Their father claimed them.

Don’t let anyone tell you that slavery destroyed the black family. African-Americans struggled against terrible odds to unite sundered families, often standing up to authority in the process.

In June 1866, George W. Blount wrote a letter to the Freedmen’s Bureau on behalf of Josiah D. Jenkins of Edgecombe County. Just months after being forced to free them, Jenkins had indentured eight siblings whose mother had died. Within six months, the children’s family had come for them, and the five oldest had left for more agreeable situations. Sallie, 14, Sookie, 12, and Isabella, 10, were in Wilson County with their elder sister and her husband Willie Bullock. Arden, 16, was working for what appears to be a commercial partnership in Tarboro, and Bethania, 14, was with her and Arden’s father Jonas Jenkins (paternity that Blount pooh-poohed.) Jonas Jenkins had sought custody of his children before their indenture, but his claims had been trumped by a “suitable” white man who “ought” to have them because he had “raised them from infancy” [i.e., held them in slavery since birth] and their mother “died in his own house.”


Wilson No.Ca. June 29 1866

Col. Brady   Col.

Mr. Jo. D. Jenkins of Edgecombe County has been here expecting to see you; but as he did not find you here he requested me to write to you and state his case, asking you to furnish him the remedy if any he is entitled to, and such he believes he has. In Dec 1865, Capt Richards Asst Sup F.B. for the dist of Tarboro, Apprenticed to him Eight (8) Orphan Colored children. The indentures he has, five, and the only ones large enough to render any service have been enticed away from him, leaving him with three who are hardly able to care for the own wants every thing furnished. Three of them are in the custody of Willie Bullock F.M. [freedman] whose wife is the older sister of the three. The others – Arden is in the employment of Messrs. Haskell & Knap near Tarboro. Bethania is in the custody of Jonas Jenkins F.M., who claims to be the father of both of her & Arden. The three first mentioned are in Wilson County the others in Edgecombe.

Mr. Jenkins desires me to say to you that if he cannot be secured in the possession of them he desires the indentures cancelled; for according to law he would be liable for Doctors bills – and to take care of them in case of an accident rendering them unable to take care of themselves.

This man Jonas set up claim to Arden and Bethania before they were apprenticed. The matter was referred to Col Whittlesey who decided that as they were bastard children he Jonas could not intervene preventing apprenticeship to a suitable person.

Mr. J is a suitable man to have charge of them and ought to have their services now. He raised them from infancy, and after the mother died in his own house

I am Col,                       Very Respectfully &c, G.W. Blount

An early reply desired.

A note from the file listing the Jenkins children to which Josiah D. Jenkins laid claim.


Entry for Josiah D. Jenkins in the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County. By 1860, Jenkins claimed ownership of 36 people, evenly divided between men and women. 

  • G.W. Blount — A year later, George W. Blount was embroiled in his own battle for control over formerly enslaved children. He lost.
  • Jo. D. Jenkins — Joseph [Josiah] D. Jenkins appears in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, as a 59 year-old farmer who reported $25,000 in real property and $15,000 in personal property — remarkable wealth so soon after the Civil War. John Jenkins, 10, domestic servant, is the only black child living in his household and presumably of the one of the children at issue here.
  • Bethania Jenkins — on 7 April 1874, Turner Bullock, 23, married Bethany Jenkins, 21, in Edgecombe County.
  • Willie Bullock
  • Arden Jenkins
  • Sallie Jenkins
  • Sookie Jenkins
  • Isabella Jenkins — Isabella Jenkins, 22, married Franklin Stancil, 30, on 16 April 1878 at Jackson Jenkins’ in Edgecombe County. Isabelle Stancill died 19 November 1927 in Township No. 2, Edgecombe County,. Per her death certificate, she was about 80 years old; was born in Edgecombe County; was the widow of Frank Stancill; and was buried in Jenkins cemetery. Elliott Stancill was informant,
  • Jonas Jenkins — in the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, Jonas Jenkins, 45, farm laborer. No children are listed in the household he shared with white farmer John E. Baker.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Rocky Mount (assistant superintendent), Roll 55, Letters Received Dec 1865-Aug 1868,

Ossie Mae Royall is yet living.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 January 1939.

On August 10, 1928, Dockery Royall, 28, of Wilson, married Ossie Mae Jenkins, 25, of Wilson in Wilson. Baptist minister B.F. Jordan performed the ceremony in the presence of Lossie Jenkins, Flonnie Farmer, and Maggie Jordan. Walter M. Foster applied for the license.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 321 Hackney Street, rented at $12/month, Doc Royall, 34, body plant laborer, and wife Ossie May, 26, cook.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 203 Pender Street, widow Ossie M. Royall, 33, an elevator girl at the courthouse; her mother Tossie Jenkins, 53, stemmer at a tobacco factory; daughters LaForest, 16, and Evauline Royall, 14; and a roomer named Ed Hart, 45, a laborer employed by the town of Wilson. Ossie and LaForest were born in Wilson; Evaline in Battleboro [Nash County]; and Tossie and Ed in Nash County.

By the late 1950s, Ossie Royall had moved to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and was working as the dining hall supervisor at Elizabeth City State Teachers College. She died in Amherst, Massachusetts, on 16 March 2000.



Liquor bust.



Wilson Daily Times, 22 August 1944.

  • Clarence Barnes
  • Mark Jenkins — on 17 October 1944, the Daily Times reported that Jenkins received one year’s probation for a liquor law violation.
  • Gus Armstrong — the same article reported that Armstrong was sentenced to a year and a day at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for a liquor law violation.
  • Sam Moore — Moore also received a year and a day at Atlanta.

The obituary of Mary Bridgers Jenkins.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 May 1952.


Gray Jenkins, 21, son of Gray and Lucinda Jenkins, married Mary Jane Bridgers, 17, daughter of Si and Penny Bridgers, on 17 September 1898 in Township #11, Edgecombe County.

In the 1900 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Gray Jenkins, 20, wife Mary J., 18, and son Isaac, 1.

In the 1910 census of Township #10, Edgecombe County: on the Tarboro & Wilson Road, farmer Gray Jenkins, 30; wife Mary Jane, 29; and children Charity, 9, Joseph, 7, William G., 5, Lucinda, 4, and Mada, 2.

In the 1920 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Mark Jenkins, 46; wife Mary Jane, 35; children Joseph, 17, William, 15, Lucinda, 12, Mada, 11, Mark, 9, Turner, 7, Rosa, 5, and Rachel, 4; adopted son Lester, 7; and servant Frank Braswell, 18.

Joe Jenkins died 5 April 1924 “on W.W. Cobbs farm” in Township #10, Edgecombe County. Per his death certificate, he was 22 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Gray Jenkins of Edgecombe and Jane Bridgers of Wilson County; farmed for Walter Brown; was single; and was buried “in Wilson County Mr. Hyram Webb.”

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Jenkins, 54; wife Mary J., 40; and children Mark, 19, Rachel, 15, and Lucy, 9.

Billie Gray Jenkins died 3 February 1931 in Pinetops, Edgecombe County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1905 in Edgecombe County to Gray Jenkins and Mary J. Bridgers; was a laborer; resided at 310 Gold Leaf, Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County; and was buried in Wilson County.

Gray Jenkins Jr. died 8 December 1937 in Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1879 in Edgecombe County to Gray Jenkins and Sinda Bynum; was married to Mary Jane Jenkins; and was a farmer. Informant was Bess Jenkins, Pinetops, North Carolina.

Mary Jenkins died 19 May 1952 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 June 1893 to Sie Bridgers and an unknown mother; was a widow; had worked in farming; and resided at 124 Narroway Street, Wilson. Turner Jenkins was informant.

Lucinda Dixon died 27 February 1956 at her home at 604 East Vance Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 8 March 1910 in Edgecombe County to Gray Jenkins and Mary J. Bridgers; was a widow; and was buried in Rest Haven cemetery. Mark Jenkins was informant.

Rachel J. Wooten died 23 November 1960 in Pinetops, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 December 1916 to Gray Jenkins and Mary Bridgers; resided on East Cobb Street, Pinetops; was married to Charles W. “Sam” Wooten; and was buried in Pinetops cemetery.

Turner Jenkins died 11 January 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 April 1912 in Edgecombe County to Gray Jenkins and Mary Jane Bridgers; worked as a laborer; was married to Lossie Jenkins; and resided at 128 Narroway Street.

Mark Jenkins died 11 June 1969 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 August 1910 to Gray Jenkins and Mary Bridgers; resided near Elm City; was married to Leatha Hill; was a farmer; and was buried in Sharpe Cemetery.

Charity Williams died 6 March 1970 in Tarboro, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was born 8 March 1910 in Edgecombe County to Gray Jenkins and Mary Jane Bridgers; was a widow; resided in Pinetops; and was buried in Pinetops cemetery.

Rosa Mae Bynum died 24 August 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 March in about 1915 to Gray Jenkins and Mary Jane Bridgers; lived at 701 Manchester Street; and was married to Fred Bynum.

Terrible strain.

Coroner’s report of Inquest held March 18th 99 to investigate cause of death of an unknown child

Examination of L.A. Moore

L.A. Moore duly sworn says: He is a resident of Wilson and Wilson County. Della Greene lived in same house that he lived in. She had room there about two months. Judged from Della’s personal appearance that she was pregnant. Did not know stage as she was a fleshy woman. Noticed that she seemed to have shrunk about abdomen after coming from Mr. Ed Rawlings, where she had worked as cook. Della got sick there and was sent to my house to her room.

The body of the infant was found yesterday in corner of garden.

The body seemed to have been burnt, as it was scorched and fingers crumped up. She had fireplace in her room. Had staid at Mr. Ed Rawlings at night. Sent to me for help to get away from Wilson. Has been sick and unable to work since snow. Knows of no doctor attending her. Della was 33 or 34 years old. She left Wilson last Wednesday.  /s/ L.A. Moore


Dr. C.E. Moore, duly sworn says:

Have seen the body. It is the remains of a well matured, full term colored child. Found it in complete stage of decomposition . Evidently been dead for four or six weeks. Extremities were charred, crust on hands could be broken through. Cant say that child was born alive.  /s/ C.E. Moore


Mr. E.G. Rawlings, being duly sworn says:

I employed a woman by name Della, as a cook. Who lived part of the time she slept at my house. Was taken sick while there, was confined to her room one night and day about six weeks ago. About time of first snow. My wife went to room, found it disordered, blood on bed clothing. Della gave as excuse that it was her menstrual period. We sent her home. She asked permission to take soiled bed clothes, wash and return, but failed to return them. Neither saw nor heard at any time a disturbance as of a woman in labor. Owing to situation of room the cry of an infant could have been unheard. This woman Della lived at the house of L.A. Moore.  /s/ E.G. Rawlings


Louisa Moore, duly sworn says:

Della Greene lived at my house. Same woman employed at Mr. Ed Rawlings. She had prominent abdomen. When Della came in surrey from Mr. Rawling’s colored boy came with her. He or she took a sack to her room, looked like bundle. Afterwards saw bedclothes, washed, hanging in fence. She carried bedclothes away. Smelt something, smelt like broiled meat, same week. Went to her room. She was scraping with a stick in fire place. Saw nothing except chicken bone. She said it was some turkey that Mrs. Rawlings had given her. When she came down after sickness she was much smaller. Told her that she was reported to have had a baby and to have destroyed it. She denied this. When she left said she was going to Enfield. I and others helped her with money. She asked for help. Her home is in Warrenton, but would stop at Enfield to get money to get home. Child when found looked like it had been burnt.  /s/ Louisa Moore


Emma Jenkins, duly sworn says:

Lived in same house with Della, who cooked for Mr. Ed Rawlings. She had a large abdomen. I had no suspicion of pregnancy. When she returned from Mr. Rawlings she had lessened in size. I saw the child. It looked like it had been burnt.  Emma (X) Jenkins


Lucinda Miller duly sworn says:

I think there was as much change in [illegible] would be from anyone who had been confined. I have not seen the child. Did not smell any thing that had been burning. The child was not borned in my house. I gave her 25 cents to leave Wilson with. She had gotten behind in her dues. I told her last Monday to leave but not on account of back rent. The Dr. was sent for last Sunday morning but I did know anything about it until Sunday aft.  Lucinda (X) Miller



Wilson Times, 24 March 1899.


Answers at The Bar of God.

The case of Della Greene, the negro woman charged with infanticide, was ended last night, It will be remembered that she was in jail awaiting the next term of court in Wilson, and that the evidence was heavy against her for the destruction of her infant.

But the case will not called at any earthly [illegible]. Tuesday night the Messenger of Death came to the lonely prisoner in Wilson jail, and while the storm raged without and the lightning flashed, and the thunder pealed, her soul was required of her, and at the bar of God she will answer for the crime for which she was accused.

She was sick when arrested, broken in body and mind when she held to court to answer for the awful crime of her destroying her offspring by fire, and though the physicians did all in their power to preserve her life, last night it flickered out, and she passed into the vast beyond.

Her body was taken from the jail to day and buried at the expense in the pauper burying ground.

Wilson Times, 30 March 1899.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Dr. William Arthur Mitchner.

WA Mitchner.png

WA Mitchner

A.B. Caldwell, ed., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).

Dr. William A. Mitchner apparently moved to Wilson very shortly after graduating Leonard Medical School. In June 1910, he married Mattie Louise Maultsby, daughter of Daniel L. and Smithey C. Maultsby (who seem to have been natives of Pitt County.) Camillus L. Darden applied for the license on their behalf, and they were married at Saint John A.M.E. Zion church.


In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, at 534 E. Nash Street: Wm. A Mitchner, 40, son Wm. M., 8, mother Lucy, 60, and nephew Hubert Mitchner, 23, a barber.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, at 604 E. Green Street: Dr. W. A. Mitchner, 53, born Johnston County; wife Marie, 40, born Wake County; and mother Lucy Mitchner, 80, born in Johnston County.

The East Wilson Historic District Nomination Report describes 604 E. Green, built circa 1913, as an “L-plan Queen Anne structure with cutaway front-facing bay.” The house has since been demolished.

Dr. Mitchner died 5 November 1941.



Wilson Daily Times, 20 October 1911.

Will Jenkins, in fact, survived his wounds. In 1917, he registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. He noted that he was born in 1893 in Edgecombe County, that he was married and lived at 672 Viola Street, and that he was a lumber yard laborer.