Picnics organized by Wilson County’s Black 4-H and Home Demonstration clubs were annual social highlights. In 1941, a hundred and fifty families traveled to Yelverton School at the far eastern edge of the county for fun and frolic in such contests as milk-sucking, cracker-eating, nail-driving, bag-racing, and horseshoe-pitching.
The Special Collections Research Center of North Carolina State Libraries has digitized several annual reports submitted to the state’s Cooperative Extension Service by Negro County Extension Agent Carter W. Foster. Below, part 1 of a series revealing the 1942 report.
“… I have attempted to give you an insight of the major activities carried on by Negro farmers in the county during the year.” Foster credited farm families, county officials, home economics extension agent Jane A. Boyd, the extension staffs at North Carolina State A.&T. and North Carolina State Universities, and members of the Negro school systems for the year’s successes.
Sharpe was born and reared on the farm he was buying. His father, a life-long tenant farmer, lived with him. Their landlord had made a standing offer to sell the farm for $6000 years before. “Not being satisfied with the manner in which his father was living,” Sharpe decided to buy. He happened upon an article about Farm Security Administration loans for low-income tenants. Within days he was approved. The farm was on Highway 42 on the Wilson-Edgecombe border, and about 40 of its 51 acres were suitable for farming.
The house was in fairly good condition at purchase, but was upgraded with screens, paint and a pump on the back porch, and Sharpe constructed a laying house, a smokehouse and an outhouse.
Sharpe was a young man — just 29 years old. He was the father of five, a member of the Negro Farmers Advisory Committee, and a Neighborhood Lender. “He is an example worthy of following by many tillers of the soil.”
This photo accompanied a 2 July 1976 Wilson Daily Times article on the history of the “home economics movement” in Wilson County. Home economics extension agent Jane Amos Boyd organized the club.
“Mitchell Adult [Home Demonstration] Club was once selected as the most outstanding club in Wilson County.”
In May 1940, Jane A. Boyd submitted a report to the Daily Times of the activities of the Negro home demonstration clubs. The Mitchell and Yelverton clubs participating in a clean-up campaign reported stacking wood piles; cleaning under their houses (which stood without skirting on brick or stacked stone piers); moving their clotheslines to the backyard; cleaning barn lots; moving wash pots; trimming shrubbery; building new floors and porch steps; whitewashing outhouses; repairing steps and porches; painting houses; making window, screen doors and fly traps; covering garbage pails; and taking health exams.
The Wilson club met at Julia Barnes’ house. Items on the agenda: growing vegetables on a lot donated by Short Barnes and making pillowcases for Mercy Hospital.
Clarence Featherson — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer Eugene Featherson, 24; wife Marie, 21; children James David, 5, Grace, 3, and Marie, 2; and adopted brothers Clarence, 12, and Allen Featherson, 11. Eugene Featherson indicated that he had been living in Forest City [North Carolina?] in 1935.
Foster had been Wilson County’s Negro agricultural extension agent. To open his estate, his widow Estelle Duncan Foster testified that she had found his will among papers in a locked box at the National Bank of Wilson. Sadie H. Collins, Helen W. Branford and John M. Miller Jr. examined the paper and positively identified as the document they had witnessed Foster sign just a month before.
On 24 February 1955, Wilson County Superior Court opened the estate. Foster’s will was straightforward — he left all property left after his debts were settled to his wife and named her his executrix. The attachment to the will is more perplexing.
First, “I suggest that the $5000 Metropolitan Policy payable to my wife be loaned to the Company and payable to Carlotta and Barbara shall need same for schooling.” (What company? Was this suggestion lawful? Barbara Jean, born 1942, and Carlotta Estelle, born 1951, were the couple’s daughters.)
Second, Foster named three people who owed him a total of $30 — Isham Bryant, Leona Hines, and Maggie Bryant.
Third, he named eleven people that he owed a whopping $3007.50 (roughly $27,000 in 2017 dollars) — M.R. Zachary ($320), Mrs. Branford ($375), Percy Williams ($100), Mark Sharp ($825), Joe Hester ($650), Frank Murphy ($350), W.R. Barnes ($105), Cora S. Wilson ($75), Isiah Whitehead ($100), M.G. Garris ($25), and Martha Mitchell ($82.50). [As newspaper notices gave witness, attempts to pay them all back would require the sale at auction of Foster’s personal belongings, such as a 1951 Plymouth, and the house on Vance Street that he and his sister had inherited from their mother.]
Fourth, he designated seven people as trustworthy advisors to his wife — Bing Miller, Charles James, Rev. Farmer, Rev. Watkins, M.R. Zachary and Thomas J. Moore.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Vance Street, Walter Foster, 46, fireman at wagon company; wife Rosa, 34; children Heneretta, 18, Carl [sic, Carter], 6, and Naomi, 4; and sister-in-law Etta Parker, 32, a school teacher.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 808 East Vance Street, teacher Rosa Foster, 42; children Carter, 16, Daily Times newsboy, and Naomi, 14; and two roomers Alice Jones, 36, and Mamie Key, 20, both teachers.
The 1939 Ayantee, yearbook of North Carolina A&T State University.
On 29 December 1939, Carter Washington Foster, 26, of Wilson, and Estelle Duncan, 25, of Maysville, North Carolina, were married in Danville, Virginia. Foster, son of Walter Foster and Rosa Parker, worked as an agriculture teacher at Chatham County Training School and lived in Siler City, and Duncan, daughter of Samuel Duncan and Annie Hicks, lived in Clinton, North Carolina.
In 1940, Carter Washington Foster registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 January 1914 in Wilson; resided at 808 East Vance; worked as county farm agent at 559 1/2 East Nash Street; and was married to Estelle Duncan Foster.
This newspaper article about county officials reveals that Foster was paid less than half of his white counterpart’s salary:
Wilson Daily Times, 1 December 1941.
His work, alongside black home demonstration agent Jane Boyd, was recognized, however:
“Wilsonia” column, John G. Thomas, Wilson Daily Times, 24 January 1945.
Carter Washington Foster died 17 February 1955 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 January 1914 in Wilson to Walter Foster and Rosa Parker; was married; resided at 801 East Green; and worked as a county agricultural agent.
Wilson Daily Times, 18 February 1955.
Sadie Collins — Wilson cafe operator Sadie Collins.
Helen W. Branford — per the 1953 Raleigh city directory, Helen Wade Branford (1913-1994) was an agricultural extension agent living in Wilson.