In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Simon Joyner, 38; wife Venus, 36; and children Mary A.F., 14, William H., 11, Dossy, 9, Jacen, 7, and Charley, 2.
On 5 January 1895, Henry Joyner, 26, of Taylors township, son of Simon and Venus Winstead, married Margaret Winstead, 27, of Taylors township, daughter of Berry and Luenda Winstead, in Taylors township.
In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Jones, 31; wife Margret, 31; and children James, 14, Lou, 10, William H., 6, Herbert, 4, Maggie, 3, and Anna, 1 month.
In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Thompson Road, farmer Henry Joyner, 42; wife Margaret, 42; and children Lula, 18, William, 17, Hubbert, 15, Maggie, 13, Annie, 10, Obie, 8, Bettie, 4, Luther, 2, Theodore, 3 months, and James, 24.
In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Joyner, 52; wife Margaret, 51; and children Annie, 20, Obie, 18, Bettie, 13, Luther, 11, Theodore, 9, and Lizzie, 6; and grandson Nathan, 6 months.
In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County, North Carolina: farmer Henry Joyner, 60; wife Margaret, 60; children Anne, 26, Obie, 25, Bettie, 24, Luther, 21, Lizzie, 16, and Nathan, 10; and grandchildren Josephine, 14, Rosella, 12, Edward, 10, and Elmus Eatmon, 8.
In the 1940 census of Jackson township, Nash County: Obie Joyner, 38; wife Gladys, 20; father Henry Joyner, 71; mother Margret Joyner, 70; sister Annie, 40; brother Luther, 30; nephew Curtis, 7; niece Leona Eatmon, 28; nephew Nathan Eatmon, 28; and lodger Elmus Eatmon, 19.
Henry Joyner died 13 June 1944 in Jackson township, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was 78 years old; was born in Wilson County to Simon and Venus Joyner of Wilson County; was a farmer; was married to Margaret Joyner; and was buried in Granite Point cemetery, Wilson County. Obie Joyner was informant.
Margaret Joyner died 18 October 1944 in Jackson township, Nash County. Per her death certificate, she was 77 years old; was a widow; was born in Nash County to Berry and Lurenda Winstead of Nash County; and was buried in Granite Point cemetery, Wilson County. Obie Joyner was informant.
In the 1870 census of Wilson County, 50 African-American men and women reported owning land. Forty-seven of the 50 reported their occupation as farming. I don’t have the statistics, but I imagine the number of black Wilson County farmers rose into the early 20th century.
Here is an excerpt from the most recent (2017) data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s farm census. (A “farm” is any place from which $1000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been produced and sold, during the census year.) The first three columns — Farms, Black or African American Producers, Land in Farms (Acres) — are grouped under the heading “All Farms with a Black or African American Producer.” The second three columns have the same titles, but are grouped as “All Farms with a Black or African American Principal Producer.”
I’m not entirely sure of the difference between the two groups, but one number is consistent — as of three years ago, there are only 15 black-owned farms in all of Wilson County.
I’m curious. Do you know any of these 15 farmers? Are any of the 15 working land that has been passed down from generation to generation in their family, perhaps as far back as the 19th century? Please let me know if you know!
A deed of trust is essentially an agreement between a lender and a borrower to give legal title to a property to a neutral third party who will serve as a trustee. The trustee holds the property until the borrower pays off the debt owed to the lender. During the period of repayment, the borrower keeps the actual or equitable title to the property and generally maintains full responsibility for the premises. The trustee, however, holds the legal title to the property and is empowered to sell the property to satisfy the debt if the borrower defaults. (In that event, once the sale is complete, the trustee will distribute the proceeds between the borrower and the lender. The lender gets whatever funds are required to satisfy the debt, and the borrower receives anything in excess of that amount.)
Here are details of several deeds of trust filed in Wilson County:
Levi H. Peacock and his wife Hannah H. Peacock borrowed $65.88 at 6% interest from Kathleen Smith Grady to purchase a 53′ by 210′ lot with buildings on Ash Street adjacent to lots owned by O.L.W. Smith and others. The loan was due 1 January 1929. On 24 September 1928, trustee R.A. Grady filed a deed of trust that was recorded at Book 181, page 302. It carries a stamp noting thet the loan was paid in full and the deed cancelled on the due date.
Laura Reid and her husband H.S. Reid, Minnie Reid Creech and her husband M.C. Creech, Levi J. Reid, Hugh C. Reid, J. Harvey Reid and Walter Reid borrowed $1000 at 6% interest from A.O. Dickens to purchase 46 acres on New Raleigh Road and Contentnea Creek. Laura Reid had purchased the acreage, identified as Lot #5 of the plat at Plat Book 1, Page 24, from F.J. and Mattie Finch. Trustee Bryce Little filed a deed of trust that was recorded at Book 181, page 470. There is no indication that the loan was satisfied.
Plat Book 1, Page 24, “Division of J.D. Farrior Raleigh Road Farm Three Miles West of Wilson, N.C.,” 5 December 1916.
Lot #5 of the above plat.
The location of Laura Wilder Reid’s land today, out N.C. Highway 42 West, just past Forest Hills Road and just before Greenfield School.
W.M. King, J.H Neil and G.J. Branch, the trustees of “Mount Zion Holiness Church (colored)” borrowed $75 at 6% interest from J.T. Dew & Brothers to purchase a lot on the south side of Lodge Street on which a church building stood. The loan was due 14 April 1929. On 14 April 1928, trustee R.A. Grady filed a deed of trust that was recorded at Book 181, page 26. There is no indication that the loan was satisfied.
John Whitehead, Mat Turner and Alonzo Walker, the trustees of “Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church (colored)” borrowed $400 at 6% interest from R.A. Grady. (“Witnesseth: That whereas at a special meeting of the membership of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church (colored) held on the 4th day of January 1929 … it was made to appear that in order to complete the church building now in the course of erection” and to pay the purchase price of the lot, they needed to borrow money. … F.F. Battle, Moderator, Mary Jones, Clerk.) The lot and church building were on Atlantic Street. The loan was due 10 January 1930. On 16 January 1929, trustee R.A. Grady filed a deed of trust that was recorded at Book 181, page 543. There is no indication that the loan was satisfied.
This table reveals the stark disparities in wealth between whites and blacks in early twentieth century Wilson County.
The columns, representing tax categories and values, are Number of Polls; Number Acres Land; Value Land and Timber; Number Town Lots; Total Value Real Estate; Total Value Personal Property; Aggregate Value Real and Personal.
[I am intrigued by the differences in land ownership among African-Americans in different townships. Some surely is attributable merely to population, but I wonder about additional causes of inequality. Why so few taxable individuals or landowners in Stantonsburg township? Why were African-Americans in Spring Hill township so much more prosperous? I have some theories, but I want to explore more. — LYH]
Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission as a Board of State Tax Commissioners (1907).
This 1937 notice of sale of the property of John A. and Nannie K. Watson contains bits of information about land ownership by African-Americans in Taylors township, a few miles northeast of the town of Wilson.
Lots 1-4 on the plat map were known as the “Ellis and Woodard tract of Kinchen Watson.” They lay about a half-mile west of the Wilson-Nashville highway (now N.C. Highway 58) and the description of their outer perimeter begins at the corner of “the old Warren Rountree lands and the Hilliard Ellis home tract.” Warren Rountree and Hilliard Ellis were half-brothers. Both were born into slavery, but became prosperous farmers and landowners within a few years after Emancipation. The irregular pentagon of Lot 1 of the tract wrapped around a two-acre rectangle belonging to the Warren Rountree heirs, and Lot 2 excluded “a parcel of land containing one-half acre called the Ellis Chapel lot upon which stands a colored church.”
Detail of lots 1 and 2 of the Ellis & Woodard tracts.
The second tract up for auction, “the Jim Howard tract,” is marked Lot 5 on the plat map at page 251 of Plat Book 1, below.
The third tract, the “Lamm tract,” consisted of Lots 1-4 of the plat map below. These properties were surrounded by tracts belonging to African-American men whose families were connected by blood, intermarriage and historical status as free people of color. James G. “Jim,” Kenyon, Jesse and Allison (not Anderson) Howard were sons of Zealous and Rhoda Eatmon Howard, and William Howard appears to have been a grandson. Charles Brantley‘s daughter Mollie married her cousin Kenyon Howard. John and Kenyon “Kenny” Locust (also spelled Locus and Lucas) were father and son, and John’s mother was Eliza Brantley Locus.
Wilson Daily Times, 29 November 1937.
Plat Book 1, Page 251.
Per Google Maps, the area shown in the first plat today. At (A), Ellis Chapel Free Will Baptist Church; at (B), the approximate location of the Warren Rountree heirs’ two acres; at (C), the Hilliard Ellis cemetery, which is outside the Watson land; at (1) Aviation Place; at (2) Packhouse Road; at (3) N.C. Highway 58; and at (4) Little Swamp, which is a tributary of Toisnot Swamp.
Plat books at Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.
This Indenture made the 28th day of January 1868 between Thomas Lamm administrator of Martin R Thorn deceased of the County of Wilson State of North Carolina of the first part & Patrick Williamson of the county & State aforesaid of the second part, Whereas at the Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions held for the County of Wilson on the fourth Monday in October 1867 it was ordered by the said court in a said cause then pending in said court wherein Thomas Lamm administrators petitions that the land mentioned in the petition in this case be sold on a credit of six months &c and Thomas Lamm in pursuance of said order did on the 22nd day of October 1867 sell at public auction the tract of land hereinafter described having first been given lawful notice of the time & place of sale by advertisements at which sale the land was struck off to Patrick Williamson for the sum of one hundred & sixty three dollars that being the high bid for the same & whereas said party of second part having complied with the terms of said sale & whereas the said Williamson hath fully paid off said purchase money together with all Lawful Interest, Now Therefore the Indenture witnesses that the said Thomas Lamb administrator had granted bargained sold & conveyed to the said party of the second part his heirs & assigns The tract of land in the county of Wilson known as the Martin R. Thomas tract adjoining the lands Wilie Lamm Ransom Thorn et al containing ninety four acres more or less to have & to hold the same to him & his heirs forever Thomas X Lamm
The Execution of the foregoing deed was duly acknowledged before me by Thomas Lamm the subscriber this 29th day of Dec 1868 Let the same be registered. A Barnes Probate Judge
Deed book 2, page 568, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson, Wilson County.
For some voters the task of remembering the last time they cast a ballot is a formidable one, for others the memory of that first ballot often escapes them.
But Howard Farmer remembers the last ballot he case. He also knows the first ballot he ever cast, and he remembers a whole lot of those in between.
Farmer’s last ballot was cast June 4 in the Wilson County Democratic Party’s runoff primary to nominate a sheriff’s candidate.
And his first ballot?
Well, Howard Farmer voted Republican that first time — casting a ballot for then incumbent President William McKinley in the election of 1906.
McKinley and his running mate, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, outpolled free silver Democrat William Jennings Bryan and his running mate, Adlai Stevenson (grandfather of a a more famous son of a more recent era), for the presidency and vice presidency that year.
For most of us the names McKinley, Roosevelt, Bryan and Stevenson, are little more than names out of history books. But for Howard Farmer they were real. Howard Farmer was 22 years old when he cast that first ballot 74 years ago.
Th election was something of a milestone for him — a black man, son of slave parents, voting in a Southern state, casting a ballot for the first time in his life.
It was almost his last election. Various statutes enacted in following years prevented many Negroes from again going to the polls. It was a long wait — 14 years until he again voted, this time in a local election.
Voting became a habit with Howard Farmer and he claims he hasn’t missed an election since, especially not a presidential election. It’s a record few voters can match.
Today, Howard Farmer is a retired tobacco farmer and landowner who lives in his own home on his own farm in Taylors township at Rt. 2, Elm City.
He is married to a second wife and what time isn’t spent in gardening and around the house is spent religiously — he has been a preacher since 1920 and only last week was asked to preach in area church services.
He was born Feb. 2, 1878 in Wilson County, a son of Alford Farmer, who derived his name from the Wiley Farmer plantation on which he was born a slave. His mother was a slave on another nearby plantation near the intersection of N.C. Highways 97 and 58, said Farmer.
To the best of his knowledge he was one of five sons and three daughters — he is unsure about aunts and uncles due to fact that slave families were sometimes broken up by their owners.
Farmer spoke little of his early years, but he did explain the loss of his left eye at age 15 in an incident involving a white landowner’s son.
According to Farmer, he was visiting on a neighboring farmer’s land and the man asked him to help in the harvesting. When he refused, the man, angered by such a refusal, struck him across the side of the head with a weeding hoe, destroying his left eye.
Later the man was convicted by a local jury for assault and ordered to pay Farmer $50 and costs of court — an action Farmer said was “unheard of” in those times: a white man being order to pay for injuries done a black man.
Even though the offender is “long once dead,” said Farmer, no malice was held. To Farmer, the incident is simply an occurrence out of his past.
Howard Farmer was probably more fortunate than most young Negroes around the turn of the century. He received an education — through high school — at what was then Farmer’s School (named for Wiley Farmer.)
In 1900, he was living in Nash County sand voted that first time at Joyner’s Crossroads in that county. “Most all of us (Negroes) were voting Republican at that time, ” he remembers.
In 1903 he married his first wife Sarah at a location near what is today the Rocky Mount Wilson Airport. They built a frame house on the Walter Pridgen farm near Elm City and Farmer, in addition to working on the Pridgen farm, worked in a nearby saw mill
He remembers putting $100 in an Elm City bank in 1906 and leaving it on deposit until 1913 when he and his wife purchased a lot and built a house on Pine and Beal streets in Rocky Mount. But only a year later, he rented a farm from an area man named Offie Parker. Three years later, he rented a second farm. Later Farmer and three of his brothers-in-law purchased the two farms.
Farmer said he paid $9,000 for the 56-acre tract he purchased. He later bought another 140-acre tract but that has since been sold. A few acres of the original 56-acre tract have been sold off for building lots, but Farmer still holds title to more than 40 acres of the land he first bought more than 50 years ago.
In 1920 Farmer became a preacher — he said he was converted in 1909 — in the Missionary Baptist denomination. From 1931-33 he pastored a Lucama area church, which had called him. He got 35 cents each Sunday for his expenses and the final year the congregation raised $16 for him, he noted.
In 1922, Farmer’s only son Quentin, was born. He was educated in county elementary school and graduated from Wilson’s Darden High School — the only black high school in the area at that time. Quentin now resides in San Francisco, Calif.
Howard Farmer has a grandson, James, serving in the U.S. Army in Germany, and one great-grandson, James Anthony Farmer, who, with his grandfather, visited Howard Farmer a week ago.
Howard Farmer hides his years well. The events he has witnessed, the men he has met, seem like turning back the pages of history.
Farmer returned to the ballot box in 1914 and remembers voting for local candidates: county commissioners. The exact years faded in his memory, but the first local candidate he can remember casting a ballot for was John Thompson, a Wilson County commissioner. Howard Farmer claims he hasn’t missed an election since and has been a registered Democrat in Wilson County since 1914, casting his ballots in Taylors township.
The first automobile he remembers is a 1913 Model T Ford; he remembers Booker T. Washington; and more recently he remembers — but not too fondly — his first airplane ride: he was 95 and flew a 727 “Whisperjet” to California and a 747 “Jumbo” jet on the return trip; he knew Martin Luther King and went to New York once to meet him.
“Everything is better now,” said the 96-year-old Farmer when asked to compare life as he he has known it to the life now possible, and cited “better opportunities” for black man and women.
But, in an afterthought, he added “Maybe not necessarily what it ought to be but it is better.” Religiously speaking, he said “We’ve got to live right; it doesn’t matter what church you join; if you don’t live right, hell is our own.”
Farmer’s health remains robust. His son took him to a doctor recently and was advised to let his father “do whatever he wants to do; whatever makes him happy.”
There will be no surprise if Howard Farmer continues to do a little gardening, to do some guest preaching, and, in November, to see him visit the polls in Taylors Township — it’s what he’s been doing for most of his 96 years anyway.
— Wilson Daily Times, 6 July 1974.
On 18 September 1868, Alfred Farmer, son of Charles and Sarah Matthews, married Precilla Strickland, daughter of Carey Williams and Rhody Taylor, in Wilson County.
In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Alfred Farmer, 38, wife Priscilla, 34, and children Henry, 11, Charley, 9, Pharo, 5, and Howard, 1.
In the 1900 census of Rocky Mount township, Nash County: widowed farmer Zanie Winstead, 56, her children Josha, 20, Sarah E., 19, and Emma, 15, and grandson Clarance, 2, plus boarder Howard Farmer, 22, a farm laborer.
On 10 February 1903, Pharaoh Farmer applied in Nash County for a marriage license for Howard Farmer, 25, son of Alfred and Priscila Farmer, of Wilson County, and Sarah Eliz. Winstead, 25, daughter of Reddick and Zanie Winstead, of Nash County. The marriage took place the next day at the home of Sarah’s mother in Rocky Mount township, Wilson County.
In the 1910 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Howard Farmer, 31, and wife Sarah, 31.
On 12 September 1918, Howard Farmer of RFD 4, Elm City, registered for the World War I draft at the Wilson County draft board. His registration card reports that he was born 2 February 1878, that he worked as a farmer for Offie Parker, and that his nearest relative was Sara Lisa Farmer. He signed his card with an X.
In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Howard Farmer, 42, and wife Sarah, 42.
In the 1930 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Howard Farmer, 52, wife Sarah, 51, and son Quinton, 7.
In the 1940 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Howard Farmer, 61, wife Sarah, 61, and son Quenten, 17.
Howard Farmer died 1 October 1980 in Wilson, North Carolina.
Just five years after the Civil War’s end, enumerators set out on foot and horseback to record the 1870 census. They would count 5073 black men, women and children in Wilson County that year, the overwhelming majority newly emancipated. How had these new citizens fared in the early days of freedom? Who had managed to gain a toehold?
A review of the 1870 census of Wilson County discloses 48 African-American men and two women (just under 1% of the total black population) who reported owning real property (land). Most also reported owning personal property, represented by the second dollar amount below. Only six men — London Woodard, Jarman Farmer, Amos Bynum, Lawrence Ward, Jesse Ward, Rufus Renfrow — held assets worth more than $1000 — barely one-tenth of 1%.
Elijah Cox, 66, shoemaker, $150, Cross Roads
George Thomson, 51, farm laborer, $300, $200, Cross Roads
London Woodard, 79, farmer, $1000, $400, Gardner’s