Darden

New historical markers.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has forestalled the customary installation ceremonies, Wilson County Historical Association has erected two of four planned markers commemorating significant African-American people and places in Wilson’s history.

Charles H. Darden. Born in Greene County, 1854. Arrived in Wilson after Civil War. In 1875, here established the first African-American funeral business in Wilson, diversified by son C.L. Darden. Operated for more than 100 years. Local high school named in his honor. (Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church is at rear.)

Dr. Frank S. Hargrave. Born in Lexington, NC. Graduated Leonard Medical School, 1901. Arrived in Wilson, 1903. Founder and Chief of Staff, Mercy Hospital. In 1914, elected President, National Medical Ass’n. President, Lincoln Benefit Society. Home was at 624 E. Green St. (Hargrave’s former home is at left, and Samuel and Annie Washington Vick‘s at right.)

I collaborated with W.C.H.A. on the subject, text, and siting of these markers. I give thanks to the Association and honor to these ancestors.

High school renamed for C.H. Darden, who had “a fine spirit as a citizen.”

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 January 1938.

The funeral of Charles H. Darden: “The church was crowded and all those who wanted could not get into the house.”

Though they got his name wrong, the Daily Times ran this article on the funeral of Charles Henry Darden.

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Wilson Daily Times, 30 March 1931.

  • Charles H. Darden
  • Ruth Cobb — Cobb was a public school teacher.
  • Rev. J.E. Kennedy — John E. Kennedy, pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion church.
  • Rev. Fred M. Davis — long-time pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church and, in the 1930s, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.
  • Dr. W.J. Trent — William J. Trent, president of Livingstone College, an A.M.E. Zion-affiliated institution.
  • John H. Clark — Clark, an Episcopalian and prominent community member
  • S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick, Presbyterian, a businessman who, with Darden, was the most prominent African-American citizen of Wilson in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Col. John F. Bruton
  • Fred Swindell — a white lawyer afforded the honorific “Mister,” which was denied Darden (despite all other encomiums) Clark, and Vick.

 

In justice to them, they should be entitled to this consideration.

I’m joining a long line of appeals to city officials to do something about conditions in and around the Negro cemetery.

On 10 February 1925, a Wilson Daily Times‘ report on proceedings at a board of aldermen’s meeting, Samuel H. Vick “brought up the matter of the colored cemetery” and requested that an awning be placed (?) and that roads into and out of the cemetery be repaired. A Mr. Grantham, chairman of the cemetery commission said it was difficult to get the cemetery into a correct shape and “lay it out” as graves had been placed “everywhere and without regard to lines or streets.” Further, some of the cemetery’s land was “worthless for the purpose, as it was in a bottom” [i.e. water-logged and prone to flooding.] Grantham also mused about the “old cemetery” — the one near Cemetery Street — “which if the graves were removed would be worth considerable money.” (The graves were in fact moved to Rest Haven in 1940.) In the end, Grantham agreed to come up with a plan and report back.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1925.

Twelve years later, the roads were still a problem. On 24 September 1937, the Daily Times printed this enlightened, but unattributed, op-ed piece under the headline “City Should Pave the Road to the Negro Cemetery.” A paved road was not merely a convenience to family members paying respects. The previous winter, “when after the successive rains, the ground was so soft that it was impossible to conduct funerals in the cemetery, the negro undertakers were compelled to hold out their bodies until the spring, when the road was in a condition to move over it with vehicles and conduct the interments.” This was city property, the writer pointed out, and money from the sale of burial plots went into the city treasury, and “the colored people are taxpayers,” and justice should be done accordingly.

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Wilson Daily Times, 24 September 1937.

Camillus L. Darden followed up a week later with a letter to the newspaper described a disastrous, but apt, attempt to expose an alderman to conditions on the roads leading to the graveyard. The “main road” seems to be what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway (and was East Nash Street/N.C. Highway 264 in my childhood.) My best guess is that this road was paved in the 1940s or early ’50s, but Lane Street, onto which one makes a right turn from the main road to reach Rountree, Odd Fellows and Vick cemeteries, was dirt and gravel into the 1980s.

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Wilson Daily Times, 30 September 1937.

The birthday of Tyncie Darden Lofton Woodard, 101.

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Wilson Daily Times, 13 January 1981.

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In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Howard Darden, 47, farm laborer; wife Esther, 38; and children Warren, 20, Eliza, 18, Martin, 17, Toby, 12, and Crawford, 1.

On 22 December 1871, Martin Darden, son of Howell Darden and Esther Jordan, married Jane Dew, daughter of Haywood and Jane Dew, at H. Dew’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Martin Darden, 27, farmer; wife Jane, 25; and children Easter, 6, Ellen, 5, and Nellie, 3. Next door: Howell Darden, 53, and children Elizer, 28, Toby, 22, and Crawford, 11.

In the 1900 census of Great Swamp township, Wilson County: farmer Martin Darden, 48; wife Jane, 50; and children Tincey A., 14, Howard, 14, Jineva, 11, and Silvey, 9.

On 15 December 1900, Ben Lofton, 29, married Tynsie Durden, 19, in Pikeville township, Wayne County.

In the 1910 census of Buck Swamp township, Wayne County: Ben Lofton, 42; wife Tincie A., 27; and sons Willard, 3, and Benjiman, 8 months.

Martin Darden died 22 December 1926 in Kenansville township, Duplin County. Per his death certificate, he was 74 years old; was married to Jane Darden; was born in Wilson County to Howard and Easter Darden; and worked as a farmer and blacksmith. Howard Darden of Fremont was informant.

In the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Ben F. Lofton, 63; wife Tyncie, 47; and sons Janeis E., 18, and Major J., 8.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: servant Tincy Lofton, 57, working in a private home.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on 816 Mercer Street, Ruth Lofton, 26, day work stemmer in redrying plant; husband Benjamin, 29, storage room worker in redrying plant; niece Mary Jones, 12; daughter Marjorie, 7; sons Benjamin Jr., 6, and Herbert Lee, 4; roomer Martha Norfleet, 67, widow; mother-in-law Tincy, 56, cook in service in a private home; and brother-in-law Major, 18, stemmer in redrying plant.

In 1942, Major Lofton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he lived at 816 Mercer Street, Wilson; born 12 December 1921 in Black Creek, N.C.; contact was Tincy Lofton, 816 Mercer Street; and worked for Thomas Barnes, Service Laundry, Five Points.

Tyncie Lofton Woodard died 29 July 1986 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 25 December 1882 in Wayne County, North Carolina, to Martin Darden and Jane Branch; was a widowed homemaker; and lived at 409 Park View Street, Wilson. Benjamin Lofton, 805 Meadow Street, was informant.