Wilson County

I do like they done.

Martha Ann Tyson Dixon of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, sat for an interview with a Federal Writers Project worker in the late 1930s. Dixon had spent her childhood enslaved near Saratoga, Wilson County, and she and her husband Luke D. Dixon had migrated west in the late 1880s. More than 50 years after Emancipation, she vividly described the hardships of life during and after slavery.

“I am eighty-one years old. I was born close to Saratoga, North Carolina. My mother died before I can recollect and my grandmother raised me. They said my father was a white man. They said Jim Beckton [Becton]. I don’t recollect him. My mother was named Mariah Tyson.

“I recollect how things was. My grandmother was Miss Nancy Tyson’s cook. She had one son named Mr. Seth Tyson. He run her farm. They et in the dining room, we et in the kitchen. Clothes and somethng to eat was scarce. I worked at whatever I was told to do. Grandma told me things to do and Miss Nancy told me what to do. I went to the field when I was pretty little. Once my uncle left the mule standing out in the field and went off to do something else. It come up a hard shower. I crawled under the mule. If I had been still it would have been all right but my hair stood up and tickled the mule’s stomach. The mule jumped and the plough hit me in my hip here at the side. It is a wonder I didn’t get killed.

“After the Civil War was times like now. Money scarce and prices high, and you had to start all over new. Pigs was hard to start, mules and horses was mighty scarce. Seed was scarce. Everything had to be started from the stump. Something to eat was mighty plain and scarce and one or two dresses a year had to do. Folks didn’t study about going so much.”

“I had to rake up leaves and fetch em to the barn to make beds for the little pigs in cold weather. The rake was made out of wood. It had hickory wood teeth and about a foot long. It was heavy. I put my leaves in a basket bout so high [three or four feet high.] I couldn’t tote it — I drug it. I had to get leaves in to do a long time and wait till the snow got off before I could get more. It seem like it snowed a lot. The pigs rooted the leaves all about in day and back up in the corners at night. It was ditched all around. It didn’t get very muddy. Rattle snakes was bad in the mountains. I used to tote water — one bucketful on my head and one bucketful in each hand. We used wooden buckets. It was a lot of fun to hunt guinea nests and turkey nests. When other little children come visiting that is what we would do. We didn’t set around and listen at the grown folks. We toted up rocks and then they made rows [terraces] and rock fences about the yard and garden. They looked so pretty. Some of them would be white, some gray, sometimes it would be mixed. They walled wells with rocks too. All we done or knowed was work. When we got tired there was places to set and rest. The men made plough stocks and hoe handles and worked at the blacksmith shop in snowy weather. I used to pick up literd [lightwood] knots and pile them in piles along the road so they could take them to the house to burn. They made a good light and kindling wood.

“They didn’t whoop Grandma but she whooped me a plenty.

“After the war some white folks would tell Grandma one thing and some others tell her something else.  She kept me and”

“cooked right on. I didn’t know what freedom was. Seemed like most of them I knowed didn’t know what to do. Most of the slaves left the white folks where I was raised. It took a long time to ever get fixed. Some of them died, some went to the cities, some up North, some come to the country. I married and come to Fredonia, Arkansas in 1889. I had been married since I was a young girl. But as I was saying the slaves still hunting a better place and more freedom. Grandma learnt me to set down and be content. We have done better out here than we could done in North Carolina but I don’t believe in so much rambling.

“We come on the passenger train and paid our own way to Arkansas. It was a wild and sickly country and has changed. Not like living in the same country. I try to live like the white folks and Grandma raised me. I do like they done. I think is the reason we have saved and have good a living as we got. We do on as little as we can and save a little for the rainy day.”

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In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Nancy Scarborough, 47; Victoria, 10, Susan, 6, and Laurina Scarborough, 3; farm manager Seth Tyson, 23; and Julia, 18, Nancy, 17, Aaron, 15, and Abner Tyson, 13.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Mary Tyson, 62, with Edith, 23, John, 21, Abraham, 16, and Martha Tyson, 11.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Martha Tyson, 20, was a cook in the household of white marchant/farmer Mark Atkinson.

Martha Tyson, 26, married Luke Dixon, 26, in Wilson County on 12 February 1885. Minister E.H. Ward performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles Batts, Tempey Cotton and Green Taylor.

In the 1910 census of Watensaw township, Prairie County, Arkansas: Luke Dixon, 49, saw filer at Bar factory, and wife Martha M., 52.

In the 1920 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cedar Street, farmer Luke Dixon, 58; wife Martha, 59; and cousins Margaret Tyson, 14, and Oleo McClarin, 9.

In the 1930 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke D. Dixon, 70, born in Virginia, and wife Martha, 70, born in North Carolina, with cousin Allen Reaves, 8.

In the 1940 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke Dixon, 84, born in Virginia, and wife Martha A., 84, born in North Carolina.

Federal Writers’ Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 2, Arkansas, Part 2, Cannon-Evans, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mesn.022.

Signatures, no. 4.

Signatures are often-overlooked scraps of information that yield not only obvious clues about literacy, but also subtleties like depth and quality of education and preferred names, spellings and pronunciations. They are also, in original documents, tangible traces of our forebears’ corporality — evidence that that they were once here.

This is the fourth in a series of posts featuring the signatures of men and women born before 1900, men and women who could not take even a basic education for granted.

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  • Lee A. Moore (1863-1948), top: 1898, inside leaf of book; bottom: 1905, Wilson County marriage license of Fannie McGowan and Henry Matt Daniel.

  • Braswell R. Winstead (ca. 1860-1926), 1892, Wilson County marriage license of James J. Wilson and Susie Harriss.

 

 

Where did they go?: Arkansas World War II draft registrations.

In the 1880s and ’90s, thousands of African-Americans left North Carolina for Arkansas, seeking better fortune. Many settled in Lonoke, Jefferson and Pulaski Counties in the east-central part of the state, including the families of these World War II draft registrants.

  • Jethro Aycock

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Samuel Acock, 36; wife Jane, 35; and children Sam, 15, Fannie, 13, Harrett, 12, Amos, 10, Emma, 8, Mattie, 6, Hannah L., 4, Maggie, 2, and Jeathroe, 1.

  • Peter Aycox

In the 1900 census of Barraque township, Jefferson County, Arkansas: farmer Green Aycock, 52; wife Janie, 48; and children Robert, 30, Lary, 18, and Peter, 13; plus mother Faine Aycock, 81.

  • Jim Baker

In the 1910 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County: on England Road, farmer James Baker, 26, wife Mae E., 23, and children Bertha, 3, and Annie, 7 months.

  • Clayton Barnes

In the 1910 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: farmer Clayton Barnes, 24; wife Jennie, 25; step-daughters Lizzie Phillips, 12, and Carrie Phillips, 8; plus sister-in-law Lucelia Jones, 18. The adults were born in North Carolina; the children in Arkansas.

  • Richard Barnes

In the 1930 census of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas: at 1515 Bishop Street, owned and valued at $3000, Richard B. Barnes, 40, an office building porter, and wife Hazel Barnes, 30.

  • James Columbus Bynum

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: laborer Larence Bynum, 24; wife Edney, 19; children James, 1, and Mary J., 1 month; mother-in-law Liddie Bynum, 55; brother Isac Bynum, 22; and sister-in-law Anna Bynum, 17.

In the 1930 census of Well township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: farmer J.C. Bynum, 51; wife Florence, 50; daughter Odessa, 12, and adopted son Columbus Webb, 5. J.C. and Florence were born in North Carolina; the children in Arkansas.

  • Charley Augusta Bynum

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County, see James C. Bynum above.

In the 1900 census of Richwoods, Lonoke County, Arkansas: Laurance Bynum, 55; wife Edna, 39; children Mary, 19, Charlie, 17, Hattie, 16, Rachel, 9, Lewis, 6, Cora, 3, and Laurance, 11 months; grandsons Mack and Romie Notsie, both 1 week; and son-in-law Ed Notsie, 25. The Children after Rachel were born in Arkansas.

  • Josh Griffin

In the 1910 census of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas: at East 11th Street, Josh Griffin, 28, public works laborer; wife Lizzie, 30; and stepson Willie Sanders, 6.

  • Tom Hooks

In the 1920 census of Barraque township, Jefferson County, Arkansas: on Little Rock Road, farmer Thomas Hooks, 43; wife Lula, 44; and children Thomas, 16, Nathan, 14, Carolina, 14, Corena, 10, Nora B., 7, Wilber, 6, Vandie, 4, and Fredona, 1. All the children were born in Arkansas.

  • Andrew Jackson Jones

  • George Daniel Jones

In the 1900 census of Williams township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: Virginia-born farmer Peter Jones, 50; wife Ellen, 44; and son George, 20, both born in North Carolina.

  • Robert Daniel Parker

Perhaps, in the 1900 census of Lafayette township, Lonoke County, Arkansas: farmer Ceaza Parker, 39; wife Cinda, 42; and children Mattie, 16, Willis, 14, Daniel, 12, Luvenia, 8, Huburt, 7, Piety, 4, and Mary A., 1.

Spicie Eatman dies.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 January 1944.

In the 1940 census of Bailey township, Nash County: on Finch Perry Road, farmer James Terrel, 60; wife Della, 58; children Luther, 26, Jessie D., 24, and Millard, 15; grandson Robert, 14; and lodge Spicy Eatmon, 99, an old age pensioner.

Spicie Eatman died in the Wilson County Home and was buried at New Vester. Her death certificate identified her mother as Gracie Flowers.

[Sidenote: I know nothing more about Spicie Eatman. I can say unequivocally, however, that the twenty years she spent enslaved were not the sum total of her long life.]

Who was the victim?

Pittsburgh Courier, 16 May 1942.

In a nutshell: James Applewhite was arrested and charged with the murder of Willie Fate. A burial society paid an undertaker to conduct Fate’s funeral. After the service, a burial society adjuster thought he saw Willie Fate on his way home. The society contacted the Wilson County draft board for information about Willie — presumably, his whereabouts, if not dead — but got none. Had the adjuster seen Willie’s brother Perry Fate instead? Or was Perry the man dead and buried? Applewhite confessed, but whom did he kill? Perry was nowhere to be found.

Willie H. Fate’s death certificate shows that he was killed on 25 April 1942 on 264 Highway by a pistol shot to the chest. Toney Funeral Home of Spring Hope, Nash County, performed the burial, but there’s no indication of the society that paid for it.

Apparently, the matter was not cleared to the satisfaction of the United States military until 10 August 1942, when Willie Fate’s registration card was cancelled.

Willie H. Fate’s draft registration card.

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In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Robert Fate, 33; wife Monna, 31; children Alice, 17, Willie H., 17, Perry, 11, Geneva, 7, Robert Jr., 5, and Mary E., 2; and in-laws Alice Jurant, 55, and Melvin Jurant, 56. All save the youngest three children were born in South Carolina.

In 1940, Willie Henry Fate registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 27 January 1917 in South Carolina; he resided at R.F.D. #4, Wilson; his contact was Lula Fate; and he worked as a laborer for Mark Ellis, R.F.D. #4, Wilson.

In 1940, Perry Fate registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 January 1920 in Florence, South Carolina; resided at Route 1, C-10, Elm City; his contact was M.L. Ellis, Route 4; and he worked for James L. Ellis, Route 1, Elm City.

The Saunders brothers.

The family of Bennie and Nathaniel Saunders paid tribute to them in Calvary Presbyterian Church‘s centennial anniversary booklet.

Bennie Saunders (1894-1980).

Nathaniel Saunders (1914-1991).

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In the 1900 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: fireman Branch Saunders, 41; wife Polly, 24, washerwoman; and sons Isah, 8, Bennie, 5, and Paul B., 1.

In the 1910 census of Dry Well township, Nash County, North Carolina: lumber mill laborer Branch Sanders, 50; wife Polly, 38; sons Isaah 17, and Benjamin, 16, both Lumber mill laborers, Paul B., 11, Marcus H., 9, and Richard T., 6; plus five boarders, all lumber mill laborers.

In the 1920 census of Dry Well township, Nash County: on Opossum Road, lumber mill engineer Branch Sanders, 60; wife Polly, 42; and sons Bennie, 24, and Mark, 18, both lumber mill laborers, Richard, 16, and Nathaniel, 6.

On 30 October 1927, Bennie Sanders, 30, of Wilson, son of Branch and Pollie Sanders, married Nannie Farmer, 36, of Wilson, daughter of Tom and Senora Farmer. Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the service in the presence of Vicia Thompson, Lula Bunn and Janie Diamonds, all of Wilson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 916 Washington Street, owned and valued at $2500, body plant laborer Benjamin Saunders, 36; wife Mamie, 43; father Branch, 71; and brother Nathaniel, 16.

In 1940, Nathaniel Saunders registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 2 December 1914 in Middlesex, North Carolina; resided at 102 North East Street, Wilson; his contact was Mrs. Nathaniel Saunders; and he worked for T.A. Loving Company, Goldsboro, North Carolina.