Oral History

Fred Artis brings local history to life.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 June 1992.

On 9 October 1912, Fred Artis, 23, married Mattie Lewis, 18, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Alonzo Phillips, Samuel Mercer and Tobe Beland.

In the 1920 census of Fountain township, Pitt County: Fred Artis, 33; wife Mattie, 23; and children Christine, 5, and Fred, 4.

Mattie Artis died 2 December 1927 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 32 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Frank Lewis and Clarrisa Joyner; married to Fred Artis; and resided at 1013 Stantonsburg Street.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 101 Reid Street, school janitor Fred Artist, 56, widower; children Christine, 16, Fred, 14, and Mildred, 11; and lodger Luddie Brown, 22, private cook.

Fred Artis [Sr.] died 12 May 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 38 years old; was born in Wilson County to Edward Artis and Addie Artis; was married to Annie Artis; lived at 101 Reid Street. Fred Artis Jr. was informant.

In 1940, Fred Artis Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 17 March 1916 in Wilson; resided at 101 North Reid Street; his contact was mother Annie Artis; and he was unemployed.

Betty Ann Artis died 4 December 1960 in Wilson at her home at 501-A Hadley Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 September 1925 in Wilson County to Ben Guest and Fannie Harris; and was married to Fred Artis.

Nona Braswell Artis died 17 September 1996.

Fred Artis Jr. died 18 September 2000 in Wilson.

How Dew’s Rest Home got financed.

Naomi Elizabeth Morris (1921–1986), who grew up in Wilson, served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 1967 through 1982. She was Chief Judge of that court from 1978 through 1982. In an interview conducted in 1983, Judge Morris recollected her efforts to assist the establishment in the 1950s of Wilson’s first sanctioned nursing home for African-Americans. Though considered progressive for her time and place, Judge Morris’ notions of privilege and segregationist propriety (and that of the interviewer) peek through here.

——

PAT DEVINE: One story that I encountered which struck me with interest as something that I’d love to hear you talk more about was, you alluded to one experience you had in helping to do the legal background work for the founding of the first or only home for indigent blacks in Wilson.

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Not indigent blacks. No, this was a nursing home for blacks. The office had had this woman as a client for many years. She ran a restaurant at one time. She was quite an aggressive, hardworking woman, and she came to me and said that the director of public welfare, Mr. Monroe Fordham [Fulghum], had asked her to open a nursing home for blacks. She had at that time taken in two or three aged people in her home to take care of, under the auspices of the welfare department, and Monroe Fordham had asked her if she would open a nursing home for blacks. She told him that she would if she could get the money, so she came to me to get the money. We went many places to borrow money, including from the black insurance company in Durham, and they would not let her have the money. Although she had sufficient property to secure the note, they would not let her have the money, and that made me perfectly furious. I came back to Wilson and called the Branch Bank and told them the situation. I said, “You will be missing a very good opportunity if you don’t let this woman have the money,” so they said they would. They required a lot of her that they might not have required of a white person in the same situation — I don’t know — but this was something new and untried. The man who did the electrical work took her note for the electrical work without any security. We worked it out to the point that she had her financing, and she paid everybody back ahead of time. One way she did it, in the summer when the crops would be coming in and the people would have gotten their crops harvested from the field, she would get permission to go out to that field and get what was left [gleaning], the small potatoes that they didn’t pick up, the beans on the bottom part of the vine. She would go get those, and that’s the way she fed her people and was able to feed them cheaper than a lot of people could run a home. Extremely well run.

PAT DEVINE: Is it still there?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Oh, yes, it’s still there. About five years after she borrowed the money, the Branch Bank called me and asked me if she would be interested in adding onto her home, that they would be glad to let her have the money. I always wanted to write the insurance company in Durham and say something to them, but I didn’t.

PAT DEVINE: That’s hard to understand.

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: It is hard. It was very difficult for me to understand, because they always talk about looking after their own and the fact that white people don’t do things they ought to for them.

PAT DEVINE: What is this woman’s name?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Geneva Dew.

PAT DEVINE: Is she alive?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Oh, yes, she’s alive and doing well. I hear from her at least twice a year. She attended my swearing-in ceremony and the party that was given afterward. I’m very fond of her. She’s a very fine person.

——

Nina Aldridge Faison Hardy at Dew’s Rest Home, circa mid 1960s.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer William Winn, 59; wife Jennie, 48; and children Charley, 21, John, 19, Dorch, 13, Pink, 10, and Jeneva, 8.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Willie Winn, 62; wife Jennie, 60; children Roy, 23, and Pink, 20; and lodger Lula Ward, 45.

On 27 July 1935, Ernest Dew, 26, of Wilson County, son of Frank Dew, married Geneva Dew, 23, of Wilson County, daughter of Willie and Jennie Wynn, in Nashville, Nash County.

Willie Wynn Jr. died 11 February 1940. Per his death certificate, he died 11 February 1940 in Wilson; had been married to Jennie Wynn, but was a widower; resided at 1102 Atlantic Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer; was the son of Willie Wynn and Annie Williams. Geneva Dew, 1102 East Atlantic Street, was informant, and he was buried in Elm City.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Dew Geneva (c) beer 315 Stantonsburg h 203 Stantonsburg. (In the 1947 city directory, the address has shifted 319 Stantonsburg.) The 1950 city directory also shows Dew as owner of a beer establishment.

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Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1960).

Earnest Dew died 15 March 1969 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 May 1910 to Frank Dew and Cora Braswell; was married to Geneva Wynn; resided at 501 Spaulding Street, Wilson; and was a rest home operator.

Geneva Wynn Dew died 6 November 1984 in Wilson.

Dew’s celebrates a move to new quarters. Wilson Daily Times, 20 June 1964. 

Excerpt from oral history interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; photo of N. Hardy in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson. Many thanks to Bob Martin for the correction of Monroe Fulghum’s surname.

Roscoe Harvey gets along with everybody.

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 August 1994.

  • Roscoe Lee Harvey — in the 1910 census of Lumberton, Roberson County: Lonnie L. Harvey, 31, wife Rosa L., 24, and son Rosco, 5.

In the 1920 census of Lumberton, Roberson County: Rosa Harvey, 32, cook, and son Roscoe, 14.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harvey Love barber 114 E Barnes h 410 E Walnut; (also) Harvey Roscoe L barber Love Harvey 114 E Barnes h 410 E Walnut

In the 1926 Polk’s Tampa, Florida, city directory: Harvey Roscoe L barber Lee Davis r 301 Hillsborough

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harvey Roscoe barber r 1112 Carolina

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harvey Love L (c; Mollie) r 507 Banks; (also) Harvey Roscoe (c) barber r 507 Banks

On 27 June 1930, Roscoe Lee Harvey, 24, son of Lony Harvey of Wilson and Rosa L. Clark of Florida, married Helen McMillan, 20, daughter of Morris and Victoria McMillan, in Wilson. Rev. G.J. Branch of the United Holy Church of America performed the ceremony in the presence of Anderson Holden, Levi Godwin and Haywood Townsend.

In 1940, Roscoe Lee Harvey registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he resided at 724 East Green, Wilson; was born 5 July 1905 in Lumberton, N.C.; his contact was wife Helen McMillan Harvey; and was self-employed at 114 East Barnes.

On 7 July 1947, Roscoe Lee Harvey, 42, son of Lonnie Lovelace Harvey and Rosa Lee Harvey, married Rowena Stephenson, 26, daughter of Deans and Hattie Stephenson, in Wilson.

Roscoe Lee Harvey Sr. died 17 August 2003 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

  • Carolina Stompers
  • Cherry Apartments — in the mid-1980s, Wilson Housing Authority renovated the former Hotel Cherry to create 108 apartments for senior citizens. See Wilson Daily Times, 20 October 1994, page 3.
  • Fred Artis — “Fred Artis Jr., son of the late Fred and Mattie Artis, was born March 17, 1916. He and his sister, Christine Currie, who preceded him in death, lived all of their lives in Wilson, NC. Fred departed this life on Monday, September 18, 2000.” Wilson Daily Times, 21 September 2000.

Fred Artis Jr.

  • Louis Perrington — Louis Alexander Manuel Perrington. “March 14, 1914 Dec. 5, 2001 Louis Alexander Perrington, 87, of 702 Elvie St., died Wednesday at his residence. The funeral will be conducted by the Rev. William L. Neill at 2 p.m. on Sunday at St. John AME Zion Church, 119 N. Pender St. Burial will follow at Rest Haven Cemetery. Perrington was a member of St. John AME Zion Church and Mount Hebron Masonic Lodge No. 42. He was retired from the Cherry Hotel. He is survived by his wife, Pearlean Barnes Perrington; one daughter, Jean Perrington-Ballard of Raleigh; one sister, Wilhelmenia Smith of Portsmouth, Va.; two grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.” Wilson Daily Times, 8 December 2001.

Greater freedom.

My well-worn copy.

May I recommend Charles W. McKinney’s excellent Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina? Published in 2010, this fine-grained and meticulous monograph examines the many grassroots groups — including farmers, businessmen, union organizers, working class women — who worked together and separately to drag Wilson County into and through the civil rights movement.

Cherry Hotel and the color line.

Wayne County native Caswell C. Henderson (1865-1927) migrated to New York City in the 1890s, but returned South to Wilson to visit his sister Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver. Their great-niece Hattie Henderson Ricks recalled the elaborate steps he took to carry out his daily ritual. First, Henderson would leave their house on Elba Street and walk west on Green Street. He crossed the railroad tracks and walked a few more blocks before turning left on a cross street, then left to walk east on Nash Street to the Hotel Cherry. He entered the hotel through its front doors — as any white guest would — bought a newspaper, shot the breeze for a while with other white guests and staff, then exited right to walk back up Nash Street. After a few blocks, he turned right, then right again on Green and crossed the tracks back into the African-American world.

——

“Uncle Caswell had been home, he’d been to Wilson.  He come down there visiting Mama …. He passed for white.  He would go and get a paper every morning down there to Cherry Hotel.  Walk down there for the exercise and get that paper.  And they all thought he was white.  He’d go in the hotel there and ask for a paper and come in there and talk to the people.  And he’d leave the hotel and walk the other direction, then walk back down Green Street and come on home.”

Cherry Hotel in an undated postcard issued by the Asheville Post Card Company.

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

It’s got a little twang to it.

Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. worked as a janitor at Five Points (later Winstead) School and did gardening odd jobs at the home of school superintendent Charles L. Coon. His great-niece Hattie Henderson Ricks, whom he adopted, told this story:

“Papa was up there cutting grass. ‘Go in the house, and ask ‘em for some water, a pitcher.’  Talking ‘bout my daddy wanted some water. And the first time I ever seen a grapefruit was there.  I said I’d never forget that.  ‘Cause I went in that house and asked for some water, and I said ‘Daddy said’ – I called him Papa.  Anyway, ‘he wanted to know if he could have some water.’  And the lady said, ‘Yeah,’ and she got a pitcher and a glass.  And I took it on out there, and then I just sit on the steps.  So Papa stopped and drinked him some water. But I was just standing there while they was fixing the water, and I looked on that table, and all ‘round the table there by the plate they had a salt cellar and half a grapefruit and a cherry sitting in the middle.  And that thing just looked so pretty, looked so good.  And I said, ‘Unh, that’s a big orange!’ I said, ‘Well, next time I go to the store I’m gon get me one, too.’  And sho’ nuff, I asked Papa, when we left – I don’t remember whether it was, it wont that particular time, but we come out and were on our way to Edmundson’s store in Five Points, and he wanted me to go in and get a plug of tobacco. Part of a plug.  And tell Old Man Edmundson to put it on the bill. So he waited, he was out there on a wagon, he had a little horse, and I went in and told Mr. Edmundson Papa wanted a, whatever amount it was, he didn’t get a whole plug, ‘cause I think it was three or four sections to a plug of tobacco, and for him to put it on the bill, and I said, ‘He said I could have a orange.  And put that on the bill.’  And it was boxes sitting up – I’ll never forget it – the boxes sitting up with all the oranges sitting up in there.  And I got the biggest one out of the group.  The one that wasn’t even orange.  I made sure I was gon get me a big orange!  I got that and come on back out there and got on the wagon and coming from Five Points to almost home, I was peeling that thing and peeling it ‘til I got it off, and it was sour, ‘Ugh, that’s a sour orange!’  I never seen a orange that sour. And I said, ‘Now, that didn’t look like, that’s a light-complected … yellow.’ But it was still like a orange, and it was so big.

“From then on I didn’t want no big orange. Now I always get little oranges. Today I don’t buy no big orange.  ‘Cause the little ones is sweeter than the big ones.  But, honey, that was a grapefruit, and that was the first I’d ever known it was a grapefruit.  We ain’t never had no grapefruit.  And so, I told Mama that was a, ugh, sour orange.  And I told her ‘bout what the Coons had on their table when I went up there.  And she said, ‘Well, that was a grapefruit.’  ‘A grapefruit?,’  I said, ‘well, what’s a grapefruit?’  And she said, ‘It’s like a big orange.  But you have to put sugar on it most time.  It’s a little sour.  It’s got a little twang to it.’  She said, ‘But your daddy didn’t never like none, so I don’t care that much about it.’  And I said, ‘A grapefruit?  I got myself a grapefruit.’  I said, ‘The cherries, where they get the cherries?,’ I said. ‘That little red thing where was on there.’  She said, ‘Well, you buy ‘em in bottles from the store.’ But, anyway, it was sour, but I learned the taste, you put a little sugar on it, makes a little bit sweeter.  I swear, Lord, I think about those things that I did when I was little.”

——

The house with the grapefruit was at 109 North Rountree Street in Wilson’s College Park neighborhood. Charles L. Coon’s house has been demolished, but was catalogued in Bainbridge and Ohno’s Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey (1980):

“This house was built c.1915 for Wilson’s foremost educator, Charles L. Coon. He served as superintendent of the Wilson Graded School from 1907 until his death in 1927 and was County School superintendent for the last fifteen years of this period. Coon, credited with the creation of a model school system in Wilson, also served on the North Carolina Child Labor Committee, the State Teachers Assembly, the editorial board of the North Carolina Historical Review and was the author of North Carolina Schools and Academies 1790-1840 and Public Schools of Wilson County. His house is sturdy and simple. The tile roof is unusual in a house of this vintage, and it enriches the texture of the facade. The front porch was constructed in typical Bungalow style, with square flared columns supporting the overhanging hipped roof.”

——

Hattie H. Ricks, circa 1920, probably a few years after she first tasted grapefruit.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1916).

  • Plug tobacco is made by pressing cured tobacco in a sweet (often molasses-based) syrup. The resulting sheet of pressed tobacco was cut into “plugs.” Edmundson likely carried locally manufactured product.

Adapted from interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

From cathouse to White House.

Chef Jesse David Pender published his memoirs in 2007 at the age of 92. Pender’s life has been singularly interesting in many ways, but I am most drawn to the book’s first 75 pages, in which he offers a richly detailed account of life in Wilson and Wilson County in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Below, I highlight the people and places he mentions from that era.

  • mother and father — On 11 January 1899, Joe Pender, 21, son of Ed and Caroline Pender, married Ella Hinnant, 19, daughter of Eliza Barnes, at Dred Barnes’ house in Black Creek.  In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Joseph Pender, 21, wife Ella, 22, and daughter Mamie, 8 months. In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Plank Road, Joe Pender, 28, wife Ella, 20, and children Mamie 11, Dred, 5, and Ernest, 1. In the 1920 census of Goldsboro township, Wayne County: farmer Joseph Pender, 49; wife Ella L., 42; and children Edward D., 14, Maggie, 9, Ernest, 12, Alonzi, 7, Jesse, 4, Georgiana, 3, and Josephine, 1. Ella Hinnant Faulkland died 8 October 1967 at her home at 718 Viola Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 April 1886 in Wilson County to Deed Barnes and Luzannie Hinnant. Informant was Georgia Harris.
  • “my brother Elonzie” [also spelled Alonzie and Alonzo] — Alonzo Pender.
  • “my sister Maggie” — Maggie Pender Brooks Blocker (1910-2000).
  • “my niece Abby”
  • “my baby sister Josephine,” — Josephine Pender Thompson Williams, the youngest of Jesse Pender’s 13 siblings, died in Wilson in 2014, aged 96. This photo accompanies her obituary.

  • “my sister Georgia” — Georgia Anna Pender Jenkins Harris (1917-1990).
  • “We lived on a plantation owned by Mr. Frank Hooks which was way out from a little town called Fremont, North Carolina.”
  • “my father’s brother, Uncle Tiko” and his children “HB, Sug, Buddy, Pete and Bessie Mae”
  • moved to Black Creek to “Mr. Johnson Daniels’s farm” from 1923-1926, then to Dudley [in southern Wayne County] from 1927-1928
  • in 1929 “moved back to Wilson County between Wilson and Willsbanks [sic; Wilbanks] on Mr. Dick Cozart’s farm”
  • “my older brother Dred” — Edgar Dred Pender.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 May 1929.

  • a couple named Clyde and Eva; Eva’s brother John — Eva Strickland Roberson died 27 February 1929.

  • family moved into Wilson in 1930, and father took a job in a tobacco factory
  • Zeb Whitley’s grocery and fish market on Nash Street — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Whitley Zebediah (c; Mazie) pdlr [peddler] h 202 Manchester. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 702 East Nash, rented for $8/month, Zeb Whitley, 37, wood yard proprietor, and wife Mazie, 38.
  • “Blacks didn’t live on the west side of town. If you were up there, you were working there. We had everything we needed on the east side of town — theater, drugstores, grocery stores and everything else you could think of.”
  • mother went to work cooking and cleaning for Duncan Savage, who owned a outdoor advertising agency
  • “cousin James Robins” who lived in Elm City with his wife Flory and her son Frank, whom he adopted — in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Elm City-Wilson Road, James Robbins, 26, wife Flora L., 23, and son Frank, 12.
  • stayed with grandparents Dred and Louzanna near Black Creek just before grandfather died in September 1931 — Dred Barnes, 33, of Black Creek township, son of Nelson Barnes, married Luzana Hinnant, 30, of Black Creek township, daughter of Hardy Hinnant, at her home on 14 March 1893.  In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dred Barnes, 42; wife Lou J., 37; son Johnnie, 4; and boarder Alex Johnson, 29. In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dred Barnes, 54, and wife Louzanie, 48. In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dred Barnes, 69, and wife Louiza, 67. Dred Barnes died 29 September 1930 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 70 years old; was born in Wilson County to Nelson Barnes and Annie Daniel; was a farmer; and was married to Luzina Barnes.
  • grandparents’ neighbors James Caper and John Barnes — near Dred and Louzania Barnes in the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer James Caple, 36, wife Mary, 37, and children Willie, 16, and Augusta, 12.
  • C.E. Artis Funeral Home
  • mother’s sister Aunt Maggie and her son John, who lived in Kenly — Supercentenarian Maggie Hinnant Barnes (1882-1998) was the daughter of Louzanie Hinnant.
  • cousins Buddy and Nell — children of Maggie and Orangie Barnes.
  • Flory Robins’ brother, who lived at 411 East Jones Street
  • friend Jimmy D. Barns
  • hired out on the farm of the Batts family near Elm City (Mr. Batts, wife Lula and sons Douglas and J.D.) — in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Elm City-Wilson Road [next door to the James Robbins family, above], farmer Leroy Batts, 26; wife Lula, 23; son Armour, 9 months; uncle Stephen B. Strickland, 61; and boarder James E. Pender, 22, farm laborer. [Is this, in fact, Jesse Pender?]
  • Clyde Batts, the tailor in Wilson — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory:

  • siblings Margaret and George Pipos, cafe owners — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pappas Geo (Elite Cafe) h 404 E Nash and Pappas Margaret waitress Elite Cafe h 404 E Nash.
  • cooks James and “Jelly Butt”
  • the Dixie Inn, a “seafood and barbecue place”
  • “Aunt Maggie’s husband, Uncle Orangie Barnes, had a sister living in Wilson on Pettigrew Street named Mittie Barnes
  • Martha Coverton, a cook for Betty Powell — possibly, in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 408 South Lodge Street, rented for $18/month, widow Annie Covington, 54, laundress, and children Martha, 20, servant, and James, 9. In the 1930 city directory, Martha Covington was listed as a cook.
  • Betty Powell, a downtown madam who employed Pender from 1934 to 1946
  • Powell’s husband, Mr. Taylor, who raised chickens and ran a cafe on Tarboro Street
  • Mr. Benny, a retired teacher
  • Mr. Howard, a high school principal — William H.A. Howard, principal of the Wilson Colored High School.
  • Dardens High School — Wilson Colored High School was renamed C.H. Darden High School in 1937.
  • Mallie Paul of Wilson and Katie King of Goldsboro, madams in nearby towns
  • Effie Mae Dean, a cook, and her mother Rosie Battle
  • Charles Barnes, houseman and butler for Dick Cozart; Elks Club member; struck by a car and killed in 1937
  • Herbert Woodard‘s place, a motel and cafe on the outskirts of WIlson
  • Shade’s Drugstore — pharmacy owned by Isaac A. Shade at 527 East Nash Street.
  • John D. and his sister Irma Dean [Hines], whom Pender married — in the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Hines, 42; wife Martha, 41; and children William D., 15, John D., 11, Lewis Jr., 8, Annie E., 7, Etta E., 6, and Debora, 2,  plus mother-in-law Jack A. Barnes, 74. On 29 December 1937, Jesse Pender, 23, of Wilson County, son of Joe and Ella Pender of Wilson County married Erma Dean Hines, 18, daughter of Louis and Martha Hines of Wilson County, in Nashville, Nash County.
  • daughter Betty Lou Pender, born in 1938
  • house on Carole Street up by Darden’s High School — Carroll Street.
  • parents moved to a house on Vance Street
  • Pa Faulkland, his mother’s second husband, who died in 1956 — Willie Faulkland died 1  November 1955 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 November 1883 in Wilson County to Phillip Faulkland and Jannie Farmer and was a laborer. Informant was Ella Faulkland, 718 Viola Street. [He was buried by Hunter’s Funeral Home, 900 East Nash Street — who?]
  • mother’s house on Viola Street — 718 Viola Street.
  • Watson Tobacco Warehouse on Lodge Street
  • Pender, Milton Fitch, Albert Wingate, Cris [Chrisdell] Leach and Albert Gay got taxi licenses and opened Veteran Cab Company in a “little office shack in the backyard of Hamilton Funeral Home” —
  • cousin Frank Durham — Son of James and Flora Robbins, above. On 12 November 1938, at Nashville, Nash County, Frank Durham, 23, son of James Durham and Flora Durham Robbins, married Annie Gray Finch, 23, daughter of Alonzo Finch and Annie Hall Finch in the presence of W.R. Lucas of Elm City and Louis Hines and Dollie Mae Williams Hines of Wilson.

I do like they done.

Martha Ann Tyson Dixon of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, sat for an interview with a Federal Writers Project worker in the late 1930s. Dixon had spent her childhood enslaved near Saratoga, Wilson County, and she and her husband Luke D. Dixon had migrated west in the late 1880s. More than 50 years after Emancipation, she vividly described the hardships of life during and after slavery.

“I am eighty-one years old. I was born close to Saratoga, North Carolina. My mother died before I can recollect and my grandmother raised me. They said my father was a white man. They said Jim Beckton [Becton]. I don’t recollect him. My mother was named Mariah Tyson.

“I recollect how things was. My grandmother was Miss Nancy Tyson’s cook. She had one son named Mr. Seth Tyson. He run her farm. They et in the dining room, we et in the kitchen. Clothes and somethng to eat was scarce. I worked at whatever I was told to do. Grandma told me things to do and Miss Nancy told me what to do. I went to the field when I was pretty little. Once my uncle left the mule standing out in the field and went off to do something else. It come up a hard shower. I crawled under the mule. If I had been still it would have been all right but my hair stood up and tickled the mule’s stomach. The mule jumped and the plough hit me in my hip here at the side. It is a wonder I didn’t get killed.

“After the Civil War was times like now. Money scarce and prices high, and you had to start all over new. Pigs was hard to start, mules and horses was mighty scarce. Seed was scarce. Everything had to be started from the stump. Something to eat was mighty plain and scarce and one or two dresses a year had to do. Folks didn’t study about going so much.”

“I had to rake up leaves and fetch em to the barn to make beds for the little pigs in cold weather. The rake was made out of wood. It had hickory wood teeth and about a foot long. It was heavy. I put my leaves in a basket bout so high [three or four feet high.] I couldn’t tote it — I drug it. I had to get leaves in to do a long time and wait till the snow got off before I could get more. It seem like it snowed a lot. The pigs rooted the leaves all about in day and back up in the corners at night. It was ditched all around. It didn’t get very muddy. Rattle snakes was bad in the mountains. I used to tote water — one bucketful on my head and one bucketful in each hand. We used wooden buckets. It was a lot of fun to hunt guinea nests and turkey nests. When other little children come visiting that is what we would do. We didn’t set around and listen at the grown folks. We toted up rocks and then they made rows [terraces] and rock fences about the yard and garden. They looked so pretty. Some of them would be white, some gray, sometimes it would be mixed. They walled wells with rocks too. All we done or knowed was work. When we got tired there was places to set and rest. The men made plough stocks and hoe handles and worked at the blacksmith shop in snowy weather. I used to pick up literd [lightwood] knots and pile them in piles along the road so they could take them to the house to burn. They made a good light and kindling wood.

“They didn’t whoop Grandma but she whooped me a plenty.

“After the war some white folks would tell Grandma one thing and some others tell her something else.  She kept me and”

“cooked right on. I didn’t know what freedom was. Seemed like most of them I knowed didn’t know what to do. Most of the slaves left the white folks where I was raised. It took a long time to ever get fixed. Some of them died, some went to the cities, some up North, some come to the country. I married and come to Fredonia, Arkansas in 1889. I had been married since I was a young girl. But as I was saying the slaves still hunting a better place and more freedom. Grandma learnt me to set down and be content. We have done better out here than we could done in North Carolina but I don’t believe in so much rambling.

“We come on the passenger train and paid our own way to Arkansas. It was a wild and sickly country and has changed. Not like living in the same country. I try to live like the white folks and Grandma raised me. I do like they done. I think is the reason we have saved and have good a living as we got. We do on as little as we can and save a little for the rainy day.”

——

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Nancy Scarborough, 47; Victoria, 10, Susan, 6, and Laurina Scarborough, 3; farm manager Seth Tyson, 23; and Julia, 18, Nancy, 17, Aaron, 15, and Abner Tyson, 13.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Mary Tyson, 62, with Edith, 23, John, 21, Abraham, 16, and Martha Tyson, 11.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Martha Tyson, 20, was a cook in the household of white marchant/farmer Mark Atkinson.

Martha Tyson, 26, married Luke Dixon, 26, in Wilson County on 12 February 1885. Minister E.H. Ward performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles Batts, Tempey Cotton and Green Taylor.

In the 1910 census of Watensaw township, Prairie County, Arkansas: Luke Dixon, 49, saw filer at Bar factory, and wife Martha M., 52.

In the 1920 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cedar Street, farmer Luke Dixon, 58; wife Martha, 59; and cousins Margaret Tyson, 14, and Oleo McClarin, 9.

In the 1930 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke D. Dixon, 70, born in Virginia, and wife Martha, 70, born in North Carolina, with cousin Allen Reaves, 8.

In the 1940 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke Dixon, 84, born in Virginia, and wife Martha A., 84, born in North Carolina.

Federal Writers’ Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 2, Arkansas, Part 2, Cannon-Evans, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mesn.022.

I joined to be with my husband.

On 25 October 2009, Wilson native Kay C. Westray sat for an interview with a member of Washington, D.C.’s Zion Baptist Church Historical and Preservation Commission’s Oral History Committee. Here is an excerpt:

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

BRISCOE: What is your name?
K. WESTRAY: My name is Kay C. Westray.
BRISCOE: When and when were you born?
K. WESTRAY: I was born on March 6, 1918 in Wilson, North Carolina.
BRISCOE: What were your parents’ names?
K. WESTRAY: My mother’s name was Melissa Hill and my father was named Lovet Hill.
BRISCOE: What is your educational background?
K. WESTRAY: I was educated in the Wilson, North Carolina public schools, and I graduated from Fayetteville State Secondary College in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
BRISCOE: What were the main jobs you have held?
K. WESTRAY: I worked as a clerk at the Veteran’s Administration. I quit that job in 1951. I am now retired.

BRISCOE: Tell me about your marital status and your family.
K. WESTRAY: Since September 6, 1947, I have been married to Lynwood C. Westray. We have been married for 62 years. We have one daughter, Gloria Westray Nuckles, who lives in Fort Stockton, Texas. She teaches at the prison school. We have no grandchildren.
BRISCOE: Where else have you lived?
K. WESTRAY: I lived in Wilson, North Carolina and in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where I went to college. I came to Washington, DC in 1939.
BRISCOE: Thank you for telling me about your life up to now. Our next set of questions will ask about your Faith Life.

FAITH LIFE

BRISCOE: When and where did you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior? What was the name of that church?
K. WESTRAY: I accepted Christ as my Savior and got baptized at 8 or 9 years of age. My father took me to St. Johns AME Zion Church in Wilson, North Carolina. Rev. B. P. Coward was the pastor.
BRISCOE: Why did you join Zion?
K. WESTRAY: I joined Zion in 1947 to be with my husband.

——

In the 1920 census of Township 9, Craven County, North Carolina — farmer Hugh L. Hill, 34; wife Malissie, 32; and children Mamie, 8, Katie, 6, Evolena, 4, and William, 2.

Malissa Hill died 21 March 1929 in childbirth in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 38 years old and was born in Greene County, North Carolina, to Frank Jenkins of Pitt County and Allie Mae Fonville of Greene County. Henry L. Hill was informant.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 232 Manchester Street, rented for $18/month, widower Henry L. Hill, 44, sawmill laborer, and children Mamie E., 18; Evenlyne, 15, Katie B., 17, William, 2, Jessie M., 9, Emaniel, 7, Benjamin, 5, and Myrtina, 3.

Henry Lovet Hill died 25 August 1957 of a heart attack at Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. Per his death certificate, he was born 31 [sic] November 1871 in Craven County to William Jackson Hill and Emma Jane Hill; resided at 507 Hadley Street, Wilson; was married; worked as a preacher and laborer; and “as a lay preacher he had just finished his sermon, turned to sit down, when he slumped over.”

Katie C. Westray, age 100, died “[o]n Monday, May 13, 2013; loving and devoted wife of Lynwood C. Westray; beloved mother of Gloria J. Nuckles. She is also survived by her sister Mertina H. Hill; and a host of other relatives and friends. A Memorial Service will be held at Zion Baptist Church, 4850 Blagden Avenue NW on Tuesday, May 21 at 12 noon. Interment private. Services by Stewart.”

Studio shots, nos. 75 and 76: Hattie Henderson Ricks.

Shortly after World War II, Hattie Mae Henderson found work at Wilson Awning & Tent Company’s factory on South Douglas Street.

Hattie Factory 01

As recalled here, handling fabric and sewing the oversized tents was challenging work. The dresses and skirts women commonly wore in the 1940s were not suitable for maneuvering atop the long tables on which the tents were stitched, so Henderson and other female workers donned full-legged dungarees on the factory floor. These photos were taken in unnamed Wilson studios during this period.

Hattie Henderson in trousers

Photograph in the collection of Hattie Henderson Ricks, now in the possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.