Wilson County

George Applewhite and the Lowry Gang.

When searching for information about the men and women enslaved by Council Applewhite, I ran across this transcription, which appears to reflect an article published on 8 July 1875 in the Norfolk Virginian:

THE FOLLOWING HISTORY OF GEORGE APPLEWHITE, THE ROBESON COUNTY OUTLAW RECENTLY CAPTURED IN GOLDSBORO IS GIVEN BY THE MESSENGER.

George Applewhite was born in Wilson County and was the slave of Council Applewhite. His half brother, Addison Applewhite, lives in Goldsboro. His mother now lives near Stantonsburg. George was afterwards given in marriage to Mr. William R. Peacock of Wythe and apprenticed to learn the plastering trade. He is a dark mulatto stoutly built about 34 years old. In 1866 he accompanied Mr. Peacock to Robeson where he worked in turpentine. It was there he married a sister of Henderson Oxendine, one of the Lowery Gang who was afterwards hung at Lumberton. Applewhite’s wife now lives in Robeson County being thrown by marriage in association with the outlaws then warring on the citizens of Robeson County he soon became one of the gang and is said to have been a most desperate character. In 1869 he was arrested on charges of being an accomplice in the killing of Sheriff Reuben King for which he was tried and convicted and sentenced to be hanged in Columbus County.

A Wilson County man rode with Henry Berry Lowry?

[NOTE: What follows is an abbreviated account of George Applewhite’s involvement with the Lowry Band. I strongly urge you to seek out a more in-depth understanding of the Lowry War, which was rooted in the increasing marginalization of Native people and free people of color in the antebellum period and fierce conflict arising from conscription of Native men to work for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  As an introduction to the themes of resistance, revenge and redistribution of wealth that intertwine in this period, please see North Carolina Museum of History’s Community Class Series: Henry Berry Lowrie, Lumbee Legend, which features, among others, the incomparable Lumbee historian Malinda Maynor Lowery.]

After a series of raids and murders of both Native and white men, on March 3, 1865, Allen Lowry and his son William were put to a sham trial, found guilty of theft, and summarily executed. Their deaths sparked the infamous seven-year Lowry War.

George Applewhite arrived in Robeson County after the War began, and his 1868 marriage to Henry Lowry’s first cousin, Elizabeth Oxendine, presumably drew him into the conflict.

On 23 January 1869, Applewhite allegedly shot and killed former sheriff Reuben King during a robbery attempt. Applewhite and seven others were arrested in the fall of 1869. In April 1870, he and Steve Lowry were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were sent to Wilmington, North Carolina, to a secure jail in which Applewhite’s brother-in-law Henderson Oxendine was being held, but escaped with the help of Henry Lowry’s wife, Rhoda Strong.

In October 1870, after a raid on a neighbor’s still, a posse cornered the gang at Applewhite’s house. Applewhite was injured in the resulting firefight, but escaped into Long Swamp with others. Henderson Oxendine was captured at Applewhite’s house the following February and hanged in March. In April, Applewhite was ambushed outside his house. Though shot in the neck and back, he escaped. (His children told his attackers he had been shot twice in the mouth, but spit both bullets out.) His brother-in-law Forney Oxendine was arrested. Applewhite holed up at Henry Berry Lowry’s cabin, which came under attack on April 26. Applewhite and Lowry escaped the gun battle and spent several weeks raiding before breaking Forney Oxendine out of jail.

Officials arrested Betsy Applewhite and other family members of the Lowry band in an effort to draw the men out into the open. Lowry threatened retaliation against Robeson County white women, promising “the Bloodiest times … that ever was before.” On July 17, the Lowry band ambushed a police guardsman, resulting in several deaths.

Charlotte Democrat, 18 July 1871.

Shaken citizens demanded a release of the Lowry gang’s wives, and a truce of sorts took hold.

Eight months later, in February 1872, the Lowry Band raided Lumberton, escaping with more than $20,000 from private safes. Henry Berry Lowry was never (officially) seen again, creating a mystery that only burnished his legend to cultural icon. Applewhite, too, disappeared.

The long-winded heading of the New York Herald‘s extensive excerpts from correspondent George Alfred Thompson provides a rough summary of the entire saga (at least from the standpoint of white Robeson County), and the detailed map accompanying the article marked George Applewhite’s cabin with the letter B just south of Shoeheel, or modern-day Maxton. M, between his house and the railroad, marks the place he was shot in 1871.

The Swamp Angels. — The Blood Trail of the North Carolina Outlaws. — How Lowery Avenged the Murders of a Father and a Brother. — Cain’s Brand the Test of Admission to the Gang. — A War of Races. — The Outlaws in the Swamp-The Judge on the Bench-The Ku Klux on their Nightly Raids. — Lowery Breaks Prison Twice. — Sheriff King, Norment, Carlisle, Steve Davis and Joe Thompson’s Slave Murdered by the Band. — Killing the Outlaws’ Relatives When They Cannot Catch the Gang. — A Promise That Was Kept: “I Will Kill John Taylor — There’s No Law for Us Mulattoes.” — Aunt Phoebe’s Story. — The Hanging of Henderson Oxendine. — Outlaw Zach McLaughlin Shot By an Impressed Outlaw. — The Black Nemesis.

New York Herald, 8 March 1872.

Applewhite was arrested in Columbus, Georgia, late that fall. The Herald‘s breathless report mentions that he had committed a “terrible murder in the eastern section of the State at the close of the Civil War,” but this appears to be a misattribution. Applewhite was not in Robeson County at that time.

New York Herald, 6 November 1872.

But was this in fact George Applewhite? I have found no follow-up to this pronouncement, and no report of his extradition to North Carolina. Rather, in July 1875 Applewhite was arrested in Goldsboro, where he had been living for years under the pseudonym Bill Jackson. Two African-American men, Bryant Capps and William Freeman, violently apprehended him, and he was jailed in Columbus County, N.C.

Weekly Telegraph and Journal & Messenger (Macon GA), 13 July 1875.

Applewhite obtained top-notch counsel, who exploited a technicality to win his release under state’s Amnesty Act, which pardoned persons found responsible for political violence in the years after the Civil War. The Act had been intended to shield Ku Klux Klansmen from prosecution and contained a provision excepting Steve Lowry, alone of the Lowry Band, from its protection. (The General Assembly likely assumed Henry Lowry and Applewhite were dead.) After a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling on the issue of whether Applewhite’s appeal of his conviction and death sentence had rendered him eligible for amnesty, Applewhite was freed.

Raleigh’s Daily Sentinel published a sympathetic portrait of Applewhite shortly after his release, outlining his background and questioning his culpability in the crimes attributed to him.

Daily Sentinel (Raleigh, N.C.), 28 June 1876.

Applewhite did return to Goldsboro. His wife Betsy and children remained in Robeson County, and he remarried in 1880. His date of death is not known.

——

George Applewhite, “The North Carolina Bandits,Harper’s Weekly, 30 March  1872, p. 249.

On 10 September 1869, the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal published descriptions of “the Robeson outlaws,” including George Applewhite:

Though Applewhite is described elsewhere as a dark mulatto, Herald correspondent George Alfred Thompson sought to demonize him by resorting to exaggerated stereotypes:

“George Applewhite is a regular negro, of a surly, determined look, with thick features, woolly hair, large protuberances above the eyebrows, big jaws and cheek bones and a black eye.

“He is a picture of a slave at bay. Mrs. [Harriet Beecher] Stowe might have drawn ‘Dred‘ from him.”

And: “Applewhite was an alert, thick-lipped, deep-browed, wooly headed African, with a steadfast, brutal expression.”

This pixelated image of Applewhite, the only version I could find on line, is the only known photograph of the man.

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George Applewhite was born in the Stantonsburg area of what is now Wilson County about 1848 to Obedience Applewhite and Jerre Applewhite.

George Applewhite married Elizabeth C. Oxendine on 15 August 1868 in Robeson County, North Carolina.

In the 1870 census of Burnt Hall township, Robeson County: Betsey Appelwhite, 28; her children John, 12, Robert, 10, Emilie, 4, and Adeline, 2; and brother Furney Oxendine, 20.

In the 1880 census of Burnt Hall township, Robeson County: Betsy Applewhite, 38, described as a widow; and children Mariah, 15, Addena, 11, Forney, 6, and Polly, 4.

In the 1880 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, North Carolina: George Applewhite, 32, plasterer, living alone.

On 12 September 1880, George Applewhite, 32, of Wayne County, son of Jerre and Beady Applewhite (father dead; mother living in Wilson County), married Martha Hodges, 16, of Wayne County, daughter of Graham and Mary Hodges, in Goldsboro, Wayne County.

The last reference to George Applewhite I’ve found is this account of Christmas Day fight between Applewhite and Arthur Williams:

Goldsboro Messenger, 31 December 1883.

Studio shots, no. 209: Joseph and Nettie Peacock Shaw.

Joseph and Nettie Peacock Shaw, not long after they married in 1916.

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In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Spencer Shaw, 40, wife Tabitha, 41, and children George A., 17, James R., 11, Hattie, 9, Joeseph G., 6, Seth T., 5, and Albert S., 2.

In the 1900 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: Nathan(?) Peacock, 18, farmer; siblings Merroe, 21, James P., 20, Amos H., 15, Georg A., 7, and Nettie, 5; and grandmother Celia Thompson, 80, widow.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson and Raleigh Branch Road, Spencer Shaw, 51, wife Bitha, 49, and children James R., 21, Joseph G., 16, Seth T.,14, Albert S., 11, Merlin S., 9, Willie H., 7, and Alice M., 5.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Pate, 39; wife Heterow, 33; children Albert, 13, Daisy P., 9, Mamie L., 7, Alvester, 5, Purvis, 3, General G., 2, and Grant, 9 months; sisters-in-law Nellie Peacock, 20, and Nettie Peacock, 15; and “uncle-in-law” [surely, as to James Pate, wife’s nephew] James L. Peacock, 6.

On 2 January 1916, Joe Grocer Shaw, 22, of Springhill township, Wilson County, married Nettie Peacock, 22, of Springhill township, Wilson County. J.R. Shaw, S.T. Shaw, and C.M. Hinnant were witnesses.

Thomas Cozie Shaw died 17 November 1916 in Springhill township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 29 February 1916 in Wilson County to J. Grocer Shaw and Nettie Peacock and was buried at Barnes Graveyard.

In 1917, Joseph Grocer Shaw registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 July 1893 on Route 1, Kenly, North Carolina; lived at Route 3, Kenly; was a farmer for himself; and had a wife and one child.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Grocie Shaw, 26; wife Nettie, 26; and children Rosa, 2, and Grover C., 1.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Grover Shaw, 36; wife Nettie, 36; and children Rosa M., 12, Grover M., 11, William S., 9, Ruith, 7, Arthar, 2, and Neoma, 11 months.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Grover Shaw, 36; wife Nettie, 36; and children Grover, 21, William, 19, Ruth, 17, Auther, 12, Noamia, 11, Ester, 8, and Katie, 6.

In 1940, Grover T. Shaw registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 15 November 1918 in Wilson County; lived at R.F.D. 3, Kenly, Wilson County; his contact was mother Nettie Peacock Shaw; and he worked for Stephen R. Watson.

Joseph G. Shaw died 25 May 1940 and is buried in Rocky Branch Christian Church cemetery.

Nettie Shaw Kent died 20 February 1969 in Lucama, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 22 August 1893 in Wilson County to Henry Peacock and Courtner Thompson; was married to James Kent; and was buried in Rocky Branch cemetery. Ruth Bynum was informant.

Photo courtesy of LeRoy Barnes.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEMBERS OF LOWER BLACK CREEK P.B. CHURCH, PART 9.

Lower Black Creek Primitive Baptist Church, founded in 1783, was the second church organized in what is now Wilson County. (It closed its doors in 2010.) The church’s nineteenth and early twentieth-century records includes names of enslaved and freed African-American members, who worshipped with the congregation as second-class Christians even after Emancipation.

This page is entitled “at a Conference held at Black Creek church the 3rd Sunday before the second Sunday in April 1853 Apointed Wm Lewis Clerk of the church.” Seven (13?) “servants,” i.e., enslaved people, appear in the list.

  • Seal, a servant of “B. Br.”, died 1853
  • Jim, a servant
  • Mariar, a servant
  • Mike, a servant
  • Fany, a servant of James Newsom
  • Hester, a servant of Johnathan Barnes
  • Zilpha, a servant of H. [illegible] D. Reson, “Turned out for fornication”
  • James, a servant [same as above?]
  • Fanney, a servant, “excommunicated charged with fornication” [same as above?]
  • Hester, a servant [same as above?]
  • Seal, a servant [same as above?]
  • Mariah, a servant [same as above?]
  • Mike, a servant [same as above?]

Studio shots, no. 208: Spencer and Bitha Richardson Shaw.

Spencer “Fox” Shaw and Tabitha Richardson Shaw.

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In the 1870 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Thomas Shaw, 36, wife Katy, 37, and children Frances, 16, Eliza, 14, Fox, 12, David, 11, Martha, 4, and Mary, 2.

In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Fox Shaw, 21, wife Bithal, 18, and daughter Mary, 2 months.

In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Spencer Shaw, 40, wife Tabitha, 41, and children George A., 17, James R., 11, Hattie, 9, Joeseph G., 6, Seth T., 5, and Albert S., 2.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson and Raleigh Branch Road, Spencer Shaw, 51, wife Bitha, 49, and children James R., 21, Joseph T., 16, Seth T.,14, Albert S., 11, Merlin S., 9, Willie H., 7, and Alice M., 5.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Shaw Avenue on Springhill Road, farmer Spencer S. Shaw, 60; wife Bitha, 60; and children Albert, 22, Marlie, 19, Willie, 16, and Alice, 14.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Buckhorn Road, farmer Spencer S. Shaw, 70; wife Bitha J., 70; sons William H., 26, and Seth T., 34; daughter-in-law Georgeanna, 24; and grandchildren Alice M., 4, Seth T. Jr., 2, and Franklin S., 6 months.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Seth T. Shaw, 44, wife Georgiana, 34, mother Bitha, 79, and children Alice M., 14, Seth T., 12, Franklin G., 10, George C., 7, Daisy May, 5, and James C., 3.

Bitha Shaw died 25 August 1957 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 30 June 1877 [actually, circa 1860] in Wake County, North Carolina. She was buried at Rocky Branch. Informant was Hattie Boykins.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user Regan Crump.

The last will and testament of Ira Howard.

Ira Howard made out his will on 24 August 1906.

  • to son James Howard, a 42 1/2-acre tract known as the “Joe Howard tract” and a 28 1/2-acre tract called the “Ivey Ivens tract”;
  • to son William Howard, the 50-acre “home place” tract and the 22 1/2-acre “Cally Taylor lands”;

  • to Manuel Batchelor, Silver Lee Batchelor and Roxie Ann Batchelor, children of Mahala Batchelor (once they reached age 21), the 50-acre “Jim Taylor lands,” the 22-acre “Peter High lands,” and the 22-acre “Cally Taylor lands,” to be equally divided;

  • William Howard was to serve as guardian for the Batchelor children;
  • all personal property, including farm animals, farm implements, furniture, and crops was to be sold to pay debts, with the remainder divided equally between sons James and William Howard (with William to receive an extra $150 to make up for the $150 James owed their father);

  • and son William Howard was appointed executor.

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In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Delus [Zealous] Howard, 35, wife Rodah, 33, and children Mary, 16, Ira, 13, George, 11, Delus, 8, Gibbs, 6, Jesse, 3, and Doctor, 1.

On 26 December 1877, Orry [Ira] Howard, 22, married Harriet Wilkins, 22, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.: farmer Ira Howard, 22; wife Harriet, 21; son James E., 1; servant Merica Farmer, 8; plus brother George Howard, 21.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ira Howard, 45; wife Harette, 44; and son William, 15; also James Howard, 20, and wife Cisco, 20.

On 15 November 1895, Willie Lucas, 23, of Nash County, son of John Kalis and Frances Lucas, married Sylvia Howard, 21, of Nash County, daughter of Ira Howard and Mahala Batchelor, in Taylor township, Wilson County.

William Howard died 18 January 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 June 1892 in Wilson County to Ira Howard and Harriett Wilkins; was married; and worked as a farmer. Lula Howard of Wilson was informant.

James Howard died 18 November 1923 at the “Col. Hospital” in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 October 1875 in Wilson County to Ora Howard and Harriet Wilkins; was married to Sisco Howard; and was a tenant farmer for J.R. Brantley.

Manuel Howard died 7 December 1930 in Rocky Mount, Nash County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was perhaps 50 years old; was born in Wilson to Ara Howard and Lizzie Batchelor; was a farmer; and was married. Sylvie Lucas, Wilson, was informant.

Will Book 4, page 112, Office of Clerk of Superior Court, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson

The obituary of Louisiana Eatmon Hammond.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 December 1948.

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In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: William Eatmon, 35, farmer; wife Geneva, 33; and daughter Louisiana, 11.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Eatmon Louisiana (c) dom h 317 Finch

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: William Eatmon, 50, city laborer; wife Geneva, 41; and daughter Louisiana, 20.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Eatmon Louisiana (c) h 317 Finch

On 23 February 1938, William Hammond, 24, of Wilson, married Lousanna Eatman, 28, of Wilson, in Wilson, in the presence of Luther Hammond Sr., Luther Hammond Jr., and Lula Hammond.

In 1940, William Elwood Hammond registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 16 November 1914 in Lumberton, N.C.; lived at 317 Finch; worked for Mrs. C.C. Benton; and his contact was wife Louisiana Hammond.

Louisiana Eatmon Hammond drafted a will on 15 February 1947. Under its terms, all her property, except one tenant house, was to go to her surviving children. The tenant house, which was “on the Nash Street Road East … beside of the Colored Brick Church, East of the town of Wilson,” was to go to her late father’s children, i.e. her siblings. [What was the “Colored Brick Church”?]

Will Book 9, page 8-9. 

Louisiana Hammond died 16 December 1948 at her home at 317 Finch Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 October 1917 in Nash County, North Carolina, to Willie Eatmon and Geneva Powell; was divorced; and worked as a day laborer. Mary Goram was informant.

 

Dew children perish in fire.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 December 1911.

It is difficult to know what to take away from this erratum. Unfortunately, the previous day’s paper is not available for details of the Dew children’s tragedy.

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  • Oscar Dew — in the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Oscar Dew, 32; wife Annie, 24, farm laborer; children George F., 2, and Bettie M., 5 months; sister-in-law Fannie Strickland, 26, widow, farm laborer; and “sister-in-law son” Sydney Woodard, 10, farm laborer. In the 1920 census, Oscar and Annie Dew’s children were George F., 12, Annie Bell, 5, Rita Bell, 2, and James Arthur, 5 months. Presumably, the children killed in the fire were Bettie and a child born after the 1910 census was taken.
  • Nora Woodard — most likely: in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Alfred Woodard, 69; wife Sarah, 59; daughters Nora, 21, and Francis, 17; and servant Bessa Foard, 19. [It appears that Alfred Woodard died 1900-10 — did Nora inherit farmland from him?] In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Woodard Norah (c) h s of Cemetery rd nr A C L Ry

In memoriam: Mary Mercer Williams Bullock, age 105.

Wilson Times, 10 January 2023.

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In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Sam Williams, 26; wife Mary, 17; and son Sam Jr., 2 months.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 527 Lodge Street, paying $6/month for each side of a duplex, widow Louise B. Johnson, 34, laborer in redrying tobacco factory; also Samuel Williams, 37, redrying factory laborer; wife Mary, 28, redrying factory laborer; and children Samuel Jr., 11, Daisy Lee, 6, Cleo, 5, Charlie Lee, 2, and Eugenia, 9 months.

In 1947, Samuel Williams Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 22 January 1929 in Wilson County; lived at Route 4,  Wilson; worked for his father on Mark Lee Ellis’ farm; and his contact was his mother Mary Williams.

On 30 December 1950, Gurney Bullock, 48, of Ed Bullock and Lula Thomas Bullock, married Mary Mercer Williams, 38, daughter of Demp Mercer and Mattie Knight Mercer, in Wilson.

Samuel Williams [Jr.] died 3 October 1953 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 22 January 1927 in Wilson to Sam Williams and Mary Mercer; lived at 603 Cemetery Street; was married to Minnie L. Williams; and worked as a laborer.

Studio shots, no. 207: Laura Joyner Bullock.

Laura Joyner Bullock (1897-1959).

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In the 1910 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County, North Carolina: farm laborer Connor Bullock, 28; wife Pennie, 28; and children Laura, 9, Ceif, 8, Bert, 6, Gatsey, 4, and Sarah, 9 months.

On 27 December 1930, Jesse Joyner, 35, of Greene County, son of Charles and Linda Joyner, married Laura Bullock, 24, of Greene County, daughter of Connie and Pennie Bullock, in Snow Hill, Greene County.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jessie Joyner, 35; wife Laura, 25; and children Clara, 14, Daisy B., 11, John V., 7, Girtrue, 5, Douglas, 3, and Minnie L., 2.

In the 1940 census of Chinquapin township, Jones County, North Carolina: farm operator Jesse Joyner, 49; wife Laura, 45; children Daisy B., 19, John, 16, Gertie, 15, Douglass, 13, Minnie L., 12, Pattie M., 9, Agnes, 7, and Shirley R., 1; niece Ethel Bullock, 14, and nephew Jesse Bullock, 3.

Jessie Joyner died 10 December 1941 in Chinquapin township, Jones County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1892 in Wayne County, N.C., to John Joyner and Laura Bulard; was married to Laury Joyner; and worked in farming.

Laura Joyner died 15 October 1959 in Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 September 1897 in Greene County, N.C., to Paul Speight and Pennie Bullock; was widowed; and lived near Stantonsburg, Wilson County.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user belinda1joyner.