In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 East Hines, owned and valued at $1200, William Dixon, 60, fireman “N&S R.R.”; wife Rachael, 62; and son Astor, 17.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 East Hines, owned and valued at $500, William Dixon, 72; wife Rachael, 62; and grandson Richard, 6. Also, at 918 Washington, Alonzo Foster, 37, and roomers Astor Dixon, 26, theatre doorman, and wife Minnie, 24, cook.
William Dixon died 21 April 1945 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 13 December 1880 in Dalton, Georgia, to Lyon Dixon and Bura Pender; was married to Rachel Dixon; lived at 406 East Hines; and was a retired railroad Norfolk & Southern fireman.
Heather Goff, Wilson Cemetery Commission Leader, has gone above and beyond to educate herself about the city’s historic black cemeteries and to search for documents concerning these little-known properties. She recently unearthed these Cemetery Commission records shedding light on Rest Haven Cemetery’s early days.
A document labeled Agreement: Town of Wilson vs. Colored Cemetery Commission:
The text of the document does not make reference to a lawsuit or the Colored Cemetery Commission. The passive voice construction in the first independent clause conceals a critical fact: who conveyed 38 acres known as the Jesse Barnes land to the Cemetery Trustees of the Town of Wilson on 24 October 1933? The Town of Wilson actually put up the money for the property and held it in trust until the Trustees paid the Town $3500, plus interest. This amount was to be realized, after deducting operating expenses, from sums raised from the sales of burial lots. The document is signed by the white Cemetery Trustees of Wilson, and I have not been able to identify any “colored” ones. The notes on the reverse show six payments totaling $2000 made between 1939 and 1945.
And thus we get an establishment date for Rest Haven cemetery — 1933 — and the provenance of its earliest section.
So, who was Jesse Barnes?
This 12 June 1975 letter proclaims that “the lots adjacent to the Rest Haven Cemetery are have been, and in the future will be set aside for the heirs of the said, Jessie R. and Sarah L. Barnes. These lots are located at the back of Section No. 2 on row beside the ditch in the cluster of trees.” Frank Barnes signed the letter.
Jesse Reese Barnes (1873-1949) and Sarah Eliza Barnes Barnes (1872-1936) were married in 1893. Frank Washington Barnes was their son. Without access to deeds, I cannot determine at this time when the Barneses purchased their 38 acres. However, presumably, Jesse and Sarah sold it to the Cemetery Commission.
And “the back of Section No. 2 on row beside the ditch in the cluster of trees”? It’s here:
Less than a month after the note above, Frank W. Barnes sold four grave plots to John E. Dixon. This note is on file with the Cemetery Commission: “This is to certify that I, Frank W. Barnes of 308 Ward Boulevard, Wilson, North Carolina acting on behalf of myself and with the full consent of other concerned members of the Barnes family do hereby for the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00) and other value received do convey to said John E. Dixon and family of 411 N. Vick Street of Wilson, North Carolina space for four (4) grave plots in the Barnes Family Cemetery which is a part of REST HAVEN CEMETERY of Wilson, North Carolina. These grave plots are located near the south-east corner of the Barnes Cemetery between two (2) big Cedar trees. These plots are theirs to have and hold from this day hence-forth.” Joan Howell’s Cemeteries, Volume V, lists the burials of Jesse Barnes, Jesse J. Barnes, John E. Dixon, Mabel B. Dixon and Levi C. Dixon in the Barnes section of Rest Haven.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Lemon Barnes, 32, farmer; wife Nancey, 26; and children Morrison, 8, Jessee R., 7, Ida, 6, Eddie, 3, Lemon Jr., 2, and General, 3 months.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Ned Barnes, 34; wife Margaret, 35; and children Luvenia, 9, Franklin, 8, Walter, 10, and Sarah Eliza, 7.
Jesse Barnes, 19, married Sarah Barnes, 21, daughter of Ned Barnes and Margarett Artis, on 2 December 1893 at the bride’s home in Wilson County. Per their marriage license, Presbyterian minister L.J. Melton performed the ceremony in the presence of L.A. Moore, John Hardy and Davis Barnes.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Jesse R. Barnes, 27; wife Sarah, 28; and children Lucretia, 5, Ned, 4, Nancy, 2, and Lemon, 11 months.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, Jesse Barnes, 37, farmer; wife Sarah, 31, public school teacher; and children Lucresia, 16, Ned, 14, Nancy, 12, Lemon, 11, Jessie Bell, 10, Maggie May, 7, and Ardenia, 5.
Lucrettia Barnes died 11 March 1915 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 October 1894 to Jesse Barnes and Sarah Barnes.
In 1919, Margaret Edmundson Barnes Artis, signed her mark to a will leaving her real property to daughter Sarah Barnes Barnes. The land was described as a tract “adjoining the lands of Martin Barnes, Harry Clark, Daniel Vick‘s heirs, Dollison Powell and the Singletary Place, containing forty-four acres more or less.” (Margaret had jointly owned or inherited this property from her second husband Cain Artis.]
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Jesse Barnes, 46; wife Sarah, 47; and children Ned, 23, Nancy, 22, Lemon, 20, Jessie Belle, 18, Maggie, 15, Ardenia, 13, Frank, 11, James, 6, and Mildred, 3.
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Powell Street, farmer Jessie R. Barnes, 55; wife Sarah, 56; and children Mildred, 16, James, 13, and Frank, 18; granddaughter Alma, 10; daughter Nancey Farmer, 30, and son-in-law Andrew Farmer, 29, truck driver for Wilson Sales Grocery.
Sarah Eliza Barnes died 29 August 1936 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 52 years old; was born in Wilson County to Ned Barnes and Margarette Edmundson; lived on East Nash Road; and was married to Jesse R. Barnes.
Jessie Reese Barnes died 20 April 1949 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 April 1873 in Wilson County to Lemuel Barnes and Nancy Woodard; was a widower; was a farmer. Frank Barnes, 513 East Nash, was informant.
Many thanks to Heather Goff for her diligent search for these records.
Martha Tyson Dixon‘s husband Luke D. Dixon consented to a Federal Writers Project interview, too. His story, starting with his Africa-born grandparents, is electric.
“My father’s owner was Jim Dixon in Elmo County, Virginia. That is where I was born. I am 81 years old. Jim Dixon had several boys — Baldwin and Joe. Joe took some of the slaves his pa gave him, and went to New Mexico to shun the war. Uncle and Pa went in the war as waiters. They went in at the ending up. We lived on the big road that run to the Atlantic Ocean. Not far from Richmond. Ma lived three or four miles from Pa. She lived across big creek — now they call it Farrohs Run. Ma belonged to Harper Williams. Pa’s folks was very good but Ma’s folks was unpleasant.
“Ma lived to be 103 years old. Pa died in 1905 and was 105 years old. I used to set on Grandma’s lap and she told me about how they used to catch people in Africa. They herded them up like cattle and put them in stalls and brought them on the ship and sold them. She said some they captured they left bound till they come back and sometimes they never went back to get them. They died. They had room in the stalls on the boat to set down or lie down. They put several together. Put the men to themselves and the women to themselves. When they sold Grandma and Grandpa at a fishing dock called New Port, Va., they had their feet bound down and their hands bound crossed, up on a platform. They sold Grandma’s daughter to somebody in
“Texas. She cried and she begged to let them be together. They didn’t pay no ‘tension to her. She couldn’t talk but she made them know she didn’t want to be parted. Six years after slavery they got together. When a boat was to come in people come and wait to buy slaves. They had several days of selling. I never seen this but that is the way it was told to me.
“The white folks had a iron clip that fastened the thumbs together and they would swing the man or woman up in a tree and whoop them. I seen that done in Virginia across from where I lived. I don’t know what the folks had done. They pulled the man up with block and tackle.
“Another thing I seen done was put three or four chinquapin switches together green, twist them and dry them. They would dry like a leather whip. They whooped the slaves with them.
“Grandpa was named Sam Abraham and Phillis Abraham was his mate. They was sold twice. Once she was sold away from her husband to a speculator. Well, it was hard on the Africans to be treated like animals. I never heard of the Nat Turner rebellion. I have heard of slaves buying their own freedom. I don’t know how it was done. I have heard of folks being helped to run off. Grandma on mother’s side had a brother run off from Dalton, Mississippi to the North. After the war he come to Virginia.
“When freedom was declared we left and went to Wilmington and Wilson, North Carolina. Dixon never told us we was free but at the end of the year he gave my father a gray mule he had ploughed for a long time and part of the crop. My mother jes
“picked us up and left her folks now. She was cooking then I recollect. Folks jes went wild when they got turned loose.
“My parents was first married under a twenty five cents license law in Virginia. After freedom they was remarried under a new law and the license cost more but I forgot how much. They had fourteen children to my knowing. After the war you could register under any name you give yourself. My father went by the name of Right Dixon and my mother Jilly Dixon.
“The Ku Klux was bad. They was a band of land owners what took the law in hand. I was a boy. I scared to be caught out. They took the place of pattyrollers before freedom.
“I never went to public school but two days in my life. I went to night school and paid Mr. J.C. Price and Mr. S.H. Vick to teach me. My father got his leg shot off and I had to work. It kept me out of meanness. Work and that woman has kept me right. I come to Arkansas, brought my wife and one child, April 5, 1889. We come from Wilson, North Carolina. Her people come from North Carolina and Moultrie, Georgia.
“I do vote. I sell eggs or a little something and keep my taxes paid up. It look like I’m the kind of folks the government would help — them that works and tries hard to have something — but seems like they don’t get no help. They wouldn’t help me if I was bout to starve. I vote a Republican ticket.”
NOTE: On the wall in the dining room, used as a sitting room, was framed picture of Booker T. Washington and Teddy Roosevelt sitting at a round-shaped hotel dining table ready to be
“served. Underneath the picture in large print was “Equality.” I didn’t appear to ever see the picture.
This negro is well-fixed for living at home. He is large and very black, but his wife is a light mulatto with curly, nearly straightened hair.
This is the image that Luke Dixon’s interviewer so studiously ignored. The event it depicted, which scandalized white America in 1901, is the subject of Deborah Davis’ recent book, Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation (2012).
I have not found Luke Dixon or his parents in the censuses of Virginia. There is no “Elmo County,” Virginia, but New Port may have been Newport News, which was little more than a fishing village in the antebellum era.
Dixon apparently attended night school at Wilson Academy, but it is not clear when. Joseph C. Price headed the school from 1871 to 1873, when Samuel H. Vick was just a child. Vick assumed the helm at age 21 after graduating from Lincoln University.
Martha Ann Tyson Dixon of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, sat for an interview with a Federal Writers Project worker in the late 1930s. Dixon had spent her childhood enslaved near Saratoga, Wilson County, and she and her husband Luke D. Dixon had migrated west in the late 1880s. More than 50 years after Emancipation, she vividly described the hardships of life during and after slavery.
“I am eighty-one years old. I was born close to Saratoga, North Carolina. My mother died before I can recollect and my grandmother raised me. They said my father was a white man. They said Jim Beckton [Becton]. I don’t recollect him. My mother was named Mariah Tyson.
“I recollect how things was. My grandmother was Miss Nancy Tyson’s cook. She had one son named Mr. Seth Tyson. He run her farm. They et in the dining room, we et in the kitchen. Clothes and somethng to eat was scarce. I worked at whatever I was told to do. Grandma told me things to do and Miss Nancy told me what to do. I went to the field when I was pretty little. Once my uncle left the mule standing out in the field and went off to do something else. It come up a hard shower. I crawled under the mule. If I had been still it would have been all right but my hair stood up and tickled the mule’s stomach. The mule jumped and the plough hit me in my hip here at the side. It is a wonder I didn’t get killed.
“After the Civil War was times like now. Money scarce and prices high, and you had to start all over new. Pigs was hard to start, mules and horses was mighty scarce. Seed was scarce. Everything had to be started from the stump. Something to eat was mighty plain and scarce and one or two dresses a year had to do. Folks didn’t study about going so much.”
“I had to rake up leaves and fetch em to the barn to make beds for the little pigs in cold weather. The rake was made out of wood. It had hickory wood teeth and about a foot long. It was heavy. I put my leaves in a basket bout so high [three or four feet high.] I couldn’t tote it — I drug it. I had to get leaves in to do a long time and wait till the snow got off before I could get more. It seem like it snowed a lot. The pigs rooted the leaves all about in day and back up in the corners at night. It was ditched all around. It didn’t get very muddy. Rattle snakes was bad in the mountains. I used to tote water — one bucketful on my head and one bucketful in each hand. We used wooden buckets. It was a lot of fun to hunt guinea nests and turkey nests. When other little children come visiting that is what we would do. We didn’t set around and listen at the grown folks. We toted up rocks and then they made rows [terraces] and rock fences about the yard and garden. They looked so pretty. Some of them would be white, some gray, sometimes it would be mixed. They walled wells with rocks too. All we done or knowed was work. When we got tired there was places to set and rest. The men made plough stocks and hoe handles and worked at the blacksmith shop in snowy weather. I used to pick up literd [lightwood] knots and pile them in piles along the road so they could take them to the house to burn. They made a good light and kindling wood.
“They didn’t whoop Grandma but she whooped me a plenty.
“After the war some white folks would tell Grandma one thing and some others tell her something else. She kept me and”
“cooked right on. I didn’t know what freedom was. Seemed like most of them I knowed didn’t know what to do. Most of the slaves left the white folks where I was raised. It took a long time to ever get fixed. Some of them died, some went to the cities, some up North, some come to the country. I married and come to Fredonia, Arkansas in 1889. I had been married since I was a young girl. But as I was saying the slaves still hunting a better place and more freedom. Grandma learnt me to set down and be content. We have done better out here than we could done in North Carolina but I don’t believe in so much rambling.
“We come on the passenger train and paid our own way to Arkansas. It was a wild and sickly country and has changed. Not like living in the same country. I try to live like the white folks and Grandma raised me. I do like they done. I think is the reason we have saved and have good a living as we got. We do on as little as we can and save a little for the rainy day.”
In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Nancy Scarborough, 47; Victoria, 10, Susan, 6, and Laurina Scarborough, 3; farm manager Seth Tyson, 23; and Julia, 18, Nancy, 17, Aaron, 15, and Abner Tyson, 13.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Mary Tyson, 62, with Edith, 23, John, 21, Abraham, 16, and Martha Tyson, 11.
In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Martha Tyson, 20, was a cook in the household of white marchant/farmer Mark Atkinson.
Martha Tyson, 26, married Luke Dixon, 26, in Wilson County on 12 February 1885. Minister E.H. Ward performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles Batts, Tempey Cotton and Green Taylor.
In the 1910 census of Watensaw township, Prairie County, Arkansas: Luke Dixon, 49, saw filer at Bar factory, and wife Martha M., 52.
In the 1920 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cedar Street, farmer Luke Dixon, 58; wife Martha, 59; and cousins Margaret Tyson, 14, and Oleo McClarin, 9.
In the 1930 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke D. Dixon, 70, born in Virginia, and wife Martha, 70, born in North Carolina, with cousin Allen Reaves, 8.
In the 1940 census of DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, Arkansas: on Cypress Street, owned and valued at $2000, Luke Dixon, 84, born in Virginia, and wife Martha A., 84, born in North Carolina.
Federal Writers’ Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 2, Arkansas, Part 2, Cannon-Evans, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mesn.022.
John E. Dixon, The Trojan (1950), Darden High School
John Ezra Dixon, 95, died Aug. 17, 2004. Homegoing services for Mr. Dixon will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, 2004, at Shiloh Baptist Church, 1210 S. Eugene St., with Pastor Anthony Cozart presiding.
John Ezra Dixon was born on Aug. 16, 1909, to the union of the late James Stewart Dixon and Ruetilla Dixon in Bladen County, N.C. He received his early education in Bladen County and he received his high school training and education from Burgaw Normal and Industrial High School in Pender County, N.C. After graduation, Mr. Dixon attended Shaw University in Raleigh and earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He continued his studies at Pennsylvania State University where he earned a Master of Science degree. His thirst for knowledge led him to pursue further studies at North Carolina Central University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina State University.
An educator by profession, Mr. Dixon worked in the North Carolina School System for 39 years. He served 24 years as a math and science teacher and 15 years in school administration as a principal.
While living and working in Wilson, N.C., Mr. Dixon was affiliated with Jackson Chapel Baptist Church with his usual dedication and spirit. He faithfully served as chairperson of the Deacon board, member of the Gospel and Mens Choirs and he was a Sunday school teacher. For many years, he served as the church clerk. Upon his retirement, Mr. Dixon relocated to Greensboro in 1976, where he joined Shiloh Baptist Church. At Shiloh, Mr. Dixon served in many capacities including: the Mens Choir, the Sunday school department, the Laymen League, the Bible Study Group and the Shiloh Bowling League. He was involved in the Boy Scouts of America for 46 years and completed advanced training at the Schiff Reservation in New Jersey. Other civic and community involvements included: the Shaw University Alumni Club, the Gamma Beta Sigma Chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, the Ever Achieving Retired Teachers Club, and the North Carolina Retired School Personnel Group. Mr. Dixon worked and lived by his favorite quotes: “To those whom much is given, much is expected” and “Keep God in all you do.”
John Ezra Dixon leaves to cherish his memory a devoted and loving wife, Ann Belle-Dixon; one son, John E. Dixon II (Paula); a grandson, Dr. John K. Dixon; three sisters, Amy D. Young, Genola D. Burks and Verona D. Vaughn; one brother, Levie Dixon; daughter-in-law, Betty Jean Dixon; three step-children, Barbara Belle Jones, Peggy Belle Parks and Robert P. Belle; four step-grandchildren; two step-great-grandchildren; one adopted grandson, David Miller; and a former daughter-in-law, Faye Dixon.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mabel Brewington Dixon; a son, Levie C.Dixon; and a grandson, Ian J. Dixon.
Visitation will be at 1 p.m. at the church.
Community Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.
From the 1938 edition of the Shaw University Journal:
Mabel Lenora Brewington
In the 1920 census of South Clinton township, Sampson County, North Carolina: on Lisbon Street, farmer Cnelus Brewington, 36; wife Emma, 26; and children Norward, 11, Mabel, 6, and John, 2.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 912 East Nash Street, building mechanic Frank Williams, 50, and wife Emma, a teacher; step-children Norwood, 21, Mabel, 16, and Johnnie Brewington, 11.
Mabel Brewington graduated from Darden High School in 1932.
On 8 March 1941, John E. Dixon, 29, of Burgaw, North Carolina, married Mabel Brewington, 27, of Wilson, in Wilson.
Mabel B. Dixon died 10 July 1975 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 December 1913 to Cornelius and Emma Moore Brewington; was married to John E. Dixon; resided at 411 North Vick Street; and was a teacher.
From the 1937 edition of the Shaw University Journal:
Clara Godette Cooke
In the 1920 census of New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina: government mail clerk J.L. Cook, 33; wife Clara R., 29; and children Henderson, 9, Edwin, 8, Clara, 4, and Georgia, 2.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Hadley Street, railroad mail clerk Jerry L. Cook, 43; wife Clara, 39, teacher; children Henderson, 20, Edwin D., 18, Clara G., 14, Georgia E., 12, Annie, 8, Jerry L., 6, and Eunice D., 4; sister Georgia E. Wyche, 48, teacher; and nieces Kathaline Wyche, 7, and Reba Whittington, 19.
Clara G. Cooke graduated from Wilson Colored High School in 1933.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 916 East Green Street, railway clerk J.L. Cook, 54, born Wake County; wife Clara, 48, born Craven County; children Henderson J., 30, Clara, 24, Annie, 18, Jerry, 16, and Eunice, 14; and cousin Ella Godette, 18. Henderson and young Clara were born in New Bern; the remaining children in Wilson.
James H. Bailey, 35, of 516 Church Street, Wilson, son of John Daniel Bailey and Geneva Jones Bailey, married Clara Cooke, 35, of 916 East Green Street, Wilson, daughter of J.L. Cooke and Clara Godette Clark, on 28 June 1951. A.M.E. Zion minister Allen J. Kirk performed the ceremony in the presence of Wade M. Moore, Charles D. James and Mrs. C.W. Fitch.
Clara G. Bailey died 20 October 1970.
John Ezra Dixon
John E. Dixon served as teacher at Darden High School, then principal of Adams and Vick Elementary Schools.
In the 1910 census of Carvers Creek, Bladen County: farmer Steward Dixon, 27; wife Lucy, 25; and children Nathaniel, 5, Annie R., 2, and John A., 7 months.
In the 1920 census of Carvers Creek, Bladen County: farmer Stewart Dixon, 35; wife Rutilla, 34; and children Nathaniel, 13, Annie, 12, John, 9, Levi, 7, Thalmina, 6, Ronie, 3, and Pearl, 1.
In 1940, John Ezra Dixon registered for the World War II draft in Pender County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 16 August 1911 in East Arcadia, Bladen County, North Carolina; his contact was his mother, Mrs. James Stewart Dixon of Acme, Bladen County; and worked for the State Board of Education in Burgaw, Pender County.
John Ezra Dixon died 17 August 2004 in Greensboro, Guilford County.