funeral home

Funeral directors argue over girl’s body.

The competition between rival undertakers was ferocious. Martha Lucas died two days after her twelfth birthday. Unbeknownst to the family, a nurse at the “local colored hospital” (later known as Mercy Hospital) called Batts Brothers and Artis undertaking firm to prepare the girl’s body for burial. Later, the Lucas family asked C.H. Darden & Sons to perform the service. When Darden discovered the body missing, they showed up at Batts and Artis demanding possession. Batts and Artis refused to hand her over unless Darden paid transportation expenses. Darden went to court.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 August 1921.

Three days later, Martha’s father Wiley Lucas and Camillus L. Darden also appealed to the court of public opinion. Lucas stated that he, not Darden, had caused the sheriff’s department to file a claim and delivery action on the advice of police when Amos Batts dramatically claimed he would rather die than surrender Martha’s body. (Replevin, or claim and delivery, is a legal remedy that enables a person to recover personal property taken unlawfully and to obtain compensation for resulting losses.) Lucas “emphatically [denied] that any undertakers but C.H. Darden & Sons were instructed to attend to the funeral arrangements, as I knew of no other colored funeral directors in Wilson at the time ….”

C.L. Darden chimed in to direct readers to the magistrate’s record for the facts, noting that Batts had been told he could sue the hospital if he felt aggrieved. “But Batts knows as the public knows — as I can prove if it comes to a showdown — that Artis’ wife, who is head nurse in the institution, solicits in the hospital for the firm of Batts Bros. & Artis, of which her husband is a member of the firm.” “Artis” was Columbus E. Artis, and his wife was registered nurse Ada Artis.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 August 1921.

Batts Brothers and Artis responded three days after that, “that the public may not be misled.”  They denied having refused to give up the girl’s body, contending that they only sought to be paid for services rendered. The firm claimed the trial justice agreed they were entitled to a “small fee,” but, perhaps taking the temperature of public sentiment, they agreed to drop their claim and pay court costs.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 August 1921.

Martha Lucas’ death certificate.

Edgar Moore dies at the funeral home.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 April 1948.

In the 1900 census of Rocky Mount township, Nash County, North Carolina: farmer Edmon Moore, 43; wife Zannie, 45; children Mary, 22, Susa, 19, Edgar, 18, Wily, 15, and Matilda, 13; and grandson Fred, 5.

On 31 December 1902, Eddie Moore, 21, and Addie Winstead, 18, both of Nash County, were married by W.D. Carter, Justice of the Peace, at Charles Winstead’s.

In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount township, Nash County, North Carolina: farmer Edgar Moore, 28; wife Addie, 24; ad children Viola, 6, Pauline, 4, Grover S., 2, and Olivia, 1.

In 1918, Edgar Moore registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his draft card, he was born 15 March 1882; lived on Route 2, Rocky Mount; was a farmer for W.D. Carter; and his nearest relative was Addie Moore.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Edgar Moore, 37, widower, and children Viola, 16, Pauline, 13, Grover, 12, Omeda, 10, Edgar, 9, Zanie, 7, Effner and Hattie, 5, George, 4, John, 2, and Fenner, 10 months.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Edger Moore, 48, widow, and children Pauline, 24, Ometia, 21, Edger, 19, Jannie, 17, Efner, 16, Hattie, 15, Hermond, 14, John M., 14, and Fenner, 11.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Edgar Moore, 58, widower; daughter Pauline, 32; and lodgers James Joyner, 23, and Herman, 23, Clara, 20, Edwin, 2, and Dorothy Moore, 10 months.

Edgar Moore died 14 April 1948 at 608 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 66 years old; was born in Nash County, N.C., to Edmon Moore and Zannie Daniel; worked as a farmer; was separated; and was buried at Williams Chapel. Herman Moore, Elm City, was informant.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 April 1948.

Our staff is composed of experts; the expense is a matter of your own desire.

“In your home, you should put aside all arguments in favor of the one fact —  the trained and proficient man is the best.” — C.H. Darden & Sons.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 December 1916.

——

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Mrs. Hamilton will specialize in embalming.

Wilson Daily Times, 8 July 1941.

Forsyth County, N.C., native Annie M. Thompson Hamilton and her husband Levi Hamilton Sr. were residents and owners of a funeral home in Goldsboro, N.C., but had recently opened a second location in Wilson. Hamilton Funeral Home served Wilson for more than 70 years.

Newest and finest.

201809172233310840.jpg

Wilson Daily Times, 26 March 1948.

Seventy years later, Edwards Funeral Home — still operated by the Edwards family — remains a cornerstone of East Wilson business. Its website sets out the company’s history:

“On a calm, sunny day in March 1948, two brothers, Oliver H. and James Weldon Edwards, opened the doors of Edwards Funeral Home, Inc. at 805 E. Nash Street in Wilson, North Carolina. The story does not begin there. Rather it begins with the conception and dream that two brothers had of being entrepreneurs and opening their own business, a funeral home. Oliver, the older of the two, lived in Raleigh and worked at a funeral home as a licensed funeral director. He encouraged James, who had just completed a tour of duty with the U.S. Army in World War II, to attend school in funeral service and mortuary science rather than pursue another career and major. James was in New York City by this time, and he began and completed American Academy of Mortuary Science in New York City (now American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service) as a licensed funeral director and mortician. The dream moves toward reality. Having met two of the requirements (experience and knowledge) for starting an enterprise of this type, both men had to decide where to locate the business. The decision was a fairly easy one – to go home. “Home” was the tri-county area of Wilson, Nash, and Edgecombe Counties where the Edwards family had deep roots, dating back several generations to at least the 18th Century and where the brothers, as well as the extended family, grew up, went to school, and attended church. Their father, the Reverend B.H. Edwards, was a highly respected Baptist minister who pastured Sandy Fork Missionary Baptist, Red Oak Grove Missionary Baptist, Rising Sun Missionary Baptist, and Mary Grove Missionary Baptist Churches over a span of 42 years. In their youth, Reverend Edwards carried his boys (and all his children) throughout the various church communities and neighborhoods in these counties. Thus, Oliver and James knew the people, and the people knew them. The decision was made – Wilson. The brothers, encouraged by their parents and wives, bought a two story white frame house in East Wilson. Located on the main thoroughfare, this “home” was a classic representative of the Colonial Revival type of architecture. It still has the original interior paneling, crown molding, woodworking, winding stairway and a marble hearth fireplace. The site was chosen as much for its location and the charm of this house far for the warmth and friendliness of the neighbors and the neighborhood (some of whom reside there today). The funeral home (with interior and exterior renovations and expansions) remains in the same location today due mostly out of a desire to remain in the area where the family still lives and because of the history and symbolism of the structure. Oliver and James worked hard and opened the doors to Edwards Funeral Home and established it as a thriving business. Both brothers ran the business until Oliver’s death in July 1963. James assumed leadership, ownership and management of the business until May 1982 when he died. James’ widow, the former Josephine Farmer from Nash County, assumed leadership, after her husband’s death. She wanted to keep the dream and legacy alive for their children, Angela and Carla. Having worked as a classroom teacher in the public schools of Nash and Wilson Counties for 36 years, Josephine joined the ranks of the funeral home staff upon her retirement in 1987. Under her watchful nurturance, the funeral home continued to operate and prosper in a profession that has been traditionally dominated by men. Despite “being a woman in a man’s world,” Josephine expanded the funeral home to include, among other changes, a chapel with an organ. The chapel has a seating capacity of 200 people. Her commitment to the business, the people, the community and to serving Wilson and surrounding counties is evidenced by her ever presence at the funeral home and at funerals. Josephine’s community orientation and dedication to Wilson County is also evidenced by her service as a county commissioner, per participation in the various local, civic, and service organizations/clubs and her service through appointment on state committees by Governor Hunt. The future of Edwards Funeral Home, Inc. is certain. It is moving into the second millennium under the family oriented leadership of Mrs. Edwards with the support of her children: Angela R. Edwards Jones, Carla D. Edwards Williams, Tyrone P. Jones, III, and Darryl A. Williams. Hopefully the third generations will keep the legacy alive with the grandchildren, Darian and Carlin Williams. The legacy lives. Mrs. Edwards remembers and is appreciative for the kind support of her patrons throughout the years. She hopes to continue serving you in the difficult times during and after the loss of a loved one. She gives the best in dignified, personalized, professional care and service at the time of death and afterwards. Edwards Funeral Home, Inc. hopes to continue this tradition of meeting people’s needs with friendliness, kindness, understanding, warmth, innovation, and confidentiality. Over these sixty years, many employees have helped to insure quality service and care to patrons. Mrs. Edwards is thankful to all persons who have assisted the family since 1948. The fine tradition of service with dignity continues to be the aim of the Edwards Funeral Home staff. ‘Let Gentle Hands and Kind Hearts Care For You When Loved Ones Depart.'”

  • Rev. B.H. Edwards — Buchanan Hilliard Edwards (1891-1967)
  • O.H. Edwards — Oliver Hazel Edwards (1907-1963)
  • James W.  Edwards — James Weldon Edwards (1921-1982)
  • Josephine Farmer Edwards (1922-2013)