Studio shots, no. 220: Rosa Pitt Battle and Frank Pitt.

It’s always wonderful when readers share photographs of the men and women of Black Wide-Awake. Special thanks to Belinda Pitt-Bulluck for these images of her grandmother Rosa Pitt Battle and father Frank Pitt.

Rosa Pitt Battle (1884-1919).

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, farmer William Pitts, 34; wife Violet, 25; and children Ailsey, 10, Martha, 5, Hattie, 3; and Laura, 10 months.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Violet Pit, 50, washing, and children Martha, 24, washing, Hattie, 22, cooking, Lula, 21, cooking, Ben, 19, tobacco stemmer, Carry, 12, cooking, Rosa, 16, nurse, Meaner, 11, Jenney, 5, and Edward, 2.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laundress Violett Pitt, 58; daughters Lula, 28, Matha, 34, and Hattie, 30; and grandchildren Mary, 10, Harvey, 8, Frank, 7, Lizzie, 6, Jonie, 18, and William, 9; and daughter Mena, 20.

On 7 November 1915, Ed Battle, 24, of Wilson, son of Allan and Mariah Battle, married Rosa Pitt, 24, of Wilson, daughter of Bill and Viola Pitt, in Wilson. Shade Hines applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Frank Barnes, Leonard Kornegay, and B[illegible] Edmundson.

Rosa Pitt Battle died 26 December 1919 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 January 1884 in Wilson County, N.C, to William Pitt and Violet Edmundson; was married to Eddie Battle; and lived at 804 Vance. Mena Pitt was informant.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 804 Vance, widow Violet Pitt, 70, and daughters Elise, 45, Lula, 39, Mena, 29, and Elizabeth, 16.

Elsie Pitt died 19 June 1938 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1875 in Wilson to William Pitt of Nash County and Violet Emerson [Edmundson] of Wilson County; was single; lived at 903 East Vance; and was buried in Wilson [probably in Vick Cemetery, but possibly the newly opened Rest Haven.] Ximena Martinez was informant.

Rosa Pitt Battle’s son, Frank Pitt (1902-1980).

In 1942, Frank Pitt registered for the World War II draft in Brooklyn, New York. Per his registration card, he was born 7 June 1902 in Wilson; lived at 574 Baltic Street [crossed out and 2199 East 55th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, added]; his contact was Carrie Deshert, 201 West 121st Street, Apartment 23, New York; and he worked for Subway Advertising Company, Brooklyn.

Frank Pitt. 

Photos courtesy of Belinda Pitt-Bulluck.

Barnes marriages and deaths.

In August 1866, Willis Barnes and Cherry Battle registered their six-year marriage with a Wilson County justice of the peace. Willis likely had been enslaved by Joshua Barnes of Wilson County. Cherry had been enslaved by Alexander Eatmon of Nash County, then sold in 1860 to Margaret H. Battle of Wilson County.

The couple had at least nine children, most of whom lived to adulthood. An examination of the children’s marriage license applications and birth certificates reveals the varied and sometimes conflicting ways personal information, especially names, were recorded in official records.

  • Rachel Barnes Taylor

On 21 Sep 1882, H.G. Whitehead applied for a marriage license for Mike Taylor of Wilson, aged 20, colored, son of John Taylor and unknown mother, both living, and Rachel Barnes of Wilson, age 19, colored, parents unknown, father dead, mother’s status not given. Whitehead was a wealthy white farmer for whom Taylor likely worked, and his utter lack of familiarity with the couple’s families (and disinterest in correcting the lack) is reflected in the bad information he provided. Mike Taylor’s father’s name was Green Taylor, not John, and his mother was Phereby Taylor. (It makes no sense Mike’s mother was described as living, but unknown.) Whitehead knew nothing at all about Rachel’s parents and described her “unknown” father as dead (Willis Barnes lived until 1914), and her mother as a complete cipher, though Cherry Barnes was alive into the 1890s.

On the same day, Louis Croom, Baptist minister, married Taylor and Barnes in Wilson in the presence of W.T. Battle and Edman Pool. [Was W.T. Battle related to Rachel?  Was he the W. Turner Battle who married Louvina Knight in Wilson on 24 May 1875? A man named Turner was among the enslaved people Margaret H. Battle received from her father Weeks Parker’s estate. Edmund Pool, of course, was the legendary founder of the Red Hot Hose & Reel Company.]

Rachel Barnes Taylor died 2 October 1925 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, her parents were Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes.

  • Wesley Barnes

Wesley Barnes, called “Sylvester” Barnes on his marriage application, married Ella Mercer on 4 June 1885 in Wilson County. His parents’ names are not listed.

Wesley Barnes died 20 January 1919 in Wilson township. His death certificate lists his parents as Willis Barnes and Cherry Eatmon.

  • Jesse Barnes

Jesse Barnes, 21, son of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes, married Mary Mag Mercer on 3 April 1889 in Wilson. Mercer was the sister of Jesse’s brother Wesley’s wife Ella Mercer Barnes. The official witnesses to the marriage were Jesse’s brothers Wesley and Ned Barnes.

Jesse Barnes died 25 January 1916 in Wilson. His death certificate lists his parents as Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes.

  • Ned Barnes

Ned Barnes appeared in the 1880 census and on his marriage license as “Edward,” but by 1900 he is invariably referred to as “Ned,” the name he passed on to his son. On 29 October 1891, he and Louisa Gay were married in Wilson. Their marriage record does not list their parents’ names.

Ned Barnes died 1 December 1912 in Raleigh, Wake County, N.C. His death certificate lists his father as Willis Barnes and his mother as unknown. His wife Louisa surely knew her mother-in-law’s name, but their daughter Mattie Barnes was informant, and she apparently did not.

  • Mary Barnes Barnes Jones

Mary Barnes, 18, daughter of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes, married Pearce Barnes, 26, son of Robert and Hannah Barnes, on 14 September 1893 at “Gen. [Joshua] Barnes Plantation” in Wilson County.

Mary Barnes and Henry Jones, both 41, were married in Wilson on 24 December 1917. Almost exactly two years later, Mary Jones was dead. Her death certificate lists her parents as Willis Barnes and Cherry Battle. Her sister Rachel Taylor was informant.

  • William “Willie” Barnes

Willie Barnes married Hattie Best on 31 December 1902 at Hattie’s father Orren Best’s house in Grabneck, Wilson. Per their marriage license, Willie Barnes was the son of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes; his brother Jesse Barnes applied for the license.

Witness Charles B. Gay was the brother-in-law of Willie’s brother Ned Barnes.

  • Lucinda “Cintha” Barnes Perry

Sentha Barnes married Henry S. Perry on 14 September 1899 in Wilson. Their marriage license lists her father, Willis Barnes, but applicant F.A. Fenderson described her mother as unknown. This marriage was reported in the Wilson Daily Times.

Cintha Perry died about 1909.

  • Edgar Barnes

Edgar Barnes, 21, of Wilson, son of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes, married Mary Hill, 19, daughter of Joe Hill and Anna Hill, at Saint John A.M.E. Zion in Wilson on 4 October 1909.

On 24 September 1921, Edgar Barnes, 27, of Greenville, son of Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes, married Delia Hawkins, 22, daughter of Will Hawkins and Ella Hawkins, in Greenville, Pitt County.

Edgar Barnes died 6 April 1940 at the Veterans Hospital in Kecoughtan, Elizabeth City County, Virginia. His death certificate lists his parents as Willis Barnes and Cherry Eatman, both of Wilson County.

Bill of sale for Syphax, Jim, Mose, and Cherry.

Deed book 1, pages 612, Wilson County Register of Deeds, Wilson, North Carolina.

Whereas at the Spring Term A.D. 1860 of the court of Equity for Wilson County NC a decree was made in the suit of Sabra Parker & others to the Court confirming the sale of Slaves Syphax Jim & Mose & ordering James W. Davis as trustee of the plaintiff another slave in the stead & whereas the said James W. Davis by & with the consent of the plaintiff has contracted with Alexander Eatman for the purchase of a slave by the name of Cherry as a substitute which bargain & purchase has been approved & confirmed by the said court of Equity Now therefore the said Alexander Eatman for & in consideration of the sum of twelve hundred Dollars in hand paid the receipt of which by the said Eatman is this day acknowledges has bargained sold & conveyed & by these presents doth bargain sell & convey unto the said James W. Davis trustee as aforesaid slave Cherry to have & to hold according to the decree of the court of Equity aforesaid & the said Alexander Eatman does hereby warrant the title to said Negroe & that she is sound  June 19th 1860  Alexander Eatman {seal}

P.W. Barnes

The Execution of the foregoing Bill of Sale is proven before me by P.W. Barnes the subscribing witness thereto August 14th 1860    T.E. Davis Clerk of Wilson Court

Record for Registration August 14th 1860  A.J. Brown Regr


Some context for this transaction is provided in this post and post, but it is difficult to fully understand what is happening here. Edgecombe County planter Weeks Parker died in January 1844, leaving a widow, Sabra Hearn Parker, and three children, Margaret H. Parker Battle, Simmons B. Parker, and Henrietta Parker Battle. (Another son, Dr. John H. Parker, who had migrated to Florida, died while his father’s estate was in probate. Syphax, Jim, and Moses were among the 30 enslaved people Weeks Parker bequeathed to Margaret Battle, wife of Amos Johnston Battle. The Parker heirs fought amongst themselves and with the estate’s administrators over the handling of the estate, and Emancipation eventually intervened to prevent a final distribution of all of Weeks Parker’s immense wealth. In the meantime, there were partial distributions here and there, as well as sales of unsatisfactory slaves and purchases of replacements. That appears to be what happened in this situation, though it’s not clear who Cherry replaced. 

What I am fairly certain of, however, is that Cherry was my great-great-grandmother.

In 1986, I wrote legendary local Hugh B. Johnston Jr. for help tracing my enslaved ancestors, Willis Barnes and Cherry Battle, who registered their six-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866. Johnston wrote back promptly, opining that Cherry had been “a slave belonging to the noted Reverend Amos Johnston Battle of Wilson, whose wife owned a small farm north of Wilson not far from the [Joshua] Barnes plantation.” [More about this letter later.]

Willis and Cherry Battle went on to have at least nine children, whose marriage licenses and death certificates list their mother’s maiden name as Cherry Battle, but just as often name her as Cherry Eatmon

In 1860, Alexander Eatmon, a Nash County farmer, sold 18 year-old Cherry to Margaret H. Battle. The young woman went to live at Walnut Hill, Battle’s farm just north of Wilson. Shortly after, Cherry married Willis, who is believed to have been enslaved on Joshua Barnes‘ neighboring plantation. Their eldest child, Rachel Barnes Taylor, was my great-grandmother.

The obituary of John Parker Battle, World War I veteran.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 December 1945.


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: moulder Parker Battle, 45, wife Ella L., 38, children Mamie P., 19, James A., 17, Sallie R., 14, Sudie E., 12, and John T. [sic], 9, plus mother-in-law Roberta A. Outlaw, 49.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: foundry laborer Parker Battle, 54, wife Ella, and children Roberta, 24, a teacher, Grace, 22, a factory laborer, and John, 19.

In 1917, John Parker Battle registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 20 October 1889 in Wilson; lived at 332 Spring Street, Wilson; worked brick laying for Bill McGowan; and was single.

John P. Battle’s service card.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 332 South Spring, widow Ella Battle, 52, and her children Grace [Glace], 27, teacher Roberta, 29, tobacco worker John, 25, and Olga Battle, 11, shared their home with boarders Georgia Burks, 25, a Georgia-born teacher, and chauffeur Theodore Speight, 17; and roomers William Phillips, 35, a dentist, and his wife Jewel, 23.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 322 South Spring Street, owned and valued at $8000, cooper John Battle, 39; wife Gladis, 26; and children Grace G., 3, and Parker, 1; also, blacksmith Timothy Black, 23; wife Grace, 30; relative Olga L. [Battle], 22, public school teacher.

In 1942, John P. Battle registered for the World War II draft in Kecoughtan, Elizabeth City County, Virginia. Per his registration card, he was born 20 October 1891 in Wilson; his contact Roberta Johnson, 1108 East Nash Street, Wilson; and was “totally blind.”

John P. Battle‘s headstone, Masonic Cemetery, Wilson.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson; North Carolina World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919,

Daily Times paperboys, no. 2.

  • Willie Battle Jr.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 October 1950.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 908 East Nash, widow Mamie Hill, 43; nephew Bobbie Becton, 10; and lodgers Willie Battle, 48, and sons Willie Jr., 17, and James, 16.

  • Percy Bowens

Wilson Daily Times, 3 October 1950.

This boy’s name, in fact, was Percy Bowens. (And he grew up to be a well-known East Wilson businessman.)

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: carpenter Welch Bowens, 55; wife Leola, 55; daughter Mary D. Brown, 23, house cleaner; and grandchildren Raymond, 15, LeAnna, 14, and Percy Bowens, 12, and Veronia, 5, Colin Jr., 3, Patricia Ann, 2, and Mary Brown, born in June.

  • Joshua E. Winstead Jr.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 October 1950.

In the 1940 census of North Whitakers township, Nash County, North Carolina: teamster Josh Winstead, 20; wife Flora, 19; and children Joshua E., 2, and Darlina, 9 months.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1020 Roberson Street, Flora Bowens, 29, “cook and keep house,” divorced; children Joshua, 12, Darlena D., 10, and Aldonia Winstead, 8; and lodger Susie G. Edwards, 26.

Clippings courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Studio shots, no. 194: the Battle siblings?

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous submitted this family portrait. The four women’s dark dress suggests a family in mourning.

Who were they? The only clue we have is a pencilled notation on the reverse: “Chandler/Battle.” I thought immediately of Nicholas R. Battle, who was born in Wilson County about 1862 to Charles and Leah Hargrove Battle and migrated to Chandler, Oklahoma, about 1900. His sister Ada G. Battle briefly lived in Chandler as well, and Nicholas and Ada had a sister, Chandler Battle Wright.

Could this be a portrait of Charles and Leah Battle’s children — most of them, anyway — taken around the time of Charles Battle’s death in 1910? (Leah Battle died in 1898.) Their known children were Nicholas R. (1863), with Lewis (1862), appear to have been Charles’ children by an earlier relationship; Susan (1869); Ada G. (1875); Geneva Battle Faver (1878); Virgil T. Battle (1880); Chandler (1883); CaledoniaDoane” Battle Williston (1887); and Charles T. Battle (1888). Lewis, Susan, and Virgil appear to have died young. The six remaining children included four girls and two boys, which is consistent with the photo. 

In 1910, the living children would have been Nicholas, 48; Ada, 35; Geneva, 32, Chandler, 27; Doane, 23; and Charles T., 22. The daughters’ ages are consistent with the woman depicted. The man at bottom left appears to be Charles T. Battle, the younger of the two sons, and closely resembles his son, Dr. C.T. Battle Jr. The man at bottom right looks younger than 48 years old, but that age is not out of the range of possibility, and this is likely Nicholas Battle.

If anyone can identify the family depicted here more accurately, I’d love to hear from you.

A visit to Oklahoma.

The Black Dispatch (Oklahoma City), 25 May 1922.

Ada G. Battle and Nicholas R. Battle, both born in Wilson County, were the children of Charles Battle.


In the 1880 census, Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Charles Battle, 35, wife Leah, 30, and children Adelia, 5, Geneva, 2, Virgil, 1 month, and Nicholas, 18.

On 27 February 1901, Nicholas R. Battle, 37, born in North Carolina, residing in Chandler, Oklahoma, married Mrs. Dora J. Bolton, 39, born in Mississippi, residing in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in Logan County, Oklahoma.

In the 1910 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nicklos Battle, 46; wife Dora, 41; adopted children Charley Suggs, 5, and Henry Caldwell, 3; and hired man Cleveland Smith, 24.

In the 1920 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nichols Battles, 56; wife Dora J., 58; and son Henery N., 12.

Dora Battle died 10 November 1921 in Chandler, Oklahoma.

In the 1930 census of Chandler, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Henry Battle, 22; wife Vannie, 23; son Henry Jr., 3; and father Nicholas B. Battle, 64, widower, farmer.

In the 1940 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma: farmer Nichols Battles, 75; wife Ella, 39; and children Ada L., 5, Nicholas R., 3, and Evelene, 1.

Nicholas R. Battle died 24 December 1946 in Chandler, Oklahoma.