heart disease

Suffer the little children: death from brain and heart disease.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away in sorrowful numbers. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children. Few children who died in Wilson County were buried in marked graves. In town, most early burials were in Oaklawn, Rountree, or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, Rountree was engulfed by pine forest, and their headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time.

By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.


On 14 July 1915, Theodor Smith, 13, schoolboy, of Wilson, son of Tom Smith and Edith McDowell, of “congestion of the brain.”

On 24 January 1917, Mary Myrtie Belle Banks, 3 months, of Springhill township, daughter of Allen Banks and Florence Taylor, died of “status epilepticus.” She was buried in “Watson graveyard.”

On 30 September 1917, Sadie Austin, 4, of Saratoga township, daughter of Matthew Austin and Hattie Eason, died of “brain trouble — don’t know cause.”

On 30 December 1921, Harriett Newsom, 10, of Black Creek township, daughter of Layfayett and Rebecca Newsom, died of “cerebral congestion,” with jaundice as a contributing condition. She was buried in “Jones graveyard.”


On 28 January 1911, Irene Dewey, 2, of 619 Vance Street, Wilson, daughter of Thomas Dewey and Callie Smith, died of cardiac failure. She was buried in Dunn, North Carolina.

On 17 January 1917, Edgar Lindsey, 17, of Wilson township, son of John Lindsey and Nancy Lane, died of endocarditis. He was born in Franklin County, N.C.

On 19 September 1918, Charley Hagans, 12, school boy, of Wilson, son of James Hagans and Hannah Bynum, died of “acute dilatation of the heart.”

On 2 November 1919, Raymond Dixon, 4, of Walstonburg, son of Thomas Dixon and Millie Barnes, died at Wilson Sanatorium, of “shock and heart failure on account of anaesthetic.” He was buried in Greene County, N.C.

On 10 May 1920, Creasa Ann Hinton, 14, of Springhill township, daughter of Rufus Hinton and Melvina Cook, died of valvular heart disease.

On 29 February 1924, John Brewster Armstrong, 5, of Farmville, son of E. Douglas Armstrong and Ellen Freeman, died at Wilson Hospital of cardiac decompensation. He was buried in Farmville, Pitt County.

On 10 June 1921, Morriss Lee Edwards, 11, of Wilson township, son of Anthony Edwards and Mollie Howard, died of “[don’t know] heart trouble stated death came suddenly. No doctor in attendance.”

On 14 October 1926, Elise Barnes, 11, of East Nash Street, Wilson, daughter of Rosco Barnes and Jessie Adams, died of acute pericarditis.

On 21 March 1930, Cleotha Taylor, 7, of Wilson township, daughter of Henry Strickland and Allice Taylor, died of “heart lesion –aortic insufficiency,” with rheumatism as a contributing factor.

On 11 April 1930, Ray M. Pierce, 4, of 1212 East Nash Street, Wilson, son of Andrew Pierce and Lessie Haskins, died of acute myocarditis.