Studio shots, no. 38: the Freeman brothers.

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Ernest Aaron Freeman (1890-1970) and Joseph Thomas Freeman (1894-1991) were sons of Julius F. and Eliza Daniels Freeman and younger brothers of Oliver N. Freeman and Julius F. Freeman Jr.

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Tom and Ernest Freeman.

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.

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Ernest A. Freeman.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house carpenter Julius Freeman, 65; wife Eliza, 54; and children Nestus, 28, bricklayer; Ollie, 18, Daniel, 14, John, 7, Junius, 22, Ernest, 20, and Thomas, 17.

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Joseph T. Freeman.

Ernest Freeman registered for the World War I draft in Cleveland, Ohio. Per his registration card, he was born 3 November 1890 in Wilson, N.C.; resided at 2169 East 90th Street, Cleveland; worked as a sailor for the Pitts. Steam Ship Co. on the the steamer D.M. Clemson; and was single.

In the 1920 census of Cleveland, Ohio: at 2339 East 49th Street, steel foundry laborer Earnest Freeman, 30; wife Gertrude, 26; and daughter Gertrude, 11 months.

In the 1920 census of Los Angeles, California: at 1501 Essex Street, North Carolina-born post office clerk Joseph T. Freeman, 26, a lodger.

In the 1930 census of Cleveland, Ohio: at 2258 Ashland Road, factory clerk Earnest Freeman, 39; wife Gertrude, 35; and children Evelyn, 11, Eanest, 7, and Arthur J., 10 months; as well as boarder Myrtle Bufford, 35, a domestic servant. Freeman owned the house, valued at $4000, and rented apartments in it to two families.

In the 1930 census of Los Angeles, California: at 1220 – 33rd Street, mail clerk Joseph T. Freeman, 34, and wife Phyllis N., 31, cafe waitress. Joseph was born in North Carolina, and Phyllis was born in Minnesota to a Danish immigrant parent.

In the 1940 census of Cleveland, Ohio: at 2211 East 81st Street, National Steel foreman Ernest A. Freeman, 49; wife Gertrude; children Evelyn G. 21, Ernest Jr., 17, and Arthur J., 10.

In 1942, Earnest Aaron Freeman registered for the World War II draft in Cleveland. Per his registration card, he was born 3 November 1890 in Wilson, N.C.; resided at 2211 East 81st Street, Cleveland; worked for National Acme Company, East 131st and Coit Road; and his nearest relative was Mrs. Gertrude Freeman.

In 1942, Joseph Thomas Freeman registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he lived at 1248 West Jefferson, Los Angeles; was born 31 July 1894, Wilson, North Carolina; worked for the U.S. Postal Department, Terminal Annex, Mary Street and Alameda Street, Los Angeles; and his contact was Mrs. Sophia Freeman.

Ernest A. Freeman died 17 December 1970 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Joseph T. Freeman died 8 February 1991 and was buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, Fort Bliss, Texas.

Photographs of Freeman boys and teenaged E. Freeman courtesy of Ancestry user JaFreeman34; photo of J.T. Freeman as young adult courtesy of Ancestry user rcbrown1592rcb; The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18, The F.J. Heer Printing Co. (1926), online at

Peter Darden.

In the early pages of cookbook-cum-family memoir Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine, Norma Jean and Carole Darden describe the mystery of their grandfather Charles H. Darden (1854-1931)’s earliest years. As far as anyone knew, at Emancipation he walked on his own from Greene County to Wilson, where he planted his boot and raised himself by its straps.

While I have not discovered Charles Darden’s parents, the article below suggests that he did have family. The Gazette, an African-American newspaper published in Raleigh,  periodically ran society columns covering towns in eastern North Carolina, including Wilson and Rocky Mount. On 28 August 1897, the columnist mentioned in passing that Miss Annie “Dorden” of Wilson was visiting her uncle, Peter Darden. Annie Lee Darden (1879-1943) was the oldest daughter of Charles and Diana Scarborough Darden. (She married John Mack Barnes in Wilson in 1903.) Peter Darden, then, seems to have been Charles Darden’s older brother.


Raleigh Gazette, 28 August 1897.

In the 1870 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: house carpenter Peter Darden, 27, and Sidney M. Darden, 8. Peter claimed $100 in real property and $100 in personal property.

In the 1880 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: house carpenter Peter Darden, 38, wife Edna, 27, and sons Walter, 10, Johnny, 8, and Wesley, 4.

In the 1900 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: on Frankling Street, carpenter Peter Darden, 55, wife Ednar, 49, and son Westry, 33, a carpenter, plus boarder Mack Maderson, a preacher.

Westry Darden died of tuberculosis on 15 January 1910 in Rocky Mount. His death certificate reports that he was born 17 October 1875 to Peter Darden and Edna Speights, both of Greene County and was married and worked as a carpenter.

In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: at 230 Franklin Street, house carpenter Peter Darden, 70, wife Edna, 61, widowed daughter-in-law Lula, 22, and grandchildren Westray, 3, Walcott, 1, and Lula, 2 months.

In the 1920 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: at 230 Franklin Street, Peter Darden, 74, and wife Edna, 63.

Edna Darden died 30 March 1931 in Rocky Mount. Her death certificate reports that she had been born 8 May 1856 in Greene County to Redman Speight and Elizabeth Edwards. Peter Darden was informant.

Peter Darden died 9 February 1922 and was buried in Rocky Mount’s Unity Cemetery.


Both Mount Zion First Baptist Church and Saint James Missionary Baptist Church remain active congregations in Rocky Mount. Saint James celebrated its 130th anniversary in June 2015 and is described as the “2nd oldest African American Baptist Church in the Twin Counties area of Eastern North Carolina.”

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