Snaps, no. 100: Johnnie and Mandy Anderson Spell.

This delightful snapshot of Johnnie and Mandy Anderson Spell was likely taken in the 1970s. 


In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer James O. Spell, 28; wife Martha, 29, farm laborer; and children Marcellus, 8, Johnnie, 7, Rosetta, 5, and Lonnie, 3.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Bud Spell, 50; wife Martha, 48; and children Buck, 16, John, 15, Rosetta, 13, Lonnie, 11, Wilce, 9, May, 8, James, 6, Lena M., 3, Mattie, 2, and Walner, 1.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Anderson, 33; wife Lydia, 35; and children Sylvester, 18, Paul, 10, Manly [Mandy], 8; Virginia, 6; Mary, 3; and John Jr., 3 months.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Bud Spell, 54; wife Martha, 48; and children John, 25, Lonnie, 21, Wiley, 19, Mary L., 17, Jone, 15, Lena M., 14, Mattie, 12, Walter, 10, Daisy, 8, James, 18, Blue, 19, and Ami, 29.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Paul Anderson, 19; mother Lydia, 40; sisters Mandy, 18, Virginia, 16, and Mary, 14; and brothers John, 9, Ben, 6, and Robert L., 2.

On 2 February 1931, Johnnie Spell, 22, of Black Creek, son of Bud and Martha Spell, married Mandy Anderson, 18, of Black Creek, daughter of John and Litty Anderson, at Jonie [Jonah] Barnes‘ residence in Black Creek. “Minister of the Chrisson faith” J.H. Artis performed the ceremony in the presence of Jonie Barnes and F.E. Horn of Black Creek and James Tabrim [Tabron] of Wilson.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Jonny Spell, 35; wife Mandy, 27; and children Robert Lee, 9, Alberta, 4, John Jr., 2, and Mandy D., 4 months.

In 1942, Johnnie Spell registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 6 September 1904 in Wilson County; lived on Route 3, Wilson, Black Creek township, Wilson County, at Mrs. P.L. Woodard’s farm; his contact was Lydia Anderson, Black Creek; and he was employed by Charlie Bass, Route 3, Wilson.

In 1946, Robert Lee Spell registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 3 August 1928 in Wilson County; lived in Stantonsburg, Wilson County; his contact was father Johnnie Spell; and he worked farming with his father on the W.L. Shelton farm, Stantonsburg.

In the 1950 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Johnny Spell, 45; wife Amanda, 39; and children Robert L., 21, Alberta, 14, Johnny Jr., 12, Amanda D., 11, Mary E., 6, Martha L., 5, Roy S., 2, and Charlie G., 2 months.

Liddie Anderson died 3 September 1963 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 October 1896 in Wilson County to Robert Woodard and Linnie Taylor; and lived in Fremont, Wayne County, N.C. Amanda Spell, 204 Reid Street, Wilson, was informant.

Johnnie Spells Sr. died 18 September 1984 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 September 1902 in Wilson County to James Arthur Spells and Martha Harris; was married to Mandie Anderson; and was a tobacco worker. Mandie Spells, 900 East Nash Street, was informant.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 September 1984.

Mandy Anderson Spell died 9 December 2005.

My thanks to Roy S. Spell Jr. for sharing this photo of his grandparents.

State vs. Johnathan P. Locus.

To stave off responsibility for caring for poor women and their children, unwed mothers were regularly brought before justices of the peace to answer sharp questions about their circumstances. 

On 18 December 1866, Aby Anderson admitted to Wilson County justice of the peace John Nichols that she was unmarried and had given birth to a child whose father was Johnathan P. Locus. Nichols ordered that Locus be arrested and taken to a justice to answer Anderson’s charge.


I have not been able to identify Locus with certainty. Aby Anderson may have been Tabitha “Abi” Anderson, born about 1848, who married Gray Ruffin in Wilson County on 18 October 1893.

Bastardy Bonds, 1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Smooth Jim Watson.

This article is fascinating both for its details of Jim Watson‘s medical condition and the sophisticated operation of his “blind tiger,” or illegal bar. A search of digitized newspapers found a little more about Watson’s exploits in Wilson, but nothing about how he wound up in a Richmond jail.

Wilson Times, 14 November 1911.

Watson first appears in available newspaper records on 24 May 1910, when the Times reported his acquittal on retailing (i.e. unlawfully selling liquor) charges.

Two weeks later, on June 7, the paper reported that Watson had again been charged with retailing.

On 13 September 1910, the Times reported that a hung jury had resulted in a mistrial on Watson’s retailing charges. He was again a free man.

On 30 June 1911, per the paper, Watson was fined $9.50 on a reckless driving charge.

In September 1911, a man (presumably, an informant) entered Watson’s store and asked to buy whiskey. Watson pulled a pistol and said, “This is the strongest thing in the house.” The man reported Watson to the police, who charged him with carrying a concealed weapon. His defense: he was in his own place of business, and the gun was not concealed. Verdict: not guilty.

On October 23, William Anderson, allegedly a trusted friend, went into Watson’s place and put down two quarters for a pint of whiskey. Watson purportedly sold him a half-pint, which Anderson took outside to share with his pals. A police officer swooped in and, after some pressure, Anderson admitted he’d bought the liquor from Watson. 

The Daily Times‘ coverage led with a reference to Jim Watson’s physical condition. While locked up in the Richmond (Virginia, presumably) jail, Watson allegedly had slit his own throat. As a result, he now breathed through a tube inserted in his windpipe, an astonishing example of an effective, long-term tracheotomy in an era in which surgery was still relatively crude, and antibiotics were nonexistent. It was also, apparently, Watson’s super-power.

Then, a description of Jim Watson’s set-up. In Watson’s otherwise legitimate restaurant, he raised a curtain in a corner. A customer would lay down his (maybe occasionally her) money, and a trusted accomplice would disappear behind the curtain and return with the liquor. No one other than Watson’s confederates saw Watson handle the goods, and they were allowed entry only one at a time. 

As Jim Watson’s trial neared, things got busy for him and his “systematic coterie of dispensers of the ardent.” Watson’s wife Cyndia Watson was arrested after slashing at Coot Robbins with a knife. Notwithstanding, Robbins joined Junius Peacock and Mark Sharpe on a visit to the police station to seek her release, unsuccessfully. Later, a mysterious hack appeared at the chief of police’s home, and an unseen man yelled threats and imprecations if his wife were not released. Robbins admitted to the police that he driven a man to the house, but claimed he did not know him and the man had only politely inquired after Chief Glover. 

This incident seems to have exhausted the paper’s patience (and even admiration) for this “touch character.”

Wilson Times, 12 December 1911.

Watson’s day in court came on December 21, and he was finally convicted. The principal witness against him was his former friend Will Anderson, “a notorious negro of Georgia and a murdered who served then years on the chain gang of that state.” For his efforts, Anderson, too, was convicted of retailing. The paper noted with satisfaction that there were several more charges pending against Watson, and his attorney was expected to advise him to throw himself at the mercy of the court.

Wilson Times, 22 December 1911.

However, as the same edition sourly noted, court had adjourned unexpectedly due the judge’s family emergency. “… Jim Watson, … convicted but unsentenced, remains out on bond, and will probably have a good time during the holidays supplying his friends with blind tiger booze.”

Snaps, no. 31: 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.

Where did they go?: Pennsylvania death certificates, no. 1.

The first in a series — Pennsylvania death certificates for Wilson County natives:

  • James I. Allen, Philadelphia


James I. Allen appears in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County, with parents West and Harriet Allen; siblings Boston, Susan, Cornelius, John, Lettice and Effie Allen; and grandmother Harriet Allen.

James I Allen

1880 census, Wilson, Wilson County.

In 1894, James Allen and Clara Brown, below, were married by a Missionary Baptist minister in Wilson.


  • Clara Brown Allen, Philadelphia


  • William Anderson, Philadelphia


  • James Artis, Whitesboro, New Jersey


Per Wikipedia, “Whitesboro [New Jersey] was founded about 1901 by the Equitable Industrial Association, which had prominent black American investors including Paul Laurence Dunbar, the educator Booker T. Washington and George Henry White, the leading investor and namesake. He was an attorney who had moved to Philadelphia after serving as the last black Republican congressman representing North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district. White and his fellow entrepreneurs wanted to create a self-reliant community for blacks, without the discrimination faced the southern states. Shares in the planned community were sold to African Americans from North and South Carolina and Virginia.” Samuel H. Vick was an investor in Whitesboro.

  • Warren Barnes, Johnston, Cambria County


This is possibly the five year-old Warren Barnes listed in the household of Peter, 32, and Lizzie Barnes, 34, in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County.