fraternal organization

Lodge members gather at Saint John.

This beautifully crisp photo depicts a gathering of Prince Hall Masons in front of Saint John A.M.E. Zion‘s distinctive Gothic arches during the church’s construction. Dated 1914-1915, I do not know the specific occasion for the photograph, or whether it features only members of Mount Hebron Lodge No. 42, whose lodge was just across Smith Street. I do know that it is fantastic in every detail.

Though my focus is on the men assembled at center, the edges of the image are rich  with detail as well — the boy in a newsboy cap perched on the scaffolding; the boys peering over the heads of the suited men; the few girls clustered at right, with a woman in a magnificent hat just behind them; another woman at extreme left, visible only as an eye under the wide brim of her hat.

Of the 36 men depicted, as of now, I have only been able to identify only eleven certain and a few possibles. Do you recognize any others?

And a question to any Prince Hall Masons, do the medallions, swords, aprons, or other regalia disclose anything public about the wearer’s status or office within the lodge?

Rev. Halley B. Taylor (1879-??), Worshipful Master, Presbyterian minister.

Julius F. Freeman Sr. (1844-1927), carpenter.

Roderick Taylor Sr. (1883-1947), barber.

William Hines (1883-1981), businessman, hospital administrator.

Camillus L. Darden (1884-1956), businessman, funeral director.

Rev. Bryant P. Coward (1864-1940), pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church.

Short W. Barnes (1860-1943), carpenter.

Samuel H. Vick (1861-1947), educator, businessman.

Charles H. Darden (1854-1931), blacksmith, funeral director.

John H. Clark (1863-1949), postal employee.

John Mack Barnes (1869-1958), Treasurer, brickmason, builder of Saint John A.M.E. Zion.

Either barber Levi H. Jones (1877-1961), Rev. Charles T. Jones (1878-1963), or painter Butler E. Jones (ca. 1879-1961), brothers.

Probably, Arthur N. Darden (1889-1948), mortician.

Probably, Leonard L. Barnes (1888-1952).

Probably, Edgar H. Diggs (1890-1970), barber.

Possibly, Darcy C. Yancey (1883-1957), pharmacist.

[Sidenote: There is something incredibly moving about seeing these men in the early part of what arguably was Black Wilson’s Golden Age in the 1910s and ’20s. Though the photograph was staged, their expressions (other than Sam Vick, who was obviously accustomed to formal portrait-posing) are almost candid. They are a mix of old heads, born in the final days of slavery, and a new generation of young lions. I was surprised by my instant recognition of Charles and Camillus Darden and William Hines. It took me longer to realize my own grandfather stood at far left. My identification of Arthur N. Darden is based in part on his close resemblance to his mother, Dinah Scarborough Darden. Most of the others I was able to name only after reviewing other photos of men I know to have been Masons. Leonard Barnes, astonishingly, I recognized because of his close resemblance to his grandson, who was my childhood playmate.]

Many thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for the copy of this photograph. And a special shout-out to Stanley Horton, Past Worshipful Master, Foundation Lodge #592, Prince Hall Affiliated, for his help in identifying offices and emblems. 

[Updates: Rev. Halley B. Taylor and the Jones brothers added 3 September 2020.]

Love Union Lodge buys a lot.

Deed Book 179, page 403, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

On 31 January 1929, John and Cora Melton sold a parcel of land in Black Creek township for $100 to James M. Barnes, W.M. Forsythe, and J.A. Artis, trustees of Love Union Lodge #209, Knights of King Solomon. The parcel adjoined lands of John Melton and John Mercer on “the Ruffin Lane Road” near the Colored School Building and measured about one-half acre.

[Where was Ruffin Lane Road? Where was the Black Creek Colored School?]

To have and to hold said land, no. 5.

Abstracts of deeds recording the purchase of real property by African-American churches and lodges in Wilson County:

  • On 25 June 1919, Samuel H. Vick and Mabel Harriss, trustees of Black Creek Council No. 130 of the Lincoln Benefit Society, and Walter Barnes, John Artis, and J.F. Ellis, trustees of Black Creek Lodge No. 8754, Odd Fellows, paid $350 for a lot in Black Creek on the corner of West Railroad and Church Streets.

Deed book 121, page 381, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

  • On 20 February 1920, Gary Armstrong and wife Henrietta borrowed $3282.60 from the Endowment Department of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. In exchange, the Armstrongs gave a mortgage on four parcels measuring 34, 112, 55, and 42 acres. If the Armstrongs defaulted on the loan, the Endowment Department would sell the land to satisfy the debt. This mortgage deed was cancelled 3 January 1924, after the debt was paid in full. Deed book 141, page 59.
  • On 29 October 1923, James Rountree, William Thorne, James Bass, Warren Rountree, Phebe Rountree, and Emma Daniel, trustees of Saint Pauls Disciples Church (Colored), sold to Barnes Chapel Lodge #78, Knights of King Solomon, a one-eighth acre parcel on the north side of the old County Line Road and east side of the public road from Wilson to Nashville, N.C., to be used for lodge purposes only and never for “a place of public amusement or in any manner that will be in derogation of the peace and dignity of the church” next door. [Saint Paul’s is an active church on Lake Wilson Road, just east of N.C. Highway 58, the “public road” referred to. I am not clear if the church not to be disturbed is Saint Paul or some other church.] Deed book 146, page 271.
  • On 1 December 1923, J.L. Newsom, Nathan Bass, and James H. Newsom sold W.K. Knight, Willie Newton, Elias Barnes, C.L. Battle, Charlie Newton, L.W. Williams, and Walter Thompson, trustees of First Baptist Church (Colored) of Lucama, for $125 a one-quarter acre parcel adjacent to the Wilson County Public School (Colored)’s lot on the extension of Main Street near the town of Lucama. Deed book 146, page 397.

As this Google Maps image shows, First Baptist Church still stands just outside Lucama. Its parcel is considerably larger than a quarter-acre and may include the land on which Lucama Colored School formerly sat.

To have and hold the said land, no. 4.

Abstracts of deeds recording the purchase of real property by African-American churches and lodges in Wilson County:

  • On 16 November 1916, J.L. Yelverton and Mary B. Yelverton sold J.H. Winston, Nathan Locus, and Peter Barnes, trustees of Travelers Rest Church of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association, for $50, a lot in Stantonsburg bordering the Yelvertons, the colored school, and B.M. Whitley. The purchase was recorded 6 October 1917 in Deed Book 111, page 347, Register of Deeds office, Wilson.
  • On 18 October 1917, Ace Lucas and wife Anne Lucas sold L. Blackwell, Wesley Strickland, Herbert Taylor, and Ace Lucas, trustees of Sandy Fork Missionary Baptist Church, a 90′ by 90′ lot in Taylors township adjacent to the lands of U.H. Cozart and Ace Lucas. The lot was to be used for Missionary Baptist church building and would revert to the Lucases otherwise. The purchase was recorded 17 November 1917 in Deed Book 111, page 423, Register of Deeds office, Wilson. [Sandy Fork’s current church is just across the county line in Nash County.]
  • On 24 February 1919, Jesse R. Barnes and wife Sarah L. Barnes, having borrowed $300 from George W. Harris, W.M. Pearce, and E.H. Haskins, trustees of the Christian Aid Society of Rountree Missionary Baptist Church, signed over to the Society 3.44 acres on “Colored Masonic Cemetery Road” [Lane Street] adjacent to the lands of Dollison Powell, Margaret Artis, Raleigh Real Estate and Trust Company and S.H. Vick. The Barneses had purchased this property from S.H. and Annie Vick on 26 April 1913, per Deed Book 91, page 580, and the $300 went to pay them off. The loan to the Society was due 24 February 1920. If the Barneses were to default, the Society’s trustees were to sell the land at auction, recoup the debt, and pay any remainder to the Barneses. On the other hand, if the note were satisfied, the deed was void. The deed, filed at Deed Book 117, page 285, was marked paid on 8 February 1923. [This parcel was much smaller than the Barnes land that ultimately became Rest Haven cemetery.]
  • On 9 March 1926, Glenn S. McBrayer and wife Lillian L. McBrayer sold W.H. Brown, W.H. Kittrell, A.C. Winstead, Jno. A. Parker, and Jesse Holden, trustees of Marshall Lodge No. 297, Approved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, a lot at the corner of Vick and Nash Streets, being part of Lot No. 1 of Block B of the Rountree property recorded in Deed Book 78, pages 62-63, Register of Deeds office, Wilson. The purchase was recorded 29 May 1926 in Deed Book 161, page 608, Register of Deeds office, Wilson.

Deed Book 161, page 608.

Fraternal and benevolent orders.

The Odd Fellows were not the only African-American fraternal order that found toeholds in Wilson County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An examination of deed books and other records yields these — some familiar, others much less so:

  • Prince Hall Masons, Mount Hebron Lodge #42, chartered in 1881.
  • Prince Hall Masons, Rocky Blue Lodge #56, chartered before 1910.
  • Prince Hall Masons, Pride of Wilson Lodge #484, chartered before 1947.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Victoria #1, chartered in 1918. Per the Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner of the State of North Carolina (1925), the home office of the Knights of King Solomon was in Wilson, the organization had been chartered in 1918, its president was William Pierce, and its secretary was C.F. Rich.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 December 1918.

  • Knights of King Solomon, Saint Luke Lodge #53, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Richardson Lodge #10, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Pride of Wilson Lodge #32, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Mount Zion Lodge #9, chartered before 1921.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Barnes Chapel Lodge #78, chartered before 1923.
  • Knights of King Solomon, Love Union Lodge #209, chartered before 1929.
  • Knights of Labor, Assembly #734, chartered before 1888.
  • Knights of Labor, Wilson Light Assembly #10699, chartered before 1887.
  • Knights of Labor, Saratoga Assembly #8221, chartered before 1888.
  • Knights of Labor, Pine Level Assembly #10811, chartered before 1889.
  • Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Marshall Lodge #297, chartered in 1921.
  • Royal Fraternal Organization, organized in 1910. Per the Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner of the State of North Carolina (1925), the home office of the Royal Fraternal Organization was in Wilson, the organization had been chartered in 1910, its president was J.W. Parker, and its secretary was Cora C. Lucas.
  • Knights of Pythias, Peaceful Valley Lodge #272
  • Order of Eastern Star, Silver Star Chapter #26

More to come as I research these organizations.

Wilson County G.U.O.O.F. lodges.

I’ve been operating under the assumption there was one Grand United Order of Odd Fellows lodge in Wilson County — Hannibal Lodge #1552. I was wrong. Deeds from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveal these others, about which I’m seeking more information:

  • Lucama Lodge #3561

Per Charles H. Brooks’ The Official History and Manual of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America (1902), Lucama Lodge was established in 1892:

  • Moyton Lodge #5101, established before 1903.

Moyton was a community adjacent and just south of Stantonsburg.

  • Fairview Lodge, established before 1909.
  • Lodge #5575, established before 1925.
  • Lodge #5785, established before 1912.
  • Zion Hall Lodge #5952, established as before 1903.
  • Black Creek Lodge #8754, established before 1915.

Per Brooks’, the Black Creek lodge established in 1891 was assigned #3446, but a . The higher number suggests that #8754 was a later lodge.

Hannibal, of course, was the oldest of all Wilson County G.U.O.O.F. lodges, founded in 1873:

I also found reference in Brooks’ work to the establishment in Wilson of a Household of Ruth, an order founded “to enlist the sympathies and assistance of women in behalf of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows and to unite the wives, daughters and other sisters more intimately with their fathers, husbands, and other brothers of the Order in working out the beauties of Oddfellowship. To encircle in one social band, the wives, daughters, widows of the Odd Fellowship and entwine around the mystic cord that each and all may be mutually benefited and more closely united in the noble work of relieving the needy, the sick and the distressed.”

To my knowledge, all these lodges are defunct.

The obituary of Frank W. Barnes.

Frank Washington Barnes was an East Wilson Renaissance man. Born in 1911 to Jesse R. and Sarah Barnes Barnes (who sold to the city the land that became Rest Haven Cemetery), he was a barber (early as an employee of Austin N. Neal‘s Carolina Barber Shop and later as owner of Sanitary Barber Shop at 516 East Nash); edited the Wilson community news for Raleigh’s weekly African-American newspaper The Carolinian; was a member of Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church; was a member of the NAACP; helped found the East Nash Volunteer Fire Department; and ran for political office. He was also affiliated with nearly every fraternal organization active in 20th-century Wilson: Mount Hebron Lodge 42, Prince Hall Masons; Peaceful Valley Lodge 272, Knights of Pythias; Hannibal Lodge #1552, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows; Esther Lodge 467, Household of Ruth; and Marshall Lodge 297, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 March 1982.

Frank W. Barnes’ World War II draft registration card. (On the back, a notation that he was six feet five inches tall.)

 

Hannibal Lodge building burns.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 October 1997.

For more about the Odd Fellows Hannibal Lodge building, see here and here. Shortly after it erected this building, Lodge #1552 established the Odd Fellows cemetery that now lies abandoned and overgrown on Lane Street.  

Saratoga’s Knights of Labor buy land.

The Wilson Lodge of the Knights of Labor was not the only African-American lodge operating in the county. In 1888, the Saratoga branch purchased a lot in the Town of Saratoga, presumably upon which to build a small hall. Here is the deed transcribed from Book 26, pages 378-379:

This deed made the 31st day of March 1888 by and between W.B. Young party of the first part and Essic Horn Blount Bess Benjamin Ruffin and Robert Hines trustees for the Lodge of the Knights of Labor (col) No 8221 of Saratoga Wilson County North Carolina the parties of the second part Witnesseth That for and in consideration of the sum of Eighty five (85) Dollars in hand paid by the parties of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged the party of the first part has bargained and sold and by these presents does give grant bargain sell and convey unto the parties of the second part all that lot or parcel of land lying in the Town of Saratoga Wilson County State aforesaid and fully described in a deed made by John Robbins and wife to said W.B. Young and recorded in Book No 23 and page 336 in the office of Register of Deeds of Wilson County to which deed reference is made for description of said land To have and to hold together with all rights priviledges and appurtenances thereunto belonging, to the parties of the second part and their successors in office and assigns in fee simple forever. And the said W.B. Young does covenant to and with the parties of the second part & their successors in office and assigns that he has a right to convey the above described land that the same is free from encumbrance, and that he will forever warrant and defend the title to the same against the lawful claims of all persons whomsoever. In testimony whereof, I the said W.B. Young have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year first above written   /s/ W.B. Young  Witness J.D. Barden

——

  • Essie Horn — in the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Essic [Essex] Horn, 50, and children Abraham, 20, Diana, 18, Henry, 17, Aggie, 15, Sam, 13, Herbert, 8, and Walter, 3.
  • Blount Bess — in the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Blount Best, 53; wife Sarah, 44; and children Joe H., 27, John I., 20, Minnie, 18, Blount, 16, Ida, 14, Annie, 13, Mariah, 10, Ella, 8, Albert, 4, Sack, 2, and Joshua, 1.
  • Benjamin Ruffin — in the 1880 census of Gardners township, WIlson County: farm laborer Benn Ruffin, 56; wide Salie, 45; and children Margret, 16, July A., 13, Charley, 10, Mary, 8, Louvenna, 6, William, 4, and Sallie, 1.
  • Robert Hines — in the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: laborer Robert Hines, 21, and wife Elizabeth, 18.

Birds of a feather?

As shown in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory, other than the Masons, all of the city’s white-only benevolent and fraternal organizations met at the Odd Fellows’ Hall at 208 1/2 South Goldsboro Street — including the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The building at 206-208 Goldsboro Street S.W. is still standing. Per the nomination report for the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, when constructed in 1916, the Tomlinson Building “had two storefronts with a central door leading to the lodge on the second story.” The first floor was originally occupied by the Tomlinson Company, then a series of automobile dealers, then Southern Auto Company, and now a wrought-iron design workshop. Fraternal organizations occupied the second floor into the 1930s.

The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan operated 1915 to 1944, the Klan’s so-called second era, when the group fashioned itself — and was clearly accepted as — as a fraternal organization. As across the country, the rise of the civil rights movement in the 1950s ushered in another wave of KKK activity in Wilson County.