Deed book 86, page 97, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
On 14 December 1909, John and Delphia Taylor Locus(t) conveyed an 1800 square foot parcel to Willis Ellis, Joe Eatman, and Phoebe Rountree, trustees of Taylor’s Chapel Christ’s Disciples Church. The land was on “the north side of the path leading from the Nash Road to the old home place of Ira Howard, deceased” and was adjacent to land owned by John Locus and Ruffin Watson (“the James Howard tract”).
The land was to “be used for a church in the name of the Christ’s Disciples Church,” and to return to John Locust and his heirs after such use ended.
[There is a Taylor’s Chapel Pentecostal Holiness in Nashville, N.C., today. I do not believe it is a related church.]
Willis Ellis — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Mary Ellis, 34, and children Willis, 12, Walter, 9, William, 8, Henry, 5, and Lou, 4.
Phoebe Rountree — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: widow Phebee Rountree, 59, farmer, and children Richard, 19, Warren, 17, Ardenia, 15, and Martha, 12.
Ira Howard — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ira Howard, 45; wife Harett, 44, and son William, 18.
James Howard– in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: next door to Ira Howard, farmer James Howard, 20, and wife Cisco, 20.
On 3 June 1919, the Daily Times published a list of Wilson County soldiers who died during World War I. The list is segregated. First in the Colored List is Henry Ellis, who was killed 6 October 1918 and in whose honor Wilson County’s African-American post of the American Legion was named.
Wilson Daily Times, 3 June 1919.
The Daily Times had commemorated Ellis’ death when it received word in December 1918:
“Private Henry Ellis Son of Mrs. Mary J. Howard, Route 1, Wilson, N.C. Died of wounds received in action while fighting for his country and oppressed humanity.” Wilson Daily Times, 4 December 1918.
In the 1870 census of Chesterfield township, Nash County, N.C.: farmer Martin Lucus, 52; wife Eliza, 42; and children Irvin, 19, Neverson, 16, Sidney, 13, Eliza, 7, Westray, 6, Anne, 4, and Mary, 2.
In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 66, wife Eliza Eatmon, 50, daughters AmandaLocus, 18, and Mary J. Locus, 14, “son-in-law” Asa Locus, 10, and “daughter-in-law” Lougene Locus, 4, Margaret Howard, 21, and Harriet Howard, 2. [Nelson Eatmon married Eliza Locust on 28 January 1880 in Wilson County. The Locuses’ relationship designations are obviously erroneous; they were Nelson Eatmon’s stepchildren.]
On 6 February 1887, Warren Ellis, 19, of Wilson County, married Mary Jane Locust, 19, of Wilson County, in Wilson County. Phillis Ellis was one of the witnesses.
In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Mary J. Ellis, 34, widow, and children Willis, 12, Walter, 9, William, 8, Henry, 5, and Lou, 4.
In the 1910 census of Jackson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Mary Jane Ellis, 44, and children Henry, 16, Louise, 13, and Charles, 6; and brother Neverson Lucas, 56.
Henry Ellis registered for the World War I draft in Nash County, N.C, in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 10 November 1895 in Wilson County; lived at Route 2, Bailey; was a tenant farmer for Elijah Griffin; and was single. He signed his card in a neat, well-practiced hand: “Henry T. Ellis.”
In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Mary Howard, 52, widow; son Charlie Ellis, 17; and sister Luginer Colman, 45, widow.
Mary J. Howard died 20 June 1936 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was the widow of Manuel Howard; was 65 years old; and was born in Wilson County to Martin Locus and Louisa Brantley. Gray Ellis was informant.
Henry T. Ellis, then, was the son of Warren Ellis and Mary Jane Locus Ellis and stepson of Manuel Howard. He was descended (or connected) on his mother’s side from several free families of color with deep roots in the area of western Wilson County — Locuses, Brantleys, Eatmons, Howards — and on his father’s from Hilliard and Faribee Ellis, a formerly enslaved couple who established a prosperous farm in the New Hope area shortly after the Civil War.
I have seen no evidence that Ellis’ body was returned to Wilson County for burial. His parents, grandparents, and siblings are buried in Hilliard Ellis cemetery, but there is no marked grave for him there.
At April Term 1856 of Wilson County’s Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a grand jury charged Martin Locust and Bede Wells, both of Wilson County, “being lewd and vicious persons not united together in the bonds of marriage” before and after 1 April 1856 “unlawfully lewdly and lasciviously associate bed and cohabit together … to the evil example of all others.” William Wells and Josiah Boyett were subpoenaed as witnesses, and jury foreman Jacob Taylor returned a true bill to the clerk of court.
This is the bond Locus and Wells pledged for their appearance in court. Curiously, the names of two co-pledgers were crossed out — Kingsberry Wells and William Wells. Both were likely relatives of Bedie Wells, and William was a witness before the grand jury.
Martin Locus was of African, European and Native American descent. Obedience Wells was white. Their prosecution and, presumably, conviction did not much alter their lives, as they are found living together four years later in the 1860 census. (The third column after their names was used to indicate race or color. Wells’ was left blank; white was the default. Locus’ M stood for mulatto.)
1860 census of Kirbys district, Wilson County.
The 1850 census of Nash County shows the household of Kingsberry Wells and his next-door neighbors, Beedy and Martin Wells, who was actually Martin Locus. (The age disparity is likely a recording error. In fact, Martin Locus and Obedience Wells, listed as “Pheby Wells,” were married in Nash County on 22 November 1822, during a period in which laws forbidding interracial marriage were only loosely enforced. Per descendant and family historian Europe Ahmad Farmer, after about 1830, when North Carolina began to strip away rights from free people of color, the couple made an effort to appear to live separately.)
Martin Locus and Obedience Wells’ son Martin Locus Jr. was the father of Martin John Locus.
1822 Nash County marriage license of Martin Locust and Pheby Wells.
Adultery Records-1856, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
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.
By virtue of a decree of the Superior Court of Wilson county, rendered January 5th, 1882, I will sell at the Court House door in Wilson Monday the 6th day of February 1882, the lands whereof Nelson Eatman died seized, consisting of three tracts adjoining the lands of M.M. Mathews, Deal Howard, William Taylor and others, containing three hundred acres more or less. Terms: one thousand dollars cash, balance on credit of eight months. Title reserved till payment of all the purchase money. F.A. WOODARD, Adm.
Wilson Advance, 3 February 1882.
Nelson Eatmon married Marinda Locust on 29 January 1835 in Nash County.
In the 1850 census of Nash County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 34, wife Rinda, 33, Rhoda, 14, Wilmot, 12, Priscy, 10, Ginny, 8, Smithy, 6, and Alford, 4.
In the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 50, wife Morinda, 45, and children Elizabeth, 20, Ginsey, 18, Smithy, 17, Alfred, 14, Nelson, 5, Emily, 7, and Jarman, 2.
In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 53; wife Marinda, 51; daughter Wilmouth, 31, and her children William, 13, Robert, 11, Margaret, 10, Crawford, 4, and Missouri, 7 months; children Grimsey, 25, Alfred, 23, Emily, 15, Nelson, 13, and Jarman Eatmon, 11.
Nelson Eatmon married Barbray Farmer on 9 September 1871 in Wilson County
On 28 January 1880, Eatmon married Eliza Locust. In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Nelson Eatmon, 66, wife Eliza Eliza, 50, [step?]daughter AmandaLocus, 18, and Mary J. Locus, 14, “son-in-law” Asa Locus, 10, and “daughter-in-law” Lougene Locus, 4, Margaret Howard, 21, and Harriet Howard, 2. [The latter Locuses’ relationship designations are obviously erroneous.]
Zelous Howard married Rhoda H. Eatmon on 31 July 1853 in Nash County. [Zealous’ nickname was “Deal.” He was freeborn, but I have not located him in the 1850 or 1860 censuses.] Rhoda was the oldest daughter of Nelson and Marinda Locus Eatmon.]
In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Delus Howard, 35, wife Rodah, 33, and children Mary, 16, Ira, 13, George, 11, Delus, 8, Gibbs, 6, Jesse, 3, and Doctor, 1.
In the 1880 census of Taylors township, close by Nelson Eatmon: farmer Zealous Howard, 50, wife Roda, 48, and children Zealous Jr., 19, James G., 16, Jesse, 15, Allison, 8, Kenan, 6, Anna, 4, and Doctor F., 11.
In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Zealous Howard, 69, wife Roda, 64, daughter Anna, 24, and two bound boys Lonza, 15, and Jack Howard, 5.
In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Zelius Howard, 80, widower, living alone on Howard’s Path, along which several of his extended family lived.