Black Creek township

Arthur Bass house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“This house is said to have been the property of Arthur Bass. According to the Wayne County census of 1850 Arthur Bass was born in 1816. Little is known of Bass’ life. … The Bass House appears to date from the 1830s and it consists of a two-story dwelling with an attached shed porch and three-bay façade. Under the porch the façade is sheathed in flush boards instead of the unusual weatherboards, the main house is linked with the kitchen by an open breezeway on the eastern elevation and this breezeway shelters an unusual enclosed exterior stair. On the first floor of the main house there are two main rooms, while the second floor appears to have been one large room.”


In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse River, Wayne County, North Carolina [in an area which became part of Black Creek township, Wilson County, in 1855]: farmer Arthur Bass, 34; wife Martha, 19; and daughter Zilla, 8 months. Per the 1850 slave schedule of the same district, Arthur Bass enslaved a 25 year-old woman, a three year-old boy and a two year-old girl.

In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Arthur Bass, 46; wife Pattie, 28; and children Zillah, 11, Louisa, 8, Perry, 6, and William, 2 months. He listed $4000 in real property and $7000 in personal property. His personal property, per the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, included five enslaved girls and women ranging from 8 months to 32 years old and two enslaved boys. aged 12 and five.

Arthur Bass was just one of several white Basses who enslaved people in Wilson County. The 1870 census of Wilson County lists 134 African-Americans with the surname Bass living in households across eastern Wilson County in Black Creek, Stantonsburg, Gardners, Wilson, Joyners and Cross Roads townships.

White man arrested for shooting negro.


Wilson Daily Times, 19 August 1921.

[Ruffin Woodard is listed in the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County, as a 38 year-old white farmer, but I have not found a listing for Hardy Johnson. Paul Lee Woodard, whose small house still stands in downtown Black Creek, was a farmer whose seed and feed store in Wilson is the city’s longest continually operating business in town. This brief article raises so many questions: Both Woodard and Johnson were tenant farmers on P.L. Woodard’s land. What was their conflict? Woodard was arrested and jailed for shooting Johnson, but Woodard’s countercharges against Johnson failed to stick. Was this a matter of Justice of the Peace Jule Hardy’s scrupulous fairness? Ruffin Woodard’s lack of standing and concomitant loss of privilege? (And, if so, why?) Hardy’s stature?]

The thief was on to the game.

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Wilson Advance, 25 February 1897.

A “tom thumb” is a sausage made with pork shoulder, sage, and red pepper, heavily salted and stuffed into a hog’s stomach.  The resulting large lump is either smoked or dry-cured and is a delicacy found — with decreasing frequency — in Virginia and the Carolinas.


On 7 January 1886, John Melton, 28, married Lucey Farmer, 29, at Tobey Farmer‘s in the presence of Thos. Ruffin, J.H. Lassiter and Robert Melton.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: John Melton, 42, wife Lucy, 45, sons John, 16, and Samuel A., 13.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: John Melton, 51, wife Lucy, 55, son Johnnie Jr., 24, boarder James Dudley, 20, and grandson Sam Melton, 12.

I cannot get any information from the negroes.


Ada Sauls – Mary Sauls my daughter. Died Sat. June 22; died in kitchen. I and grandchildren present. No one else present. Died about 1 o’clock; was in the kitchen when they – deceased – and Mary were there; Mary told one of the children to get her water; when I looked around she fell under the table; Sarah was in another room when Mary fell; they had no trouble during the day, had no trouble that could be seen from the road; After asking for water little girl began cry; ran to her and tried to get her up – hardly know what I did; say Gray Spell when he come; never told him that Mary and Sarah had been fighting; Mary and Sarah was continually scrapping about the children; Mary was continually complaining her heart; she was bloated ever since birth of her last child.

Gray Spell – I learned of this trouble June 22 12 o’clock; heard she was dead. I saw Mary laying on floor in dining room; Miss Farmer and the children was there; never saw Ada Sauls; Ada said they were eating, Mary and Sarah got to full, Ada wouldn’t let them fuss; Mary reached around to get something to hit Sarah with but she never arose; no licks passed; helped pick Mary up; put her on the bed; she was dead; never saw any blood or bruise.

Grace Farmer – I visited this house yesterday; heard her squalling; heard children say My poor mother is dead; when I got to the house she was on the floor dead; Estelle Sauls and her Mother was there; Sarah was on the outside; Evan Farmer Estelle & Ada Sauls helped to put her on the bed; heard Sarah say she didn’t believe Mary was dead; said God damn her she didn’t believe she was dead. She was obeying her mother by remaining on outside; I remained until late; assisted in shrouding; Sarah didn’t help; Never saw wounds except on her face; her hands were drawn.

Ada Sauls – 12 years old; was in room when mother died. She asked for water. I waited on her. Mother and Sarah was not mad; Aunt Sarah was not in room when Mother died; Mother fell backward; fell between bench & table; struck bench on one side. Sarah came in after death; no one told me what to say; I was looking at her when she fell; said nothing before falling.

Sarah Sauls – had no trouble with sister Saturday; Grace Farmer misunderstood me; I never cursed her; saw Grace when she got over fence; Never eat a mouthful for dinner; wasn’t in the room when she fell; wasn’t in room when mother was talking to Grace Spell; went in room after he fell; never saw any wounds on body; never held ill feeling against my sister. Only about children; Mary said Saturday morning, I feel like my heart will kill me.

Estell Sauls – Wasn’t in room when she died; Mary & Sarah to my knowing had not been fussing.

R.B. Etherid[g]e – Don’t know but little about affair; Gracie told me to send Dr. that Mary was foaming at mouth; didn’t know whether she was dead or not; asked her if there had been any trouble; nothing but few words fast. Went to depot and delivered message.

Jas. Bass – First I knew Spell came by me and said Mary Sauls was past speaking. Some one was fighting Mary & Jane.

John Hinnant – First heard of trouble between 12 & 1; heard she was dead; Spell told me she was dead; found Mary lying on the floor dead.


Black Creek NC, 6/23/07

Dear Doctor: —

Two negro women fighting yesterday at Jos. Horne’s place near the Branch farm blow struck one fell dead – sisters & I can’t get any information parties who saw body yesterday pm said blow on left eye little pierced hole above upper eyelid – Many People desire post mortem before burial at 4 pm I would suggest you come & bring such assistance as you deem sufficient.

Yours truly, H.M. Rowe


Black Creek NC, 6/23/07

D Sir:

I could not get any information from the negroes all of one family sisters at that I have written Coroner to come hold post mortem & that’s why I wired you.

Yours truly, H.M. Rowe


Sunday Afternoon, June 23, 1907,

We, the following jurors, summoned and duly sworn to enquire into the cause of death of Mary Sauls, find from the evidence adduced that the deceased came to her death from natural causes.  R.B. Evans, R.B. Ethridge, W.D. Ruffin, L.D. Tomlinson, Wiley Barnes, Jonathan Tomlinson, W.H. Anderson Coroner


  • Ada, Mary Ann, Sarah Jane, Estelle, and Ada Sauls — On 20 December 1869, Patrick Sauls married Ada Thompson in Wayne County, North Carolina. In the 1880 census of Saulston, Wayne County: Patrick Sauls, 28, wife Ada, 23, and children Walter, 9, Mary Ann, 7, Sarah J., 5, Hattie, 3, and Lee, 3 months. [Note: Lee Sauls swore, with an X, to an affidavit asserting his belief that his sister had died by criminal act. See above.] In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Patric Saul, 57, wife Ada, 47, and children and grandchildren Mary A., 22, Susan, 5, Ester, 3, Sarrah, 28, Dewey, 3, Lee, 16, Clyde, 13, Enniss, 11, and Estelle, 9. Ada Sauls died 16 October 1925 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was the widow of Parritt Sauls, born about 1853 in Green County, worked as a tenant farmer for Fred Carr. Dewey Sauls was informant. Sarah Sauls died 3 October 1961 in Wilson at her home at 102 N. East Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 May 1888 in Greene County to Patric Sauls and Ada Thomas and was buried in the femily cemetery in Black Creek. Bessie Sauls of 102 N. East Street was informant.
  • Gray Spell — in the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: widowed farmer Chaney Spells, 55, sons James S., 19, Gray, 17, Walter, 16, and Charley, 13, grandchildren Unity, 14, Fannie, 10, Irvin, 7, and Chaney Farmer, 2, and boarder Harriet Killibrew, 45.
  • Grace Farmer


News & Observer (Raleigh), 25 June 1907.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Black Creek residents.

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Jimmie Jack Sims.

“Jimmie Jack was one of three sons of Mary Sims. Born and raised in Black Creek he moved north quite young where he became a chef. Later he returned here and worked in the W.C. and W.H. Privette homes and store until his death. He was a dependable messenger who pushed the mail in a two-wheel cart from the railroad station to the post office daily.

Lewis and Boots Sims, brothers of Jimmie Jack, were railroad section workers at a time when all work was manual. The ring of metal mallets on the steel spikes was a familiar sound. The rhythm of wielding the mallets required dexterity and perfect timing. The townspeople appreciated their labor under the watchful eye of the section foreman Mr. H.W. Ezzell, known to everyone as Captain Ezzell.”

In the 1910 census of Black Creek, Wilson County: on East Railroad Street, farm laborer James Sanders, 28, wife Mary, 36, and Lewis, 10, Jack, 9, Jesse, 5, George W., 4, and Jimmie S. Sanders, 2.

On 24 August 1913, Jim Saunders, 30, son of Allen and Classy Saunders, married Mary Simms, 34, daughter of Jack and Creasy Simms, at Mary Simms’ residence in Black Creek. [Note: per the marriage licenses of Mary’s siblings Reddick Simms and Frank Simms, her mother was in fact named Treasy.]

In the 1920 census of Black Creek, Wilson County: farmer James L. Sanders, 37, wife Mary, and Louis, 22, Jack, 19, Jesse, 16, George, 12, and James L. Sanders Jr., 10, all farm laborers.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek, Wilson County: farmer James Saunders, 45, wife Mary, 54, an odd job laborer, and stepsons steam sawmill laborer Lewis, 34, farm laborer Jesse, 22, steam railroad laborer George, 20, and farm laborer James, 19.

Mary Sanders died 8 October 1954 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. She was a married resident of Black Creek and had been born 1 January 1873. Her father’s name was Jack Simms. She was buried in Black Creek cemetery.

Lewis Simms died 17 February 1967 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Salisbury, North Carolina, of cardiac arrest. He was born 1 May 1895 in Wilson County to Mary Simms. He was single and a veteran of World War I. He was buried in Black Creek cemetery.


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Rachel Smith with Chester and Lillie Lancaster.

Chester Lancaster was born in 1918, and his sister Lillie in 1919. This photo, then, was taken in early 1920.


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Tina Pleasants, housekeeping employee at Lee Woodard School.

— From Black Creek: The First One Hundred Years, published by the Black Creek Historical Society in 1984.

Free people of color, 1860: Black Creek district.

Free people of color enumerated in Wilson County’s first federal census, taken in 1860.

Black Creek district

#17. Louisa Rose, 10, F, mulatto, in the household of 51 year-old white farm laborer Gray Lodge.

#43. Terrell Parker, 23, M, mulatto, in the household of 40 year-old white farmer Elias Farrell.

#45. Farm laborer Smithy Artis, 38, F, black, and son George Artis, 21, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Zilpha Daniel, 53.

#54. Farm laborer William Ayres, 30, M, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Stephen Privett, 50.

#79. Farm laborer John Hagans, 23, M, black, in the household of white farmer, Edwin Barnes, 35.

#82. Farm laborer Caroline Hagans, 18, F, black; her likely son Jacob Hagans, 7 months, black; and James Barnes, 17, M, black, in the household of white farmer Elias Barnes, 57.

#88. Martha Morris, 60, white, with her likely daughter Elizabeth Morris, 25, mulatto, and granddaughter Martha Morris, 2,, mulatto.

#89. Zillah Morris, 4, F, mulatto, in the household of 81 year-old white farmer John Saunders.

#92. Farm laborer Rufus Artis, 15, M. mulatto, in the household of white farmer Jacob Woodard.

#93. Mary Artis, 14, F, mulatto, in the household of Felix Woodard, 21, white.

#94. Mattress maker Jerry Manly, 50, M, mulatto, and Maria Manly, 55, F, mulatto.

#145. Farm laborer Daniel Hagans, 74, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Jesse Aycock, 34.

#152. Farm laborer Leah Langston, 38, F, black, who claimed $30 personal estate; with children and grandchildren Rebeca, 21, Martha, 18, Lucinda, 10, Louis, 5, Mourning, 5, Isaac, 3, Polly, 1, Benajah, 4, and Frank and Frances, 4 months. (The last three described as mulatto.)

#199. Cooper Solomon Andrews, 50, M, mulatto, in the household of white farmer Stephen Woodard Sr.

#203. Seamstress Jane Mitchell, 27, F, mulatto, with James, 12, George, 9, Nancy, 8, John, 6, and Bennet Mitchell, 4, and day laborer Martha Blackwell, 20.

#207. Turpentine worker Dempsey Powell, 30, M, mulatto, who claimed $130 personal estate; Sallie Simpson, 28, F, mulatto; and Sallie Simpson, 9, F, mulatto.

#208. Teamster Calvin Powell, 35, M; Penelope, 30, F; Jefferson, 12, M; Cidney, 10, F; and Calvin Powell, 6, M; all mulatto.


The last will and testament of Britton Simms.

On 30 September 1825, Britton Simms of the Black Creek area (then in Wayne County, now in southeast Wilson County), “being in a low state of health but in perfect disposing mind and memory,” penned a will whose provisions included:

  • to daughter Mary Chance “two Negroes one by the name of Harper and Lot his wife”
  • to daughter Sally Daniel “three Negroes by the name of Ollif, Arch and George
  • to Britton Daniel “one Negro girl by the name of little Haner
  • to granddaughter Kiziah Bardin “one Negro girl by the name of Selah
  • to granddaughter Polly Bardin “one Negro girl by the name of Hanah
  • to grandson James Daniel “one Negro boy by the name of Pompy
  • to grandson Robert Aycock “one Negro boy by the name of J[illegible]”
  • to grandson Jesse Aycock “one Negro boy by the name of Tom
  • to grandson James Bardin “one Negro boy by the name of Abram
  • to grandson Moses Daniel “one Negro girl by the name of Lany

North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Bunches Church.


Bunches Church, near Black Creek, Wilson County.


This passage is from Black Creek: The First One Hundred Years, published by the Black Creek Historical Society in 1984. If Bunches is indeed one of Wilson County’s earliest African-American congregations, it dates from about 1866. June G. Evans was a white farmer who lived in the Black Creek community. I have not been able to identify the Reverend Bunch who lent his name to the church.


They are entitled to attend the white schools.

In November 1909, James Lamm sued Wilson’s Black Creek school district, claiming his children had been barred from admission “without just cause.” They were listed on pupil censuses as white children, said Lamm, and were entitled to attend white schools as they always had.

LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_1

LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_2

The suit prompted a detailed examination of the ancestry of Lamm’s wife, Jane Carter (also known as Jane Locus.) In due course, Wilson County Superior Court issued a short decision finding that Lamm was a “pure blooded white man” with six children; that the children’s maternal great-grandmother was 5/8 white and had a white father; that the great-grandmother had a daughter (the children’s grandmother) who had a white father; and that the children’s mother also had a white father. The children being white enough, judgment for the plaintiff. The children must be enrolled.

LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_5

The case file in the matter still includes notes from the testimony of two witnesses concerning the children’s lineage. Their grandmother was Equit Locus, whose father was believed to be white. (Her surname places her as a member of one of the largest free families of color in antebellum eastern North Carolina, the Locus/Locusts.) With Dallas Taylor, a white man, Ezrit had Wealthy Locus, who was described as “practically white.” Wealthy, in turn, gave birth to Jane — James Lamm’s wife — whose father was “said to be Van B. Carter,” a white man.LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_3

LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_4

Records related to “bastardy” actions in Wilson County support Joe Horne’s identification of Jane’s father. In September 1870, Wealthy Locus was summoned to court to answer charges that she “is with child whitch child when Bornd will Be a Basterd.” Wealthy named Van Carter as the father of the child, but he could not be found within county limits. It is not clear whether he ever posted a bond or otherwise supported the child. (Van Buren Carter, born about 1850, was a Nash County native. He died in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 1933.)

Weltha Locus Bastardy Papers_Page_2

Weltha Locus Bastardy Papers_Page_3

In the 1860 census of Bailey township, Nash County: John Locus, 60, wife Nancy, 51, and children and grandchildren Thomas, 30, Equitta, 28, Jno., 21, Neverson, 19, Cytha, 15, Sparling, 13, Nancy E., 12, Wealtha, 9, James S., 4, Polly, 2, and Eliza Locus, 2 months. All were classified as mulatto. (If John and Nancy Locus were Equitta’s parents, witnesses were incorrect in their testimony that Wealthy’s mother, too, had a white father.)

In the 1870 census of Springfield township, Nash County: John Locus, 65, with Sparling, 20 and  James Locus, 17, plus Equit, 35, Murnivia, 10, Elizia, 12, Wethia, 20, Malinda, 2 months, and Dotsey, 14; all mulatto.

Wealthy Locust, 23 [she was actually closer to 30], appeared in the 1880 census of Black Creek, Wilson County, in the household of farmer J.C. Rice. She had five children — Jane, 9, Mary, 5, James G., 3, and Bryant, 7 months — and her mother Equit lived with them. All are described as mulatto. Wealthy worked as a cook, and the relationship to her of each of her family members is oddly phrased in this context — “daughter of cook,” “mother of cook,” etc. (As we will see below, this is not an entirely accurate description of the familial ties within this household.)

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The 1880 census was the last time Wealthy’s family as a whole is classified as  mulatto. (And the last time but one that her older children bear the name Locus.) Though they remained in the community in which everyone knew them and their mother, all of Wealthy’s children transitioned to white identities as they entered adulthood.

On 15 December 1889, James Lamm, 27, married Jane Carter, 20, at Amos Hays’ in Black Creek township. Both were described as white.

Daughter Mary Locus, 18, married Robert Barnes, 23, in Black Creek on 27 July 1893. Robert is described as white; the space for Mary’s race was left blank.

Wealthy’s daughter Bettie married James Bass in 1897, and her marriage license sheds new light on that census entry. Bettie’s last name was Rice and, at 16, she was a minor. “J.C. Rice & Weltha Locas the Father & Mother” of Bettie Rice had to give written permission for her to marry. Bettie was described as white, and her sister Jane Lamm was an official witness to the ceremony.

The 1900 census of Black Creek, however, shows that the family’s social identity remained fluid, at least in the eyes of the community. At household #106, [Wealthy’s son] James G. Rice, 23, wife Lou, 21, and son Lee, 1, all white. At #108, Wealthy Locus, 50, son Zacariah, 13, and daughter Fannie, 10, all black. At #109, Pennsylvania-born James C. Rice, 55, white [father of Wealthy’s younger children.] At #113, James Lamm, 42, wife Jane, 30, and children Robert L., 9, James C., 7, Mamie, 4, and Leona, 2, all white.

In December 1909, just after he filed suit against the school board, James Lamm filed for a marriage license on behalf of Lester Lucas, 21, and his sister-in-law Fannie Rice, 19. Fannie, now white, gave her parents as J.C. Rice and Wealthy Joyner.

James C. Rice died about 1917. Under the terms of his will, executed 23 October 1915, James left (1) Welthy Joyner six five-hundred dollar promissory notes in trust, with her to have use of the interest at her discretion and to be distributed after her death to J.G. Rice, Zack Rice, Mary Barnes, Bettie Bass and Fannie Lucas, and (2) a $1000 note to be divided among the same five. (The will does not refer to them as his children.)

In the 1920 census of Black Creek: James G. Rice, 43, wife Louetta, 42, sons Lee, 21, Henry, 19, and Frank, 11, widowed mother Welthy Joyner, 70, and his in-laws. All were white.

Wealthy Locus died 18 June 1922. Her surname was recorded as “Joyner,” and her son James provided information about her life. She was again described as a widow (no marriage license has been found), William Joyner was listed as her father (James Rice supposedly had no information about his grandmother, Ezrit Locus), and she was white. (That Thomas Yelverton & Company handled her burial signals community acceptance of that identity. Undertakers were segregated in that era.)


Zack Rice, Wealthy’s youngest son, died 8 March 1934 in Black Creek. His death certificate lists his parents as Jim Rice and Wilthy Rice. James Gaston Rice died 25 February 1940. His death certificate lists his parents as James C. Rice, born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Welthy Joyner. Jane Carter Lamm died 21 February 1945 in Wilson, Wilson County.  Her death certificate lists her parents as Van Carter and Wealthy Joyner, and she is classified as white.

School Records (1909), Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives; Bastardy Bonds, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.