centenarian

Nestus Freeman … of Ohio?

Eighty years ago today, a newspaper in a small central-Ohio town published a tribute to one of its citizens on the occasion of his 100th birthday. “Nestus Freeman, colored citizen of this city — ” Nestus Freeman? “Mr. Freeman was born in Wilson, North Carolina, on March 16, 1839.” Born in Wilson? Who was this Nestus Freeman?

The article mentions that Freeman ran away from slavery as a child (or, had never been a slave); began barbering at age 7; fought for the Union under an assumed name during the Civil War; worked on a riverboat between Pittsburgh and New Orleans; lived in Urbana and Richwood, Ohio, before settling in Marysville in 1880; had lost his wife in 1909 due to a house fire; and had at least two children, son Shirley Freeman of Marysville and daughter Gertrude Putnam of Cleveland.

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Marysville Journal-Tribune, 17 March 1939.

What information can be gleaned from readily available records?

On 13 March 1873 Nestus L. Freemond married Amanda E. Diltz in Champaign County, Ohio. A tiny notation in the corner of their license identifies them as members of Champaign’s tiny African-American community.

The young family relocated to a larger town in an adjoining county. In the 1880 census of Marysville, Union County, Ohio: barber Enfield Freeman, 30; wife Amanda, 26; and daughter Lydia, 5. [Later documents show Nestus’ middle initial as E. Was this for “Enfield”?]

In the 1900 census of Marysville, Union County, Ohio: Nathan [sic] Freemond, 51, barber, born Pennsylvania; wife Amanda A., 45, hairdresser; and children Lydia, 22, hairdresser, Shirley, 19, barber, Elsia, 16, and  Gertrude, 10.

Amanda Diltz Freeman died 1909 as a result of burns suffered in a catastrophic house fire. A local newspaper printed a sympathetic account of her last days:

Marysville Journal-Tribune, 20 May 1909.

In the 1910 census of Marysville, Union County, Ohio: at 301 North Maple, N. Freeman, 70, barber, born in Ohio, and children Lydia, 32, Shirley, 29, barber, and Elsa, 25, barber.

In the 1930 census of Marysville, Union County, Ohio: at 307 North Maple, owned and valued at $3000, widowed barber Nestus Freeman, 86, born in Pennsylvania; daughter Lydia M., 54; and son Shirley, 49, barber.

As Nestus Freeman entered his upper 90s, newspapers delighted in reporting on his picturesque life.

Marysville Journal-Tribune, 14 July 1937.

Saint Cloud (Saint Cloud, Minn.), 

A photograph!

Marysville Tribune, 31 March 1938.

Pittsburgh Courier, 25 March 1939.

In the 1940 census of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio: at 10103 Yale Avenue, John Putnam, 63, shade cutter at department store; wife Gertrude F., 42; father James A. Putnam, 84; and father-in-law Nestus Freeman, 96, born in North Carolina.

At last, days before his 102nd birthday, Nestus Freeman passed away at his daughter’s home in Cleveland.

Union County Journal (Marysville, Oh.), 3 March 1941.

Here’s another death notice:

Marion (Oh.) Star, 5 March 1941.

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Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, Marysville, Ohio, circa 1900. Nestus and Amanda Freeman’s funerals were held here, and they may well be pictured. Photo courtesy of Allen Chapel’s Facebook page.

Charles [Shirley] Freeman died 7 October 1948 in Orwell, Ashtabula County, Ohio. Per his death certificate, he was born 13 June 1886 in Marysville, Ohio, to Nestus Freeman of Wilson, N.C., and Amanda Diltz; was married; and had worked as a barber.

Gertrude Putnam died 5 February 1953 at Perry township, Stark County, Ohio. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 March 1885 in Marysville to Nestus Freeman and Amanda Diltz; resided in Orwell, Ashtabula County; and was married. She was buried in Oaklawn cemetery, Marysville.

So, was there a connection between Nestus Freeman of Ohio and Oliver Nestus Freeman of Wilson?

  • There is the obvious hint in their names. Was O.N. named after an uncle who left North Carolina long before he was born?
  • Though Nestus reported his birthplace as Pennsylvania to Union County census takers, it was recorded as North Carolina by a Cuyahoga County enumerator; as Wilson and Wilton, North Carolina, by two reporters; and as Wilson on a son’s death certificate.
  • Another hint lies in children’s names.

The graves of the Freeman family are marked by a single large red granite headstone in Marysville’s Oaklawn cemetery. Nestus and Amanda’s dates should read 1839-1941 and 1854-1909.

The back of the stone lists the Freeman children (except Gertrude in Cleveland.) Notably, two of Nestus’ children, Lydia and Daniel, shared names with two of O.N. Freeman’s siblings, Lydia Ann Freeman Norwood Ricks and Daniel Edward Freeman. And — surprise! — there’s a brother of Nestus, also named Daniel. Photos courtesy of Findagrave.com.

The dates given for Daniel Freeman’s lifespan seem unlikely. A 1792 birth year would have made him almost 50 years older than his brother Nestus. I did some searching for Daniel and — voilà!

Marysville Journal-Tribune, 15 October 1926.

Daniel Freeman, too, had held the title of Marysville’s oldest citizen! Daniel, age 102, died at the home of his brother “Nathaniel Freeman, the colored barber” in 1926. Daniel had only recently come to Marysville after working as a blacksmith in Cleveland for forty years. Per the article, Daniel was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in October 1924 to Mr. and Mrs. Lovett Freeman. In this telling, it was Lovett (not Nestus) who worked for years on a steamboat running from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. (Again, the names — O.N. Freeman had a brother Lovett Freeman, the oldest of Julius and Eliza Daniel Freeman‘s children.) And then the clincher — “He is survived by two brothers, Julius, a carpenter of Wilson, North Carolina, and Nathaniel [sic] of this city …”

Death certificate of Daniel Freeman, which lists his parents as Lovette Freeman and Lottie, maiden name was unknown.

Julius Franklin Freeman was born about 1844 in Johnston County, North Carolina. He appears in the 1870 census of Wilson as an adult, already working as a carpenter. Neither his marriage licenses nor his death certificate list his parents. Based on the above, however, it seems clear that Julius’ father was named Lovett Freeman and that he had at least two brothers, Daniel and Nestus.

The 1840 census of Johnston County lists a Lovet Freeman. The census taker apparently forgot to mark the columns beside his name to designate the age and color of members of Lovet’s household, but he was most likely a free person of color.  If this were Daniel and Nestus and Julius’ father, when did he and his family leave North Carolina? Did they first migrate to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania? Did Julius remain behind, or did he return, perhaps after the Civil War? Were there other children? The 1860 census of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, shows North Carolina-born blacksmith Mathew Freeman, 45; wife Fairly, 30; and children Daniel, 14, Henry B., 10, Lovet B., 9, Liza A., 7, Joseph G., 3, Hanna B., 3, and Bob, 5 months. Again, the names Daniel and Lovett. In addition, Julius had sons Henry and Joseph as well. Was Mathew Freeman perhaps a brother of Lovett Freeman?

Wilson has lost an icon.

This morning’s announcement from Wilson’s Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education:

Our beloved, Sallie Baldwin Townsend Howard, passed away at 2:50am this morning, September 25, 2018. She was 102 years old and wanted everyone to know that “she was ready”. We miss her already but her life and her legacy remains with us, enshrined in the work we do for children for generations to come. Concerning her passing from this earth, this is what she had to say…

“When I lay me down to die
Have bade farewell this beauteous world
Of valleys green and oceans swirl
Of fragrant blossoms and birds that sing
Of happy voices with childlike ring
Of ecstasy from lovers kiss
Though evermore I’m done with this
And my journey through eternity
To the dawn of nothing be…
I shall begin it cheerfully
If little children let shed a tear
To express the love they bear
And weep my passing from this earth
Because til death, yea from birth
For truth and goodness I have striven
Because of kindness I have given
If they should weep to have me stay
Because I’ve lighted up their way
Then happy upon my couch I’ll lie
When I lay me down to die.”

Sallie B. Howard, 1948

The obituary of Mary Mercer Williams Bullock, 104.

Mrs. Mary M. Mercer Bullock, 104, of 1712 Westwood Avenue, Wilson, NC, passed away on January 4, 2017 at Wilson Medical Center.

The funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday, January, 11, 2017 at 12:00 noon at Contending For The Faith Church Ministries, 1006 Academy Street, Wilson, NC.  Elder Johnny Stevenson will deliver the message and burial will follow in Rest Haven Cemetery, Lane Street Ext., Wilson, NC.

A public viewing is scheduled for Tuesday, January 10, 2017 from 2:00 pm until 7:00 pm at Stevens Funeral Home, 1820 Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway, Wilson, NC with the family present for an inspirational wake service from 6:00 pm until 7::00 pm.

Mrs. Bullock was preceded in death by her first husband and the father of her children, Samuel Williams.  Later, after Mr. Williams passed, she married Gurney Bullock who also passed prior to her death.  In addition, she was preceded in death by her parents, Dempsey Mercer and Mattie Knight Mercer; two sons, Samuel Williams, Jr. and Charlie Williams; one daughter, Elnora W. Williams Green; five brothers, Robert Mercer, Charles Mercer, Will Mercer, James Mercer and Walter Lee Mercer; and one sister, Cornelia Barnes.

She leaves cherished memories to: four daughters, Daisy Credle (Hubert) of Bayboro, NC, Cleo Applewhite (June) of Wilson, NC, Lugene Williams of the home and Mattie King of New York, NY; 22 grandchildren; 55 great grandchildren; 43 great great grandchildren;  and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives and friends.

Arrangements are Stevens Funeral Home, 1820 Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway, Wilson, NC.

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In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Dempsy Mercer, 40, widower, and children Charley, 17, William, 15, Robert, 10, Walter, 9, and Maggie, 8; and sister-in-law Maggie Hines, 26, and her children Lula, 8, Silvy, 7, and James, 4.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 527 Lodge Street, Louise B. Johnson, 34; Samuel Williams, 34; wife Mary, 28; and children Samuel Jr., 11, Daisey Lee, 6, Cleo, 5, Charlie Lee, 2, and Eugenia, 9 months. Johnson and Samuel and Mary Samuel Williams worked in a tobacco redrying factory.

Samuel Williams died 5 June 1949 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 December 1904 in Wilson County to Bill Williams and Rachel Andrews; was a farmer; resided at Route 3, Elm City; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery. Mary Williams was informant.

Gurney Bullock, 48, son of Ed and Lula Thomas Bullock, married Mary Mercer Williams, 38, daughter of Demp and Mattie Knight Mercer, on 30 December 1950 in Wilson.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user credler2.

Studio shots, no. 88: Jack Armstrong, supercentenarian.

Among the dozens of families who migrated up to Wilson County from North Carolina’s southern Sandhills area were those of Dock Roberson and Margaret Armstrong McDougal Blue. After her husband Levi Blue died in Wilson County in 1919, Maggie Blue and Dock Roberson married, and Maggie’s parents John “Jack” and Annie Murphy Armstrong briefly came to live with their blended family in Taylors township. Likely during this time, Jack Armstrong traveled into Wilson to sit for a portrait in Picture-Taking George W. Barnes‘ studio. Jack’s descendants explained that his curled fingers were the result of an injury inflicted during slavery.

John “Jack” Armstrong (ca. 1820-1932), circa 1920.

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In the 1870 census of Flea Hill township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farm laborer John Armstrong, 40; wife Anna, 38; and children Dublin, 14, Charles, 9, Penny, 8, Margrett, 7, Elizabeth, 5, Barbry, 4, William, 3, and David, 2; plus Amy Armstrong, 52.

In the 1880 census of Flea Hill township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farmer John Armstrong, 54; wife Annie J., 43; and children Charley, 18, Margret, 16, Barbra A., 12, William J., 10, David, 8, Joe, 6, Daniel R., 4, and Rebecca, 3; plus A. Murphy, 60, mother-in-law.

In the 1900 census of Geddies Gin township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: farm laborer Jack Armstrong, 75; wife Annie, 68; daughter Janie, 15; and grandson George W. Murphy, 12.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Doc Robinson, 55; wife Maggie, 53; children Mary, 18, James C., 19, Virginia, 17, David, 14, Elijah, 12, and Jessie B., 3; Vangie, 32, Geneva, 17, and Addie McDoogle, 15; and Moses Robinson, 8, and lodgers Jack, 103, and Annie Armstrong, 101.

Annie Armstrong died 5 April 1920 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 103 years old; was born in Johnston County to Annie Murphy and an unknown father; worked as a farmer for George Piage; and was married to Jack Armstrong. William Jas. Armstrong was informant.

Maggie Roberson died 5 April 1928 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 55 years old; was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Jack and Annie Armstrong; was married to George Roberson; and farmed for Will Carr.

Jack Armstrong died 5 January 1932 in Mingo township, Sampson County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 11 February 1815 to John Wood and an unknown mother; was widowed; and was a farmer.

Newspapers across the state reported that Jack Armstrong had been “the oldest North Carolinian” at the time of his death.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 January 1932.

Photo courtesy of F. Cooper Jr., great-great-grandson of Jack Armstrong.

The obituary of Essie Mae Earp Taybron, 101.

Mother Taybron on her 100th birthday.

Mrs. Essie M. Taybron, 101, of 612 Grove Street, Wilson, NC passed away on June 4, 2017.

Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm at Branch Memorial Holiness Church, 517 Hadley Street, SE, Wilson, NC. Pastor Herman Lucas will deliver the eulogy. Burial will follow in Rest Haven Cemetery, Lane Street, Ext., Wilson, NC.

A public visitation will be held on Friday, June 9, 2017 from 3:00 pm until 6:00 pm at Stevens Funeral Home, 1820 Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway, Wilson, NC.

The family will receive friends at the home where they will assemble on Saturday at 1:00 pm in preparation for the funeral precession.

Arrangements are by Stevens Funeral Home, 1820 Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway, Wilson, NC.

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Obituary and photos courtesy here.

Supercentenarian.

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Maggie Hinnant Barnes at age 115.

“Maggie Pauline Barnes (née Hinnant; 6 March 1882 – 19 January 1998) was a verified American supercentenarian who holds the record for the oldest verified person from the state of North Carolina. She claimed to be 117 but her age was verified as being born on 6 March 1882 (according to a family bible; the 1900 census said “Mar 1881”) and she died 19 January 1998, from gangrene infection, at the age of 115 years, 319 days. She was survived by 4 of her 15 children. She was the 3rd-oldest verified living person and the 2nd-oldest in the United States after Sarah Knauss, although she has since been surpassed by Jeralean Talley, Besse Cooper, and Susannah Mushatt Jones, among others.

“Maggie Pauline Hinnant was born in Black Creek, Wilson, North Carolina as the daughter of Louzaine Hinnant and an unknown father. She married William Orangie Barnes at Maggie’s stepfather Dread’s farm in Black Creek, Wilson 22 October 1899. The couple would have 15 children, of which eight would reach an adult age: Lillian, Clara, Gladys, Nell, Willie, Mary, Ruth and Mildred. The family moved to Kenly, Wilson, North Carolina in 1904 and Maggie spent the remaining part of her life in this area. Maggie Barnes died in Kenly, Johnston, North Carolina 19 January 1998 aged 115 years, 319 years.”

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On 22 October 1899, William Barnes, 22, of Wilson County, son of Gastin and Waity Barnes, married Maggie Hinnant, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of Luzana Hinnant, at Dread Barnes‘ house in Black Creek. Joseph Farmer, Grant Farmer and C.H. Darden were witnesses.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Orange W. Barnes, 21, sawmill laborer, and wife Maggie, 18, farm laborer.

Entry and photo from gerontology.wikia.com.

The obituary of Ethel Vick Harris, 100.

Ethel Mae Vick Harris, 100, of Wilson, NC, died Saturday April 8, 2017. Funeral Services will be held on Saturday, April 15, 2017 at 11 a.m. at Edwards Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Mary Vick Howell officiating. Burial will be private in Rest Haven Cemetery. Public viewing will be on Friday, April 14, 2017 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Edwards Funeral Home Chapel. The family will assemble at Edwards Funeral Home at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. Direct condolences to edwardscares.com. Professional and personal services are entrusted to Edwards Funeral Home, 805 Nash St. E in Wilson.

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In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Samuel Vick Jr., 32; wife Lizzie, 21; and children James, 4, Malissa, 3, and James, 2 months. [The elder “James” was probably daughter Jane, and “Malissa” seems to have been Ethel Mae.]

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Sam J. Vick, 33; wife Lizzie, 31; and children Jane, 15, Ethel M., 14, Lynard, 13, Lucile, 9, Bloomer, 8, Eva May, 6, Margaret, 4, Sam R., 3, and Percy L., 7 months.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco factory laborer Sam Vick, 46; wife Elizabeth, 44, also a tobacco factory laborer; and children Ethel, 22, maid, Mattie, 17, housekeeper, Lenwood, 20, Beullah, 16, Eva, 14, Margrett, 12, Richard, 11, Percy, 10, and Sylvester, 5.

Obituary online.

The obituary of Madeline Jones, 105.

Madeline “Mattie” Jones, 105, a resident of Avante at Wilson Nursing Care Facility died October 8, 2014. The funeral will be held Saturday at 10:00 am at St. John AME Zion Church, 119 N. Pender St., Wilson, NC with Dr. Micheal S. Bell, officiating. Interment will follow in Rest Haven Cemetery. Public viewing will be Friday from 2-5:30 pm at the funeral home with the family receiving friends from 7-8 pm at the church. Family and friends are requested to assemble on Saturday at the funeral home at 9:30 am for the processional to the church. Professional and personal services are entrusted to EDWARDS FUNERAL HOME, 805 E. Nash Street, Wilson, NC. Condolences may be directed to edwardscares.com.

Obituary online.

The obituary of Doretha W.E. Parker, 100.

Doretha White Evans Parker, 100, a resident of Wilson Pines Nursing Center and formerly of 4968 Lake Wilson Rd., Elm City, NC died Sunday [8 April 2012] at Wilson Medical Center. The funeral will be held Saturday at 1:00 pm at William Chapel Baptist Church, 6154 William Chapel Church Rd., Elm City, NC with Rev. Jimmy Parker, pastor, officiating. Interment will follow in William Chapel Cemetery. As a centenerian Mrs. Parker has seen five generations of family. Left to cherish her memory are three children; Joseph Carl “JC” Evans (Alice) of San Antonio, Tx, John Estee Parker (Evelyn) of Greensboro, NC and James Parker of Durham, NC; one brother, Fred White (Thelma) of Durham, NC; 13 grandchildren; several great-grandchildren and many great-great grandchildren and several great-great-great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, other relatives and many friends. Her mantle was passed to her dear nieces, including Evelyn Lindsey Lucas, who was her diligent caregiver. Public viewing will be held on Friday from 2-7 at the funeral home with the family receiving friends there from 7- 8 pm. Family and friends will assemble on Saturday at 12 noon at the home of her niece Eunice Lindsey, 204 S. Railroad Street, Elm City, NC for the procession to the church. Professional and personal services are entrusted to EDWARDS FUNERAL HOME, 805 E. Nash Street, Wilson, NC. Condolences may be directed to edwardscares.com.

Obituary online.

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Per a Wilson County Birth Index, Doretha White was born in 1912 to Joe T. White and Lula Edwards.

In the 1930 census of Coopers township, Nash County: farmer Joe T. White, 53, divorced; and children Arthor, 29, Doretha, 18, Catherine M., 16, Joe T., 14, Altas R., 10, and Nannie F., 6.

The obituary of Lillie Ruth Bullock, 100.

Lillie Ruth Barnes Bullock (1917-2017).

“Mrs. Lillie Ruth Bullock, 100, of Wilson, NC, departed this earthly life on November 19, 2017 at Wilson House Assisted Living in Wilson, NC.

“Funeral services are scheduled for Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 2:00 pm at Flat Rock Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, 6730 Flat Rock Road, Sims, NC.

“A public visitation will be held on Saturday, November 24, 2017 from 3:30 until 7:00 pm at Stevens Funeral Home, 1820 Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway, Wilson, NC.

“Mrs. Bullock was preceded in death by her husband, Albert Bullock, Sr.; her parents, Leslie Barnes and Edna Jones Barnes; four sisters, Inez Nelson, Lincy Barnes, Edna Harrison and Cleo McNair and one brother, Jack Barnes.

“She leaves cherished memories to: her son, Albert Bernard Bullock of Wilson County, NC; two grandchildren, Edward Bernard Bullock and Qunalla Ciera Bullock; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins other relatives and friends.

“Arrangements are by Stevens Funeral Home, 1820 Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway, Wilson, NC.”

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In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: on New Wilson and Raleigh Road, farmer Less Barnes, 24; wife Edna, 30; daughters Lillie Ruth, 2, and Mary, 1; mother-in-law Elizabeth Jones, 52, widow; brothers-in-law James, 32, and John Jones, 29; and sister-in-law Carrie Jones, 18.

In the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Les Barnes, 27, farmer; wife Mary E., 41; and children Lillie R., 12, Mary L., 11, Nathaniel, 8, Cleo B., 7, and Edna E., 2.

On 30 November 1937, Albert Bullock, 26, of Old Fields, son of Louise Bullock, married Lillie Barnes, 23, of Old Fields, daughter of Les Barnes, in Old Field. Less Barnes, Lonnie Alston and Mary Lincy Barnes witnessed.

In the 1940 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Willie Bullock, 30; wife Mavis, 28; and children Mary, 6, and Willie, 4; brother Albert, 28; sister-in-law Lily, 23; widowed mother Louise, 60; and son Wallace, 3.

Leslie Barnes died 31 June 1973 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 February 1900 to Joe Barnes and Lillie Strickland; was a retired laborer; and resided in Sims. Lillie Bullock of Sims was informant.