The deaths of African Americans in early 20th century Wilson generally did not merit mention in the newspaper unless their lives could be framed in terms of their personal service to white people. This obituary could serve as a template in this regard.
It surely was not the Millie Smith Sutton who murdered her brother O.L.W. Smith‘s wife Lucy in 1891. I can find no death certificate for a Millie Sutton in Wilson or surrounding counties in 1936. However, Millie Bryant died 17 October 1936. Per her death certificate, she was 70 years old; was born in Goldsboro, N.C., to unknown parents; lived at 608 East Green Street. Celia A. Norwood, 205 Pender Street, was informant. Was Millie Bryant, in fact, “this good woman”?
Per the 1900 census of Wilson, she was. Millie Bryant is listed as the live-in cook for widower John Selby and family.
From 1900 federal census, Wilson, Wilson County.
Ten weeks before she died, Millie Bryant made out her last will and testament, leaving all her property to her niece Celia Norwood.
As usual, the 15 January 1924 Wilson Times mined the police blotter to publish titillating filler stories of alleged criminal activity by African-Americans. Here, two black women were arrested and charged with robbing “a Greek” of seventeen dollars. The women had proclaimed innocence, but a search netted $4.30 “concealed in the hair of Naoma.”
Just below this clip, in the same column, another article — whose title and subtitle consumed as many column inches as the body of the piece — detailed the heavy penalty Mayor Silas R. Lucas imposed upon Norman Roberson for nearly running over a police officer and then cursing the officer out. And then, bizarrely, a paragraph setting out the follow-up to the charge above: “Mamie Roberson and Naomi Bryant, two negro women, charged with robbing Mike Greek were found not guilty and dismissed.”
Wilson Times, 15 January 1924.
Mamie Roberson — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 506 Smith Street, widow Grace Roberson, 32; her cousin Mamie Roberson, 16; and roomer Annie M. Barnes, 16, tobacco factory laborer; all born in South Carolina.
Norman Roberson — possibly the Norman Robertson, 24, son of Edward and Cherry Robertson of Suffolk, Virginia, who married Dora Hines, 20, daughter of James and Mary Hines, on 10 August 1914. Free Will Baptist minister Robert Dickins performed the ceremony at a Green Street location in the presence of Dock Barnes, Martin Cofield, and John Williams.
Catalogue of Lincoln University, Chester County, Pennsylvania, for the Academical Year 1886-87 (1887).
On 4 May 1890, Willis Bryant, 26, son of Wiley Bryant and Louisa Branch, married Ida M. Webb, 22, in Marion County, Indiana.
As were many Lincoln alumni, Bryant was very active in the Presbyterian church and helped found Senate Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Indianapolis News, 20 June 1892.
In the 1900 census of Center township, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 808 Wyoming Street, coal dealer Willis Bryant, 36; wife Ida, 32; and children Ralph, 6, and Edna May, 1.
In September 1900, Wilson native Daniel C. Suggs, then teaching at Georgia State College, visited the Bryants in Indianapolis. Suggs was also a Lincoln graduate.
Indianapolis News, 7 September 1900.
Fifteen years after he graduated, Bryant and his wife returned to Pennsylvania to attend a Lincoln graduation, then made a round of East Coast cities.
Indianapolis News, 25 May 1901.
In 1901, Lucy Gay visited her uncle Willis Bryant in Indianapolis. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Sam Gay, 54; wife Alice, 50; and children Charlie C., 23, Edgar B., 25, Lucy, 17, Samuel, 14, Albert and Beatrice, 10, and Lily, 4. [Alice Gay was the 15 year-old Alice Ellis listed in the 1870 census above. When she married Samuel Gay, she gave her maiden name as Bryant.]
Indianapolis News, 28 December 1901.
In October 1904, the Indiana Recorder reprinted “His Trip West,” an article by Harry S. Cummings originally posted in the Afro-American Ledger. In the chronicle of his tour of Indiana cities, Cummings mentioned Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward and Willis Bryant and his father-in-law Charles A. Webb’s transportation and hauling businesses.
Indianapolis News, 22 October 1904.
In 1907, Willis Bryant and other black businessmen formed a committee to assist the city’s Juvenile Court with finding employment for “delinquent colored boys and girls.”
Indianapolis Star, 24 April 1907.
In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 808 Wyoming Street, Willis Bryant, 44; wife Ida M., 42; and children Ottis R., 16, Edna, 11, and Hulda M., 3.
Indianapolis Recorder, 13 March 1915.
Willis Bryant died 19 March 1915, barely a week after celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary.
Indianapolis Recorder, 18 March 1916.
His widow, Ida Webb Bryant, outlived him by decades, and was featured in this 1963 Indianapolis Recorder piece.
In the 1880 census of Smithfield, Johnston County, North Carolina: laborer Nestus Bryant, 48; wife Annie, 38; children Alice, 17, Arthur, 15, Thedo, 10, Harry, 6, John, 4, and Baby, 5 months; and mother Penny, 80.
Harry Bryant, 21, of Wilson, son of Nestus and Ann Bryant, married Julia Suggs, 20, of Wilson, daughter of Washington and Easter Suggs, on 26 September 1895 at the Methodist church, Wilson. Richard Renfrow applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister L.J. Melton performed the ceremony in the presence of Mattie Harris, L.A. Moore and Lovet Freeman.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Harry Bryant, 34; wife Julia, 34; and sons Leonard, 14, and Leroy, 4.
In 1918, Harry Haywood Bryant registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his draft registration card, he was born 23 January 1873; lived at 132 Sugg Street; was married to Julia Bryant; and worked as a carpenter for Boyle-Robertson Company in Newport News, Virginia.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, Harry Bryant, 44, carpenter for construction company, and wife Julia, 41.
Julia Bryant died 27 January 1929 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 23 September 1874 in Wilson to Washington Sugg and Easter Best of Greene County; was married to Harry Bryant; and resided at 618 Sugg Street.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 Suggs Street, meat market butcher Henry Bryant, 58; son Leon, 33; daughter-in-law Alice, 32; and granddaughter Christine, 9.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 Suggs Street, tobacco factory laborer Leon Bryant, 42; wife Alice, 42, tobacco factory laborer; daughter Christine, 19; and father Harry H., 68, widower and tobacco factory laborer.
Harry Bryant died 26 May 1946 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 July 1873 in Smithfield, North Carolina, to Nestus Bryant and Annie Bryant of Johnston County; he resided at 653 Suggs Street, Wilson; he was the widower of Julia Bryant; he had worked as a laborer; and he was buried in the Masonic cemetery. Leon Suggs was informant.
Ella Bryant — possibly, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: William Bryant, 55; wife Ella, 53; and niece Willie Merrill, 23. William was a hospital cook; Ella and Willie, cooks in private homes.
Rev. M.C. McNeil
And, again in 1942, prayers for white people (though “a few colored contributed.”)
Wilson Daily Times, 23 December 1942.
George M. Mason
Four years later, Bryant was still thanking the Good White Folks for their generosity.
Wilson Daily Times, 16 December 1944.
Mattie Poole — possibly, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 309 Stantonsburg Street, Jim Poole, 55, and wife Mattie, 45, both tobacco factory laborers, and daughter Odell, 10.
The eighty-first in a series of posts highlighting buildings inEast 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: “ca. 1930; 1 1/2 stories; gambrel-front house with two-bay facade; aluminum-sided.”
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1012 Atlantic Street carpenter/bricklayer Arthur J. George, wife Minnie, sons Arthur, Henry H., and Bryant George, lodger Rebacer Ramsy, and niece Willie L. George.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1012 Atlantic Avenue, rented for $12/month, tobacco factory janitor Bud Bryant, 52; wife Nancy, 48; nieces Louise, 17, Nannie, 15, Mary, 12, and Carleen Reid, 11; and son Frederick Reid, 34, divorced.
In 1940, Frederick Reid registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 September 1905 in Wilson; resided at 1012 Atlantic; his contact was mother Nancy Bryant, 1012 Atlantic; and he worked for W.B. Corbett, Waterworks Road, Wilson.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bryant Bud (c; Nancy) lab 1012 Atlantic Av.
Nancy Bryant died 14 January 1945 at her home at 1012 Atlantic Street. Per her death certificate, she was 53 years old; born in Wayne County to Zion and Eliza Reid; and was married to Rev. Mathew B. Bryant, age 56, who was informant.
The fifty-first in a series of posts highlighting buildings inEast 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: “ca. 1913; 2 stories; Charlie Thomas house; triple-A I house with bracketed porch posts; Thomas was a printer.”
Robert C. Bainbridge and Kate Ohno’s Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey, originally published by the City of Wilson in 1980 and updated and republished in 2010 under the auspices of the Wilson County Genealogical Society, provides additional details about the house: “Charlie Thomas House. This handsome turn of the century house, a classic of a type, boasts a central cross gable with a diamond-shaped louver typical of this period of construction. The three bay facade is enriched by the porch which boasts sawnwork brackets and turned columns.”
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month. [Though no address is listed in the census, by the identity of the Thomases’ neighbor, it is reasonably clear that the family was living at what is then 616 East Green and now 619 East Green.]
In the 1912 Wilson, N.C., city directory, all residing at 616 East Green: Thomas Charles pressman P D Gold Publishing Co Inc; Thomas Elton lab; Thomas Lizzie laundress; and Thomas Louis carp.
In the 1916 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Thomas Charles pressman P D Gold Publishing Co Inc h 616 E Green.
In 1917, Clarence C. Dawson, husband of Elizabeth Thomas Dawson (and son of A.D. and Lucy Hill Dawson), registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. He listed his home address as 616 East Green Street and noted that he worked as a cashier for William Hines (who owned a barber shop and was his nearby neighbor.)
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County:Clarence Dawson, 23, barber; wife Elizabeth, 22; and daughter Eris, 2; widower father-in-law Charley Thomas, 59; brother-in-law Clifton Venters, 24, his wife Hattie, 20; and in-laws Elton, 29, Marie, 15, Sarah, 10, and Beatrice Thomas, 8.
The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., shows that 619 was originally 616B East Green Street. (The house that had been numbered 619 was renumbered 618.)
In the 1928 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Thomas Chas (c) prsmn P D Gold Pub Co h 619 E Green
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 East Green Street, printing office laborer Charlie Thomas, 65; daughter Elizabeth Dawson, 32; son-in-law Clarence Dawson, 31; and grandchildren Eris Dawson, 11, Naomi, 9, Clarence, 7, and Thomas V. Dawson, 3; and daughters Sarah, 19, theatre ticket seller, and Beatrice Thomas, 17.
Lizzie Dawson died 16 Janaury 1937 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 July 1894 in Wilson to Charly Thomas of Nash County and Sarah Best of Wilson, and was married to Clarence Dawson. Informant was Charly Thomas.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 Green Street, Charlie Thomas, 74; daughter Sarah Bryant,29, movie theatre cashier; her husband Willie, 29, bicycle shop repairman; and children Jean, 6, and Fay G., 5; daughter Beatrice Neal, 29; her husband Willie, 28, retail grocery delivery boy; and grandsons Clarence Dawson, 17, and Thomas Dawson, 13.
In 1940, Willie Baby Bryant registered for the World War II draft in Ward 4, Wilson. Per his registration card, he lived at 619 East Green Street; was born 4 August 1910 in Tarboro, North Carolina; his contact was wife Sarah Virginia Bryant of 619 East Green; and he was employed by S.H. Moss of Moss Bicycle Shop. Also, that year Willie Neal registered in Ward 4. Per his registration card, he lived at 619 East Green; was born 2 May 1911, his contact was wife Beatrice Neal of 619 East Green; and he worked for Moss and Co., 134 South Tarboro Street, Wilson.
In 1942, Elton Henry Thomas registered for the World War II draft in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1894 in Wilson, North Carolina; resided at 109 Sherman Avenue, Newark; his contact was Charles Thomas, 619 East Green Street, Wilson; and he worked for Julius Rose, 327 Amherst Street, Orange, New Jersey.
Charles Thomas died 22 August 1945 at his home at 619 East Green Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was a widower; was 86 years old; was born in Wilson County to Sarah Thomas; was a retired printer; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Lewis Thomas, 715 East Green Street, was informant.
Photograph of 619 East Green Street published in Bainsbridge and Ohno’s Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey. The small stucco attachment at right housed Beatrice Thomas Neal’s Bea’s Flower Shop. It has been demolished.
Photograph at top by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2017.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 805 Roberson Street, Isom Bryant, 37, factory laborer; wife Rossie, 32, public school maid; and daughters Beatrice, 15, Bertha, 14, and Inez, 11.
On 18 February 1931, Beatrice O. Bryant, 17, daughter of Isham and Rossie Bryant, married Jos. F. Haskins, 19, son of James Haskins and Martha Pitt, in Wilson. Rev. J.T. Douglas of Calvary Presbyterian Church performed the service at Isham Bryant’s house with Judge Mitchell and the Bryants as witnesses.
In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Isham Bryant, 49, machinist at tobacco factory; wife Rossie, 43; daughter Inez, 22, tobacco factory laborer; and granddaughter Bobbie Haskins, 8 [Beatrice B. Haskins’ daughter Barbara].
In the 1940 census of Brooklyn, King County, New York: on DeKalb Avenue, house painter Joseph Bryant, 32; wife Beatrice, 28; and children Joseph, 8, Ida Mae, 7, Donald, 5, and Dorothy, 1. Joseph and Beatrice were born in North Carolina; the children, in New York. [This is Beatrice’s second husband.]
Beatrice O. Bryant died 12 December 1982 in Jamaica, Queens, New York, and was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.
Beatrice Bryant’s daughter Barbara Ann Haskins (1931-2001).
Photographs courtesy of Ancestry.com user jkbryant3142.