Cooper

Snaps, no. 77: James W. Cooper.

Curating Black Wide-Awake brings innumerable rewards, among them making surprise connections between people I’ve known all my life and people who pop up in records. Even better, sometimes those connections hit home.

I made a startling discovery a couple of weeks ago when I was updating my family tree with information I found in cousin Alliner Sherrod Davis Randall‘s scrapbook. The material included several funeral programs, including one for Alberta Artis Cooper. This wasn’t new to me; I featured it here. But, looking for obituaries for Alberta Cooper’s children, I found that of her son, John Hardy Cooper. I studied the names of his children … Frances Cooper BynumChristine Cooper Barnes … Wait — what?

I’ve been friends with the children of these sisters since middle school — and we’re cousins!

… but not in the way I first thought.

Though she reared him as her own, John H. Cooper was actually Alberta Artis Cooper’s step-son, the son of James W. Cooper and his first wife, Susannah (or Susie Anna). But Susannah Cooper was also an Artis — the daughter of Richard Artis and Susannah Yelverton Artis. Richard Artis (1849-1923) was the youngest brother of Adam T. Artis, who was Alberta Artis Cooper’s father (and my great-great-great-grandfather.) Thus, James W. Cooper’s wives were first cousins, a not-uncommon phenomenon in small communities in that time.

So, having already featured Alberta Artis Cooper, here is James William Cooper:

James W. Cooper (1886-1967), who, as president of Tobacco Workers Union Local 270, worked to improve working conditions for leaf house workers.

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In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wilson County: farmer George Cooper, 46; wife Stellar, 40; and children Arrettor, 22, George B., 16, Juley, 14, James, 12, Mary, 10, Maggie, 7, Bessie, 4, and Royal, 3 months.

James Cooper, 21, of Wayne County, son of George and Stella Cooper, married Susie A. Artis, 19, of Wayne County, daughter of Richard and Susanna Artis, on 6 December 1905 at Richard Artis’ residence in Nahunta township, Wayne County.

James Cooper married Alberta Artis on 18 July 1918 in Kings County, New York.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Brick House and Moore School Road, James Cooper, 33, farmer; wife Alberta, 20; and son Albert Horton, 1.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: James Cooper, 39, farmer; wife Alberta, 26; and children Elija, 21, Albert, 10, Mollie A., 8, Willard M., 5, Lauzin, 3, Annie M., 7 months; sister Oretter Bailey, 45; and niece Irene Artis, 18.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: James Cooper, 54, farmer; wife Alberta, 40; and children Marilyn, 18, Willard, 15, Laurzene, 13, Annie, 11, George, 9, Alberta, 5, Chester, 3, and Lillie, 1.

James William Cooper died 12 February 1967 at his home at 110 Fourth Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 July 1887 in Wayne County to George Cooper and Estelle Smith; worked as a foreman for Jas.I. Miller Co.; and was a World War I veteran. Wife Alberta A. Cooper was informant.

Photo courtesy of George Cooper and Frances C. Bynum, via Vernette B. Roberson. Thank you!

113, 115 and 117 North East Street.

The one hundred-twentieth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East 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, the houses at #113, #115, #117 are: “ca. 1908; 1 story; shotgun with board-and-batten veneer.” The board-and-batten has been replaced with clapboard.

The 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson shows that there were originally six endway houses (with two different floor plans) on this stretch of North East Street. Street numbering changed about 1922, so the houses above were originally #114, #116 and #118.

In the 1928 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ward Ussell (c; Nettie) lab h 113 N East; 115 N East Vacant; Cooper Jack C (c; Nora) lab  h 117 N East

In the 1930 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bethea Mamie (c) smstrs h 113 N East; Hargrove Andrew (c; Ada) lab h 115 N East; Artis Amelia (c) factory hand  h 117 N East

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 113 North East, paying $6/month rent, Mamie Bathea, 40, laundress; Pattie Manual, 60, mother, laundress; George Kannan, 30, brother, taxi chauffuer; Pearl Manual, 20, nurse for private family; daughters Ruth S., 14, Sally S., 12, and Adel Manual, 10; cousins Louisa, 10, and Ralph Kannan, 8; and daughter Mamie Manual, 4.

In the 1941 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bethea Mamie (c) smstrs h113 N East; Bowman Rufus (c; Daisy) tob wkr h115 N East; Hines Boyd (c; Betty) tob wkr h117 N East

In the 1947 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bethea Annie (c) h 113 N East; Grimes Fagin (c; Addie) lab h 115 N East; Williams Rematha Mrs (c) h 117 N East

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2019.

Newlywed robbed and abandoned.

The mayor of Wilson offered a fifty-dollar reward for the recovery of Carrie Cooper Pettiford’s money.

Wilson Advance, 26 January 1893.

  • J.E. Pettiford — John E. Pettiford, a Wilson resident and Granville County native, son of John and Louisa Pettiford, married Carrie Cooper of Wilson on 20 December 1892.
  • Carrie Cooper Pettiford —

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Carrie Cooper, 20, school teacher, living alone.

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The marriage license of John E. Pettiford and Carrie Cooper.

In 1893, Hampton Normal School Press published Twenty-Two Years’ Work of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute at Hampton, Virginia (Records of Negro and Indian Graduates and Ex-Students with historical and personal sketches and testimony on important race questions from within and without, to which are added, by courtesy Messrs Putnam’s Sons, N.Y., some of the Songs of the Races gathered in the School), which featured an interview of Carrie Cooper.

Carrie Cooper is listed as a teacher in the 1896 edition of Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Owens Smith, 49, minister; wife Adora, 30; son Jesse, 19; daughter Flossie, 4; widowed mother Maria Hicks, 78, a midwife; and boarder Carry Pettiford, a widowed teacher.

In 1901, Carrie Pettiford was arrested with Millie Sutton for threatening the life of Adora Smith, wife of Rev. Owen L.W. Smith.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, Carrie Pettiford, 46, widow, cook, living alone.

 

405 and 415 Maury Street.

Maury Street is outside the East Wilson Historic District. It is one of a cluster of narrow streets squeezed between the railroad and what was once an industrial area crowded with a stemmery, cotton oil and fertilizer mills.

405 Maury Street.

This house does not appear in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson and was likely built in the late 1920s to house tobacco factory and mill laborers.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Murray [Maury], renting for $12/month, tobacco factory laborers Hasty Cooper, 36, widow, and Lena Simmons, 25.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Maury, renting for $10/month, Percy Lucas, 30, laborer on WPA project, and wife Eva, 23, tobacco factory laborer.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, 405 Maury was vacant.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Franklin, John (c) lab h 405 Maury

415 Maury Street. 

This house does not appear in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson and was likely built in the late 1920s to house tobacco factory and mill laborers.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 415 Murray [Maury], renting for $16/month, cook Annie Cambell, 34; her children Paul, 18, fish market salesman, and Christine, 16, tobacco factory laborer; and grandson Paul, 0. All the adults were born in South Carolina.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 415 Maury, renting for $12/month, laundress Lena Barnes, 49, and children Harvey, 28, well digger; Paulean, 17, housekeeper; and “new workers” Evylene, 14, and James, 19.

In 1940, Harvey Barnes registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 9 April 1913 in Wilson County; resided at 1505 West Nash, Wilson; his contact was mother Lena Barnes, 415 Maurry; and he worked for Mr. B.T. Smith, 1505 West Nash.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barnes Lena (c) maid h 415 Maury

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wiggins Blanche (c) tob wkr h 415 Maury and Wood Rosa Mrs (c) 415 Maury

Photographs taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018. (Note that 405 Maury, condition notwithstanding, is advertised for sale or rent.)

Surprise verdicts?

Just after Christmas 1948, an all-white jury acquitted Woodrow Taylor, a white service station operator, in the murder of Hugh Bynum, a black man.

In a nutshell: Bynum and Taylor had a “conversation” about a pack of cigarettes. Bynum stepped out of the store. Taylor followed and asked, “You don’t think I’ll kill you?” Bynum said no. Taylor went back in and returned with a shotgun. Again: “You don’t think I’ll kill you?” And shot Bynum in the chest. Or, “the gun went off” — Taylor said it fired accidentally when he tried to set it down on a “cold drink crate.” And he denied aggressively questioning Bynum. The jury believed him.

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Wilson Daily Times, 29 December 1948.

Bynum was not the only black man whose manner of death went before a jury that day. On 7 October 1947, William Cooper was thrown into the street at Nash and Pender Streets when M.O. Tripp, driving drunk, struck his wagon. Cooper died two weeks of later of injuries sustained, and Tripp was charged with manslaughter. The Daily Times reported the verdict in this case the next day. Surprise.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 December 1948.

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In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Lynn Bynum, 70; wife Lena, 50; and children Patience, 18, Lynn, 8, Harvey, 6, Hubert, 5, and Bunny, 3.

In 1940, Hubert Bynum registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born in 1915 in Edgecombe County; resided at Route 1, Stantonsburg, Wilson County; and his contact and employer was his first cousin Jack Bynum. He was described as “feeble-minded” with a “displaced eye.”

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In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: William F. Cooper, 43, delivery man for ice and coal company; wife Lillie, 30, cook; and step-daughter Anna Bobbitt, 16.

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The obituary of Maggie Lena F. Cooper, 99.

Maggie Lena Farmer Cooper, 99, of Wilson Pines Nursing Care Facility and formerly of 704 Maury Street, Wilson, NC died August 31, 2014. The funeral will be held Saturday at 1:00pm at St. Rose Church of Christ, 605 S. Douglas Street, Wilson, NC with Elder Ernest Melton officiating. Interment will follow in Rest Haven Cemetery. Public viewing will be Friday from 2-7 pm at the funeral home. The family will receive friends on Saturday from 12 noon to 1pm at the church and will assemble on Saturday at the residence of her son Thomas E. Williams, 501 W. Daniel Street Wilson, NC at 11:00am. 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.

Funeral Service for Amanda Alberta Cooper 1899-1985.

In the 1900 census of Brogden township, Wayne County: farmer Jhon W. Aldredge, 48; wife Vissey, 33; and children Zebedde, 20; Lula, 17; Franses, 16; Jhon, 13; Thomas, 12; Mandy, 9; Bula, 7; Corana, 3; Alberta, 1; and Mary, 1 month. [“Alberta Aldridge” was in fact Amanda Alberta Artis. Alberta’s mother, Amanda Aldridge Artis, who died shortly after Alberta’s birth, was both sister to John W. Aldridge and step-mother to Vicey Artis Aldridge, having married her father Adam T. Artis. John and Vicey Aldridge reared Alberta with their children.]

In the 1910 census of Brogden township, Wayne County: farmer John Aldridge Sr., 55; wife Vicy, 46; and children Lula, 25, seamstress; John Jr. 22, retail merchant; Thomas, 20, partner in retail store; Mandy, 18; Caronine, 12; Lizzie, 10; Nora, 8; and granddaughter [sic] Elberta, 11.

James Cooper married Alberta Artis on 18 July 1918 in Kings County, New York.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Brick House and Moore School Road, James Cooper, 33, farmer; wife Alberta, 20; and son Albert Horton, 1.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: James Cooper, 39, farmer; wife Alberta, 26; and children Elija, 21, Albert, 10, Mollie A., 8, Willard M., 5, Lauzin, 3, Annie M., 7 months; sister Oretter Bailey, 45; and niece Irene Artis, 18.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: James Cooper, 54, farmer; wife Alberta, 40; and children Marilyn, 18, Willard, 15, Laurzene, 13, Annie, 11, George, 9, Alberta, 5, Chester, 3, and Lillie, 1.

James William Cooper died 12 February 1967 at his home at 110 Fourth Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 July 1887 in Wayne County to George Cooper and Estelle Smith; worked as a foreman for Jas.I. Miller Co.; and was a World War I veteran. Wife Alberta A. Cooper was informant.

Program courtesy of Patricia S. Muhammad.

Artist, lawyer, preacher.

On 15 September 1939, Cora L. Bennett, a writer employed by the Works Project Administration interviewed William Arthur Cooper for the Folklore Project. The transcript of the interview is housed at the Library of Congress. Here is an excerpt:

William A. Cooper, artist and preacher gives the story of his life as follows:

“My work has been my life. Whatever degree of success I have had has come about, I believe, as a result of my dogged determination to do something tangible for my race.

“I was born in the country near Hillsboro, N.C. As a small boy I worked on the farm. I worked in the tobacco fields, worming and stemming tobacco as well as in the cotton fields. For about four months in the winter I attended a Mission school in Hillsboro for negros. In summer time I worked as a janitor and some times as a cook or house boy.

“When I was about fourteen I began to support myself, and soon there after went to the Industrial Institute at High Point, N.C. as a work student. I worked on the school farm,
got up at five o’clock in the morning to milk the cows, plow and hoe cotton and corn, and anything else that needed to be done. While I was at this school I also took up brick laying along with my other studies.

“From High Point I went to the National Religious Training School at Durham, N.C. There I took the four year Theological Course. Still working my way through school, I received the Bachelor of Theology Degree from that institution.

“As soon as I had finished I went to Wilson, N.C. where I started out as an insurance man, and at the same time preaching at a small church on Sunday.

“I went from there to Burlington, N.C. where I was elected Principal of a high school. I also served as Principal of the high school at Graham, N.C. and taught at various other places. All this time I was studying law at night and passed the State Bar examination in 1922.

“I became interested in art for the first time a few years before this. I was in bed with a severe cold and while lying idle I thought I would try to do two pictures illustrating the Biblical quotation: ‘Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, but straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be who
find it.’ The members of my church were quite pleased with the pictures. Their pleasure encouraged me a great deal, and from that time on I began to paint other things. It was then I started painting the members of my race, anybody I could get 3 to sit— field hands, teachers, children, cooks or washerwomen. I had taken no formal lessons at the time but I kept right on trying to see what I might do.

“I have attempted to show the real negro through art. I believe that unless we have some record of the negro that is neither burlesqued with black face nor idealized with senmentality, the younger generation of negroes will be deprived of inspiration from their own race. …”

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William Arthur Cooper (1895-1974), preacher, lawyer, and artist, painted the portraits of Negro field hands, domestic servants, children, religious and civic leaders and business executives. As a member of the North Carolina Interracial Commission, Cooper made a “good will” tour to colleges and universities in North Carolina where he exhibited his portraits and lectures on art and black culture.

Cooper’s papers, housed at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, include: “Biographical materials; correspondence, concerning portrait commisions, lectures on art, and exhibitions of his work; two account books containing expenditures; receipts; a journal, 1935, containing expenditures and notes concerning his “good will” tour; a report on the tour; Cooper’s publication Educating Through Fine Arts; his book A Portrayal of Negro Life, 1936, which contains reproductions of his portraits acompanied by his explanatory text, and documents related to the book including proposed plans, sales records, and a typescript of the book which contains portraits not included in the published version; price lists for Cooper’s paintings; exhibition catalogs, clippings, miscellany, and a book by Charles C. Dawson, ABCs of Great Negroes; and 36 photographs of Cooper, of his friends and church members, and his portrait paintings.”

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The Bathing Girl (1932).

Tornado kills schoolteacher.

Ninety-five years ago today, a powerful tornado struck southeastern Wilson County, killing an African-American teacher walking to her school and injuring others.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 March 1922.

  • Arzula Falke —Arzulia Mitchell Faulk. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 210 Pender Street, barber Hiram Faulk, 44, dressmaker Arzulia, 40, and daughter Marie, 14. Arzulia Faulk was killed 7 March 1922. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 April 1879 in Perquimans County, North Carolina, to John Mitchell of Pasquotank County and Rossie Kirk of Gates County; was a teacher; and was married to Hiram Faulk. She was buried in Hertford County.

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Wilson Daily Times, 17 March 1922.

  • Daisy H. Cooper
  • Sallie Swinson

Evansdale community today, which lies between NC-58 and Old Stantonsburg Road just past the halfway point between Wilson and Stantonsburg. Evansdale United Methodist Church stands left of the yellow circle at the intersection of Evansdale Road and Graves Road. The Norfolk & Southern Railroad is marked by the diagonal line. The long abandoned brick shell of a country store stands on the north side of Evansdale Road, nearly opposite Graves. I imagine that Faulk and the other teachers got off the train from Wilson here. I do not know the location of the school at which they taught, but there was a Rosenwald school called Evansdale School.