At the beach.

When wealthy Wilsonians shifted their households to the beach in summer, their domestic servants were pulled with them. Jane Cooke Hawthorne recently shared several photographs taken circa 1910-20 at the North Carolina shore, with thoughtful commentary about her evolving understanding of the relationships between her ancestors and the men and women who eased their lives. These photographs, which captured posed, but casual, groupings of an extended family of wealthy tobacconists, include “the help.”

In the first photo below, Lucy M. “Nolia” Gardner Whitehead stands in a white dress on the porch of the family’s Morehead City, North Carolina, summer home, surrounded by extended family. (For more about the house, which was built as headquarters of the precursor to the North Carolina Education Association, see here.) Her daughter Nolia Whitehead (later Davis) sits on the steps beside Edward K. Wright, who years later would inherite the farm that wraps around Vick Cemetery. The elderly woman in black standing at right is Matilda “Mattie” Bynum Barnes, who, with her husband Frank W. Barnes, sold Rountree Baptist Church land for its cemetery and sold Samuel H. Vick the land that would become Odd Fellows and Vick Cemeteries. The woman leaning on the newel post with clasped hands is Elizabeth Barnes Davis, who received the letter from Johnnie Farmer we read here. The little girl seated on the rail is Virginia Davis Pou, in whose daughter Virginia Pou Doughton’s papers that letter is found. Behind her are her parents Frank Barnes Davis and Helen Patterson Davis. And seated in front of Mattie Barnes is her daughter Alice Harriss Barnes Wright, from whom Ed Wright inherited Wright Farm. At the far edges of the group are four African-American women and one African-American man. The women, whom we have not been able to identify, were likely cooks, laundresses, nannies, and maids. The man is believed to be Simeon Haskins, and he probably worked as a general factotum.

Below, Howell G. Whitehead III sits at top left with a dog. Sim Haskins holds a small boy at bottom left.

Below, Mattie Barnes stands in the middle of another family grouping, with three African-American women and one man sitting cross-legged below. They appear to be a different group than those depicted in the first photograph.


Do you recognize these men or women?

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on “N&S RR” [Norfolk & Southern Rail Road], farmer Damp Haskins, 60; wife Stella, 52, servant; children Martha, 23, cook, James, 18, wagon factory laborer, Lessie, 16, lumber mill laborer, John, 15, lumber mill laborer, Annie, 8, Earnest, 7, and Damp, 3; plus grandsons Simeon, 15, retail grocery laborer, and Ambrose Haskins, 7. [Damp Haskins was buried in Vick Cemetery.]

Many, many thanks to Jane Cooke Hawthorne. 

Ed McCollum saves the day.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 April 1911.


In the 1900 census of Bennettsville, Marlboro County, South Carolina: Edward McCollum, 22, butler, and wife Sarah, 26, washerwoman, with Lawrence McRae, 10, errand boy.

On 27 September 1905, Eddie McCollum, 27, son of E. and E. McCollum, married Rosa Farmer, 20, daughter of Gray and A[rgent]. Farmer, in Wilson. Presbyterian minister Charles E. Tucker presided, and C.S. Thomas, J.J. Thorp, and H.C. Holden witnessed. 

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laborer Edie McColum, 38; wife Rosa, 36; and children Elvia, 8, Gladys, 5, and Edith, 4.

Argen Farmer McCollum died 20 January 1926 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 4 years old; was born in Wilson to Eddie McCollum of Bennettsville, South Carolina, and Rosa Farmer of Wilson; and lived at 811 East Viola. 

Eddie McCollum died 13 May 1929 at the colored hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 March 1880 in Bennettsville, South Carolina, to Edwin McCollum and Easter Dupree; was married to Rosa McCallum; and was a day laborer for Allen Furniture Company.

Elva McCollum died 6 May 1950 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 August 1911 in Wilson to Eddie McCollum and Rosa Farmer; was never married; worked as a beautician; and lived at 418 North Vick Street. Gladys McCollum was informant.

Registered motor vehicle owners, 1919 and 1920.

“The first one I knew to have a car was Dr. Reid, the veterinarian. And the Vicks.”

Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001)

In 1919, the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office published a hefty volume listing the first 112,000 motor vehicles registered in the state. Not surprisingly, Samuel H. Vick was an early adopter, registering five automobiles — by four different car companies — at once and receiving license numbers 685 through 689.

The document is not easily searched, but I was able to find these early African-American Wilson County drivers. Most lived in town, and only two — Chestiney Wilder and Georgia Aiken — were women. (May Locus was a man.)

  • 685 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Chandler
  • 686 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Reo
  • 687 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Hudson
  • 688 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Hudson
  • 689 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Cadillac
  • 5278 — Albert S. Gay, 620 E. Green St., Wilson, Ford
  • 7563 — J.Z. Staton, 804 Viola St., Wilson, Ford
  • 8583 — C.L. Darden, Wilson, Hudson
  • 17476 — May Locus, Rt. 1, Black Creek, Ford
  • 19608 — Will Artis, Stantonsburg, Oldsmobile
  • 26225 — Chestiny Wilder, Rt. 3 Lucama, Ford
  • 28151 — Josh Armstrong, Rt. 1, Elm City, Grant
  • 29157 — Henry Bryant, 145 Sugg St., Wilson, Dort
  • 32649 — Oscar Best, care of Wilson Live Stock Co., Wilson, Dort
  • 34116 — S.F. Hargrove [F.S. Hargrave], M.D., 625 E. Green St., Wilson, Columbia
  • 47620 — Dr. W.H. Phillips, 530 1/2 E. Nash St., Wilson, Hudson
  • 50184 — Neverson Green, Wilson, Reo
  • 55819 — Noah J. Tate, Wilson, Buick
  • 55820 — W.S. Hines, Wilson, Hudson
  • 57201 — Ned Kent, Rt. 3 Box 100, Kenly, Overland
  • 57479 — D.E. Reid [Dr. Elijah L. Reid], 650 Viola St., Wilson, Ford
  • 57551 — Dr. W.A. Mitchiner [Mitchner], E. Nash St., Wilson, Dodge
  • 60503 — Mrs. Georgia C. Aiken, 314 Barnes St., Wilson, Ford (for hire)
  • 69272 — Dennis Brooks, E. Nash St., Buick (for hire)
  • 71345 — G.E. Tyler, 603 E. Green St., Wilson Ford
  • 72510 — Neil Handy, Rt. 6, Box 144, Wilson, Ford
  • 73129 — A.N. Darden, Wilson, Dodge
  • 85889 — Crawford Darden, Black Creek, Cadillac
  • 86536 — Buck Locus, Rt. 4, Elm City, Grant
  • 87236 — C.E. Artis, 210 Pender St., Wilson, Ford
  • 88103 — Ben J. Ellis, Rt. 1, Box 153, Wilson, Ford
  • 89487 — Roscoe Johnson, 634 E. Green St., Wilson, Jordan
  • 90310 — Jim Brown, 805 Viola St., Ford
  • 90872 — Ed. Artis, Rt. 1, Stantonsburg, Ford
  • 90873 — Leslie Artis, Rt. 1, Stantonsburg, Ford
  • 91282 — Bud Sims, 624 Viola St., Metz
  • 92886 — June S. Artis, Rt. 6, Box 89, Wilson, Ford
  • 93517 — J.D. Reid, 601 E. Green St., Wilson, Reo
  • 94988 — Wm. H. Baker, 1020 E. Nash St., Wilson, Ford
  • 95012 — William Hines, Wilson, Hudson
  • 96664 — Rev. E.S. Hargrove, 702 Viola St., Overland
  • 97230 — Garry Armstrong, RFD, Elm City, Overland
  • 98115 — L.H. Peacock, 141 Ash St., Wilson, Hudson
  • 100721 — John W. Farmer, 635 E. Green St., Wilson, Chalmers
  • 104807 — Linwood Barefoot, E. Nash St., Wilson, Ford
  • 105289 — Turner Hines, Rt. 1, care of J.W. Cherry & Son, Elm City, Ford
  • 109186 — Dotson Locus, Rt. 2, Elm City, Chevrolet
  • 110274 — Garfield Ruffin, 1007 E. Nash St., Wilson, Ford

From the 1920 supplement to the Registry:

  • 113666 — Clifton Best (col.), R. 1, Stantonsburg, Ford
  • 114015 — Harry Carter, 517 E. Nash St., Wilson, Buick (for hire)
  • 121735 — Dempsey Blount, 516 E. Nash St., Wilson, Ford
  • 122953 — George Rutherford, 517 E. Nash St., Wilson, Buick (for hire)
  • 124283 — James Sellers, 651 E. Vance St., Wilson, Oldsmobile (for hire)
  • 124827 — Bill Smith (col.), care of Tilghman Motors Co., Wilson, Columbia

REO touring car, 1919.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved. List of Registered Motor Vehicle Owners — North Carolina (1919); List of Registered Motor Vehicle Owners, Supplement No. 1 (1920).

Jesse Pender, veteran and chef.

In 2011, a Palm Springs, California, news reporter interviewed Wilson native Jesse D. Pender Sr., then 96, about his World War II service, his early work for a brothel keeper, and his years cooking for a president.


The Desert Sun, 4 December 2011.

In the 1920 census of Goldsboro township, Wayne County: farmer Joseph Pender, 49; wife Ella L., 42; amd children Edward D., 14, Maggie, 9, Ernest, 12, Alonzo, 7, Jesse, 4, Georgiana, 3, and Josephine, 1.

On 29 December 1937, Jesse Pender, 23, of Wilson County, son of Joe and Ella Pender of Wilson County married Erma Dean Hines, 18, daughter of Louis and Martha Hines of Wilson County, in Nashville, Nash County.

In 1940, Jesse David Powell registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Note his employer.

Betty Powell and Mallie Paul, Depression-era Wilson’s most notorious white madams, ran neighboring brothels on Jones and South Streets. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, Georgia native Bettie Powell, 46, is listed without occupation, and her three lodgers, all white women in their early 20s, were occupied as “companion-private home.”

Betty Powell made out her will in March 1945. After disposing of bonds, bank accounts, real property and jewelry, she bequeathed “all the residue of my estate to Jesse Pender and all of the girls including my maids, that may be residing with me at my death, to share and share alike.” She died just over a year later.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 May 1946.

Pender’s workplace before Betty Powell hired him to drive. Advertisement, Facts About Wilson North Carolina, Wilson Chamber of Commerce (1934).

Pender at age 102. Photo courtesy of “A Flowery Tribute in Palm Springs as Warplanes Fly in Formation in Memorial Day Salute,” The Desert Sun, 29 May 2017.

Thanks to my frequent collaborator S.M. Stevens (and her grandmother Willia Jones Turner) for forwarding this clipping. North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],


Snaps, no. 9: Mr. DeShon’s driver.

This photograph depicts James P. “Jake” DeShon and his driver, whose name is unknown, at a construction site believed to be in Wilson County.  The automobile’s license tag reads: “Wilson N.C. 2315.” DeShon lived in Raleigh, and it is likely that the driver was provided for his convenience during his business visit. The car appears to a Model A Ford from the late 1920s or early 1930s. DeShon died in 1933. Does anyone recognize the driver?


Photograph courtesy of Cathy Torbert Dent.

Snaps, no. 6: Jack Henderson.

Like many, Jesse “Jack” Henderson, a Wayne County native, was drawn to Wilson in the booming years after the establishment of the city’s tobacco markets. His uncle and aunt, Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs, had preceded him, and he joined their household on Elba Street in East Wilson.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Jesse Jacob,  53, deliveryman for stable; wife Sarah, 35; daughter Annie Belle, 15; and boarders Jesse Henderson, 17, Herbert Jones, 23, both stable laborers, and Nina Fasin, 32, a housemaid.


Jack Henderson, right, with a friend and dog, around 1910.

On 3 Dec 1914, Solomon Ward applied for a marriage license for Jesse Henderson of Wilson, age 21, son of Jesse Jacobs and Sarah Jacobs, both dead, and Pauline Artis of Wilson, age 18, daughter of Alice Artis.  On the same day, Fred M. Davis, Baptist minister, performed the ceremony at his residence before Mary Barnes, Annie Hines, and Willie Cromartie, all of Wilson.  [Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs, who were very much alive, reared Jesse, who was the son of Sarah’s sister.]

The 1916-17 Wilson city directory lists: Henderson Jack lab h 219 1/2 Pender.

Jessie Henderson registered for the World War I draft on 5 June 1917.  Per his registration card, he was born 1893 in Mount Olive, North Carolina; resided at Pender Street, Wilson; and worked as a transfer driver for Sam Vick, Wilson.  He had a wife and 2 children and was described as tall and slender with brown eyes and black hair.  He signed with an X.

The 1918 Wilson city directory lists: Henderson Jack chauffeur ZF Gill h 217 Pender.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 217 Pender Street, Jesse Henderson with wife Pauline, daughter Bessie, and mother-in-law Alice Artis.  Jesse worked as a truck driver for a woodyard. Alice was a cook for a private family.

Jessie Henderson Jr. died 15 April 1929 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 5 months old; was born in Wilson to Jessie Henderson Sr. of Dudley, N.C., and Pauline Artis of Johnson County, N.C.; and lived at 318 Pender Street. Pauline Henderson was informant.

Archie Henderson died 11 May 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 4 years old; was born in Wilson to Jessie Henderson of Wayne County, N.C., and Pauline Artis of Johnson County, N.C.; and lived at 318 Pender Street. Alice Artis was informant.

In the 1928 Wilson city directory: Jack Henderson, a driver, and wife Pauline, were listed at 318 Pender Street. Around this time, he posed with his oldest daughters, Bessie (1917-1996) and Alice (1920), for this photograph.


In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 318 Pender Street, Jack Henderson, 38, wife Pauline, 31, and children Bessie, 12, Alic, 10, Joice, 7, Mildred, 6, and Archy, 4, mother-in-law Alic Artis, 49, paying $18/month rent.  Alice worked as a cook for a private family, and Jack as a truck driver.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco factory laborer Jack Henderson, 47, and lodger Pattie Barnes, 30.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 309 Pender, rented for $12/month, Alice Artis, 56; daughter Pauline Henderson, 39; and children Bessie L., 23, Alice, 20, Joyce, 18, Mildred, 16, Doris, 10, and Robert, 4.

Per her headstone at Rest Haven cemetery, Pauline Artis Henderson died in 1950.

Pattie Barnes Henderson died 13 October 1957 at her home at 900 Robinson [Robeson] Street. Per her death certificate: she was born in 1910 in Wilson to Tip Barnes and an unknown mother and was married to Jack Henderson.

Jack Henderson died 29 April 1970 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 April 1898 to an unknown father and “Lucy (?) Henderson;” had worked as a laborer; and resided at 1214 East Queen Street, Wilson.  He was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.  Informant was Mildred Hall.


Jack Henderson wearing his driving gloves, probably in the 1940s. He worked many years transporting tobacco from Wilson’s markets.

Photographs in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.