No justice for Lee Locus.

On March 31, 1939, farmer LeviLee” Locus was shot to death by a policeman in his own bedroom in Oldfields township, Wilson County. Though the outcome of the officer’s trial was predictable, newspapers called for justice, and black folk took some satisfaction in watching Chief T.T. Autry brought to trial.

4 7 1939

Burlington Daily Times-News, 7 April 1939.

5 27 1939

Pittsburgh Courier, 27 May 1939.

12 23 1939

Pittsburgh Courier, 23 December 1939.


In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John Locus, 37; wife Annie, 31; and children Flonnie, 9, Floid, 8, and Levy, 3.

In the 1920 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John Locus, 43; wife Annie, 39; and children Floid, 17, Levi, 14, and Wiley, 4.

On 23 September 1922, Levi Locus, 21, of Simms, son of John and Annie Locus, married Lilly Jones, 18, of Bailey, daughter of Jesse and Sallie Jones, in Wilson. Witnesses were Eli Barnes, of Simms, and Ernest Batts and Fenley Davis of Bailey.

In the 1930 census of Oldfields, township, Wilson County: farmer Leevie Locus, 23; wife Lillie, 23; and children Lillie M., 7, Leevie Jr., 6, Johnnie B., 5, Freddie L., 3, Annie R., 1, and Queen E., 3 months.


The last will and testament of Luther Locus.

Luther Locus left gifts of $50 to Saint John A.M.E.Z. Church, his aunt Gertrude Horton and  sister Frances Faison; $25 to aunt Mary Mitchell; a piano and a ’36 Buick to sister Lessie Knight; property to wife Eula Locus; and $1000 to son Robert Locus. Rev. J.A. Everette, Ethel Everette and D.C. Yancey witnessed the execution of the document.

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Perhaps, in the 1900 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John W. Locus, 27, wife Liddie, 26, and children Stillie, 9, Luther, 7, and Rolley, 8 months, and sister Lula, 17.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Buckhorn and Kenly Road, farmer John A. Pearce, 41; wife Frances, 37; and children Thomas E., 19, Madie, 17, Lenore, 14, Geneva, 12, John H., 9, Odester, 1, and James, 5 months; boarder Luther Locus, 17; and hired hand Rucian Joyner, 30.

On 15 April 1916, Luther Locus was a witness to the marriage of Lonnie Staton, 22, and Lessie Locus, 20, at 514 East Green Street, Wilson. Church of God minister Joseph Lancaster performed the ceremony in the presence of Lessie’s brother Luther, L.A. Moore and Joseph Johnson.

On 5 June 1917, Luther Locus registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 6 November 1892 in Kenly, N.C.; resided on Wainwright Avenue, Wilson; worked as a chauffeur and mechanic for T.W. Tilghman in Wilson; and was married with a child. He signed his name ‘Luther Locust’ in a clear hand.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wainwright, butler Luther Locus, 27, wife Eula, 23, and son Robert, 6.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1108 Wainwright, cook Luther Locus, 37, wife Eula, 37, also a cook, and son Robert, 16.

Luther Locus died 17 September 1944 at his home at 1108 Wainwright Avenue (owned and valued at $1500.) Per his death certificate, he was born 6 November 1892 in Wilson County to Elie Locus and Mary Pierce, both of Wilson County; worked as an auto mechanic at a filling station. Eula Locus was informant.

On 22 January 1949, Lessie Locus, 45, married Jessie B. Knight, 45, in Wilson. Thomas J. Moore and R.R. Batts witnessed.

North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

The last will and testament of Asa Locus.


I, ASA LOCUS, of Wilson County, North Carolina, DO MAKE, DECLARE and PUBLISH this to be my last WILL and TESTAMENT, hereby revoking and declaring utterly void all other wills and testaments by me heretofore made:

(1) FROM the first monies coming into her hands MY EXECUTRIX hereinafter named shall be all debts owing by me at the time of my death, including burial expenses and the costs of an appropriate grave stone.

(2) AFTER the payment of all my debts aforesaid, I GIVE and BEQUEATH unto my daughter, EVA HESTER the sum of Twenty Five dollars ($25.00) and to my daughter, ADA HESTER the sum of Twenty Five dollars ($25.00).

(3) AFTER the payment of all of the items set forth in Paragraph One and Paragraph Two hereof, I GIVE , DEVISE and BEQUEATH unto my beloved wife ANNIE LOCUS, all of my property, both real and personal, tangible and intangible, of every kind and description and wheresoever situate, to have and to hold unto my said wife ANNIE LOCUS for and DURING THE TERM OF HER LIFE, provided, however, my said wife ANNIE LOCUS shall have full power and authority to dispose of any of the PERSONAL PROPERTY bequeathed to her FOR LIFE but she have no power to dispose of any of said real estate.

(4) UPON the death of my beloved wife, ANNIE LOCUS, I GIVE and DEVISE unto my two sons, JOHN LOCUS and PAR LOCUS, share and share alike, all of my real estate of any and every kind and description and wheresoever situate heretofore devised to my beloved wife, ANNIE LOCUS for the term of her life to have and to hold unto my said sons, JOHN LOCUS and PAR LOCUS for and during the term of their lives only, and at the death of each my said sons, JOHN LOCUS and PAR LOCUS his share in said real estate shall vest in his children in FEE SIMPLE, provided, however, if either of said sons shall die without children, or issue of children, then his share shall vest in the other of said sons, subject to the same limitations hereby imposed.

(5) I HEREBY constitute and appoint my beloved wife, ANNIE LOCUS as the EXECUTIRIX of this will and she shall be required to execute on bond.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I, ASA LOCUS, Testator, as aforesaid have hereunto signed my name and affixed my seal this the 6th day of May, 1939.     Asa (X) Locus

Witness K.J. Herring

Signed, sealed, published, and declared by the said Asa Locus, Testator, as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us, who at his request, and in his presence, and in the presence of others have signed our names as attesting witnesses.  K.J. Herring, David W. Isear


In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Nelson Eatmon, 66; wife Eliza, 50; [Eliza’s children] Amanda, 18, Mary J., 14, Asa, 10, and Lougene Locus, 4; and Margaret Howard, 21, and Harriet Howard, 2.

Also, in the 1880 census of Fishing Creek, Warren County, North Carolina: Levi Richardson, 25, wife Temy, 16, and cousin Acy Locus, 10.

On 17 June 1895, in Brinkleyville, Halifax County, Asa Locus, 23, of Halifax County, married Annie Eaton [sic], 18, of Halifax County.

In the 1900 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Asa Locus, 27, wife Anna, 22, and children Larry, 5, Johney, 4, and Kniver, 1.

In the 1910 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, farmer Acy Locust, 40, wife Annie, 33, and children Larry, 15, John, 13, Eva, 11, James, 8, Ada, 6, and Paul, 3, and mother-in-law Wilmur Eatman, 68.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Asa Locus, 49, wife Annie, 40, daughter Ada, 14, and son Paul, 12.

In the 1930 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Ace Locus, 60, wife Annie, 50, and granddaughter Teanestus Locus, 10.

In the 1940 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Ace Locus, 72, and wife Annie, 68.

Asa Lucus died 14 July 1955 at Park View Hospital in Rocky Mount, Nash Carolina. His residence was Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born October 1860 in Wilson County to Martin Lucus and Liza Brantley. He was buried in a family cemetery in Wilson County.


Asa Locus (circa 1870-1955)

Photograph courtesy of Europe A. Farmer. North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Fenner Brantley and the color line.

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Records related to Fenner Brantley suggest a life spent straddling the color line. Though Kenyon Howard, the “trusty friend” he appointed as executor, was African-American, Fenner died 6 February 1924 as a white man.


What of his father though? Charlie Brantley, who reared him and cared for him during his battle with tuberculosis? In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County:

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Fenner Brantley, age 26, black, is listed as the servant of Charlie Brantley, 48, white, who was named in his will as his father. Wiley Howard, 21, mulatto, rounds out the household. Was this an brutally awkward attempt to work around a socially unacceptable relationship?

In mid-1917, Fenner Brantley registered for the World War I draft. The registrar first recorded his name as “Fenner Howard,” then marked through Howard to write “Brantley.” His racial designation? “African,” which was standard for anyone of any degree of African descent.


It seems that prior to 1920, both Fenner and his father were consistently regarded as African-American. Here’s Fenner’s 1914 marriage license:


And the 1910 census of Taylors township, Wilson County, on Howards Path: Charlie Brantley, mulatto, his son Fenner Locust and daughter Mena Locust. (Fenner’s death certificate listed his mother as Margaret Lucas. Many Locus/Locusts in western Wilson County shifted the pronunciation and spelling of their surname to Lucas.) Brantley lived next door to his elderly father, Henderson Brantley, who appears in antebellum Nash County census records as a free person of color.

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In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Zack Locus, 69, wife Emley, 59, daughter Margret, 29, and five grandchildren Mattie, 14, Hattie, 11, Fenner, 7, Ellen, 4, and Mena,  5; all described as mulatto.

It’s hard to know what conclusion to draw from all this. Fenner Brantley, ne Locus, was born into families deep-rooted in Nash County’s mixed-race free antebellum community. These families were well-known in the larger community and, regardless of their physical appearance, would not have been “mistaken” for white by anyone from the area. As seen here, though, contemporary mores did sometimes allow for certain fluidity in racial identification, and Fenner and Charlie Brantley seemed to have floated at that edge.

Still, when Charlie Brantley died in 1948, 24 years after his son succumbed to tuberculosis, he was a “colored”man.


North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],; death certificates and federal census records also at


Eating was just as necessary.

WDT 4 10 1911 Henry Locus

Wilson Daily Times, 10 April 1911.


In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: Delany Locust, 28, with Lucy, 25, Nathan, 12, Henry, 8, Goodson, 6, Nelly, 4, and Mary J. Locust, 3.

In the 1860 census of Winstead, Nash County: Delany Locus, 43, with Nathan Locus, 22.

Captain Jesse Sharpe Barnes organized the Wilson Light Infantry  in 1861. When the company was mustered in the United States Confederate Army, it became Company F, Fourth Regiment, North Carolina State Troops. Barnes died in battle on 31 May 1862 at Seven Pines, Virginia.

JS Barnes

Capt. Jesse S. Barnes.

Photograph held in Liljenquist Family Collection, see Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Library of Congress

Five country negroes in a free fight.


Wilson Advance, 15 April 1897.

Asa “Acey” Locus (1860-1858) was the son of Martin and Eliza Brantley Locus. Kenyon “Kennie” Eatman was the brother of Acey’s wife Annie. Their parents were Wilmouth Eatman and Hackney High. The Eatman family and Locus families lived in western Wilson County in Old Fields and Taylor townships.

I have been unable to identify the Harrises or Jude Strickland.

They are entitled to attend the white schools.

In November 1909, James Lamm sued Wilson’s Black Creek school district, claiming his children had been barred from admission “without just cause.” They were listed on pupil censuses as white children, said Lamm, and were entitled to attend white schools as they always had.

LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_1

LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_2

The suit prompted a detailed examination of the ancestry of Lamm’s wife, Jane Carter (also known as Jane Locus.) In due course, Wilson County Superior Court issued a short decision finding that Lamm was a “pure blooded white man” with six children; that the children’s maternal great-grandmother was 5/8 white and had a white father; that the great-grandmother had a daughter (the children’s grandmother) who had a white father; and that the children’s mother also had a white father. The children being white enough, judgment for the plaintiff. The children must be enrolled.

LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_5

The case file in the matter still includes notes from the testimony of two witnesses concerning the children’s lineage. Their grandmother was Equit Locus, whose father was believed to be white. (Her surname places her as a member of one of the largest free families of color in antebellum eastern North Carolina, the Locus/Locusts.) With Dallas Taylor, a white man, Ezrit had Wealthy Locus, who was described as “practically white.” Wealthy, in turn, gave birth to Jane — James Lamm’s wife — whose father was “said to be Van B. Carter,” a white man.LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_3

LAMM -- Lamm v Bd of Educ 1909_Page_4

Records related to “bastardy” actions in Wilson County support Joe Horne’s identification of Jane’s father. In September 1870, Wealthy Locus was summoned to court to answer charges that she “is with child whitch child when Bornd will Be a Basterd.” Wealthy named Van Carter as the father of the child, but he could not be found within county limits. It is not clear whether he ever posted a bond or otherwise supported the child. (Van Buren Carter, born about 1850, was a Nash County native. He died in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 1933.)

Weltha Locus Bastardy Papers_Page_2

Weltha Locus Bastardy Papers_Page_3

In the 1860 census of Bailey township, Nash County: John Locus, 60, wife Nancy, 51, and children and grandchildren Thomas, 30, Equitta, 28, Jno., 21, Neverson, 19, Cytha, 15, Sparling, 13, Nancy E., 12, Wealtha, 9, James S., 4, Polly, 2, and Eliza Locus, 2 months. All were classified as mulatto. (If John and Nancy Locus were Equitta’s parents, witnesses were incorrect in their testimony that Wealthy’s mother, too, had a white father.)

In the 1870 census of Springfield township, Nash County: John Locus, 65, with Sparling, 20 and  James Locus, 17, plus Equit, 35, Murnivia, 10, Elizia, 12, Wethia, 20, Malinda, 2 months, and Dotsey, 14; all mulatto.

Wealthy Locust, 23 [she was actually closer to 30], appeared in the 1880 census of Black Creek, Wilson County, in the household of farmer J.C. Rice. She had five children — Jane, 9, Mary, 5, James G., 3, and Bryant, 7 months — and her mother Equit lived with them. All are described as mulatto. Wealthy worked as a cook, and the relationship to her of each of her family members is oddly phrased in this context — “daughter of cook,” “mother of cook,” etc. (As we will see below, this is not an entirely accurate description of the familial ties within this household.)

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The 1880 census was the last time Wealthy’s family as a whole is classified as  mulatto. (And the last time but one that her older children bear the name Locus.) Though they remained in the community in which everyone knew them and their mother, all of Wealthy’s children transitioned to white identities as they entered adulthood.

On 15 December 1889, James Lamm, 27, married Jane Carter, 20, at Amos Hays’ in Black Creek township. Both were described as white.

Daughter Mary Locus, 18, married Robert Barnes, 23, in Black Creek on 27 July 1893. Robert is described as white; the space for Mary’s race was left blank.

Wealthy’s daughter Bettie married James Bass in 1897, and her marriage license sheds new light on that census entry. Bettie’s last name was Rice and, at 16, she was a minor. “J.C. Rice & Weltha Locas the Father & Mother” of Bettie Rice had to give written permission for her to marry. Bettie was described as white, and her sister Jane Lamm was an official witness to the ceremony.

The 1900 census of Black Creek, however, shows that the family’s social identity remained fluid, at least in the eyes of the community. At household #106, [Wealthy’s son] James G. Rice, 23, wife Lou, 21, and son Lee, 1, all white. At #108, Wealthy Locus, 50, son Zacariah, 13, and daughter Fannie, 10, all black. At #109, Pennsylvania-born James C. Rice, 55, white [father of Wealthy’s younger children.] At #113, James Lamm, 42, wife Jane, 30, and children Robert L., 9, James C., 7, Mamie, 4, and Leona, 2, all white.

In December 1909, just after he filed suit against the school board, James Lamm filed for a marriage license on behalf of Lester Lucas, 21, and his sister-in-law Fannie Rice, 19. Fannie, now white, gave her parents as J.C. Rice and Wealthy Joyner.

James C. Rice died about 1917. Under the terms of his will, executed 23 October 1915, James left (1) Welthy Joyner six five-hundred dollar promissory notes in trust, with her to have use of the interest at her discretion and to be distributed after her death to J.G. Rice, Zack Rice, Mary Barnes, Bettie Bass and Fannie Lucas, and (2) a $1000 note to be divided among the same five. (The will does not refer to them as his children.)

In the 1920 census of Black Creek: James G. Rice, 43, wife Louetta, 42, sons Lee, 21, Henry, 19, and Frank, 11, widowed mother Welthy Joyner, 70, and his in-laws. All were white.

Wealthy Locus died 18 June 1922. Her surname was recorded as “Joyner,” and her son James provided information about her life. She was again described as a widow (no marriage license has been found), William Joyner was listed as her father (James Rice supposedly had no information about his grandmother, Ezrit Locus), and she was white. (That Thomas Yelverton & Company handled her burial signals community acceptance of that identity. Undertakers were segregated in that era.)


Zack Rice, Wealthy’s youngest son, died 8 March 1934 in Black Creek. His death certificate lists his parents as Jim Rice and Wilthy Rice. James Gaston Rice died 25 February 1940. His death certificate lists his parents as James C. Rice, born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Welthy Joyner. Jane Carter Lamm died 21 February 1945 in Wilson, Wilson County.  Her death certificate lists her parents as Van Carter and Wealthy Joyner, and she is classified as white.

School Records (1909), Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives; Bastardy Bonds, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

State vs. Nathan A. Blackwell.

BLACKWELL -- Nathan Blackwell Bastardy Action_Page_1

State of North Carolina, Wilson County  }

On this the 24 day of April 1866 the undersigned a Justice of the peace in and for said County proceeded to take examination of Delpha Locus whereupon she declares upon her oath that she has bin deliverd of a Child which child is a bastard and liable to become chargeable to said County her child Edwin is a male bastard of the age of two years and eight month old being less than three years old,

She further declares that Nathan A. Blackwell is the father of her said child.   Delpha (X) Locus

Taken and subscribed before me     Jos. F. Mercer {seal}


It appears that Edwin was reared by his father. In the 1870 census of Black Creek, Wilson County: 31 year-old farm laborer Nathan Blackwell, 42 year-old Mary Blackwell, and 6 year-old Edwin Blackwell. Ten years later, however: Nathan Blackwell, 40; his wife Mary Blackwell, 55; 36 year-old servant Delpha Lassiter; Harriet Lassiter, 14, and Nathan Lassiter, 4; Charlotte Baker, 70; and Edwin Blackwell, 17.

Delpha Lassiter and Delpha Locus were the same person. She was also known as Delpha Simpson, daughter of Orpah Simpson Lassiter, and married Matthew Lassiter (brother of her stepfather Silas Lassiter) on 7 December 1866 in Wilson County. They appear in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Mathew Lassiter, 47, Delphy, 24, Harret, 3, infant, 1 month, and Thomas Lassiter, 2.

On 12 May 1889 in Gardners township, Wilson County, Ed Blackwell, 27, son of Axum [sic] Blackwell and Delpha Locus, married Cherry Farmer, 24, daughter of Rhoda Bynum.

Nathan Blackwell and Delphia Lassiter married 30 January 1890 in Wilson County. In the 1900 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: 59 year-old day laborer Nathan Blackwell; wife Delpha, 53; daughter-in-law [stepdaughter?] Harriet, 33; and Harriet’s children James, 16, Jonas, 13, Martha, 11, and Peter, 10. Delpha Blackwell died 2 April 1902 in Indianapolis.

Adultery 1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.

Studio shots, no. 3: Annie Eatman Locus.


Annie Eatman Locus was born about 1877 in Wilson County to Wilmouth Eatmon (circa 1834-circa 1910), a woman of color, and Hackney High, a white man.  She married Acey (or Ace or Asa) Locus (1860-1958), son of Martin and Eliza Brantley Locus, and their children included Larry, Johnnie, Eva, Ada and Paul Locus.  Annie E. Locus died in 1952.


Wilson Daily Times, 8 April 1952.

Photo courtesy of Gregory J. Wilkins.