State v. Hilliard Barnes and Nancy Baker.

In 1880, Hilliard Barnes and Nancy Baker were charged in Wilson County Superior Court with fornication and adultery. Edwin Barnes agreed to post bond with Hilliard Barnes, and Wright Newsome and Gray White were called as witnesses to the relationship.

Hilliard Barnes, 30, married Nancy Baker, 25, on 16 February 1880 [within weeks of their summons into court.] In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Hilliard Barnes, 30; wife Nancy, 28; and Edmund Taborne, 3.

  • Hilliard Barnes — Hilliard Barnes died 6 January 1944 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was about 100 years old; was born in Wilson County to Gray Barnes and Bernie Barnes; lived at 705 Woodard Line; and was married to Fannie Barnes, age, 70.
  • Nancy Baker
  • Gray White — in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County, Gray White is listed as a 32 year-old white laborer in the household of Edwin Barnes, below.
  • Wright Newsome — in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County, Wright Newsome, 26, farm laborer; wife Mary, 25; children Walter, 3, Willie, 2, and Puss, 8 months; plus Mary Ellis, 13, farm laborer. [The Newsomes were next-door neighbors of Edwin Barnes and White.]
  • Edwin Barnes — white farmer Edwin Barnes, 62, listed in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County.

Adultery Records-1880, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

A colored jeweler.

By what feat of alchemy did Robert T. Alston convert himself from farmhand to schoolteacher to jeweler and watchmaker?

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 August 1919.

Per the nomination form for the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, Alston-William Building at 552 East Nash Street [once part of Stantonsburg Street]: “Built ca 1920 as a jewelry shop for Robert T. Alston, this plainly finished, one-story brick commercial building was occupied by him until the 1940s. [In fact, Alston died in 1931.] The flat-roofed building as a tile-capped parapet and its original recessed entrance and flanking display windows, but displays no decorative brickwork on the upper facade. The single interior space has been renovated and has a lowered ceiling. since being vacated by Alston, this building has been occupied by Lamm’s Fish Shop, Hill’s Bicycle Shop, Keen’s Seafood Market, and since 1968, by William’s Barber Shop.”


In the 1870 census of Walnut Grove township, Granville County, North Carolina: Aron Alston, 47; wife Rosetta, 48; and children Anna, 15, Haywood, 14, Robert, 12, Sallie, 10, Agnes, 9, Mary J., 4, and John H., 1.

In the 1880 census of Walnut Grove township, Granville County: Aaron Alston, 52; wife Rosetta, 55; and children Robert, 21, Agnes, 18, Thomas, 16, Mary G., 14, and John H., 11.

Robert T. Alston, 22, married Julia Wortham, 19, on 16 March 1881 in Walnut Grove township, Granville County.

On 24 January 1899, John Edge, 21, of Edgecombe County, son of Randall and Milly Edge, married Mary Eva Alston, 18, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Robert T. Alston.

In the 1900 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: widower Robert T. Alston, 42, school teacher, and son  John T., 15, farm laborer. In the 1900 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer John Edge, 22, wife Mary, 18, and sister-in-law Carrie Auston, 10.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: laundress Mattie Cory, 35, widow; daughter Evelyn, 9; widower Robert Alston, 63, general repair laborer; and [no first name listed] Albriton, 34, lodger, house carpenter.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) 107 Pender watchmaker

In an undated 1914 newspaper insert “Progressive Colored Citizens of Wilson, N.C.,” Robert T. Alston paid for this ad: “Watches, clocks, jewelry, eye glasses, spectacles, etc. I handle the very best grade of watches, such as the Elgin, Waltham, Illinois, Hampden, and Hamilton. Your credit is good. Yes, I will sell you a watch on the weekly payment plan: that is, ‘So much down and so much each week.’ I do a mail order business also. If you want a watch or other jewelry, write me for terms and order blanks. Now in a few days I shall have a large stock of watches, clocks, etc. on hand. Call to see me or write.”

Mary E. Edge died 13 November 1920 on Coopers township, Nash County. Per her death certificate, she was about 37 years old; was born in Granville County to Robert Alston and Julia Wortham; and was married to John Edge, who was informant.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) jeweler 552 E Nash

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) jeweler and watchmaker 552 E Nash

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) jeweler 552 E Nash

On 16 January 1929, John T. Alston, 43, of Toisnot township, son of R.T. Alston and Julia [no maiden name listed], married Annie Artis, 32, of Taylors township, daughter of Ed and Zanie Artis. A.M.E. Zion minister J.E. Kennedy performed the service in the presence of Chas. S. Thomas, Hugh C. Reid, and Clarence Artis.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) watch repr 552 E Nash h d[itto]

Robert T. Alston died 10 August 1930 in Wilson township. Per his death certificate, he was 72 years old; was born in Granville County, North Carolina, to Aaron Alston and Rosetta Alston; was the widower of Julia Alston; and worked as a jewelry and watchmaker. John T. Alston, Elm City, was informant.

After Alston’s death, his estate defaulted on payment of the mortgage on his Nash Street property, and the trustee advertised its sale.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 April 1933.

Carrie Lindsey died 5 October 1944 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 April 1890 in Granville County to R.T. Alston and Julia Wortham; was the widow of John Lindsey; worked in farming; and was buried at William Chapel. Arthur Lindsey, Elm City, was informant.

John T. Alston died died 3 April 1952 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 March 1889 in Granville County to Robert T. Alston and Charity Worthly; was a farmer; and was married. Informant was Annie Alston.

Their father claimed them.

Don’t let anyone tell you that slavery destroyed the black family. African-Americans struggled against terrible odds to unite sundered families, often standing up to authority in the process.

In June 1866, George W. Blount wrote a letter to the Freedmen’s Bureau on behalf of Josiah D. Jenkins of Edgecombe County. Just months after being forced to free them, Jenkins had indentured eight siblings whose mother had died. Within six months, the children’s family had come for them, and the five oldest had left for more agreeable situations. Sallie, 14, Sookie, 12, and Isabella, 10, were in Wilson County with their elder sister and her husband Willie Bullock. Arden, 16, was working for what appears to be a commercial partnership in Tarboro, and Bethania, 14, was with her and Arden’s father Jonas Jenkins (paternity that Blount pooh-poohed.) Jonas Jenkins had sought custody of his children before their indenture, but his claims had been trumped by a “suitable” white man who “ought” to have them because he had “raised them from infancy” [i.e., held them in slavery since birth] and their mother “died in his own house.”


Wilson No.Ca. June 29 1866

Col. Brady   Col.

Mr. Jo. D. Jenkins of Edgecombe County has been here expecting to see you; but as he did not find you here he requested me to write to you and state his case, asking you to furnish him the remedy if any he is entitled to, and such he believes he has. In Dec 1865, Capt Richards Asst Sup F.B. for the dist of Tarboro, Apprenticed to him Eight (8) Orphan Colored children. The indentures he has, five, and the only ones large enough to render any service have been enticed away from him, leaving him with three who are hardly able to care for the own wants every thing furnished. Three of them are in the custody of Willie Bullock F.M. [freedman] whose wife is the older sister of the three. The others – Arden is in the employment of Messrs. Haskell & Knap near Tarboro. Bethania is in the custody of Jonas Jenkins F.M., who claims to be the father of both of her & Arden. The three first mentioned are in Wilson County the others in Edgecombe.

Mr. Jenkins desires me to say to you that if he cannot be secured in the possession of them he desires the indentures cancelled; for according to law he would be liable for Doctors bills – and to take care of them in case of an accident rendering them unable to take care of themselves.

This man Jonas set up claim to Arden and Bethania before they were apprenticed. The matter was referred to Col Whittlesey who decided that as they were bastard children he Jonas could not intervene preventing apprenticeship to a suitable person.

Mr. J is a suitable man to have charge of them and ought to have their services now. He raised them from infancy, and after the mother died in his own house

I am Col,                       Very Respectfully &c, G.W. Blount

An early reply desired.

A note from the file listing the Jenkins children to which Josiah D. Jenkins laid claim.


Entry for Josiah D. Jenkins in the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County. By 1860, Jenkins claimed ownership of 36 people, evenly divided between men and women. 

  • G.W. Blount — A year later, George W. Blount was embroiled in his own battle for control over formerly enslaved children. He lost.
  • Jo. D. Jenkins — Joseph [Josiah] D. Jenkins appears in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, as a 59 year-old farmer who reported $25,000 in real property and $15,000 in personal property — remarkable wealth so soon after the Civil War. John Jenkins, 10, domestic servant, is the only black child living in his household and presumably of the one of the children at issue here.
  • Bethania Jenkins — on 7 April 1874, Turner Bullock, 23, married Bethany Jenkins, 21, in Edgecombe County.
  • Willie Bullock
  • Arden Jenkins
  • Sallie Jenkins
  • Sookie Jenkins
  • Isabella Jenkins — Isabella Jenkins, 22, married Franklin Stancil, 30, on 16 April 1878 at Jackson Jenkins’ in Edgecombe County. Isabelle Stancill died 19 November 1927 in Township No. 2, Edgecombe County,. Per her death certificate, she was about 80 years old; was born in Edgecombe County; was the widow of Frank Stancill; and was buried in Jenkins cemetery. Elliott Stancill was informant,
  • Jonas Jenkins — in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, Jonas Jenkins, 45, farm laborer. No children are listed in the household he shared with white farmer John E. Baker.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Rocky Mount (assistant superintendent), Roll 55, Letters Received Dec 1865-Aug 1868,

Black Wide-Awake turns 4.

Dear Reader,

Today marks the 4th anniversary — and 2216th post — of Black Wide-Awake.

This blog was to be the first of at least three location-specific sites into which I would pour all the “extra” that I uncovered in the course of my genealogical research. All the court records and photographs and newspaper clippings that did not pertain directly to my people, but documented the lives of the people who built and nurtured (or disrupted) the communities in which they lived.

I started with Wilson and, despite my best and oft-uttered intentions to curate similar blogs for Wayne and Iredell Counties, my grandmothers’ home counties, I’ve never moved beyond. Somewhere along the way I realized that though I’m no longer in Wilson, I’ve never been more of her, and my deep, deep knowledge of this people and this place are critical to making the most of the material I uncover. Gazing at the palimpsest that is African-American Wilson, I’m able to read both the smudged original text and the layers upon layers inscribed upon it over the last 150 years. Wilson is my wheelhouse, and I’ll continue to cast down my bucket here.

Thanks so much for your support and suggestions over these four years. So many of you have been generous with your time and tips and have shined lights in corners in which my ignorance lay thick. (By the way, if you’ve got pre-1950 photos or other artifacts that you’re willing to share, I’d love to research and feature them!)

Thanks also to those who’ve let me know when a post has touched them. Black Wide-Awake‘s raison d’etre is to connect us with rare material evidence of our ancestors’ lives. It’s an intervention. A ministry.

A couple of days ago I thought to ask Regina Carter Garcia, a fellow genealogist, via Facebook if Rev. Austin F. Flood is today remembered in Greenville, the city to which he returned after fighting the good fight in Wilson during and just after the Civil War. She assured me that he is and shared my post about Flood’s letter to the Freedmen’s Bureau with Shelton Tucker, another genealogist/history buff. Here’s what happened:

I grinned all day. I’d continue to curate Black Wide-Awake with no audience at all, but I am thrilled when my posts find their people. On to more.

Yours, Carolina Street’s own,

Lisa Y. Henderson

Studio shots, no. 126: Julia Pearl Simms Epps.

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Julia Simms Epps (1914-1981).

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: John Simms, 63, wife Milindy, 54, and children Jenette, 23, Rosetta, 20, Johnnie, 18, Paul, 16, Julia, 13, and Mary, 12.

Charlie Epps, 21, of Edgecombe County, son of Silas and Flossie Epps, married Julia Pearlie Simms, 20, of Edgecombe County, daughter of John and Malinda Simms, on 11 February 1936 in Tarboro, Edgecombe County.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: laborer Charlie Epps, 26; wife Julia, 27; and son Charlie Jr., 4.

In 1940, Charlie Epps registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 May 1914 in Edgecombe County; resided on Route 1, Elm City, Wilson County; his contact was wife Julia Pearl Epps; and his employer was John L. Griffin, Route 1.

Julia Epps Simms died 20 September 1981 in Baldwin, New York.

Photo courtesy of user brianandrewbonner.

Severe whippings for trifling faults.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County }

In the Probate Court Before A. Barnes, Probate Judge, May 8th, A.D. 1871.

George Morris an apprentice by indenture to Thomas White, colored, complaining says:

1st That he was bound by articles of indenture to Thomas White, colored, on the ___ day of _____ 18 ___ by

2nd That the said Thomas White has treated with great cruelty, inflicting upon him severe whippings for trifling faults, especially on the evening of Friday May 5th A.D. 1871 , when he was beaten by the said Thomas White in a most cruel and inhumane manner

Wherefore petitioner humbly asks your Honor that you will by order command the said Thomas White to appear before you at some early day to be named by your Honor to show cause why the articles of indenture above specified should not be cancelled.

George Morris, by Kenan & Durham, his Attorneys


  • George Morris — in the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County, George Morriss, 10, is listed in the household of his mother Eliza Morriss. The family is described as white. [Eliza Morris was the widow of Warren Morris, with whom she appears in the 1850 Johnston County census.] The absence of a color designation behind Morris’ name in this petition can be interpreted as as an indication that he was white, which accords with this census entry.
  • Thomas White — in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Thomas White, 56; wife Charlotte, 56; and Lucy, 14, Reuben, 15, George, 10, and Lucy White, 3. [The apprenticeship of white children by African-American masters was exceedingly rare, and White was surely taking his life in his hands abusing one.]
  • Kenan & Durham — Col. Thomas S. Kenan (1838-1911) settled in Wilson in 1869 and opened a law practice that flourished and lead to a long and influential legal career.

Apprentice Records-1871, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

The Haynes’ estates.

In an undated will, dated perhaps in the early 1860s, William Haynes Sr. of Wilson County penned a will that included a bequest to his wife Nancy Haynes of “one Negro girl Caroline and increase if any.”

On 22 June 1863, P.W. Barnes made an inventory of the estate of Haynes’ son Bythel Haynes. Among the hogs, cows and calves, barrels of corn, fodder, sweet potatoes, bacon, Irish potatoes, hoes, axes, plows, augers, knives, beds, chests, tables, chairs, dishes, pots and skiers, bowls, cups and saucers.saddles, bridles, and baskets was “1 negro girl.

Will of William Haynes, Estate Records of Bythel Haynes, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Snaps, no. 56: John Parks.

1955 Barbette.png

John Parks (1889-1958), in 1955.


Clyde Parks died 1 August 1916. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 March 1915 in Wilson County to John Parks and Emma Barbour.

In 1917, John Parks registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 September 1890 in Wilson; lived at 613 Walnut Street; and worked as a laborer for R.P. Watson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 404 Walnut Street, John Parks, 28, tobacco factory worker; wife Emeline, 26; children Beatrice, 7, John Jr., 6, Ida, 3, and Mark, 1.

Chas. Aster Parks died 23 January 1921 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 22 February 1920 in Wilson to John Parks and Emeline Babbitt and lived at 405 Walnut.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Mercer, owned, John Parks, 59; wife Emeline H., 32; and children Beatrice, 17, John H., 16, Ida D., 13, Helen G., 7, Douglas R., 5, and Mark A., 11.

Emmaline Parks died 5 March 1938 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in August 1898 in Clayton, North Carolina, to Mark Bobbitt and Dora Arrey [Avery]; worked as a laborer; and was married. John Parks was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Walnut, redrying tobacco factory laborer John Parks, 49, widower; and children Beatrice, 27, John Henry, 26, redrying tobacco factory laborer, Ida Doretha, 22, Mark Alexander, 21, odd jobs laborer, Helen Gray, 17, and Douglas Wright, 15; and Fred jr., 9, Vivian Lavonne, 8, and George Randolph Woods, 4.

Mark Alexander Parks registered for the World War II draft in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 30 May 1918 in Wilson; resided at 405 East Walnut; his contact was father John Parks; and he worked for Southern Tobacco Company, South Tarboro Street.

On 4 November 1943, John Parks, 53, son of Ben and Ida Parks, married Maggie Rogers, 43, daughter of Philip and Martha Williams, in Wilson. Baptist minister Charles T. Jones performed the service at 412 North Vick Street in the presence of Charlie Pender, Beatrice Pender and Ruth J. Brown.

John Parks drafted his last will and testament on 11 January 1952. In it, he left all his personal property to be shared evenly among his children John H. Parks, Mark A. Parks, Douglas W. Parks, Beatrice P. Parks, Ida P. Hinnant, and Helen Fleming Parks and his real property to be shared equally by his children subject to use by his wife until she died or remarried.

Johnnie Parks died 12 January 1958 at his home at 405 East Walnut Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 September 1889 in Wilson County to Ben Parks and Ida Davis; was married to Maggie Parks; and worked as a laborer for R.P. Watson Tobacco Company.

John Henry Parks died 23 February 1963 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 November 1913 in Wilson to Johnnie Parks and Maggie [unknown]; and lived at 507 North Carroll Street. Informant was Margaret Parks.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry user Barbette46.