Women

Midwives and granny women.

Forty-three Wilson County midwives (41 black) met with state health officials to receive training. Wilson Daily Times, 17 June 1921.

Well into the 20th century, most babies in Wilson County were delivered by midwives, whose ranks were overwhelmingly comprised of African-American women. Here is a running list of them:

  • Rachel Armstrong Allen
  • Phereby Barnes Artis
  • Violet Barnes Barnes — in the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Benjamen Barnes, 52; wife Vilet, 54, midwife; and Elvy, 10, Ailcey, 7, and Spicey, 6.
  • Nannie Best — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Best Nannie midwife, h 332 S Lodge
  • Nancy Staton Boykin
  • Sarah Dawes Bunn
  • Charlotte Bynum — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bynum Charlotte, midwife 553 E Nash
  • Bertha Cade — in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cade Bertha midwife, h 412 E Walnut
  • Lucy Sorsby Dail — Lucy Dail died 15 March 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was born in Nash County to Nelson Salisbury and Carolina Cooper; was the widow of Jos. Dail; lived at 519 South Spring; and had been a midwife. Mary Proctor was informant.
  • Viney Drake
  • Mary Fuller
  • Mariah Battle Gaston
  • Maria Hicks — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Owens Smith, 49, minister; wife Adora, 30; son Jesse, 19; daughter Flossie, 4; widowed mother Maria Hicks, 78, a midwife; and boarder Carry Pettiford, a widowed teacher.
  • Fortune Hilliard
  • Nannie Kirby — Per death certificate, Kirby attended the stillbirth of Joseph Kent, son of Charlie and Victory Kent, on 6 October 1930 in Springhill township.
  • Anna Johnson — Per death certificate, Johnson attended the premature birth of Olive Frances Hannah, daughter of Lemore Hannah and Almeda Morgan, who was born 21 November 1930 and died 28 December 1930 in Wilson.

  • Olive Lindsey — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, Richard Lindsey, 51, mechanic; Olive, 42, midwife; and sons Richard, 14, Henry, 11, and Austin, 23, a drayman.
  • Mary Miller — in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Miller Mary, midwife h 405 N Pine
  • Charlotte Minor — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Minor Charlotte midwife, h 121 Manchester
  • Susan Mitchell — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Susiana Mitchel, 65, a “grannie,” and son Edd, 33, a barber. [A “granny-woman” was a midwife.]
  • Etta Plummer — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Plummer Etta midwife, h 1104 Wainwright Av
  • Cherry Rogers — in the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Watson Stanton, 65, wife Rosa, 53, children Richard, 15, Adeline, 13, Feribee, 8, and Louisa, 21; midwife Cherry Rogers, 80; and Hardy Barnes, 20.
  • Isabella Samuel — in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Samuel Isabella midwife, 509 Church [residence ditto]
  • Caroline Williamson Vick
  • Mittie Wood — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wood Mittie midwife, h 701 Railroad
  • Eliza Woodard — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Woodard Eliza midwife, h 1109 Woodard Av

1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, page 65.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 October 1921.

Sankofa: remembering Marie Everett.

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For hundreds of years, the Akan of Ghana and Ivory Coast have used symbols, called adinkra, as visual representations of concepts and aphorisms. Sankofa is often illustrated as a bird looking over its back. Sankofa means, literally, “go back and get it.” Black Wide Awake exists to do just that.

I had never heard of Marie Everett until I read Charles W. McKinney’s excellent Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina. I’m not sure how it is possible that her struggle was so quickly forgotten in Wilson. However, it is never too late to reclaim one’s history. To go back and get it.  So, here is the story of the fight for justice for Everett — a small victory that sent a big message to Wilson’s black community and likely a shudder of premonition through its white one:

On 6 October 1945, 15 year-old Marie Everett took in a movie at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Wilson. (The Carolina admitted black patrons to its balcony.) As Everett stood with friend Julia Armstrong at the concession stand, a cashier yelled at her to get in line. Everett responded that she was not in line and, on the way back to her seat, stuck out her tongue. According to a witness, the cashier grabbed Everett, slapped her and began to choke her. Everett fought back. Somebody called the police, and Everett was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. The next day in court, Everett’s charge was upgraded to simple assault. Though this misdemeanor carried a maximum thirty-day sentence and fifty-dollar fine, finding her guilty, the judge upped Everett’s time to three months in county jail. As Wilson’s black elite fretted and dragged their feet, the town’s tiny NAACP chapter swung into action, securing a white lawyer from nearby Tarboro and notifying the national office. In the meantime, Everett was remanded to jail to await a hearing on her appeal. There she sat for four months (though her original sentence had expired) until a court date. Wilson County appointed two attorneys to the prosecution, and one opened with a statement to the jury that the case would “show the niggers that the war is over.” Everett was convicted anew, and Judge C.W. Harris, astonishingly, increased her sentence from three to six months, to be served — even more astonishingly — at the women’s prison in Raleigh. (In other words, hard time.) Everett was a minor, though, and the prison refused to admit her. Branch secretary Argie Evans Allen of the Wilson NAACP jumped in again to send word to Thurgood Marshall, head of the organization’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Marshall engaged M. Hugh Thompson, a black lawyer in Durham, who alerted state officials to the shenanigans playing out in Wilson. After intervention by the State Commissioner of Paroles and Governor R. Gregg Cherry, Everett walked out of jail on March 18. She had missed nearly five months of her freshman year of high school.

The Wilson Daily Times, as was its wont, gave Everett’s story short-shrift. However, the Norfolk Journal & Guide, an African-American newspaper serving Tidewater Virginia, stood in the gap. (Contrary to the article’s speculation, there was already a NAACP branch on the ground in Wilson, and it should have been credited with taking bold action to free Everett.)

Norfolk Journal & Guide, 23 March 1946.

Sankofa bird, brass goldweight, 19th century, British Museum.org. For more about the Carolina Theatre, including blueprints showing its separate entrance and ticket booth for African-Americans, see here.

Studio shots, no. 107: Polly Boykin Deans.

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Polly Boykin Deans (1883-1962).

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In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Kisseah Boykin, 41; children Polly, 19, James, 18, John, 16, and Charley, 9; and niece Nannie Potts, 10.

Ernest Deans, 25, of Taylors township, son of Alfred Rice and Amanda Deans, married Polly Boykin, 22, of Taylors township, daughter of Joe Boykin and Kissy Boykin. Hilliard Ellis Jr. applied for the license, and a justice of the peace performed the ceremony in Wilson.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson & Raleigh Road, farmer James E. Deans, 33; wife Pollie, 29; and children James T., 6, and John H., 3.

In the 1920 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farmer Earnest Deans, 43; wife Pollie, 39, and children Tommie, 15, Johnnie, 13, Clarence, 10, Naomi, 9, and Clenon, 5.

Clarence Deans died 10 March 1926 in Crossroads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 August 1907 in Wilson County to Earnest Deans and Pollie Boykin; was single; and was a tenant farmer for E.B. Capps.

In the 1940 census of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland: Sarah Powell, 50, widow; her daughters Ruth, 19, and Anna Powell, 16; and niece Polly Deans, 55, widow. All had lived in Wilson, North Carolina, in 1935, and Sarah and Polly worked as domestic servants.

Clinton Earnest Deanes registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 12 October 1914 in Wilson County; he resided in Baltimore, Maryland; his contact was Polly Deanes; and he was employed by U.S. Construction Company.

Polly Deans died 24 March 1962 in Crossroads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 July 1883 in Wilson County to Joseph Barnes [sic] and Kizzie Barnes and was widowed. Informant was Johnnie Deans. She was buried in Rocky Branch cemetery.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user jmt1946808.

Studio shots, no. 106: Nina F. Hardy.

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Nina F. Hardy (1882-1969).

A native of Duplin County, North Carolina, Nina Frances Faison Kornegay Hardy migrated to Wilson in the first decade of the twentieth century. She worked for decades as maid and cook for Jefferson and Annie Applewhite Farrior and for William D.P. Sharpe Jr. This photo booth portrait was probably made in the 1940s.

The last will and testament of Rosa Hussey.

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  • Rosa Hussey — Rosa Hussey died 13 June 1947 at her home at 707 East Nash Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 July 1904 in Wilson to Willie Hussey and Florence Hooks, both of Mount Olive, North Carolina; she was single; and she worked as a tobacco factory laborer. Informant was Francis Wynn Lane of Mount Olive. She was buried at Rountree cemetery.
  • Mary Francis Lane
  • Thad Dennis Lane
  • Francis Lane

Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The obituary of Pernelpa “Neppie” Battle Maryland — centenarian?

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News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 26 August 1919.

It seems unlikely that Pernelpa (or Penelope) Battle Maryland was actually 106, or even 100, at the time of her death. Earliest records show that she was born about 1840. (Further, her father Primas Battle, per census records, was born about 1812 — just a year before her alleged birth year.) A resident of Rocky Mount most of her life, Neppie Maryland was living with son John Maryland Jr.‘s family near Elm City in Wilson County at the time of her death.

——

In the 1870 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: John Maryland, 47; wife Penelope, 30; and children Sidney, 13, Henry, 12, Maron, 10, Noah, 8, Haywood 6, Scoffield 4, and Walter, 1.

In the 1880 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: farmer John Maryland, 58, born in Maryland; wife Melvel, 40; and children Haywood, 17, who was deaf; Schofield, 16; Walter, 10; Mary, 9; John, 7; Hattie, 6; Primas, 4; and Jonas, 2.

In the 1900 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: day laborer John Marland, 77, born in Maryland; wife Pernelope, 67; and Jonas, 19, Claud, 12, and Jesse Marland, 7.

Walter Maryland died 20 August 1917 in Sharpsburg, Edgecombe County. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 May 1868 in Edgecombe County to John Maryland and Pernelphia Battle; was married; and was a tenant farmer.

Pernelpa Maryland died 20 August 1919 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1813 in Edgecombe County to Prymas Battle and Mary Battle, both of Edgecombe County. Informant was George Wright of Sharpsburg, N.C. She was buried in Nash County.

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Haywood Maryland died 8 April 1923 in Rocky Mount, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was 71 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to John Maryland of Maryland and Panella Battle of Edgecombe County; was a carpentry laborer; was married to Tarnettia Maryland; and lived at 800 South Church Street, Rocky Mount.

Sida [Sidney] Jones died 27 June 1936 at Douglass Farm in Township No. 11, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was 80 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Albert Grant and Neppie Maryland and was a widow. Turner Battle of Rocky Mount was informant.

Primus Maryland died 13 May 1959 in Norfolk, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 May 1885 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to John Maryland and Penelope Maryland; was retired from Norfolk & Western Railroad; and was never married.

Division of lots in Stantonsburg.

Brothers William M. Artis and Walter S. Artis were primarily residents of the Eureka area of northeast Wayne County, but owned property in Wilson County. (As did their siblings Cain Artis, June S. Artis, Columbus E. Artis, Josephine Artis Sherrod and Alberta Artis Cooper.) Walter Artis and wife Hannah E. Forte Artis sued William Artis and wife Etta Diggs Artis for the partition of three lots they jointly owned in the town of Stantonsburg. (Filing suit does not necessarily indicate an adversarial situation. It is simply the mechanism for initiating a legal division.)

In January 1941, a trio of commissioners met to partition the three lots into two more-or-less equal parts:

  • Lot 1 — This 50′ by 150′ lot at the intersection of Broad and Yelverton Streets was allotted to Hannah Artis. [This is odd and interesting. Why Hannah alone, and not to her and Walter jointly? He was alive in 1941, and they were still married.] Because Lot 1 was more valuable than Lot 2, Hannah was to pay William $212.50. Also, William had sixty days to move a small building behind the store on Lot 1 to Lot 2, or it would become Hannah’s property, and the owner of an oil tank buried on Lot 1 had sixty days to move it or to come to terms with Hannah. [The “store” is identified here as the building rented by John Whitley for a blacksmith shop.]
  • Lot 2 — A 100′ by 150′ lot (comprising two lots on a town plat map) adjacent to Lot 1.

Hannah Artis and William Artis split the cost of the proceeding, paying $22.35 each.

The approximate location of the Artis lots at the corner of West Broad and North Yelverton. As in Wilson, Stantonsburg’s African-American community was clustered “across the tracks.” 

William and Etta Diggs and three of their children, circa 1930s.

Deed Book 150, page 315, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson. Photo from personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

The last will and testament of Courtney Goffney.

On 12 October 1914, Dr. William A. Mitchner tendered to the Clerk of Wilson County Superior Court a document purporting to be the last will and testament of Courtney Goffney. Satisfied that the document was authentic, the clerk entered the will into probate.

Goffney’s wishes were simple: (1) erect a suitable marble or granite headstone over the graves of her and her husband William “Billie” Goffney and (2) give all her property, real and personal, to her beloved nephew Sylvester Goffney.

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In the 1870 census of Swift Creek township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: farm laborer Spencer Battle, 55; wife Eda, 49; and Constance, 26, Annie, 7, Mende, 2, Ovia, 24, Corteney, 19, Paul, 16, and George Battle, 14.

On 29 December 1881, William Goffney, 30, married Cortney Battle, 27, in Edgecombe County.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster William Gwaltney [Goffney], 56; wife Courtney, 50; step-son John Bunn, 25, blacksmith; and nephew Sylvester Gwaltney, 6.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, widow Courtney Goffney, 50; Ada Battle, 30(?), graded school teacher; and lodger Sylvester Goffney, 16, factory laborer.

Courtney Goffney died 9 October 1914 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 September 1845 to Spencer and Edia Battle and was a widow. Informant was Constance Battle, Rocky Mount, N.C.

Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Studio shots, no. 104: Winnie Locus Rankin.

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Winnie Locus Rankin (1915-1961).

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Edward Locus, 37; wife Cora, 27; and children Linwood, 10, Maggie, 9, Beulah, 8, Winnie, 6, Chicken, 4, Delphy, 3, John Ed., 1, and Quinton, 6 months.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ed Locus, 47; wife Cora, 35; and children Linward, 20, Maggie, 19, Ula, 18, Winnie, 17, Alma, 16, Redelpha, 13, John E., 11, Clinton, 10, Kenny, 9, Josephine, 7, Easter, 5, Louise, 4, Frank, 3, and Nancy, an infant.

In the 1944 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, city directory: Rankin Herman (Winnie) lab h 319 Calliope

In the 1953 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, city directory: Rankin Herman (c; Winnie) h 319 Calliope

Winnie Lucas Rankin died 19 October 1961 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user samjoyatk.

 

The obituary of Eloise Reavis Peacock.

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 June 1951.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Woodard Street, widow Etta Reavis, 45, tobacco factory worker; children Louise, 18, and James, 6; brother-in-law Fred Reavis, 26, carpenter; his wife Cornelia, 19, and son Ralph, 4. Louise and Cornelia worked as tobacco factory laborers.

On 4 October 1923, Levi H. Peacock Jr., 22, of Wilson, son of Levi and Hannah Peacock, married Elouise Reavis, 20, of Wilson, daughter of Joseph and Etta Reavis, on 4 October 1922 in Wilson. W.A. Mitchner applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the ceremony in the presence of John D. Henry, Henrietta Foster and John H. Parris.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 204 Vick Street, hotel bellboy Levi Peacock, 30; wife Elouise, 28, a public school teacher; children Jewel D., 4, and Thomas L., 14; and mother-in-law Etta Reaves, 50, post office maid. [This entry contains serious errors. Jual D. Peacock was a daughter, rather than son, of Levi and Eloise Peacock, and Thomas was in fact just over a year old in 1930.]

Elouise R. Peacock died 15 June 1951 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 July 1906 in Wilson to Etta Fain; was a public school teacher; was married; and resided at 414 North Reid Street. Informant was Jeuetta Anderson.