blind

He was her only support: George H. Utley’s death notice.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 January 1930.

Turner Utley, 22, of Wilson County, and Mariah Williams, 24, of Wilson County, married 12 September 1901 in Wilson County. J.W. Rogers applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at Rogers’ residence in the presence of Irene Miller, Minnie Rogers and Bettie Davis.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 316 Spring Street, Turner Utley, 37, cook, and wife Maria, 36, cook; and lodger Aaron Utley, 21, factory laborer.

Geo. Utley, laborer; Maria Utley, domestic; and Turner Utley, cook, are listed at 902 Atlanta [Atlantic] in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory.

Turner H. Utley died 20 July 1928 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 52 years old; was born in Wake County to Ellen Utley; lived at 902 Atlantic Street, Wilson; and was married to Mariah Utley. He was buried in Rountree cemetery. 

George Utley died 14 January 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 24 years old; was a common laborer; lived at 902 Atlantic Street; was born in Wilson County to Turner Utley and Mariah Bailey; and was buried in Rountree cemetery.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 902 Atlantic, paying $18/month, McRuige Utley, 50, tobacco factory stemmer, and lodger John Powell, 14; paying $8/month, Garfield Grantham, 46, brickmason; wife Bessie, 41; and son John, 21, hotel bellboy.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 902 Atlantic, paying $8/month rent, Johnie Tillery, 24, janitor, and wife Annie, 23, tobacco factory employee; paying $4/month, Maria Utley, 57, widow, blind, on relief. 

Mariah Utley died 27 July 1944 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 65 years old; lived at 902 Atlantic Street; was born in Wilson County to Jessie Bailey and Allie Ricks of Nash County, N.C.; was the widow of Turner Utley; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Sarah Hendricks of Rocky Mount was informant.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III. Thank you!

The blind Williamson singers.

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Wilson N.C.  May 6. 1887

H.D. Norton/  Capt. &c

D Sir

Enclosed herewith you have a partial report of the condition of the unfortunates among the coloured population of the County, owing to the pressures of other duties. I have not been able to give the matter that attention necessary to give a full & correct report. If a longer time can be given I will give it further attention & report again — I would say that the case of the blind chidlren herein reported is one that calls loudly for sympathy & assistance, five in one family from their birth.

Yours Very Respy &c, J.W. Davis Shff Wilson Co

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Table Showing the Number, Sex & Age of the class of ‘Unfortunates’ among the colored people of Wilson County, State of North Carolina

  • Sarah Selby, age 54
  • Wm. Williamson, age 8
  • Edward Williamson, age 12
  • Allice Williamson, age 4
  • Pauline Williamson, age 5
  • Aquilla Williamson, age 7
  • Jno. Bailey
  • Robt. Hinnant

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Edmund Williamson, 50; wife Thany, 44; and children William, 25, Nicie, 23, Eliza, 22, Eddie, 21, Ally, 19, Pollina, 17, Dolly Ann, 15, Isaac, 12, and Raiford, 7. The six hashmarks at right are in the column marked “Blind,” and the occupation of William, Eddie, Alice and Pauline was listed as “gives concerts.”

As described here, the Williamson siblings were educated at the state’s School for the Blind and earned a good living touring to showcase their remarkable voices.

On 12 October 1903, Edmund Williamson drafted his last will and testament. Per his wishes, his “two blind sons William Williamson and Edmund Williamson” and his “blind daughter Leany Williamson” were to equally divide a life estate in all his real estate and then to successive heirs “to remain in the Williamson family forever.” Daughter Dollie Ann Brownricks was to receive a life estate in all Williamson’s personal property, money, stock and crops, with her children Timothy, Bethania and Lizzie Seabury to receive the remainder.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org 

Musical blind children of Wilson County.

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The Voice: An International Review of the Speaking and Singing Voice, vol. 7 (1885).

MUSICAL BLIND CHILDREN.

For several days past there has been a remarkable family of negroes in Atlanta. Their name is Williamson, and they came from Wilson county, North Carolina. There are three brothers and four sisters, all of whom have been totally blind from birth. They are the children of black parents who were slaves and ordinary field hands. Unto them were born fourteen children, seven of whom had sight, while seven were blind. The blind children were not only hardier and healthier, but their mental endowments are superior to those of their brothers and sisters who could see. They went to Raleigh to the state blind asylum and were there well educated. Every one of them developed a remarkable talent for music, and on leaving the asylum they organized themselves into a concert company and began to travel through the South. The oldest brother married a smart negro woman, who acts as guide and business manager of the party. They have been all over the South giving entertainments, which have paid them handsomely. They sing and play on various instruments with remarkable skill. All of them have good voices, which have been well trained.

Their most remarkable performances are the exhibitions of their powers of mimicry. They imitate a brass band so perfectly, that a person outside the hall in which they are humming would almost invariably be deceived. Their imitation of the organ is equally perfect. Each of the singers makes a peculiar noise and carries his or her own part of the performance, and the combined result is a deep music very like to the pealing of a grand organ. These are two of their many tricks. They are constantly adding to their repertoire, and perfecting themselves more and more in their curious arts.  They have educated the sense of touch to a remarkable degree. By feeling of a person’s face and head, they can give an accurate description of his or her appearance; and one of the sisters claims that she can tell the color of the hair by touching it. The seven will stand with joined hands and any object can be placed in the hands of the oldest brother at the end of the line; while he holds it, he claims that the magnetic current which passes through the entire line will enable any one of his brothers and sisters to tell what he has in his hand. At any rate, some remarkable guesses of this kind are made.

The blind negroes have given a series of entertainments in various negro churches in the city, and have created a great sensation among the colored population. It is said they take great care of their aged parents, who still reside on the old homestead in North Carolina, in the same cabin where they lived as slaves, and where their fourteen children were born.The blind singers have bought the place and presented it to their parents. The brothers and the wife of the eldest manage the financial affairs of the combination so successfully that they accumulated a snug property. The oldest brother is about twenty-eight and the youngest sister about sixteen years old. Various efforts have been made by professional managers to secure the control of this remarkable family, but they prefer to take care of their own affairs. They are all  intelligent and remarkably well posted on matters in general.  — Atlanta Constitution.