This 1940 help wanted ad specifically sought African-American men and women for jobs picking cotton.
Wilson Daily Times, 20 September 1940.
This 1940 help wanted ad specifically sought African-American men and women for jobs picking cotton.
Wilson Daily Times, 20 September 1940.
It was chilly Saturday morning, too, but not as bitingly cold as at my last visit. This time, I focused on the end of Odd Fellows cemetery closest to its boundary with Vick.
First depressing thing I notice — some jackass has been spinning donuts in Vick cemetery.
Once I clawed my way into Odd Fellows, though I was achingly aware that the depressions I was stumbling in were collapsed gravesites, I didn’t see much beyond broken stones scattered here and there across the forest floor.
Have I mentioned the vines? The vines are insane.
The low-lying back of the property, which has standing water, probably year-round.
After poking around in piles of broken bottles and rusted-out enamelware, I finally spotted a cluster of grave markers about thirty feet distant.
This is the only military headstone I’ve seen in Rountree or Odd Fellows, and may be the only military marker I’ve seen anywhere with “after-market” enhancement.
James F. Scott North Carolina PVT 365 INF 92 DIV March 28, 1939 Born March 6, 1887 Who is now with the Lord
In the 1910 census of Weldon township, Halifax County, North Carolina: farmer John Scott, 53; wife Mary J., 46; and children James F., 22, Annie B., 16, Salomie A., 15, John A., 13, Sylvester, 11, Eliga, 9, Mary E., 7, David, 5, Sarah J., 3, and Inthe, 1.
James Franklin Scott registered for the World War I draft in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 6 March 1887 in Wayne County, N.C.; lived on “Robinson” Street, Wilson; worked as a porter for Carroll Grocery Company; and was single.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wainwright Street, farm operator John Scott, 60; wife Mary, 51; and children James, 30, wholesale company helper; Elijah, 19, David, 14, Sarah, 11, and Ianthe, 13.
Bessie Wife of John McGowan Born 1888 Jan. 7 1925 Gone But Not Forgotten
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John McGowan, 40, brickmason; wife Bessie, 35; and Beatriss, 13.
Jesse Parker Dec. 1, 1890 Apr. 12, 1937 light from our household is gone
And then there was this stack, roped with vines:
The broken granite marker supports two intact concrete headstones, two marble footstones, and a few other chunks of rock.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Edd Hunter, 27, odd jobs laborer.
Ed Hunter, 27, married Minnie Woodard, 23, daughter of Ruffin and Lucy Woodard, on 28 December 1910 at Lucy Woodard’s in Wilson. Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of James H. Knight, J.L.Barnes Jr., and Joe Baker.
Ed Hunter, 30, married Lossie Ruffin, 27, on 18 March 1914. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at William Coppedge’s in Wilson in the presence of William Coppedge, Timcy Jones, and Bessie McGowan.
In 1918, Ed Hunter registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 30 August 1883; lived on Carroll Street, Wilson; worked at Barnes-Harrell bottling plant; and his nearest relative was Lossie Hunter.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Washington Street, laborer Edd Hunter, 37; wife Lossie, 33; children Maeoma, 3, and Eliza, 1; and step-children Inise, 13, and Addie L. Ruffin, 11.
Rufus Son of James & Amelia Artis Born July 16, 1900 Died Apr. 24, 1916
Blount Artis died 24 April 1916 in Boon Hill township, Johnston County. Per his death certificate, he was about 16 years old; was born in Wilson County to Jim Artis and Amelia Artis; was single; and worked as a clerk in a drugstore. Charles Gay was informant. [Though the first name is different, this appears to be the same boy as Rufus Artis.]
Tempsy Wife of Rufus Speight Died July 16, 1917 Aged 75 Yrs. Gone to a Better Home, Where Grief Cannot Come.
In the 1870 census of Upper Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Rufus Speight, 23; wife Tempsy, 25; and children Isabella, 8, Rufus, 3, and Celey, 1.
In the 1880 census of Upper Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Rufus Speight, 45; wife Tempsy, 38; and children Isabella, 19, Rufus, 12, Wesley, 8, and Celey A., 10, and Mattie, 4.
Back toward the cleared section of the cemetery near the road, two broken concrete markers lay atop the marble base of a missing monument that must have been quite large.
Only the footstone of Mark H. Cotton, engraved with the Odd Fellows’ triple links symbol, is standing.
Mark Cotton, 23, married Jane Freeman, 22, on 27 February 1878 in Wilson, Minister Joseph Green performed the ceremony in the presence of I.S. Westbrook, S.W. Westbrook, and Charles Smith.
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laborer Dempsey Parker, 60; wife Phareby, 50; and children Mark, 27, works in nursery, Sanders, 23, laborer; Mary, 22, cook; and Lemuel, 40, laborer.
Mark H. Cotton, 45, son of Dempsy and Fereby Cotton, married Mahalia Battle, 22, daughter of Turner and Effie Battle, on 26 June 1895 at the residence of Mahalia Battle in Wilson. Henry C. Rountree applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Thomas J. Day and J.T. Deans of Wilson and J.T. Tomlinson of Black Creek.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: graded school janitor Mark Cotton, 45; wife Mahaley, 27; daughter Mary E., 2, and adopted daughter Rosa L., 11.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Gold Street, school janitor Mark Cotton, 52.
Mark Cotton 67, son of Dempsey and Farebee Cotton, married Minnie Brooks, 38, daughter of Tobe Farmer, on 11 December 1922 in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Edward Smith, Sallie Smith, and Rosa Arrington.
Mark Henry Cotton died 19 November 1934 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 95 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Dempsey Cotton and Fariby Mercer; was married to Minnie Cotton; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Wilson.
Wilson Daily Times, 20 November 1934.
I stepped from the wood line into the cleared section of Odd Fellows cemetery. At its line with Rountree cemetery, remnants of a stone border nestle in moss, then the ground dips into a vine-choked ditch. Below, the city has recently clear-cut the western side of the street, a section of which was once part of Rountree cemetery. A short stretch of stone or concrete border remains.
Naturalized daffodils hint at the strip’s past as a graveyard.
This ambiguous concrete rectangle is the sole evidence I saw of a grave marker.
Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2020.
Wilson Advance, 19 January 1888.
Per the caption in “Black History Month,” Wilson Daily Times, 22 February 2008, page 6c, “Hilliard S. ‘Dock’ Cotton was operator of Cotton’s Grocery at the corner of Carroll and Carolina Streets. He was an African-American entrepreneur during the 1950s and 1960s.”
The grocery at Carroll and Carolina Streets is on the southwest corner — 1114 Carolina Street.
In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Henry Cotten, 44; wife Lula, 37; and children Hilliard, 15, and Ardelia, 14; all farm laborers.
In 1940, Hilliard Sander Cotton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 17 August 1914 in Black Creek, N.C.; lived at 27 Carolina Street; worked for Wilson Veneer Company; and was married to Phoebe Cotton.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Dock (c; Phoebe, 5) fireman h 1222 Carolina
In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Dock (c: Phoebe) lab h 1222 Carolina; (also) Cotton Hilliard S (c) lab Wilson Veneer h 27 Carolina
In the 1960 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Hilliard S (Phoebe B) clipper opr Wilson Veneer h 1303 Carolina; (also) Cottons Grocery Store (Hilliard S Cotton) groceries candy soft drinks wine kerosene 1114 Carolina; (also) Cotton Phoebe B Mrs cash Cottons Gro Store h 1303 Carolina
Hilliard (Dock) Cotton died 23 April 1963 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 August 1914 in Wilson County to William H. Cotton and Clara Cotton; was married to Phoebe Cotten; lived at 1216 Carolina Street; worked as a clipper operator/laborer; was buried in Jones Hill cemetery.
Wilson Daily Times, 23 April 1965.
Rev. Phoebe Ann Britton Cotton died 15 December 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 February 1916 in South Carolina to Waitis Barnwell Britton and Emma Britton; was a widow; resided at 1303 Carolina Street; and was a minister. John Cotton of Augusta, Georgia, was informant. She was buried in Jones Hill cemetery.
Wilson Daily Times, 10 September 1955.
Wilson Daily Times, 24 December 1919.
By 1922, there was no longer any question that boll weevils could thrive in North Carolina. The rapacious insect was not eradicated in the state until 1987.
Andrew Cotton applied for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate in May 1936. American seamen carried the document as proof of citizenship in foreign ports. Per his application, Cotton was born 19 June 1904 in Sharpsburg, North Carolina; resided at 207 West 137th Street, New York City; and had last worked on the S.S. Evangeline as a waiter. He was 5’8″ with dark brown skin, brown eyes and black hair and had no identifying marks.
In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Levy Edwards Road, Isaac Cotton, 44; wife Flonnie, 34; and children Coloneous, 18, Lucy, 16, Sidney, 13, Mary, 11, Isaac E., 8, Andrew, 6, Levy, 4, and Clarence, 1.
Passenger lists from 1938 to 1954 show Cotton shipping out of ports on both sides of the Atlantic, including New York, New York; Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; Saint Georges and Hamilton, Bermuda; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Hamburg, Germany; Gourock, Scotland; Southampton, England; Cobh, Ireland; and Genoa, Italy.
U.S. Applications for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; original document at Application for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940, Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, 1774-1982, Record Group 41, National Archives, Washington, D.C; New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
As adapted from Wikipedia and NCPedia: the crop-lien system was a credit system widely used by cotton and tobacco farmers in the South from the 1860s to the 1930s. Sharecroppers and tenant farmers, who did not own the land they worked, and even cash-strapped landowners, obtained supplies and food on credit from local merchants. The merchants held a lien on the farmer’s crop, and the merchants and landowners were the first ones paid from its sale. What was left over went to the farmer. Merchants routinely, and lawfully, marked up prices, and country stores rapidly proliferated across North Carolina and the South. Abuses in the crop lien system reduced many tenant farmers to a state of debt peonage, as their debts to landlords and merchants carried over from one year to the next.
On 1 January 1910, Littleton Ellis Jr. gave F.S. Davis a $140 lien on his crop in order to purchase fertilizer from Farmers Guano Company. Ellis promised to raise cotton and corn on the land on which he lived (and likely owned as his share of his father’s property) and also pledged a black mule, Rhodie, and a yellow mule, Katie, as security.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis, 73; wife Judy, 55; and children Lucy, 21, Littleton, 18, Sarah, 16, Maggie, 14, Nettie, 12, and Minnie, 10.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Wiggins Mill Road, farmer Littleton Ellis, 27; his mother Judie, 62; and sisters Lucy, 30, Sarah, 24, Maggie, 23, and Lettie, 21.
Littleton Ellis registered for the World War I draft in 1918. Per his draft registration card, he was born 30 August 1882; lived at Box 75, R.F.D. #2, Wilson; was a farmer “on his own land next to R.P. Watsons”; and his nearest relative was mother Juddy Ellis.
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Judie Ellis, 80, widow; children Lucy, 32, Litt, 30, and Maggie, 25; and granddaughter Manerva Barnes, 22.
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis Jr., 47; widowed mother Juddie, 82; and divorced sister Lucy Cooker, 49.
Littleton Ellis died 24 March 1934 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 August 1882 in Wilson to Littleton Ellis and Judia Barnes; Bryant Ellis was informant.
Deed book 72, page 562, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.
This photo is one of several illustrating a 1936 map of Wilson County distributed by the Wilson Chamber of Commerce and the Wilson County Board of Commissioners. (The original image from which the children on this postcard was taken is another of the map’s photos.)
Orren V. Foust photographed street scenes in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Wilson. The images below, which were reproduced as postcards, depict cotton market scenes.
The first two cards show Barnes Street from two points along the street. (The tea kettle shop sign can be used for perspective. Comparisons to the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map seem to pinpoint the site as a spot just above Goldsboro Street looking toward Tarboro Street.) In the top image, two African-American men can be seen near the middle of the shot, standing behind a loaded wagon.
In this photograph, taken a little closer to the activity, another African-American man perches atop a bale of cotton, his face turned slightly toward the camera.
This shot, labeled “Sunny South Bringing In Cotton, Wilson N.C.,” shows an African-American drayman (or perhaps a farmer or farmhand) leading a team of oxen hitched to a wagon.
Images courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III’s Historic Wilson in Vintage Postcards (2003).
This photograph of unnamed African-American youth picking cotton in a Wilson County field illustrated an introductory essay in Hill’s Wilson City Directory 1947-48.