My mother is not a native of Wilson, but has lived here most of her life — and much longer than I have. My mother taught in rural and city schools before and after integration, was for decades a member of Saint Luke A.M.E., and participates in social and service organizations in the East Wilson community. She is my first go-to for questions about people and places of the Wilson she knows, especially the community she found when she arrived in 1961.
This, of course, is the least of the reasons I treasure her. She sparked (and my father fed) my boundless curiosity, my love of reading, my wanderlust, my appreciation for the road less traveled. I aspire to her kindness and generosity. I credit her with the best in me. I am grateful for her buoyant love. I love her endlessly.
Beverly Allen Henderson, fresh from Wilson Memorial Hospital with my sister Karla, and me, looking a little dazed by it all, 1401 Carolina Street, 1967.
Twenty-five year-old Samuel H. Vick had been teacher and principal at the Colored Graded School since shortly after his graduation from Lincoln University. A year after this graduation, he was appointed by President William H. Harrison to his first stint as Wilson postmaster, a highly sought-after political patronage position. Vick hired his old friend Braswell R. Winstead, with whom he had attended high school and college and taught at the Graded School, as assistant postmaster. Teacher A. Wilson Jones was married to Vick’s sister Nettie Vick Jones — and murdered her in 1897. Annie Washington was about 18 years old when this article was published. She and Samuel Vick married almost exactly four years later.
Nettie Wife of Walter M. Foster Born July 5, 1871 Died July 7, 1912. As a wife, devoted As a mother, affectionate As a friend, ever kind and true.
In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Young, 34; wife Anna, 37; and children Joseph, 5, Jane, 4, John, 2, and George, 5 months.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Young, 45; wife Zelpha Ann, 21; and children Joseph, 15, Nettie, 13, and George, 10.
On 14 August 1896, Walter Foster, 23, son of Peter and Phillis Foster, married Nettie Young, 28, daughter of Henry and Annie Young. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at Lou Ellis‘ house in Wilson in the presence of William Coley, Cora Ellis, and Minnie Coley.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter Foster, 26, day laborer; wife Nettie, 29; daughter Mollie, 6 months.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter Foster, 34, fireman at wagon factory; wife Nettie, 39; and children Henry E., 8, and Walter A., 5; plus boarder Arthur Broady, 22, laborer.
In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Jonah Ellis, 42; wife Precilla, 38; and children Mattie, 11, Benjamin, 9, Dora, 8, Jonah Jr., 6, James, 5, and Caroline, 3.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Jonnie Ellis, 56, farmer; wife Prisilla, 46; and children Mattie, 21, Benjamin, 20, Jannie Jr., 17, Dora, 18, James, 14, Coralin, 13, and Mary, 5.
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Jonnie Ellis, age unknown, farmer; wife Pricilla, 56; daughter Mary, 17; daughter Dora Williamson, 28; grandchildren Fannie, 8, and Oscar, 7; and boarder Marion Edward, 28.
On 2 October 1933, Tom Dawson, 39, of Black Creek, son of James Dawson and Chanie Brooks, married Dora Ellis, 32, of Cross Roads, daughter of Jonie and Priscilla Ellis, in Wilson County.
In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Dawson, 46; wife Dora, 47; children Annie, 4, Dora Lee, 3, Thomas Jr., 1; mother Chanie B., 73, widow; lodger Willie Melton, 30; and stepdaughter Fannie B. Williams, 17, and her child Annie D., 5 months.
Thomas Dawson Sr. died 4 October 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1896 in Wilson County to Pat Faison and Chanie Dawson; was married to Dora Dawson; and was a farm laborer.
The Wilson Normal & Industrial Institute was one of four sites commemorated by historical markers placed by Wilson County Historical Association in 2020. For more about the incident that led to school’s establishment, see here.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Harper Lane, farmer Charlie T. Jones, 52; wife Stella [sic], 49; and children William E., 23, farm laborer, Louise M., 20, and Sadie [sic], 14.
Sudye Jones died 4 February 1937 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was 21 years old; was single; was the daughter of Charles T. Jones and Gertrude Johnson; and was a student at Bennett College. She died of meningitis. Rev. Charles T. Jones, 402 North Vick Street, was informant.
Beulah Artis Exum Best (1909-1972), Helen Carter Greenfield (1916-1994), Margaret Artis Thompson (1910-1981), circa late 1930s.
Beulah and Margaret Artis were daughters of William M. and Etta Diggs Artis, and Helen was the granddaughter of their father’s sister Louvicey Artis Aldridge. Though William M. Artis and family lived primarily just south of Eureka in Wayne County, he owned property a few miles away in Stantonsburg, Wilson County.
Beulah Artis and her first husband, Leslie “Jake” Exum, lived in Wilson from the time they were married in December 1929 until he was killed in July 1934.
When Nellie Bullock Whitehead made out her will on 10 November 1949, she was very clear that only her daughters Anna Whitehead Hagans and Elnora Whitehead Sauls would inherit.
Nellie Bullock Whitehead was a native of Wilson County; her husband John Whitehead was from Georgia. I have not found a marriage license for them, but they lived in Dodge County, Georgia, in 1910, and all their children were born in Georgia. By 1920, they had returned to live in Nellie Whitehead’s home county.
In the 1910 census of Mullis township, Dodge County, Georgia: John Whitehead, 26; wife Nellie, 25; and sons Edmund, 7, and Will. H., 4.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on S.H. Crocker Farm Road, tenant farmer, John Whitehead, 37; wife Nellie, 36; children E.K., 16, William H., 13, Anna V.O., 7, Anna Nula, 5, and J.B., 4; and great-uncle[?] Josh Whitehead.
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Highway 91, express laborer [no first name] Whitehead, 49; wife Ella, 45; and children Anna V., 17, Nora, 16, John, 14, and William, 24. All were born in Georgia except Ella [Nellie], who was born in North Carolina.
John Whitehead died in Wilson on 24 October 1937. Per his death certificate, he was 55 years old; was born in Georgia to Joshua Whitehead and Georgian Melvin; was married to Nellie Whitehead; lived at 1513 Nash Street; and worked as a meat packer.
In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: widow Nellie Whitehead, 56; son J.B., 24, truck driver for a contractor; daughter Anna Hagans, 27, tobacco company stemmer; son-in-law Henry Hagans, 32, town garbage remover; and daughter Elnora Whitehead, 26.
John Baptist Whitehead registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 25 December 1915 in Chester, Georgia; lived at Route 4, Box 39, Wilson; worked for Imperial Tobacco, Barnes Street; and his contact was his mother, Nellie Whitehead.
Nellie B. Whitehead died 27 March 1951 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 August 1884 in Elm City, N.C., to Equia B. Bullock and William Ann Barnes and was a widow. Anna B. Hagans was informant.
Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the resignation of 11 African-American teachers in Wilson, North Carolina, in rebuke of their “high-handed” black principal and the white school superintendent who slapped one of them. In their wake, black parents pulled their children out of the public school en masse and established a private alternative in a building owned by a prominent black businessman. Financed with 25¢-a-week tuition payments and elaborate student musical performances, the Independent School operated for nearly ten years. The school boycott, sparked by African-American women standing at the very intersection of perceived powerless in the Jim Crow South, was an astonishing act of prolonged resistance that unified Wilson’s black toilers and strivers.
The school boycott is largely forgotten in Wilson, and its heroes go unsung. In their honor, today, and every April 9, I publish links to these Black Wide-Awake posts chronicling the walk-out and its aftermath. Please read and share and speak the names of Mary C. Euell and the revolutionary teachers of the Colored Graded School.