Free Will Baptist church

Benefit for the old people’s home.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 July 1917.

Did the “old people’s home, colored” ever open? Apparently so, at 310 Lodge Street.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 August 1918.

A.A.I Davis soon moved on to another old folks’ home in Wilmington, North Carolina. (Per newspaper accounts, Davis was pastor of a Baptist church in Albany, New York, as late as 1915, but by 1916 was running an old folks’ home  in Maxton, North Carolina, in 1916. What was going on here?)

Wilmington Morning Star, 11 November 1921.


Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C. (1922).

Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist Church.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 November 2000.

This photo of Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist Church is undated, but appears to have been taken in the 1930s or ’40s. Founded in 1910, Wilson Chapel originally held services in the home of Sister Lucy Hoskins at 908 Gay Street. 

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C. By this time, Wilson Chapel, circled, had moved into a building first occupied by Jackson Chapel, a Missionary Baptist congregation. Wilson Chapel was located in a heavily industrialized block, with Wilson County Gin next door and Farmer’s Cotton Oil Mill plant across Barnes Street. Grace Street no longer exists. 


Studio shots, no. 149 and 150: Rev. Nash Horton and Rev. Rufus A. Horton.

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Rev. Nash Horton (ca. 1835-aft. 1910).


Immediately after Emancipation, Nash Horton threw himself into political and religious activity. Horton lived in Buckhorn township, Wake County, adjacent to Chatham County, and in 1867 was one of the commissioners of a Fourth of July celebration in the area.

The Daily Standard (Raleigh, N.C.), 16 July 1867.

Three months later, Horton met in Raleigh for the organization of the North Carolina Colored Christian Conference as a representative of Christian Chapel. (Founded in 1866, Greater Christian Chapel Church began as a brush arbor meeting. Per the church’s website, Nash Horton served as its first pastor. Rev. Horton’s first wife Elizabeth Horton is buried in Greater Christian Chapel cemetery near Apex in Buckhorn township, Wake County. Her headstone records her birthdate as 4 March 1829 and her death date as 20 September 1869.)

Weekly Standard (Raleigh, N.C.), 27 October 1867.

In the 1870 census of Buckhorn township, Wake County, North Carolina: Nash Horton, 35; wife Elizabeth, 25; and children James, 14, Allis, 9, Jane, 6, Susan, 4, George, 2, and Matthew, 2 months. [Per her headstone, Elizabeth died in the fall of 1869.]

In the 1880 census of Buckhorn township, Wake County: Nash Horton, 46, minister; wife Hannah, 27; son Gray Horton, 27; stepchildren Martha, 13, Alvis, 8, and William Walker, 5; boarders [who were his children] Jane, 17, and Susan Horton, 15; children Bartley and Matthew, 10, and Leonidas Horton, 8; and nephew Rufus Horton, 6.

Just after 1880, Nash Horton and his children moved to Springhill township, Wilson County. (Several were later active in Saint Delight Original Free Will Baptist Church near Kenly and are buried in its cemetery.)

On 21 May 1882, Joshua Beckwith, 28, of Chatham County, son of Wiley and Lucy Costin, married Susan Horton, 17, of Wilson, daughter of Nash and Elizabeth Horton, at Nash Horton‘s in Springhill township. Witnesses were John T. Hinnant, Nash Horton and Isaac Kirby.

Rose Ayers, 45, married Nash Horton, 50, son of Ben Bynum and Delly Horton, on 5 December 1888 at Meeksville post office, Spring Hill township. James G.Ishmael, and Guilford Wilder were witnesses.

On 28 September 1890, Savanah Scott, 20, daughter of John and Nannie Scott, married Mathew Horton, 21, son of Nash and Betsey Horton, all of Springhill township, Wilson County. Rufus Horton applied for the license, and he, Samuel Taylor and Anderson Horton witnessed.

In the mid-1890s, Nash Horton moved a few miles southwest into Johnston County.

On 5 July 1896, Rufus Horton, 23, of Johnston County, son of Nash and Elizabeth Horton, married Mary J. Davis, 19, of Johnston, daughter of Ollin and Mary F. Davis, in Pine Level, Johnston County. [Rufus, in fact, was a grandson of Nash Horton and was reared by Horton and his wife.]

On 10 December 1896, Nathaniel Horton, 25, son of Nash Horton, married Mila Shepherd, 21, in Clayton, Johnston County.

In the 1900 census of Selma township, Johnston County: Nash Horton, 60, and wife Rosa, 50.

In the 1910 census of Pine Level township, Johnston County: Nash Horton, 75, shoemaker in own shop. He reported that he had been married four times.

It appears that Nash Horton died shortly after 1910. I have not found his death certificate.

Rev. Rufus A. Horton, who founded Mount Zion Original Free Will Baptist Church in Wilson, died of a heart attack in Washington, D.C., on 30 October 1938. [He is not to be confused with Rufus G. Horton, who was born 1867 in Wake County to John and Essie Hackney Horton and died in 1935 in Springhill township, Wilson County.]

Rev. Rufus A. Horton (1873-1938).

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 31 October 1938.

James H. Horton died 8 May 1943 in Springhill township. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 June 1860 in Wake County to Nash Horton and an unknown mother; was the widower of Lunar Taylor; and was buried in the Free Will Baptist cemetery. Henry Horton was informant.

Susan Horton died 18 January 1945 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 July 1866 in Wake County to Nash Horton and an unnamed mother; resided at 417 South Goldsboro Street, Wilson; was the widow of Dock Farmer; and was buried in Boyett cemetery. Informant was Carrie Boykin, 417 South Goldsboro.

Thank you, Rodger Creech Jr.!

The Colored Free Will Baptist Church buys a lot on Vance Street.

This deed made this 29th day of May 1900 by S.H. Vick and wife to Louis Bess, Daniel Blount and Windsor Darden Trustees of the Colored Free Will Baptist Church of Wilson and their Successors in office all of the County of Wilson and State of North Carolina,

WITNESSETH: — THAT FOR and in consideration of the sum of thirty five dollars to them in paid, the receipt whereof of is hereby acknowledged the said S.H. Vick and wife have bargained and sold and do by these presents bargain sell and convey to the said Louis Bess Daniel Blount Windsor Darden and their successors in office one lot or parcel of land lying and being situate in Wilson Township County of Wilson, and State of North Carolina, and bounded and described as follows:

BEGINNING at a stake in the corner of Elba and Vance Streets and running with Vance Street North West 30 feet, thence South West forty five feet, thence south east thirty feet, thence North East forty five feet to the beginning, containing thirteen hundred and forty square feet.

TO HAVE OR TO HOLD the above described lot or parcel of land to the said Louis Bess, Daniel Blount, Windsor Daniel and their successors in office in fee simple and the said S.H. Vick binds himself and heirs to warrant and defend the premises hereby conveyed against the lawful claims of all persons whomsoever.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF WITNESS our hands and seals the date above written. /s/ S.H. Vick, Annie M. Vick


In 1900, the trustees of Piney Grove Free Will Baptist Church bought a small lot at the corner of Vance and Elba Streets from Samuel H. and Annie M. Vick. The church they built is shown in this detail from the 1913 Wilson, N.C., Sanborn map, below. The one-story wooden building was heated with stoves and lit with oil and featured a two-story tower on its front elevation. Though this building is long gone, Piney Grove remains an active congregation. Per the current church’s cornerstone, the church was founded in 1882 by Reverends A. and D. Blunt.

  • Louis Bess — in the 1900 census of Wilson, WIlson County: Louis Best, 70, wood sawer; wife Harrit, 60, washing; and son William, 31, driver.
  • Daniel Blount — in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Daniel Blunt, 35; wife Susan, 26; and children Ellen, 5, Eva, 3, Demsey, 1, Daniel, 12, and Charley, 10. Daniel Blunt died 28 July 1924 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 87 years old; was born in Pitt County, N.C., to Dempsey Blunt and Julia Carr; was married to Susanna Blunt; and worked as a laborer. [Dempsey Blunt was the son of Amos Blunt. Were they the A. and D. Blunt who founded Piney Grove?]
  • Windsor Darden — in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Winsor Darden, 37; wife Mattie, 29; and children George, 11, Jesse, 8, Willie, 5, William, 3, and Mathis, 1; plus mother Mary Darden, 55. Windsor Darden died 8 February 1940 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 85 years old; was the widower of Mattie Darden; lived at 1017 Mercer Street; had been a common laborer; and was born in Wilson County to Benjamin Darden and Diliah [maiden name unknown]. Sarah Darden Harris was informant.

Deed book 65, page 297, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Wynn’s Chapel.


Wynn’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church was organized in the early years of the nineteenth [sic; twentieth] century. The original church was located on what was then called the “hill” beside the railroad track at the southern end of Elm City.

Two of the charter members were the late Willis Wynn and William Birstel [Burston].

In 1956, the original church burned to the ground. The present church was then erected on Armstrong Street on the east side of Elm City.

The present pastor is Rev. E.R. Reid, Jr., who resides at 911 Washington Street, Wilson, N.C. A few of the officers now serving are deacons and trustees: Cecil Hagans, Mason Benjamin, George Bunn, Talvin Latham; secretaries: Bertha Evans and Geneva Dew.

The oldest members are Mrs. Ellen Birstel Pender and Edward Norman.

— Elm City Centennial Committee, Elm City North Carolina Centennial 1873-1973 (1973).


  • Willis Wynn — Willie Wynn Jr. was born about 1875 in Wayne County. Per his death certificate, he died 11 February 1940 in Wilson; was a widower; resided at 1102 Atlantic Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer; was the son of Willie Wynn and Annie Williams. Geneva Dew was informant, and he was buried in Elm City.
  • William Birstel — in the 1920 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer William Birtsal, 51; wife Ida, 41; and children Lizzie, 18, Salmon, 20, Pearl, 11, William, 10, James, 7, and Lee Roy, 3.
  • E.R. Reid Jr.
  • Cecil Hagans — Cecil Lane Hagans (1916-1982) was a son of Julius and Grace Hagans.
  • Mason Benjamin — Mason Benjamin (1912-1995) was a Florence, South Carolina, native.
  • George Bunn — George Emerson Bunn Sr. died 16 February 1974 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 November 1911 to Emerson and Ella(?) Bunn; resided in Elm City; and had worked as a laborer. Carrie Cooper was informant.
  • Talvin Latham
  • Bertha Evans — Bertha Rountree Evans (1922-1985).
  • Geneva Dew — Geneva Wynn Dew was born 31 August 1911 in Wayne County to Willie and Jennie Hussey Wynn. The owner and operator of Dew’s Rest Home, Dew died 17 November 1984 in Wilson.
  • Ellen Birstel Pender — Ellen Burston, 18, of Toisnot township, daughter of William Burston, married Gold Pender, 22, of Toisnot township, son of Haywood and Mollie Pender, on 10 December 1917 at the bride’s home in Elm City. Baptist minister James Brown performed the ceremony in the presence of Rev. Fred Gardner of Ayden, North Carolina, and J.D. Hockaday and W.R. Hockaday of Elm City.
  • Edward Norman