Henderson

Family ties, no. 1: a shoebox full of food.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as in the Great Migration north. This post is the first in a series of excerpts from interviews with Hattie Henderson Ricks, their adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, born in 1872, was the eighth of nine children. By time she moved to Wilson, only her brothers James Lucian Henderson, born 1859, and Caswell C. Henderson, born 1865, were living. (Hattie was her sister Loudie Henderson’s grandchild.) Caswell had migrated to New York City by about 1890, but Lucian remained in Dudley to farm. He and his wife, Susan McCollum Henderson, had only one child, who died in early adulthood without a spouse or children.

Susie Henderson had long been sickly and, by the late 1920s, Lucian Henderson’s health had begun to fail. Jesse Jacobs’ nephew, John Wesley Carter, lived nearby. He had developed a close relation with the Hendersons, but could not be expected to assume complete responsibility for their care.

The family turned to the Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road for a solution:

“Mama Sarah [would] fix dinner and send it down to Dudley on the train. The man that run the whatchacallit — engine?  Up there, where stokes the fire or whatever is on the train. He would take it.  But she would tell what day she was gon send it. And so somebody’d be up there to the train station to get it.  And the train, ‘cause a lot of time the train didn’t stop in Dudley. But anyway, the man, the conductor, he would pull the thing, whatever, for the train to stop long enough for him to drop off this package.  … Somebody she’d have be out there when the train come through, and then the porter on the train — Mama knew him —  and so then Johnnie and them or somebody be out there to take the package. It’d be a shoebox full of food, already cooked and ready to eat. So that’s the way they helped Uncle Lucian and A’nt Susie, like that. Until they died, and so that was the end of trying to feed them and take care of them.”

Look closely at this snippet of a 1936 map of the Atlantic Coast Line’s routes. Wilson is just above the center point. Lucian and Susie Henderson’s care packages traveled south through Goldsboro to the whistle stop at Dudley’s platform, nine miles below and just above Mount Olive.

Adapted from interviews of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, 1996 and 1998. All rights reserved. 

Lots in Dudley.

My grandmother, Hattie Henderson Ricks, inherited two lots in the southern Wayne County town of Dudley from Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, her great-aunt and foster mother. [Because she had been informally adopted by Sarah and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., my grandmother used the surname Jacobs until adulthood, when she reverted to Henderson.]

Sarah Jacobs, who moved to Wilson about 1905, supported her parents  in their final years, sending them food via train and building a small house in Dudley proper closer to neighbors and family. My grandfather recalled:

Mama had the lot where the house was, where Grandma Mag [Margaret Balkcum Henderson (1836-1915)] lived. Had that house built for her. The house they was staying in was up by the railroad, was just about to fall down. Somewhere down up there by where the Congregational Church is. And she built that house down there next to Babe Winn. I don’t think it was but one room. The porch, one room, and a little shed kitchen, a little, small, like a closet almost, and had the stove in it. Then had a stove in the room where she was, one of them round-bellied stoves where you take the top off and put wood in it. I remember that.

Just recently, we discovered documents related to the purchase of these lots. They were in this envelope from the Wayne County Register of Deeds, postmarked 11 August 1941 and addressed to my grandmother at 1109 Queen Street in Wilson. (She penciled in updated addresses as she moved in the 1940s and ’50s.) Sarah Jacobs Silver died in 1938, and I imagine my grandmother received this letter pursuant to the settlement of her estate.

There was this promissory note for the purchase for $20 of lots 15 and 16 of block number 2. It is signed “Sary Jackobs” by someone other than Sarah Jacobs.

And then another, dated 16 October 1911 at Dudley, that she did sign. (Her address was given as 106 Elba Street, Wilson, which was an early designation for 303 Elba.) A notation scribbled in pencil across it confirms that she timely paid off the purchase price.

Snaps, no. 85: Hattie Henderson Ricks.

On the 111th anniversary of her birth, remembering my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks. This photo was snapped circa 1931 in East Wilson. I have not been able to identify the house. The same day, the photographer captured images of her oldest sons, Lucian and Jesse Henderson, her great-aunt Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, and a friend, Sarah Lyles.

Photo in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

622 East Green Street, revisited.

Courtesy of the Freeman Round House and Museum, a clear photo of the Samuel and Annie Vick house at 622 East Green Street in its spindled and turned-post prime. The Vicks and two of their children are shown left of the porch steps.

The house has been considerably altered in the 110 or so years since this photo was taken. The entire wooden porch structure, including gazebo, is gone, and the wide siding has been covered in ashlar. The street was then unpaved, but it appears that curbing was being laid. The low ashlar wall at the sidewalk still stands, though it has been patched and modified. Recalled Hattie Henderson Ricks, who grew up just around the corner on Elba Street and was a playmate of Doris Vick Walker

“We used to come back on the wagon from out there at Five Points, and the old mule ran away from me and Mama [Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver]. It went over the fence. Me and Mama was on the wagon. It had one of those spring seats up there, we was sitting up there, and a paper flew up before the mule, it was a little gray mule, and it was half-blind in one eye. It didn’t have a name. And we went right over the top of Sam Vick’s fence. 

” … We swept up out there to Five Points, and we come back and we come down Green Street. That’s when the trees, a row of trees was from Pender Street all the way up to Vick Street, and there were trees, a row of trees right in there, and you come on one side and the other side, and we was on the side coming home and a piece of paper or something blew up and scared the mule. And, honey, he took right off over there in Sam Vick’s yard. And that stone … thing up there, well, the wheels got up there, the wagon when she turned?  The wheels were over in the yard on the flowers, and Mama had her foot up on the dashboard, holding him back. Just pulling back. She said, “Well, you got over there, now get up and get back!” And she backed up, and sho ‘nough … but it scarred his legs all in the back where was on that place trying to get back. But I jumped off, I jumped off the wagon. Was standing there looking at ‘em. And we home. I said, we’re right there, home.”

Oral interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Happy birthday to a son of East Wilson!

This photograph accompanied the very first Black Wide-Awake post on 5 October 2015. Today is Michael E. Myers‘ birthday. He, as you can see, is my lifelong friend, and has deep roots in East Wilson.

Here, we’re seated on my mother’s lap on the front steps of the East Green Street home of Michael’s great-grandparents, Rev. Fred M. Davis and Dinah Dunston Davis. Rev. Davis was a long-time pastor of Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist church. Michael’s maternal great-uncle Fred M. Davis Jr. was active in 1930s and ’40s voter registration efforts in Wilson. His great-aunt Addie Davis Butterfield was a teacher at Samuel H. Vick Elementary School, and her husband was dentist George K. Butterfield Sr. (Which, of course, makes Congressman G.K. Butterfield Jr. his cousin.) On his father’s side, Michael’s great-grandmother Grace Battle Black was a close pal of my great-great-aunt, nurse Henrietta Colvert. Grace Black’s sister Roberta Battle Johnson was one of the teachers who resigned from the Colored Graded School after the Mary Euell incident in April 1918. (My grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks was one of the children who withdrew from the school in the aftermath, and also grew up around the corner from the Davises.) Michael’s great-great-grandfather was Parker P. Battle, a noted blacksmith with Wainwright foundry.

Michael’s lovely mother Diana Davis Myers was my beloved second-grade teacher at B.O. Barnes Elementary. (I rode to school with her, and Michael and I watched cartoons together on early weekday mornings.) His father is William E. “Bill” Myers, respected educator, renowned musician, and the visionary behind the Freeman Round House and Museum. They were treasured members of my childhood village, and I hug them every chance I can.

Happy, happy birthday, Michael Earl. Wishing you love and laughter forever.

Snaps, no. 80: two boys and a dog.

Lucian J. Henderson, in aviator helmet and goggles, stands with a dog between two unidentified houses in East Wilson. The boy at left in striped socks, also unidentified, is standing in the remnants of a light snow. The photo dates to the mid-1930s.

Photo in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 5: City Baking Company.

A three-page Wilson Times insert published about 1914 highlighting the town’s “progressive colored citizens” featured City Bakery, then located at 540 East Nash Street, “under Odd Fellows Hall,” with R.B. Bullock as proprietor.

The bakery had a predecessor though, as shown in the 1912 city directory:

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1912).

Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1913.

This detail from the 1913 Sanborn map shows the location of the oven in the back of the small brick “bake house.” In 1914, City Bakery boasted that its premises were “sanitary in ever particular.” Such a claim must have been difficult to make when it sat within feet of multiple rail lines. 

  • Richard Bulluck — Bulluck is listed in the 1912 directory living at 412 South Lodge Street.
  • Alex Henderson — perhaps, Sandy Henderson.
  • William Kittrell

Getting milk from the Vicks.

Excerpt from my interview with my grandmother, Hattie Henderson Ricks, about where her family bought food during her childhood on Elba Street:

“But when I was a little girl, the only place you could get milk was from the Vicks. It was a quarter.  That was the only place we had to get the milk, if you got any. Unless you used canned milk. She had a back porch. Closed-in back porch. Screened in. Anyway, glass in it all around, there on the back porch, and tables out there. One of them things you churn, what I mean, a great, old big urn out there where the milk get too old, and then she’d have buttermilk. And she had a ‘frigerator sitting out there, where she’d taken the shelves out, look like where she’d made a big thing to put it in there. But she would get fresh milk everyday. The cows was somewhere out there, I don’t know where, I didn’t see ‘em in the yard. They wont nowhere up there. But somebody was working for them would go out and get the milk and bring it in these cans where you have, where got the churn in the top of it. And she would put them out there on the porch. Miz Annie seemed to be pretty clean, and the house was clean. Didn’t nobody get sick. Yeah, and they had the two daughters, and I don’t know how many boys it was. Robert was the youngest boy, and I went to school with him, and Doris and I was in the same class in school. And — I didn’t know whether she was a sister to the man, or whether she was sister to the lady, I never did find out which way — but that house, they built that two-story house right next to the Vicks, and they didn’t stay in it, they went to Washington or somewhere. And they rented the house out. And I think somebody else bought it.”

My grandmother, right, and her sister Mamie Henderson Holt, around the time their family was buying milk from the Vicks.

All rights reserved.