letter

Family ties, no. 7: “They’ll skin a flea for his hide and tallow.”

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the seventh in a series of excerpts from documents and interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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As discussed here, after Jesse A. Jacobs Jr.’s death, Sarah Henderson Jacobs married Rev. Joseph C. Silver. Sarah died just a few years later, and in 1943 Rev. Silver married Martha C. Hawkins Henderson Aldridge.

Shortly after Rev. Silver’s death in January 1958, his widow Martha sent my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (who had formerly been known as Hattie Jacobs) a letter addressed to her workplace, the Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium. Martha Silver mentioned their mutual family connections and offered advice on reclaiming household furnishings that Sarah Silver had brought to the marriage.

P.O. Box 193 Nashville

N.C.   c/o Brake

Feb. 2, 1958

Dear Hattie –

You heard of Rev. Silver’s death Jan. 7th although I didn’t notify you as I was sick and still is sick but not confine to bed. Sarah had some things in the home.  A bed which I am sure you wouldn’t care for and a folding single bed which I am going to get but my main reason for writing you she has an oak dresser and washstand that Rev. Silver told me you wanted and said he told you you could get it if you would send for it so it is still there and it is good material if you want it. Amos has already seen a second hand furniture man about buying it. The Silver’s will “skin a flea for his hide and tallow.” The Aldridges holds a very warm place in my heart and always will. If you wish to do so you may write to Rev. Amos Silver Route 3 Box 82 Enfield and ask him if your mother Sarah’s furniture is still there. There is also a carpet on the floor in the living room you need not mention my name. I am very fond of Johnnie Aldridge of Dudly. Come to see me whenever you can I think you might get with Reka at Fremont some times, she and Luke come to Enfield to see me occasionally  I am going to write Reka next week. I married your great uncle Rev Joseph Aldridge write me

Your friend and great aunt by marriage.

M.C. (Aldridge) Silver

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Martha Silver, seated second from right, with her husband Joseph’s children Daniel W. Aldridge, Allen Aldridge, and Mary Aldridge Sawyer, seated, and William J.B. Aldridge, Milford Aldridge, Lillie Aldridge Holt, George M. Aldridge, and Joseph L. Aldridge. Occasion unknown, but well after Joseph Aldridge’s death in 1934.

Though Martha Silver was not a Wilson native, she and her second husband Joseph Aldridge (my grandmother’s great-uncle, Johnnie Aldridge was her uncle) were married in Wilson. Rev. Silver (who would become Martha’s third husband) performed the marriage ceremony on 16 December 1925. C.E. Artis applied for the license, and William A. Mitchner, Hattie Tate, and Callie Barnes were witnesses. I have seen no evidence that either Martha or Joseph lived in Wilson, and I do not know why they chose to be married there. C.E. Artis was Joseph Aldridge’s nephew, but there are no obvious relationships between either bride or groom and Dr. Mitchner, Hattie Tate (she was Artis’ next-door neighbor — was she simply a stand-in?), or Callie Barnes (who was a close neighbor of my grandmother on Elba Street).

Letter and copy of photo in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Family ties, no. 5: I wish it was so that I could come to you & family.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the fifth in a series of excerpts from documents and interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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Sarah Silver died of a massive heart attack on a train platform on 8 January 1938 while on her way from Wilson to Greensboro, North Carolina. After receiving the news via a shocking and confusing telegram, my grandmother sent word of Sarah’s death to other relatives. One went to Sarah’s widowed sister-in-law Carrie L. Henderson Borrero, who replied via letter immediately:

Sunday Jan. 9. 38

My Dear Hattie

I received your telegram to-day. 1 P.M. it was certainly a shock to me you & family certainly have my deepest sympathy & also from my family.

I did not know your mother was sick you must write later and let me know about her illness.

It is so strange I have been dreaming of my husband Caswell so much for the past two weeks he always tells me that has something to tell me & that he feels so well so I guess this is what I was going to hear about your mother.

I wish it was so that I could come to you & family but times are so different now seems as if we cannot be prepared to meet emergencies any more but you must know that my heart & love is with you & family.

I am just writing to you a short note now will write you again. Let me hear from you when you get time to write

From

Your Aunt in law

Carrie L. Borrero

322 E. 100th St.  N. Y City

Letter in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Family ties, no. 4: I pray for the whole family.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the fourth in a series of excerpts from interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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A few months after my grandmother passed away in January 2001, my father, mother, sister, and I converged on her little rowhouse at 5549 Wyalusing Avenue, Philadelphia, to clean it out. In a drawer of a large steel desk in the basement, I found a packet of papers. In them, a letter I’d never known existed, from my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson‘s brother Caswell C. Henderson to their sister, Sarah H. Jacobs, who reared my grandmother. It is dated 16 August 1926 and was mailed to Sarah in Greensboro, N.C., where she was visiting their niece, Mamie Henderson Holt.

Though he does not say so directly, Caswell Henderson seems to have been responding to the news of the death of Sarah’s husband Jesse A. Jacobs about five weeks earlier. Sarah has asked him to come to North Carolina, for a visit or perhaps permanently, but he cannot, pleading health and finances. (Caswell worked as a messenger for the United States Custom House in lower Manhattan.) He is hopeful, though, that soon they will be together to “help one another.” He expresses the importance of his family by sending greetings to his great-nieces (my grandmother Hattie and her sister Mamie) and inquiring after niece Minnie Simmons Budd, who had migrated to Philadelphia from Mount Olive, North Carolina. Of course, while “prayers are wonderful when said in all sincerity from the heart,” the prayers of his friends could not keep Caswell C. Henderson forever, and he died 16 January 1927.

The mattress answered the problem perfectly.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 July 1952.

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Jerry L. Cooke‘s open letter to Heilig-Meyers furniture company offers an unusual glimpse of private life. Cooke wrote of his health, his medical treatment, his work history, and his consumer preferences. Born in 1886 in New Bern, N.C., Cooke lived in Wilson from about 1920 to his death in 1976. Though this letter was published a few years outside the period of Black Wide-Awake’s focus, I post it for its unique insight.

A great question affecting their welfare.

On 1 September 1887, John H. Williamson of the North Carolina Industrial Association wrote Samuel H. Vick seeking his assistance. Vick was head of the Wilson County chapter of the association, and this letter is found at the Freeman Round House and Museum:

My Dear Sir:

I shall be present in your city and address the people Sept. 8, 1887, on the Fair and progress of the race.

Will you please aid in securing a place for speaking and see that a large audience is obtained as I desire to talk to them on what I consider a great question effecting their welfare. I have sent hand bills.

Yours most truly,

Jno. H. Williamson, Sect.

Reverend Silver comes to Wilson.

Hattie Henderson Ricks remembered:

… Mama’d make us go to Holiness Church and stay down there and run a revival two weeks.  And we’d go down there every night and lay back down there on the bench and go to sleep.  … Mama’d go every night.  And they’d be shouting, holy and sanctified, jumping and shouting.  

Mr. Silver, he had a bunch, he had 11 children, and his son had a whole bunch of ‘em.  Joseph Silver.  …  When Mama got married there on Elba Street, there at the house.  Yeah.  He come up there …  He was a little short brown-skinned man, and he was a elder and the head of the church where was down there in Halifax County.  

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On 31 August 1933, Sarah Henderson Jacobs of Wilson married Rev. Joseph Silver of Halifax County at her home in Wilson [303 Elba Street]. The ceremony was performed by Holiness minister J.H. Scott and witnessed by S.B. Thomas, Eleanor Hooker and W.M. King. Silver helped establish the Holiness church in North Carolina, and Jacobs was a Holiness evangelist.

Sarah Silver died 8 January 1938. Five years later, on 8 September 1943, Rev. Silver married Martha C. Aldridge in Goldsboro, Wayne County. Rev. Silver had performed the marriage ceremony for Martha, nee Hawkins, and her second husband, Joseph Aldridge, in Wilson on 16 December 1925. C.E. Artis applied for the license, and William A. Mitchner, Hattie Tate and Callie Barnes were witnesses.

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REV. JOSEPH SILVER DIES AT HIS HOME AT 100 YEARS OLD

Reverend Joseph Silver, Sr., well known and highly respected Negro minister, died Tuesday at his home in the Delmar community, on Enfield Route 3.  He celebrated his 100th birthday anniversary last July 22 at a large gathering of friends and relatives. Rev. Silver had been in poor health about four years and had been confined to his bed for the past four months.

Funeral services will be held from the Plumbline Holiness Church, Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. The body will lay in state at the church an hour before the funeral. The Rev. L.G. Young, of Henderson, will preach the funeral and burial will be in the family plot.  Among those expected at the final rites are Bishop M.C. Clemmen of Richmond, Va., and Bishop H.B. Jackson of Ayden.

Rev. Silver began preaching in 1893 when he he organized and built Plumbline Church.  Among other churches built by his ministry are ones at Ayden and Summitt, near Littleton. He was an organizer of the United Holiness Church of America and served on the board of Elders until his death.

Rev. Silver was married three times; first to Felicia Hawkins, who died in 1931, then to Sarah Jacobs of Wilson, who died in 1938; and last to Martha Aldridge of Goldsboro, who survives.  In addition to his wife, Rev. Silver is survived by five sons N.D. and Samuel Silver, of Washington, DC; Gideon, of Pittsburg, Pa.; Joseph, Jr., of Halifax and A.M. Silver of Route 3, Enfield; three daughters, Epsi Copeland and Roberta Hewling, of Enfield, Route 3, and Emma Goines, of Pittsburg, Pa. Eighty grandchildren, 109 great-grandchildren, and 17 great great grandchildren also survive.  [Newspaper clipping from unnamed source, 10 January 1958.]

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  • J.H. Scott — John H. Scott died 18 November 1940 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 February 1874 in Halifax County to Alex Scott and Cathrin [no last name]; was married to Sarah Ann Scott; resided at 311 Lane Street; and was a Holiness preacher.
  • S.B. Thomas — Sarah Best Thomas.
  • Eleanor J. Hooker — Eleanor J. Farmer Hooker.
  • W.M. King — In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: redrying plant janitor William M. King, 67; wife Annie, 64, washwoman; daughter Mary Lucas, 28, laundress; and son-in-law Herman Lucas, 26, redrying plant day laborer.
  • C.E. Artis — Columbus E. Artis, an undertaker. [Note: Artis’ mother Amanda Aldridge Artis was Joseph Aldridge’s sister.]
  • W.A. Mitchner — William A. Mitchner, a physician.
  • Hattie Tate — Hattie Pearce Tate.
  • Callie Barnes — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barnes Paul (c; Callie) mgr Lenora Dixon h 306 Elba [Dixon operated an East Nash Street billiard hall.]

Oral interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; newspaper clipping and letter in the possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Studio shots, no. 19: Cora Miller Washington Artis and family.

The time, did I tell you about that time me and Cora Miller got drunk off tobacco? We were under the buggy shelter chewing it — Papa’s tobacco. We got drunk, we got sick. Mama said we were sick, but we were drunk from that stuff. She thought we had been eating sour apples.  — Hattie Henderson Ricks

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Cora Miller Washington Artis, circa 1930s.

On 15 August 1901, George Henry Washington, 38, of Wilson, son of Jerry and Jane Washington, married Cora Miller, 25, of Wilson, daughter of Cynthia Miller, at the bride’s residence on Green Street. A.M.E. Zion minister C.L. Alexander performed the service in the presence of Sallie M. Barbour and Alice F. Moore. [George Washington was the brother of Samuel H. Vick‘s wife, Annie Washington Vick.]

Per a delayed birth certificate filed in Wilson County, Irene Washington was born in 1903 to George Henry Washington and Cora Miller.

Per a delayed birth certificate filed in Wilson County, Janie Louise Washington was born in 1906 to G.H. Washington and Cora Miller.

Per a delayed birth certificate filed in Wilson County, Cora M[iller]. Washington was born in 1909 to George Henry Washington and Cora Miller.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widowed cook Lou Miller; her daughter Cora Washington, 34, a widowed school teacher; her grandchildren Irene, 7, James, 4, and Cora Washington 1; and two boarders, Mary Hadley, 20, cook, and Mary Pender, 60, widowed servant. [“Lou” apparently is the Cynthia Miller named on Cora Washington’s marriage license. Also, Cora’s second child was in fact a girl named Janie, not a boy James. Though no street is identified on the enumeration sheet, it is clear from the names of the Miller-Washingtons’ neighbors that they lived on or just off East Green Street.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 630 Elmo [Elba] Street, teacher Cora Washington, 39; daughters Irene, 16, Janie, 13, and Cora, 10; mother Lou Miller, 70; and boarders Isic Hicks, 28, carpenter, Manuel Wooten, 22, hotel laborer, Dalis Cutter, 20, barbershop laborer, and Eliza Henderson, 42, teacher.

In the 1925 Wilson city directory, Cora, Irene and Janie Washington are listed at 701 East Green, and their occupations are given as student, teacher and cook. That year, Janie gave birth to a son, James Robert Farmer (later known as Washington). [Per a United States Social Security Applications and Claims Index, James Robert, who died 23 November 2002, listed his parents as Roger Washington and Janie Farmer on his Social Security application.]

On 28 June 1926, Irene Washington, 21, daughter of George Washington and Cora Washington Farmer, married Macon Lucas, 23, son of Sammie and Mary L. Lucas, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister H.W. Farrior performed the ceremony at the homes of John Hines Hinton in the presence of Hinton, Elizabeth Hinnant and Janie Washington.

In the 1928 Wilson city directory, Cora and Janie Washington are listed at 701 East Green, and their occupations are given as teacher and elevator operator at Efirds department store.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 701 East Green Street, George Farmer, 55, porter for A.C.L.R.R.; wife Cora, 51, school teacher; daughters Lena, 20, teacher, and Janie L., 23, department store elevator girl; stepdaughter Cora M. Washington, 21 (marked as “absent”); mother-in-law Lou Miller, 75; and boarders Mildred Norfleet, 23, courthouse elevator girl; and Amos Moor, 35, hotel porter. [Janie, in fact, was Cora’s daughter and George’s step-daughter. Five year-old James Robert was not listed in the household.]

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An invitation to James Robert Farmer’s 8th birthday party in 1933.

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The invitation was addressed to brothers Lucian and Jesse Henderson, who lived at 303 Elba Street.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 701 East Green Street, public school teacher Cora M. Washington, 30, and nephew James R. Washington, 15.

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James Robert Farmer, alias James Robert Washington.

The day after his 18th birthday, James Robert Washington registered for the World War II draft. His registration card reports that he resided at 701 East Green; was born 3 January 1925 in Wilson; was going to school; and his aunt Cora Washington was his closest relative.

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Janie Washington alias Farmer.

In February 1959, Hattie Henderson Ricks, formerly of Wilson, received this letter from her childhood friend Cora Miller Washington Artis. Artis was then living in Kinston, North Carolina, and teaching at the State Training School for Negro Girls, a “reformatory” for African-American girls in the juvenile justice system.

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  • Jesse A. Jacobs, Jr. and Sarah Henderson Jacobs, “Papa” and “Mama” — adoptive parents (and great-uncle and great-aunt) of Hattie Henderson Ricks; resided at 303 Elba Street, around the corner from 701 East Green.
  • Julia Harrell — Julia Burnette Harrell died 30 January 1959. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 January 1894 in Florence, South Carolina, to Dozier W. Davis and Jeanette Edwards; was widowed; worked as a teacher for Wilson City School System; and resided at 1116 East Nash Street. Louise C. Sherrod, same address, was the informant.
  • Blanche Gay Farmer — daughter of Samuel and Ella Tate Gay, grew up at 623 East Green Street, a half-block west of Cora’s family home. She died 27 March 1959.
  • “Callie” —
  • Beatrice Gay Holden, “Bea” — daughter of Samuel and Ella Tate Gay, resided at 623 East Green Street.
  • Lula Sutton Hayes
  • “James” — presumably, Cora Washington Artis’ husband.
  • “Pet” Reid
  • Beatrice Odessa Reid, “Odessa” — daughter of Elijah and Ietta R.M. Reid.

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1922 Sanborn insurance map, Wilson.

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, database on-line, http://www.ancestry.com; photographs and ephemera in the possession of Lisa Y. Henderson; interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Please send for your negro.

Mr. W.W. Batts

Please send for your Negro and get mine and bring her to your house, if you please, and I will come to your house this Evening.

Jany the 1 1860                           W.H. Edwards

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William Woodard Batts wrote on the back of the above letter: “Permit Lewis to carry this to W.H. Edwards, W.W. Batts”

Across the face of the letter he wrote: “Henry, I will do what this calls for. I will bring her as far as my house. W.W. Batts.”

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From The Confederate Letters of William Henry Edwards of Wilson County, North Carolina, Hugh B. Johnston, editor (1977).