Signatures, no. 2.

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 second 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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  • Kernel Morris Jones (1851-??), 1877, from file of the estate of Milly Jones.

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  • Dr. William A. Mitchner (1882-1941), 1930, from the death certificate of Charles Barnes of Wilson.

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  • Undertaker Columbus E. Artis (1886-1973), 1930, from the death certificate of Fabie [Fereby] Artis of Wilson.

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  • Dr. Matthew S. Gilliam (1885-1932), 1930, from the death certificate of Fabie [Fereby] Artis of Wilson.

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Della Barnes Thomas.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 October 1951.

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In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Wright Barnes, 31; and wife Jane, 29; and children Henryetta, 11, Susan, 9, Della, 8, William W., 7, Mattie, 5, and John R., 4 months.

On 10 June 1893, Tommy Thomas, 26, married Della Barnes, 20, at Martha Winstead‘s in Wilson township. Free Will Baptist minister Daniel Blount performed the ceremony in the presence of Julia Blount, Albert Winstead and Giney Winstead.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Finch Mill Road, farmer Thomas Thomas, 44; wife Della, 31; and children Joseph, 14, Fred, 6, Lizzie, 3, and Ida, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 211 Walnut Street, rented for $12/month, Tom Thomas, 63; wife Della, 40; and children Ida, 21, Larrie, 19, George, 17, and Jessie W., 15.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 604 Warren Street, Tom Thomas, 74; wife Della, 69; and son Jessie, 24, who worked in a tobacco factory machine room.

In 1942, Jessie Wright Thomas registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 7 January 1915 in Wilson; resided at 604 South Warren; his contact was mother, Della Barnes Thomas; and he worked for Southern Tobacco Company, South Tarboro Street, Wilson.

Fred Thomas died 25 December 1945 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 March 1905 in Wilson County to Thomas Thompson [sic] and Della Barnes; worked as a laborer; and resided at 604 South Warren.

Della Thomas died 14 October 1951 at her home at 604 South Warren Street. Per her death certificate, she was 79 years old; was born in Wilson County to Thomas Thomas [sic] and Jane Barnes; and was a widow. Jessie Thomas was informant.

W. Alfred Boykin house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“This fine early nineteenth-century house [near Sims] was probably built between 1830 and 1840 for William Alfred Boykin, one of Wilson’s first commissioners. Boykin was born in 1814 in what was then Nash County. He was a son of Hardy Boykin Jr. and acted as the administrator of his father’s estate in 1837. Boykin married Elizabeth Barnes of Black Creek in 1832, and this house was probably erected shortly after their marriage. … The house, as it stands today, is a rare example of pre-Civil War architecture in Wilson County. As the home of an affluent farmer, the Boykin House reflects the life style of this influential and civic-minded man. On the exterior, the simple gable-roof house is enriched by two bands of dentils and scalloped wooden trim. The shed porch is enclosed at each end by sleeping rooms and the subtle peak of the porch ceiling above the two panelled front doors has a decorative effect.”

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In the 1860 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Alfred Boykin, 45, farmer; wife Elizabeth, 48; and children Temperance, 27, Patience, 19, Hardy, 17, Mahala, 15, Alfred B., 14, Sarah and Lenora, 11, Martha, 6, Addison, 6, and Lerozah, 7 months. Boykin listed $4910 in real property and $4800 in personal property. His personal property, per the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, included 4 enslaved girls and women ranging from 6 to 26 years old and one enslaved boy, age 8.

Mary Euell and Dr. Du Bois.

To my astonished delight, historian David Cecelski cited to my recent post on Mary C. Euell and the school boycott — and shouted out Black Wide-Awake — today.  In a piece dedicated to Glenda Gilmore on the occasion of her retirement, Cecelski describes a letter from Euell to W.E.B. Du Bois he found among Du Bois’ papers, collected at and digitized by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Researching the letter’s context led him to Black Wide-Awake,  and he penned a warm and gracious thanks for my research.

Euell wrote the letter from her home at 135 Pender Street on 22 April 1918, not two weeks after leading  her colleagues in a walkout. She made reference to Du Bois’ letter of the 18th and promised to send “full details of [her] trouble here in Wilson,” including newspaper clippings and photographs. Though no follow-up correspondence from Euell is found in the collection, there is a newspaper clipping sent April 12 by Dr. A.M. Rivera, a dentist and N.A.A.C.P. leader from Greensboro, North Carolina. (Coincidentally, Dr. Rivera’s office was in the Suggs Building.)

Greensboro Daily News, 12 April 1918.

(The collection also contains a brief letter from Mrs. O.N. Freeman [Willie Hendley Freeman] referring to an enclosed a 7 August 1920 Wilson Daily Times article and noting “this might interest you or be of some value to some one as I know your sentiments by reading the Crisis.” I have not been able to locate the article in online databases and do not know whether it related to the on-going boycott.)

308 North Pender Street.

The sixty-fourth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1908; 1 story; two shotguns joined together to form a duplex with unifying hip-roofed, turned-post porch; house appears in 1908 bird’s-eye view of Wilson.”

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In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Artis Columbus E propr[ietor] The Delicatessen h 308 Pender

In the 1925 Wilson city directory: Artis Columbus E (A & Flanagan) h 308 Pender

In the 1928 Wilson city directory: Artis Columbus E (c; Ada D), undtkr 571 E Nash and prop[rietor] Smith’s Filling Sta h 308 Pender.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Artis Columbus E (c) (Ada D), undrtkr 571 E Nash h 308 Pender

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County:  at 308 Pender Street, valued at $4000, Columbus Artis, a merchant/undertaker, wife Ida, and niece Gladys Adams.

In the 1940 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cox Leslie (c; Mary) h 308 Pender

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 308 Pender, rented for $16/month, Leslie H. Cox., 58; wife Mary, 53; and Nancy, 26, Florence, 20, both household servants, Leslie Jr., 18, hotel bellhop, David, 16, and Ardelia, 15, and grandson June Lee, 9.

In 1942, Leslie Robert Cox registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 8 August 1921 in Wilson, N.C.; his address was 308 Pender Street; his contact person was Mary Cox, 308 Pender; and he worked at the Briggs Hotel, East Nash Street, Wilson.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cox Leslie H (c) carp h 308 Pender and Cox Nancy (c) maid h 308 Pender.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2018.

Snaps, no. 21: Charles William Hagans.

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Charles Hagans

Charles William Hagans (1883-1949), son of Lawrence and Mary Etta Pender Hagans.

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In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Larnce Haggan, 49, wife Etha, 44, and children Joe, 21, Augustus, 19, Oscar, 18, Charlie, 16, Annie, 13, Connie, 10, Lena, 8, Mollie, 7, William L., 4, Minnie, 3, and Pattie, 1, and Lawrence’s widowed mother Alice Hagans, 70.

In the 1920 census of Beaver Falls, Beaver County, Pennsylvania: at 1315 Seventh Avenue, Charles Hagen, 35, self-employed barber; wife Gertrude, 36; lodger London Broady, 32, barber; and nephew Raymond Hartzell, 30, garage mechanic. Charles was born in North Carolina; Gertrude and Raymond in Ohio; and London in Virginia.

Report to the 1920 census notwithstanding, C. William Hagans and Amanda G. Nichols were not married until 25 January 1921, when they wed in Summit County. Ohio. Per their marriage license, Hagans was born 9 April 1884 in Wilson County, N.C., to Lawrence Hagans and Mary Gray; worked as a barber; and lived at 28 Arch Street, Barberton, Ohio. Amanda G. Nichols was born 23 November 1883 in Chillicothe, Ohio, to Robert R. Hackley and Julia Adams, and had been married once before.

In 1921, Gertrude Hagans purchased an ad in The Tiger, the Beaver Falls High School yearbook:

On 1 July 1927, Charles W. Hagans was sentenced to serve one year in the Allegheny County Workhouse on a conviction for unspecified liquor law violations. A register shows that he reported 7 July 1927; was 43 years old; was born in North Carolina; was of medium complexion with black hair and brown eyes; was 5’8″, weighed 160 pounds at entry at 174 at release; was a barber (and worked as same while incarcerated); and was a Methodist. He was released early — on 30 April 1928.

In the 1930 census of Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan: at 148 Roseneath, rented for $35/month, barber Charles W. Hagans, 45, born in North Carolina; wife Gertrude M., 46, born in Ohio; and lodgers John Young, 30, drugstore porter, born in Pennsylvania; and Harry Godbolt, 46, barber, born in South Carolina.

In the 1940 census of Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan:  at 101 Glenurban Avenue, barber Charles W. Hagans, 56, born in North Carolina; wife Gertrude, 56, born in Ohio; and lodgers Taswell Buckner, 50, insect and rodent exterminator, born in Alabama, and Harry Godbolt, 55, laborer on city streets, born in South Carolina.

In 1942, Charles William Hagans registered for the World War II draft in Calhoun County, Michigan. Per his registration card, he was born 9 April 1884 in Wilson County, North Carolina; resided at 36 North Wood, Battle Creek, Calhoun County; and his contact and employer was George Anderson, 56 1/2 Capital S.W., Battle Creek.

Charles W. Hagans died 11 November 1943 in Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan. Per his death certificate, he was born 9 April 1884 in Wilson, North Carolina, to Lawrence W. Hagans.

Gertrude Marie Hagans died 5 October 1948 in Battle Creek. Per her death certificate, she was born 1891 in Chillicithe, Ohio, to James Hockley.

Charles and Gertrude Hagans are buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.

Photos courtesy of Ancestry.com user TeiaHarper1; U.S. School Yearbooks, 1900-1990, database on-line at Ancestry.com; Allegheny County Workhouse, Pennsylvania Prison, Reformatory and Workhouse Records, 1829-1971, database on-line at Ancestry.com.

Signatures, no. 1.

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 first 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. One grew to adulthood in slavery, the others were born in the two decades after Emancipation.

  • Sara Elizabeth Sherard Coley (1883-1926), 1926, from the application for letters of administration for the estate of her husband, Rufus Coley.

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  • Bettie Boykin, 1899, from a deposition in the widow’s pension application file of Malinda Hinnant.

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  • Spicey Jane Atkinson Barnes (ca. 1884-1925), 1899, from a deposition in the widow’s pension application file of Malinda Hinnant.

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  • Dennis Brooks (ca. 1867-??), 1904, from a sworn statement in the coroner’s inquest re George Williford.

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  • Mary Ann Hines Boddie Wilkins (ca. 1875-??), 1915, from the estate file of Reddin S. Wilkins.

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  • Ishmael Wilder (1836-1917), 1882, from the application for letters of administration for the estate of Spicy Adams.

 

The end of the Red Hots?

In 1938, the city of Wilson professionalized its firefighting operations, converting the white volunteer department to semi-paid status. The Daily Times originally reported that the black volunteer organization, the Red Hots, would be abolished, but here clarified that, while they were being retired from active service, they would continue to send representatives to competitions and state conventions and would be called upon in emergencies.  

Wilson Daily Times, 14 July 1938.

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  • Ben Mincey
  • George Coppedge — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason George Coppedge, 34; wife Mittie, 34; and children George Jr., 4, and Elenora, 2.
  • Aaron Best — William Aaron Best died 21 August 1949 at his home at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 September 1900 in Wilson County to Aaron Best and Nannie Best; was a widower; and had been a laborer at Export Tobacco Company. Audrey Best was informant.
  • Ambrose Floyd — in 1942, Ambrose Floyd registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1901 in Lumberton, North Carolina; resided at 1214 East Nash Street; his contact was Clara Smith; and he was employed by Gary Fulghum, 901 Branch Street, United States Post Office.
  • W.J. Howell
  • Henry Sauls — in 1942, Henry Sauls registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 February 1898 in Black Creek; resided at 21 Carolina Street (mailing address 1114 Carolina Street); his contact was Hattie Davis, 19 Carolina Street; and he worked for W.T. Clark Jr., 1415 West Nash Street, Barnes Street tobacco factory.
  • Louis Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green Street, carpenter Louis Thomas, 53; wife Lillie, 33; and children Louis Jr., 16, Charlie H., 14, and Van Jewel, 12.