Studio shots, no. 35: Virginia Sharp Pendergrass.

Virginia Sharp Pendergrass (1915-1948).

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 417 Railroad Street, widowed tobacco factory worker Mary Watson, 36, and children Willie, 12, Virginia, 6, Charlie, 4, and Martha, 16.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1113 Woodard Street, tobacco factory stemmer Mary Watson 34, divorced; with children Willie, 18, tobacco factory laborer, Virginia, 17, Charlie, 14, and granddaughter Dorothy, 22 months.

On 17 February 1934, Virginia Watson, 21, of Wilson, daughter of Herbert Watson and Mary Pool, married Leland Pendergrass, 24, of Lake City, South Carolina, son of Rodis Pendergrass and Ella Fulton, in Greensville County, Virginia.

In the 1940 census of Sharpsburg, Rocky Mount township, Nash County: on ACL railroad, Leland Pendergrass, 24, section laborer for railroad company; wife Virginia, 27, hand stemmer at tobacco factory; and children Dorothy, 11, and Robert, 2.

In 1940, Leland Pendergrass registered for the World War II draft in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 127 March 1905 in Kingstree, South Carolina; was married to Virginia Pendergrass; lived in Sharpsburg; and worked at the Atlantic Coastline Shops, Sharpsburg.

Virginia Sharp Pendergrass died 5 November 1948 in Rocky Mount, Nash County. Per her death certificate, she was born 13 June 1915 in Wilson to Walter Sharp and Mary Poole of Wilson County; was married to Leland Pendergrass; and was buried in Rountree cemetery, Wilson.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user scottywms60.

Studio shots, no. 34: Mary Poole Watson.

Mary Poole Watson (ca. 1888-1973).

Dempsey Pool married Gracie Bynum on 24 December 1874 in Edgecombe County.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: laborer Dempsy Pool, 30; wife Gracy, 25; and children James, 30, Easter, 2, and Dempsey, 1.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Dempsey Poole, 50; wife Gracy, 45; and children Easter, 22, Elizebeth, 20, Dempsey Jr., 18, Charlie, 17, Annie, 14, Ella, 13, Mary, 11, Alice, 9, Haly, 8, Minnie, 5, and Richard, 2.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 417 Railroad Street, widowed tobacco factory worker Mary Watson, 36, and children Willie, 12, Virginia, 6, Charlie, 4, and Martha, 16.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1113 Woodard Street, tobacco factory stemmer Mary Watson 34, divorced; with children Willie, 18, tobacco factory laborer, Virginia, 17, Charlie, 14, and granddaughter Dorothy, 22 months.

Gracie Poole died 4 March 1939 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was a widow; was 69 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to James Bynum and Rhodia Bynum; and was a farmer. Annie Knight, Route 1, Wilson, was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Mary Watson, 42, tobacco factory laborer, and children Charlie, 21, Robert (adopted), 2, and Willie, 23, tobacco factory laborer.

In 1940, Charlie Watson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he lived at 413 Murray [Maury] Street; was born 8 November 1914 in Wilson; his contact was mother Mary Watson, 413 Murray [Maury]; and he worked for his mother as a cook.

Mary Poole Watson died 4 June 1973 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 May 1892 to Grace Poole; was a widow; resided at 413 Maury Street; and was a tobacco worker. Informant was Charlie Watson, 411 Maury.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user scottywms60.

Receipt for negro slaves.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 January 1950.

This brief article appeared in a edition of the Daily Times celebrating Wilson’s centennial. It possibly raises more questions than it sheds light:

  • Did this transaction take place in Wilson County? Burket Barnes and Jethro Aycock appear in Wayne County census records after Wilson County’s 1855 creation.
  • How many enslaved people did Barnes sell to Aycock? The $3400 sale price suggests several. (And why did the Daily Times see fit to omit their names in 1950?)
  • Does the last paragraph relate to the receipt?
  • “One of the negro slaves of the township”? I assume the township is Wilson township, and the reference is to formerly enslaved people.
  • Wiggins Mill was a grist mill on Contentnea Creek, and the modern dam and reservoir can be seen from U.S. 301 South.
  • Who was “Aunt Sylvia“? The 1940 census of Wilson County reveals only one African-American woman named Sylvia in Wilson township old enough to have been enslaved, and barely. Sylvia Jones‘ age was estimated as 75, which yields an 1865 birth year. However, Jones noted that she had lived in Edgecombe County just five years earlier, and in the 1930 census she was living in Toisnot township. And only 50 years old.


Contributions to Mercy, part 1.

On 30 January 1947, the Wilson Daily Times published a lengthy list of contributors to the fundraising drive of the Mercy Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. The list, reproduced here in five parts, included many of black Wilson’s leading individuals, businesses and institutions.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 January 1947.

  • Dr. Badie T. Clark — Clark Badie T (Margt S) phys Carolina General Hosp home 607 Raleigh Rd
  • B.O. Barnes — Barnes Boisey O (c; Flossie H) physician 525 1/2 E Nash h 613 E Green
  • Doris Parks — Parks Doris L (c) case war County Bd of Charities & Public Welfare h 604 Green
  • William Hines — Hines Wm M (c; Ethel L) barber h 615 E Green
  • Anna J. JohnsonJohnson Robt Rev (c; Anna) pastor St Marks Episcopal Church h 1111 Washington
  • Norma Darden — Norma Duncan Darden. Darden Norma E Mrs (c) v-pres Darden Mutual Burial Assn h 108 Pender
  • Ethel L. Hines — Ethel L. Cornwell Hines.

All annotations, some edited for clarity, are entries in Hill’s Wilson City Directory 1947-48.

Saint Rose honors its elders.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 August 1980.

  • Ida Barnes Ross

On 7 October 1914, Will Ross, 33, of Norfolk, Virginia, married Ida Barnes, 26, at Silas Barnes’ house in Wilson County in the presence of Silas Barnes, Sam Sharp and Jim Rountree.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 806 Robeson Street, widow Ida Ross, 53, tobacco factory laborer, and son Silas Ross, 9.

Ida Barnes Ross died 4 July 1985 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 21 February 1897 [actually, about 1886] in Wilson County to Silas Barnes and Mary Athy; was a widow; and resided at 1318 Atlantic Street. Silas Ross of Jersey City, New Jersey, was informant.

  • Narcissus Battle Moses

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 603 Warren Street, Elsie Battle, 49, widowed laundress; daughter Narcissus Moses, 30, laundress; and roomer Lewis Carter, 23.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 913 1/2 Mercer Street; Narcissus Moses, 35, servant, divorced; mother Elsie B., 70, widow; and Darthy Curry, 26, cook.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 917 South Mercer, Narcissus Moses, 51; cousin Effie Read, 38; and adopted child Jerome Wallace Lassiter, 9.

Narcissus Moses died 1 August 1983 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 March 1882 in Nash County to Elsie Battle; resided at 705 Suggs Street; was a widow; had worked as a laborer; and was buried at Williams Chapel cemetery. Effie Battle, niece, of 705 Suggs was informant.

A marriage in Boston.

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On 10 February 1892 in Boston, Massachusetts, Abbie G. Holloway, 21, of New York City, born in Wilson, North Carolina, to John and Amanda Holloway, married John A. McLeod, 24, waiter, of Boston, born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to John and Ruth McLeod. The ceremony was performed by Rev. John A. Hughes at People’s Temple Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston’s South End.


In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Edward Holloway, 39; wife Harriet, 44; and children Lewis, 20, Abigail, 11, James S., 6, and Milly, 3. [Is this Abbie G. Holloway? The family was in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County, in the 1870 census.]

In the 1900 census of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts: on Village Street, John McLeod, 33, porter, and wife Abbie, 28, headed a household of thirteen African-American men and women lodgers working primarily as waiters and porters.

The McLeods appear in more than a dozen Boston city directories between 1904 and 1925. By 1904, they were living at 10 Clarendon Street, apparently over the laundry in which they worked. By 1911, they were living at 19 Newborn in Roxbury, while still working at 10 Clarendon as laundress and laundryman. In 1914, Mrs. Abbie McLeod was listed with two workplaces, People’s Hand Laundry at 10 Clarendon and Edison Hand Laundry at 24 Yarmouth. By 1920, the McLeods were working at Edison only. [24 Yarmouth Street, by the way, is four-story brownstone now divided into five condominiums valued at $750.000 and up.]

Per a Massachusetts Death Index digitized at http://www.ancestry.com, Abigail Halloway McLeod died in 1925.

Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston; United Methodist Church Records, 1787–1922, Baptism, Marriage, and Death Registers, New England Methodist Church Commission on Archives and History, Boston School of Theology Library; both digitized at http://www.ancestry.com.

Snaps, no. 18: Tenner Anderson Pleasant.

The 1960 Panther’s Paw, the yearbook of all-white Lee Woodard High School in Black Creek, carried this photograph:

The photo changed in the following year’s edition, but the caption was nearly identical — “Aunt Tena” Pleasant keeps our building nice and clean.”:


In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Benjamin Anderson, 33; wife Amanda, 25, farm laborer; and children Johnnie, 11, farm laborer, Tenna, 10, Jonas, 9, Annie, 6, Charlie, 3, and Bettie, 3 months.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, WIlson County: laborer Ben Anderson, 45; [second] wife Jane, 35; and children Elbert, 18, Annie, 13, Charlie, 11, Bettie, 10, and Martha, 8; plus boarder Lafyette Locus, 19.

On 25 August 1910, Walter Pleasant, 26, of Black Creek, son of George Pleasant, married Tena Anderson, 22, of Black Creek, daughter of Ben Anderson, in Black Creek.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: on the road east from Black Creek to Wilson, farmer Walter Pleasant, 36, wife Tenie, 27, farm laborer, and daughter Lillie, 4.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Walter Plesent, 45; wife Tina, 40; and children Lillie, 14, Maud, 9, and Arthur, 7; nephew Robert Best, 14; and widowed aunt Hattie Smith, 60.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Walter Pleasant, 53; wife Tenner, 55, school dormitory cook; father-in-law Ben Anderson, 75; nephew Arthur L. Bennett, 20, farm laborer; niece Maude E. Dunn, 18, cook; and nice Tenner L. Dunn, 13.

Walter Pleasant died 9 January 1945 in Black Creek township, Wilson County, Per his death certificate, he was born 12 October 1883 in Wilson County to George Pleasant of Richmond, Virginia, and Adeline Smith of Edgecombe County. Wife Teenie Pleasant was informant, and he was buried in Black Creek.

Tennie (Tener) Pleasant died 1 February 1962 at her home at 1218 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 April 1891 in WIlson County to Ben Anderson and Mandy Brooks; was a widow; and was buried in Black Creek cemetery. Informant was Tenner Wiggins, 1427 Avenue C, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

First Lieutenant Ruth C. Speight Russell, Tuskegee Army Nurse.

In the spring of 1942, seventeen African-American registered nurses reported to the station hospital at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama to provide care for the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Ruth C. Speight, born in Wilson County, reared in Greene County, and educated at Saint Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, was among them.

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Undated issue of Pittsburgh Courier, probably early 1942.

This bio of Ruth C. Speight appears in the website of the Tuskegee Army Nurses Project:

Captioned “Nurses Abbie Voorhies (Ross), Ruth Speight, Della Rainey (in cockpit) and Mencie Trotter during their flight orientation, a special part of their important duties at Tuskegee Army Air Field. U.S. Air Force Museum,” this photograph appears in Charlie and Ann Cooper’s Tuskegee’s Heroes (1996).

Pittsburgh Courier, 8 July 1944.

Ruth Speight Russell died 14 December 2016 in Albany, New York, at the age of 98. This simple obituary gives no hint of her extraordinary life.


Religious education maker?

This entry appears in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory:

Who was Theodora Percival, and what was a “religious education maker”?

Percival appears her family in the 1900 and 1920 censuses of Greenville, Greenville County, South Carolina. She attended Barber Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, and went to work for the missionary arm of the Presbyterian Church. It apparently was in this capacity that Percival arrived in Wilson in the late 1920s and took a room in the home of William and Ethel Hines, stalwarts of Calvary Presbyterian.

She did not remain in Wilson long.

In the 1930 census of Raleigh, Wake County: Leland S. Cozart, 34; wife Theodora, 29; and roomer Freeman Coley, 21.

In 1932, Leland Cozart accepted a position as the president of Barber Scotia College, a post he held until he retired in 1964.

Theodora Percival Cozart died 19 February 1963 at Barber Scotia College, Concord, Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 February 1897 in South Carolina to Henry Percival and Jennie Thompson; was married to L.S. Covert; resided on West Depot Street at Barber Scotia; and was a housewife. She was buried in Charlotte, N.C.

Pittsburgh Courier, 2 March 1963.

Bessie Taylor Jones Bowden Richardson.

Born in Oxford, North Carolina, Bessie Richardson was brought to Wilson as a housekeeper and cook by Mr. and Mrs. Carl Goerch. After about a year, she went to work for opthalmologist Thomas Blackshear and his wife. “She was with the Blackshears so long until she earned the nickname of Bessie ‘Blackshear’ by many patients, friends and neighbors of the Blackshears.”

Richardson also sewed curtains for homeowners on West Nash Street and cooked [catered?] meals for black businessmen, including Dr. George K. Butterfield, Daniel “Mack” McKeithan and Dr. William M. Mitchner.

She cared for two of her brothers, Wilbur and Leo Taylor, during their last illnesses. Wilbur Taylor worked for many years as a cook at the Ship and Shore Restaurant on West Nash.

Bessie Richardson was a devout Catholic and long-time member of Saint Alphonsus Church. She and her husband, Willie “Skeeter” Bowden, had no children.


  • William R. Bowden, age illegible, of Wilson, married Bessie T. Jones, 34, of Wilson on 15 June 1926. Oscar Reid applied for the license, and J.W. Aiken, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, performed the ceremony at Willie R. Bowden’s home in the presence of Ferdinand Faison, John Sanchas and John Lee Devaughan. Willie Bowden died 5 March 1960 at his home at 203 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 13 November 1901 to Mary Adams; was married to Bessie Bowden; and worked as a laborer. He was buried at William Chapel cemetery, Elm City.

Text adapted from article in and photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).