O. Nestus Freeman, at far right, teaching a masonry class, undated.
Photo courtesy of Freeman Round House Museum, reprinted from Wilson Daily Times, 4 February 2008.
O. Nestus Freeman, at far right, teaching a masonry class, undated.
Photo courtesy of Freeman Round House Museum, reprinted from Wilson Daily Times, 4 February 2008.
Eighty-seven years ago today, Mercy Hospital was sold at auction to the highest bidder. J.D. Reid had pledged the facility as security several years before, and the scandal that undid the Commercial Bank also dragged the struggling Mercy under. Oliver N. Freeman had signed the deed of trust transferring title.
The hospital soon reopened under new ownership.
Pittsburgh Courier, 8 March 1930.
The seventh in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
In the Nomination Form, this house is described as built “ca. 1940; 1 1/2 stories; Nestus Freeman Rental House; locally unique dwelling with a small tower on the front facade and stone veneer; contributing stone fence; Freeman was a noted Wilson stonemason and businessman.”
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 204 Vick, Henry Spivey, 37, manager of cabins; wife Mary, 34; and children Louise, 15, Mary Lucile, 13, Vernell, 12, and James H., 10. Henry and the older two children were reported born in Spring Hope (Nash County), Mary in Kinston (Lenoir County), and the younger children in Wilson. The Spiveys paid $14/month rent.
In 1942, James Henry Spivey of 204 North Vick Street registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County:
U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [database on-line],www.ancestry.com.
The third in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located at Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
On 6 January 1920, surely in the morning, census enumerator Sam E. Clark left his home just south of downtown Wilson and turned east on Nash Street, the town’s main artery. In short order, he would have crossed the Atlantic Coast Line tracks and entered African-American Wilson’s business district in the 500 block. Passing the deep red brick tower of First Baptist Church, Clark would have returned to residential district, this one at the heart of black east Wilson. Clark may have parked his car just past Carroll Street, then dug into his satchel to pull out a fresh enumeration sheet and a fountain pen. He had arrived at Wilson city limits. Across the street, then called Saratoga Road, squatted a small bungalow — household number 1 in Enumeration District 110, Wilson township — and Clark set off on foot to tackle his task.
After briefly interviewing a resident, Clark carefully inscribed the name of the head of household, Oliver N. Freeman, struggling a bit over the spelling of his first name. Freeman’s listed occupation, brickmason, hardly did justice to his growing reputation as a master builder, especially in stone.
More than 90 years later, the Freeman house, now well inside city limits, yet stands at a bend of Nash Street. In the nomination form for the historic district, the house is described as: “Nestus Freeman House; bungalow with stone veneer and gabled entry porch; enlarged to this form in the late 1920s; Freeman was noted stone mason and builder in East Wilson; contributing stone fence and six concrete yard ornaments, including dinosaur.”
Oliver N. Freeman house, 1300 East Nash Street, Wilson.
(Note that directly next door to Oliver Freeman lived East Wilson’s other artistic artisan, marble cutter Clarence Best, at 1306 East Nash.)
Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2016.
Established in 1870, Rocky Branch United Church of Christ is one of the oldest African-American congregations in Wilson County. The older section of its cemetery sits literally in its front yard. The newer section is on a plain just above the church, reached by crossing a footbridge over a tannin-stained branch. A small placard mounted at the bridge reveals that it was built by church members and dedicated to Seth Thomas Shaw Jr. (1895-1981) and Eugene Spells (1924-1988).
In the 1870 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Celia Thompson, 40, and children Courtney, 17, Chany, 14, and Columbus, 7.
On 16 December 1880, Aaron Barnes, 23, and Chany Thompson, 23, both residents of Wilson County, were married at the residence of Ruffin Rose. Witnesses were Simon Barnes, Willis Hooks, and Grey Newsome.
In the 1900 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: Aaron Barnes, 42, wife Chanie, 37, and sister-in-law[?] Tempie Peacock, 15.
In the 1910 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: Aaron Barnes, 54, wife Chainie, 45, and mother-in-law Celia Thompson, 86.
In the 1920 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: Aaron Barnes, 63, and wife Chanie, 62.
In the 1930 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: Aron Barnes, 72, and wife Chanie, 72.
Arron Barnes died 6 October 1930 in Lucama. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1852 in Wilson County to Arron Barnes Sr. and Elvie Barnes of Wilson County, was married to Kannie Barnes, and worked as a farmer. He was buried in Pollie Watson graveyard. Chanie Barnes died 26 March 1936 in Lucama. Per her death certificate, she was born 1856 in Nash County to George Thompson and Celia Thompson of Nash County, was the widow of Aaron Barnes, and had resided on Main Street, Lucama.
On 24 February 1877, George Cooper, 21, married Estella Smith, 19, in Wayne County.
In the 1880 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: George Cooper, 23, wife Estella, 21, sister Mary, 17, brother Mose, 13, and children Philipp, 4, Ritta, 3, and Marchal, 2.
In the 1900 census of Fremont township, Wayne County: George Cooper, 46, wife Stellar, 40, and children Aretter, 22, George B., 16, Juley, 14, James, 12, Mary, 10, Maggie, 7, Bessie, 4, and Royal, 3. Next door, Philipp Cooper, 23, wife Florence, 26, and Earl, 3 months.
In the 1920 census of Springhill district, Wilson County: Tack House and Moores School Road, George Cooper, 65, Stella, 55, and children [or grandchildren] Maggie, 25, Stella, 13, and Irene, 9.
Estella Cooper died 17 July 1931 in Springhill township. Per her death certificate, she was 74 years old and born in Wayne County to Jacob Smith and Littie Whitley, both of Wayne County. She was married to George Cooper Sr. and worked in farming. James Cooper was the informant.
George Cooper died 25 October 1940 at his home at 910 Mercer Street in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 90 years old and born in Duplin County to Warch and Warshell Cooper. He was buried at Rocky Branch. Informant was James W. Cooper, Wilson.
James William Cooper died 12 February 1967 at his home at 110 Fourth Street in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 July 1887 in Wayne County to George Cooper and Estelle Smith; worked as a fireman for James I. Miller Company; was a World War I veteran; and was married to Alberta A. Cooper.
In the 1870 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Alfred Rice, 40, wife Amy, 30, and son Thomas, 13, and Gray Bailey, 24, all farm laborers.
In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Alfred Rice, about 52, wife Amy, about 35, and son Thomas, 22, a laborer, plus Thomas Pettiford, 2.
Thomas Rice and Julia Watson were married on 24 November 1881 in Johnston County.
In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Rice, 43, wife Julia, 43, children Siddie, 19, Annanias, 16, Savanah, 14, John, 12, and mother Amy, 60.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: hired man Thomas Rice, 53, in the household of white farmer Charles O. Hinnant. He reported having been married 27 years, but his wife is not listed with him.
In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Springfield and Red Hill Road, Tom Rice, 56, and wife Julia, 50.
Julia Rice died 25 July 1925 near Kenly in Springhill township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 July 1859 in Johnston County, was married to Tom Rice, and was buried in Rocky Branch graveyard. Tom Rice died 3 February 1927.
In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Elic Williamson, 44, wife Gracy, 29, and children John, 14, Lugen, 11, Joseph, 9, Jennie, 7, Mary, 6, Clem, 4, Sarah J., 2, and Poll, 1, all of whom had whooping cough.
On 22 November 1893, Alex Devine, 49, of Springhill township, married Louvenia Williamson, 24, of Springhill township.
Gracy Williamson died 14 September 1916 in Springhill township of pulmonary tuberculosis. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 May 1903 to Louvenia Williamson and Alex Vines.
On 23 October 1923, Washington Bizzle, 40, of Wrightsville, Georgia, married Louvenia Williamson, 42, of Crossroads township, at the courthouse in Wilson.
Louvenia Williamson Bizzle applied for a social security number in January 1938. Her application listed her birthdate as 5 May 1869 and her parents as Alec Williamson and Gracie Shaw.
On the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Lewis Freeman, about 55, wife Katy, about 25, and Violet Eatman, about 70.
On 16 December 1891, William R. Robinson, 20, of Old Fields, son of Katie Freeman, married Sallie W. Earp, 19, of Old Fields, daughter of Sidney and Nancy Earp at Sidney Earp’s residence.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson and Raleigh Road, widow Rachael Robinson, 71, and her daughter Katie Freeman, 52.
In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Old Raleigh Road, widow Rachael Robertson, 80, and her daughter Katie Freeman, 61, also a widow.
Katie Freeman died 29 November 1931 in Springhill township. Per her death certificate, she was a 78 year-old widow born in Wilson County to Virgen Deans and Rachel Robinson. Informant was Wm. Ruffin Robinson, Rock Ridge, North Carolina.
On 12 February 1893, Harriett Boykin, 20, daughter of Henry and Sylva Boykin, married Samuel Taylor, 26, son of Peter and Zilla Taylor, at Henry Boykin’s residence.
On 17 December 1897, James Boykin, 21, son of Henry and Silvy Boykin, married Mary Jane Kent, daughter of Ned and Liddie Kent.
In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Foster Boykin, 22, wife Ella, 18, and children James R., 2, and Alma, 1; sister-in-law Lily Whitley, 22; mother Silva Boykin, 81; and niece Eula M. Whitley, 3.
Sylvia Boykin died 12 January 1939 at her home at 507 Warren Street in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 90 years old, born in Wilson County, and her father [sic, probably meant to indicate husband] was Henry Boykin. She was a widow who had worked as a tenant farmer.
In the 1870 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Thomas Shaw, 36, wife Katy, 37, and children Frances, 16, Eliza, 14, Fox, 12, David, 11, Martha, 4, and Mary, 2.
In the 1880 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Fox Shaw, 21, wife Bithal, 18, and daughter Mary, 2 months.
In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Spencer Shaw, 40, wife Tabitha, 41, and children George A., 17, James R., 11, Hattie, 9, Joeseph G., 6, Seth T., 5, and Albert S., 2.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson and Raleigh Branch Road, Spencer Shaw, 51, wife Bitha, 49, and children James R., 21, Joseph T., 16, Seth T.,14, Albert S., 11, Merlin S., 9, Willie H., 7, and Alice M., 5.
In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Shaw Avenue on Springhill Road, farmer Spencer S. Shaw, 60, wife Bitha, 60, and children Albert, 22, Marlie, 19, Willie, 16, and Alice, 14. Next door: Grocil Shaw, 26, wife Nettie, 16, and children Rosa, 2, and Grover C., 1
In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Buckhorn [illegible] Road, Spencer S. Shaw, 70, wife Bytha J., 70, sons William H., 24, and Seth T., 34, daughter-in-law Georgeanna, 24, and grandchildren Alice M., 4, Seth T., 2, and Franklin S., 6 months.
In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Seth T. Shaw, 44, wife Georgiana, 34, mother Bitha, 79, and children Alice M., 14, Seth T., 12, Franklin G., 10, George C., 7, Daisy May, 5, and James C., 3.
Bitha Shaw died 25 August 1957 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 30 June 1877 [actually, circa 1860] in Wake County, North Carolina. She was buried at Rocky Branch. Informant was Hattie Boykins.
A month after his wife’s death, Julius Freeman, Austin J. Lindsey and Braswell R. Winstead placed an ad in Raleigh’s African-American newspaper to show respects to their lodge brother Marcus W. Blount.
Raleigh Gazette, 28 November 1896.
In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Louiza Bryant, 30, Cornelius Harriss, 23, Catherine Harriss, 20, Cornelius Harriss, 1, Ann Bryant, 9, Willie Bryant, 8, and Alice Ellis, 15.
Prior to 1880, Ann Bryant married Samuel Smith. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: iron foundry worker Samuel Smith, 28, wife Anna, 19, and brother Simeon, 23, school teacher. Samuel died in early 1882, and his will entered probate in May of that year.
On 27 December 1888, Mark Blount, 35, son of Sebery Battle and Margaret Blount, married Annie Smith, 27, daughter of Louisa Bryant. F.O. Blount applied for the license on his brother’s behalf. The couple were married at the A.M.E. Zion church in the presence of F.O. Blount and their nephews S.H. and W.H. Vick.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: the widower Mark Blount, 38, a cook, and his children Coneva, 10, Dotsey, 9, and Theodore W., 6, were lodgers in the household of George Faggin, just a few households away from Samuel Vick.
“Oliver Nestus Freeman (February 22, 1882-September 28, 1955) was a prolific, creative, and multi-talented craftsman active in Wilson from about 1910 to his death in 1955. He became the community’s preeminent brick and stonemason and also worked in tile, but he is best known for his stonework on his own buildings and throughout the community.
“Born in rural Wilson County, the son of Julius Freeman, a carpenter, and Eliza Daniels Freeman, Freeman was educated at the Tuskegee Normal School where he majored in industrial arts. Training and experience in construction, including masonry work, constituted an important part of the Tuskegee program. As a young man, Freeman taught at Tuskegee and later at the Wilbanks School in Wilson County. He married Willie May Hendley, originally of Nashville, Tennessee, whom he met at Tuskegee. The Freemans became friends with both Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver through the Tuskegee connection. The couple settled in Wilson about 1910, and there Freeman constructed a modest brick house at 1300 East Nash Street, where they raised four children, and which has remained in the family.
“Freeman identified himself to the census takers of 1910 and 1920 as a brickmason, but he was skilled at all types of masonry work. Especially distinctive is his bold, rough stonework for foundations, chimneys, columns, and other architectural elements throughout Wilson, especially for the city’s many fine bungalows. Besides his work on buildings, he created imaginative masonry sculptures that enhance many Wilson gardens.
“Freeman’s best known works are those he built for himself. After constructing a brick cottage for himself and his wife in about 1910, in the 1920s he transformed the Oliver Nestus Freeman House into a stone bungalow. Over the years he added stone and concrete garden sculptures to his property, including a 7-foot dinosaur. In addition, he constructed nearby a rental dwelling, to help with the local housing shortage. Known as the Freeman Round House (1940s), the locally unique house of rough stone features a circular plan divided into wedge-shaped rooms. Long a landmark of the community, in recent years the round house has been preserved and opened as a local museum.”
Another of Freeman’s buildings — Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 612 Vance Street NE, Wilson.
Photo of Freeman courtesy of www.digitalnc.org; photo of church taken by Lisa Y. Henderson in May 2016.
In 1986, Mary Freeman Ellis published The Way It Was, a memoir of life with her father, noted stonemason Oliver Nestus Freeman.
Freeman Ellis describes her grandparents, Julius Franklin Freeman and Eliza Daniels Freeman, in the first pages:
I remember my paternal grandfather, Julius Freeman, as being a very eccentric and private individual. Grand Dad always looked old to me since he wore a long, gray beard and his hair was also graying. He was born in Johnson [sic] County in 1844 and died in 1927 at the age of 83. His first wife, Eliza Daniels, was born in 1844 in Wilson County She was the oldest of three siblings, two sisters, Millie, Zannie, and one brother, Warren. I never saw my paternal grandmother Eliza Daniels Freeman. She was very pretty from a portrait. You could see her Indian heritage and she wore her hair in two long braids. She had a light, olive complexion.
In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Alfred Boyit, 26, and wife Eliza, 29, and carpenter Julius Freeman, 21, in the household of white farmer John R. Farmer, 56.
On 6 February 1873, Julius Freeman, 26, of Wilson, married Eliza Daniel, 19, of Wilson County, at Amos Daniel‘s house. London Johnson, a Methodist Episcopal minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Washington Sugg, Charles Harper, and Sarah Jones.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: 56 year-old carpenter Julius Freeman, wife Eliza, 46, and children Elizabeth, 19, Nestus, 17, Junius, 11, Ernest, 9, Tom, 6, Daniel, 4, and Ruth, 4 months.
Robert Russa Moton assumed the helm as president of Tuskegee Institute after Booker T. Washington‘s death. The first commencement over which Moton presided took place on 26 May 1917. Among the candidates for diplomas and certificates presented by Emmett Scott were Daniel Elijah Freeman (1896-1972) of Wilson, son of Julius and Eliza Daniels Freeman, and Benjamin Amos Harris (1894-1955) of Stantonsburg, son of Edward and Bettie Daniels Harris. Daniel and Benjamin were first cousins once removed (Bettie Daniels’ mother Millicent Daniels Daniels was Eliza Daniels Freeman’s sister) and were encouraged to attend Tuskegee by Daniel’s older brothers, O. Nestus Freeman, Julius F. Freeman Jr. and Ernest Freeman.
New York Age, 7 June 1917.
Wilson Advance, 17 February 1882.
Apparently, this Wilson News was a short-lived venture. Another newspaper by the same name — but pretty clearly not operated in the interests of the colored race — was published in 1899.