In 1910, Oliver Nestus Freeman obtained a diploma from the Northwestern School of Taxidermy, which taught mail-order correspondence lessons in removing and treating animal hides and mounting preserved animal specimens.
Courtesy of Freeman Round House and African-American Museum.
It stands at the entrance to the Wilson County Fairgrounds (and, formerly, stockcar race track) on 301 South. A June 27 Daily Times article announcing the Fourth of July 1935 unveiling of the monument describes the base as: “a shaft or pyramid of stone 20 by twelve feet, sixteen feet high, containing 86 tons of Wilson county granite surmounted by thirty-four foot flag staff ….” No mention of Freeman.
I don’t know stone masonry technique, but this knife-edge crease, rendered in igneous rock, is pretty amazing.
DigitalNC’s Images of North Carolina collection contains four early 20th century photograph albums attributed to the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum. The albums’ creator(s) is unidentified, and most the photos pasted within are unlabeled, but it seems pretty clear that they are the handiwork of Willie Hendley Freeman, O.N. Freeman’s wife. Many of the photos depict Hendley family members in Nashville or people and scenes associated with Tuskegee Institute, where the Freemans met.
Below, the cover of one of the albums and its first page. Freeman’s Texaco filling station is depicted at top center.
And this photo of a group of women taken by a Nashville photographer almost certainly depicts O.N. Freeman’s mother, Eliza Daniels Freeman, seated at middle. Willie Hendley Freeman appears to be the woman in the black dress with her hands resting on her mother-in-law’s chair.
This 1928 plat map of property belonging to Oliver N. Freeman is readily recognizable in the present-day landscape, though it does not appear the land was subdivided as shown. (The area was described as “near” Wilson as it was outside city limits at the time.)
Plat Book 3, Page 39, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; aerial view, Google Maps.
In 1940, 29 year-old Langstard Miller registered for the Word War II draft in Wilson County. A native of Saint Louis, Missouri, Miller listed his address as 700 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson, the home of his friend Betsy Freeman. [Was this actually his permanent address or just a mailing address?] Miller listed his employer as Dr. C.S. Robinson Minstrel Show, based on Wilmington, North Carolina.
I have found very little on Miller and nothing else to link him to Wilson. However, on 11 July 1932, Gurnie Langstard Miller, 25, son of Joe Miller and Mattie Langstard, married Annie Amelia Evans, 21, daughter of John Evans and Ida Ash, on 11 July 1932 in Northampton County, Virginia.
Betsy Freeman was not living at 700 Stantonsburg Street when the census enumerator arrived in 1940. Rather, the censustaker found City of Wilson laborer George Freeman, 56; wife Effie, 45, tobacco factory laborer; son James, 26, tobacco factory laborer; and grandchildren Edward, 13, and Doris Evans, 11. The latter were the children of Bessie [sic] Freeman and James Evans, whom she had married in Wilson on 23 June 1925. [Was Betsy/Bessie Freeman also a minstrel show employee?]
Robinson’s Silver Minstrels were a white-owned tent show that featured African-American performers. The “Repertoire-Tent Shows” section of the 21 November 1942 issue of The Billboard magazine featured this short piece:
A few months later, in the 27 February 1943 Billboard, Robinson’s Silver Minstrels advertised for “colored performers and musicians, girl musicians OK; trumpets, saxophones, piano player, chorus girls, novelty acts.” The company promised the “highest salaries on road today” and a “long, sure season.” “All performers who have worked for me in past, write” to the show’s Clinton, N.C., address.
Henry Howard is listed in B Preparatory Class in the 1905-06 catalogue. In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer James Howard, 33, widower, and children Henry, 14, Mirantha, 9, Lela Ann, 7, Kinzey, 5, and Cleo, 4; plus boarders Mary Jane, 24, and David Battle, 2. In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, Jeasee Howard, 45; wife Zillar, 40; and children Henry, 25, Marenda, 19, Lena, 17, Kensey, 15, Leaola, 13, and Jessee Jr., 16 months.