Henrietta Foster — Foster, who was listed as living at the rear of 308 Hackney Street in 1922, later married Rev. Mebane. Henrietta Foster Mebane died in 1950 and, though the Mebanes spent most of their married life in Tarboro, N.C., both are buried in Wilson’s Rest Haven Cemetery. Their daughter Grace Mebane, who died in Tarboro in 1940 at age 14, is also buried in Wilson.
Nettie Wife of Walter M. Foster Born July 5, 1871 Died July 7, 1912. As a wife, devoted As a mother, affectionate As a friend, ever kind and true.
In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Young, 34; wife Anna, 37; and children Joseph, 5, Jane, 4, John, 2, and George, 5 months.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Young, 45; wife Zelpha Ann, 21; and children Joseph, 15, Nettie, 13, and George, 10.
On 14 August 1896, Walter Foster, 23, son of Peter and Phillis Foster, married Nettie Young, 28, daughter of Henry and Annie Young. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at Lou Ellis‘ house in Wilson in the presence of William Coley, Cora Ellis, and Minnie Coley.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter Foster, 26, day laborer; wife Nettie, 29; daughter Mollie, 6 months.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter Foster, 34, fireman at wagon factory; wife Nettie, 39; and children Henry E., 8, and Walter A., 5; plus boarder Arthur Broady, 22, laborer.
I missed the cues, and at first could find no record of an African-American Russell Owings living in Wilson. But that was because Owings was not Black. He was instead a “faithful and courageous friend of [their] interest.” Owings, freshly graduated from Atlantic Christian [now Barton] College, was a white man who — much in the spirit of Rev. R.A.G. Foster’s outreach — crossed the color line to teach voice lessons and direct a choral group at Saint John A.M.E. Zion. He died in a car accident in late October 1938.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Vance, Andrew Pierce, 55, nurse at home (usually barber); wife Lossie, 55, in hospital; daughters Alice, 35, and Hester, 27; sons Boise, 29, cafe [cook?], and Binford, 14; daughter Ruby, 19, “cook school;” and grandchildren Randolph, 9, and Montheal Foster, 7, and Mickey Pierce, 1.
Samuel Randolph Foster registered for the World War II draft in Durham, N.C., in 1945. Per his draft card, he was born 19 February 1927 in Wilson; lived at 403 Henry Street, Durham; was a student at Hillside High School; and his contact was Sam Foster, 403 Henry Street. He was 5’7″, weighed 141 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair and a birthmark in the bend of his right arm. [In fact, per his birth record, Foster was born in 1931 in Wilson to Samuel Foster and Hester Pierce, which would make his age consistent with that in the Times article. In other words, Foster was 14 years old when he was inducted into the Army at Fort Bragg in September 1945.]
Marianne Foster generously shared these photos of her father, Rev. Richard A.G. Foster, who served as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church in the late 1930s and made strident calls for equal rights and social justice from his Pender Street pulpit.
In the pulpit at Varrick A.M.E. Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut, 1940s.
Henry Armstrong — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Armstrong, 52; wife Minnie, 42; and children Mary, 19, Fred, 18, Rosa, 16, Clarence, 14, Nathan, 11, Daniel, 9, Louise, 8, David, 6, and Henry, 3.
Sugar Hill section — There is a Sugar Hill neighborhood on the western outskirts of the town of Simms and a Sugar Hill Road that runs just east of and parallel to Interstate 95 near the Nash County line. Neither is in Toisnot township. Henry Armstrong’s family’s land was east of Elm City near Edgecombe County. Can anyone pinpoint the location of Armstrong’s Sugar Hill? [Update, 7/28/2020: Jack Cherry identified Sugar Hill as a community along East Langley Road between Town Creek and Temperance Hall United Methodist Church (which is just across the line in Edgecombe County.) His great-grandfather operated a small general store and gas station at the heart of the community and lent his name to Cherry Chapel Baptist Church.]
Among the many pastors who passed through Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church on their way to prominence, Rev. Richard A.G. Foster ranks among the most accomplished. An early and vocal proponent of equal rights, Rev. Foster spent an impactful couple of years in Wilson, as seen here and here and here and here.
In April 1951, Color magazine called Rev. Foster “The Most Powerful Negro in New Haven” in an in-depth article that credited the “strong race man and … public-spirited citizen” with “doing more for race relations in New Haven than any other person.”
“In New Haven, Conn., the folk will all tell any visitor that Rev. Richard A.G Foster is the most powerful Negro in town. Rev. Foster is not a rich man, but he’s a man who knows how to get things down. A strong race man and a public-spirited citizen, he is credited with doing more for race relations in New Haven than any other person.
Operates Like One-Man F.E.P.C.
“Within two years Rev. Foster secured more than 2700 jobs for Negroes in the city, and he has been directly responsible for getting Negroes jobs in many factories and plants which previously refused to hire colored help. He demanded more money for domestic workers such as cooks, maids, butlers, and chauffeurs and got it! Foster helped raise theirs salaries more than 100 per cent. As a result of his efforts, Negroes are employed in the city’s welfare department as investigators and stenographers. He gave New Haven its first Negro city court clerk, and got several Negroes jobs in the police department.
Helped Levi Jackson Play At Yale U.
“The powerful pastor of Varick Memorial Church for eleven years molded public opinion in favor Levi Jackson’s acceptance to play football at Yale University. Rev. Foster served on the Board of Aldermen from 1943 to 1950, during which time he sponsored and engineered the passage of the F.E.P.C. bill. Always fighting hard for the rights of minorities, the New Haven minister saw to it that public workers employed in his district included Negroes — and as a result, the district is now the cleanest and has the best lighting.”
He is now fighting to obtain appointments for Negroes to various important local and state commissions, and he feels that a member of his race should serve as assistant to the states attorney. Appointed by the late Governor James L. McConaughey, Foster is the only Negro on the Rent Control Board for the New Haven district.
Twenty-Five Years of Church Leadership
It was Bishop W.J. Walls who recognized Rev. Foster’s excellent qualities of leadership eleven years ago, and appointed him to Varick Memorial Church. Now celebrating his 25th year in the ministry, and his eleventh at the New Haven church, Foster has built up an enviable record. When he first came to Varick Memorial his weekly salary was a mere $35, and the church membership was only 37, although the enrollment listed 227 members. Today the church has over 1100 members, and his salary has increased proportionately. He is, at present, directing a $25,000 mortgage fund for his church.
Rev. Foster attended school at Livingston College, chief educational institution of A.M.E. Zion, Hood Theological Seminary, and did graduate work at Syracuse University.
[The caption under the top photo on this page: “‘Most of our people,’ said Rev. Foster, ‘have religion that is only mouth-deep. What we need is religion that reaches the center of the spirit and whole of the being.’ ….”]
Many thanks to Rev. Foster’s daughter Marianne Foster for sharing this article.