The strange affairs of Silas Parker.

Silas Parker died without a will in 1914, and two years later his 51-acre tract went up for sale at public auction to pay his debts. His widow Mahalia Parker, who served as administratrix of his estate and filed the petition to sell, was high bidder at $500. The couple’s children were Maggie V. Parker, Mary B. Parker, John W. Parker, Mack McKinley Parker, Este Parker, Jerry D. Parker, Bertha Parker, Anna Parker, Sarah J. Parker and Adeline P. Parker.


Via Dickensian proceedings, Silas Parker had inherited most of this tract of land from his uncle, Jerry Dunn.


In the 1870 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Toney Parker, 41; wife Julia, 34; and children Harry, 10, Silas, 10, Bray, 8, William, 5, Mary, 3, and George, 3 months.

Also, in the 1870 census of Upper Town Creek, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Jerry Dunn, 48; wife Sarah, 40; and Silas Parker, 8. (Next door: Zania Hill, 43, and daughter Della, 17.)

In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Jere Dunn, 60; wife Sarah, 55; and nephew Silas Parker, 21, laborer.

In early 1881, Jerry Dunn drafted his last will and testament:

State of North Carolina Edgecomb County I Jary Dunn thankin God that I am in Good Bodily helth and sound mind do acknowlege this my last Will and testemaning that I do give unto Silas Parker after the deth of my self and my beloved Wife sara Dunn a serten tract of land containing forty one acres known as the Boiten Wilaford tract Joanding the lands of Boston Armstrong and others to him the said Silas Parker to have and In Joy forever as he may ce cause I Jarey Dunn in Presans of God and Witnss have hear to set my hand and seal the 9 day of Januarey AD 1881 Jarey X Dunn Witness Jesse W. Williams Richard X Wilkins

On 20 December 1888, Silas Parker, 27, of Nash County, son of Toney Parker of Wilson County and Julia Parker, married Mahala Parker, 20, of Nash County, daughter of Ruffin Parker and Morning Parker, at Ruffin Parker’s in Nash County.

On 31 December 1888, Jerry Dunn, 65, of Toisnot township, son of Harry and Rachel Dunn, married Sarah Wilkins, 58, of Toisnot township, daughter of Daniel Pitt and Piney Wilkins, in Wilson township. Methodist minister J.H. Mattocks performed the ceremony, and Silas Parker and C.H. Darden witnessed. [Was this a second wife, also named Sarah?]

Jerry Dunn died in 1889, and the strangeness started. In August, attorneys Bunn & Battle filed this petition in Wilson County Superior Court on behalf of administrator D.L. Lancaster. The petitioner claimed that (1) Jerry Dunn was $800 in debt to Silas Parker; (2) the value of Dunn’s personal estate was only $50; (3) Dunn owned a 41-acre tract in Wilson County worth $300; (4) this land descended to Dunn’s children [sic] Ben Pitt, age 73 or 74, of Edgecombe County, Mariah Taylor, age 44 of Wilson County, Harry Atkinson, age 50, of Wilson County, Blount Atkinson, age 55, of Edgecombe County, Harriet Webb, wife of Eli, age 40, of Wilson County, Mills Atkinson, 64, of Edgecombe County; Dunn died intestate without wife or children; and Pitt, Taylor and Harry Atkinson conveyed their interest in Dunn’s estate to Silas Parker.

Eli and Harriett Webb filed an answer to the petition in October 1889. The opening paragraph was true, they acknowledged, but as to paragraph 1, Jerry Dunn was not carrying $800 in debt and owed nothing to Parker. Dunn had settled with Parker, paying him “every cent” he owed him and not incurred any new debt to Parker in the last three years. As to paragraphs 2 and 3, Dunn’s personal estate ought to be worth at least $250 and his land worth $450. As to paragraph 4, these were Dunn’s siblings, not his children, and none had signed over their interest to Parker. There was no need to sell Dunn’s land to pay his debts, which amounted to no more than $50, as his personal assets should cover them. Further, Mills Atkinson was a “lunatic” without a guardian.

At that point, it seems, Jerry Dunn’s will suddenly turned up. He was not intestate, after all. The will was entered into probate on 6 January 1890 in Wilson County Superior Court, and the whole game changed. The court dismissed the petition to sell land and began to transfer Dunn’s wealth to his sole heir under his will, Silas Parker. Parker was the sole buyer at the sale of Dunn’s personal property in December 1891, scooping up farm animals, some equipment and a bed. He also, of course, received Dunn’s 41 acres.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Silas Parker, 38; wife Mahala, 31; and children Maggie, 9, Mary B., 7, John W.L., 5, McKilley, 3, and Estie, 1.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wells Daws Avenue, farmer and teacher Silas Parker, 49; wife Mahalley, 41; and children Maggie, 19, May B., 17, John, 15, Mack M., 13, General Este, 11, Jerry B., 18, Bertha, 6, Anna, 4, Sarah, 2, and Addie P., 3 months.

Administrator’s bond for estate of Silas Parker, 21 February 1914.

On 13 December 1915, Mahala Parker filed the petition to sell land for assets, asserting that Silas Parker had died with about $1000 in outstanding debt; that all of his personal estate had been allotted to her as widow’s support; that she had paid down $600 of her husband’s debt; that at his death Silas Parker owned a 51-acre parcel in Toisnot township and a 3/4 acre parcel near Nashville, Nash County; that she and Silas’ children lived on the “old Silas Parker home place” and that two of the children were adults and the rest minors; and that sale of the land was necessary.

Undated notice from estate file of Silas Parker, probably published in the Wilson Daily Times.

On 6 January 1916, William Battle, 21, of Edgecombe County, son of Jackson and Hannah Battle, married Bell Parker, 20, of Toisnot township, daughter of Silas and Mahalia Parker. Minister of the Gospel Samuel Burston performed the ceremony at Mahala Parker’s in Toisnot in the presence of Sidney Cotton, George Armstrong and Kinley Battle.

On 4 September 1918, John W. Parker, 24, son of Silas and Mahalia Parker, married Indiana Terry, 22, daughter of Henderson and Mary Terry, in Toisnot township.

Mahala Parker died 13 October 1921 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was the widow of Silas Parker; was about 51 years old; and was born in Nash County to Ruffin Parker and Mourning Joyner. Informant was Mack Parker, Elm City.

On 22 November 1935, Estee Parker, 30, son of Silas and Mahala Parker, married Irene Davis, daughter of Ellis and Bessie Davis, in Greenville County, Virginia.

On 17 June 1936, David King, 21, of Wilson, son of Peter King and Freay (last name unknown), married Adlena Parker, 23, of Wilson, daughter of Silas Parker and Mahala Parker. Missionary Baptist minister Charles T. Jones performed the ceremony at James Alston‘s on Green Street in Wilson in the presence of Mag Parker, James Alston and Mary Whitely.

Jerry Parker died 5 July 1938 on the Parker farm, Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 February 1902 in Wilson County to Silas Parker of Wilson County and Mahala Parker of Nash County; was a farmer; and was buried in Parker cemetery. John Parker, Elm City, was informant.

Maggie McGeachy died 13 November 1953 in Sharpsburg, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 21 April 1883 in Wilson County to Silas Parker and Mahalia Parker; was married to Willie McGeachy; and was buried in the Parker cemetery, Wilson County.

Mack McKinnley Parker died 20 May 1968 in Elm City, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 May 1899 to Silis Parker and Mahalia Parker; was a farmer; and was married to Minnie Parker. He was buried in the Parker cemetery in Wilson County.

Mary Bell Battle died 4 August 1971 in Hampton, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was 77 years old; was the widow of William Battle; and was the daughter of Galas Parker and Mahalia (last name unknown). Informant was Willie Lee Battle, Rocky Mount, N.C.

John Parker died 22 January 1975 in Rocky Mount, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was born 22 November 1892 to Silas Parker; was married to India Parker; and was retired. Walter Parker of Rocky Mount was informant.

Estate records of Jerry Dunn (1889 and 1890) and Silas Parker (1914), North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Elm City’s Negro Community, pt. 2.

Cecil Lloyd Spellman was a professor of rural education at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. In 1947, he published “Elm City, A Negro Community in Action,” a monograph intended to employ sociology to “interpret the Negro in his actual day to day activities and interrelationships with members of his own and other races.” This is an excerpt:


In searching the records, one finds no mention of early Negroes in this area, however, by contacting some of the older living residents, the following information dealing with pioneer Negro residents has been obtained.** All the following people are now dead unless the fact is otherwise indicated.

[Part one here.]

The following people are early settlers of the Turner neighborhood:

Gary Armstrong and his wife Henrietta were among the first to be mentioned in this section. They bought farm land and settled upon it. Nelson Armstrong and his wife Mary, were also mentioned here as landowners. There is no indication as to the existence of relationship between these two Armstrong families; they may, or they may not be related. The Turner area at present has in it a very large number of families of Armstrongs, many of which are not related to each other.

Thomas Hilliard and his wife Forthea came into the area from Edgecombe County, on the north. His wife became a midwife, and was prominent in this activity for a long time. During this formative period of the community, midwives are very important to welfare of families. Doctors were few, and transportations was not very speedy, so the quickest and most certain maternal care was that furnished by the local midwife. The history of the development of the family institution will never by completely satisfactory, until the contribution of the local midwife has been included in its pages.

Jerry Drake and his wife Vince were also here at the time. Vince was also a midwife.

Skipper Dunn was a landowner in the section. The name of his wife was not mentioned, but we know he had a granddaughter, who now lives in Elm City. She is familiarly known by both the white and colored people as “Aunt” Aggie Williams.

Aggie Williams, granddaughter of Skipper Dunn, came to Toisnot, North Carolina (now what is the village of Elm City) in 1882. While we do not know when Skipper Dunn came, the date mentioned fixes him as one of the real old settlers of the area. Nothing was reported concerning Aggie’s husband. It is known, however, that she was married. She owned some farm land, and also a home where she now lives in Elm City. She lives alone in a seven room house in the white residential section of Elm City. She reared a fine family by sewing for people. She is well thought of by her neighbors.


  • In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County, Gary Armstrong appears as a 20 year-old farm laborer sharing a household with 20 year-old George Batts. In the 1880 census, Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Gary Armstrong, 30, wife Henrietta, 25, and children Cherry, 8, William, 6, James, 4, and Gary, 2. In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Garry Armstrong, 56, wife Henreta, 47, and children James H., 22, John H., 21, Moses, 19, Edward, 17, Mammie J., 15, Minnie, 13, and Hattie, 11. In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Garey Armstrong, 65, wife Henrietta, 55, James T., 30, Moses, 28, Mamie I., 24, and Minnie J., 22. In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County, on Wilson Rocky Mount Road: farmer Gary Armstrong, 73, wife Henrietta, 65, and daughter Minnie, 28. Garey Armstrong died 1 February 1928. His death certificate lists his age as 82, his birthplace as Edgecombe County, and his parents as Abraham and Cherry Armstrong, both of Edgecombe.
  • Gary and Nelson Armstrong were, in fact, brothers. In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Abraham Armstrong, 52, wife Cherry, 32, and children Nancy, 16, Haywood, 14, Nelson, 12, Joshua, 11, and Burlee, 7. On 10 January 1884, Nelson Armstrong married Mary Ann Bulluck in Edgecombe County. In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Armstrong, 45, wife Mary Ann, 40, and children Mamie, 15, Hattie, 13, and Henry, 12. In the 1910 census of Toisnot, Wilson County, on Wells Daws Avenue, Nelson Armstrong, 58, Mary, 45, daughter Hattie Armstrong, 22, son Henry Armstrong, 20, son-in-law Thomas Hilliard, 25 daughter Mamie, 24, and their children Carnelia, 3, and Magnora Hilliard, 2. In the 1920 census of Toisnot, Wilson County: Nelson Armstrong, 60, wife Mary, 50, and boarder Grover Barnes, 19. In the 1930 census of Toisnot, Wilson County: Henry Armstrong, 42, wife Mimia, 33, and children Mary, 11, Fred, 8, Rosa, 6, Clarence, 4, and Nathan, 1, plus widower father Nelson, 75. Nelson Armstrong died 8 December 1934 in Toisnot township.
  • In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Thomas Hilliard, 38, Fortune, 40, William, 13, Mary, 12, Robert, 10, Cornelia, 8, Sealey, 6, Ollis, 4, and Becky, 2. In the 1900 census of Toisnot, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Hilliard, 56, wife Fortino, 58, and children Olive, 24, Becky, 21,  and Thomas, 16, with adopted son, Thadeous Battle, 12. [Thomas Hilliard Jr. married Nelson Armstrong’s daughter Mamie, see above. Thomas’ death certificate, filed in August 1866, identifies his mother as “Fortney Killebrew.”] In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: Thomas Hilliard, 63, wife Forty, 65, and daughter Celia Allen, 45.
  • In the 1880 census, Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Jerry Drake, 43, wife Viney , 39, children Henrietta, 18, George, 17, Bettie, 14, Nancy E., 10, Caroline, 7, Emma, 5, and stepdaughter Jane Westray, 9.
  • In the 1880 census, Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Skipper Dunn, 60, wife Fannie, 50, and son James, 15.
  • Aggy Mercer, 17, married Thos. Williams, 21, on 5 February 1876 at Toisnot. In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Thomas Williams, 24, wife Aggie, 21, and daughters Clara, 3, and Mattie, 1. In the 1900 census of the Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: widow Aggie Williams, 41, dress maker; and her children nurse Cora, 18, and day laborer Burtas, 14. In 1910 in the Town of Elm City, Toisnot, Wilson County: Aggie Williams, 59, lived alone in a house she owned on Main Street. In 1920 in the Town of Elm City, Toisnot, Wilson County: Aggie Williams, 51, dress maker, lived alone in a house she owned on Main Street. In 1940 in the Town of Elm City, Toisnot, Wilson County: Aggie Williams, 81, lived alone in a house she owned on Main Street. Daughter Cora lived next door. Aggie M. Williams died 21 March 1951 in Elm City. Her death certificate records her birth as 14 February 1859 in Edgecombe County to Jessie and Fannie Mercer. [The informant was Cora C. Lucas, her daughter.]

**This is odd. African-Americans came to the Toisnot area with the earliest white settlers pushing down from southern Virginia. They were the pioneers, not people who moved in after the Civil War. Spellman named black county extension agent C.W. Foster as his source.