Wilson County

Historic cemetery registration.

Last week, I registered Rountree, Odd Fellows, Vick, and Oakdale Cemeteries as historic cemeteries with North Carolina’s Office of State Archaeology, Division of Archives and History. Registration does not offer protection per se, but does guarantee their placement on state maps of sites of archaeological interest.

As an example, the form for Vick Cemetery:


A rowboat capsized, drowning two.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 May 1928.

  • Tom Wilson

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Finch Mill Road, farmer Thomas W. Wilson, 42; wife Anna, 33; and children Winnie, 12, Vina, 10, Corina, 8, Hester, 6, Thomas, 4, and Georgianna, 2.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Tom Wilson, 56; wife Leanna, 40; and children Sarah, 17, Ester, 15, Thomas, 14, Georgia, 11, Nancy, 9, Gola, 7, and Margie, 3; and sister Nance, 16.

Thomas Wilson Jr. died 20 May 1928 in Wilson township, Wilson County, “drowned, boat capsized.” Per his death certificate, he was 22 years old; single; a farmer; born in Wilson County to Thomas Wilson Sr. of Caswell County and Leanna Briggs of Pearson [Person] County; and buried in Rountree cemetery.

  • Babe Tyson

Leanda Tyson died 20 May 1928 in Wilson township, Wilson County, “drowned, boat capsized.” Per his death certificate, he was 18 years old; single; a farmer; born in Wayne County to Walter Tyson and Olive Parker; and buried in Rountree cemetery. Walter Tyson, Elm City, was informant.

  • Jarvis Lofton

Eddie Jarvis Lofton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 1 May 1911 in Wayne County, N.C.; lived at 816 Mercer Street; his contact was mother Tynce Lofton, 902 West Broad Street; and he worked for Loftin Cafe, Tarboro Street, Wilson.

Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for sharing this clipping.

An introduction to Sharpsburg.

Per county GIS mapping data, there are two property owners remaining in Wilson County whose named include the word “Colored.” The first I know well — Elm City Colored Cemetery Commission. The second pulled me up short — Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church.

Though I have driven through it on U.S. Highway 301 hundreds of times, I know little about Sharpsburg, other than that its town limits straddle three counties — Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe. Because I’m not familiar with the locations of these boundaries, I have not looked closely at Sharpsburg as a source of material for Black Wide-Awake.

I pulled up the GIS map for Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist and was immediately struck by two things.

One, the Wilson County sector of Sharpsburg is cleanly bounded by SE Railroad Street on the west and Main Street on the north. Two, this is the historically Black section of town — the church is there, it is “across the tracks,” and its street names include Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

And then there’s this grainy Google Maps image of the church itself:

Per county tax records, trustees bought the lot at the corner of Railroad and Lincoln Streets in 1915 and built Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church in 1920. Another grainy photograph linked to the tax record and date-stamped 2016 shows a large sign mounted on the church tower that reads “Bellamy Chapel P.B. Church.” Bellamy Chapel appears to be defunct as well. 

I’ve added Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church to my follow-up list. Stay tuned.


County schools, no. 18: Yelverton School.

The eighteenth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Yelverton School

Yelverton School is listed as a Rosenwald School in Survey File Materials Received from Volunteer Surveyors of Rosenwald Schools Since September 2002.

Location: A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows Yelverton School on present-day Aspen Grove Church Road near the Pitt County line.

Per notification of public sale in 1951: “YELVERTON COLORED SCHOOL in Saratoga Township, containing two acres, more or less, and more particularly described as follows: BEGINNING at a stake on the East side of Aspin Grove Road beside a white oak, runs thence South 55 1/2 [degrees] East 204 feet to a stake with a sourwood and 2 pine pointers, corners, runs thence 34 1/6 [degrees] West 420 feet to a stake, corners, runs thence North 55 1/2 [degrees] to a stake on the easterly side of said road, thence with said road to the beginning. Being the identical land described in a judgment recorded in Book 179, at page 155, in the Office of the Register of Deeds of Wilson County.”

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Bynums School had two acres valued at $200, but “no house.” Yelverton School was built in 1925-16 with $700.00 from the Rosenwald Fund, $2025.00 from Wilson County, and $50.00 from local families.

Yelverton School building is one, and the better preserved, of two Rosenwald schools (officially) standing in Wilson County. Per Research Report: Tools for Assessing the Significance and Integrity of North Carolina’s Rosenwald Schools and Comprehensive Investigation of Rosenwald Schools In Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson Counties (2007), in 1926, State Rosenwald Supervisor William F. Credle gave this report on the newly built Yelverton School to the Wilson County Board of Education:

“This is good two-teacher school with cloak rooms and industrial room. It is properly located on a good site. I recommend that the following improvements be made:

“Put in at least 30 feet of blackboard to the room. This should be provided with a chalk rail.

“Put in terra cotta thimbles in all chimneys.

“Provide good stoves. Jacketed stoves are to be desired. We furnish blue prints for jackets and they can be made for about $20.00 a piece at an good tinner’s.

“Hooks for cloaks and shelves for lunch boxes should be provided in the cloak rooms.

“The seats now in the building should be reconditioned and a sufficient number of new ones provided to accommodate the enrollment. The old seats that are badly cut can be put in very good condition by planing off the rough tops and staining and varnishing.

“Finally the privies should be removed to the line of the school property. They should be provided with pits and the houses should be made fly proof.

“The patrons should be encouraged to clean off the lot so as to provide play ground for the children.”

The condition of Yelverton School has declined considerably in the 13 years since Plate 256, above, published in the research report.

A bank of nine-over-nine windows.

One of the two classrooms. Note the stove and original five-panel door.

The rear of the school.

Known faculty: teachers Otto E. Sanders, Esther B. Logan, Merle S. Turner, Izetta Green, Louise Delorme, Dorothy Eleen Jones.

Plate 256 published in the Research Report; other photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

County schools, no. 17: Bynum School.

The seventeenth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Bynum School

Though commonly believed to be, it is not clear that Bynum School was a Rosenwald school. It is not listed as such in Survey File Materials Received from Volunteer Surveyors of Rosenwald Schools Since September 2002.It likely originally was a school for white students, turned over to educate black children after white schools consolidated. It closed circa 1949.

Screen Shot 2020-06-21 at 6.04.38 PM

“Rosenwald’s Ripples Continue to Spread,” Wilson Daily Times, 8 September 2001.

Location: A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows Bynum School on present-day Tartt’s Mill Road.

Per notification of public sale in 1951: “BYNUMS COLORED SCHOOL in Gardners Township, containing one-half acre, more or less, and more particularly described as follows: ALL that certain tract of land beginning at a stake near a Branch on the lands of Charles Bynum, thence in a northerly direction 70 yards to a stake, cornering, thence in an easterly direction 35 yards, cornering, thence in a Southerly direction 70 yards to a pine, thence West 35 yards to the beginning. Being the identical land described in a deed recorded in Book 14, at page 377, Wilson County Registry.”

Bynum School building is still standing, but was long ago converted to a dwelling. This may be it:

Description: Per The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24, Bynums School was a one-room school seated on one acre and valued at $400.

Per a 8 September 2001 Daily Times article: the school was “a simple, two-room building that housed first through seventh grades.” “When [Simon Barnes Jr.] was 7 years old, [teacher Beatrice] Jones had paid him 25 cents to build a fire in the cast iron stove in the schoolhouse.” “‘I took a biscuit filled with preserves and ham in my back pocket everyday,’ [Simon Barnes Jr.] said, ‘I sat on it all morning. When I took it out, it was flat.’ After eating his lunch, he slaked his thirst with water from the big pump in the school yard.” “[Fannie] Corbett said by the time she was there, the parents had contributed lumber to partition off a lunch room and bought a little oil stove and some bowls. A nearby housewife baked biscuits fresh each day for the students.”

Known faculty: Principal Doris Freeman James; teachers Mrs. Dunstan, Lena Washington Hilliard, Beatrice Jones, Mamie PenderThelma Saunders Cooper.”In those days you made do with what you had, [Bennie Woodard] said. ‘The teachers did an outstanding job with what they had.’ And that set an example for the students. ‘That’s why none of us can forget Beatrice Jones,’ [Woodard] said. ‘I don’t think any of us would have made it had it not been for her.’

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

East Wilson aerial view, 1940.

North Carolina State Archives’ Flickr account contains a folder holding more than one hundred aerial photographs of Wilson County shot in 1940.

Here, East Wilson more or less entirely. (The dark curve superimposed on the image marks the future path of Ward Boulevard. Though this road was plotted largely through open land, it did require the obliteration of a stretch of houses on East Nash Street.)

Below, a close-up look at the bottom left quadrant of this image. South of Nash Street, the road now known as Pender Street was then called Stantonsburg Street. At (1), the Sallie Barbour School, formerly known as the Colored Graded or Stantonsburg Street School. At (2), a tightly packed block of endway (shotgun) houses, which were form of choice for developers of rental housing for Wilson’s African-American working poor. Clusters of these narrow dwellings can be seen across the map. This block, on Railroad Street between Elvie and Lincoln Streets, is still intact.

The blocks south of Wiggins and Wainwright Street were still relatively sparsely settled, but several churches had set up in the area, including (3) Mount Zion Free Will Baptist Church, (4) Union Grove Primitive Baptist Church, and (5) Branch Memorial Tabernacle United Holy Church.

Around Cemetery Street, the open space attests to the location of Wilson’s earliest Black cemetery (cemeteries?). The following year, the city disinterred Oakdale cemetery and moved its graves to Rest Haven.

The northern half of East Wilson, below. At (1) Reid Street Community Center; (2) Samuel H. Vick Elementary School; (3) Charles H. Darden High School; (4) endway houses on Queen Street; (5) William Hines’ two-story rental houses; (6) C.H. Darden Funeral Home; (7) Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church; (8) Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church; (9) Mercy Hospital; (10) Calvary Presbyterian Church; (11) Wilson Normal and Industrial School (also known as the Independent School); and (12) the Samuel and Annie Vick house.

The elbow of Lane Street, below. The Harry Clark family farm, later Rest Haven cemetery, at (1), and a relatively clear view of (2) Vick, (3) Odd Fellows, and (4) Rountree cemeteries.

Wilson_CSP_6B_12, U.S.D.A. Photograph Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church, revisited.

I was on my way to Saratoga when I spotted a road sign for Cornerline Place and thought of this old church. The first post about Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church relied on Google Maps for a relatively recent photo. The up-to-date situation reveals not just the expected decay of an abandoned church, but quite intentional depredation as well.

Here is Corner Line straight on. At left, a collapsed wooden building, one room wide, with a gabled front.

The church’s plywood sign has rotted beyond help. In its last days, Corner Line held worship services only once a month.

The church’s front doors are gone. As is half its floor, which, based on the straight cut across its width, appears to have been scavenged. The back of the church shows ordinary damage, collapsed ceilings from a rotting roof. The church’s original tongue-and-groove beadboard is visible under the wall’s faux paneling and sheetrock ceiling. Look closely at bottom left. That stump may have been one of the original posts supporting the church’s floor.

Corner Line Primitive Baptist, 2020.

The death of Lula Hinnant.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 February 1920.

Despite being described as a “good old colored woman,” Lula Jones Hinnant Hinnant was barely 40 when she died.


Murray Hinnant, 21, of Springhill township, son of Randle and Angeline Hinnant, married Lula Locus, 18, of Old Fields township, daughter of John and Milly Locus, on 4 December 1897 at Gray Deanes‘ residence in Old Fields. D.H. Hinnant of Springhill, James Deanes of Old Fields, and James Dolphus Williams of Springhill were witnesses.

Roscoe Hinnant [misspelled “Hinyard” on the upper portion of the license application], 24, of Old Fields township, son of Gray and Milbry Hinnant, married Lula Hinnant, 21, of Old Fields, daughter of Jno. and Millie Locus, on 23 March 1904 in Wilson County.

Roscoe Everett Hinnant registered for the World War I draft in 1918 in Wilson County. Per his draft registration, he was born 4 January 1879; lived at Route 1, Sims, Wilson County; farmed for William Dew; and his nearest relative was Lula Hinnant.

In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: on Turkey Creek Road, farmer R.E. Hinnant, 40, wife Lula, 37, and daughter Minnie, 12.

Loula Hinnant died 28 January 1920 in Bailey, Old Fields township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 37 years old; was born in Nash County to John and Mary Lucus; was married to Everett Hinnant; and farmed.

Lane Street Project: 10 September 2020.

10 September 2020, Wilson, North Carolina. Here lie the graves of thousands of African-American dead.

Odd Fellows Cemetery, sprayed with herbicide.

A garbage bag dumped inside the treeline at Odd Fellows.

Trash strewn at Vick Cemetery.

Rountree Cemetery fully festooned in late-summer foliage.

Again, Rountree Cemetery.

Odd Fellows. Samuel H. Vick, who died in 1948, is buried in that jungle.

Shelling corn.

In the summer of 1938, “Baker” photographed farming scenes across North Carolina for the state Department of Conservation and Development. In July, he captured in quick succession two images of a small group of white and African-American men and boys shelling corn on a farm “near Wilson.”

Close-ups of the two photographs: 

Shelling Corn near Wilson July 1938, Department of Conservation and Development, Travel Information Division Photographs 1937-1973, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh.