flood

You have never known the cruelties of these people.

Three months after the Confederacy surrendered, the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau received this shocking letter from an African-American resident of Wilson. Austin F. Flood poured his anguish and anger into four pages detailing the outrages of authorities against freedmen in the county. Though some of the perpetrators of violence were former Confederates, Flood pointed a steady finger at so-called Union men who also terrorized and abused formerly enslaved men and women.

record-image_undefined-13.jpg

Wilson July the 16 to 1865

Dear Sir

I take the opportunity of writeing you these few lines because I under stand you to be the head ruler ove this Steate in Millitary act. And this I write to you secretly in feare of my life. For in the present condision we can not helpe our Selves. Because thes people has every advantege of us and they are makeing use of it. The free men are under very good beheaveior here; And yet they cant see any peace at all. The rebes is about take the Town because we cant help our Selves Because we are without any thing to Protect us. For they sent the cunstable around to every free man s houses and taken all the wepons they said by General Schorfield. they were com manded to do it. And thuse we gave them up because we thought it was demanded of us by him. And not with Standing I thought at the Same time in a certain [illegible] that he was giveing them

record-image_undefined-14.jpg

a Stick not only to breake my head But also his even the heads of all the Northren People whom I love as my Self. Yea I say more then love them. Therefore I look to them for protection. Why am I keept from my libberties Because you have never known the cruilties of these People Who says they are Union men when they are not. For am I acquainted with bot Heavenly an National union and it is as much imposible to mix union and secess as it is to mix Oil an Water. Ive been watching them for twenty-eight months and there is but three union principles about the place and that is Wilie Daniel an Lawyer Langston — T.C. Christmond. These are all that I can look opond as Such. And if these officers be Union men Why do they keep all your ordinances conceiled frome us And try so harde to place a Yoke of thiere own opond us when this is not your Militry rules. They receives your commans and make thiere own laws. Taken down the free men an striping them without liefe or licens. Carring them to Jail and Whiping them [illegible]

record-image_undefined-10.jpg

The cunsable Thom Hadly a few days a go or rather at neight took a man at his work And carid him to his house and Striped him with out Law And this thing are going continuely in the Country Wm Batts stroped two this Weak and gave them a bige dink I surpose not to say anything about it. Johnathan Bullock discharging two loads after a yonge man to make him go home to his Master to work. The Cunstable are ruled more by the rebs then he is by the officers as they so call in nam. But not in principle. They say that have every thing in thiere hands to do as they please. And a Negro shall not be equill with him. Before he shall they will kill him. And this they have stated to do. We have to pay taxes and yet we have no priverledge. We dar to walk almost after night without being put in Jail. And the rebs going where he pleases. And they have gon so far that we are almost a fraide to Stay in the house after night Last Friday night the town was in a larm with the cry of a free [illegible] Men who disguised them Selves

record-image_undefined-15.jpg

And wente to the house wher he staid and routed him. And as he jumped out the window. A pistol was fired on him. And by the time he tuched the grown one struck him with a gun. And by that time there four on him Choping with sabers an beating on him with greate stick. And hollowing murder an help nor man could go to him. Willie Dannel atempted to go to him And they threatened his life for they had sentenals out to keepe others off. Ben Lanston and the Cunstaple: Sid Clark Van Winman and Rube Winman. And they have almost ruin him. And it never will be no better untill you send men here and put this place to rights. And this is what has never been done. For the men that was sent here worked every thing to our disadvantage and I’m [in] the faviour of these People. I writ you these things secretly. Please send to our releife for we are here in this place And I will more then thank you.  Yours, A.F. Flood

——

  • General Schorfield — Gen. John McAlister Schofield,
  • Wilie Daniel — Willie Daniel (1820-1897), wealthy planter and merchant, owner of 18 enslaved people as reported in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, neutral during the Civil War
  • Lawyer Lanston
  • T.C. Christmond — not Thomas F. Christman, who died in 1861.
  • Thom. Hadly — Thomas Jefferson Hadley IV (1838-1917), Confederate captain.
  • Wm. Batts
  • Johnathan Bullock — Jonathan Bullock (1822-??), farmer.
  • Ben Lanston
  • Sid Clark — Sidney Phineas Clark (1841-1896), born in Connecticut, Confederate captain.
  • Van Winman — Van Buren Winbourn (1838-1889), Confederate private.
  • Rube Winman — Reuben Winborne (1832-??), brother of Van, Confederate private.
  • A.F. Flood — I’ve been able to find little about Austin F. Flood, a Missionary Baptist minister who was born in slavery, probably in Pitt County, North Carolina. His letter indicates that he had been observing conditions in Wilson for 28 months, which would put his arrival in about March 1863. A year and two days after penning this letter, he filed a petition with the Bureau seeking an officer to arrest a “villain” in Greenville. Shortly after, he and Frances Delany registered their 16-year cohabitation with a Pitt County justice. In the 1870 census of Greenville, Pitt County: Austin Flood, 47; wife Francis, 35; children Della, 18, John, 16, Warren, 15, Louisa, 13, Josaphine, 8, Netta, 2, and Hetta, 5 months; and Dorey Paten, 17, hosler. Flood remained in Greenville the rest of his life. He was active in local Republican politics and Baptist leadership, helping establish several churches in the Pitt County area.

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

Hominy Swamp.

Hominy Swamp arises in western Wilson County, flows southeast of downtown and empties into Contentnea Creek near the Evansdale community. Prone to severe flooding, the creek has been channeled at several points along its length; from just above Tarboro Street south its plain is largely industrial. Hominy Swamp traditionally served as a boundary between certain black and white neighborhoods — Daniel Hill and Hominy Heights, and Happy Hill and Five Points, for example.

Per the Wilson Daily Times, in December 1924, the city contracted with a Raleigh contractor to build bridges spanning Hominy Swamp at Lodge Street, Goldsboro Street, Mercer Street, Tarboro Street and Park Avenue at a cost of $65,000.

I crossed over the Lodge Street bridge Saturday. It would seem to be $15,000 well-spent.

Here, Hominy Swamp Canal looking east from the Lodge Street bridge. North of the creek (to the left here) for most of the 20th century was a largely African-American neighborhood centered at Lodge and Banks Streets. South, Five Points, which was a white neighborhood until late in the 20th century.

Three years later, Hominy Swamp jumped its banks, climbing high enough to nearly overtop the walls of the bridge. Homes at Lodge and Mercer Streets flooded, requiring the rescue of a disabled 80 year-old African American woman.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 September 1928.

Lincoln Heights.

In the spring of 1947, Economy Homes, Inc., a Winston-Salem developer, filed a plat map for a subdivision to be laid out two miles southeast of town along Black Creek Road. Lincoln Heights consisted of 116 lots of various sizes to be offered to African-American buyers.

Plat Book 4, Page 71, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

Post-war housing in Wilson was scarce, and lots in the new development sold immediately. Just ten days after the plat map was recorded, the Wilson Daily Times listed lot sales to Samuel T. Dowdy and wife, Julia Farmer Johnson, James T. Horton, Ernest McKinnon, I.V. Dringle, Oscar Eatman and Israel Thomas. Dowdy, who was white, was a speculator and later ran ads selling houses and lots on terms.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 July 1947.

The smaller lots filled with single-family homes, but the long, narrow lots at the right side of the plat eventually — apparently, in the early 1970s — became the site of Lincoln Trailer Park.

Today, nearly all of it is scrub pine and weedy fields. Lincoln Heights had no height at all, and eventually the repeated ravages of its low lands by the overflowing Hominy Swamp canal won the day.

Here is an aerial view of Lincoln Heights, courtesy of Google Maps. The “Williams Street” of the plat became Wills, and “Charles” became Charleston. Elizabeth Street was never cut through, but Purdie curved around to intersect Old Black Creek Road, cradling several smaller streets that were once lined with house trailers. By the mid-1970s, the Daily Times was regularly running stories of boat rescues and electricity shut-offs in Lincoln Trailer Park during hard rains, and complaints about the clogged and under-dredged canal in the aftermath. Catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 devastated Lincoln Heights. As the century turned, the city of Wilson, using federal funding, began to condemn houses and buy out landowners. Though Lincoln Heights is marked on a 2018 digital building map, only a handful of houses along upper Wills Street remain occupied.

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 6.56.55 PM.png

An abandoned house at the dead-end of Wills Street. 

Purdie Street is now fenced off at Old Black Creek Road.

Hominy Swamp Canal seems innocuous — at least in terms of volume flow. Otherwise, it is filthy.

In 2002, the city erected signs showing the Hurricane Floyd high-water mark. The sign is perhaps 100 yards from the course of Hominy Swamp and shows a flood depth of about four feet.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.