Cecil Lloyd Spellman was a professor of rural education at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. In 1947, he published “Elm City, A Negro Community in Action,” a monograph intended to employ sociology to “interpret the Negro in his actual day to day activities and interrelationships with members of his own and other races.” This is an excerpt:
In searching the records, one finds no mention of early Negroes in this area, however, by contacting some of the older living residents, the following information dealing with pioneer Negro residents has been obtained.** All the following people are now dead unless the fact is otherwise indicated.
[Part one here.]
The following people are early settlers of the Turner neighborhood:
Gary Armstrong and his wife Henrietta were among the first to be mentioned in this section. They bought farm land and settled upon it. Nelson Armstrong and his wife Mary, were also mentioned here as landowners. There is no indication as to the existence of relationship between these two Armstrong families; they may, or they may not be related. The Turner area at present has in it a very large number of families of Armstrongs, many of which are not related to each other.
Thomas Hilliard and his wife Forthea came into the area from Edgecombe County, on the north. His wife became a midwife, and was prominent in this activity for a long time. During this formative period of the community, midwives are very important to welfare of families. Doctors were few, and transportations was not very speedy, so the quickest and most certain maternal care was that furnished by the local midwife. The history of the development of the family institution will never by completely satisfactory, until the contribution of the local midwife has been included in its pages.
Jerry Drake and his wife Vince were also here at the time. Vince was also a midwife.
Skipper Dunn was a landowner in the section. The name of his wife was not mentioned, but we know he had a granddaughter, who now lives in Elm City. She is familiarly known by both the white and colored people as “Aunt” Aggie Williams.
Aggie Williams, granddaughter of Skipper Dunn, came to Toisnot, North Carolina (now what is the village of Elm City) in 1882. While we do not know when Skipper Dunn came, the date mentioned fixes him as one of the real old settlers of the area. Nothing was reported concerning Aggie’s husband. It is known, however, that she was married. She owned some farm land, and also a home where she now lives in Elm City. She lives alone in a seven room house in the white residential section of Elm City. She reared a fine family by sewing for people. She is well thought of by her neighbors.
- In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County, Gary Armstrong appears as a 20 year-old farm laborer sharing a household with 20 year-old George Batts. In the 1880 census, Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Gary Armstrong, 30, wife Henrietta, 25, and children Cherry, 8, William, 6, James, 4, and Gary, 2. In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Garry Armstrong, 56, wife Henreta, 47, and children James H., 22, John H., 21, Moses, 19, Edward, 17, Mammie J., 15, Minnie, 13, and Hattie, 11. In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Garey Armstrong, 65, wife Henrietta, 55, James T., 30, Moses, 28, Mamie I., 24, and Minnie J., 22. In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County, on Wilson Rocky Mount Road: farmer Gary Armstrong, 73, wife Henrietta, 65, and daughter Minnie, 28. Garey Armstrong died 1 February 1928. His death certificate lists his age as 82, his birthplace as Edgecombe County, and his parents as Abraham and Cherry Armstrong, both of Edgecombe.
- Gary and Nelson Armstrong were, in fact, brothers. In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Abraham Armstrong, 52, wife Cherry, 32, and children Nancy, 16, Haywood, 14, Nelson, 12, Joshua, 11, and Burlee, 7. On 10 January 1884, Nelson Armstrong married Mary Ann Bulluck in Edgecombe County. In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Armstrong, 45, wife Mary Ann, 40, and children Mamie, 15, Hattie, 13, and Henry, 12. In the 1910 census of Toisnot, Wilson County, on Wells Daws Avenue, Nelson Armstrong, 58, Mary, 45, daughter Hattie Armstrong, 22, son Henry Armstrong, 20, son-in-law Thomas Hilliard, 25 daughter Mamie, 24, and their children Carnelia, 3, and Magnora Hilliard, 2. In the 1920 census of Toisnot, Wilson County: Nelson Armstrong, 60, wife Mary, 50, and boarder Grover Barnes, 19. In the 1930 census of Toisnot, Wilson County: Henry Armstrong, 42, wife Mimia, 33, and children Mary, 11, Fred, 8, Rosa, 6, Clarence, 4, and Nathan, 1, plus widower father Nelson, 75. Nelson Armstrong died 8 December 1934 in Toisnot township.
- In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Thomas Hilliard, 38, Fortune, 40, William, 13, Mary, 12, Robert, 10, Cornelia, 8, Sealey, 6, Ollis, 4, and Becky, 2. In the 1900 census of Toisnot, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Hilliard, 56, wife Fortino, 58, and children Olive, 24, Becky, 21, and Thomas, 16, with adopted son, Thadeous Battle, 12. [Thomas Hilliard Jr. married Nelson Armstrong’s daughter Mamie, see above. Thomas’ death certificate, filed in August 1866, identifies his mother as “Fortney Killebrew.”] In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: Thomas Hilliard, 63, wife Forty, 65, and daughter Celia Allen, 45.
- In the 1880 census, Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Jerry Drake, 43, wife Viney , 39, children Henrietta, 18, George, 17, Bettie, 14, Nancy E., 10, Caroline, 7, Emma, 5, and stepdaughter Jane Westray, 9.
- In the 1880 census, Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Skipper Dunn, 60, wife Fannie, 50, and son James, 15.
- Aggy Mercer, 17, married Thos. Williams, 21, on 5 February 1876 at Toisnot. In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Thomas Williams, 24, wife Aggie, 21, and daughters Clara, 3, and Mattie, 1. In the 1900 census of the Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: widow Aggie Williams, 41, dress maker; and her children nurse Cora, 18, and day laborer Burtas, 14. In 1910 in the Town of Elm City, Toisnot, Wilson County: Aggie Williams, 59, lived alone in a house she owned on Main Street. In 1920 in the Town of Elm City, Toisnot, Wilson County: Aggie Williams, 51, dress maker, lived alone in a house she owned on Main Street. In 1940 in the Town of Elm City, Toisnot, Wilson County: Aggie Williams, 81, lived alone in a house she owned on Main Street. Daughter Cora lived next door. Aggie M. Williams died 21 March 1951 in Elm City. Her death certificate records her birth as 14 February 1859 in Edgecombe County to Jessie and Fannie Mercer. [The informant was Cora C. Lucas, her daughter.]
**This is odd. African-Americans came to the Toisnot area with the earliest white settlers pushing down from southern Virginia. They were the pioneers, not people who moved in after the Civil War. Spellman named black county extension agent C.W. Foster as his source.