Johnson

White man arrested for shooting negro.

81921

Wilson Daily Times, 19 August 1921.

[Ruffin Woodard is listed in the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County, as a 38 year-old white farmer, but I have not found a listing for Hardy Johnson. Paul Lee Woodard, whose small house still stands in downtown Black Creek, was a farmer whose seed and feed store in Wilson is the city’s longest continually operating business in town. This brief article raises so many questions: Both Woodard and Johnson were tenant farmers on P.L. Woodard’s land. What was their conflict? Woodard was arrested and jailed for shooting Johnson, but Woodard’s countercharges against Johnson failed to stick. Was this a matter of Justice of the Peace Jule Hardy’s scrupulous fairness? Ruffin Woodard’s lack of standing and concomitant loss of privilege? (And, if so, why?) Hardy’s stature?]

Cemeteries, no. 13: the Sharpe cemetery.

At the Wilson-Edgecombe line, the blacktop rounds a curve and changes abruptly from Wilson County Road to Shallingtons Mill Road. Atop the bank, just inside Wilson County, is a narrow cemetery wedged between a soybean field and the road. This is the burial ground of the Allen Sharpe family on, presumably, land that once belonged to Sharpes.

  • Allen and Mary A. Sharpe

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mary J. Forbes, 54, and children Meddis(?), 33, Homer, 31, Vernie B., 14, Ida M., 13, and Mary L., 3; plus farm laborer/servant Allen Sharpe, 21.

On 10 October 1900, Allen Sharpe, 24, son of Abram and Carolin Sharp, married Mary A. Barron, 17, daughter of Mark and Mason Barron, in Wilson County.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Rocky Mount Road, Allen Sharpe, 31; wife Mary, 26; and children Cora, 9, Carrie, 8, John, 5, Nettie, 3, Martha, 2, and Peter, 3 months; plus, John Smith, 25.

In the 1920 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: on the public road from Tarboro to Stantonsburg, farm laborer Allen Sharpe, 43; wife Mary A., 38; children Carrie, 17, John, 14, Nettie, 12, Beatrice, 10, Peter, 9, Mark, 8, Bertha, 5, Ethel Branch, 3, and niece Dora, 19,

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Allen Sharpe, 56; wife Mary A., 47; children Carrie, 25, Nettie, 22, Peter, 19, Mark, 17, Bertha, 15, Blanche, 13,  Senie, 11, and Odell Sharp, 8; plus grandchildren Roosivilt, 7, and Minnie Howard, 4.

Allen Sharpe died 24 January 1946 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 April 1888 [actually, probably 1878] in Edgecombe County to Abram and Mary Sharpe and resided near Macclesfield, Wilson County. [Note that Macclesfield itself is in Edgecombe County.]

  • Mark B. and Clara Farmer Sharpe

Mark B. Sharpe, here.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Cromwell Farmer, 57; wife Mary Jane, 48; and children James, 22, Ida, 20, Cromwell, 19, Ella, 17, Maggie, 16, Clara, 14, Floyd, 12, Viola and Liola, 9, Esther, 8, Lee A., 7, and George, 6.

On 15 March 1937, Mark Sharpe, 25, of Wilson, son of Adam [sic] and Mary A. Sharpe, married Clara Farmer, 20, of Wilson County, son of Cromwill and Mary Jane Farmer.

Clara Sharpe died 20 February 1951 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 November 1917 to Crummes Farmer and Mary Jane Battle and was married. Mark Sharpe was informant.

  • Martha Mitchell Farmer

Per her death certificate, Martha Mitchel Farmer died 19 October 1964 in Wilson township. She was born 4 July 1881 to Willie Mitchel and Laura Barren and was married to Willie Farmer. She was buried in Pinetops cemetery, Pinetops, North Carolina. [Was her grave later moved?]  Informant was Lloyd Farmer.

  • Kelly Johnson Sr.

On 1 October 1910, Kelly Johnson, 21, married Bloomer Moore, 19, in Edgecombe County.

On 5 June 1917, Kellie Johnson registered for the World War I draft in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 March 1888 in Edgecombe County; resided near Fountain [which is in Pitt County]; was a farmer; and supported a wife and five children.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Kellie Johnson, 32; wife Bloomer, 26; and children Arthur, 10, Elizabeth, 8, L. Rosa, 6, Kellie, 5, Willie, 3, and Bloomer, 2.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wilson and Tarboro Road, farmer Kelly Johnson, 40; wife Bloomer, 36; Elizabeth, 16, Rosa L., 15, Kelly, 14, Willie, 13, Bloomer, 12, Maggie, 9, Ethlen, 8, Allen, 5, and Martha, 1.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm operator Kelly Johnson, 52; wife Blumer, 48; and children Maggie, 19, Boy, 13, Martha, 10, and William Henry, 9; stepdaughter Mildred, 8; and  granddaughter Alma Jean, 5 months.

Kelly Johnson died 8 April 1963 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, he was born 9 March 1889 to David Johnson and Alice (last name unknown); was retired; was married to Blummer Moore Johnson; and was buried in Northeastern cemetery, Rocky Mount [??].

Allen Sharpe cemetery.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2017.

Celebrating 50 years in the Episcopal priesthood.

William Hines, Ann J. Hines, Anna Burgess Johnson, Rev. Robert J. Johnson, Wilton M. Bethel, Rev. O.J. Hawkins and Rev. David Yates, 1960.

  • Ann J. Hines — Anna Johnson Goode Hines (1927-2010) was the daughter of Robert and Anna Johnson. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, she married Charles Edwin Hines, son of Wesley E. and Mary Ellis Hines, on 19 December 1957 in Wilson.
  • O.J. Hawkins — Presbyterian minister Obra J. Hawkins.

Photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

Whiskey hurt him. (Or Tab Baker.)

I H.D. Lucas being duly sworn did examine the body of Alex Godwin & found a contusion of the left knee a lacerated wound of the right knee & fracture of the femur near its lower end, a lacerated wound on right side of face above the mouth, a wound above right eye & another on posterior part of head, & think them suficient to produce death

I saw him dead in Wilson County   /s/ H.D. Lucas M.D.   /s/ H.W. Peel

——

P.S. Hicks being duly sworn Testifies as follows I saw Mr Godwin in Wilson about two oclock & sold him some medicine I saw him again about half an hour by sun and he was somewhat intoxicated though seemed to be quiet. I stoped at Mr Williamson that night & Mr Amerson come there about three quarter of an hour after dark and said he had found a man wounded on the tract of the Lattice he wanted help to get him off the tract & I went with him in company with col’d man & found Mr Godwin on the tract groaning but speechless Lying(?) with face down with his neck across the rail of the Road we got him soon as possible about twenty minutes he called for water I ask him who hurt him he answered Tab Baker hit or hurt him sometimes he spoke rational at others talk at random we found some apples bottle cologne & cartiges in coat pocket & pocket Book also with no money but a tax Recpt given on that day I ask him where his pistol was he said he had thrown it away sometime he would answer qestion refuse at other Ice water complained of being very cold frequently I helped to get him off the Road & get him in a cart this took place on Saturday & Saturday night of the seventeenth Decb AD 1881 On Tuesday morning the 20th of same months I come by Lattice & found a pearl handled pistol & a piece of Iron broken from RRoad tract at the southern end of Lattice & below the Road the Iron was stuck in ground about 9 feet from pistol Iron look to be freshly broken from RRoad tract I found Mr Godwin near the midle of Lattice all the blood we saw was where we found him  /s/ P.S. Hicks

——

Richard Johnson being duly sworn testifies as follows I found the deceased on RR bridge over contentnea creek in a wounded condition myself & Isaac Amerson carried him off the bridge, he called for water was asked who had hurt him & answered whiskey hurt him, myself & Warner Darden placed him upon a cart & started with him to his home, he died near the Town of Black Creek    Richard (X) Johnson

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Warren Darden being duly sworn Testifies as follows I first saw Tobe Godwin in the shantie house for the RRoad bridge gard Mr Winstead ask me to go see if I knew who he was I did not know him at first then Mr Winstead hired me to carry him home he was badly hurt I then put him on a cart and started to Black Creek with him he called for water several times continued to groan seemed to be Rational he cease to groan when I got near Howell Dardens & when I got to Mr Bun Lucas tenant house south & near the mill swamp I found he was dead I carried him to Black Creek & then carried him to his house at J L Newsom this was all on Saturday night the 17th Decb 1881   Warren (X) Darden

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Benjamin Moore being duly sworn Testifies as follows I saw Mr Godwin a few minutes after he was taken off RRoad his first words were he called for water Mr Hicks ask him how come him hurt he said it was a damned negro Tab Baker we ask him his name he answered Alex Godwin we ask him if the train hurt him & he said no he seemed to speak Rational at intervals saying Tab Baker hurt him said he was not on the train this was all on Saturday night the 17th of Decb 1881 Benjamin (X) Moore

——

E.T. Lucas being duly sworn Testifies as follows I saw Alex Godwin in Jo Lamms shop in Wilson on Saturday night the 17th Decb 1881 about six oclock seemed to be somewhat intoxicated he ask me to loan him a quarter to come to Black Creek on the train I did not Loan him any money when the train past Jo Lamms shop he turned back toward Jo Lamms shop when the train started off from the depot he then run of to the train & took hold of it I did not see him get on the train. He took hold of train at the hindmost part I did not see him after the train past was the passenger going south. E.T. (X) Lucas

——

Jordan C. Winstead being duly sworn Testifies as follows I was sent for to go down to contentnea bridge to look after a man supposed to be killed but on getting there found the man Living I ask him his name he answered his name was Alex Godwin he had been removed from R Road tract I ask him if he was a man with a family he said he had a wife & three children I ask him if the train hit or hurt him & he said no I ask him if he did not want to go him [home] he said yes and ask me to please send him home first I saw Godwin was between 8 and 9 oclock Saturday night 17th Decb 1881 /s/ J.C. Winstead

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Isaac Amerson being duly sworn Testifies as follows I was sitting on fence about seven or eight Hundred yards from the Lattice I went up to Lattice & saw something on it I suppose it to be a newspaper I found it to be a man struggling struck a match a went to him. I called him and ask his name he did not speak. I went up to Penina Williamson a got Phis Hicks & a negro we went to the man found he was not dead the negro took him from the Lattice it was five or ten minutes before he spoke his first words were cursing called for water said his name was Alex Godwin he said next he lived at Stephen Woodards had a wife & three children we ask him what hurt him answers were the train did not hurt him. I found him about twenty or twenty five minutes after the train passed this was on the seventeenth at six oclock P.M. Isaac (X) Amerson

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B.C. Campbell being duly sworn Testifies as follows I saw Alex Godwin at Jo Lam shop Saturday night 17th Decb 1881 he left Lams shop. I saw him again Just before the south bound passenger train come up about dark when the train stoped he wanted money from E.T. Lucas to come home on he did not let him have any money Just as the train started he run up as though he was going to get on did not see him after the train left he was somewhat intoxicated. /s/ B.C. Campbell

——

State of North Carolina, Wilson County } Know all men by these presents held and firmly bound unto the State of North Carolina in the sum of Two Hundred Dollars to make our personal appearance at Wilson on the first Monday in March next and not depart without Leave. Otherwise the bound to remain in full and effect given under our hand & seal thus the 20th day Decb AD 1881 /s/ J.C. Winstead, Isaac (X) Amerson, P.S. Hicks, E.T. (X) Lucas, N.D. Lucas, Warren (X) Darden, B.C. Campbell, Benjamin (X) Moore, Richard (X) Johnson

——

A “lattice” is a form of truss bridge. The railroad crosses Contentnea Creek about 2 miles southeast of Wiggins Mill reservoir and just above a spur leading to the town of Black Creek. Lattice Road still marks the area.

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  • Alex Godwin — in the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Elexander Godwin, 23, common laborer, with wife and three daughters.
  • Warren Darden — Warren Darden, 24, married Louisa Dew, 18, on 1 May 1873 in Wilson, before witnesses Amos Dew and Raiford Dew. In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, farmer Warren Darden, 30, wife Louisa, 25, children Warren, 3, and an unnamed infant, and farmhand Wilie Lee, 14.
  • Howell Darden was Warren Darden’s father.
  • Jordan C. Winstead — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County, age 35, listed as an overseer on the railroad.
  • Benjamin Moore — in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, age 45, listed as farm laborer.
  • Isaac Amerson — in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, age 25, listed as a farmer.
  • B.C. Campbell — perhaps, in the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, Bennet Campbell, 21.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives; image courtesy of Google Maps.

No Negro blood allowed.

Though James Lamm emerged victorious in his fight to educate his children in white schools, others were not as fortunate.

JOHNSON -- WDT 9 16 1914 No Negro Blood Allowed

Wilson Daily Times, 16 September 1914.

The whole matter was decided in seven months.

At the February Term of Wilson County Superior Court in 1914, J.S. Johnson filed suit against the Board of Education of Wilson County. He resided in School District No. 6 of Spring Hill township, he asserted, and was a white man and the father of four school-age children — Arthur, about 13 years old, Fannie, about 11, Carl, about 9, and Andrew, about 7. Johnson had sent Arthur to the local white public school, where a teacher sent him home after two days. The Complaint does not specify the reason for his expulsion. (And notes that Johnson did not attempt to enroll the younger children.) Johnson’s complaint demanded that the children be allowed to attend the district’s white school.

The Board of Education filed an Answer setting forth one devastating affirmative defense: “… the defense alleges that the children of the plaintiff are not entitled under the statute of North Carolina to attend the school for the white race for that they have negro blood in their veins.”

Judge George W. Connor scheduled a hearing for 4 February 1914, which was postponed by mutual consent until the 10th. In the meantime, an additional fact was admitted (presumably by Johnson): “each of the said four minor children have a slight mixture of negro blood, the same being less in each child than one-sixteenth …” Nonetheless, the Superior Court ruled a victory for the Johnsons. Judge W.M. Bond reasoned thus: the state constitution provides that the legislature shall provide separate white and colored schools and also makes valid a marriage between a white man and a woman with less than one-eighth “admixture of colored blood.” In Bond’s opinion, the legislature overstepped when it attempted to bar from white schools the child of a valid marriage involving a white person.  “In other words, the status of the child is fixed by the Constitutional recognition of the marriage.”

The Board of Education appealed.

The Supreme Court overturned.

At the outset, Justice Walker stated plainly that J.S. Johnson was a white man of a “pure strain” of blood, and his unnamed wife had less than one-eighth Negro admixture. He then homed in on a key passage of the state constitution: “no child with negro blood in his veins, however remote the strain, shall attend a school for the white race; and no such child shall be considered a white child.” “Should it be conceded … that the marriage J.S. Johnson and the woman who is the mother of his children, is a valid one, it does not, by any means, settle the important and delicate question, [presented here, in Johnson’s favor.]” The law allowing marriage between a white person and one of remote African ancestry might legitimate their children, “but by no subtle alchemy known to the laboratory of logic can it be claimed to have extracted the negro element from the blood of such offspring and made it pure.” In fact, the Court reasoned, the law does not even declare marriage between a white person and one with “negro blood” within the prescribed limit to be valid, but only that marriage between a white person and one over the limit is void. In any case, certainly the legislature has the right to lay down an absolute — no children with any African ancestry at all, period — as a matter of public policy. (That policy being the “peace, harmony and welfare of the two races, according to each race equal privileges and advantages of education and mental and moral training with the other, but keeping them apart in the schoolroom, where, by reason of racial instincts and characteristics peculiar to each, unpleasant antagonism would arise, which would prove fatal to proper school regulation and discipline …”) The justice turned to the definition of “colored,” which was not explicitly delineated in the law. What is common usage?, he asks. Is “colored” considered to include Arthur Johnson? The term is never applied to red Indians, yellow Mongolians or brown Malays, colored as they may be. “To those of Negro blood alone is [the term] ever found to be suited” and does not depend upon “a shade of particular blackness ….” “Whether complexions appear distinctly black or approaching toward the fair by gradations of shading is all one.” After touching approvingly upon the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, the court reiterated the justness and wisdom of maintaining harmony through segregation. Judgment: reversed. The Johnson children were too black to go to a white school.

—–

No matter the views of school teachers and Supreme Court justices, the Johnsons’ community regarded them as white. In the 1920 census of Spring Hill township, Wilson County, on the Keely Branch of the Smithfield and Red Hill Road, Arthur Johnson, 20, and his wife Bertha, 25, lived next to his parents and siblings — Josephus, 42, Minnie, 38, Fannie, 17, Carl, 15, Andrew, 12, Luther, 10, Clintard, 8, Ransom, 4, Flossie L., 2, and Leonard, 6 months. All were described as white, just as they had been in the 1910 census.

Cephus Johnson, 22, son of Emma Johnson, married Minnie Taylor, 18, daughter of Silvira Taylor, at the residence of William Taylor on 25 January 1898. Both were described as white. Further, Minnie Etta Johnson of Springhill township, Wilson County, died 20 March 1937, as a white woman. J.S. Johnson was listed as her husband, and he informed the undertaker that Minnie had been born in Wilson County to Silvina Taylor and an unknown father. She was buried in a family cemetery by Joyner’s Funeral Home, a white-only business.

I have been unable to locate Silvina or Minnie Etta Taylor prior to 1898.

School Records (1914), Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives; Johnson v. Board of Education of Wilson County, 82 S.E. 832 (1914).

[UPDATE, 4 May 2018: in the 1860 census of Kirbys district, Wilson County: William Taylor, 22, mulatto, turpentine laborer, Sallie, 30, mulatto, day laborer, Jane, 23, white(?), day laborer, and Elizabeth, 10, Martha, 8, Cilvira, 5, and George Taylor, 1, all mulatto.  And in the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, described as mulatto, Sylvia Hawley, 22, with children Paul, 3, and Minnie, 2.]