Wilson County

Studio shots, no. 88: Jack Armstrong, supercentenarian.

Among the dozens of families who migrated up to Wilson County from North Carolina’s southern Sandhills area were those of Dock Roberson and Margaret Armstrong McDougal Blue. After her husband Levi Blue died in Wilson County in 1919, Maggie Blue and Dock Roberson married, and Maggie’s parents John “Jack” and Annie Murphy Armstrong briefly came to live with their blended family in Taylors township. Likely during this time, Jack Armstrong traveled into Wilson to sit for a portrait in Picture-Taking George W. Barnes‘ studio. Jack’s descendants explained that his curled fingers were the result of an injury inflicted during slavery.

John “Jack” Armstrong (ca. 1820-1932), circa 1920.

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In the 1870 census of Flea Hill township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farm laborer John Armstrong, 40; wife Anna, 38; and children Dublin, 14, Charles, 9, Penny, 8, Margrett, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Barbry, 4, William, 3, and David, 2; plus Amy Armstrong, 52.

In the 1880 census of Flea Hill township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farmer John Armstrong, 54; wife Annie J., 43; and children Charley, 18, Margret, 16, Barbra A., 12, William J., 10, David, 8, Joe, 6, Daniel R., 4, and Rebecca, 3; plus A. Murphy, 60, mother-in-law.

In the 1900 census of Geddies Gin township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farm laborer Jack Armstrong, 75; wife Annie, 68; daughter Janie, 15; and grandson George W. Murphy, 12.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Doc Robinson, 55; wife Maggie, 53; children Mary, 18, James C., 19, Virginia, 17, David, 14, Elijah, 12, and Jessie B., 3; Vangie, 32, Geneva, 17, and Addie McDoogle, 15; and Moses Robinson, 8, and lodgers Jack, 103, and Annie Armstrong, 101.

Annie Armstrong died 5 April 1920 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 103 years old; was born in Johnston County to Annie Murphy and an unknown father; worked as a farmer for George Piage; and was married to Jack Armstrong. William Jas. Armstrong was informant.

Maggie Roberson died 5 April 1928 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 55 years old; was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Jack and Annie Armstrong; was married to George Roberson; and farmed for Will Carr.

Jack Armstrong died 5 January 1932 in Mingo township, Sampson County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 11 February 1815 to John Wood and an unknown mother; was widowed; and was a farmer.

Newspapers across the state reported that Jack Armstrong had been “the oldest North Carolinian” at the time of his death.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 January 1932.

Photo courtesy of F. Cooper Jr., great-great-grandson of Jack Armstrong.

408 North Reid Street.

The seventy-fourth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “1934; 2 stories; Oscar Woodard house; locally unique house with front-facing entry gable suggesting vernacular Tudor Revival style; end chimney includes decorative glazed tile; contributing stuccoed-concrete block wall, frame garage, and three storage sheds; Woodard was a chauffeur and handyman.”

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 408 Reid, rented at $16/month, barber Oscar Williams, 31, wife Lula, 23, son William, 1, and sister-in-law Mena Jones, 20.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 408 Reid, rented for $14/month, taxi driver Essie Smith, 28, born in Red Springs, N.C.; wife Alice, 26, maid at Woodard-Herring; and daughter Aggie Nora, 2; plus Annie McCohan, 50, widow, also from Red Springs.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, two entries: Smith Essie (c; Alice; 1) taxi driver h 408(2) N Reid; and Woodard Oscar (c; Katie J) janitor Branch Banking & Tr Co h 408 (407) N Reid

Photo taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2016.

The obituary of Sarah Jane Gregory.

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Indianapolis Recorder, 14 January 1967.

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Sarah Baker, born 1892, daughter of Benny Baker and Nancy Newsom, married Joseph Gregory on 25 November 1912 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In the 1920 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 1564 Park Avenue, rear, rented for $20/month, Kentucky-born Joe Gregory, 48, laborer, and wife Sarah, 45, servant, born in Tennessee [sic].

In the 1930 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 1564 Park Avenue, rear, rented for $20/month, Kentucky-born Joe Gregory, 59, gardener, and wife Sarah, 31, maid, born in North Carolina.

Summerlin fatally injured.

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Wilson Daily Times, 7 November 1932.

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Though the news report did not find it worth mentioning, Benjamin Summerlin, “negro tenant farmer,” was only 13 years old when he was killed.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Summerlin, 24; wife Pearl, 22; and sons Harvey, 4, and Benjamin, 6 months.

Delinquent taxes.

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Wilson Daily Times, 7 November 1932.

The five columns at right show delinquent taxes for property in the town of Stantonsburg for years 1928, 1929, 1930 and 1931, and the total owed. As in everyday life, tax notices were segregated by race.

  • Wm. & Hannah Artis — [This, presumably, is an error. Hannah Forte Artis was the wife of Walter S. Artis, not his brother William M. Artis. (Both were brothers of Cain ArtisJune S. Artis, Columbus E. Artis, Josephine Artis Sherrod and Alberta Artis Cooper, and their primary residence was across the county line in the Eureka area of Wayne County.)] In the 1930 census of Eureka township, Wayne County: Walter S. Artis, 56, farmer; wife Hannah E., 47; and children Adam T., 18, and Elmer H., 5.
  • Sare J. Artis — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Yelverton Street, widow Sarah J. Artis, 65; son-in-law Clinton Artis, 30, a sawmill laborer; daughter Mattie, 26, a washerwoman; and grandchildren Ruby, 5, Clinton Jr., 4, and Hazel Artis, 1.
  • Nealy Barnes
  • Wiley Barnes
  • Walter Bynum
  • Adeline Donald — in the 1930 census of Fork township, Wayne County, Adeline Donald, widow, 54, is listed as an inmate of the Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum (Colored). Donald died 1 January 1931 at the state hospital in Wayne County. Per her death certificate, her regular residence was Wilson County.
  • John E. Ellis
  • Dallas Finnell — Dallas Fennell died 21 April 1935 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 41 years old and married to Sarah Fennell. Informant was Elijah Ward, Stantonsburg.
  • Louis Lewis Est.
  • George Powell Est. — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, valued at $1000, truck farmer George Powell, 60; wife Fannie, 60, washerwoman; and children Bruce, 21, and Fannie, 16, odd jobs laborers. George Powell died 18 August 1930 in Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township. Per his death certificate, he was 60 years; a farmer; married to Fannie Powell; and was born in Nash County to Lawson Powell and Lannie Taylor. Robert L. Powell of Stantonsburg was informant.
  • Mrs. Tom Tyson — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, valued at $700, Tom Tyson, 50; wife Arneta, 36; and children Ordella, 18, Celesta, 13, Ethel L., 11, Hubert, 9, Larry L., 2, and Clementon, 1; plus mother-in-law Ordella Barnes, 58.
  • Dave Ward
  • Tom Whitted — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, Tom Whitted, 50; wife Kitsey, 35; and children J.B., 25, Bertie, 20, Ada, 18, Claude, 15, Henry, 14, Irene, 13, Aaron, 11, Minnie, 10, and Emma, 8.
  • Titus Whitley — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, valued at $600, farm laborer Titus Whitley, 75; wife Ida, 71; grandson Leslie, 10; and lodger Allen Edmondson, 68.
  • John Whitley — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, valued at $600, blacksmith John Whitley, 49; wife Mollie, 25; and children Artillia, 18, Irene, 15, D.H., 13, John W., 10, Mary F., 8, Marjorie, 3, and Clavon, 1 month; plus father-in-law Wiley Locus, 70.
  • James Woodard

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Like Wilson, railroad tracks (marked with an arrow) divided Stantonsburg into black and white sections.  

Jesse Pender, veteran and chef.

In 2011, a Palm Springs, California, news reporter interviewed Wilson native Jesse D. Pender Sr., then 96, about his World War II service, his early work for a brothel keeper, and his years cooking for a president.

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The Desert Sun, 4 December 2011.

In the 1920 census of Goldsboro township, Wayne County: farmer Joseph Pender, 49; wife Ella L., 42; amd children Edward D., 14, Maggie, 9, Ernest, 12, Alonzo, 7, Jesse, 4, Georgiana, 3, and Josephine, 1.

On 29 December 1937, Jesse Pender, 23, of Wilson County, son of Joe and Ella Pender of Wilson County married Erma Dean Hines, 18, daughter of Louis and Martha Hines of Wilson County, in Nashville, Nash County.

In 1940, Jesse David Powell registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Note his employer.

Betty Powell and Mallie Paul, Depression-era Wilson’s most notorious white madams, ran neighboring brothels on Jones and South Streets. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, Georgia native Bettie Powell, 46, is listed without occupation, and her three lodgers, all white women in their early 20s, were occupied as “companion-private home.”

Betty Powell made out her will in March 1945. After disposing of bonds, bank accounts, real property and jewelry, she bequeathed “all the residue of my estate to Jesse Pender and all of the girls including my maids, that may be residing with me at my death, to share and share alike.” She died just over a year later.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 May 1946.

Pender’s workplace before Betty Powell hired him to drive. Advertisement, Facts About Wilson North Carolina, Wilson Chamber of Commerce (1934).

Pender at age 102. Photo courtesy of “A Flowery Tribute in Palm Springs as Warplanes Fly in Formation in Memorial Day Salute,” The Desert Sun, 29 May 2017.

Thanks to my frequent collaborator S.M. Stevens (and her grandmother Willia Jones Turner) for forwarding this clipping. North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

Studio shots, no. 87: Haywood and Agnes Bullock Armstrong.

Haywood and Agnes Bullock Armstrong.

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Abraham Armstrong, 52, wife Cherry, 32, and children Nancy, 16, Haywood, 14, Nelson, 12, Joshua, 11, and Burlee, 7.

On 28 February 1878, Haywood Armstrong, 21, married Agnes Bullock, 18, in Township No. 13, Edgecombe County. Frank Bullock, Nelson Armstrong and B.P. Jenkins witnessed. [Agnes Bullock is listed in her (widowed?) mother Rena Bullock’s household in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County. Serena Bullock was married to Crumel Bullock, and another of their daughters, Mary, married Haywood Armstrong’s brother Nelson Armstrong. If researching this line, please be mindful that several Cromwell/Crummel/Crumel Bullocks, both black and white, lived in northeastern Wilson County/southwestern Edgecombe County durimng the late 19th century.]

In the 1880 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: laborer Haywood Armstrong, 23; wife Agnes, 18; and daughter Caroline, 1.

In the 1900 census of Richwoods township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: renting a farm, Haywood Armstrong, 48; wife Agness, 38; and children Charlie, 19, Mollie, 16, William, 14, Joshway, 12, Hirman, 11, Cherry, 10, Annie, 8, Frank, 6, Minnie, 4, and Agnes, 2. The last five children were born in Arkansas.

In the 1910 census of Richwoods township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: Haywood Armstrong, 54; wife Agness, 48; and children Henry, 23, Joshaway, 22, Himan, 21, Cherry, 19, Anna, 18, Frank, 16, Minnie, 14, Agness, 11, James Haywood, 10, Eddie, 8, and Lottie, 3.

Agnes Bullock Armstrong died 10 September 1915. Haywood Armstrong died in 1917. Both were buried in Hickory Grove cemetery, Lonoke County.

Many thanks to Lydia Hunter for sharing these photographs of her ancestors, who migrated from Wilson County to Lonoke County, Arkansas, about 1889.

The story of Rocky Branch church.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 November 2000.

Highlights of this history of Rocky Branch United Church of Christ:

  • Shortly after the Civil War, six or seven people began holding regular worship services on the banks of Rocky Branch
  • Church celebrates Harvest Day in October, as it has done for seven generations. Nearly half who attended in 2000 could trace their ancestry to a founding church member.
  • Alice Shaw Stevens, daughter of Seth T. Shaw, was unofficial church historian, as her father had been.
  • A footbridge marks the location of the early gathering site, as well as the site of baptisms in the creek.
  • Though early records are scarce, it appears the church was formally organized in 1870 under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Conference of Christian churches. Subsequent denomination mergers resulted in its current designation as Rocky Branch United Church of Christ.
  • A crude one-room building was erected early, and a cemetery plot purchased alongside it. Several improvements and additions were made over the years.
  • The church celebrated its centennial in August 1970.
  • In 1986, shortly after members paid off a mortgage on a new addition, lightning struck the church’s steeple and destroyed the edifice. Members met in a nearby church and the Rocky Branch Masonic Lodge building until a new facility was built.
  • The church had 15 pastors between 1870 and 2000 – Revs. Elisha Horton, Robert Pretty, William Allen, Haywood Horton, W.H. Dugger, P.R. Alexander, C.A. Harris (who served two terms), E.L. Sellers, W.H. Jeffreys, C. Hodges, L.E. Young, Eli Burton,and H.L. Hartsfield.

 

Snaps, no. 40: back of house at the Zam-Zam Club.

Raines & Cox shot this photograph of the kitchen staff of the Zam-Zam Club in 1946. Does anyone recognize any of the workers?

Many thanks to John Teel for sharing this image from the Raines & Cox collection of photographs at the North Carolina State Archives. Though it was not taken there, this photograph is found among those shot at the Zam-Zam Club, a night club just north of Wilson city limits. The Zam-Zam, named for an Egyptian ship torpedoed by the Nazis in 1941, opened just after World War II to entertain eastern North Carolina’s white “movers and shakers.” The photo is catalogued as PhC_196_ZZ_8B_Staff.