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Jesse Warren Carter (1900-1962).

On 27 December 1920, Jesse Carter, 21, of Springhill township, son of George and Nancy Carter, married Mary Jones, 18, of Oldfields township, daughter of Jesse and Sally Jones, in Cross Roads township. Baptist minister Emerson Hooks performed the ceremony.

In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Jesse Carter, 29; wife Mary, 26; and children Williard, 8, and Robert L., 1.

On 16 May 1936, Jesse Carter, 36, of Lucama, son of George and Nancy Carter, married Pauline Coley, 27, daughter of Thomas and Alice Coley, in Smithfield, Johnston, County.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Jessie Carter, 39; his wife Pauline, 31; and children Robert, 11, Flossie May, 9, Leloe, 7, and Rematha, 2; plus father George, 70; mother Nancy, 60; and brother Roby, 28.

In 1942, Jessie Warren Carter resgistered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 5 June 1900 in Wilson County; resided at Box 252, Route 1, Lucama, Wilson County; and was employed by Mrs. Sallie Williamson, Lucama.

Jesse W. Carter died 19 September 1962 in Middlesex, Drywells township, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 June 1900 in Wilson County to George Carter and Nancy Parker; was a farmer; was married to Pauline Carter; and was buried at Mary Grove cemetery.

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Lillie Mae Carter Knight Jones (1903-??).

In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Lillie Knight, 26; and children Carter L., 7, Lissie M., 5, Ratha E., 4, and Daisy M., 1. [Husband Jim Knight, 27, appears in the enumeration of the Wilson County stockade.]

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Ada Lee Carter Lucas (1905-1986) and Mary Ida Carter Brockington (1908-??).

On 22 December 1921, Ada Lee Carter, 18, daughter of George and Nancy Carter, married Carl Locus, 20, son of Sanford and Ada Locus, in Wilson.  Jesse Carter applied for the license, and he, S.B. Locus and Jim Knight witnessed.

On 31 January 1929, James Brockington, 26, of Black Creek township, married Ida Carter, 20, of Springhill township, in Wilson. Their parents Nancy Carter, John Brockington and Mary Brockington witnessed.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Carl Locas, 28; wife Ada, 24; and children Nancy M., 8, Paul D., 6, Alice V., 4, Helen O., 2, Neom C., 1, and Carl R., 0.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Carl Locus, 38; wife Ada, 33; and children Nancy, 16, Paul D., 15, Allice, 14, Helen, 12, Florence, 11, Carl Rowland, 10, Leona, 8, Cristine, 6, and Grady, 4.

In 1942, Robert James Brockington registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 13 June 1903 in Florence, South Carolina; was married to Ida Brockington; resided at 1013-3rd Street, N.E.; and worked for Charles H. Thompkins (see Leonard Carter, above).

James Brockington died 13 May 1947 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 13 June 1909 in Florence, South Carolina, to John Brockington and Mary Skeeter; was married to Ida Brockington; and was buried at Mary Grove.

Per the Social Security Death Index, Ada Lucas died December 1986 in Washington, D.C.

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Robie Carter (1911-1942).

“Robie was born January 1, 1911 in Wilson County, North Carolina. He too attended Williamson Elementary School. He never married, but had one son, James Willis Graham, who is also deceased. At an early age, Robie moved from Wilson, North Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and later to Washington, D.C. Prior to his death he was employed at the Sheraton Hotel. He died in 1942 when he was thirty-one years old from a heart attack.”

Roby Carter registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 1 January 1912 in Wilson, North Carolina; resided in Washington, D.C.; and his next-of-kin was sister Lillia Jones.

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Trecia Carter Renfrow (1913-1939) and Rosetta Carter Jones (1914-).

James and Trecia Carter Renfrow.

“Trecia Carter Renfrow was born May 18, 1913 in Wilson, North Carolina. She grew up and attended school there. Trecia met and married James Plummer Renfrow in 1928. They later moved to Hampton, Virginia for a short while. Between the year 1934/35 Trecia and Plummer ventured to Washington, D.C. making that their new home with their three children, James born December 1, 1929, Rudolph born May 10, 1931, and Mabel born November 3, 1933. Trecia had a short but wonderful life, always smiling, caring, being the lovable person she is well remembered by; and although she never got to see her three children become adults, Trecia was blessed with an offspring of thirteen (13) grand children and twenty (20) great-grandchildren. Our mother, grandmother, great-grandmother Trecia Carter Renfrow left us on May 31, 1939 at 2:10 A.M. at the age of 26 years.”

On 25 June 1927, James Plumer Renfrow of Kenly, 21, son of John and Mary Renfrow, married Tracie Carter, 18, of Kenly, daughter of George and Nancy Carter, in Smithfield, Johnston County.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer James P. Renfrow, 19, wife Trecy E., 17, and son Levie J., 3 months.

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Levi and Rosetta Carter Jones on their wedding day.

On 22 November 1935, Levi Jones, 21, of Wilson County, son of Ernest and Lillie Jones, married Rosetta Carter, 19, daughter of George and Nancy Carter, of Wilson County, in Nashville, Nash County.

In the 1940 census of Washington, D.C.: at 513 G Street. N.E., construction laborer Alfred Jones, 27, wife Lily, 33, and children Carter L., 15, Melissa, 13, Relphel, 12, and Daisy, 11; plus cafe busser Levi Jones, 24, wife Ruth, 22, a maid, and [brother?] Sylvester Jones, 22, a restaurant dishwasher; plus James Renfro, 29, and children David J., 10, Rudolph, 8, and Mable, 7; plus Lenard Hinnant, 23. All except Hinnant indicated that they had been living in Wilson in 1935. [This household, of course, comprised Lillie Carter, her children and her second husband; Lillie’s sister Rosetta (erroneously called Ruth) and her husband; and their sister Trecia’s widowed husband James and their children.]

In 1942, Levi Jones registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 3 June 1915 in Wilson; resided at 513 G Street, N.E.; was married to Rosetta Jones; and worked for Mrs. Fordson at the Government Printing Office.

The house that Jack built.

STANTONSBURG — The house that Jack Sherrod built is a hidden history.

Built as a wood structure in 1886, the entire building has been encapsulated into brick and has had multiple additions over the years, but Leonard Paul Sherrod Jr., great-grandson of the builder, knows what’s underneath.

Sherrod and other family members are preparing for a grand reunion on Sept. 1-3 to be held at the Sherrod homestead.

“We are refurnishing, repairing, remodeling when necessary and getting it ready to be used as a venue for the upcoming September reunion,” said Sherrod, who was born in Wilson in 1933 and graduated from Charles H. Darden High School in 1952

A picnic and a banquet are planned at the event, which Sherrod has titled “Exploring Our Family History.”

“There is so much history,” Sherrod said. “Not only is it family history, it is African-American history, and in some small portion, American history.”

That history begins with Jack Sherrod and his wife, Cassie. Both had been slaves, yet 20 years afterward had managed to build a home on what is now Watery Branch Church Road south of Stantonsburg near the confluence of Wilson, Greene and Wayne counties.

“He had been a slave until the end of the war,” Sherrod said. “As a freed man, he acquired this land and built a home on it. He could not read, nor write, but he could build things. He had this God-given talent for building things. It is not written, but certainly said, that he built a lot of structures in this area. He was a builder. It took him two years to build this house.”

Last week, Sherrod stood in the graveyard behind Watery Branch Free Will Baptist Church. The graves of Jack and Cassie Sherrod are right there, with those of other deceased family members, about 200 yards away from and within sight of the homestead.

“To be able to stand there in your yard and see where your great-grandparents are buried, that raises a lot of emotions within me,” Sherrod said. The house that he built and I can see his grave from the front yard.”

Restoring the homestead is a passion for Sherrod.

“I think the Lord put this in my spirit to be a part of preserving this property because it has been in the family for so long and it is such a rich history that I could not stand by and let it go,” he said.

From “Hidden History: Family Celebrates Home of Patriarch, a Former Slave,” by Drew C. Wilson, Wilson Times, 16 July 2017.

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Jack Sherard, son of Denis Barnes and Tempy Davis, and Cassy Exum received a marriage license in Wayne County in 1868.

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Jack Sherard, 26, wife Cassey, 25, and daughter Fanny, 4.

In the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County: farmer Jack Sherod, 37; wife Cassey, 28; and children Fanny, 12, William, 9, Ida, 7, Marcy, 2, John, 5, and Benny, 11 months.

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Jack Sherard, 56; wife Cassy; and children Ida, 27, Benjamin, 25, Dalas, 20, Exum, 16, Arthur, 15, and Cora, 11.

Ida Sherrod, 32, and Alonzo Wilson, 35, received a marriage license in Wayne County on 18 April 1906.

On 17 April 1907, Cora Sherrod, 18, of Wayne County, daughter of Jack Sherrod, married Columbus Ward, 26, of Greene County, son of Pearson and Cherry Ward. Oscar Hagans applied for the license, and Methodist minister Robert E. Hunt performed the ceremony in Stantonsburg, Wilson County, in the presence of Mrs. R.E. Hunt, B.J. Thompson, and Mrs. B.J. Thompson.

On 13 January 1909, Arthur D. Sherard, 22, son of Jack and Cassie Sherard, married Effie Diggs, 18, daughter of Margaret Diggs at Frances Diggs‘ house in Nahunta township, Wayne County. Jack Sherard applied for the license, and witnesses to the ceremony were W.M. Artis, Henry Pender and Richard Artis, all of Eureka, Nahunta township.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Jack Sherard, 66; wife Kassey, 55; and grandchildren Thomas, 8, and Zelma Sherard, 5.

Dallas Alonzo Sherrod, 28, son of Jack and Carrie Sherrod, married Mary Ann Taylor, 20, daughter of Nelson and Delia Taylor, on 21 December 1911 in Petersburg, Virginia.

Dallas A. Sherrod

Dallas A. Sherrod.

Jack Sherrod scrawled an X at the bottom of his last will and testament on 30 June 1914. By its terms, his wife Cassie was to receive a life estate in all his property and, after her death, daughters Cora Ward and Fannie Powell (wife of George Powell) would receive dollars each, with the remainder of his property equally divided among his children John Sherard, Exum Sherard, Willie Sherard, Ben Sherard, Arthur Sherard, Ida Wilson and Dallas Sherard.

Jack Sherrod died 18 May 1915 in Nahunta township, Wayne County. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 August 1842 to Dennis Barnes and Tempie Barnes; was married; and worked as a farmer. Arthur Sherrod was informant.

Ida B. Wilson died 21 October 1918 in Nahunta, Wayne County, of influenza. Per her death certificate, she was the widow of Alonza Wilson; was born about 1873 in Wayne County to Jack Sherrod and Cassie Exum. Informant was Ben Sherrod of Fremont, North Carolina.

In the 1920 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: on Stantonsburg Road, Cassey Sherard, 69; and grandchildren Zelma, 15, Joseph, 12, and Ralph L., 12.

On 30 November 1926, Cora Sherrod, 35, of Stantonsburg, daughter of Jack and Cassie Sherrod, married Robert C. Powell, 58, of Stantonsburg, son of Lawson and Lanie Powell, in Stantonsburg, Wilson County. A.M.E. Zion minister E.D. Lewis performed the ceremony in the presence of Albert A. Cooke of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Mattie Winstead of Stantonsburg.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line (on street), Cassie Sherrod, 75, widow; granddaughters Zelma, 25, Doris, 7, and Jeraldine, 6; and daughter Cora Powell, 30, teacher. Sherrod owned the house, valued at $600.

Dallas Sherrod died 26 December 1934 in Petersburg, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was 50 years old; was born in Stantonsburg, North Carolina, to Jack and Cassie Sherrod; was married to Mary Sherrod; and resided at 1111 Stainback Street. He was buried in East View cemetery.

Cassie Sherrod died 26 June 1940 at 624 East Green Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was the widow of Jack Sherrod; was born in Wayne County to Lewis Hall and Cassie Kelley. Informant was Cora S. Powell, 612 East Green.

Cassie Sherod’s will entered probate on 1 July 1940. Dated 25 November 1932(?), per its terms sons Exum, Arthur, Dallas and Ben Sherod were to receive $1 each; wearing clothes to daughter Fannie Sherod Powell; $1 each to John Sherod’s children Bee and Joe; $1 each to John Sherod’s children Velma and Tom; and a house and lot in Stantonsburg, a piano and all other personal property to Raphael Ward.

Arthur Sherrod died 28 March 1955 in Nahunta township, Wayne County. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 March 1886 in Wayne County to Jack Sherrod and Catherine Exum and was married to Effie Sherrod.

Cora Sherrod Barnes died 12 June 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 13 December 1888 to Jack and Cassie Sherrod; resided at 500 East Green Street; was a retired teacher. Informant was Ralph Sherrod, 327 West 30th Street, New York City.

Photograph of D. Sherrod courtesy of Ancestry user garey45sos1.

John M. and Annie D. Barnes.

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John M. and Annie D. Barnes. The building behind them appears to be Mercy Hospital. They lived next door at 500 East Green Street.

John Mack Barnes is one of a handful of African-Americans whose bio briefs were submitted for publication in History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985). “Father John Barnes was a real down to earth person. Never a hint of show off, or put on trying to impress you. Every one that knew him had to respect him.”

Per the article, John Barnes was born 26 December 1870 in Edgecombe County to Charles and Rebecca Barnes. (Benjamin Frank Barnes was one of his brothers.) He married Annie Darden and fathered four children, Leonard Elroy, Artelia, Thelma, and a boy who died early. Annie Darden Barnes taught at the Sallie Barbour School.

Barnes was a master builder, carpenter and brickmason whose finest works included Saint John A.M.E. Zion church and parsonage, Camillus L. Darden‘s stately Colonial Revival home on Pender Street, and the Tudor Revival Darden Funeral Home on Nash. He was devoted to Saint John and served as violin soloist, steward and trustee during his 69 years of membership. In his spare time, he raised Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock chickens at his home at 500 East Green Street.

When Annie Barnes died, Barnes built a brick and cement mausoleum for her remains. John M. Barnes died 27 April 1958 and was buried in an extension of the mausoleum built by his friend George Coppedge.

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Barnes mausoleum in Darden family plot, Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson, February 2017.

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In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charley Barnes, 50, wife Beckey, 36, and children John, 10, Frank, 6, Ann, 4, William C., 3, Thomas, 1, and Corah H., 1 month.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmhand Charley Barnes, 50; wife Rebecca, 57, washing; and children John, 26, drayman, William, 23, drayman, Annie, 17, cooking, Tom, 18, day laborer, and Corrah, 12, nursing.

On 22 December 1903, John M. Barnes, 33, son of Chas. and Rebecca Barnes of Wilson, married Annie Lee Darden, 24, daughter of Chas. and Dianah Darden of Wilson. Samuel H. Vick applied for the license, and Methodist Episcopal minister B.D. McIver performed the service in the presence of C.R. Cannon, Walter Hines, and O.L.W. Smith.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason John M. Barnes, 44, wife Annie L., 32, Leonard E., 5, Lee J. [Leo Artelia], 4, Selma [Thelma] F., 2, and John W., 3 months.

In the 1912 Hill’s city directory, John M. Barnes, bricklayer, is listed at 121 Pender Street (across from Saint John A.M.E. Zion.) In the 1922 and 1930 city directories, he is listed at 500 East Green. His occupation was given as plasterer in 1922.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 500 East Green, bricklayer John M. Barnes, 69, and wife Annie L., 61.

Annie Lee Barnes died 3 May 1943 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 February 1879 in Wilson to Charles Henry Darden of Greene County and Dianna Scarborough of Wilson County; was married to John M. Barnes; and taught at the Sallie Barbour School. John M. Barnes was informant.

John M. Barnes died 27 April 1958 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1870 in Wayne County to Charles and Rebecca Pope Barnes; worked as a brickmason; was married to Cora Sherrod Barnes [daughter of Jack and Cassie Sherrod]; and was buried at Rest Haven. Thelma B. Byers was informant.

Photo of John and Annie Barnes courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985); cemetery photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2017.

I am shot all to pieces, can’t get anywhere.

In April 1898, Mrs. A.V.C. Hunt placed an ad for her “uptown” grocery store, serving a white clientele, on Goldsboro Street in Wilson. A year later, on March 29 and 31, 1899, town newspapers carried an enigmatic series of articles about the trial of a “negro detective” apparently hired by white livery owner Jefferson D. Farrior to “work up a case” against Hunt’s husband, James A. Hunt, for burning her store. Farrior owned the building, and posted the detective’s bond. Almost exactly one year after that, Farrior waylaid James Hunt and shot him down in the street.

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Raleigh Morning Post, 31 March 1900.

More than two dozen witnesses, black and white, testified at the inquest into Hunt’s death, held 3 April 1900.

First, the doctors’ reports.  James A. Hunt was over six feet tall and weighed 225-250 pounds. He received four gun shots to the torso. One grazed his left chest, another buried in his shoulder, another entered near his left kidney, and another lodged between his 11th and 12th ribs. Dr. Albert Anderson administered a painkiller by hypodermic at the scene, and Hunt was transported by wagon to his home. Dr. C.E. Moore determined that a perforated intestine was likely, and the doctors performed surgery the day after the shooting. Hunt died at about 7:30 the evening of March 31.

The action is somewhat difficult to follow among the multiple viewpoints, but in essence, these are the facts alleged.

A couple of weeks before the shooting, James A. Hunt spoke with Herbert Bass about getting a horse and said he did not want to get one from Jefferson Farrior because they were not on good terms. Hunt also told Bass that he was out of business but had one more piece to transact before leaving Wilson. Monday or Tuesday before the shooting, Farrior showed several people a letter that he believed Hunt had written him. On Thursday, Hunt was observed passing Farrior’s livery stable stable several times, then standing across the street and staring at him. Because it was well known that Hunt had been charged the year before with shooting at a black detective that Farrior had hired to investigate an arson, witnesses suspected that Hunt was up to something. Farrior frequently had to pass through “the colored settlement down the plank road” to get to several farms he owned in the country, and some witnesses claimed that Hunt had threatened to kill Farrior. Sitting in Foster’s bar, Hunt told someone he had had a lot of trouble with “a small man of about 120-125 pounds, a blue-eyed sharper,” adding “It’s a fellow but the fice [feist] wouldn’t bark, and [he] had a fice now that would bark and he would get recompense.”

On Friday, Hunt and Jake Tucker went to Nash County to meet with a Mr. Eatmon about Hunt purchasing property in Wilson’s Little Washington neighborhood. Eatmon lived about six miles “the other side of Finchs Mill.” They returned about five or six P.M. Later that evening, Hunt, his wife Annie V. Collins Hunt, and friend Carrie Moore headed to the Marmona Opera House to attend a benefit performance for the colored Methodist Church. They walked up Green Street, crossed the tracks, and continued up Nash Street to Tarboro Street, where they turned left. They had passed the telegraph office and were near the silversmith’s shop when Farrior suddenly stepped out in front of them and raised a pistol. Hunt, who was unarmed, grabbed Farrior’s hands, and another man ran across the street to them shouting that he would shoot Hunt if he did not let Farrior go. Annie Hunt screamed, “Murder! Fire!” Hunt loosed Farrior and ran back toward Nash Street. Farrior chased him, shooting, then followed him into Ruffin’s store where he shot Hunt again. Alf Moye grabbed Farrior, who yelled that Hunt had threatened his life. John Gaston went outside, found A.V.C. Hunt and took her home.

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Marmona Opera House is at the arrow at left. The Hunt party walked northwest up Nash street, then turned on Tarboro. The telegraph office occupied 638 Tarboro, shown as vacant in this 1897 Sanborn insurance map. A few doors beyond is a jewelry shop that may be the silversmith referred to. Officer Harrell likely ran up the alley shown parallel to Nash. 

Police officer Ephraim Harrell heard the shooting, ran through an alley and encountered Farrior, who did not respond when asked what was going on. Harrell saw Hunt and told him to move on. Hunt responded, “I am shot all to pieces can’t get anywhere,” and lay down in a pile of wood. Harrell called a hack to take Hunt home. Hunt told him it was “cold-blooded murder” and asked for morphine so he could “die easy.” As he lay in a wagon near Wooten & Stevens furniture store, a doctor administered a painkiller by hypodermic needle. Harrell said he had known Hunt two or three years as a merchant who had a business on Goldsboro Street that had burned out. Hunt was a large man and “regarded as having plenty of grit.” Harrell had arrested him two or three weeks before for fighting a black man named Junk Williams, who had since left town.

Sandy Henderson, who had just dropped off some passengers at the opera house, spoke to Hunt as he lay bleeding. Hunt identified the men who abetted Farrior as Skinner and Privett and said he would have not been shot had they not threatened him. Hunt said he was going to die “but God would pay Mr. Farrior for shooting him.”

At the inquest, Hunt’s wife and several of his friends testified that Hunt had neither written nor signed any letter to Farrior and said the handwriting looked like Junk Williams’. Rev. W.T.H. Woodard said, “If was a swearer, I would swear on a stack of Bibles as high as this Court House it is not [Hunt’s handwriting.]” Williams had stopped payment on a $17 check to Hunt. When Williams refused to make good, Hunt had beaten him. “I have got a good whipping,” Williams told Dennis Brooks, “but will give the man two weeks to live that whipped me.” Despite this incident and the alleged assault on the detective, for which he was acquitted, Hunt was not known to be a violent man. As to Hunt’s alleged unfinished business in town, it was not to settle a score with Farrior. Rather, Hunt had been negotiating to purchase a lot from Emma Gay, a transaction that lawyer Sidney Woodard was handling for him. Hunt also had discussed purchasing land from Rev. Woodard in Littleton for $600.

Having heard this testimony and viewed Hunt’s body, the jurors returned a verdict: “That the said J.A. Hunt came to his death by pistol shot wounds inflicted by J.D. Farrior, That said wounds came to be inflicted by said J.D. Farrior while engaged in a mutual altercation with said Hunt under the influence of a sudden passion and in heat of blood. That therefore adjudge the said J.D. Farrior is guilty of Manslaughter in killing of said J.A. Hunt.”

The inquest verdict was as surprising then as it is today.

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Wilmington Messenger, 6 April 1900.

Farrior’s capital case, for which he could have received the death penalty, was set for the June 1900 docket of Wilson County Superior Court. Newspapers reported that the trial was postponed until October and then May 1901. On 6 June 1901, the Wilson News reported that Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Farrior had recently left town for a two-week trip to Washington, D.C., New York, the Pan-American Exposition, and points in Canada. Eighteen months later, the case had yet to be heard, but was expected to go to trial that month. (Note the names of defense counsel.)

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Raleigh Morning Post, 11 December 1902.

Finally, in February 1903, a resolution surprising only in its technicality. Certain that it could not win, the State had dropped the case.

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Wilmington Morning Star, 8 February 1903.

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(A) marks the approximate start point for the Hunt party’s walk to the Marmona. (B) is  where Hunt was killed. Sanborn insurance map, 1897.

——

Here, except for a missing page 7, is the full transcript of the coroner’s inquest over the dead body of James Alexander Hunt.

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  • Dr. Albert Anderson — see above.
  • Annie V. Collins Hunt
  • Jefferson D. Farrior — Duplin County native Jefferson Davis Farrior (1861-1934) owned a large livery and livestock sales stable on South Tarboro Street.
  • Colored Methodist Church — Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church.

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  • Carrie Moore
  • W.G. Williams
  • James D. High — James Draughn High (1881-1938), son of John T. and Mary Ella Draughn High. He appears in the 1900 census of Wilson as an 18 year-old salesman.

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  • John Gaston — John A. Gaston was an African-American with a popular barber shop catering to white customers.
  • C.B. Ruffin
  • Joe J. Best

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  • Ephraim Harrell — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, policeman Ephraim Harrell, 34, and wife Sarrah, 32.
  • Ned Bunch — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, teamster Ned Bunch, 50, wife Lissa, 50, and children Mary, 16, Martha, 12, Orra, 11, Nellie, 9, Mattie, 7, and Lucy, 5. Ned Bunch died 19 March 1916 in Wilson of lobar pneumonia, age 65. His death certificate reports that he was born in Wilson County, and his father was James Bunch. Malissa Bunch was the informant.
  • Sandy Henderson — On 27 May 1897, widow Mary Jane Taylor married Sandy Henderson. Both were 40 years old. Missionary Baptist Minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the John’s A.M.E. Zion church, and the official witnesses were S.A. Smith, Charles H. Darden and Wyatt Studaway. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hack driver San[illegible] Henderson, 54, wife Mary J., 40, a restaurant keeper, and children Buxton, 19, a hotel waiter, Leonidas F., 13, a tobacco stemmer, Charles J.A.W., 9, and Mattie M.G., 7, all Hendersons. (Buxton and Leonidas were in fact Taylors and were Sandy’s step-sons.)

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  • John Hare
  • Herbert Bass

[Page 7 of the transcript, in which Bass completed his testimony and W.I. Skinner and C.H. Whitehead testified, is missing.]

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  • W.J. Flowers
  • L.A. Moore — Lee Andrew Moore was one of the earliest agents of North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association (later, Insurance Company). Moore was born about 1863 in Black Creek township, Wilson County, to Lawrence and Vinnie Moore. He died in Wilson in 1948.
  • Jake Tucker — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: salesman Jacob Tucker, 39, 40, wife Mary, 39, and children Doward, 17, Daniel, 15, Thomas, 13, Henry, 12, Smoot, 9, Walter, 7, Patience, 5, Joseph, 2, and Besse, 11 months. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Jake Tucker was described as a retail grocer.

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  • W.S. Oats
  • B.R. Selby — Benjamin Richard Selby (1877-1932) appears in the 1900 census of Wilson as a 26 year-old horse dealer. He died in East Saint Louis, Illinois, and his death certificate describes him as a livestock salesman.

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  • R.S. Rives — Robert S. Rives, pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion church.
  • Dennis Brooks — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, 35 year-old Georgia-born merchant Dennis Brooks, wife Mary, 27, and daughter Aleo[illegible], 8, shared a household with Jordan Taylor, 50, and wife Matilda, 40. [Jordan Taylor, by the way, was the father-in-law of witness Sandy Henderson.]
  • J.F. Farmer

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Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

[Personal note: I have a familial connection to J.D. Farrior via Jesse A. Jacobs and Jesse “Jack Henderson, who worked in his livery stable when they came to Wilson a few years after this killing. In addition, I grew up in Bel Air Forest, a small subdivision laid out in the early 1960s along Highway 264 East. 264 runs in the path laid by the Plank Road to Greenville, and my neighborhood was once one of the country farms that Farrior passed through Wilson’s “colored settlement” to reach.]

 

It is a glory to her.

Hattie Henderson Ricks recounted:

“And so Mama was working at the factory, and I used to go up there and look at her. And so that’s when I first cut my hair. I went there, and the lady was asking Mama at the table where she worked to, and she didn’t say nothing to me, and she said, “Unh, who is that child with all of that long hair?” And she took one of my plaits and held it up. I had it in three plaits. I’ll never forget it. I had one down here used to come here. Yeah, it come down to below the shoulder. Like I plait it up, and it be from there. Two plaits here and then this one down across. And I always put that one behind my ear. ‘Cause I didn’t like it parted in the middle. Seem like it just wasn’t right in the middle. So I asked Mama ‘bout cutting my hair, could I cut my hair. ‘Cause everybody: “How come you don’t cut your hair? ‘Cause you’d look pretty in a bob.” I don’t know. I just wasn’t half combing it. And it was nappy. Like I’d go to try to comb it, and knots would be in there. And then I’d get mad with it. Then I’d take the scissors and clip that little piece off.   And then all that other part would come off. And so I wondered, “Mama, could – ” “It’s your head. It’s your hair. I don’t care if you cut it off.” And so one day, a fellow stayed up there on Vick Street was a barber downtown, a colored fellow, Charlie Barnes or whatever his name is. So he passed there one day, and I asked him, “Would you cut my hair for me?” And he said, “Yeah.” Said, “You come on down to the shop.” And I said, “Where is the shop?” And he went on and tried to tell me, and then he stopped there one day, and he told me, he said, “You say you want to get your hair cut?” He said, “You got too pretty a hair to cut.” And I said, “Yeah, but I can’t half comb it.”   He said, “Well, anytime you want to come on down there, I’ll cut it for you, if it’s all right with your mama. You ask your mama?” I said, “Yeah, she allowed me to cut it.” So sho ‘nough, I went around there one Saturday morning, went down there. And so, he turned around and cut off my plaits on both sides ‘cause I had two plaits there. He cut them off, and then he put some kind of stuff on it and then somehow fluffed it all up. Awww, I thought I was something. I reckon I was ‘bout 12, 13 years old. After then I cut it off in a boyish bob.”

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With the boyish bob.

She also said:

“I got a plait of [Hattie’s] hair and a plait of my mama’s, Bessie’s hair, and then mine. I was looking at that the other day, and I looked at it, and I said, “Huh, it was that long?” Rudy, Rudy Farmer took that picture. ‘Cause I – He saw my hair. I was standing there with my housecoat on. I still got that thing now. And, “Goodness! I didn’t know your hair was that long!” We were staying on Reid Street. And he said, “I’d sure like to have a picture of that.” And I said, “Well, you got a Kodak?” And he said, “Yeah! You’d let me take a picture?” I said, “Yeah.” And so he went home and got it and took a picture of it. I was standing up in one and sitting down in one.”

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The standing up picture.

——

  • “Mama” — Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver (1874-1938).
  • “The factory” — Sarah Jacobs Silver did seasonal work at several tobacco factories, including Imperial Tobacco Company and R.P. Watson & Company on South Lodge Street.
  • Charlie Barnes — not identified.
  • Rudy Farmer — Nelson Rudolph Farmer, born 1933 to Paul and Cora Rountree Farmer.
  • Reid Street — 304 North Reid Street.

For a fuller account of the “plait of [Hattie’s] hair and a plait of my mama’s, Bessie’s hair, and then mine,” please see my genelaogy blog at https://scuffalong.com/2017/02/20/it-is-a-glory-to-her/

Photographs in collection of Lisa Y. Henderson. Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Snaps, no. 4: Cax aside all fear.


Evangelist Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver with her Bible, circa 1931. The boy is her great-nephew, Lucian J. Henderson. This photo appears to have been taken at the same time as this one.

I have written here of a Bible (not the one shown above) that once belonged to Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver. When I first thumbed through the Book in the early 1990s, I found two scraps of paper stuck deep in its chapters. Sarah had left the Congregationalism of her upbringing and joined the Holiness movement sweeping the country in the early 1900s and pencilled in a square, unsophisticated hand were these bits from her sermons.

Self life that might hender and draw you to earthly thing it inpels you on in to Godlines Paul sed I die dailey to the things of this world yeal your life dailey and hold your life in submision to the will of God and live by his word that you may grow unto the fulles measure of the staturs of Chris the one that lives wright is the ones who will a bide bide with him the day of his coming and stand when he a

Come by your God like impression God will take care of you no matter where you are cax aside all fear and put your trust in God and you are save. Then when your pulgrimage is over and you are call from labor to reward you will be greeted with that holy welcome that is delivered to all true missionaries come in the blessed of my father 

Hattie Henderson Ricks recalled: “Mama’d make us go to Holiness Church and stay down there and run a revival two weeks. And we’d go down there every night and lay back down there on the bench and go to sleep. … Mama’d go every night. And they’d be shouting, holy and sanctified, jumping and shouting.” She did not recall the name of the church, which was located on Lodge Street. This 1933 Sanborn insurance map may provide an answer. Mount Zion Holiness Church is shown in the block of South Lodge between Walnut and Banks Streets. The area was cleared in the 1960s to make way for the Whitfield Homes housing project.

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1933 Sanborn insurance map, Wilson. 

Sarah Henderson Jacobs apparently met her second husband, Rev. Joseph Silver, founder of one of the earliest Holiness churches in eastern North Carolina, on the revival circuit. They married 31 August 1933 at her home at 303 Elba Street and divided the five years before her death between Wilson and his home in Halifax County.

Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; photograph in the possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Grocery shopping in East Wilson.

From an interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001) by her granddaughter Lisa Y. Henderson, in which she responds to the question, “Where did y’all shop for groceries?”

“I went down on Nash Street down there to the A&P store when it first come about. Up there in back of Dickerson Grocery. Right up there on Pender Street. By First Baptist Church. That was the first A&P store. And then when they opened up the store up there on Nash Street. We had to go, like, living on Queen Street, we’d go out there to, there was two stores out there. Yeah, one right where the Elks Club is, and then the one down there where was in between there and a lady name Hattie something, she had a beauty parlor on the corner of East Street. East and Nash.

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“The one by the Elks Club,” formerly Cain’s Grocery, 911 East Nash Street.

“But when I was a little girl, the only place you could get milk was from the Vicks. It was a quarter. That was the only place we had to get the milk, if you got any. Unless you used canned milk. She had a back porch. Closed-in back porch. Screened in. Anyway, glass in it all around, there on the back porch, and tables out there. One of them things you churn, what I mean, a great, old big urn out there where the milk get too old, and then she’d have buttermilk. And she had a ‘frigerator sitting out there, where she’d taken the shelves out, look like where she’d made a big thing to put it in there. But she would get fresh milk everyday. The cows was somewhere out there, I don’t know where, I didn’t see ‘em in the yard. They wont nowhere up there. But somebody was working for them would go out and get the milk and bring it in these cans where you have, where got the churn in the top of it. And she would put them out there on the porch. Miz Annie [Vick] seemed to be pretty clean, and the house was clean. Didn’t nobody get sick.

“And there was a store down, right down the hill from the house. There was a store right down there. Old Man Bell, a white guy, had a store down there. And that’s where, we could go down there and get flour and everything, like meal and stuff, like, you know, just stock, but it was a small place.

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Old Man Bell’s store down the hill from the house at 303 Elba Street, 1922 Sanborn insurance map.

“They had a store right there on Green Street up there, on Green Street. That brick store right cross, like leaving Elba Street, and it’s on the right-hand side, going up. Well, that was open, doing pretty good. A white person built the building, and then he stocked it, and we went up there to buy stuff.

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Former Mercer’s Grocery, 513 East Green Street.

“And sometimes Old Man Langley, up there, the colored fellow on Viola Street. We went up there sometimes…. But they were mostly white. ‘Cause there wont no, black folks didn’t have no stores.

“The stores would do their own butchering. They’d have pork chops, they’d cut the whole thing. They had a nice size freezer.

“But the stores didn’t stay in place too long. And you had to get another one, go to another place. So we just followed ‘em until the A&P opened up there on Nash Street. That’s when you had to carry all the stuff. Mama’d have a bag, I’d have a bag. Bring ‘em from down there, and then she’d send us sometime to the store during the week. So we wouldn’t have so much to bring. ‘Cause they wouldn’t deliver. The A&P store won’t. But down the bottom, you were right there [near neighborhood corner stores.] But you had to pay so much more for it. So Papa, ‘fore he died, he had a place, say go down there and tell Old Man Bell to send me a plug of tobacco. And I’d go down there and tell him, and he’d let him have it. And put it on the bill. And I asked if I could get something. And he’d say, ‘Yeah,’ and he’d put it on the bill.”

——

  • Per the nomination form for the Wilson Central Business District-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, A&P was located at 561 East Nash Street in a commercial building erected by Camillus L. Darden in the 1920s. It operated until the 1940s.
  • As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Dickerson Grocery, 622 East Nash Street, was a parapet-roofed grocery with one-bay facade and metal veneer. The building was demolished in the 1990s.
  • As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Cain’s Grocery, a brick-veneered structure with parapet front built about 1930, was the district’s largest grocery. It now houses a church.
  • Marshall Lodge #297 of the International Protective Order of Elks occupied a lodge hall at the corner of Nash and Vick Streets erected in 1921. In 1954, it was replaced by a two-story cinder block building that was in use until about 1980.
  • Samuel H. and Annie Washington Vick lived at 622 East Green Street. Alongside her husband’s many business ventures, Annie Vick sold her neighbors farm-fresh milk.
  • I have not been able to identify “Old Man Bell,” though Gus A. Bell operated a grocery at Pine and Lee Streets in the 1920s, per city directories. The 1922 Wilson city directory lists Zadock D. Mumfort as the operator of a grocery at 317 Elba Street.
  • As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Mercer’s Grocery, a brick, parapet-fronted building built about 1908, was one of the major groceries in the neighborhood. The building still stands at the corner of Green and Pender Streets and was active as a grocery into the 1990s.
  • “Old Man Langley” — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 Viola Street, Jarette J. Langley, 51, grocery store merchant; wife Mary, 49; and children Ivary, 21, Esmond, 19, Ruttena, 16, Alcesta, 14, and Eunice, 8.

Oral interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; photographs taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2017.

 

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

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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.]

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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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.

Studio shots, no. 2: Loudella Williams.

loudella-wms

Written on the reverse: “Loudella Williams.”

That’s the one lived in the house next door to me where Miz Reid was staying. And she moved in there. She and her husband. Johnnie … Williams. And her name is what? What is her name? And we was best of friends. We’d go to movies together, go all downtown, go shopping. — Hattie Henderson Ricks

This photograph appears to date from the late 1930s-early 1940s. I have been unable to document Loudella Williams’ life in Wilson.

Photograph in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.