Studio shots, no. 61: Florence Howard Zimmerman.

This portrait of Florence Howard Zimmerman, likely taken circa 1920, is immediately identifiable as taken in the studio of African-American photographer George W. “Picture-Taking” Barnes.

Florence Howard Zimmerman.


In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Horne’s Road, farmer Zelius Howard Jr., 49; wife Nancy, 49; and children Albert, 17, Thomas, 15, Alvin, 13, Herman, 11, Tina, 9, Florence, 7, and Ella, 5.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Deal Howard, 56; wife Nancy, 60; and children Albert, 28, Herman, 22, Tiner, 19, and Florence, 17.

On 1 July 1920, Sheppard Zimmerman, 22, of Wilson, son of Caesar and Irene Zimmerman, married Florence Howard, 18, of Taylor township, daughter of Deal and Nancy Howard. Admire Zimmerman applied for the license, and a justice of the peace performed the ceremony at Wilson County Court House in the presence of David Woodard, B.E. Howard and Admire Zimmerman.


P.S. Here’s Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver with the same crossed feet sitting in the same one-armed chair in front of the same window at Barnes’ studio:

Many thanks to Europe A. Farmer for use of the photo of Florence H. Zimmerman. Photo of Sarah H.J. Silver in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Studio shots, no. 43: Alvin Howard.


In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Deal Howard, 39; wife Nancy, 39; and children John, 16, Christian, 14, Oscar, 11, Ettie, 10, Albert, 7, Thomas, 5, Alvin, 3, Herman, 1, and Tiner, 0.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Horne’s Road, farmer Zelius Howard Jr., 49; wife Nancy, 49; and children Albert, 17, Thomas, 15, Alvin, 13, Herman, 11, Tina, 9, Florence, 7, and Ella, 5.

Alvin Howard registered for the World War I draft in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 15 November 1896 in Wilson County; worked as a farmer for John Ba[illegible]; and was single.


In the 1940 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Dock Eatmon, 63; wife Sallie, 63; son Clifton, 19; brother Peedie, 50; and lodger Alvin Howard, 44.

Alvin Howard died 15 August 1974 near Sims, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 March 1903 to Deil Howard and Nancy Blackwell; was a retired laborer; never married; and was buried in Howard cemetery. Mary Eatman was informant.

Photograph courtesy of Europe A. Farmer.

Studio shots, no. 26: Mary Howard Gaston McPhail.

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In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on the Elm City and Wilson Road, farmer Junius Rosser, 59, wife Lizzie, 46, children Daniel, 14, Annie, 12, Bennie, 10, and Lizzie, 8, and boarder Mary Howard, 19, a teacher.

On 8 March 1923, Dewey Gaston, 23, son of George and Priscilla Gaston, all of Wilson County, married Mary B. Howard, 24, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Mary E. Darden. Dewey’s brother Mancie Gaston applied for the license, and Rev. R.E. Sentelle performed the ceremony in Edgecombe County in the presence of Mancie Gaston and Fannie F. Ricks of Elm City.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: barber Dewey Gaston, 30, wife Mary, 20 [sic], and children Doris L., 5, and Victor H., 3.

In the 1940 census of the Town of Elm City, Wilson County: on Dixon Street, barber Dewey Gaston, 40, wife Mary, 38, a teacher, and children Dorris, 15, and Victor H., 13.

Dewey Milton Gaston died 14 February 1946 in Elm City. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 November 1899 in Elm City to George Gaston and Priscilla (no maiden name listed); worked as a self-employed barber; was married to Mary Gaston; and was buried in Elm City cemetery. Mary Gaston was informant.

On 21 January 1951, Mary B. Gaston, 47, of Elm City, daughter of Victor and Mamie Howard, married Hector H. McPhail, 48, of Wilson, son of R.J. and Laura Waddell McPhail. A.M.E. Zion minister Allen J. Kirk performed the ceremony in Elm City. Mrs. C.L. Darden, Dr. J.B. Rosemond, and Mrs. Grace Artis were witnesses.

Mary Howard Gaston McPhail died 7 July 1985 in Wilson.

Photograph courtesy of Maria Rosemond Logan — many thanks.

Tribute to Sallie B. Howard.




of North Carolina

in the House of Representatives

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Madam Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise today to pay tribute to Mrs. Sallie Baldwin Howard, a native and resident of Wilson, North Carolina. For many years, Mrs. Howard dedicated her life to educating and serving the people of Northeastern North Carolina. She was recently honored as the Wilson Human Relations Commission 2007 Paul Lee Stevens Humanitarian for outstanding service to her community.

Madam Speaker, Mrs. Howard, who is affectionately known as “Bibi,” dedicated much of her life as a teacher in the New York City Public School System during her early years, but for the past 15 years she has donated all of her time and energy to rallying youth in Wilson, challenging them to be exemplary citizens and great achievers.

Madam Speaker, high praise is due to Mrs. Howard for her success in overcoming the racial and gender prejudices of her time. Mrs. Bibi Howard was born in Wilson, North Carolina, to Narcissus and Marcellus Sims on March 23, 1916. She overcame countless challenges growing up in the Jim Crow South as the daughter of sharecroppers. Nevertheless, she was driven and focused and graduated as valedictorian from Charles H. Darden High School in 1938. Mrs. Howard attended Hunter College in New York City where she earned both her bachelor and masters degree in education.

She taught for nearly 30 years as a first grade teacher in New York. While there, she worked in the New York City American Negro Theater, which helped start the careers of Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Esther Rolle. There she honed her acting, directing and writing talent, finding a voice through her art. Her Off Broadway play The Passing of a Dinosaur is still performed today in local schools.

Upon her retirement, Mrs. Howard returned to Wilson to lead the Christian Education Department of the St. John AME Zion Church. Her enthusiasm for education and the church inspired many of the youth of the community. Along with many other projects, Mrs. Howard founded the Youth Enrichment Program with Dr. JoAnne Woodard in 1989, and focused the program on lasting scholarship, a commitment to the cultural heritage of African Americans, and promoting the arts. Bibi Howard’s tireless work to enrich the community inspired Dr. JoAnne Howard to create the one of the first public charter schools in the state, and the only public charter school in Wilson, the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts & Education. The school, along with the Youth Enrichment Program, has been an invaluable asset to our community.

Madam Speaker, in honor and recognition of Mrs. Sallie Baldwin Howard’s diligent service as an educator and leader, I ask my colleagues to join me in paying tribute to this great woman.

110th Congress, 1st Session, Volume 153, Number 161; 101st birthday photograph courtesy of Wilson Daily Times, 23 March 2017.


Moral laxity and lack of interest in race.


Pittsburgh Courier, 10 October 1931.

William Henry Alexander Howard was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1872. He graduated from Georgia Industrial School (now Savannah State University) and taught there under the direction of Nathan B. Young. Later recruited by Young to teach at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical College in Tallahassee, Howard had a stellar 20-year career as professor of economics and sociology, Dean of Mechanical Arts, and innovator of FAMC’s military training program. In 1923, however, Young was ousted in the wake of suggestions that FAM diversify its curriculum by adding more academic courses, and Howard was appointed interim president with a mandate to crackdown on rebellious students.

It seems odd that less than five years later, Howard had fallen from the ranks of college teaching and administration and was working as a high school principal in Wilson. Perhaps his initial connection to the school was via Daniel C. Suggs, who was president of Georgia Industrial in the first decade of the 1900s.

In the 1880 census of Montgomery, Alabama: Rich. Howard, 35, domestic servant, wife Emma, 32, children Mary M., 12, Alberta E., 10, and Wm. Henry A., 8, and two other relatives.

In the 1920 census of Leon County, Florida: Wm. H.A. Howard, 47, college teacher, wife Frances, 36, and daughter Harriett, 8.

In the 1928 city directory of Wilson, William H.A. Howard is listed as principal at Wilson High School and living at 108 Pender Street.

In the 1930 census of Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina: William H. Howard, 58, public school teacher, wife Frances, 39, daughter Harriett, 19, and Samuel Gibson, 24. [Did William leave Wilson, then return? Did his wife and daughter ever live there? Or did they maintain a household in Raleigh of which William was nominally a member?]

William H.A. Howard died 16 December 1932. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 August 1871 in Columbus, Georgia, to Richard and Emma Howard; was married to Frances Howard; worked as a school teacher and high school principal; lived at 407 Reid Street; and was buried in Wilson. His daughter Harriett Howard of Raleigh was informant.

You have broken my arm.


Last Monday in Taylors township, this county, Jesse Howard, a Negro Republican registrar for the coming election, assaulted his father-in-law Green Ruffin, a respectable inoffensive old man of ninety years of age. It seems that Green’s hog had got out into Jesse’s field and although the crop had been gathered and Green had kept his hog out a long time, yet Jesse became so enraged as to pick up the hog and throw him over the fence, breaking its back. Greene who was cutting cane near by, seeing the hog fall, ran to the fence, still having his cane knife in his hand. When he saw Jesse he expostulated with him when the latter jerked a rail from the fence and struck Greene breaking his right arm. Greene said, “you have broken my arm.” Jesse answered “yes and G__D__ you, I will break the other.” And changing the rail he struck Greene again and broke his left arm.

Jesse was up before M.M. Matthews, J.P. but we have not heard the result. Such outrages as this should not go unpunished.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 October 1896.


In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Green Ruffin, 36, wife Tamer, 30, and children Ora, 3, and Martha, 2, plus Nicey Watson, 58. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Green Ruffin, 57, wife Tamer, 47, and children Orah, 14, Martha, 11, and Stephen, 3. [In 1896, then, Green was probably closer to 60 to 70 years of age than 90. Not that excuses anything.]

On 17 August 1889, Jesse Howard, 22, son of Deal and Rhoda Howard, married Martha Ruffin, 21, daughter of Green and Tamer Ruffin, all of Taylors township.

The couple is not found in the 1900 census. Did Martha leave after Jesse thrashed her father? Was Jesse prosecuted? Did Martha die?

On 5 June 1901, Jesse Howard, 33, son of Delius and Rhoda Howard, married Zillah Woodard, 32, daughter of Alfred and Sarah Woodard.

Fenner Brantley and the color line.

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Records related to Fenner Brantley suggest a life spent straddling the color line. Though Kenyon Howard, the “trusty friend” he appointed as executor, was African-American, Fenner died 6 February 1924 as a white man.


What of his father though? Charlie Brantley, who reared him and cared for him during his battle with tuberculosis? In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County:

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Fenner Brantley, age 26, black, is listed as the servant of Charlie Brantley, 48, white, who was named in his will as his father. Wiley Howard, 21, mulatto, rounds out the household. Was this an brutally awkward attempt to work around a socially unacceptable relationship?

In mid-1917, Fenner Brantley registered for the World War I draft. The registrar first recorded his name as “Fenner Howard,” then marked through Howard to write “Brantley.” His racial designation? “African,” which was standard for anyone of any degree of African descent.


It seems that prior to 1920, both Fenner and his father were consistently regarded as African-American. Here’s Fenner’s 1914 marriage license:


And the 1910 census of Taylors township, Wilson County, on Howards Path: Charlie Brantley, mulatto, his son Fenner Locust and daughter Mena Locust. (Fenner’s death certificate listed his mother as Margaret Lucas. Many Locus/Locusts in western Wilson County shifted the pronunciation and spelling of their surname to Lucas.) Brantley lived next door to his elderly father, Henderson Brantley, who appears in antebellum Nash County census records as a free person of color.

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In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Zack Locus, 69, wife Emley, 59, daughter Margret, 29, and five grandchildren Mattie, 14, Hattie, 11, Fenner, 7, Ellen, 4, and Mena,  5; all described as mulatto.

It’s hard to know what conclusion to draw from all this. Fenner Brantley, ne Locus, was born into families deep-rooted in Nash County’s mixed-race free antebellum community. These families were well-known in the larger community and, regardless of their physical appearance, would not have been “mistaken” for white by anyone from the area. As seen here, though, contemporary mores did sometimes allow for certain fluidity in racial identification, and Fenner and Charlie Brantley seemed to have floated at that edge.

Still, when Charlie Brantley died in 1948, 24 years after his son succumbed to tuberculosis, he was a “colored”man.


North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],; death certificates and federal census records also at


300 acres to be sold at the courthouse door.

Wilson_Advance_11_25_1881_Eatman_estate_ad (1)

Wilson Advance, 25 November 1881.



By virtue of a decree of the Superior Court of Wilson county, rendered January 5th, 1882, I will sell at the Court House door in Wilson Monday the 6th day of February 1882, the lands whereof Nelson Eatman died seized, consisting of three tracts adjoining the lands of M.M. Mathews, Deal Howard, William Taylor and others, containing three hundred acres more or less. Terms: one thousand dollars cash, balance on credit of eight months. Title reserved till payment of all the purchase money.  F.A. WOODARD, Adm.

Wilson Advance, 3 February 1882.


Nelson Eatmon married Marinda Locust on 29 January 1835 in Nash County.

In the 1850 census of Nash County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 34, wife Rinda, 33, Rhoda, 14, Wilmot, 12, Priscy, 10, Ginny, 8, Smithy, 6, and Alford, 4.

In the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 50, wife Morinda, 45, and children Elizabeth, 20, Ginsey, 18, Smithy, 17, Alfred, 14, Nelson, 5, Emily, 7, and Jarman, 2.

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 53; wife Marinda, 51; daughter Wilmouth, 31, and her children William, 13, Robert, 11, Margaret, 10, Crawford, 4, and Missouri, 7 months; children Grimsey, 25, Alfred, 23, Emily, 15, Nelson, 13, and Jarman Eatmon, 11.

Eatmon married Barbray Farmer on 9 September 1871 in Wilson County

On 28 January 1880, Eatmon married Eliza Locust. In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 66, wife Eliza Eliza, 50, [step?]daughter Amanda Locus, 18, and Mary J. Locus, 14, “son-in-law” Asa Locus, 10, and “daughter-in-law” Lougene Locus, 4, Margaret Howard, 21, and Harriet Howard, 2. [The latter Locuses’ relationship designations are obviously erroneous.]


Zelous Howard married Rhoda H. Eatmon on 31 July 1853 in Nash County. [Zealous’ nickname was “Deal.” He was freeborn, but I have not located him in the 1850 or 1860 censuses.] Rhoda was the oldest daughter of Nelson and Marinda Locus Eatmon.]

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Delus Howard, 35, wife Rodah, 33, and children Mary, 16, Ira, 13, George, 11, Delus, 8, Gibbs, 6, Jesse, 3, and Doctor, 1.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, close by Nelson Eatmon: farmer Zealous Howard, 50, wife Roda, 48, and children Zealous Jr., 19, James G., 16, Jesse, 15, Allison, 8, Kenan, 6, Anna, 4, and Doctor F., 11.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Zealous Howard, 69, wife Roda, 64, daughter Anna, 24, and two bound boys Lonza, 15, and Jack Howard, 5.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Zelius Howard, 80, widower, living alone on Howard’s Path, along which several of his extended family lived.