church

Col. church.

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Surrounded by “the Farmer place owned by the hairs of Mrs. Jerusha Woodard” was a small square of land upon which a “colored church” was built. Woodard, born 1838 to Moses and Elizabeth Barnes Farmer and married to Warren Woodard, died in 1910. This plat map was drawn in 1914.

I have not been able to identify the church.

Plat book 1, page 111, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

In the neighborhood of Watson’s land.

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Plat book 1, map 254.

This 1937 notice of sale of the property of John A. and Nannie K. Watson contains bits of information about land ownership by African-Americans in Taylors township, a few miles northeast of the town of Wilson.

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Lots 1-4 on the plat map were known as the “Ellis and Woodard tract of Kinchen Watson.” They lay about a half-mile west of the Wilson-Nashville highway (now N.C. Highway 58) and the description of their outer perimeter begins at the corner of “the old Warren Rountree lands and the Hilliard Ellis home tract.” Warren Rountree and Hilliard Ellis were half-brothers. Both were born into slavery, but became prosperous farmers and landowners within a few years after Emancipation. The irregular pentagon of Lot 1 of the tract wrapped around a two-acre rectangle belonging to the Warren Rountree heirs, and Lot 2 excluded “a parcel of land containing one-half acre called the Ellis Chapel lot upon which stands a colored church.”

Detail of lots 1 and 2 of the Ellis & Woodard tracts.

The second tract up for auction, “the Jim Howard tract,” is marked Lot 5 on the plat map at page 251 of Plat Book 1, below.

The third tract, the “Lamm tract,” consisted of Lots 1-4 of the plat map below. These properties were surrounded by tracts belonging to African-American men whose families were connected by blood, intermarriage and historical status as free people of color. James G. “Jim,” Kenyon, Jesse and Allison (not Anderson) Howard were sons of Zealous and Rhoda Eatmon Howard, and William Howard appears to have been a grandson. Charles Brantley‘s daughter Mollie married her cousin Kenyon Howard. John and Kenyon “Kenny” Locust (also spelled Locus and Lucas) were father and son, and John’s mother was Eliza Brantley Locus.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 November 1937.

Plat Book 1, Page 251.

Per Google Maps, the area shown in the first plat today. At (A), Ellis Chapel Free Will Baptist Church; at (B), the approximate location of the Warren Rountree heirs’ two acres; at (C), the Hilliard Ellis cemetery, which is outside the Watson land; at (1) Aviation Place; at (2) Packhouse Road; at (3) N.C. Highway 58; and at (4) Little Swamp, which is a tributary of Toisnot Swamp.

Plat books at Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

 

Colored churches of Wilson.

The Wilson Daily Times posted this list of “colored” churches in Wilson and Wilson County in August 1946. It’s a long roster, but incomplete. Notable omissions — all still meeting in 2019 — include London Primitive Baptist Church, Ellis Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, William Chapel Baptist Church, Rocky Branch United Church of Christ, Jerusalem Grove Primitive Baptist Church, Mary Grove Missionary Baptist Church, New Vester Missionary Baptist Church, Oaky Grove Primitive Baptist Church, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Saint Delight Missionary Baptist near Walstonsburg, which is actually in Greene County, is listed, but not Saint Delight Original Free Will Baptist, just north of Kenly. These churches are now defunct, but were certainly active during the 1940s: Friendship Baptist, Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist, and Little Union Primitive Baptist.

Churches marked * remain active today.

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 August 1946.

  • Saint Mark’s Church, Rev. F.W. Williams
  • Saint Mary’s Church, Rev. F.W. Williams
  • Dixon Chapel, Rev. C.B. Smith
  • Bethel Mount Zion Church, Rev. W.B. McCoy [Bethel A.M.E. Zion?]
  • Saint James [Holy] Church,* Rev. W.H. Holliday
  • Saint Delight,* Rev. W.C. Cotton
  • Saint Joseph A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. C.D. Cotton
  • Saint Joseph A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. C.D. Ward [sic]
  • Patterson Chapel Holiness Church of God,* Rev. Carrie Tabron
  • Saint Paul’s Holiness Church, Rev. E.Z. Coley
  • Hardy’s Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. C.D. Ward
  • Mount Olive A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. R.A. Murphy
  • Saint Rose Pentecostal Church,* Rev. W.H. Bailey
  • Owens Chapel Free Will Baptist Church,* Rev. N.D. Beamon [actually, this is a white church]

Corner Line Primitive Baptist.

Lois Artis Daniels generously shared several photographs of Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church, a congregation active for about 100 years near the town of Saratoga. Her great-great-grandmother Eva Ellis Edmundson Barnes was the first of many family members who belonged to Corner Line, and was married to its long-time pastor, Reverend Wiley Barnes. Daniels’ great-grandmother Ella Jane Edmundson Smith was also a member, as were her daughters Geneva Smith Anderson (Daniels’ grandmother) and Bessie Smith Barnes.

Corner-Line Primitive Baptist Church sign, 1989.

Exterior of Corner-Line Primitive Baptist Church, 2003.

Interior of Corner-Line Primitive Baptist, 1989.

This photo and write-up of Corner Line appear in Robert C. Bainbridge and Kate Ohno’s Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Inventory (1980).

“The parent institution of Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church was Bartee Church in Stantonsburg Township. In the early twentieth century Bartee Church was abandoned and Thomas and Victoria Felton gave the land and lumber for the construction of the church. The name of the church was inspired by its location at the junction of three separately owned parcels of land. The first pastor was Elder Sam Brystern, who served the church until his death in 1930. Wiley Barnes was the church’s second pastor, and his son, Tom Barnes, took charge of the church in 1964 and is the present pastor. The Barnes family has historically been active in church affairs and Ellen, grandmother of the present paster, was one of the first black members of the White Oak Primitive Baptist Church. The church building, like many other Wilson County country churches, is a one-room rectangular building with a gable roof. The gable end entrance consists of double five-panel doors and the six-over-six windows in the side and rear elevations are protected by board and batten shutters.”

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On 20 December 1899, Rufus Edmundson, 24, son of Green Edmundson and Rancy Edmundson, married Eva Ellis, 25, daughter of Laura Hudson, at “Few In Number Church” in Township #8. [Township 8? Were they married in Edgecombe County? The license was issued in Wilson County.] Primitive Baptist minister N.T. Johnson performed the ceremony; Louis Hagins applied for the license.

In the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Rufus Edmundson, 28; wife Eva, 26; and children Robert, 2, and Alfred, 2 months.

In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Ellis Road, farmer Rufus Edmonson, 33; wife Eva, 33; and children Ella J., 7, Hada, 6, Sadie, 4, and “son-in-law” [stepson] Robert, 13.

On 2 January 1918, Crum Smith, 19, of Saratoga, son of Ed and Annie Smith, married Ella Edmundson, 18, daughter of Rufus and Eva Edmundson, on J.B. Eason’s farm in Saratoga. Rufus Edmundson applied for the license, and Sam Bynum, Isaa Bynum and James Bynum witnessed.

In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Rufus Edmonson, 45; wife Eva, 46; and children Robert, 20, Haden, 17, and Sadie, 15.

In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Crum Smith, 21, wife Ella, 19, and daughter Eva, 1.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Rufus Edmundson, 50, and wife Eva, 32.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Highway 91, farmer Crumble Smith, 31; wife Ella, 30; and children Jeneva, 11, Tommy, 10, Minnie, 7, Mary, 5, Bessie, 4, Moses, 2, and Hattie, 1.

Rufus S. Edmundson died 13 May 1934 in Saratoga township. Per his death certificate, he was born in Greene County, North Carolina, to Green Edmundson; was married to Eva Edmundson; and was a farmer. Wiley Barnes was informant.

Ella Jane Smith died 23 December 1977 in Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 20 August 1903 in Wilson County to Rufus Edmundson and Eva Rice; resided in Stantonsburg; and her informant was Geneva S. Anderson, 1630 Freeman Street Extension, Wilson.

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Mid-century obituaries for two of Corner Line’s members:

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Wilson Daily Times, 1 February 1947.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 December 1952.

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Wilson Daily Times, 17 April 1993.

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Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church is now abandoned, but still stands on Speight School Road near its termination at Highway 264 Alternate. This Google Maps image dates to 2012.

 

Contributions to Mercy, part 2.

On 30 January 1947, the Wilson Daily Times published a lengthy list of contributors to the fundraising drive of the Mercy Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. The list, reproduced here in five parts, included many of black Wilson’s leading individuals, businesses and institutions.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 January 1947.

All annotations, some edited for clarity, are entries in Hill’s Wilson City Directory 1947-48.

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.