disability

The blind Williamson singers.

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Wilson N.C.  May 6. 1887

H.D. Norton/  Capt. &c

D Sir

Enclosed herewith you have a partial report of the condition of the unfortunates among the coloured population of the County, owing to the pressures of other duties. I have not been able to give the matter that attention necessary to give a full & correct report. If a longer time can be given I will give it further attention & report again — I would say that the case of the blind chidlren herein reported is one that calls loudly for sympathy & assistance, five in one family from their birth.

Yours Very Respy &c, J.W. Davis Shff Wilson Co

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Table Showing the Number, Sex & Age of the class of ‘Unfortunates’ among the colored people of Wilson County, State of North Carolina

  • Sarah Selby, age 54
  • Wm. Williamson, age 8
  • Edward Williamson, age 12
  • Allice Williamson, age 4
  • Pauline Williamson, age 5
  • Aquilla Williamson, age 7
  • Jno. Bailey
  • Robt. Hinnant

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Edmund Williamson, 50; wife Thany, 44; and children William, 25, Nicie, 23, Eliza, 22, Eddie, 21, Ally, 19, Pollina, 17, Dolly Ann, 15, Isaac, 12, and Raiford, 7. The six hashmarks at right are in the column marked “Blind,” and the occupation of William, Eddie, Alice and Pauline was listed as “gives concerts.”

As described here, the Williamson siblings were educated at the state’s School for the Blind and earned a good living touring to showcase their remarkable voices.

On 12 October 1903, Edmund Williamson drafted his last will and testament. Per his wishes, his “two blind sons William Williamson and Edmund Williamson” and his “blind daughter Leany Williamson” were to equally divide a life estate in all his real estate and then to successive heirs “to remain in the Williamson family forever.” Daughter Dollie Ann Brownricks was to receive a life estate in all Williamson’s personal property, money, stock and crops, with her children Timothy, Bethania and Lizzie Seabury to receive the remainder.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org 

When they first arrive, they are wild.

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Wilson Daily Times,  25 August 1911.

Again, if you are interested in the wretched world of the Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum, please read Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner’s Unspeakable, the story of Junius Wilson (1908-2001), a deaf African-American who spent 76 years there, including six in the criminal ward, though he had never been declared insane by a medical professional or found guilty of any criminal charge.

She left home without my consent.

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Wilson Daily Times, 17 September 1918.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County, on Vance Street, 49 year-old widowed laundress Ella Fason with daughters Mary, 18, Emma, 16, Henretta, 13, and Flory Fason, 10. Ella’s husband Patrick Faison died 1900-10.

——

Six years later, Ella Faison made out a pointed will leaving all her belongings to just one of her children:

Ella Faison will

Ella Faison died 6 June 1928. Her sole heir and executrix, Ida Faison Jones, wife of Sankey Jones, survived her by only six months. Flora Faison, however, lived till 1983.

North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], Ancestry.com.