Funeral directors argue over girl’s body.

The competition between rival undertakers was ferocious. Martha Lucas died two days after her twelfth birthday. Unbeknownst to the family, a nurse at the “local colored hospital” (later known as Mercy Hospital) called Batts Brothers and Artis undertaking firm to prepare the girl’s body for burial. Later, the Lucas family asked C.H. Darden & Sons to perform the service. When Darden discovered the body missing, they showed up at Batts and Artis demanding possession. Batts and Artis refused to hand her over unless Darden paid transportation expenses. Darden went to court.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 August 1921.

Three days later, Martha’s father Wiley Lucas and Camillus L. Darden also appealed to the court of public opinion. Lucas stated that he, not Darden, had caused the sheriff’s department to file a claim and delivery action on the advice of police when Amos Batts dramatically claimed he would rather die than surrender Martha’s body. (Replevin, or claim and delivery, is a legal remedy that enables a person to recover personal property taken unlawfully and to obtain compensation for resulting losses.) Lucas “emphatically [denied] that any undertakers but C.H. Darden & Sons were instructed to attend to the funeral arrangements, as I knew of no other colored funeral directors in Wilson at the time ….”

C.L. Darden chimed in to direct readers to the magistrate’s record for the facts, noting that Batts had been told he could sue the hospital if he felt aggrieved. “But Batts knows as the public knows — as I can prove if it comes to a showdown — that Artis’ wife, who is head nurse in the institution, solicits in the hospital for the firm of Batts Bros. & Artis, of which her husband is a member of the firm.” “Artis” was Columbus E. Artis, and his wife was registered nurse Ada Artis.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 August 1921.

Batts Brothers and Artis responded three days after that, “that the public may not be misled.”  They denied having refused to give up the girl’s body, contending that they only sought to be paid for services rendered. The firm claimed the trial justice agreed they were entitled to a “small fee,” but, perhaps taking the temperature of public sentiment, they agreed to drop their claim and pay court costs.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 August 1921.

Martha Lucas’ death certificate.

Jasper R. Locus moves to a new service station.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 December 1944.

At the end of 1944, J. Ollie Mercer announced that Jasper R. “Jabo” Lucas had left Meek’s Gulf Station to work at Mercer Esso Service. 


In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, Edd Locus, 34; wife Winnie, 26; and children Leonezo, 18, Diawas, 11, Rosevelt, 7, Elizebeth, 6, and Anner, 2.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: at “Cross Roads toward Fremont,” farmer Ed Locust, 50; wife Winnie, 45; and children Dowes, 22, Rosevelt, 18, Lula, 18, Amma, 12, and Herman, 5.

Jasper Roosevelt Lucas registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 3 September 1901 in Wilson County; lived in Stronach Alley; his mailing address was 807 West Nash Street, Wilson; his contact was Winnie Lucas, Spring Street, Wilson; and worked at Donnie Meeks Service Station, Wilson.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Lucas killed by falling lumber.

Ed Lucas was killed when falling timber struck his head while he worked. His employer W.D. Hackney was the informant for his death certificate, but knew little of Lucas, and the document notes: “Deceased was an unknown laborer at Wagon Factory.”

Update, 16 July 2022:

Evening Chronicle (Charlotte, N.C.), 2 May 1910.

Thanks to Carol Ten Hoopen for locating this article.

Studio shots, no. 193: Kenney Locus (also known as Lucas).

Kenney Locus, also known as Lucas.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ed Locus, 47; wife Cora, 35; and children Linward, 20, Maggie, 19, Ula, 18, Winnie, 17, Alma, 16, Redelpha, 13, John E., 11, Clinton, 10, Kenny, 9, Josephine, 7, Easter, 5, Louise, 4, Frank, 3, and Nancy, an infant.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Ed Locus, 55; wife Clara, 45; and children Ella, 26, Redelphine, 23, Jhonnie Ed, 21, Qunnion, 19, Kerney, 18, Jasperine, 17, Lottie and Louise, 15, Frank, 12, and Nancy, 10.

In 1942, Kennie Lucas registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 November 1924 in Wilson County; lived at P.O. Box 293, Wilson; his contact was mother Cora Lucas; and helped his father Ed Lucas farm. He had a scar on his right leg below the knee. 

Kenney Lucas died 14 September 1965 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 July 1927 [sic] in Wilson to Eddie Lucas and Cora Lucas; was never married; worked as a farmer; and was a veteran of World War II. Nancy Farmer was informant.

Photo courtesy of Europe A. Farmer.

Snaps, no. 87: Iora Blanche Wilkins Jones Baines Lucas.

Iora Wilkins Jones Baines Lucas.

In the 1900 census of Old Field township, Wilson County: Francis Kates, 37, widow, farmer, and children Ora, 16, Jane, 14, Willie, 10, and Earnest, 6.

Iora Lucas, 15, of Old Fields township, daughter of Buck Wilkins and Frances Kates, married James E. Jones, 28, of Old Fields, son of Burt Jones and Susan Jones, on 2 June 1901 at Frances Kates’ in Old Fields. Thomas A. Jones was a witness.

On 19 February 1906, Frank Baines, 26, of Old Fields, son of Simon and D. Baines, married Iora Jones, 21, of Nash County, daughter of Frances Cates, at Frank Baines’ residence. Thomas A. Jones, John R. Jones, and Dorsey Powell were informants.

In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Franklin Baines, 28; wife Ora, 24; and children James V., 8, Elroy, 4, Cornelia, 2, and Mary A. Baines, 7 months.

In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: widowed farmer Ora Bains, 33, and children Elroy, 12, Cornelia, 11, Mary E., 10, Rosevelt, 7, Donnie, 5, Armensie, 3, and Josephine, 2.

In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: widow Ora Lucas, 45, and children Donnie, 16, Armensie, 14, Josephine, 12, Junius, 8, and Monzora, 6. [The latter two by her third husband, June Lucas.]

Iora Lucas migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy of user Jerry Smith.

This Memorial Day: who was Henry T. Ellis?

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 Amanda Locus, 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.

Minutes of Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association.

Primitive Baptist churches organized themselves in associations, and African-American congregations in Wilson County were members of several, including Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association and Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association.

In November 1918, the Eighth Annual Session of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association met at Stony Creek Church in Nash County. On the first day, the delegates voted to hold the next year’s session at Corner Line Church in Wilson County. The published minutes noted that Bethlehem P.B.A.’s member churches had been members of Radicue P.B.A. until 1910, when “trouble arose” between an Elder A. Wooten and Elder N. Johnson of Few-In-Number Church in Edgecombe County. The men could not (or would not) agree to resolve the matter via ordinary channels, “[t]herefore, we the church at Few-In-Number, would not give up for our member to be tried in such an disorderly way. This is why they call us in disorder. We hope the Lord will show our brethren their wrong. This done by order of the church, assisted by five other churches joining us.” In other words, six churches broke with Radicue to form their own Association.

The minutes’ Table of Statistics reveals three Wilson County churches in the Association: Conner [Corner] Line, New Hope, and Traveler’s Rest. Elder S. Buston [Samuel Burston] of Sharpsburg helmed Corner Line, and Wiley Barnes and Peter Barnes were delegates to the Session from that church. The church reported having baptized no new members the previous year, but receiving one by profession of faith for a total membership of 16. New Hope had no sitting elder, but was represented by A. Horne and Kelley Johnson. The church had received one new member by profession, another by letter (from his or her home church), and had 14 total members. Traveler’s Rest was led by Elder J.H. Winston of Pinetops (in Edgecombe County) and was represented by B.F. Davis and Nathan Lucas. Though the church had only six members, it had baptized one the previous year and received two by profession. It had also dismissed two members.

From Minutes of the Eighth Annual Session of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association Held With the Stony Creek Church, Nash County, N.C. (1918).

Edgecombe County’s Living Hope church hotel the 11th annual session in 1921. Elder Burston was moderator, and Brother Wiley Barnes was one of two men chosen “to stand to preach for the people.” That evening, Brother Barnes sang the hymn on page 490 (of an unnamed hymnal)* and preached from Acts 9:2 — “And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”

In October 1923, Bethlehem P.B.A. convened at Wilson County’s little Travelers Rest Primitive Baptist Church.

Cover, Minutes of the Eighth Annual Session of the Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association Held With the Traveller’s Rest Church, Wilson County, N.C. (1923).

Elder Burston was again appointed moderator, and Brother Wiley Barnes was one of two men chosen to preach. On Saturday morning, Brother Barnes sang the hymn on page 530 and preached from Ezekiel 36:3 — “Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people.”

As always, the Association closed its Session with its touching “Circular Letter”:

In 1925, Bethlehem P.B.A. held its annual meeting at Bethlehem Church in Edgecombe County. The Association favorably received a request from Diggs Chapel (in northeast Wayne County, just over the Wilson county line) to join the Association. Wiley Barnes of nearby Stantonsburg had been elevated to Elder and led this congregation.

The Association returned to Corner Line in October 1927. Elder Burston preached the introductory sermon from I Corinthians 1:1. Elder Barnes lined a hymn and preached from Exodus 3:7-8 — “7 And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; 8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” In 1927, Corner Line had 18 members; New Hope, 17; and Traveler’s Rest, 15. The delegates chose New Hope, “nine miles from Elm City and ten miles from Wilson,” for the next meeting.

Elder Burston died in 1930. Elder Wiley Barnes took over leadership of Corner Line and New Hope, in addition to Diggs Chapel. J.H. Winstead of Tarboro headed Traveler’s Rest.


  • Sam Buston — Samuel Burston died 29 April 1930 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was about 50 years old; was married to Lucy Burston; was a preacher; and was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Henry Burston and Rachel Taylor. Lucy Burston, Sharpsburg, was informant.
  • Wiley Barnes
  • Peter Barnes
  • A. Horne
  • Kelley Johnson — in the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Kellie Johnson, 32; wife Bloomer, 26; and children Arthur, 10, Elizabeth, 8, L. Rosa, 6, Kelly Jr., 5, Willie, 3, and Bloomer, 2.
  • B.F. Davis
  • Nathan Lucas — in the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on the south side of Stantonsburg Road, tenant farmer Nathan Lucas, 49; wife Dilsey, 35; children James, 19, Dora, 17, Odell, 11, and Peter M., 4; sister Susan Lucas, 46; and grandson Lacey J. Edwards, 1 month. Nathan Lucus died 30 September 1921 in Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate he was 52 years old; was married; worked as a farmer for H.E. Thompson; and was born in Johnston County to Amos Lucus. James Lucus, Stantonsburg, was informant.

I have not identified the locations of Traveler’s Rest and New Hope Primitive Baptist Churches.

*[Update: The hymnal may have been Hymn and Tune Book for Use in the Old School or Primitive Baptist Churches, compiled by Silas H. Durand and P.G. Lester and first published in 1886. The scores of the hymns include both shape-note and conventional notation.]

Minutes digitized at Divinity Archive, a project of Duke University Divinity School Library and partner institutions. 

Studio shots, no. 170: the William D. Lucas family.

William D. and Neppie Ann Woods Lucas and children. Ettrick Marion Lucas is at right in white collar. This photo was likely taken in the late 1890s in Arkansas, a few years after the family migrated from North Carolina.

William D. Lucas, grandson of William and Neppie W. Lucas, and wife Henrietta Lucas.


In the 1860 census of Coopers township, Nash County: farm laborer Chordy Locus, 26; wife Jinsey, 24; and children William, 2, and John, 1 month.

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Cordie Lucas, 35; wife Quincy, 35; and children William, 10, Arnold, 9, Lahary, 7, Sidney, 5, Willie, 3, and Olivia, 1 month.

In the 1880 census of Coopers township, Nash County: Corda Lucus, 46; wife Jincy Jane, 45; and children William, 21, Arnold. Jno., 20, L.A. Jane, 17, Sidney E., 14, J. Wiley, 12, Livy A., 10, Martha A., 4, and Moning, 1.

On 3 February 1886, W.D. Lucas, 27, of Nash County, and Neppie Ann Wood, 21, of Franklin County, were married at Read Wood’s residence in Franklin County.

In the 1900 census of Madison township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: farmer William D. Lucas, 42; wife Neffie, 35; and children William, 13, John, 12, Ettric, 9, Askew, 6, Peter, 5, and Emma, 2; and adopted daughter Della Short, 16. All but the youngest four children were born in North Carolina.

In the 1910 census of Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: farmer William D. Lucas, 43; wife Neppie A., 40; sons Askew W., 16, Ettrick M., 18, and Peter W., 13; adopted sister Dellar Short, 30; and Lula Wood, 17. 

In 1918, William Lucas registered for the World War I draft in Saint Francis County, Arkansas. Per his registration card, he was born 30 November 1883; Lived in Forrest City, Arkansas; worked as an express driver for Wells-Fargo Express Company; and his contact was Anna Lucas.

In the 1920 census of Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: farmer Wm. Lucas, 60; wife Neppie, 53; son Ettrick, 28; grandchildren Susie, 7, Leonard, 6, William D., 4, and Linda, 3; cousin Leo Tabron, 8; and boarders Della Short, 45, Roy Allen, 19, and Louis Jones, 23.

Neppie A. Lucas died 13 September 1928 in Caldwell, Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was born in North Carolina to Bill and Amanda Ritch; and was married to William D. Lucas. She was buried in Goodlow cemetery.

In the 1930 census of Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: on Shiloh Dirt Road, cotton farmer William D. Lucas, 62; wife Lucy, 54; grandchildren Sussie, 15, Leonard, 15, Annie L., 13, William D., Jr., 14, and Lenda, 12; and adopted daughter Della, 45. 

On 8 January 1934, Saint Francis Chancery Court granted William D. Lucas a divorce from Lucy Lucas on the grounds of desertion. They had married in 1929.

On 6 August 1935, William D. Lucas, 76, of Forrest City, Saint Francis County, married Martha Grady, 52, also of Forrest City, in Clay County, Arkansas.

In the 1940 census of Telico township, Saint Francis County, Arkansas: farmer W.D. Lucas, 81; son Ettric Marion Lucas, 48; grandson William, 25, granddaughter-in-law Henrietta, 17, and great-grandchildren James Earl, 2, and Leon Lucas, 1; Della Short, 59, adopted daughter; and Arnold Lucas, 7, great-grandson.

William D. Lucas died 7 September 1951 in Caldwell, Saint Francis County, Arkansas. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 January 1880 [actually, about 1858] in North Carolina to Corda Lucas and an unknown mother; was a widower; and a farmer. E.M. Lucas was informant.

Photos courtesy of Europe Ahmad Farmer.

The family of Simon and Isabel Locus Baines.

The family of Simon Baines, seated middle, and Isabel Diana Locus Baines, seated at left. Son Henry Roscoe Baines stands behind and between them. Daughter Zannie Baines Hinnant, holding her daughter Vandelia Hinnant, sit at right. The other children on the front row are Cornelia, Roy, and James Baines. Standing left of Henry Baines are daughter Fannie Baines and son Frank Baines. Roscoe Baines’ wife Minnie Barnes Baines stands next to him. Beside him are Zannie’s husband Robert Hinnant and William Arthur Baines.


In the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Simon Baines, 30, wife Isabel, 27, and children Duncan E., 9, Henry R., 2, and Vandelia, 5 months, plus Hasty Locust, 21. Simon, Isabel and Hasty’s ages were indicated as approximate.

In the 1900 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Simon Bains, 53; wife Isabell, 47; and children Frank, 18, Zannie, 15, Cora, 11, Julia, 8, William A., 7, and Fannie, 2.

On 2 December 1906, Robert Hinnant, 21, of Springhill township, son of H.D. and Mary Hinnant, married Zanie Bains, 20, of Oldfields township, daughter of Simon and Diana Bains. Missionary Baptist minister William H. Mitchiner performed the service.

On 12 January 1910, Henry R. Baines, 32, of Oldfields, son of Simon and Diana Baines, married Minnie Barnes, 34, of Wilson, daughter of George and Annie Barnes, in Wilson.

On 23 January 1910, Jarvie Hinnant, of Nash County, son of Gray and Milbry Hinnant, married Julia Bain, of Oldfields, daughter of Simon and Dinah Bain, in Oldfields township.

In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Simon Banes, 58; wife Dina, 56; children William A., 16, Fannie, 12, and Henry O., 33; and daughter-in-law Minnie, 31.

In the 1920 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: on Jones Hill Road, farmer Simon Baines, 67; wife Diana, 64; daughter Fannie, 22; and grandchildren Troy Lee, 7, Loretta, 4, and Della May Baines, 2.

Simon Baines died 8 September 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 80 years old; was born in Nash County to Mack Eatman and Rachel Baines; was married to Diannah Baines; resided at 806 Singletary Street, Wilson; and worked as a tenant farmer. Henry R. Baines, 309 Reid Street, Wilson, was informant.

Diana Baines died 16 January 1937 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 85 years old; lived at 1010 Singletary Street; was born in Nash County to Gaines Locus and Zanie Locus; and was the widow of Simeon Baines. Informant was Roscoe Baines, 309 North Reid Street.

Fannie Baines died 5 September 1951 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1898 in Wilson County to Simon Baines and Dora Locus and was married.

Cora Hinnant died 25 January 1965 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 25 December 1891 in North Carolina to Sim Baines and Diane Lucas; was the widow of Eddie Hinnant; and lived at 3124 W. Clifford Street, Philadelphia. Informant was Arthur Baines.

Photograph (enhanced by Devon Brooks) courtesy of Abdul East.