Baptist church

Married too much.

Rev. Spurgeon David Davis, appointed in 1918 to head one of two planned alternative schools in the wake of the Charles Coon incident, was a newcomer to Wilson. A native of Maryland, he arrived in town in 1917 to head First Baptist Church (now known as Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church.) So who was he?

In the 1900 census of Baltimore, Maryland: day laborer Jarriet Davis, 50; wife Mary A., 41; children Mary V., 21, Louis B., 20, and Jarriet W., both hotel waiters, Spurgeon D., 10, and Alice D., 7; niece Ella A. Bell, 2; daughter Augusta Addison, 17, and son-in-law Roy A. Addison, 22, a schoolteacher.

In the 1910 census of Baltimore, Maryland: farm laborer Jarrett Davis, 58, wife Alice, 50; children Alice, 17, and Spurgeon, 21, “church preacher”; grandson Jarrett, 3; niece Ella Bell, 12; and sister Annie Wall, 56.

Spurgeon Davis apparently was ordained as an A.M.E. minister prior to 1910. He headed west to a post in Kansas City, Missouri:


Kansas City Sun, 31 January 1914.

But did not stay long:


Kansas City Sun, 4 April 1914.

Davis fetched up in Rome, Georgia, but his stay there was even shorter and considerably less welcome:


Atlanta Constitution, 26 September 1914.

This escapade called for some reinvention. Davis cut his ties with the A.M.E.’s and reemerged as a Baptist preacher …


New York Age, 11 January 1917.

… and headed back South.

On 5 June 1917, Davis registered for the World War I draft in Wilson, and listed his address as 648 West Mulberry Street, Baltimore; his date of birth as 26 July 1887; and his occupation as minister employed by “So. Baptist Convention; white; travelling in South.” He also noted that he was married with two children. Wilson County’s Clerk of Superior Court transmitted the registration to Baltimore.

Shady past notwithstanding, Davis — by now, somehow, a Doctor of Divinity — was a sought-after speaker in North Carolina, as these glowing briefs demonstrate:


Wilmington Morning Star, 15 April 1917.


The Robesonian (Lumberton), 22 August 1918.



Richmond Planet, 2 August 1919.

On 23 April 1919, Davis married Nancy Jones, 27, of Wilson. Though the two obtained their marriage license in Wilson County, the ceremony, oddly, was conducted one county over by Baptist minister J.S. Brown in Rocky Mount. Wilson leading lights F.S. Hargrave and C.L. Darden were two of the official witnesses.

However, this “prince among preachers” was soon on the lam again, having hastily resigned his post in October 1919 as a bigamy scandal erupted.


News & Observer, 30 October 1919.

A more succinct narrative appeared on 7 November in Elizabeth City, North Carolina’s Independent:


Davis apparently never returned to Wilson — at least, in any long-term capacity. It is not clear who the Oklahoma wife was. Davis obtained a license to marry Ruth Olivia Jones in Lynchburg, Virginia, on 26 May 1911. The couple, however, are also listed in a District of Columbia Compiled Marriage Index with an 29 April 1912 marriage date.


Washington Times, 29 April 1912. [Note: the Davises, though white-looking, were not “white.”]

Rev. Spurgeon Davis of 139 Pender Street appears in the 1920 Wilson city directory — a volume compiled no doubt before he left town — with no spouse noted. He is not found in the 1920 federal census. However, it seems that Nancy prevailed in the skirmish, for, in the 1923 Montgomery, Alabama, city directory: Davis Spurgeon D Rev (c[olored]; Nancy E) pastor First Baptist Church h[ome] 714 High. And in the 1930 census of Montgomery, Alabama: at 714 South Ripley (an $8000 home he owned), Maryland-born Spurgeon Davis, clergyman; North Carolina-born wife Nancy, 38; and Maryland-born daughter Mary A., 10. Tragedy befell during the Depression decade, however, and in the 1940 census of Baltimore, Maryland: at 111 Railroad Street, public school principal Carrington Davis, 52; brother-in-law Douglas Smith, 45, a baseball team manager; sister Alice Smith, 45, a laundress; brother Spurgeon Davis, 49, a house man working for a private family; and nephew Jarrett Davis, 34, a gardener. (Davis was described as married, though no wife was listed in the household. In a rented house across the street at 112 Railroad, however, was North Carolina-born Nancy Davis, 44, described as divorced.) In 1942, Davis registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card: he resided in Chattolanee, Baltimore, Maryland; he was born 28 July 1887 in Chattolanee; his contact person was Mrs. Alice Smith of Owings, Maryland; and his employer was Mrs. Horace White of Garrison, Maryland. I have not found record of his death.

From a history of Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church, a photograph of Rev. Davis. From the text: “The Reverend A.L. Weeks and the Reverend Spurgeon Davis were those to follow the Reverend [M.A.] Talley. In 1919, the mortgage on the new edifice was burned as a result of a great financial effort engineered by Reverend Davis, supported by the officers and members.” There was that, at least.


Rev. J.T. Deans and the Kenansville Association.



Though Rev. J.T. Deans lived in Wilson (A), the four Missionary Baptist churches he pastored — Mount Gilead, Willard, Shoulder’s Branch, Union Chapel — were in Mount Olive (B), Willard (C), Castle Hayne (D), and Currie (E), North Carolina, respectively. Wilson to Mount Olive is 40 miles. Wilson to Castle Hayne is 108 miles.



In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 514 Lodge Street, school principal James T. Deans, 53, wife Mary, 34, and children Rosevelt, 16, James Jr., 9, Walter, 5, Therodore, 3, and Dixie, 2 months, and boarder Daniel Gunn, 57, a tobacco factory worker.

James Thomas Deans died 20 December 1939 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 74 years old, born in Nash County to Sarah Deans of Nash County, resided at 514 South Lodge Street, was a preacher, was married to Ada Drewcilla Deans, and was buried in Warsaw [Duplin County], North Carolina. Ada D. Deans was informant.

Minutes of the Forty-Ninth Annual Session of the Kenansville Missionary Baptist Association (1919).

Who’s who among the Baptists.

From Williams and Watkins’ Who’s Who Among North Carolina Negro Baptists: With a Brief History of Negro Baptist Organizations (1940):


Page 68.

Rev. Frank L. Bullock of Enfield married Bertha A. Davis of Wilson. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Fred M. Davis, 50 [see below], wife Minnie, 39, children Fred Jr., 20, Berthia, 22, Addie, 18, and William B., 16, and mother Judie, 76.

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Page 213.

Rev. Fred M. Davis served multiple stints as pastor of First Baptist Church and presided over the marriages and funerals of many of Wilson’s prominent black families.

F Davis

Page 241.

Rev. Nathaniel Horton went to school in Wilson County and pastored at New Bethel and Macedonia Baptist Churches in Wilson County.

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Page 286.

As founder, Rev. Andrew Joshua Jackson put the “Jackson” in Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church.

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Page 294.

Rev. Charles A. Marriott lead the congregation at Williams Chapel Baptist Church in Elm City.

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Page 313-314.

Rev. Marshall Alexander Talley lead Wilson’s First Baptist Church in the 1910s. He moved on to Homestead, Pennsylvania, and then to Indianapolis, where he was elected in 1936 to the Indiana House of Representatives. He died in Indianapolis in 1953.


Page 379.

Rev. Alfred L.E. Weeks has been discussed here.

ALE weeks

Page 397.

Cornerstones, no. 1.

Calvary Baptist Church, 704 Gay Street, Wilson.



Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, 513 East Barnes Street, Wilson.


This church was founded in 1910 as Jackson Chapel. (Jackson Chapel later merged with the much older First Baptist Church, which stands one block away at Pender and Nash.) The original one-story wooden structure is shown below.

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Sanborn Insurance Map, Wilson, N.C., 1913.


Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church, 627 East Green Street, Wilson.


The church building, at the corner of Green and Elba Streets, is now occupied by Christ Deliverance Tabernacle Ministries.

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Sanborn Insurance Map, Wilson, N.C., 1913.


Union Grove Primitive Baptist Church, 519 Singletary Street, Wilson.


The original church, a small wooden building, is at left below. (The larger brick church, designated Tabernacle Missionary Baptist, is now the site of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.)

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Sanborn Insurance Map, Wilson, N.C., 1922.


Mount Zion Holy Church, 517 Hadley Street, Wilson.


Organized in North Carolina in 1886, the United Holy Church of America, Inc., is a predominantly black Pentecostal Holiness Christian denomination and the oldest African-American Holiness-Pentecostal body in the world. Bishop G.J. Branch of Goldsboro, North Carolina, established congregations up and down the East Coast.

[N.B. Three of the five cornerstones were engraved by marble worker/artist Clarence B. Best. (Four, if you count the dates added to the Pilgrims Rest cornerstone.]

43rd State Sunday School convention.

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Minutes of the Forty-Third Annual Session of the North Carolina Baptist State Sunday School Convention (1915). 

Mrs. Sallie Barber — Per her death certificate, Sallie Minnie Blake Barbour was born about 1871 in Wake County to Essex and Clara Hodge Blake. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson township, Wilson County: mechanic Charlie Barber, 47; wife Sallie, 40, teacher; and sons Luther, 21, John, 17, James, 17, and Herbert, 15, plus two roomers. Wilson’s black graded school was named in her honor in the early 1930s. She died in 1942.

Mrs. Anne E. Weeks — In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson township, Wilson County: Alfred Weeks, 44, a minister; wife Annie, 44; daughter Marie, 14, and sister Bessie, 26. Annie Elizabeth Cook Weeks, then a resident of Elizabeth, New Jersey, died while visiting Wilson on 19 April 1943. Her death certificate noted that she was born in Wake Forest, North Carolina, in 1875 to Henderson B. and Mariah D. Batchlor Cook of Wake County, and was a teacher.

F.S. Hargrave — Dr. Frank Settle Hargrave was a physician.

S.Y. Griffin

Miss Daisy Holland — In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson township, Wilson county: at 450 Goldsboro Street, widow Charity Holland, 48, laundress; son Charlie Holland, 24, barber; and daughters Jane, 20, Mazie, 18, Daisy, 18, Lue, 16, and Lillian, 12. Daisy died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 10 May 1927. Her death certificate notes her parents as Benjamin Holland and Charity Jones, originally of Wake County; her husband as George Cooper; and her occupation as school teacher.

Mrs. A.L. Fauk — Probably, Arzalia L. Faulk. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson township, Wilson County: barber Hiram Faulk, 44; wife Arzalia L., 40, a dressmaker; and daughter Marie, 14.

A.L.E. Week — New Bern native Rev. Alfred Leonard Edward Weeks was minister of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Wilson. He was pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church of New Bern from 1896-1912 and his “dynamic leadership” is credited with the rebuilding of the church after a devastating fire, as well as the founding of the New Bern Industrial Collegiate Institute.

Minutes at Duke Divinity School Library Archives.