Snaps, no. 79: Dr. James A. Battle.

We met Dr. James A. Battle, born in Wilson in 1885 to Parker and Ella Battle, here. His granddaughter, Mae Castenell, recently shared several family photographs.

Dr. Battle and wife Della Plummer Battle. Della Battle’s sister was E. Courtney Plummer Fitts, who lived in Wilson.

The Battle house on West 4th Street in Greenville, North Carolina. The Battles and their young daughter Ella are seated in the lawn.

Dr. Battle, seated at left, with an unknown group of young African-American men.

Many thanks to Mae Castenell.

The death of George Battle.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 February 1935.


In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Allen Battle, 50, farmer; wife Anna, 39; and children Mallan, 22, Anna, 16, Maud, 13, Mary, 11, Edward, 8, James, 6, George, 4, and Maggie, 1.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Finch Mill Road, farmer Allen Battle, 56; wife Amie M., 50, farm laborer; and children Annie, 26, cook, Maud, 23, cook, Mary, 21, nurse, Eddie, 18, farm laborer, James, 15, farm laborer, George, 13, and Maggie, 1, farm laborer. [Only George was without occupation.]

In 1917, George Battle registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 11 May 1896 in Wilson; lived a R.F.D. #1, Wilson; worked as a teamster for George Carpenter; was single; and was “deformed in limbs.” He was described as tall and of medium build, with black eyes and hair. He signed his name with an X.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Battle George (c) shoe shiner 513 E Nash h 508 E Green

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 508 East Green, renting for $12/month, Mary Taylor, 69, laundress; daughter Ida Barnes, 32, laundress; and grandchildren Jessie M., 6, and Annie B.,2; also renting for $12/month, Marobe Battle, 60, cook; daughters Maude, 35, cook, and Annie, 46, cook; son George, 33, cobbler at shoe shop; and grandson John Miller, 17, delivery boy at drug store.

George Battle died 9 February 1935. Per his death certificate, he was born 13 May 1900 in Wilson to Allen Battle and Marie Earl, both of Edgecombe County; was single; worked as a laborer; and lived at 420 East Green Street. Informant was Maude Battle of the same address. Cause of death: “Exposure. (Police found him in street at which time he was breathing. He was dead when I [Dr. W.C. Hunter] arrived.)”

Snaps, no. 78: Ada Battle Atkinson.

Ada Battle Atkinson (ca.1885-1971) and, perhaps, a grandchild.


On 27 January 1909, Mark Atkinson, 30, of Gardners township, son of Henry and Joannah Atkinson, married Ada Battle, 24, of Edgecombe County, in Gardners township, Wilson County. 

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mark Atkinson, 32; wife Ada, 26; and children Silvester, 6, Masy, 4, Emma, 2, and Henry, 4 months. Mark reported having been married twice.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mark Atkinson, 40; wife Ada, 35; and children Sylvester, 15, Henry, 10, Mark, 9, Joanna, 7, Bettie, 5, R. George, 3, and Frank, 1.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mark Atkinson, 52; wife Ada, 45; and children Sylvester, 25, Henry, 20, Mark, 18, Joanna, 16, Bettie, 15, George, 13, Frank, 11, Fannie, 10, Ophelia, 7, and Willie, 4, and nephew John H., 21.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: widow Ada Atkinson, 55; children Betty, 25, George, 23, Frank, 21, Della, 21, Ophelia, 16, Willie, 14, and Geraldene, 9; grandchildren Cleo Atkinson, 9, Curtis Edwards, 8, and Thomas, 4, Minnie, 3, and Grey Atkinson, 2.

In 1940, George Rufus Adkinson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 15 November 1917 in Wilson; his contact was mother Ada Rebecca Adkinson; he resided on Route 2, Macclesfield, Edgecombe County; and he worked for Grady Skinner, Macclesfield.

In 1940, Frank Atkinson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 18 October 1918 in Wilson; his contact was mother Ada Atkinson; he resided on Route 1, Macclesfield, Wilson County; and he worked for G.R. Skinner, Macclesfield.

In 1944, Willie Mack Roy Atkinson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 5 March 1926 in Wilson County; his contact was mother Ada Atkinson; he resided on Route 1, Elm City; and he worked for Pattie Thorne, Elm City.

On 31 December 1945, George Atkinson, 29, single, of Wilson, born in Wilson County, son of Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle, married Laura Hines McCray, 24, widowed, of Wilson, born in Edgecombe County, daughter of David Hines and Maggie Station, in Emporia, Virginia.

Henry Atkinson died 21 January 1964 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 December 1910 in Wilson County to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; was married to Minnie Atkinson; lived at 116 Pender Street, Wilson; was a laborer; and was buried in Well Cemetery, Wilson County.

George Rufus Atkinson died 24 November 1968 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 November 1917 to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; was married to Laura Atkinson; and had worked as a laborer.

Ada Battle Atkinson died 17 December 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born24 December 1889 to Joe Ellis and Bettie Battle; was a widow; had been a farmer; lived at 120 Narroway Street; and informant was Willie Atkinson. She was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.

Fannie Atkinson Wiggins died 18 July 1973 in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was born 13 September 1920 in Edgecombe County to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; lived in Rocky Mount; and was a widow. Her daughter Frances Louise Wiggins was informant.

Sylvester Atkinson died 29 December 1985 in Emporia, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 July 1905 in North Carolina to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; was married to Annie Atkinson; and was a retired millworker.

Photo courtesy of user samjoyatk.

Application to take oath of allegiance.

Daisy Unas, nee Battle, applied to the United States District Court in Boston to take an oath of allegiance to the United States on 28 March 1942. Per her application, she was born 12 April 1888 in Wilson, North Carolina; lived at 144 Worcester Street, Roxbury; had a dark complexion, brown eyes, and black/gray hair; was 5’7″, 180 pounds; married Henry Unas on 27 November 1908 in Boston; and believed she had lost her citizenship by marrying a subject of Great Britain. Daisy Unas took the oath of renunciation and allegiance on 6 April 1942.


In the 1900 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: Lizzie Battle, 40, laundress, born in Virginia; children Charlie, 18, teamster, Lee J., 13, day laborer, Daisy, 11, and Sylvester, 8; and boarder Ross George, 32, day laborer. Sylvester was born in Virginia; the other children in North Carolina.

On 27 November 1908, Henry Unas, 22, resident of 1 East Lenox Street, seaman, born Barbuda, West Indies, to Thomas Unas and Frances Webber, married Daisy Battle, 23, resident of same, cook, born in Durham, N.C., to William Battle and and Sarah James.

In the 1910 census of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts: widow Elizabeth Battle, 38, born in Virginia, washing; daughter Daisey E. Eunice, 20, born in North Carolina, domestic; son-in-law Henry Eunice, 24, Spanish West Indies, collard laborer; and granddaughter Marion, 3.

In 1918, Henry Alfred Unas registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 24 September 1884 in “Great Britain, West Indies;” lived at 69 Ruggles Street, Roxbury; worked as a longshoreman for United Fruits Company; and his wife was Dasie Unas.

In the 1920 census of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts: at 24 Westminster Avenue, Henry A. Unis, 36, furniture expressman, born in British West Indies; wife Daisy A., 33; and children Marion U., 12, and Alice G., 5.

In the 1930 census of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts: at 24 Westminster Avenue, owned and valued at $3000, Henry Alfred Unas, 43, born in Barbuda, West Indies, employed as “expressing-moving”; wife Daisy U., 43, born in North Carolina; and children Alice S., 14, and Doris P., 3; and nephew Paul C. Galloway, 8. Unas immigrated in 1908.

In the 1940 census of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts: at 31 Eustis, Dasey Unes, 52; nephew Paul Galloway, 18; and daughter Doris Unes, 13.

In the 1942 Boston, Massachusetts, city directory: Unas Daisy A Mrs dom h 31 Eustis Rox[bury]

Henry Alfred Unas petitioned for naturalization on 1 October 1945. Per his petition, he was born 24 September 1889 in Barbuda, British West Indies; lived at 23 Westminster Street, Roxbury; had a dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair; was 6’1″, 175 pounds; married Daisy on 27 November 1908; had two children, both born in Boston, Alice, 12 May 1916, and Doris, 12 November 1967; and migrated into the United States from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, on 15 October 1906.

Boston Globe, 24 July 1967.

Dr. C.T. Battle Scholarship.

The Rho Delta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., based in Anderson, South Carolina, sponsors a scholarship for high school students named in honor of Cr. Charles Tecumseh Battle Jr. Dr. Battle’s father, Charles T. Battle Sr., was a blacksmith and industrial arts teacher born in Wilson in 1888.

Confusion and trouble.

Here we examined the messy machinations of the administration of Weeks Parker’s estate, which entered probate in Edgecombe County in 1844. One of his legatees was daughter Margaret H. Battle, wife of Rev. Amos J. Battle and a Wilson resident by the mid-1850s.

Hugh B. Johnston transcribed this May 1861 letter to Rev. Battle from James Davis of Wilson, the court-appointed trustees of Margaret Battle’s share of estate. (The original letter does not appear to have preserved among the Battle papers.) The letter is difficult to decipher out of context but to seems to suggest that Davis felt significant pressure to bring in quick money by selling slaves rather than hiring them out and was protesting the interference in his management of Mrs. Battle’s affairs. Recall that Weeks Parker had purposefully drafted the terms of his will to hold in trust slaves Lucindy, Stephen, Turner, Lewis, George, Marina, Tony, Matilda, Caroline, William, Holly, Big Hardy, Ben, Cena, Moses, Syphax, Little Hardy, Jim, Lucy and Little Jim “for the sole and separate use and benefit of daughter Margaret H. Battle wife of Amos J. Battle during her natural life free from the management and control of her present or any future husband.”

Mr. Battle

My Dear Sir, I have striven in vain in the management as Trustee of Mrs. Battle’s affairs to act in such a way as would conduce to the interest of all concerned and at the same time to avoid giving occasion to those dissensions & wranglings in the family which I know are so harassing to you all. I have not in any arrangement which I have attempted to make been actuated by an motive of self interest of for my own security — but having been fully satisfied by the last years management of the farm & negroes that there could not upon any just ground be expected an adequate support for the family for the ensuing year from the farm, I advised the hireing out of the negroes & I was of the opinion & still am that it would have been best to have hired out every single man — According to an understanding had some 2 or 3 months ago I gave to Dr. Bullock the choice and the refusal of all the hands to be hired out; in pursuance of this arrangement I went to see Mrs. Battle & knew of her which of the negroes she had determined to keep & told her at the time that Dr. B. was to have such of the rest as he wanted, & this arrangement I shall most certainly adhere to as long I have any say-so in the matter, because I have made the promise to Dr. B. & I see no just reason why I should violate it.

In regard to the sale of the Women and Children and the appropriation of the proceeds of the sale to any other purpose than the buying of such other property as the Court may be satisfied is of equivalent value, I am satisfied upon an examination the will can not be done. I am however perfectly willing to appropriate every dollar of the hire of the negroes to the purchase of provisions & I will take the notes and advance the money (Provided the sureties to that notes agree to this arrangement) & I can not see why they should not in view of the condition in which you find yourself as to provisions.

If Mrs. Battle wishes the girl at Dr Harrel’s Exchanged, I will try and effect the Exchange as soon as I can conveniently do so, but I can not and will not do that with regard to this property which I am not authorized to do by the will. If I could have the absolute and undisturbed control of the negroes, I have not the shadow of a doubt I could realize from them a handsome support for your family, but as long as their whims and caprices are to consulted & there is no settled plan as to their management, there will inevitably be confusion and trouble.

I am writing plainly, not out of any feeling of vexation or resentment, but simply because you have written thus to me, and because the circumstances of the case demand plain and prompt action. I am now as I ever have been very willing to render through motives of friendship such service to your family as I may be able, & it is only by the exercise of the strictest economy that in the present arrangement of your force that you can get through this year, & instead of hireing either for the farm or for other purposes, it most certainly is the true policy to get clear of every one that can possibly be dispensed with.

I was from home from Tuesday last to Saturday evening or you would have heard from me sooner. You must be content as I and as many others have to, tho, to trust the future somewhat. I have not got corn enough on hand to last 2 months & but few have a year’s supply of corn or meat & if the Sureties to that note will as I have no doubt they will if the matter is properly represented to them consent to the appropriation of the negro hire to the purchase of provisions, it will place some 1200$ at your disposal & as soon as the notes are placed in my hands you can buy corn or meat & draw on me for the full amount of the notes & I will pay the orders.

This amt will surely relieve you till the next term of our Sup’r Court, when we can obtain (if necessary) in a legal manner such a decree as will enable us to get along for the bal. of the year, but as I have already said, I will not without proper authority violate the plain letter of that will — and I can but think that your threat to sell those negroes is made without due consideration. It is but too evident that there is a feeling of restlessness in regard to those negroes, a continual disposition to sell or exchange, which must result if persisted in to the detriment of the estate, & while I am always willing to do that which will promote the comfort or interest of Mrs. Battle or her family, I must see a good reason why a sale or exchange should be made before I proceed to make it. You need not send the Woman & children to me, but if you wish to dispose of her for the year, please come & let me know what kind of a negro she is, what incumbrance to her &c I will Endeavor to get her off your hands.

P.S. I have just seen Dr B. he gives up Hardy & keeps Stephen, Hilliard, & Turner — says further that he is willing to the appropriation of the negro hire Except his own to be applied as above proposed & I have no doubt will willingly agree to his own hire going in the same way if I solicit it, which I will if Mrs. Battle signifies her assent to the arrangement. It may be proper for me here to say in order to give Mrs. Battle time to select another that I shall be compelled upon the first opportunity (which will be at the June Court) to resign my Trusteeship because I see probability of my being able to so manage her affairs as to secure her best interest & retain the good will of others concerned


Turner, Hilliard, Hardy, and Stephen were among the group of enslaved people Margaret P. Battle inherited from her father.

Letter transcribed in The Past Speaks from Old Letters, “a copy of the working papers found in the files of Hugh B. Johnston, Jr., acquired in the course of his lifelong avocation as a professional genealogist and local historian,”republished by Wilson County Genealogical Society, March 2003.

Marble competition.


Wilson Daily Times, 2 July 1940.

Parker Reuben Battle was born in Wilson on 21 July 1928 to John Battle and Gladys O’kelly Battle. [His aunt, Roberta Battle Johnson, was one of the teachers who resigned en masse to protest the mistreatment of teacher Mary C. Euell by a white superintendent.]

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 the 1940 census of New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York: at 154 Crosby Place, garage helper Arthur Johnson, 30, wife Cora, 30, boarding house keeper, and son Arthur W., 9; brother-in-law Jack Willis, 33, chauffeur, and [Johnson’s] sister Pricie, 24, and children Albert, 3, Anna, 2, and Joan Arlene, 3 months; porter Herman Murphy, 28, and cook Vernon Murphy, 28; lodgers Grace Jean Battle, 13, and Parker Battle, 11; and lodger David Johnson, 21, waxer. The Battle children were reported as born in North Carolina and living in Wilson in 1935.

Cards of thanks.

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Wilson Daily Times, 30 April 1943.

  • Lizzie Battle — Lizzie Battle died 14 April 1942 at 709 East Green Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 September 1913 in Wayne County,N.C., to unknown parents; was married to Willie Battle; resided at 908 East Nash; and was buried in Greenleaf cemetery, Wayne County.
  • Willie Battle
  • Annie Elizabeth Weeks
  • Marie Weeks

In the  1910 census of New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina: at 176 George Street, pastor Alfred L. Weeks, 34; wife Annie, 34, a teacher; daughter Marie E., 4; and sister Bessie, 20.

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.

In the 1940 census of Salisbury, Rowan County, N.C., public school teacher Marie Weeks, 34, is listed as a lodger in the household of Isaac and Hattie A. Miller at 1008 West Monroe Street.

Annie Elizabeth Marie Weeks died 3 March 1962 in Salisbury, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 July 1905 in New Bern, N.C., to A.L.E. Weeks and Annie E. Cook; was never married; and worked as a teacher.

Annie E. Cook Weeks, Alfred L.E. Weeks, and A.E. Marie Weeks. A.B. Caldwell, ed., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).

Employees of Wainwright Foundry.

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On 18 May 1985, the Wilson Daily Times printed this remarkable photograph with the caption: “The employees of Wainwright Foundry, located on the north side of Pine Street between Broad and Kenan streets, posed for this photograph in 1894. From left are Jack Williamson, Frank Perry, George Rowland, Ad Holland, proprietor George H. Wainwright, William D. Thomas, Parker Battle and Smith Bennett. (Photo contributed by Hugh B. Johnston, restoration by Claude Anthony).”

Hat tip to Jim Skinner.