Slavery

Jane Street.

Jane Rountree Mobley was enslaved by Moses Rountree, a leading nineteenth-century merchant. As Carolyn Maye relates, family lore passed to Mobley’s descendants holds that the Rountree family named a street Jane in honor of Jane Mobley. If so, where is it?

There is no Jane Street in present-day Wilson. However, early twentieth-century Sanborn fire insurance maps reveal that this was not always the case. Ash Street, a narrow spur off Nash Street running parallel and just east of Pender Street, was once called Jane. (Was it actually named for Mobley?)  The street is clearly marked in the 1908 Sanborn map:

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However, in the Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory issued the same year, the street was called Ashe, and the 1913 Sanborn map relegated “Jane” to parentheses.

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When Hill’s issued the 1922 city directory, there was no alternate name listed for Ash Street.

 

 

Received at Toisnot Baptist, pt. 3: F-R.

Baptisms of African-American members of Toisnot Primitive Baptist Church, continued from here. The names in parentheses indicate a slaveowner.

F

  • Abraham Farmer (John Farmer’s) was baptized on 28 August 1842.
  • Abraham Farmer was a member about 1870.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Abraham Farmer, 57, farm laborer; wife Cherry, 54; Caroline Armstrong, 30, Jane Farmer, 16; Gray Armstrong, 6; Thadeus Armstrong, 4; John Armstrong, 2 months; York Gill, 35.

  • Anecay Farmer was baptized in 1861.
  • Chaney Farmer was baptized 24 July 1853, dismissed 22 February 1856, and restored to fellowship on 24 June 1871.

H

  • Hannah Horn (Jeremiah Horn’s) was dismissed by letter 22 June 1822.
  • Jeffery Horn (Henry Horn’s) was baptized 24 June 1821.
  • Nancy Horn (Henry Horn’s) was dismissed by letter after 1820.
  • Nancy Horn was baptized 25 December 1853.
  • Sarah Horn (John Horn’s) was baptized 24 September 1826.
  • Hulda was baptized 25 February 1856.

J

  • Jeffry was dismissed by letter 26 September 1863.
  • Jeptha was baptized 25 June 1854.
  • Charlotte Jordan was baptized 26 August 1855.

In the 1870 census of WIlson, Wilson County: farm laborer Thomas Harrell, 47; wife Mary, 34; Mary Jordan, 17; Charlotte Jordan, 51; and Celia Barnes, 110.

  • Fran Jordan (Cornelius Jordan’s) was excommunicated after 1820.
  • Rily Jordan was a member about 1870.
  • Violet Jordan (Henry Jordan’s) was excluded from membership on 24 March 1821 for having “two husbands.”

L

  • Hardy Lassiter, a free black, was a member prior to 1820.
  • Orpha Lassiter was baptized 22 December 1872.

In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Silas Lassiter, 38; wife Orpie, 34; children Sallie, 12, Mary, 11, James, 9, John, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Penina, 4, Hardy, 3, Silas, 1, and George, 2 months; and Delpha Simpson, 14.

M

  • Martha Mayo was received 23 July 1870.
  • Milbery was baptized 22 July 1855.
  • Milley was baptized 23 September 1855.

P

  • Caesar Pittman was a member about 1870.
  • Hester Pittman (Jesse Pittman’s) was baptized 24 February 1854.

In Gardners township: Cesar Pittman, 75, and wife Hester, 60.

R

  • Rachel was excluded from membership 23 June 1821 for “Stealing and Lying.”

The last will and testament of Larry Dew.

On 31 October 1861 (the same day as his brother David Dew), Larry Dew of Wilson County penned a will whose provisions disposed of these 46 enslaved men, women and children:

  • to son John Dew as trustee for daughter Harriet Barbee, wife of Joseph Barbee (and to her outright after Joseph’s death), Milly, Sam and Cherry
  • to son John Dew, Laney and her children Juan, Minerva and Della, valued at $700
  • to son Arthur B. Dew, “boy Raiford,” valued at $600
  • to daughter Pennina Dew, wife of William Hooks, Milbry, Louisa, Jacob, and Venus and her children Letha, Jack and Amos
  • to son Jonathan T. Dew, Caroline, valued at $750
  • to son David Dew, Everitt, valued at $600; a cow and calf; a sow and pigs; a feather bed and furniture
  • to granddaughter Sally Harriet Hocutt, Henry, now with Daniel Hocutt in South Carolina
  • to daughter Mary Ann Peel, wife of Stephen J. Peel, Charlotte, Newry and Reuben
  • to son William L. Dew, “boy Woodard,” valued at $600; one gray horse Charley; a cow and calf; a sow and pigs; a feather bed and furniture
  • to son Moses Dew, Arch, valued at $1000; a sorrel horse Selim; a cow and calf; a sow and pigs; a feather bed and furniture
  • to son Willie Dew, Silvira, valued at $900; one mule Jack; a cow and calf; a sow and pigs; a feather bed and furniture
  • to son George W. Dew, Julia, valued at $900; a mule Gin; a cow and calf; a sow and pigs; a feather bed and furniture
  • to daughter Nancy Dew, Eveline, valued at $900; a feather bed and furniture; and $100
  • “the remainder of my negroes, to wit: Litha, Phereby, Amos, Stephen, Toby, Mourning, Isaac, Sylvester, Lucy, Gilbert, Aaron, Linnet, Gray, little Raiford, Winney, Pearcy, Van Buren, little Everitt, Virgil, and Eliza” to be divided equally among his sons and his daughter Nancy

Dew’s estate entered probate in Wilson County in April 1862. These documents from his estate file, submitted to the court in November 1862, chronicle the calculations behind distribution of his human property. Two and a half years later, the work of Dew’s executor was undone by freedom.

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Estate of Larry Dew (1862), Wilson County, North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

An aged negro pays her respects.

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 August 1929.

I have not been able to locate Lucy Worthington in records.

Virginia “Jennie” Wise Boykin’s husband William Monroe Boykin was the son of Hilliard and Willie Flowers Boykin. In the 1850 census of Nash County, Hilliard Boykin reported $200 worth of real estate and, in the slave schedule, ownership of three enslaved people — a 35 year-old mulatto man, a 21 year-old mulatto man, and an 11 year-old black girl. With the creation of Wilson County in 1855, the 1860 census found Hilliard Boykin in Old Fields district of Wilson County (with son Monro, 15, in his household), claiming $3000 in real property and $7655 in personal property, which included women aged 33 and 22; girls aged 3, 2, and one month; and boys aged 7, 5 and 4. Presumably, Lucy Worthington was one of this group of enslaved people.

Studio shots, no. 88: Jack Armstrong, supercentenarian.

Among the dozens of families who migrated up to Wilson County from North Carolina’s southern Sandhills area were those of Dock Roberson and Margaret Armstrong McDougal Blue. After her husband Levi Blue died in Wilson County in 1919, Maggie Blue and Dock Roberson married, and Maggie’s parents John “Jack” and Annie Murphy Armstrong briefly came to live with their blended family in Taylors township. Likely during this time, Jack Armstrong traveled into Wilson to sit for a portrait in Picture-Taking George W. Barnes‘ studio. Jack’s descendants explained that his curled fingers were the result of an injury inflicted during slavery.

John “Jack” Armstrong (ca. 1820-1932), circa 1920.

——

In the 1870 census of Flea Hill township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farm laborer John Armstrong, 40; wife Anna, 38; and children Dublin, 14, Charles, 9, Penny, 8, Margrett, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Barbry, 4, William, 3, and David, 2; plus Amy Armstrong, 52.

In the 1880 census of Flea Hill township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farmer John Armstrong, 54; wife Annie J., 43; and children Charley, 18, Margret, 16, Barbra A., 12, William J., 10, David, 8, Joe, 6, Daniel R., 4, and Rebecca, 3; plus A. Murphy, 60, mother-in-law.

In the 1900 census of Geddies Gin township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farm laborer Jack Armstrong, 75; wife Annie, 68; daughter Janie, 15; and grandson George W. Murphy, 12.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Doc Robinson, 55; wife Maggie, 53; children Mary, 18, James C., 19, Virginia, 17, David, 14, Elijah, 12, and Jessie B., 3; Vangie, 32, Geneva, 17, and Addie McDoogle, 15; and Moses Robinson, 8, and lodgers Jack, 103, and Annie Armstrong, 101.

Annie Armstrong died 5 April 1920 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 103 years old; was born in Johnston County to Annie Murphy and an unknown father; worked as a farmer for George Piage; and was married to Jack Armstrong. William Jas. Armstrong was informant.

Maggie Roberson died 5 April 1928 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 55 years old; was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Jack and Annie Armstrong; was married to George Roberson; and farmed for Will Carr.

Jack Armstrong died 5 January 1932 in Mingo township, Sampson County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 11 February 1815 to John Wood and an unknown mother; was widowed; and was a farmer.

Newspapers across the state reported that Jack Armstrong had been “the oldest North Carolinian” at the time of his death.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 January 1932.

Photo courtesy of F. Cooper Jr., great-great-grandson of Jack Armstrong.

A sacred space for truth-telling.

We traveled this weekend to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit Equal Justice Initiative’s recently opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum. The Memorial is “the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”

“The memorial structure on the center of the site is constructed of over 800 corten steel monuments, one for each county in the United States where a racial terror lynching took place. The names of the lynching victims are engraved on the columns.”

I wandered beneath the monuments, which hang from the rafters like the broken bodies of the men and women whose deaths they commemorate, searching for Wilson County. I turned each corner with a rising sense of anxiety until there, among the final stelae:

However, “the memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.”

Wilson County, here is yours. Come get it.

For more about the Memorial and Museum, please click here and here. And until such time as you can make your way to Alabama, please consider a donation to support EJI’s work “to challenge poverty and racial injustice, advocate for equal treatment in the criminal justice system, and create hope for marginalized communities.”

“… and O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck, put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs you got to love them. The dark, dark liver — love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts. Hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”  

 Toni Morrison

The obituary of Henry Rountree.

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Wilson Daily Times, 14 September 1940.

Is this the same Henry Rountree who  spoke of Christmas-time serenades in an 1936 interview by a Federal Writers Project employee? Though it would seem so, the life details of the two Henrys do not seem to match.

Here is this Henry Rountree’s death certificate:

His parents are listed as Spencer and Julia Rountree, not Shark and Adell, as in the F.W.P. interview. The obituary reports his owners as the Tomlin family, but the narrative names Dock Rountree. The obituary centers around Henry Rountree’s work during the Civil War, which the narrative does not mention at all.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Simon Ricks, 34; wife Lula B., 29; children Mary E., 12, Alexander, 9, Etta, 6, Gertie, 4, and Roland, 2; mother-in-law Fannie Rountree, 58, widow; and uncle Henry Rountree, 74, widower.

In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: renting for $2/month, widowed farm laborer Nora Dew, 42; her children Lester, 15, and Etta, 11; uncle Henry Rountree, 85, farm laborer; and boarders Edna, 17, and Ella Lane, 14, and Elijah Terrell, 22.

He never set up a claim to them until recently.

We read earlier of Violet Blount‘s successful attempt to gain custody of her grandsons, Oscar and Marcus Blount, who were first cousins to Samuel H. Vick. Though that battle played out in the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau, George W. Blount’s statement was filed in the Rocky Mount office. In it, he gave details about the relationship between the boys’ mother, Margaret Blount, and Samberry Battle.

——

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Statement of G.W. Blount.

Margarett was the name of the mother of the children. Oscar & Marcus, two colored children bound to B.H. Blount their former master by Wilson County Court. The mother of these children is dead and has been for several years. Samberry Battle did have the mother of the children for a wife & by her begot one child who is now of age & whose name is William. After the birth of William the mother became intimate with another man, by name Hillman, by whom she had two children, James & [illegible]. After the birth of the first of these two Samberry left the mother on account of her infidelity and took another woman and never after had anything to do with the mother of these. Marcus has a different father from Oscar, and there is yet another child by a different father. It is notorious among negros & whites that Samberry is not the father of any of the children except William and never set up a claim to them, until recently. He has never mentioned the mother to B.H. Blount in whose custody the children have always been. The grandmother of the children is living under the protection of B.H. Blount who will not see her suffer and said Grandmother protests against the claim of Samberry Battle. The fathers of the two children referred to above if living are not in this country & if so could not claim them as they were both begotten illegitimately. Therefore the binding by the Court without Notice to them is valid. The binding was regular & in accordance to law.

Roll 56, Miscellaneous Records, Rocky Mount Assistant Superintendent’s Records, North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, National Archives and Records Administration images, www.familysearch.org

 

Jane Mobley, a remarkable woman.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 June 1931. 

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In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Henry Rountree, 35, farm laborer; wife Patsey, 30; and children Jane, 15, Amos, 10, George, 8, Hannah, 6, Bettie, 4, and Margaret, 1.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm worker John Mobley, 35; wife Jane, 28; and children Rhoda, 9, Henrietta, 6, Jane, 5, Isaac, 4, and John H., 1.

On 9 March 1898, John Mobley Jr., 21, son of John and Jane Mobley, married Miss Julia Penn, 20, daughter of Lou Penn, in Wilson. Columbus Gay applied for the license, and Baptist minister W.T.H. Woodward performed the ceremony in the presence of W.H. Neal, Sallie Neal, and Lesley Mobley.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John Mobley, 50, teamster; wife Jane, 46; and children Fannie, 12, Charlie, 13, farm laborer; Patience, 10; Henry, 9; Mary, 7; and James, 23, day laborer.

On 28 December 1904, Fannie Mobley, 19, daughter of John and Jane Mobley, married James M. Moses, 21, son of Carson and Alice Moses, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Jeremiah Scarborough performed the ceremony at F.A. Woodard’s residence. [United States Congressman Frederick A. Woodard was the husband of Fannie Rountree Woodard, whose family had owned Jane Mobley’s.]

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Road, odd jobs laborer John Mobley, 53; wife Jane, 56, nurse; and nieces in law Mary Rountree, 16, nurse, and Patsy Whitehead, 7.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 120 Vance Street, farmer John Mobley, 64; wife Jane, 65; daughter Fannie Mobley, 23; and grandchildren Mary Jane, 7, and Alexander Mobley, 13.

Fannie Mobley, 29, daughter of John and Jane Mobley, married John Faulkland, 28, son of Philipp and Rachel Faulkland, on 2 December 1922. Free Will Baptist minister E.S. Hargrave performed the ceremony in the presence of J.W. Rite, Joseph Faulklin, and Boston Witingham.

John Mobley died 13 June 1923. Per his death certificate, he was about 60 years old; was born in Washington, North Carolina, to Javis and Harriet Mobley; was married to Jane Mobley; resided at West Lee Street; and had done masonry work. Informant was Fannie Faulkland, 200 West Lee Street.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1001 Gold Street, Lamar H. Winstead, 38, book merchant; wife Anabel, 37; son William, 13; and servant Jane Mobly, 85.

Jane Mobley died 31 May 1931 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 92 years old; was born in Wilson County to Henry and Martha Rountree; was the widow of John Mobley; and lived at 320 Hackney Street. Informant was Fannie Mobley. [Based on her age in early census records, Jane Mobley was likely no older than her late 70s when she died. Also, contrary to her obituary, it is unlikely that she was born to an enslaved mother, but not herself enslaved.]

 

 

Work and that woman has kept me right.

Martha Tyson Dixon‘s husband Luke D. Dixon consented to a Federal Writers Project interview, too. His story, starting with his Africa-born grandparents, is electric.

“My father’s owner was Jim Dixon in Elmo County, Virginia. That is where I was born. I am 81 years old. Jim Dixon had several boys — Baldwin and Joe. Joe took some of the slaves his pa gave him, and went to New Mexico to shun the war. Uncle and Pa went in the war as waiters. They went in at the ending up. We lived on the big road that run to the Atlantic Ocean. Not far from Richmond. Ma lived three or four miles from Pa. She lived across big creek — now they call it Farrohs Run. Ma belonged to Harper Williams. Pa’s folks was very good but Ma’s folks was unpleasant.

“Ma lived to be 103 years old. Pa died in 1905 and was 105 years old. I used to set on Grandma’s lap and she told me about how they used to catch people in Africa. They herded them up like cattle and put them in stalls and brought them on the ship and sold them. She said some they captured they left bound till they come back and sometimes they never went back to get them. They died. They had room in the stalls on the boat to set down or lie down. They put several together. Put the men to themselves and the women to themselves. When they sold Grandma and Grandpa at a fishing dock called New Port, Va., they had their feet bound down and their hands bound crossed, up on a platform. They sold Grandma’s daughter to somebody in

“Texas. She cried and she begged to let them be together. They didn’t pay no ‘tension to her. She couldn’t talk but she made them know she didn’t want to be parted. Six years after slavery they got together. When a boat was to come in people come and wait to buy slaves. They had several days of selling. I never seen this but that is the way it was told to me.

“The white folks had a iron clip that fastened the thumbs together and they would swing the man or woman up in a tree and whoop them. I seen that done in Virginia across from where I lived. I don’t know what the folks had done. They pulled the man up with block and tackle.

“Another thing I seen done was put three or four chinquapin switches together green, twist them and dry them. They would dry like a leather whip. They whooped the slaves with them.

“Grandpa was named Sam Abraham and Phillis Abraham was his mate. They was sold twice. Once she was sold away from her husband to a speculator. Well, it was hard on the Africans to be treated like animals. I never heard of the Nat Turner rebellion. I have heard of slaves buying their own freedom. I don’t know how it was done. I have heard of folks being helped to run off. Grandma on mother’s side had a brother run off from Dalton, Mississippi to the North. After the war he come to Virginia.

“When freedom was declared we left and went to Wilmington and Wilson, North Carolina. Dixon never told us we was free but at the end of the year he gave my father a gray mule he had ploughed for a long time and part of the crop. My mother jes

“picked us up and left her folks now. She was cooking then I recollect. Folks jes went wild when they got turned loose.

“My parents was first married under a twenty five cents license law in Virginia. After freedom they was remarried under a new law and the license cost more but I forgot how much. They had fourteen children to my knowing. After the war you could register under any name you give yourself. My father went by the name of Right Dixon and my mother Jilly Dixon.

“The Ku Klux was bad. They was a band of land owners what took the law in hand. I was a boy. I scared to be caught out. They took the place of pattyrollers before freedom.

“I never went to public school but two days in my life. I went to night school and paid Mr. J.C. Price and Mr. S.H. Vick to teach me. My father got his leg shot off and I had to work. It kept me out of meanness. Work and that woman has kept me right. I come to Arkansas, brought my wife and one child, April 5, 1889. We come from Wilson, North Carolina. Her people come from North Carolina and Moultrie, Georgia.

“I do vote. I sell eggs or a little something and keep my taxes paid up. It look like I’m the kind of folks the government would help — them that works and tries hard to have something — but seems like they don’t get no help. They wouldn’t help me if I was bout to starve. I vote a Republican ticket.”

NOTE: On the wall in the dining room, used as a sitting room, was framed picture of Booker T. Washington and Teddy Roosevelt sitting at a round-shaped hotel dining table ready to be

“served. Underneath the picture in large print was “Equality.” I didn’t appear to ever see the picture.

This negro is well-fixed for living at home. He is large and very black, but his wife is a light mulatto with curly, nearly straightened hair.

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This is the image that Luke Dixon’s interviewer so studiously ignored. The event it depicted, which scandalized white America in 1901, is the subject of Deborah Davis’ recent book, Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation (2012).

I have not found Luke Dixon or his parents in the censuses of Virginia. There is no “Elmo County,” Virginia, but New Port may have been Newport News, which was little more than a fishing village in the antebellum era.

Dixon apparently attended night school at Wilson Academy, but it is not clear when. Joseph C. Price headed the school from 1871 to 1873, when Samuel H. Vick was just a child. Vick assumed the helm at age 21 after graduating from Lincoln University.