brickmason

312 Finch Street.

The twenty-first in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “1941; 1 ½ stories; Benjamin Harris house; brick-veneered Tudor Revival dwelling built by Harris for his home; Harris was a brick mason; fine example of this style in district.”

This home has been continuously occupied by the family since its construction. For more about Benjamin A. Harris Sr., see here.

Photo taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2017.

John M. and Annie D. Barnes.

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John M. and Annie D. Barnes. The building behind them appears to be Mercy Hospital. They lived next door at 500 East Green Street.

John Mack Barnes is one of a handful of African-Americans whose bio briefs were submitted for publication in History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985). “Father John Barnes was a real down to earth person. Never a hint of show off, or put on trying to impress you. Every one that knew him had to respect him.”

Per the article, John Barnes was born 26 December 1870 in Edgecombe County to Charles and Rebecca Barnes. (Benjamin Frank Barnes was one of his brothers.) He married Annie Darden and fathered four children, Leonard Elroy, Artelia, Thelma, and a boy who died early. Annie Darden Barnes taught at the Sallie Barbour School.

Barnes was a master builder, carpenter and brickmason whose finest works included Saint John A.M.E. Zion church and parsonage, Camillus L. Darden‘s stately Colonial Revival home on Pender Street, and the Tudor Revival Darden Funeral Home on Nash. He was devoted to Saint John and served as violin soloist, steward and trustee during his 69 years of membership. In his spare time, he raised Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock chickens at his home at 500 East Green Street.

When Annie Barnes died, Barnes built a brick and cement mausoleum for her remains. John M. Barnes died 27 April 1958 and was buried in an extension of the mausoleum built by his friend George Coppedge.

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Barnes mausoleum in Darden family plot, Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson, February 2017.

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In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charley Barnes, 50, wife Beckey, 36, and children John, 10, Frank, 6, Ann, 4, William C., 3, Thomas, 1, and Corah H., 1 month.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmhand Charley Barnes, 50; wife Rebecca, 57, washing; and children John, 26, drayman, William, 23, drayman, Annie, 17, cooking, Tom, 18, day laborer, and Corrah, 12, nursing.

On 22 December 1903, John M. Barnes, 33, son of Chas. and Rebecca Barnes of Wilson, married Annie Lee Darden, 24, daughter of Chas. and Dianah Darden of Wilson. Samuel H. Vick applied for the license, and Methodist Episcopal minister B.D. McIver performed the service in the presence of C.R. Cannon, Walter Hines, and O.L.W. Smith.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason John M. Barnes, 44, wife Annie L., 32, Leonard E., 5, Lee J. [Leo Artelia], 4, Selma [Thelma] F., 2, and John W., 3 months.

In the 1912 Hill’s city directory, John M. Barnes, bricklayer, is listed at 121 Pender Street (adjacent to Saint John A.M.E. Zion.) In the 1922 and 1930 city directories, he is listed at 500 East Green. His occupation was given as plasterer in 1922.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 500 East Green, bricklayer John M. Barnes, 69, and wife Annie L., 61.

Annie Lee Barnes died 3 May 1943 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 February 1879 in Wilson to Charles Henry Darden of Greene County and Dianna Scarborough of Wilson County; was married to John M. Barnes; and taught at the Sallie Barbour School. John M. Barnes was informant.

John M. Barnes died 27 April 1958 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1870 in Wayne County to Charles and Rebecca Pope Barnes; worked as a brickmason; was married to Cora Sherrod Barnes [daughter of Jack and Cassie Sherrod]; and was buried at Rest Haven. Thelma B. Byers was informant.

Photo of John and Annie Barnes courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985); cemetery photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2017.

Benjamin Frank Barnes.

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Cornerstone, Mount Hebron Lodge.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charley Barnes, 50, wife Beckey, 36, and children John, 10, Frank, 6, Ann, 4, William C., 3, Thomas, 1, and Corah H., 1 month.

On 3 May 1899, Benjamin F. Barnes, 25, son of Charles and Rebecca Barnes of Wilson County, married Prudy Miller, 20, daughter of Prissy Miller, in Wilson. Rev. S.B. Hunter performed the ceremony at Saint John’s A.M. E. Zion in the presence of L.A. Moore, Charlotte Aycock and Annie V.C. Hunt.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house mover Frank Barnes, 28, wife Prudence, 21, mother-in-law Priscillia Miller, 45, and her son John, 14.

On 14 September 1904, B.F. Barnes, 31, of Wilson County, son of Charles and Rebecca Barnes, married Nicey A. Harper, 30, daughter of John and Edna Harper of Greene County, in Snow Hill township, Greene County.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Benj. F. Barnes, bricklayer, is listed residing at 221 Pender Street.

In the 1910 census of Snow Hill, Greene County: in the household of John and Edna Harper, son-in-law Frank Barnes, 37, married twice, brickmason, and daughter Nicie A., 38.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 418 Green Street, brickmason Frank Barnes, and wife Nicey, 47.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason Frank Barnes, 68, wife Nicey, 69, and brother-in-law Will Harper, 62.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2016.

Benjamin A. Harris.

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As noted here, Benjamin Amos Harris was one of a small group of kinsmen, including Julius and Oliver Freeman, who traveled nearly 700 miles from Wilson to Alabama to attend Tuskegee Institute. He was awarded a certificate in May 1917, returned home, and established a bricklaying business that his sons carried on after his untimely death.

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On 25 January 1894, Edwin Harris, 21, married Bettie Daniel, 21, at the residence of Amos Daniel.

In the 1900 census of Fremont township, Wayne County: day laborer Ed Harriss, 27, wife Bettie, 24, and children Benjamin A., 5, Roday [Rhoda], 4, and John H., 6 months.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Ed Harriss, 37, wife Bettie, 34, and children Benjamin, 15, Rhoda, 14, Johney, 10, Nanny, 9, Nicey and Vicey, 7, Edgar, 4, and Oscar and Roscar, 1.

Shortly after graduation from Tuskegee, Benjamin Amos Harris registered for the World War I draft. He reported to Eureka Precinct of the Wayne County Draft Board that he was born 16 October 1896 in near Fremont, Wayne County; that he resided in Stantonsburg [actually, at a Wayne County residence with a Stantonsburg address]; that he worked as a farm laborer for his father near Eureka, Wayne County; and was single. He was described as medium height and build with black hair and eyes. He signed his card “Benja Harris.”

Ed Harris died in Nahunta township, Wayne County, on 25 February 1918, perhaps while his oldest son Ben was away at war. Per his death certificate, he was born in Wayne County in 1872 to Sylvester Harris and Rhoda Daniel and worked as a farmer. He was buried at “A.D. Scott’s place.” Son John Harris was informant. Bettie Harris died eleven months later. Per her death certificate, filed in Wayne County, she was born 29 September 1875 in Wilson County to John Daniels and Millie Daniel. She too was buried at A.D. Scott’s place; son Ben A. Harris was informant.

On 14 March 1922, Benj. A. Harris, 25, married Pauline Artis, 20, in Nahunta township, Wayne County. She was the daughter of Noah and Patience Mozingo Artis.

The Harrises moved ten miles into Wilson shortly after their marriage. In the 1925 Wilson city directory: Harris Benj bricklyr h 407 Viola.

The National Register Historic Places registration form for East Wilson Historic District describes Ben Harris’ house this way: “1941.  1 1/2 stories.  Benjamin Harris house; brick veneered Tudor Revival dwelling built by Harris for his home; Harris was a brickmason; fine example of this style in district.” His descendants have lived in the house for 75 years.

Benjamin A. Harris died 15 May 1955.

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Wilson Daily Times, 18 May 1955.

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Benjamin A. Harris’ grave at Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.

Photograph of Harris courtesy of Ancestry.com user ladyjmcnow. Photo of grave by Lisa Y. Henderson.

Oliver N. Freeman.

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O.N. Freeman

From North Carolina Architects and Builders: A Biographical Directory:

Oliver Nestus Freeman (February 22, 1882-September 28, 1955) was a prolific, creative, and multi-talented craftsman active in Wilson from about 1910 to his death in 1955. He became the community’s preeminent brick and stonemason and also worked in tile, but he is best known for his stonework on his own buildings and throughout the community.

“Born in rural Wilson County, the son of Julius Freeman, a carpenter, and Eliza Daniels Freeman, Freeman was educated at the Tuskegee Normal School where he majored in industrial arts. Training and experience in construction, including masonry work, constituted an important part of the Tuskegee program. As a young man, Freeman taught at Tuskegee and later at the Wilbanks School in Wilson County. He married Willie May Hendley, originally of Nashville, Tennessee, whom he met at Tuskegee. The Freemans became friends with both Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver through the Tuskegee connection. The couple settled in Wilson about 1910, and there Freeman constructed a modest brick house at 1300 East Nash Street, where they raised four children, and which has remained in the family.

“Freeman identified himself to the census takers of 1910 and 1920 as a brickmason, but he was skilled at all types of masonry work. Especially distinctive is his bold, rough stonework for foundations, chimneys, columns, and other architectural elements throughout Wilson, especially for the city’s many fine bungalows. Besides his work on buildings, he created imaginative masonry sculptures that enhance many Wilson gardens.

“Freeman’s best known works are those he built for himself. After constructing a brick cottage for himself and his wife in about 1910, in the 1920s he transformed the Oliver Nestus Freeman House into a stone bungalow. Over the years he added stone and concrete garden sculptures to his property, including a 7-foot dinosaur. In addition, he constructed nearby a rental dwelling, to help with the local housing shortage. Known as the Freeman Round House (1940s), the locally unique house of rough stone features a circular plan divided into wedge-shaped rooms. Long a landmark of the community, in recent years the round house has been preserved and opened as a local museum.”

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Another of Freeman’s buildings — Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 612 Vance Street NE, Wilson.

Photo of Freeman courtesy of www.digitalnc.org; photo of church taken by Lisa Y. Henderson in May 2016.

 

Instruction that would prepare us for a useful life.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 3 June 1911.

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Julius Franklin Freeman Jr. (1888-1960) was the son of Julius F. and Eliza Daniels Freeman.  Noted stonemason Oliver Nestus Freeman was his older brother. The family appears in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: 56 year-old carpenter Julius Freeman, wife Eliza, 46, and children Elizabeth, 19, Nestus, 17, Junius, 11, Ernest, 9, Tom, 6, Daniel, 4, and Ruth, 4 months.

Built circa 1925 — no doubt by Freeman himself — the two-story Julius Freeman house at 1114 Washington Street is described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report as “hip-roofed, cubic form with original brick veneer and simple Colonial Revival detail.” Here’s the house now:

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Freeman was a long-time vocational education teacher at C.H. Darden High School in Wilson. The photograph below is part of the collection at the Freeman Roundhouse, the East Wilson museum housed in one of Julius’ brother O.N.’s constructions.

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http://library.digitalnc.org/cdm/fullbrowser/collection/ncimages/id/9901/rv/singleitem