Photographs

Joe Simms and Susie win a blue ribbon.

Wanda Simms Page shared this heartwarming story of her father’s days as a proud young farmer.

Joe Louis Simms was born and raised up in Wilson County, North Carolina, four miles east of Black Creek. He and his brother attended the all-black, two-room Minchew Elementary School and did work in the 4-H Club alongside Raymond Hall, Daniel Green, and other neighborhood kids. Joe had long loved animals, and in 1949 he took on a project—raising and training a competition calf. His goals, simple and ambitious: to have the absolute best-looking and prettiest calf and to win the blue ribbon.

“Same as plenty of others in the area, Joe’s family already kept cows, and when one gave birth to a dark red female calf, he knew she was the one. As was their practice, he named her Susie, and she quickly showed herself to be gentle and a good breed. He made sure she always had her fill of green grass and dry hay. He washed her coat to a shine with fresh water from a bucket and trained her to walk beside him on a rope so that she wouldn’t be scared. She, of course, stayed with the cows, but his eyes never strayed far from her.

“When the day of the competition came, Joe and Susie set off walking beside the three-mile dirt road leading to Minchew. They had no other transportation. Joe carried a stick to protect Susie from the mean dogs they’d meet, though he didn’t think she’d be scared—their family had mean dogs too and she was used to them. They stopped along the road every now and then, as they’d practiced, but the walk still didn’t take so long.

“When they got to the school, Joe realized that it was, in fact, a pretty big day. The yard was full of people and calves. Folks, including Joe’s mom, had canned lots of food and made other preparations. A bunch of things were going on. As was the case with the school, everyone at and in the competition was black. All black. White people didn’t really deal with them—not like that—and Joe knew he wouldn’t even have had a fair shot at the blue ribbon if they did. Eventually, they found and fell in line with the rest of the boys and calves.

“After a while, Carter Foster, Wilson County’s second Negro Agricultural Extension Agent, began the judging. Joe knew Foster from his visits to teach them at the school and because he sometimes worked with Joe’s dad on their farm. In 1945, Foster and Jane Boyd, the Negro Home Demonstration Agent, had been mentioned in the Wilson Daily Times for their “wonderful work among the Negroes in the area” and for “working quietly with little publicity and no brass bands.” Their salaries were reported as less than half that of J.O. Anthony and Lois Rainwater, their white counterparts.

“Foster judged each calf, and at the end of that day Joe and Susie had the blue ribbon, making him one of the first ones at the school to win a prize like that with an animal. Joe felt very, very good. Susie, if she was aware that something had happened, maybe felt good too. When it was time to make a picture, Foster pulled them away from the rest of the group. Just before the camera clicked, Joe threw his arm around Susie’s neck and gave a big smile. Eventually, they headed back down the road they came in on, ribbon in hand.

“Joe’s family made a milk cow out of Susie after she got grown and kept her for some years. Joe went on to do other projects in 4-H, including making things out of wood, tobacco-grading contests (his team won third prize at the state fair), and raising up other animals like turkeys, which he bought twenty of as chicks for very cheap from a hatchery (one was included for free) and later sold around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Minchew Elementary School closed in 1951, and Joe started attending the consolidated Speight High School near Stantonsburg. Through it all, he never forgot Susie.”

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Joe Louis Simms and his prize-winning calf Susie, 1949.

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Reddick Simms, 24, son of Jack and Treacy Simms, married Bettie Barden, 20, on 6 September 1890 at Woodson Rountree‘s in Black Creek township. Frank Simms, Jesse Rountree and Lee Moore were witnesses.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Rederick Simms, 52; wife Elizabeth 40; and children Johnie, 16, Thestus L., 14, Ardena, 11, Amena, 8, Bettie E., 7, Joseph, 3, and Charlie, 1.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Reddick Simms, 62; wife Bettie P., 50; and children Johnnie, 24, Festus, 22, Ardena, 20, Almena, 17, Lizzie, 15, Joseph, 12, Charlie, 10, and Freddie, 7.

Reddick Simms died 6 March 1923 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1861 and was married to Bettie Simms.

On 15 March 1923, C.L. Darden applied for letters of administration for the estate of Reddick Simms. The value of the estate was estimated at $338, and heirs were widow Bettie Simms and children John, Festus, Ardena, Almina, Lizzie, Joseph, Charlie and Fred.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Brockington, 47; wife Mary, 47; children James, 27, Ethel, 18, Eulah Mae, 17, Irene, 14, Mamie, 13, Zollie, 10, Pearle, 8, and Bertha, 5; plus grandson John Ed Cooper, 2. All were described as born in South Carolina except Bertha (North Carolina) and John Ed (Michigan).

Joseph Simms, 21, of Cross Roads, son of Reddick and Bettie Simms, married Ethel Brockington, 20, of Black Creek, daughter of John and Mary Brockington, on 26 March 1932 in Wilson. Mary Brockington, Joe Gibson and J.T. Daniel were witnesses.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Joseph Simms, 29; wife Ethel, 26; children Rosa L., 6, Helen and Ellen, 5, Joseph Jr., 3, and Billie J., 1; and uncle Jesse, 70.

Joe Louis Simms married Rose Elizabeth Arrington on 15 November 1958 in Wilson.

Bettie Barden Simms died 7 October 1962 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 80 years old; had been a farmer; was widowed. Joseph Simms, 705 Carroll Street, was informant.

Thanks to Carol Lee Ware for bringing this story to my attention and to Wanda S. Page for allowing me to share and for citing Black Wide-Awake in the original as a source of reference for Carter W. Foster and Jane Amos Boyd.

Elder Hattie Daniels conducts revival.

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 October 1943.

Hattie Daniels not only preached the Gospel, but founded a daycare that continues to educate young children.

This photo depicts Mrs. Daniels with fellow members of Mary McLeod Bethune Women’s Civic Club (including Geneva Wynn Dew, Norma Duncan Darden, Bessie Sanders Satchell, Christine Armstrong, and Bertha Bryant Hawkins Carroll) probably in the mid-1970s. Source unknown.

Studio shots, no. 139: Willie Barnes.

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Willie Barnes.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Wright Creech, 38; wife Sallie A., 26; children Leory, 13, Richard, 12, Penny, 9, Naomie, 7, Luther, 4, Lilly, 2, and Johnnie, 4 months; and Willie, 9, and Odalia Barnes, 7 [who were described as sons-in-law, but were actually Wright’s step-children and Sallie’s children.]

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on New Wilson and Raleigh Road, farmer Right Creech, 48; wife Sallie, 37; and children Willie, 19, James O., 17, Maomie, 18, Luther, 14, Lillie May, 11, Alex, 9, Elizabeth, 8, Beulah, 6, Gertrude, 3, and David, 1.

On 16 December 1919, in Old Fields township, Willie Barnes, 20, of Cross Roads township, son of Sallie Creech, married Lina Rodgers, 19, of Cross Roads township, daughter of James and Fannie Rodgers.

Thank you, Edith Jones Garnett, for sharing this photo.

A thank you, and an invitation.

During the Great Depression, writers contracted by the Works Progress Administration collected more than 2,300 oral histories from formerly enslaved people.  At least five women and men shared their recollections of slavery in Wilson County.  For the upcoming exhibit I curated documenting enslaved African-Americans in Wilson County, I asked four contemporary Wilsonians to lend their voices to bring to life the transcripts of four oral history interviews. Each person has roots that have been chronicled in Black Wide-Awake, and I am deeply grateful for their enthusiastic participation.

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Thank you, Mildred Hall Creech, whose Hall, Henderson and Artis families have appeared here.

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Thank you, Annie Finch Artis, shown here with husband Adam Freeman Artis. Their Artis and Finch lines have been featured in Black Wide-Awake.

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Thank you, Castonoble Hooks and Velma Hoskins Barnes. Mr. Hooks’ grandmother has been featured here, as has Mrs. Barnes’ Simms family

Say Their Names opens a week from today at Wilson’s Imagination Station Science and History Museum. I look forward to seeing you there, but if you’re unable to make it, I hope you’ll make your way to the museum this year.

Photographs courtesy of Brooke Bissette, Imagination Station.

1206 Queen Street.

The one hundred twenty-second in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1940; 1 story; gable-end bungalow with shed-roofed porch.”

In the 1941 Wilson, N.C., city directory: McKeithan Daniel (c; Naomi) notions 551 E Nash h 1206 Queen

Daniel McKeithan Jr. died 1 May 1942 at his home at 1206 Queen Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 October 1941 in Wilson to Daniel McKeithan of Vass, N.C., and Naomi Jones of LaGrange, N.C.

In 1942, Daniel McKeithan registered for the World War II draft. Per his draft card, he was born 8 April 1899 in Moore [County,] N.C.; lived at 1206 Queen; his mailing address was 551 East Nash; his contact was Randall R. James, 111 Pender Street; and he was employed at 551 East Nash.

In the 1947 Wilson, N.C., city directory: McKeithan Elmer (c) 1206 Queen

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2020.

Snaps, no. 63: Penny Mills Dancy and family.

This remarkable photograph of what appears to be a family gathered for a funeral, probably in the 1940s. Penny Mills Dancy stands fifth from the left, hatless in a dark dress with two large buttons. The girl at far left, looking out of the frame, may be her daughter Lovie Dancy (later Tabron.)

The stamp on the back of the photograph is equally remarkable, revealing as it does another African-American photographer operating in Wilson: “Portraits Made In Your Home. R.J. Dancy. 704 Suggs St. Phone 2092. Wilson, N.C.” Ray J. Dancy wasPenny Mills Dancy’s son.

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In the 1910 census of Chicod township, Pitt County: Arnold Mills, 61, farmer; wife Lovie, 42; and children Nasby R., 21, Arnold, 20, Carrie T., 18, Gatsey D., 15, Goldman, 11, Lovie E., 13, Pennie, 9, Vanie L., 6, Jeruth, 5, and Abram C., 3.

On 9 December 1917, John C. Dancy, 20, of Greene County, son of John and Elizabeth Dancy, married Pennia Mills, 18, of Greene County, daughter of Ormond and Lovie Mills of Pitt County, at Maury Chapel Church in Greene County, North Carolina.

In the 1920 census of Contentnea Neck township, Lenoir County, North Carolina: farm laborer John C. Dancy, 24; wife Penny E., 19; and daughter Enlishel V., 2 months.

On 9 May 1924, John Allen Dancy, age 18 months, died in Ormonds township, Greene County. Per his death certificate, he was born to John Dancy of Ayden, N.C., and Pennie Mills of Pitt County, and was buried in Mills cemetery, Pitt County.

In the 1930 census of Township 9, Craven County, North Carolina: farmer Johnie C. Dancy, 34; wife Pennie, 29; and children Evangeline, 10, Lovie, 8, R.J., 5, and Aribell, 1.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John Dancy, 44, city of Wilson laborer; wife Pennie, 39, tobacco factory laborer; and children Evangline, 20, tobacco factory laborer, Lovie, 18, R.J., 15, Olie Bell, 11, Mildred, 8, and Leo, 5.

In 1942, Ray Joel Dancey registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 5 December 1924 in Pitt County; lived at 704 Suggs Street; has contact was Penny Dancey of the same address; and he was a student at Darden High School.

In 1946, Ollie Bell Dancey registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 4 June 1928 in Greene County; lived at 704 Suggs Street; has contact was mother Penny Dancey of the same address; and he was a student at Darden High School.

Penny Ethel Dancy died 13 April 1984 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 January 1901 in Pitt County to Arnold Mills and Lovie Shepherd; was widowed; had worked as a factory worker for Watson; and lived at 702 Suggs Street. Lovie Tabron was informant.

Many, many thanks to Edith Jones Garnett for a copy of this photograph.

603 Darden Lane.

The one hundred twenty-first in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1913; 1 story; two-room house with rear shed extension.”

The house appears on the 1913 Sanborn map of Wilson, N.C., as 602 Darden Alley.

The house, as it appears on the 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson, N.C.:

In the 1928 and 1930 Wilson, N.C., city directories: Parker Elijah (c; Lucy) lab h 603 Darden al

In the 1941 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bullock Richd (c) 603 Darden Alley

In the 1947 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wright Eli (c) 603 Darden Alley

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2020.

The bookmobile is dedicated.

On 10 March 1951, The Norfolk Journal and Guide covered ceremonies marking the dedication of the Wilson County Negro Library‘s bookmobile. The photo postdates the era generally covered in this blog, but is included for its depiction of several member of the Negro library’s African-American board, as well as Rev. Howard Farmer, a leader in the Elm City community.

Left to right: Willie Mae Hendley Freeman, Anna Douglas Johnson, William Hines, librarian Sarah E. Jenkins, Rev. Howard W. Farmer, Mayor Littlejohn Faulkner, James Whitfield, city manager T.F. Green, county commissioner Thomas Daniels, and Dr. G.K. Butterfield Sr.

Thanks to Tammy Medlin, local history/genealogy librarian at Wilson County Public Library, for bringing this image to my attention.

O.L. and Emma Freeman family portrait.

Bottom: Emma, “Little Emma” and Oliver Lovett Freeman. Top: Irma, Percy and Hazel Freeman.

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Lovett Freeman, 24, of Wilson County, son of J.F. Freeman and Eliza Freeman, married Emma Pender, 23, daughter of Amos Pender, on 25 October 1899 in Amos Pender’s house in Wilson County. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio: blacksmith Oliver L. Freeman, 25; wife Emma C., 24, school teacher; sister Olive, 8; and roomer Henry Bruce, 20, barber. All the Freemans were born in North Carolina; Bruce, in Tennessee.

In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: blacksmith in buggy shop Oliver Freeman, 36; wife Emma, 34; and children Percy, 10, Hazel, 8, Irma, 6, and Emma, 3.

In the 1920 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: blacksmith O.L. Freeman, 44; wife Emma, 43; and children Percy, 29 [sic], Hazel,18, Erma, 16, and Emma, 12.

In the 1930 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: at 1113 West Thomas, Oliver L. Freeman, 55, blacksmith; wife Emma C., 53; and Emma Freeman, Percy Freeman and Harold L. Freeman.

In November 1938, Oliver Lovett Freeman applied for Social Security benefits. His application noted that he was born 12 November 1869 in Wilson, N.C., to Julious Freeman and Eliza Daniel.

In the 1940 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: at 1113 West Thomas, Oliver Freeman, 64, blacksmith shoeing horses; wife Emma, 63; and daughter Emma, 31.

In 1942, Cornelius Pitt registered for the World War II draft in Nash County. Per his registration card, he was born 6 October 1921 in Rocky Mount; lived at 1110 West Thomas; his contact was Oliver Freeman, 1113 West Thomas; and he worked for Emerson Shops, A.C.L. [Railroad], Rocky Mount.

Oliver L. Freeman made out his will on 5 June 1954 in Nash County. Per its terms, daughter Irma F. Rudd was to receive the homeplace at 1113 West Thomas Street, Rocky Mount; daughter Hazel F. Whisonant, the tenant houses at 1123-1125 Gay Street, Rocky Mount; son Percy Freeman, the tenant house at 1119-1120 Gay Street; and daughter Emma Freeman, the tenant house at 1121-1122 Gay Street. His remaining property was to be divided among his children in equal shares.

Per Findagrave.com, Freeman died 26 June 1955 and is buried in Northeastern Cemetery, Rocky Mount.

Photo courtesy of Mary Freeman Ellis, The Way We Were.