The unmistakable way to conviction.

In November 1888, Charles Bynum was tried and convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Henry Privett, his girlfriend’s brother.

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Wilson Mirror, 7 November 1888.

  • Charles Bynum, accused — possibly, the Charles Bynum, 15, listed with his parents Mack, 39, and Mary Bynum, 30, in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County.
  • Henry Privette, victim; Bettie Privette, his sister, allegedly Bynum’s lover; Alice Privette, his wife; Sallie Privette, his sister; Mahala Privette, his mother — In the 1870 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farm laborer Joseph Privett, 30; wife Mahala, 27; and children Lucretia, 9, Mary, 4, Henry, 2, and Bettie J., 2 weeks; plus Penninah Locust, 2. In the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Joe Privett, about 44; wife Mahalah, about 35; and children Polly Ann, 16, Henry, 14, Bettie, 11, Hattie, 7, and Sallie, 3; plus Penninah Jones, 14. Henry Privett, 18, son of Joe and Mahalia Privett, married Alice Howell, 20, daughter of Ransom and Burbary Howell, on 8 February 1887 at the courthouse in Wilson.
  • James Bynum, juror.
  • Henry Birney, juror.
  • Celia Cotton, witness.

Leonard Medical School students.

James Arthur Cotton appears in Leonard Medical School‘s 1888-’89 catalog with a notation that he done his collegiate studies at Saint Augustine’s College. (Perhaps he did not finish, as the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929 lists him as a 1897 graduate of Chicago’s Harvey Medical College.

Lincoln University graduate Charles Hudson Bynum appears in the 1892-’93 Leonard Medical School catalog.

Elnora C. Dawson, 101.

Elnora Dawson, 101, a resident of Hunter Hill Nursing Home and formerly of 313 Freeman Street, Wilson, NC died March 2, 2015. The funeral will be held Saturday at 12 noon at Olive Chapel Baptist Church, Hwy 301 South, 3406 Hathaway Blvd., Sharpsburg, NC with Rev. Jimmy Williams officiating. Interment will follow in Rest Haven Cemetery Wilson, NC. Public viewing will be Friday from 2 to 7pm at the funeral home with the family receiving friends from 6 to 7pm. Family and friends are requested to assemble on Saturday at the residence, 313 Freeman St., Wilson, NC, at 11:00am for the funeral 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

Obituary online.


Elnora Cotton Dawson (1914-2015).

In the 1930 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: farmer James Cotton, 52; wife Mattie, 42; and children Leroy, 17, Elnora, 16, Essie M., 13, Sabra A., 11, and Addie M., 9.

In the 1940 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: farmer Jim Cotton, 62; wife Mattie, 58; and children Lee Roy, 28, Elnora, 26, Essie Mae, 24, Sabrer Ann, 22, and Alta Mae, 20; and sister Bettie Cotton, 67.

On 28 October 1946, Elnora Cotton, 32 , of Sharpsburg, North Carolina, daughter of Jim and Mattie Cotton, married Frank Lee Dawson, 28, of Norfolk, Virginia, son of Vanderbilt and Carrie Dawson, in Tarboro, Edgecombe County. [Frank Lee Dawson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 19 August 1919 in Wilson; resided at R.F.D. 3, Box 275, Wilson; his contact was his mother, Harrit Dawson of Wilson; and he worked for R.P. Watson Tobacco Company, Wilson.]

On 31 July 1987, Frank Lee Dawson died in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 19 October 1918 in Wilson to Vanderbilt Dawson and Harriet Woodard; resided at 313 Freeman Street; was married; and had worked as a ship mechanic.

Photo courtesy of user diann_dawson.

The last wills and testaments of Henry and Temperance Cotton.



  1. A decent burial and all burial expenses paid.
  2. To her sister Frances Armstrong, one-half of household and kitchen furniture.
  3. To her sister Hannah Jane Moore, one-half of household and kitchen furniture, plus all money.
  4. All other property to be sold and from the proceeds $100 to sister Frances Armstrong, $25 to brother Robert Moore, $100 to niece Siney Speight, $25 to cousin William Windslow, and the remainder to sister Hannah J. Moore.
  5. Hannah J. Moore appointed administratrix.
  6. Signed 5 September 1924.


In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: drayman Henry Cotton, 35, and wife Temperance, 28, with boarder Turner Battle, 23, a painter.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Henry Cotton, 52, and wife Tempie, 50.

John H. Clark and Samuel Vick caused Henry Cotton’s will to be recorded and filed on 30 August 1905 in Wilson County Superior Court.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 305 Stantonsburg Street, widow Tempie Cotton, 51, with two roomers, James, 22, and Elsie Clark, 18.

Tempie Cotton died 4 April 1925 in Long Creek, Rocky Point township, Pender County, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was 70 years old, born in Wilson County to Dennis Moore, and the widow of David [sic] Cotton. She was buried in Wilson, and Hannah Moore was informant.

North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Dr. J.A. Cotton of Chicago.

Again, for a town whose population did not hit 10,000 until 1920 (and of which only half  were black), Wilson produced an astounding number of African-American physicians in the last decades of the nineteenth century and first few of the twentieth century. To the ranks of Drs. Joseph Henry WardCharles Hudson Bynum, William Henry BryantJohn Wesley Darden, James Thomas Suggs, Walter Theodore Darden, and James Alexander Battle, add James Arthur Cotton.

The record, to date, is thin. And confusing. In the 1900 census of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois: at 2703 Dearborn, North Carolina-born James A. Cotton, 38, his Mississippi-born wife Mattie, 50, his step-children William I. Buford, 19, and Irma Buford, 13, and a roomer named Frederick Scott. Is this the right James A. Cotton?  James and William’s occupations were listed as cooper. This would seem to be an error, except that the 1897 Chicago city directory lists James A. Cooper, 2703 Dearborn, as a cooper.

Three James A. Coopers appear in the 1901 Chicago directory: (1) a cook living at 2234 Dearborn; (2) a James Jr., physician, at 3150 Wentworth Avenue; and (3) a timekeeper at the Armour stock yards living at 6802 South Carpenter. The last was likely white. The middle would seem most likely, except the first shared the address advertised for Dr. J. Arthur Cotton in the 1905 edition of The Colored People’s Blue Book & Business Directory of Chicago, Illinois:

JA Cotton

The following year, in The Broad Ax, an African-American newspaper originally published in Salt Lake City, Utah, but later removed to Chicago:

JA Cotton 2

The Broad Ax, 7 July 1906.

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The Broad Ax, 7 January 1907.

In the 1920 census of Chicago, Illinois: at 33 West 22nd Street, physician and surgeon J.A. Cotton, 59, and wife Minnie, 34.

Then, too soon, in an index to Cook County, Illinois, deaths: James Arthur Cotton; born 31 July 1866 in Wilson, North Carolina; died 13 February 1922 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; physician; spouse, Minnie Cotton; father, M. Cotton; residence 33 East 22nd; buried in Lincoln Cemetery.

And in the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929: J. Arthur Cotton; died 8 February 1922, Chicago; type of practice: allopath; licenses: Illinois, 1897; medical school: Harvey Medical College, Chicago, 1897; cause of death: uremia.

James Arthur Cotton made out a will just days before his death. His signature by mark (“X”) likely indicates that he was too incapacitated to sign properly, as he surely was not illiterate. The trusts and outright bequests Cotton left to his wife Minnie, daughter Missouri Arthur Carver, and Augustus L. Williams (his executor, no other relationship indicated) included shares in and dividends of stock in Public Life Insurance Company, Public Agency Company, and Monarch Oil Syndicate of Texas; money at Continental and Commercial National Bank of Chicago; a life insurance policy with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; the liquidated  value of his “medicines, chemicals, surgical instruments, office equipment” and other personal property; and a 1/59th share in 12,500 acres of “oil land” near Houston, Texas.

[Note: Cotton seems to have had just one child, Missouri Arthur (or Artha Missouri) Cotton, born about 1892 in Arkansas. He apparently did not raise her. Per unsourced family trees at, Artha’s mother Missouri Philmon was born about 1875 in Altheimer, Arkansas, and died 10 January 1892, nine days after giving birth to Artha. Artha appears in the 1900 census of Plum Bayou, Jefferson County, Arkansas, in the household of her grandmother Ann Fillman, 66, with Ann’s daughter Ezell Fillman, 24, and granddaughter Lizzie Lee, 18. In the 1910 census of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas: at 2004 Ninth Street, Louisiana-born Floyd Caver, 28, a self-employed tailor, wife Artha, 18, daughters Hellen, 16 months, and Thersa, 1 month, and [grand]mother-in-law Ann Philmon, 77. By 1920, Floyd is gone, presumably dead, and at 2004 West Ninth: Mississippi-born insurance agent W.E. Clark; wife Aurther, 28, who owned a clean and press shop; and stepdaughters Helen, 11, Thersa, 9, Latis, 8, and Floy Caver, 6. By 1930, Artha had again remarried and had moved across the country. In the 1930 census of Worcester, Worcester County, Massachusetts: at 3 Pembroke Street, carpenter Charles S. Mero, 61; wife Artha M., 38; and stepdaughter Latis, 18, and Floy Caver, 17. Mero owned his house, valued at $8000. By 1940, Artha is in the Midwest, in the city in which her father died. In the 1940 census of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois: at 2956 Ellis Avenue, head porter at a shoe store Percy Williams, 31; wife Helen B., 30; children Percy Jr., 9, Theresa, 7, Glenda, 5, and Donald, 3; and Artha Mero, 48, a practical nurse in a private home. Artha M. Mero, born 1 January 1892, died 25 July 1986 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.]

All records found at