Wilson County

The death of John Henry Evans.

The cause of death on John Henry Evans‘ death certificate is fairly laconic: “brain injury due to auto accident.”

Newspaper accounts detail a more complicated story. About eight o’clock on the evening of April 11, Evans and J.D. O’Neal, on whose land he lived, were driving wagons to fertilizer to O’Neal’s farm near Lamm’s School [today, near the intersection of Interstate 95 and U.S. 264.] The men stopped on the shoulder of the road to talk to O’Neal’s brother. Both wagons were lit with lanterns. Erwin Stewart of Durham smashed into other wagons in a Graham truck and flipped over in a ditch. According to witnesses, Stewart’s truck had only one headlight working and had drifted partly on the shoulder of the road. The wagons were demolished, one mule was badly injured, and John Henry Evans was first thought dead. He was rushed to the “colored hospital.” As his death certificate notes, Evans lingered for five days before succumbing to injuries to his head.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 April 1929.

For all the carelessness hinted at in the initial report, a month later, Stewart was acquitted of a manslaughter charge in Evans’ death.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 May 1929.

In memoriam: Dora Ellis Dawson.

Wilson Daily Times, 8 May 1992.

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In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Jonah Ellis, 42; wife Precilla, 38; and children Mattie, 11, Benjamin, 9, Dora, 8, Jonah Jr., 6, James, 5, and Caroline, 3.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Jonnie Ellis, 56, farmer; wife Prisilla, 46; and children Mattie, 21, Benjamin, 20, Jannie Jr., 17, Dora, 18, James, 14, Coralin, 13, and Mary, 5.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Jonnie Ellis, age unknown, farmer; wife Pricilla, 56; daughter Mary, 17; daughter Dora Williamson, 28; grandchildren Fannie, 8, and Oscar, 7; and boarder Marion Edward, 28.

On 2 October 1933, Tom Dawson, 39, of Black Creek, son of James Dawson and Chanie Brooks, married Dora Ellis, 32, of Cross Roads, daughter of Jonie and Priscilla Ellis, in Wilson County.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Dawson, 46; wife Dora, 47; children Annie, 4, Dora Lee, 3, Thomas Jr., 1; mother Chanie B., 73, widow; lodger Willie Melton, 30; and stepdaughter Fannie B. Williams, 17, and her child Annie D., 5 months.

Thomas Dawson Sr. died 4 October 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1896 in Wilson County to Pat Faison and Chanie Dawson; was married to Dora Dawson; and was a farm laborer.

Spo’ty Odie.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 October 1914.

Fresh off serving thirty days on a chain gang for being homeless, 16 year-old Odie Williams showed up in court on larceny charges in his dandy finest — knee pants, black silk stockings, white slippers with rubber bottoms (sneakers?) — received his one-year sentence … and escaped.

Beyond his clothes, Williams’ description is poetic — “slick and neat,” white teeth, “medium dark ginger cake complexion,” and “mouth shaped like the rim of a jug” (whatever that may be.) I don’t know if he was ever caught. I sincerely hope he wasn’t.

Austin Barnes accidentally shot to death.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 January 1916. 

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In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Stephen Barnes, 50; wife Adline, 48; and children Martha, 27, Florence, 18, Jennie, 17, Jodie, 16, John R., 14, and Austin, 10.

Austin Barnes died 5 January 1916 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 May 1896 in Wilson County to Steve Barnes and Harritt Coehn; and was a farmer. Johnie Williams of Black Creek was informant. His cause of death: “Buy Being shot and bled to death Accident.”

African-American members of Lower Black Creek Primitive Baptist Church.

Lower Black Creek Primitive Baptist Church, founded in 1783, was the second church organized in what is now Wilson County. The church’s nineteenth-century records includes names of enslaved and freed African-American members, who worshipped with the congregation as second-class Christians even after Emancipation.

Below are African-Americans included in a circa 1877 “List of Names Now Alive” with dates they were baptized and notes about church discipline. (The Primitive Baptists were hardcore about infractions of church rules, and it seems most members were “cut off” sooner or later.)

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  • Channey Pacock, col August 1871

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Chany Peacock, 46; son Geoge, 23; and grandson Preston Barne, 7.

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Benj’n Hardy, 25; wife Mary A., 30, farm laborer; and Litha, 14, farm laborer.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Hardy, 38; wife Mary Ann, 40; daughter Tillitha, 22; and mother-in-law Hester Hinnant, 65 [next door to Woodard Hooks, below.]

  • Isirah Lane, col Aug 14 1871, cut off

Perhaps, in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Isiah Lane, 40, keeping eating saloon, and wife Harriet, 38.

  • Milbry Hinnant col  Dec 10 1871

Perhaps, in the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Hinnant, 26; wife Milbary, 24; and children Sally, 4, John, 3, and Everet, 1.

  • Rhoda Hollan col, Mar 9 1872, “cut off Aug the 12th 1876”
  • Fany Woodard col, Mar 9 1872, cut off
  • Sarah Brook col, June 9 1872
  • Woodard Hooks col, date of baptism unknown, excluded

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Woodard Hooks, 52; wife Venus, 53; and children Mahaly, 20, Mariah, 18, Gabriel, 16, Isaac, 14,  Bardin, 11, and Grant, 10. [Cross Roads township is adjacent to Black Creek township, and the boundary is within a very few miles from the town of Black Creek.]

  • Elizath Horn col, date of baptism unknown, deceased
  • James Barnes col, date of baptism unknown, deceased
  • Nathon Barnes col, date of baptism unknown, excluded
  • Mardel(?) Thompson, date of baptism unknown, cut off
  • Wister Barnes, date of baptism unknown
  • Petter Woodard col, June 8th 1873

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Peter Woodard, 60; wife Renda, 60; farm laborer Adline Privett, 25, and her daughter Margaret, 6 months; and granddaughter Hetiway Ward, 3.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Peter Woodard, 70; wife Rendy, 52; and Jane, 13.

  • Trecy Woodard, June 8th 1873
  • F[illegible] Simms col, June 8th 1873, cut off
  • Mary Hardy col, Augst 11th 1873

See Benjamin Hardy, above.

  • Tilitha Hardy col, Augst 11th 1873

See Benjamin Hardy, above.

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Blaney Barnes, 20, farm laborer.

Blany Barnes married Rachel Cooper on 10 August 1873 at J. Barden’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Blany Barnes, 27; wife Rachel, 25; and children Larry, 6, Mary Ann, 4, and William Anderson, 2.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: R.R. [railroad] laborer Blaney Barnes, 47; wife Rachell, 44; and children Anderson W., 21, Louettie, 16, and Charlie, 11; and boarder Dorch Wade, 23.

On 22 September 1903, Blaney Barnes, 50, married Diana Ricks, 45, in Spring Hill township.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County:  Blaney Barnes, 55, sawmill log hauler; wife Dianna, 44, farm laborer; daughter-in-law Louvenia Furgerson, 21, divorced; daughter-in-law Jane Barnes, 19; grandsons Hiliard, 7, and Joseph N. Barnes, 5; grandson Willie Furgerson, 4; and grandchildren Martha J. Barnes, 12, and boarder Troy Barnes, 23.

Blaney Barnes died 26 April 1915 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1844 in Wilson County to Sip Barnes of Wayne County, N.C.; was married; was a farmer; and was buried in Barnes graveyard. Wiley H. Johnson, Lucama, was informant.

  • Levi Bass col, July 12 1874, fined

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Levi Bass, 23; wife Heggar, 22; and children Burket, 3, and Lydia, 2.

  • Caroline Dawson col, Aug 8th 1874
  • Rufus Bass col

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Rufus Bass, 30; wife Caroline, 25; and Josiah, 6, Willie A., Rufus H., 4, and Rebecca F., 1 month; plus

  • Smithie Cooper col, Sept 12th 1874

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Watson Cooper, 26; wife Smithy, 25; and children Martha, 9, Margaret, 4, George, 3, and Sidney, 9 months.

  • Nellie Williams col, June 15th 1875

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer W. Williams, 50; wife Nellie, 43; servants Laura Williams, 15, and Nancy Winstead, 22, farm laborers; and Winnie Monday, 10, “no relation.”

  • Harriet Bass col, Oct 14 1875
  • Sarah Hagans col, Oct 14 1875

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer John Hegans, 31; wife Sarah, 20; children John, 3, Nancy A., 2, and Amos, 10; and Susan Hagans, 40, farm worker.

  • Julia Fealds col, Jan 8th 1876

George W. Fields married Julia Moore on 26 March 1869 in Pitt County, North Carolina.

In the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County: farmer Wash Fields, 35; wife Julia, 35; and children Haywood, 10, Mary, 4, and Jane, 1.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Washington Fields, 30; wife Julia, 35; and children Renda, 12, Penninah, 11, Jane, 9, Christany, 8, London, 6, William, 5, and twins Isaac and Jacob, 3.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Washington Fields, 60; wife Julia, 53; daughters Chrischanie, 25, Amanda, 15, and Lutory, 10; grandson Peter, 10; and granddaughters Julia, 5, and Lillie, 7 months.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Washington Fields, 68; wife Julia, 70; grandson Peter J., 18; and granddaughters Julia A., 14, and Mary Lilly, 9.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer George W. Fields, 65; wife Julia M., 70; daughter Christina, 48; and grandson Willie, 10.

Julia Fields died 20 June 1924 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 102 years old; was married to Wash Fields; was born in Greene County, N.C., to Peter Woodard and Renda Woodard; and was buried in a family cemetery. William Fields was informant. [See Peter Woodard, above.]

  • Jane Barnes col, March 4th 1876, “Jane Hooks by Marridge”

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Stewart Hooks, 31, and wife Jane, 23.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: basket mechanic Stewart Hooks, 51, and wife Jane, 43, dressmaker.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek town, Black Creek township, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, Stewart Hooks, 60, basketmaker with own shop, and wife Jane, 50, dressmaker.

Jane Hooks died 6 April 1929 at the Wilson County Home. Per her death certificate, she was 64 years old; a widow; and was born in Wilson County to Ben Barnes and Hester Horn. Lovett Barnes was informant.

  • Phillis Daniel col, July 8th 1876, “fort by a Marridge Philis fort”
  • Nicie(?) Barden col, July 9th 1876
  • Fanie Newsom col, June 11th 1876, “Restored Sept 8th 1876”
  • Ester Barnes col, April 12 1877
  • Liddy Jordon col, June [illegible] 1877, [illegible]

Copy of documents courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III. Originals now housed at North Carolina State Archives.

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:

  • Mount Hebron Lodge #42, Prince Hall Masons, chartered in 1881.
  • Rocky Blue Lodge #56, Prince Hall Masons, chartered before 1910.
  • Pride of Wilson Lodge #484, Prince Hall Masons, 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 #53, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Richardson #10, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Pride of Wilson #32, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Mount Zion #9, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Love Union #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.
  • Marshall Lodge #297, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, 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.

Bellamy Chapel Primitive Baptist Church.

I wrote here of my discovery of Sharpsburg’s traditional African-American section, which lies mostly in Wilson County. Below, a better photo of old Bellamy Chapel Primitive Baptist Church (first known as Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church).

The church’s trustees purchased the property in 1915. The church building was already on the lot and, unusually, the deed contained a stipulation that the property would always be used for “church purposes.” If not, it would revert to J.H. Bellamy (whom I have not been able to identify.) At deed book 102, page 578, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office:

North Carolina, Wilson County } THIS DEED, made this September 24th, 1915, by and between M.V. Barnhill, Trustee, party of the first part, and Henry Reid, Robert Lewis and George Drake, as Trustees of the Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church, parties of the second part; WITNESSETH

THAT for and in consideration of the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00) to him in hand paid, the receipt whereof expressly acknowledged, the said party of the first part, has bargained, sold, aliened and conveyed, and by these presents does bargain, sell and convey unto them, the said Henry Reid, Robert Lewis and George Drake, as Trustees as aforesaid, their successors in office and assigns, all that certain lot or parcel of land lying and being situate in Toisnot Township, Wilson County, North Carolina, being the unnumbered lot as is shown by plat of the Bellamy property, recorded in Book 78, page 170, Wilson County registry, to which plat and survey reference is hereby made for a more specific description of said lot; it being the lands upon which the Church aforesaid is now situate, said lot fronting thirty (30) feet on the East side of Railroad Street and running back seventy-five (75) feet. 

TO HAVE AND HOLD the aforesaid land and premises, together with all and singular, the rights, easements and appurtenances thereunto in any wise belonging unto them, the said parties of the second part, as Trustees as aforesaid, their successors in office and assigns so long as said premises may be used for church purposes, and no longer. Should the said premises cease to be used for church purposes, then and in that event said land shall revert to and become the property of J.H. Bellamy, and this Deed shall be held and deemed to be null and void.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, the said party of the first part has hereunto set his hand and seal, this the day and year first above written.  M.V. Barnhill, Trustee

Deed book 78, page 170, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

[Update, 4/26/2021 — As reader DC pointed out, I actually do know who J.H. Bellamy was. I needed merely to search my own blog. From C.L. Spellman‘s treatise on Elm City’s Black community: “J.H. Bellamy and his wife Cherry were among the first Negroes to move into the Sharpsburg vicinity. Bellamy was a preacher and a teacher. He did some good work in the general section in both these capacities. Together these two acquired a small tract of farm land. This was held up in his preaching and teaching as an example of what Negroes generally should do in order to succeed in life.”]

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.

The obituary of Charles W. Farmer, church janitor.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 October 1938.

World War I veteran Charles W. Farmer worked as a butler prior to becoming the janitor at First United Methodist Church, a white church at Green and Tarboro Streets.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: drayman Jefferson Farmer, 40; wife Blanch,  28; and children May, 12, Turner, 11, Jesse, 8, Charley, 4, and Gola, 2.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 615 Hines Street, Jeff Farmer, 50; wife Blanch, 37; and children Turner, 20, Jessie, 16, Charlie, 13, Goler, 10, Jeff Jr., 7, Henry, 3, Allice, 2, and Gola, 1.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Charles W (c) porter The Wilson Drug Co h W Jones nr Daniel

In 1917, Charlie Will Farmer registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 12 September 1895 in Wilson; lived on Pine Street; worked as a butler for F.L. Carr, Wilson; and was single.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Charles W (c) butler 202 W Gold

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 615 Hines Street, Jeff Farmer, 57; wife Blanche, 47; and children Charlie, 24, Jeff, 18, Henry, 14, Alice, 12, Sam, 8, and Blanche, 5.

On 4 February 1920, Charlie W. Farmer, 23, of Wilson, son of Jeff and Blanch Farmer, married Maggie Williams, 19, of Wilson, in Wilson. Andrew Pierce applied for the license, and Free Will Baptist minister J.E. Brown performed the ceremony in the presence of George McCoy, Millie Farmer and Joanna Hursey.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Charles W (c) butler h 611 Spruce

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Chas W (c; Magnolia) janitor h 1203 Atlantic

Charlie W. Farmer died 10 October 1938 at Oteen Veterans Administration hospital in Asheville, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 September 1897 in Wilson to Jeff Farmer and Blanch Gay; was married to Maggie Farmer; and worked as a janitor.

On 1 November 1938, Maggie Farmer applied for a military headstone for her husband’s grave in Rest Haven Cemetery.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.