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.
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.
… 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.
On 31 August 1933, Sarah HendersonJacobs 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.
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.]
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
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.
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.]
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
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.]
An invitation to James Robert Farmer’s 8th birthday party in 1933.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beatrice Gay Holden, “Bea” — daughter of Samuel and Ella Tate Gay, resided at 623 East Green Street.
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.