social life

Drapped the wrong one.

Casual violence among young men is not new. Unsurprisingly, historically newspapers have sensationalized such violence when it involved black men, playing into the stereotypes and fear-mongering of the era.

I recognize the viciousness of this propaganda.* I also recognize articles reporting violent crime as invaluable, if distorted, glimpses into the lives of ordinary African-Americans during a period in which they were poorly documented. Beyond the basic facts of the terrible crime reported here, what can we learn?

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 30 July 1907.

  • “on the Owens place” — This reference to the owner of the farm on which the events took place indicates the protagonists were likely sharecroppers or tenant farmers. The Saratoga Road is today’s U.S. Highway 264-A (formerly N.C. Highway 91.)
  • “a negro dance and barbecue supper was given by Robert Hilliard” — Hilliard, who was Black, hosted a Saturday night party on the farm, perhaps in a barn. He sold barbecue — surely Eastern North Carolina-style, with a vinegar-and-red pepper sauce — and sandwiches to patrons from a stand near the road.
  • “a wheezy fiddle” — the source of music for the dance. (Who was the fiddler? Was he locally renowned? Was there accompaniment? Was fiddling a common skill? I can’t name a single one from this era.)
  • “‘Hilliard is the n*gger I wanted to drap.” — The meaning and usage of this now-extreme pejorative has shifted over time. Here, it is almost, but not quite, neutral. More interesting, to me, is the now-archaic pronunciation “drap” for the  verb “drop.”

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  • Will Scarborough 

On 29 January 1903, Will Scarborough, 21, of Saratoga, son of Ashley and Ellen Scarborough, married Lucy Anderson, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Bob and Winnie Anderson, in Wilson County. Jack Bynum applied for the license.

Will Scarborough died 6 August 1968 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 90 years old; was the son of Ashley Scarborough and Ellen [maiden name unknown]; was a widower; lived in Stantonsburg; and was buried at Saint Delight cemetery, Walstonburg. Informant was James E. Best, Stantonsburg.

  • Robert Hilliard

On 1 November 1900, Robert Hilliard, 20, of Wilson County, son of Jack and Laura Hilliard, married Ailsy Bynum, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of West and Sopha Bynum, in Gardners township, Wilson County.

Robert George Hilliard Sr. died 27 February 1944 at his home at 211 Finch Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 66 years old; was born in Wilson County to Jack Hilliard and Laura [maiden name unknown]; was a widower; was engaged in farming; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Mattie Moore, 211 Finch Street, was informant.

  • Riley Faison  

On 8 May 1902, Riley Faison, 30, of Wilson County, son of Henry and Sophia Faison, married Frances Farmer, 26, of Wilson County, daughter of Tom and Polly Farmer, at “Mr. Frank Barnes Plantation.” A.M.E. Zion elder N.L. Overton performed the ceremony in the presence of Mattie V. Overton, James Smith, and Polly Farmer.

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*See Brent Staples’ opinion piece in the 11 July 2021 New York Times, “How the White Press Wrote Off Black America.”

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Annual farm family picnic.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 June 1941.

County Extension Agent Carter W. Foster published a reminder of the annual county-wide picnic for farm families, held in 1941 at Yelverton School in far southeastern Wilson County.

The Omegas’ last chapter meeting of the year.

Though chartered in Wilson, Omega Psi Phi (not Chi) fraternity’s local graduate chapter included members from several eastern North Carolina counties. Here, a brief announcement of their chapter officers.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 May 1940.

Fraternal and benevolent orders.

The Odd Fellows were not the only African-American fraternal order that found toeholds in Wilson County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An examination of deed books and other records yields these — some familiar, others much less so:

  • Prince Hall Masons, Mount Hebron Lodge #42, chartered in 1881.
  • Prince Hall Masons, Rocky Blue Lodge #56, chartered before 1910.
  • Prince Hall Masons, Pride of Wilson Lodge #484, chartered before 1947.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Victoria #1, chartered in 1918. Per the Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner of the State of North Carolina (1925), the home office of the Knights of King Solomon was in Wilson, the organization had been chartered in 1918, its president was William Pierce, and its secretary was C.F. Rich.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 December 1918.

  • Knights of King Solomon, Saint Luke Lodge #53, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Richardson Lodge #10, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Pride of Wilson Lodge #32, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Mount Zion Lodge #9, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Barnes Chapel Lodge #78, chartered before 1923.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Love Union Lodge #209, chartered before 1929.
  • Knights of Labor, Assembly #734, chartered before 1888.
  • Knights of Labor, Wilson Light Assembly #10699, chartered before 1887.
  • Knights of Labor, Saratoga Assembly #8221, chartered before 1888.
  • Knights of Labor, Pine Level Assembly #10811, chartered before 1889.
  • Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Marshall Lodge #297, chartered in 1921.
  • Royal Fraternal Organization, organized in 1910. Per the Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner of the State of North Carolina (1925), the home office of the Royal Fraternal Organization was in Wilson, the organization had been chartered in 1910, its president was J.W. Parker, and its secretary was Cora C. Lucas.
  • Knights of Pythias, Peaceful Valley Lodge #272
  • Order of Eastern Star, Silver Star Chapter #26

More to come as I research these organizations.

Wilson County G.U.O.O.F. lodges.

I’ve been operating under the assumption there was one Grand United Order of Odd Fellows lodge in Wilson County — Hannibal Lodge #1552. I was wrong. Deeds from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveal these others, about which I’m seeking more information:

  • Lucama Lodge #3561

Per Charles H. Brooks’ The Official History and Manual of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America (1902), Lucama Lodge was established in 1892:

  • Moyton Lodge #5101, established before 1903.

Moyton was a community adjacent and just south of Stantonsburg.

  • Fairview Lodge, established before 1909.
  • Lodge #5575, established before 1925.
  • Lodge #5785, established before 1912.
  • Zion Hall Lodge #5952, established as before 1903.
  • Black Creek Lodge #8754, established before 1915.

Per Brooks’, the Black Creek lodge established in 1891 was assigned #3446, but a . The higher number suggests that #8754 was a later lodge.

Hannibal, of course, was the oldest of all Wilson County G.U.O.O.F. lodges, founded in 1873:

I also found reference in Brooks’ work to the establishment in Wilson of a Household of Ruth, an order founded “to enlist the sympathies and assistance of women in behalf of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows and to unite the wives, daughters and other sisters more intimately with their fathers, husbands, and other brothers of the Order in working out the beauties of Oddfellowship. To encircle in one social band, the wives, daughters, widows of the Odd Fellowship and entwine around the mystic cord that each and all may be mutually benefited and more closely united in the noble work of relieving the needy, the sick and the distressed.”

To my knowledge, all these lodges are defunct.

An out-of-town guest.

As reported in the African-American Cleveland Gazette, in 1911, Martha Dawson of Wilson attended a Y.M.C.A. reception in Springfield, Ohio. 

Cleveland Gazette, 19 August 1911.

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Possibly, in the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Isaac Dawson, 56; wife Sallie, 38; and daughters Clean, 21, Martha A., 18, and Loucrecie, 22.

Or, more likely, Mattie Dawson, daughter of Alexander D. and Lucy Hill Dawson; see here. [“Mattie” was a common nickname for  “Martha.”]

A visit to Wilson.

On 3 September 1908, the New York Age‘s society page announced that Martha Farmer of Portsmouth, Virginia, was spending the week visiting family and friends in Wilson. Martha was the daughter of Benjamin and Mollie Barnes Farmer, who migrated to Portsmouth about 1893.

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New York Age, 3 September 1908.

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Robert Barnes, son of Tony  Flowers and Hannah Bass, married Harriett Barnesdaughter of Sampson Farmer and Ann Barnes, on 20 July 1867 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County, North Carolina: Robert Barnes, 40; wife Harriet, 30; and children Robt., 12, Nathan, 11, Amos, 7, John, 8, William, 6, Mary, 3, and Alfred, 8 months.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: blacksmith Robert Barnes, 70; wife Harrett, 40; and children Robert, 21, Nathan, 13, Amos, 17, John, 14, William, 12, Mary, 9, Alford, 8, and Lillie, 7.

Benjamin Farmer, 26, of Wilson County, married Mollie Barnes, 18, of Wilson County, daughter of Robert and Harriett Barnes, on 1 February 1888 in Saratoga, Saratoga township. Crummell Bullock applied for the license, and minister Thomas J. Moore performed the ceremony in the presence of D.H. Calhoun and A.J. Tyson.

In the 1910 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 308 Chestnut Street, Benjamin Farmer, 44, insurance agent; wife Mollie, 38; and children Martha, 19, Charles, 18, and Lee, 16; plus niece Cora Barnes, 17, and aunt Phebe Pope, 67, widow.

In the 1920 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 308 Chestnut Street, Benjamin Farmer, 48, insurance collector; wife Mollie, 49; and daughter Martha, 27, public school teacher; plus aunt-in-law Phoebe Pope, 81, widow.

Phoebie Pope died 22 October 1922 in Portsmouth. Per her death certificate, she was about 88 years old; lived at 308 Chestnut; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Cherry Rodgers; and was “retired many years” from domestic work. J.W. Barnes was informant.

In the 1930 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 308 Chestnut Street, owned and valued at $1800, Ben T. Farmer, 56, insurance agent; wife Mollie, 55; and daughter Martha Boyd, 38; plus roomer Peter Solomon, 52, navy yard laborer.

On 16 March 1948, Benjamin Farmer died at his home at 308 Chestnut Street, Portsmouth. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 September 1868 in Wilson County to Joshua and Martha Farmer; had lived in Portsmouth 55 years; was married to Mollie Farmer; and worked in insurance. Martha F. Boyd was informant.

Mollie Farmer died 9 January 1962 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was about 92 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Robert Barnes and Harriet (no maiden name); and lived at 436 Chestnut Street. Martha Boyd was informant.

Martha F. Boyd died 8 April 1973 in Portsmouth. Per her death certificate, she was about 82 years old; was born in North Carolina to Benjamin and Mollie Farmer; lived at 436 Chestnut; and was a retired teacher.

Vick buys a lot from the Knights of Labor.

In 1891, Samuel H. Vick purchased the lot upon which he built the Orange Hotel from the trustees of Knights of Labor Local 10699, an organization of which he was a member. The Knights of Labor had purchased the lot from William Smith and wife Harriett Smith on 22 December 1887 for $300.

S.H. Vick built a hotel-cum-boarding house at 519 East Nash Street on land he purchased at a discount from the Knights of Labor. The building is shown here on the 1903 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

Here is a transcription of Vick’s deed, which is found in Book 30, Pages 92-93, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson:

This deed made by John H. Clark, John Ratley, Gilbert Stallings, William Goffney, George Harris, Wilson Sharpe and Daniel Vick, trustees of Local Assembly Number 10,699, Knights of Labor (the same being successors to James Bynum, Jack Hilliard, Wilson Sharpe, Charles Barnes, Daniel Vick, Wade Barnes, Samuel Williams, Samuel H. Vick and Reddick Strickland, former trustees of said assembly) the parties of the first part to S.H. Vick the Party of the second part all of the County of Wilson and State of North Carolina. Witnesseth that that [sic] the said parties of the first part by the direction of said assembly in meeting assembled and in consideration of the sum of Two hundred and fifty dollars to them in hand paid by the said party of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have bargained sold and conveyed and do by these presents bargain sell and convey unto him the said S.H. Vick One certain lot or parcel of land, lying and being Situate in the Town of Wilson State aforesaid on Nash Street adjoining the lands of Peter Rountree R.J. Taylor and others and bounded as follows. Beginning at Peter Rountrees corner on Nash Street thence with said Rountrees line to R.J. Taylors line thence nearly northwest to Henry Jones line thence with said Jones line to Nash Street thence with said Street to the beginning Containing One half acre more or less and for a more particular description of said land reference is made to the deed of Jas. E. Clark administrator to William Smith recorded in Book No 16 Page 373, in the Registers office of Wilson County.

To have, and to hold, said lot or parcel of land unto him the said S.H. Vick his heirs and assigns in fee simple together with all the privileges and appurtenances thereunto belonging or appertaining to his and their only use & behoof and the said parties of the first part do for themselves their heirs and successors in office warrant to deed with the said S.H. Vick & his heirs that they will forever warrant and defend the title to said land against the lawful claims of and and all persons whomsoever to him the said S.H. Vick & his heirs. Witness our hands & seals this the 9th day of March 1891

[Signed] John Henry Clark, John (X) Ratley, Gilbert (X) Stallings, William (X) Goffney, George (X) Harris, Wilson (X) Sharpe, Daniel (X) Vick. Witness as to all J.D. Bardin

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  • John H. Clark
  • John Ratley — John Ratley, 37, married Eliza Mitchell, 31, on 26 August 1872 in Wilson. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, South Carolina-born John Ratley, 88; daughter Martha, 45, servant; and boarder Kernal Jordan, 46, wagon factory laborer. John Rattley died 22 February 1922 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 90 years old; was born in South Carolina to unknown parents; was a widower; resided at 630 Suggs Street; and had been a laborer. Martha Rattley Jordan was informant. [Martha Rattley, as financial secretary, signed Jane Bynum’s Knights of Labor dues card in 1888.]
  • Gilbert Stallings — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Gilbert Stallings, 28; wife Georgeanna, 23; and children Clara, 6, and Mary, 2. Gilbert Stallings died 13 August 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 February 1854 in Franklin County to John Stallings and Hannah Upperman; was married; and was a farmer. Informant was G.W. Stallings.
  • William Goffney
  • George Harris
  • Wilson Sharpe – probably, in the 1880 census of Taylors township, farmer Wilson Sharp, 52; wife Cherry, 45; nephew Jerry Bynum, 6; and James Mitchel, 47, with wife Rosa, 33, and son James G., 11.
  • Daniel Vick
  • James Bynum
  • Jack Hilliard — in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Jack Hilliard, 40, farmer; wife Laura, 25; and children Mattie, 5, John, 3, and Doctor, 1.
  • Charles Barnes
  • Wade Barnes
  • Samuel Williams
  • Samuel H. Vick
  • Reddick Strickland — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Redick Strickland, 54; wife Mary, 51; and children Berry, 23, Joseph, 20, Robert, 18, Spencer, 13, and Lily, 10; and grandfather Solomon Strickland, 102.
  • Peter Rountree