Lassiter

Received of Penny Lassiter.

James B. Woodard registered the receipt he issued to free woman of color Penny Lassiter for the $150 she paid to purchase her husband London Woodard in 1855. Though not legally manumitted, London lived essentially as a free man for the next ten years until Emancipation.

Deed book 1, page 155, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Studio shots, no. 78: Peninah Lassiter Woodard.

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Penninah Lassiter Woodard Barnes (1858-1919) was the youngest child of London and Penelope Lassiter Woodard.

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Penny Lassiter, 50, and children Priscilla, 14, Theresa, 12, Hardy, 10, Haywood, 8, William, 6, and Penina, 2. Penny claimed $600 in real estate and $300 in personal property.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer London Woodard, 79; wife Penelope, 59; and children Trecy, 20, Hardy, 19, Haywood, 18, William, 15, and Peninah, 12.

On 1 January 1877, Simon Barnes, 38, married Pennina Woodard, 17, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Simon Barnes, 30; wife Penniney, 21; and children Rosetta, 2, and James, 11 months.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Simon Barnes, 51; wife Penina, 40; and children Rosetta, 22, James W., 20, Hardy, 18, Charly, 16, Penny, 14, London, 12, Silas, 11, Prisa, 8, Simon, 5, and Marylisa, 2.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Simon Barnes, 65; wife Pennie, 55; and children Pennie S., 22, Sillas, 17, Mary L., 12, Lucie, 8, Ama, 6, and Simon, 14.

Penina Barnes died 24 February 1919 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 30 January 1859 to London Woodard and Pennie Lassiter; was married to Simon Barnes; and was a farmer. Informant was Hardy Barnes.

Pricilla Hardy died 24 October 1919 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; born in Wilson County to Simon Barnes and Penninah Woodard; was a tenant farmer; and was married. James Walter Barnes was informant.

Leonard Barnes died 19 November 1952 at his home at 1312 Carolina Street. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 June 1888 in Wilson to Simon Barnes and Pennina Woodard; and was a World War I veteran. Informant was Pennie Barnes.

Treasy Barnes Atkinson died 23 December 1964 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 June 1900 to Simon Barnes and Pennia Woodard and was widowed. Informant was Mrs. Inez Lucas, Wilson.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user rogerbarron52.

London Woodard, Penny Lassiter Woodard and the London Church.

On 14 February 1970, the Wilson Daily Times published a full-page article detailing the life of London Woodard, founder of London’s Primitive Baptist Church.

London Woodard was born enslaved in 1792. He was recorded in the estates of Asa Woodard in 1816 and Julan Woodard in 1826 (in which he was recognized as a distiller of fine fruit brandies.) In 1827, James B. Woodard bought London at auction for $500. The same year, London married Venus, a woman enslaved by Woodard. In 1828, London was baptized and appears as a member in the minutes of Tosneot Baptist Church. Venus was baptized in 1838 and died in 1845.

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Transfer of title to “a negroe man by the name of Lonon” from Nathan Woodard to James B. Woodard, 1928.

J.B. Woodard’s second wife in 1837, and he hired Penelope Lassiter, a free woman of color, as a housekeeper and surrogate mother to his children. Lassiter, born 1814, was the daughter of Hardy Lassiter, who owned a small farm south of Wilson. She met London, who was working as overseer, at Woodard’s. In 1852, Penny Lassiter bought 106 acres for $242 about five miles east of Wilson on the Tarboro Road.

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In 1854, Penny Lassiter purchased her husband London, then about 62 or 63, from J.B. Woodard for $150. In 1858 Lassiter bought another 53 acres near her first tract and purchased 21 acres in 1859. The same year, she sold a small parcel to Jordan Thomas, a free man of color [who was married to her step-daughter Rose Woodard.] In 1866, the years after he was emancipated, London Woodard bought, subject to mortgage, a 200-acre parcel.

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In 1866, London Woodard was granted authority to preach “only among his acquaintances,” i.e. African-Americans. A member of Tosneot Baptist donated an acre of land to build a black church, regarded as the first in Wilson County. London Woodard was licensed to preach in 1870.

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London Woodard preached his last sermon on 13 November 1870. The next day, he suffered a stroke and fell into an open fireplace. Despite severe burns, he was able to dictate a will before his death.

The history of London Church for the 25 years after Woodard’s death is murky. In 1895, white churches Tosneot and Upper Town Creek dismissed several African-American members in order that they might establish an independent congregation at London’s. [London Church reorganized under the umbrella of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association in 1897.]

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By the terms of his will, London Woodard provided for his wife Penelope; sons William, Hardy, Haywood, Howell, Elvin, Amos and London; and daughters Treasy, Rose, Pharibee, Sarah, Harriet and Penninah. (Deceased son John’s daughter was apparently inadvertently omitted.)  “A few facts” about Woodard’s children follows.

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Receipts for payments for taxes and accounts for Penny Lassiter and London Woodard.

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This building was moved around the corner to London Church Road. It has long been abandoned and collapsed in 2017 after suffering serious storm damage the year before.

Studio shots, no. 64: Mildred Pearl Lassiter Sherrod.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 709 Lipscomb, truck gardener Jesse C. Lassiter, 41, a widower; and children Jesse C. Jr., 15, James D., 13, Ernest D., 12, Annie B., 10, Mildred P., 8, Ruby J., 7, Lesie D., 6, Harvey G., 5, and Wade, 2.

Solomon Sherrod Jr., 21, of Edgecombe County, son of Solomon and Josephine Sherrod, married Mildred Lassiter, 18, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Jesse and Lessie Lassiter, on 18 February 1939 in Tarboro. Witnesses included Solomon’s brother Leonard Sherrod.

In 1942, Solomon Shearard Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 3 June 1918 in Fremont, N.C.; resided at 802 East Viola, Wilson; his contact person was Mrs. Mildred Pearl Shearard; and worked for Export Tobacco Company, Mercer Street, Wilson.

Mildred Shearard died 3 February 1943 at North Carolina Sanatorium, Quewhiffle, Hoke County. Per her death certificate, she was born 17 April 1922 in Wilson County to Jessie Lassiter and Lessie Dew; was married to Solmon Shearard; resided at 802 East Viola, Wilson; and was buried in Rountree cemetery.

Photograph courtesy of A. Sherrod.

The funeral of Odd Fellow Lassiter.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 July 1946.

——

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Green Lassiter, 55; wife Mary Ann, 42;and children Henry, 19, Sally Ann, 17, Hardy, 15, John Green, 10, Dempsey S., 5, and Mary C., 2.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Liza Dawson, 40, and boarder Dempsey Lassiter, 26, sawmill engineer.

In the 1908 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lassiter Dempsey lab h 623 e Vance

In 1918, Dempsey Lassiter registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he lived at 103 East Street; was born 28 October 1874; was a blacksmith for Hackney Wagon Company; and his nearest relative was Mary Jane Lassiter.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on East Street, wagon factory laborer Dempsey Lassiter, 35, and wife Mary, 25.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 106 East Street, owned and valued at $1250, Demsey Lassiter, 55, wife Mary J., 44; nephew Charles Bynum, 16; and nieces Katie Powell, 10, and Willie M. Leonard, 6.

In 1940, Charles Lee Powell registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he resided at 114 South East Street; was born 10 June 1918 in Nash County, North Carolina; his contact was his uncle, Dempsey Lassiter, 110 South East Street;  and he worked for G.S. Tucker & Company, South Goldsboro Street.

Isaac T. Lassiter was born in 1940 to Dempsey Lassiter and Mary Jane Bynum.

Dempsey Lassiter died 16 July 1946 at his home at 106 South East Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he he was married; was 68 years old; was born in Wilson County to Green Lassiter and Mary Powell; was a farmer; and his informant was Mary J. Lassiter. He was buried in Rountree cemetery.

  • Walter Hardy — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: W.P.A. laborer Walter Hardy, 55; wife Mary, 48, tobacco factory stemmer; and children William, 26, tobacco factory floor hand, Robert, 19, Mary Elizabeth, 17, and Roy, 14.
  • S.C. Sherrod — Solomon Conton Sherrod was a native of Wayne County. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 802 Viola Street, Solomon Shearard, 60; wife Josephine, 52; and children Flora, 15, Beulah, 13, Elmer, 11, and Solomon, 21; plus “son’s wife” Mildred, 18, and grandson Ernest E., 8 months.
  • Ben Mincey, Sr.
  • Fred M. Davis
  • Charlie Jones — In the 1940 census of Wilson, WIlson County: at 412 Viola, owned and valued at $2000; Charles Jones, 61, janitor at Vick School; wife Gertrude, 59, a tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ruth Plater, 35, divorced, teacher; grandsons Torrey S., 12, and Charles S. Plater, 11; son-in-law Ruel Bullock, 35; daughter Louise, 30; grandsons Jacobia, 7, Robert, 6, Harold, 4, and Rudolph, 7 months; and granddaughter Barbara Jones, 6.
  • Hannibal Lodge No. 1552, Grand United Odd Fellows

Vanilla Beane, milliner extraordinaire.

Posted today on the Facebook page of the National Museum of African American History and Culture:

“Vanilla Beane, is a milliner, or hatmaker, known for her custom-made pieces adorned by civil rights activist Dorothy Height.

“Born Vanilla Powell in Wilson, N.C. in 1910, as the youngest of seven. She moved to Washington, D.C. in 1942 where she met her husband, Willie Beane. Working in the downtown Washington Millinery Supply and as a seamstress in the 50s, she sharpened her craft. After leaving the company, Beane continued to passionately make hats while working as a mail clerk for the General Services Administration. In 1979, she opened Bene Millinery & Bridal Supplies on Third Street in Northwest Washington to serve the African American community that kept the tradition of ornate hats alive, especially in the church. The 106 year-old milliner paid a visit to the museum on Grand Opening day. You can see an example of a millinery shop in our Power of Place exhibition on the fourth floor.”

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According to birth records, Vanilla Powell was born in 1919 in Wilson County to James and Martha Hagans Powell. Her father, born about 1876, was the son of Ichabod and Mary Ann Lassiter Powell. (Mary Ann’s parents were Silas and Orpha Simpson Lassiter.) Her mother Martha was the daughter of Charles and Charity Thomas Hagans.

For more on Mrs. Beane, see here and here.

London’s Primitive Baptist Church.

From the introduction to Hugh Buckner Johnston’s The Woodard Confederate Letters of Wilson County (1977):

“’Uncle London’ Woodard (1792-November 15, 1870) was one of the most respectable black men of his area and time. Having been married about 1817 to James Bullock Woodard’s Venus, he was purchased by this planter on May 24, 1828, and became his overseer and distiller. London was baptized into the fellowship of the Tosneot Primitive Baptist Church on August 24, 1828, and Venus on August 4, 1838. This good woman died about the end of 1845, leaving several children to mourn her loss.

“In 1846, he married Penelope Lassiter, daughter of Hardy Lassiter. She had become an indispensable part of the James B. Woodard household after the death of his first wife in 1837. ‘Aunt Pennie,’ a free woman of light color, who worked hard, saved her money, and bought land. On September 18, 1854, she also bought ‘Uncle London’ and made him a free man. He was ‘liberated to preach’ on April 21, 1866, and in the following December Mrs. Elizabeth Farmer gave him one acres upon which he soon erected ‘London’s Primitive Baptist Church‘ which is still in existence.”

——

While London Woodard may have lived essentially as a free man after his purchase by Penny Lassiter, there is no evidence that he was in fact emancipated prior to the end of the Civil War.  Thus, while Penny and their children appear as Lassiters in the 1860 census, he does not.

London’s Primitive Baptist Church was organized in 1870, weeks before London Woodard suffered burns that led to his death. Twenty-five years later, his congregation erected a simple wood-frame building on what is now Herring Avenue. That building was in use until 1992, when members moved into a new brick church. To save the landmark from demolition, descendants of Elizabeth Farmer donated a nearby site to which the structure was moved.

I took this photo of the 1895 church in May 2013, when the building, though compromised, was in relatively decent shape.

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May 2013.

Since then, a tree smashed into the chancel during a storm, dragging the front gable backwards and plunging the beadboard ceiling to the floor. All but the very front of the nave was crushed, and London’s Church cannot be saved.

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May 2016.

Howard Normal, 1889.

Henry C. Lassiter of Wilson was a member of the B Class in Howard University’s Normal School in 1889-90.

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As the catalog below noted, Classes A and B were designed to bring students up to readiness to for entry into the Normal or Preparatory schools.

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Howard University Catalog of Officers and Students from March 1889 to March 1890, U.S. School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Minutes of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association.

Elder Jonah Williams (1841-1915) was involved in the establishment of nearly every church in the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association, including Turner Swamp (1897), Barnes (1898), Little Union (1899), and Rocky Mount (1908). Turner Swamp still meets at or near its original location just north of Eureka in Wayne County. Barnes Chapel was close to Stantonsburg, in southwest Wilson County. Little Union Primitive Baptist Church, which is under reconstruction, was in the Town Creek area east of Elm City. I have not been able to find current references to Rocky Mount Primitive Baptist Church. London’s Church, now inside city limits, was then just north of the town of Wilson. The church is closely associated with London Woodard, an enslaved man who was purchased by his free-born wife, Penny Lassiter. Just after the Civil War, London, who had been a staunch member of Toisnot Primitive Baptist Church, founded an African-American congregation, which reorganized as an independent Primitive Baptist congregation in 1897.

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Barnes Church, near Stantonsburg. Said to have been built by slaves of a Barnes family, the structure served an active church into the 1960s. A slave cemetery is said to lie across the road. Photo taken in November 1961 by Guy Cox. Image found here.

Elder Williams participated in five Association annual sessions before his death, and the minutes of two survive, including the 1914 session excerpted below.

Minutes 5th Ann TSPBA

Minutes 5th Ann 1

5th Ann TSPBA 2

5th Ann TSPBA 3