Wilson County

Bushrod Dew’s crop lien.

On 17 January 1903, Howard, Graves & Company agreed to advance Bush Dew up to one hundred thirty dollars in supplies to enable Dew to cultivate the land in Wilson township Dew rented from S.H. Morris. In return, Dew gave Howard, Graves a lien on his crop as well as a eleven year-old black mare mule, an iron axle cart, an open buggy and harness, and all his farming implements.

Deed book 66, page 233, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. 

State vs. Jeffrey Simms.

To stave off responsibility for caring for poor women and their children, unwed mothers were regularly brought before justices of the peace to answer sharp questions about their circumstances.

On 11 December 1866, Rebecca Barnes admitted to Wilson County justice of the peace Washington Barnes that she had given birth to a child whose father was Jeffrey Simms. Barnes ordered that Simms be arrested and taken to a justice to answer Barnes’ charge.


In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Jeffrey Simms, 24, wife Caroline, 22, and an unnamed one month-old infant, plus Bryant Simms, 80.

Bastardy Bonds, 1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Recommended reading, no. 3: the Second Middle Passage.

You cannot understand the men and women who emerged from slavery to appear in the 1870 census of Wilson County without understanding who was not there — the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children sold South in America’s domestic slave trade, known as the Second Middle Passage. 

I have no ancestors from Alabama or Mississippi or Louisiana or Texas, but my DNA matches scores of African-Americans who do. They are descended from the close kin of my North Carolina and Virginia ancestors, and the bits of identical chromosome we share is the only evidence of the crime that befell our common forebears.

To understand the depth and breadth of this trade, please study Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

To glimpse how this trade unfolded among our own Wilson County people, see:

To see how buying and selling men, women, and children even locally devastated families:

Wilson County’s own Vanilla Powell Beane honored as she turns 103!

Nothing I could write could improve upon Jeni Hansen’s remarks about her remarkable grandmother, so I take the liberty to share them here:
“This past week, on the evening of her 103rd birthday,​ ​Vanilla Powell Beane received the ​2022 ​Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor. Thank you, Mayor [Muriel] Bowser​, and ​thank you DC for showing up to honor the oldest small business owner in Washington!
“I’ve said this before but it stands true today — one of the things I remain most inspired by, is my grandmother’s desire to do something without being recognized.
The other day we were talking about becoming who you are — the dedication, determination, triumphs, and challenges. I am not surprised she did the damn thing without analytics, likes, and without a platform – her passion wasn’t built around the approval of others but a genuine love for her craft. She was inducted into the National Association of Fashion & Accessories Designers in 1975, has more than one day named after her in Washington, and hats are featured on a U.S. Postal Service stamp and in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“If it takes you 103 years to be recognized for your talents, work hard and enjoy every day. When you make it where you’re going, overcome the obstacles you and others put in your way, and become who you are destined to be — I hope you’ll look in the mirror and say exactly what my grandma said to me, ‘Well, I’m here aren’t I?’
“The life you lead, truly, is the legacy you leave.”
Photo by Salah Djimbananou and text courtesy of Jeni Hansen, via Sandy Alston, Mrs. Beane’s great-niece.

The death of Lizzie Bullock.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 February 1936.

“Liz” was 81 year-old Lizzie Pitt Bullock, who may or may not have adored Sallie Egerton Blount, but surely did not love the Blounts as much as she loved her own children.


On 15 May 1877, Lizzie Pitt married Frank Bullock in Edgecombe County, North Carolina.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County:  Frank Bullock, 27; wife Lizzie, 23; and son Ruffin, 1.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brick setter Frank Bullock, 45; wife Lizzie, 41, cook; and children Ernest, 14, house servant, Hugh, 11, nurse, Malvina, 9, and Obed, 5.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lee Street, garden laborer Frank Bullock, 65; wife Lizzie, 60, cook; children Ernest, 25, odd jobs laborer; Hudy, 23, livery stable laborer; Petronia, 20, private nurse; and Obert, 16, drugstore servant. [By the way, the Bullocks were next-door neighbors to my great-grandparents, Michael and Rachel Barnes Taylor.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 410 Pine Street, widow Lizzie Bullock, 65, cook “McLean” [i.e., the family of Sallie Blount’s daughter Sallie Blount McLean]; daughter Gertrude, 25, cook; and son Obert, 24, cook in cafe. 

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 409 Pine Street, rented for $12/month, Lizzie Bullock, 70, widow; children Ernest, 43, house painter, Obert, 33, hotel cook, and Gertrude, 35, laundress; and lodgers Charlie Moye, 29, truck gardener, and Edward Williams, 53, farm laborer. 

Earnest Bullock died 16 May 1931 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 April 1886 in Edgecombe County to Frank Bullock and Lizzie Pitt; was the widower of Flora Bullock; lived at 409 Pine; and worked as a painter. Gertrude Bullock was informant.

Lizzie Bullock died 26 February 1936 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 81 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Jack Pitt and Lucinda Pitt; was a widow; and lived at 409 Pine Street. Informant was Gertrude Bullock.

Gertrude Eddie died 14 November 1953 at her home at 409 North Pine Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 March 1897 in Wilson County to Frank Bullock and Lizzie Petts, and was married to John Eddie.

Nurse Mabel Weaver Ellis.

My father told me:

“She was — they called her ‘the shot lady.’ [Laughs.] They used to come to school, and you had to line up. And you talking ‘bout hollering and screaming. [Laughs.] And then you’d line up to take your shot. And she’d come in there, had on her — I remember she had on a blue cape, with a whatchacallem … cap. One of them nurse’s caps. I think it was red and blue. And had on heeled shoes. A little heel. Clunky-heeled shoes and all. And she had a black bag that she brought all her stuff in. And you’d line up to get shots. I mean it was a mess. They’d be holding folk, and they’d be hollering and screaming and ….  And she’d be coming. Mable Ellis. Nurse Ellis, the Shot Lady.” 

Wilson Daily Times, 12 September 1964.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1964.


In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: oil mill laborer Nathan Weaver, 35; wife Sallie, 30; and children Doretha, 9, Mable, 7, Louis, 2, and Sallie, 4 months.

On 28 September 1927, George W. Ellis, 52, of Wilson, married Mable Weaver, 26, of Wilson in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister B.F. Jordan preformed the ceremony in the presence of James Whitfield, Robert Haskins and Rosa Arrington.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1101 Atlantic Street, owned and valued at $2500, Geo. W. Ellis, 56, public school janitor; wife Mabel, 28, grocery store proprietor; and children Elizabeth, 13, and Montie, 16.

Per this history of the organization, in 1934 Mabel W. Ellis joined North Carolina’s chapter of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. I have not been able to determine where she received her nursing training, but Raleigh’s Saint Agnes Hospital or Durham’s Lincoln Hospital.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1101 Atlantic Street, owned and valued at $1400, George Ellis, 65, school carpenter; wife Mabel, 38, health department nurse; and daughter Elizabeth, 23.

George Washington Ellis died 7 September 1943 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 29 February 1875 in Wilson County to Jacob Ellis and Millie Forbs; lived at 1101 Atlantic Street; was a carpenter; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery.

Mable Weaver Ellis died in Wilson on 8 February 1995.

Interview with R.C. Henderson by Lisa Y. Henderson, January 1995, all rights reserved.

Daniel Gear, centenarian?

When Daniel Gear (not Gill) died in Wilson township on 10 April 1918, his age was estimated at 100. If that were accurate, Gear was a middle-aged man at the time he was freed from slavery. Other documents, however, establish that Gear was likely born about 1840, and thus a young man at freedom and about 80 years old when he died.


In the 1870 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: farm laborer Daniel Geer, 29; Sarah, 24; and children Romelia, 5, and Emma, 2; and Elisha Harket, 21.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Daniel Hico[?], 40; wife Sarah, 35; and children Malar, 18, Thomas, 11, Emer, 9, Daniel, 8, John, 5, Aner, 3, and Wiliam B., 1.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, farmer Daniel Gear, 67; wife Sarah, 52; and children William, 21, Ella, 18, and Allice, 16.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Moiton [Moyeton] Road, Daniel Geer, 75; wife Sarah, 66; and children [and grandchildren?] Mary E., 29, Chas., 21, James, 20, Frank, 18, Floyd, 12, Cora, 11, Clarra, 9, Thomas, 6, and William, 5.

Sarah Gear died 28 April 1919 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 75 years old; was born in Mississippi to James and Sallie Hoskins; and was a tenant farmer for Mrs. Graham Woodard. William Gear was informant.

Rosa Parrish died 3 September 1939 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Daniel Gear and Sarah Gear; lived at 905 Stantonsburg Street; and was married to Henry Parrish. Lonnie Williams was informant.

William Gear died 7 December 1943 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 54 years old; was born in Wilson County to Daniel Gear and Sarah Haskins; lived on Goldsboro Street; and was a widower. Alice Woodard, 652 Suggs Street, was informant.

John Gear died died 18 December 1944 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 January 1876 in Edgecombe County to Daniel Gear and Sarah Haskins; lived at 403 Stantonsburg Street; was married Sinie Gear; and worked as a laborer. Informant was Willie Gear, 1012 Robeson Street.