Calvary Presbyterian

The teachers of Calvary’s church school.


Mr. S.H. Vick‘s zeal for Sabbath School work continued into his being superintendent of Calvary’s Church School for twenty-five years. Other superintendents following him were Mr. B.R. Winstead, Mr. William Hines, and Mrs. Henrietta Colvert, a registered nurse with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

Some of the early teachers were Mrs. Lucy Thompson, Mrs. Della Barnes, Mrs. Mamie Faithful, Mr. B.R. Winstead, Mr. and Mrs. Mack Cannon, Mrs. Martha Spells, Mrs. Eleanor P. Reid, Mrs. Ethel Hines, Mrs. Sarah Hines, Mrs. Cortney Fitts, and Mrs. Mary Diggs.

The Sunday School pianists included Mrs. Susan Peacock Prince, Miss Rose L. Kittrell, Miss Naomi Freeman, Mrs. Doris Vick Walker, Miss Dolores Hines, and Mrs. Mary Ellis.

From “Historical Highlights of Calvary Presbyterian Church (USA), Wilson, North Carolina,” Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service (1989).

Studio shots, no. 62: Rev. Obra Jeffrey Hawkins.

Rev. Obra J. Hawkins was pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church from 1942 to 1962.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 May 1947.

Obra Jeffrey Hawkins died 7 May 1982 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 August 1905 in Panola County, Texas to Andrew Hawkins and Lela Simmons; was married; was a minister; and resided at 1310 Marlowe Street, Wilson. Informant was Inez Fisher.

The Bull (1936), yearbook of Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Photograph of Rev. Hawkins courtesy of Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, a booklet commemorating the 100th anniversary of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Wilson.

In loving memory.

I have remarked at length about the artistry of Clarence B. Best‘s hand-carved gravestones here and here. In Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, a booklet commemorating the 100th anniversary of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Best’s son Clarence H. Best and daughter-in-law published an ad honoring Best and wife Geneva “Eva” Smith Best.

Best made special mention of his father’s nickname, The Tombstone Man, and memorialized the elder Bests’ gift of a hand-crafted baptismal font, which is still in use. The carving on the edge of the basin block is classic Bestian.

This inscription may have been added later. Though apparently hand-carved, it does not appear to be Best’s work.

Many thanks to Tracey Ellis Leon, a life-long member of Calvary, for lending me a copy of Adventures in Faith and for taking the photos above.

Calvary’s historical highlights.


Calvary Presbyterian Church had its beginnings in the concerns and missions of Cape Fear Presbytery. This fledgling judicatory of the National Church in its efforts to establish churches in Eastern North Carolina included Wilson in its missions. The Reverend H.H. Boone, a pioneer in the organization of Cape Fear Presbytery, became its first Sabbath School missionary. He and Mr. S.H. Vick shared the honor of advancing Presbyterianism in Eastern North Carolina.

The Reverend Mr. Boone was succeeded as Sabbath School missionary by Mr. S.H. Vick who continued to expand the area of Sabbath Schools and the church in Eastern North Carolina.

Calvary Presbyterian Church, one of the original sixteen churches of Cape Fear Presbytery, was organized on August 1, 1889 by a committee whose chairman was the Reverend H.H. Boone of Tarboro, N.C. The Reverend C. Dillard of Goldsboro, N.C. and Mr. S.H. Vick of Wilson were members of this committee.

The Reverend George Carson was the first minister of Calvary. The first session consisted of Ruling Elders G.A. Farmer, William Cannon, W.B. Winstead, and S.H. Vick.

Twenty-one of the twenty-five original members included Ms. Mahalia Artis, Ms. Hattie Barnes, Ms. Lillie Barnes, Mr. F.O. Blount, Mr. William A. Connor, Mr. A.D. Dawson, Mr. G.A. Farmer, Mr. John Gaston, Ms. Susie Harris, Ms. Abbie Holloway, Ms. Lucy Dawson, Mr. Patrick Leach, Mr. A.J.C. Moore, Mr. L.H. Peacock, Mr. Edmund Poole, Ms. Mary Stephens, Mr. Hardy Tate, Mr. S.H. Vick, Mr. Daniel Vick, Mr. B.R. Winstead, and Mr. J.J. White.

Calvary occupied a unique position among the churches of the community in that it was the only “colored” Presbyterian church. It differed in its polity, doctrine, discipline, and order of worship.

The first two structures of Calvary Presbyterian Church fronted East Green Street; however, the present edifice is situated on Pender Street on the former Celia Norwood property which the Reverend O.J. Hawkins persuaded the session to purchase in 1957. The original church building, a wooden structure, was completed in 1893. Mr. Gray A. Farmer was the architect and builder who also constructed the altar and pews. These were the first pews that were used in the second church building. Other helpers were Mr. William Cannon, Mr. B.R. Winstead, and Mr. Sam Vick, Sr.

In 1924, the first structure was replaced with  brick building. Mr. O.N. Freeman was architect and builder. Mr. Benjamin Harris, Sr., was one of the brick masons. Mr. E.L. Joyner was the plasterer and continued to serve as such.

This building served the growing congregation until its doors were closed after the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on October 6, 1968. The idea and plans for the new structure began in 1961; however, later plans came to fruition with groundbreaking ceremonies being held on October 15, 1970, for the present sanctuary.

When the doors were closed in 1968, the congregation graciously accepted the kind invitation from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to worship in their facility. It was truly a blessing from God, for their services were held at an earlier hour, making their church available for our regular eleven o’clock services. For the next few years, St. Mark’s was Calvary’s home away from home.

For the third time in the life of Calvary, the leaders and builders began their planning. In June, 1969, a Building Fund Campaign was launched. On Sunday, October 15, 1970, a Groundbreaking Ceremony was held. And, on December 12, 1971, Calvary’s Current church was completed and occupied, with the help of Calvary’s beloved builders: Mr. John H. Hagans, Mr. Benjamin Harris, Jr., Mr. Paul Jenkins, and Mr. Eddie Lee Joyner.

Others serving on key committees were Dr. Frank N. Sullivan, Mrs. Connie Banks, Mr. Carl Hines, Mr. Elmer J. Cummings, Mrs. Flossie Barnes, Mr. James E. Farmer, Jr., Mrs. Grace Johnson, Mrs. Betty Lucas Grissett, Dr. J.F. Cowan, and Mr. William Hines.

On Sunday, January 30, 1972, a Service of Dedication was held in Calvary’s new sanctuary. It was truly a time to rejoice, for a long-awaited dream had come true.


  • S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick (1863-1948).
  • G.A. Farmer — Gray A. Farmer (1853-1893).
  • William Cannon
  • W.B. Winstead
  • Mahalia Artis (1830-bef. 1910).
  • Hattie Barnes
  • Lillie Barnes
  • F.O. Blount — Frank Oscar Blount (1860-??).
  • William A. Connor (ca. 1830-1895)
  • A.D. Dawson — Alexander D. Dawson (ca. 1860-??).
  • John Gaston — John A. Gaston (1858-1930).
  • Susie Harris (1867-??).
  • Abbie Holloway — Abigail Holloway McLeod (1869-1925).
  • Lucy Dawson — Lucy Hill Dawson (1860-1917).
  • Patrick Leach — Patrick Leach Jr. (1871-??).
  • A.J.C. Moore — Andrew J.C. Moore (1861-??).
  • L.H. Peacock — Levi H. Peacock (1858-1934).
  • Edmund Poole (1846-??).
  • Mary Stephens (ca. 1856-??)
  • Hardy Tate (1854-1938).
  • Daniel Vick ().
  • B.R. Winstead — Braswell R. Winstead (1866-1926).
  • J.J. White
  • Celia Norwood — Cecilia Hill Norwood (1879-1944).
  • O.J. Hawkins — Obra Jeffrey Hawkins (1905-1982).
  • O.N. Freeman — Oliver Nestus Freeman (1882-1955).
  • Benjamin Harris Sr. — Benjamin Amos Harris Sr. (1896-1955).
  • John H. Hagans — John Hubert Hagans Jr. (1929-1988).
  • Benjamin Harris Jr. — Benjamin Amos Harris Jr. (1935-1981).
  • Paul Jenkins — Paul Raymond Jenkins (1919-1982).
  • Eddie Lee Joyner (1895-1989).
  • Frank N. Sullivan — Frank Noble Sullivan Sr. (1926-1984).
  • Connie Banks — Connie Freeman Banks (1915-2006).
  • Carl Hines — Carl Wendell Hines Sr. (1914-1985).
  • Elmer J. Cummings — Elmer Jerome Cummings Sr. (1930-2013).
  • Flossie Barnes — Flossie Howard Barnes (1905-1993).
  • James E. Farmer Jr. — James Edward Farmer Jr. (1934).
  • Grace Johnson — Grace McNeil Johnson (1913-2007).
  • Betty Lucas Grissett (1940).
  • J.F. Cowan — Joseph Franklin Cowan (1898-1985).
  • William Hines (1883-1981).

Text courtesy of Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, the 100th anniversary commemorative booklet of Calvary Presbyterian Church.


Lay leaders with Rev. O.E. Sanders, late 1930s.

First row:

  • Martha Spells — Martha A. Gordon Spell (1874-1966).
  • Sabrina Cobb — Sobrina Robinson Cobb (1874-1954).
  • Lucy Thompson — Lucy A. Thompson died 24 July 1946 at her home at 310 Singletary Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 71 years old; single; a school teacher; was born in Wilson County to Ennis Thompson of Greene County and Hellen A. Ruffin of Louisburg, North Carolina. Virginia D. Humphrey was informant.
  • Rev. Otto Eugene Sanders was pastor of Calvary from 1935-1939.
  • Betty Cannon — Bettie E. Cannon (1879-1963).
  • Sally Phillips — probably, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Sallie A. Phillips, 71, widow, renter in the household of renters at 608 East Green Street.
  • Pauline Coley — Pauline McQueen Coley (1896-1990).

Second row:

  • Rosa F. McCollum — Rosa Lee McCollum died 25 April 1947 at her home at 418 North Vick Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 September 1884 in Wilson County to Gray and Argent Farmer. Elva McCollum was informant.
  • Elna F. Hooker — Eleanor Juania Hooker died 17 October 1944 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 November 1877 in Wilson to Gray and Argent Blount Farmer; was a school teacher; resided at 708 East Green Street; and was a widow [of Frank Hooker]. Gray Hooker was informant.
  • Flossie Barnes — Flossie Howard Barnes (1905-1993).
  • Ethel C. Hines — Ethel Cornwell Hines (1894-1983).
  • Olivia P. Norman
  • Beulah Mack — In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cobbler James Mack, 36, and wife Beulah, 35, at 206 Reid. Beulah Mack died 28 December 1953 in Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 September 1895 in Rowan County to Napoleon Brian and Laura Watson; resided at 206 North Reid Street; and was married. Informant was Henry Mack, Salisbury.
  • Ruth H. Coppedge — Ruth Hooker Coppedge died 26 May 1945 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1904 in Wilson County to Frank Richard Hooker of Greene County and Eleanor Farmer of Wilson; resided at 200 South Vick: was a schoolteacher; and was married to George Coppedge.
  • Eliza F. Norwood — perhaps, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco factory laborer Egar Ricks, 49; wife Lydia, 62; and daughter Eliza Norwood, 39.

Third row:

  • Christine M. Armstrong — Christine McDaniel Armstrong (1912-1999).
  • Inez Hooker — Inez Argent Hooker (1913-) was the daughter of Frank and Eleanor Farmer Hooker.
  • Maggie Crawford — Magelene Barnes Crawford died 20 March 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 August 1893 in Wilson to Short and Frances Woodard Barnes; was a retired music teacher; was a widow [of Clarence A. Crawford]; and resided at 616 East Green Street. Vertist C. Edwards of Tacoma, Washington, was informant.
  • Sophia Dawson — is this Sophia Dawson Artis (1889-??), daughter of Alexander D. and Lucy Hill Dawson and wife of Jesse Artis?
  • Ximena P. Martinez — Ximena Pitt Martinez died 21 December 1973 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 August 1896 to Violet Pitt; was a widow [of Ramon Martinez]; was a retired teacher; and resided at 903 East Vance Street. Informant was Evelyn P. Stoney, Brooklyn, New York.

This singular photograph comes courtesy of Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, the 100th anniversary commemorative booklet of Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Early Calvary.

Calvary Presbyterian Church celebrated its centennial in 1989 and, to honor the occasion, published Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, a commemorative booklet packed with details of the church’s history, including these photos of the church’s two earliest edifices.

Heartfelt thanks to my aunt, Hattie H. Ellis, and cousin, Tracey Ellis Leon, for sharing this invaluable document.