Wilson County

Studio shots, no. 124: Robert Barron Sr.

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Robert Barron Sr. (1914-1993).

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In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: on Wilson & Smithfield Road, Gray Barron, 49, farmer; wife Tempie, 44; and children Laura, 20, Dora, 17, Sarah, 15, Bessie, 13, Aggie, 10, Minnie, 8, and Robert, 6.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Barron, 63; wife Tempy, 58; children Dora, 26, Larro, 28, Minnie, 15, and Robert, 16; and grandchildren Ernest, 9, J.C., 8, Lucile, 5, and Areline, 2.

In 1940, Robert Barron registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 1 May 1914 in Wilson County; lived at Route 1, Elm City; his contact was sister Minnie Bynum; and he worked for James Whitehead, Route 1, Elm City.

In the 1951 Plainfield, New Jersey, city directory: Barron Robert (Naomi) fctywkr h538 W 3rd

Robert Barron Sr. died 31 August 1983 in Irvington, Essex County, New Jersey.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user rogerbarron52.

Simpson took his stock.

In 1867, blacksmith Harry Simpson asked two white neighbors to write a letter on his behalf to the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The letter is fascinating in many ways: (1) the glimpse at the independence afforded a skilled enslaved man; (2) his willingness to confront his former master’s father over a matter of equity; (3) the willingness of his neighbors vouch for his integrity and to assist him against a well-known white man.

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Wilson County N.C.

To the Freedmen’s Bureau in Goldsboro N.C.

Harry Simpson (colerd) the bearer formerly a slave of J.T. Simpson’s, was a black-smith & worked through the county from shop to shop. Said Harry lived off to himself & for some reason his owner put a portion of his stock in the care of Harry who provided for them & used them as his own & in the early part of the late war said J.T. Simpson died, having no family his property then was his fathers who let it remain with said Harry untill about the first of February 1867. Then Benjamin Simpson the father of the said J.T. Simpson took possession of it, and his pourk. We have known Harry for several years & have no just reason to doubt his character. We state the above to you by his request which are facts.

April 18th 1867  S.D. Boykin, S.J. Winborn

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For Capt. Hannibal D. Norton’s response to Simpson, which seems to miss the mark somewhat, see here.

  • Harry Simpson — Simpson does not appear in post-Civil War records of Wilson or Nash Counties.
  • J.T. Simpson — John T. Simpson (1831-1863), enlisted in Company A, 55th N.C. Infantry in 1862, died in a camp on the Blackwater River, Virginia, on 27 May 1863.
  • Benjamin Simpson — Benjamin Simpson (1804-1875), resident of Oldfields township, farmer and blacksmith.
  • S.D. Boykin — Stephen Davis Boykin (1833-1910), resident of Oldfields township, farmer, justice of the peace.
  • S.J. Winborn — Samuel Jackson Winborn (1840-1901), resident of Oldfields township, farmer and wagoner.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters received, Jan 1867-1868, http://www.familysearch.org 

The Benjamin and Tinner Howard Ellis family.

Benjamin Ellis, Mollie Brantley Howard Brown and Tinner Howard Ellis. Mollie Brown’s first husband, Kenyon Howard, son of Deal and Nancy Blackwell Howard, was Tinner Ellis’ uncle.

“As far back as my husband, Benjamin Ellis, and I can trace our family, it leads us to Wilson County. My great-grandfather Nelson Eatman was born issue-free about the year 1800. Fortunately, from that point on there was no slavery on my side of the family. He had a daughter named Roady who married Deal Howard. From that marriage was born a son, also named Deal Howard who married my mother, Nancy Blackwell. My grandmother on my mother’s side was named Nancy Blackwell. During the early part of the 19th century there were still many Indians in and around the eastern North Carolina region. One tribe known as the Cherokees still have a reservation in western North Carolina. It is through that tribe that I trace my mother’s heritage.

“My husband’s grandfather Hillard Ellis was born here in 1825, on the Roundtree Plantation. His mother and father were Africans who had been brought to America and sold in the slave market to the Roundtree family. Hillard Ellis had a brother named Warren Roundtree who took the slave name, and as a result, many Ellis’ and Roundtree’s are related. Hillard Ellis married Fairiby Roundtree who was also a slave on the Roundtree farm. To that union were born fourteen children — one of which was my husband’s father named Hillard who was born in 1865. Around the turn of the century and for many years thereafter he was one of only two blacksmiths in the Town of Wilson. Hillard married Cora Williams. Cora’s parents were Nellie Locust and Austin Williams. Austin was a slave on the McWilliams farm and Nellie was issue-free. My husband’s Uncle Warren’s son, Henry Ellis was the first black in Wilson County killed while serving his country in the first world war. His name is found in the Wilson County courthouse among those honored for serving their country.

“Both my husband and I are from very large families. I had four sisters and nine brothers and my husband had several brothers and one sister. We were raised as children in Wilson County and went to Howard elementary school. My husband also attended “graded” school in Wilson. We were married in 1921 and from our union were born seven children: Raleigh, Ezamae, Emma Lee, Tiner Mae, Mabel, Beulah and Benjamin. We have twenty-one grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. We still maintain the Ellis cemetery on a piece of land formerly owned by Hillard Ellis, Sr. Also the Ellis Chapel Church off Route 58 was named after Hillard Ellis, Sr., who donated the land to the church around the turn of the century.”

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  • For more on the Hilliard Ellis family, see here and here.
  • For more on the Nelson Eatmon family, see here.
  • For more on the Zealous “Deal” Howard family, see here.
  • Re the Blackwells:

Asberry Blackwell married Nancy Taylor on 2 October 1845 in Nash County.

In the 1850 census of Nash County: Asberry Blackwell, 25 [listed alone.]

In the 1860 census of Kirby’s district, Wilson County: Asberry Blackwell, 45, turpentine laborer, Nancy, 30, farm laborer, Charity, 14, Drucilla, 9, Albert, 7, Appy, 7, Zilpha, 4, Obedience, 3, and Asberry, 2 months.

On 10 April 1882, Deal Howard, 21, married Nancy Blackwell, 24, in Taylors township, Wilson County.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Deal Howard, 38; wife Nancy, 39; and children John, 16, Christian, 14, Oscar, 11, Ettie, 10, Albert, 7, Thomas, 5, Alvin, 3, Herman, 1, and Tiner, 0.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Horne’s Road, farmer Zelius Howard Jr., 49; wife Nancy, 49; and children Albert, 17, Thomas, 15, Alvin, 13, Herman, 11, Tina, 9, Florence, 7, and Ella, 5.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Deal Howard, 58; wife Nancy, 60; and Albert, 28, Herman, 22, Tiner, 19, and Florence, 17.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Albert Howard, 35, farmer; mother Nancy, 75; and James, 11, and Tommie Howard, 9.

Nancy Howard died 30 June 1931 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 61 years old; was born in Wilson County to Nancy Blackwell and a father unknown to the informant; was married to Deal Howard; lived at Route 2, Wilson; and worked as a laundress. Informant was Thomas Howard, 318 Finch Street, Wilson.

  • Re the Williamses:

Austin Williams, son of Ben and Merica Williams, married Cornelia Taylor, daughter of Isaac Taylor and Lena Locus, on 10 May 1868 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Austen Williams, 34, farm laborer; wife Cornelius, 24; and daughter Cora Lee, 1.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Austin Williams, 41, farmer; wife Nobly, 30; and children Cora L., 11, Charley A., 8, Benjamin and Isaac, 4, and Minnie, 8 months.

  • Re Warren Rountree:

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Warren Rountree, 40, farm laborer; wife Sarah, 32; and children Florence, 18, Rhebecca, 17, Mary, 11, Howell, 7, Sallie, 5, Lou, 2, and Warren Jr., 20.

Warren Rountree died in late fall 1871. In November of that year, R.J. Taylor was appointed administrator of his estate.

Text and photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

The fellow ought to hire for $100.

To Jacob S. Barnes, Esq.

Wilson Post Office, Edgecombe County, N. Carolina

State of Alabama, City of Montgomery

My dear Sir,

After my best respects to you & your good lady, Susannah & Caroline, and all my friends, my enemies I need not care for, I wrote to say to you what I wished to say before I left but could not see you. We arrived this day Sunday at 2 o’clock after travelling all night last night in the Stage. I want you to hire out for me at the first day of January next the negro man that you hired last year belonging after I am done with him to the widow of James A. Barnes and Theophilus Bass. Please say to Theophilus & the widow I think though I have not settled the Estate yet the hire of the negro the year 1851 will be sufficient to pay with what is in my hands all the debts of the deceased though the debts are more than I expected. Inclosed you will find some advertisements. Please set them at Tosnot, Stantonsburg & elsewhere. I think the fellow ought to hire for $100 the years 1850. Take a good note & two good securities. We are all tolerable well. We are agoing to rest until tomorrow evening. I shall get (home) Wednesday next if nothing happens.

Accept my best wishes for your health & happiness.  /s/ Wyatt Moye

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Wyatt Moye was both a founding father of Wilson County and a committed slave trader. With partner Richard Adams, Moye regularly traveled from eastern North Carolina to Mississippi and Louisiana to sell enslaved African-Americans. Moye was executor of James A. Barnes’ estate and — away on business — he sent instructions to Barnes’ brother Jacob S. Barnes hire out an enslaved man again for one hundred dollars to pay down the estate’s debt. In a sobering reminder of the reality of chattel slavery, Moye cautioned Barnes to get a good note, i.e. a promise to pay the cost of hire, and two good securities, i.e. properties promised to Barnes’ estate in the event of non-payment.

Who was the “negro man” repeatedly hired out? Barnes’ will, drafted in 1848, is explicit:

“Item 4th. It is my will and desire the negro fellow Charles is to be hired out as long as my wife lives and the money arising from said hire to be applied enough of it to pay my debt if it is required for that purpose, and if not one half of his hire to pay to Theophilus Bass and the other half to my wife Sarah Barnes.”

Barnes had owned 24 enslaved people, a group that likely included Charles’ parents or siblings, if not his wife and children. Barnes split the group 11 ways — including a directive to sell one woman immediately. Though Charles was to join three others bequeathed to Barnes’ widow, his repeated hire separated him for years from the comfort and company of those who knew him best.

Letter found in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, “a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian,” republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society, March 2003.

Studio shots, no. 123: Hilliard Ellis Jr.

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Hilliard Ellis Jr. (1865-1924).

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In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Hilliard Ellis, 43; wife Feribee, 40; and children Caroline, 16, William, 14, George, 11, Emily, 9, Hilliard, 6, Mary H., 4, and Warren, 8 months.

In 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Hilliard Ellis, 53; wife Fereby, 50; and children Hilliard Jr., 17; Mary A., 13; Warren, 12; Phillis, 10; and Milby, 6.

On 29 November 1887, Hilliard Ellis Jr., 22, son of Hilliard Ellis and Feraby Ellis, married Cora Williams, 21, daughter of Austin Williams and Nelly Williams, in Wilson County. Samuel Rowe applied for their license, and Warren Ellis witnessed the application.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Hillard Ellis, 34; wife Cora, 31; and children Willie, 11, Floyd, 6, and Ben, 2.

In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Hilliard Ellis, 44; wife Cora, 42; and children Floid, 17, Benjamin, 13, Hilliard D., 9, and Cora L., 9.

Cora Lee Howard died 13 October 1918 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 18 years old; married; and was the daughter of Hilliard Ellis and Cora Williams. M.S. Gilliam was the attending physician.

In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Hillard Ellis, 53; wife Cora, 52; and children Floyd, 24, Bennie, 21, Hillard, 19, and Walter M., 5.

Hillard Ellis died 20 March 1924 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 September 1865 in Wilson County to Hillard Ellis and Fabriby Rountree; was farmer working for Furney High; and was married to Cora Ellis.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 February 1948.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user tishbaldez.

The Brantley cemetery.

Armed with a 1937 Leica IIIa 35mm camera, Brian Grawburg has begun a project to document “lost” Wilson County graveyards. Using early 20th topographical maps, WPA cemetery surveys, Google Maps, and tips from the public, Grawburg has battled heat, humidity and nearly impenetrable thickets to create and preserve a record of these forgotten spaces.

This is the second in a series of posts exploring African-American cemeteries that rediscovered by Grawburg.

The Brantley cemetery, off Crepe Myrtle Road in Taylors township, Wilson County, contains nine headstones. For more about the Brantleys, see here and here and here.

  • Bettie Brantley — 1878-8 Dec 1919, daughter of Henderson Brantley and Mollie Boone Brantley.
  • Charlie Brantley — 1 Aug 1873- 8 Jan 1948, son of Henderson Brantley and Mollie Boone Brantley.
  • Finner Brantley — 1 Dec 1887-5 Jan 1924, son of Charlie Brantley and Margaret Locus Brantley.
  • Floyd Brantley — 17 Feb 1901-20 May 1905, son of Richard Brantley and Missouri Eatmon Brantley.
  • Henderson Brantley — ca. 1836-2 Dec 1916, son of Bettie Brantley.
  • Richard Brantley — ca. 1877-28 Dec 1905, son of Henderson Brantley and Bettie Brantley.
  • Solomon Finch  — 9 Mar 1896-11 Mar 1955, son of Jane Finch and Joseph Jones.
  • Annie Thomas Howard — 15 May 1907-1 Aug 1930, adopted daughter of Kenyon Howard and Mollie Brantley Howard.
  • Kenyon Howard — 28 Oct 1874-9 Dec 1938, son of Zealous Howard and Rhoda Eatmon Howard, first husband of Mollie Brantley Howard Brown.

Tony Robbins’ side: “Please send me a paper so as I can get them.”

In August 1867, John J. Pender complained to the Freedmen’s Bureau that Toney Robbins was harassing him about Pender’s apprenticeship of three children who Robbins claimed were his grandchildren. Pender asserted that Robbins had no children, much less grandchildren. The Bureau apparently sided with Pender, as the children were with him in 1870 when the census taker passed through.

Here is one of Robbins’ letters pleading for the Bureau to intercede on his behalf.

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Joyners Depot Wilison Co NC   August 5th 1867

Freedmen Bureau

I ha [written] 2 or 3 letter to Maj Crompto a Bout 3 of my grand Children nor [illegible] Eny Anser then wrote to General Every at Raleigh he said go to the Freedmen Bureau at Rockey Mount in Edgecone County the children is in Wilison County he told me to write to you it was out of his Power as it was in Wilison County

Thy or not Bound By law, So Plese Send me a Paper So as I can get them thy ar living With John J. Pender of Wilison Co

I wait an Anser [illegible] with Respets Tony Robins

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner), Roll 17, Letters received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org 

Doctors in the house.

Again, for a town whose population did not hit 10,000 until 1920 (of which only half were black), Wilson produced an astounding number of African-American physicians in the last decades of the nineteenth century and first few of the twentieth century. To the ranks of Drs. Joseph Henry WardCharles Hudson Bynum, William Henry BryantJohn Wesley Darden, James Thomas Suggs, Walter Theodore Darden, James Alexander Battle, James Arthur Cotton, John Clemon Williamson and Rolland Tyson Winstead, add four grandsons of Della Hines Barnes — Drs. Boisey O. Barnes, William C. Hines, Walter D. Hines and Clifton R. Hines.

African-American physicians who practiced in Wilson prior to World War II, but were born elsewhere, included: George W. Williams, Frank Settle HargraveWilliam Arthur Mitchner, Michael Edmund Dubissette, William H. Atkinson Jr., Thomas Clinton Tinsley, Matthew Stanley Gilliam Sr., and Joseph Franklin Cowan.

Native-born dentists from this period, none of whom practiced in Wilson, included Paul L. Jackson, Christopher L. Taylor and James D. Reid, while William H. Phillips, Lee C. Jones and George K. Butterfield Sr. settled in the community from elsewhere.

Simms’ Blue Book and National Negro Business & Professional Directory (1923).

Hagans did not have a license to carry a pistol.

At October term of the Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a grand jury indicted free man of color David Hagans for carrying a pistol without a license. Stephen Powell was among the witnesses called to testify.

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  • David Hagans — in the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Eli Hagins, 47, day laborer, and sons Sherrard, 13, David, 11, Mary, 9, and Ezekiel, 5, all described as mulatto.
  • Stephen Powell — in the 1850 census of Nash County: 47 year-old turpentine laborer Stephen Powell; wife Synthia, 36; and children Gray, 9, Queen Anne, 8, Dolly, 7, Crockett, 3, and Moab, 1. In the 1860 census of Winsteads township, Nash County: 50 year-old Stephen Powell; wife Cyntha, 45; and children Gray, 21, Dollerson, 17, Queenanah, 13, Crocket, 12, Matchum, 10, and Frances, 8. In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: 60 year-old farmer Stephen Powell; wife Cinthia, 53; and children Dolison, 27, and Washington, 20; plus Julia Amerson, 15; Mary Taylor, 21; Louisa Powell, 5; and Charles Powell, 1. In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Stephen Powell, 80; wife Cynthia, 60; sons Dollison, 37, Washington, 26, and [grandson?] Charles T., 10,; plus boarder Wilson Hagans, 65.

Carrying Gun 1856, Criminal Action Papers, Records of Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.