farm labor

Shelling corn.

In the summer of 1938, “Baker” photographed farming scenes across North Carolina for the state Department of Conservation and Development. In July, he captured in quick succession two images of a small group of white and African-American men and boys shelling corn on a farm “near Wilson.”

Close-ups of the two photographs: 

Shelling Corn near Wilson July 1938, Department of Conservation and Development, Travel Information Division Photographs 1937-1973, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh.

Fisher suggests a labor camp.

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Wilson Daily Times, 6 October 1942.

In the fall of 1942, farmers complained that, rather than spending their final weeks toiling to harvest crops, men waiting to be called up for military service were taking “vacations” and carousing instead. Edwin D. Fisher, ex-confirmed cabin steward, U.S. Navy, took pen in hand to suggest a solution. He was willing to join one hundred others to purchase ten acres of land in Wilson County for the establishment of a “federal migratory labor camp.” Fisher had been assured by his neighbor, “Nurse Raison,” that migrant workers were harvest specialists who did not seek “recreation or jaunts into surrounding towns,” being satisfied with the entertainment provided in the camp. Moreover, “sweat worn men, women and youth rest in their cots at night” in such camps. Fisher had seen it with his own eyes.

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In the 1910 census of New Haven, Connecticut: at 30 Hazel Street, hardware merchant Edwin W. Fisher, 37; wife Daisy, 32; and children Edwin D., 16, Eugene L., 13, Clarence R., 10, Anna V., 6, Milton W., 3, and Susie A., 1.

Edwin Dortche Fisher registered for the World War I draft in New Haven, Connecticut. Per his registration card, he was born 1 February 1894 in Essex, Connecticut; resided at 26 Charles Street, New Haven; was a student and club car waiter; worked for the N.Y.N.H. & H. R.R., New York; and had a “weak back from injury.”

In the 1920 census of Westport, Fairfield County, Connecticut: William Dorsey, 64, master mason; son-in-law Edwin Fisher, 26, steward on [illegible]; daughter Edith Fisher, 26; and their daughter Mary, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: banker Judge D. Reid, 52, public school principal Elnora Reid, 50, sons Fredrick, 17, and Herbert, 14, and lodger Edwin D. Fisher, 36, a studio photographer. The house was owned free of mortgage and valued at $6000.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 302 Vick, widow Letitia Lovett, 62, born Georgia, dressmaker, and roomer Edwin D. Fisher, 46, “World War veteran.”

On 2 February 1941, Edwin D. Fisher, 47, son of Edwin W. Fisher and Nannie D. Fisher, married Letitia H. Lovett, 57, daughter of Frank and Sarah Jones, at Lovett’s residence. Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Milton W. Fisher, Mrs. Almira Fisher, Mrs. Rosa B. McCuller, and Mrs. Eva L. Brown.

Letitia Lovette Fisher died 1 November 1969 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 January 1876 in Georgia to Franklin Jones and an unknown mother; lived at 301 North Vick; was married Edwin Dortch Fisher; and was a seamstress and teacher.

Edwin Dortche Fisher died 15 November 1973 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 February 1893; lived at 301 North Vick Street; was a widower; and worked in photography. Harry J. Faison was informant.

I need his labor on my farm.

m1909_17-0972

Wilson, N.C. , August 26th 1867

Supt. Freedmens Bureau, Goldsboro N.C.   }

Dear Sir by refference to your records you will find a contract entered into between Dennis Swift free laborer, and myself on the 13th day of May ult. This contract was witnessed by Mr. J.J. Lutts and sent to your predecessor for approval by the concent of the said laborer. And I have thought it my duty [to] report his case to you as he has not complied with his contract one week since he entered into it. He has been absent from his post without my consent on many occasions and is absent from his post now and has been for several days. I appeal to you for the remedy and ask is there no remedy for such cases. I have complied with all the requirements of our contract and only ask that he do the same. I need his labor on my farm and would be glad to have your instruction in the matter as to what course I had best pursue. Please write by return mail.  Yours &c, J.H. Winstead

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Probably, the Dennis Swift, 24, parents unknown, who married Ella Thompson, 23, daughter of Gilbert Wilder of Wilson County and Elizabeth Shallington of Greene County, on 23 July 1877 in Greene County, North Carolina.

In the 1880 census of Bull Head district, Wilson County: farmer Dennis Swift, 28, a native of Maryland; wife Ella, 22; and son Peter, 6.

North Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, http://FamilySearch.org.