I know I have a romantic view of old East Wilson (old, as in before it was ravaged by disinvestment and the crack trade), attributable to my very safe and happy childhood there. Still, I am sometimes reminded how shallow my rosy recollection can be and how it may serve to erase or obscure less happy stories.
One of my cousins, 20 years older than I, published a memoir a few years ago. The early pages of Sherrod Village are set on streets I’ve walked and peopled by folks I knew in East Wilson. Barbara Williams Lewis’ grandmother Josephine Artis Sherrod was my great-great-grandmother’s sister; they were two of the “innumerable” children of Adam T. Artis. (Barbara’s mother, in fact, is who described them to me that way.) I thought I would recognize so much in Barbara’s book. And I did. But I didn’t.
Children are shielded from so much ugliness — if they’re lucky, as I was — and understand so little of what they see. The ragged past of sweet old people is not always apparent in their mild present. Nonetheless, though my own family’s story involved poverty and insecurity and pain, I have believed that my recollected truth was true. I have, perhaps, counted on it.
I’ve spoken often about viewing East Wilson as a palimpsest. However, for too long I processed little beneath the surface of my own Polaroid-tinted memories of crepe myrtles, corner stores, and swimming lessons at Reid Street Community Center. I knew the history of the place, but not the often bitter stories of its people. Fifteen pages into Sherrod Village, I wrote to Barbara that I was “staggered.” I finished the book in the same state of astonishment.
I thank Barbara for her honesty and bravery. I thank her also for pushing me toward deeper and more empathic consideration as I continue to build space for our community’s stories.
I wrote here of the memoir of long-time Darden High School principal Edward M. Barnes. At the time, I believed the pink booklet to be a one-off tribute published by Darden High School Alumni Association. However, on a recent visit to Sallie B. Howard School, I was introduced to an entire library of these works spanning multiple literary genres — written, edited, and published in the 1980s and ’90s by Mrs. Howard for use in the Youth Enrichment Program.
I was particularly interested in this booklet, and Dr. JoAnne Woodard generously offered me a copy. William Hines seems scarcely remembered now, but was for nearly three-quarters of the twentieth century arguably Wilson’s most civically engaged African-American citizen.
The booklet is organized in a series of Mrs. Howard’s recollections. William Hines was her family’s landlord, and her earliest memories involve the house at 1011 Washington Street.
“… [W]hen we moved into his tenant house in 1935 or ’36, it was the first house we had ever lived in with electricity and an ‘inside’ toilet! We felt extremely fortunate as many of Wilson’s tenant houses did not have such accommodations.”
“How well I remember this neat little four-room house …. It sat so near the sidewalk there was hardly room to frow flowers in the front. In fact, the front porch steps were practically on the sidewalk itself! This, however, was not unusual as many houses were similarly situated during that time. I suppose the rationale of the builders was to leave room in the back so that the residents could plant gardens if they so desired. And in those lean days — nearly everyone desired!”
“Mr. Hines owned many houses all over Wilson. He also owned his own barber shop where he employed as many as 12 barbers. The house we lived in sat right across the street from others who also owned their own homes. I remember my mother being highly impressed by the green striped awnings of some of these homeowner neighbors. Each summer they would lower these pretty awnings in order to shade their front porches. …”
“I also remember Mr. Hines as one of the donors of cash awards to students who excelled in various subjects at Darden High. Money was hard to come by in those days, and I for one worked hard to capture one of these cash prizes.”
“About 1942, I was a patient at Mercy Hospital on E. Green St. It was said that Mr. Hines was one of the persons who secured the funds from the Duke Endowment for the operations of this hospital. He was the Administrator at the time I was a patient. Practically every morning he would come into the war and say a little something to the patients.”
” … my high school days were filled with priceless memories: the parties, the basketball games held in heatless warehouses (I don’t remember feeling cold!); the football games played in the snow and slush in back of Darden High (I don’t remember feeling cold!); the Junior-Senior proms held on the 3rd floor of the old Vick casino (walk up!); the many concerts and dramas given by our school etc. …”
“Mr. Hines was one of the founders of the Men’s Civic Club. And it was this distinguished group of men who finally succeeded in getting a recreational facility for our community. Today, this facility is known as the Reid Street Center. Now the Black Community had a brand new place in which to house their various activities. How well I remember the Big Bands that played in our new facility. …”
William and Ethel Cornwell Hines in photo reproduced from booklet.
Dr. Judy Wellington Rashid shares this excerpt, adapted for Black Wide-Awake, from her My Neighborhood Legacy Series: A Salute to the Educational Leadership of Rev. Hattie Louvenia Owens Daniels, Founder and Director of the Golden Rule Kindergarten 1944-1972 Wilson, NC.” Though it recalls a period after BWA’s focus, it offers a close look at the warm, rich experience that would have been familiar to children who attended Golden Rule earlier.
Dr. Rashid’s parents, Levi and Cora Greene Wellington, lived on Manchester Street from 1946 to 1978. Between 1957 and 1966, she and two of her siblings attended Rev. Hattie Daniels‘ Golden Rule Kindergarten at 908 Wainwright Street, just a block from their home.
Each morning, a family member dropped the children off at the front door of the house. As they entered the living room, Rev. Daniels and her daughter Deborah Ruth Daniels, greeted each child by name with a warm and welcoming “Good morning!” Once all the children had arrived, they stood together and responded in song — “Good morning to you!, Good morning to you!, We’re all in our places, with bright shiny faces, and how do you do? How do you do?” The Danielses asked each child how they were doing and if they had eaten breakfast. If they had not eaten at home, they were fed at no charge. The children then lined up as a group and marched out the back door to the school, a long building located to the left rear of the backyard. The remaining yard was the playground. Everything they learned was recited in song and rhyme — the alphabet, numbers, sight words, etc. Rev. Daniels rang a big hand bell to begin their daily recitations of the lessons they learned, to get their attention, or to signal a change in activity.
Throughout the school day, children formed a neat line for everything, including forays into the public. They marched everywhere, always staying in a neat line and looking straight ahead. Golden Rule’s children took field trips to sing on a local radio program, to the county fair, and the Wilson Christmas parade. Each year, they walked from the school to downtown Wilson to sing Christmas carols on the county courthouse steps. Rev. Daniels led the line of students while her daughter walked behind. Rev. Daniels’ students were known to have manners.
Judy Wellington Rashid graduated from Wilson’s R.L. Fike High School in 1970, completed college, and became a teacher. During her first few years teaching, she began to reflect on the invaluable academic lessons, respect for education, and order and discipline she received at the Golden Rule kindergarten. Shortly becoming a principal in 1977, she visited Rev. Daniels in her home. The old school building was still standing but not usable. Dr. Rashid went to thank Rev. Daniels for the great foundation that she had provided her in kindergarten. She also wanted to know if Rev. Daniels still had a book that she had used to teach her students, and indeed she did.
Rev. Hattie Daniels with a copy of Lillian Moore’s A Child’s First Picture Dictionary, first published in 1948.
On a 2004 visit to Wilson, Dr. Rashid noticed Deborah Daniels and another woman sitting on the porch of 908 Wainwright. Daniels recognized her, and they shared laughter over seeing each other again after so many years. Lillian Francis Lucas introduced herself and said she moved from Wiggins Street to the house next door to 908 Wainwright “when the highway came through.” She said she had come over to clean house and “wait on” Rev. Daniels. She remembered that “there were 60 students at the school at one time or the other,” aged three to five years. She also remembered that the school day would start around 5 or 6 A.M. and last until 5 or 6 P.M.
Rev. Daniels’ Wainwright Street home at left, a rental property she owned at middle, and the church she pastored at right.
Deborah Daniels’ chimed in: “my mother housed, clothed, fed, and took care of me from Elvie School, Catholic School, Sallie Barbour School, to Darden High School”. Dr. Rashid closes: “May God forever bless the educational legacy of Rev. Hattie Daniels and her daughter Deborah Ruth Daniels.”
Golden Rule kindergarten in 1964. The Wilson Daily Times printed the photo, submitted by James Boyette, in its 9 July 2002 edition.
I recently stumbled across Pointed Towards the Sun, a collection of stories about the immigrant experience published in 2018 by students and faculty of Brookdale Community College, Montclair, New Jersey. The section “Historical Research and Ancestry Studies” includes Nathalie Darden’s memoir about the triumphs and struggles of her grandparents, a French woman and an African-American man who met in Paris in the 1950s.
On 2 July 1925, Arthur Darden, 35, of Wilson, son of Charlie and Dianah Darden, married Olive Blanks, 21, of Wilson, daughter of J.B. and Susan Blanks, in Wilson. C.L. Darden applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion minister J.E. Kennedy performed the ceremony in the presence of L.A. Moore, C.L. Darden, and V.L. Moore.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 109 Stantonsburg Street, Arthur Darden, 38, proprietor of undertaking environment; wife Olive, 21, public school teacher, born in South Carolina; son Charles R., 3; and roomer Estella Williamson, 17.
In the 1940 census of Bronx, New York: at 1324 Prospect Street, Olive Darden, 32, and son Charles, 13, both born in North Carolina.
In 1945, Charles Arthur Darden registered for the World War II draft in Queens, New York. Per his registration card, he was born 11 February 1927 in Wilson, N.C.; he lived at 167-08 111th Avenue, Jamaica, Queens, N.Y.; his contact was mother Olive Darden Edinboro; he was unemployed; and had a scar under his right eye.
Circa 1992, the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association published a short memoir of the school’s long-time principal Edward Morrison Barnes (1905-2002). Sallie Baldwin Howard, an accomplished educator in her own right, penned this brief forward.
I remember Mr. [Edward M.] Barnes as my principal of both Wilson Public High School and Charles H. Darden High. As incongruous as this may seem, nevertheless — it is true. E.g. In 1938, Wilson Public High School became Charles H. Darden High School and Mr. Barnes, of course — was already the principal.
Mr. Barnes was also the first high school teacher hired from Wilson. He was hired as a French and English teacher. After less than two years, Mr. [William H.A.] Howard the principal died and Mr. Barnes became the principal. Our class of 1938 would be the first class to ever graduate from a Wilson public school named for an African-American: Charles H. Darden High School.
Consequently, the year 1938 becomes a historical landmark for the Black community. Both, our Principal and our class — were thrust into history simply because we just happened to be in a specific place at a specific time. Nevertheless, we’re proud that Lady Luck was on our side!
Tat, Tat, Tat …
Next, I remember my principal because of his habit of lightly tapping a thin ruler against the wall when he wished to gain the attention of students who might be loitering about the halls during the changing or classes.
This soft “tat, tat, tat” was all that was needed to send us hurrying on to wherever we were supposed to be. I don’t remember ever hearing him raise his voice in order to achieve quiet or get the attention of that All-Black student body.
I’ve had many occasions to reflect on this as a teacher in the New York Public School System. I’d observe both the principal and the teachers practically wear out their lungs in a vain effort to achieve hallway order. Their loud and strident method of trying to achieve quiet, only added to the terrible din of noise.
My memory of Mr. Barnes’s unique method of controlling his student population made a lasting impression on me and it has stayed with me during my many years of working with children.It has made me realize that one of the greatest accomplishments a classroom teacher can achieve is to train his/her children to respond to quiet discipline!
Even today, in the Youth Enrichment Program where I serve as Education Coordinator, Quiet Discipline is insisted upon. And like that of my principal’s so long ago, it still works!
Somebody Noticed — Thank God!
I also remember an occasion when my principal had more confidence in my ability than I had in myself.
Right from the outset, I’d decided that I didn’t like French. Today, I realize that I simply did not want to give up that much of my leisure time in order to learn the vocabulary and verb-conjugations necessary to master a foreign language. Completely unwilling to do this, I simply decided to just try and “get by!” And, of course, my grades quickly reflected just that! But even with the filing grades, I don’t remember being particularly concerned. But somebody was — Thank God!
Consequently, when my principal spoke to me about my grade (78%) — I was shocked and wondered who had ratted on me! How else would he know? I remember telling him that I simply couldn’t learn French — to which he, thank God — paid not the slightest bit of attention. Instead, after chastising me rather severely — he simply pulled me out of my regular class, plopped me down in his office and began teaching me the fundamentals of French. Teaching, testing and grading away — for a while week! At the end of the that time, my grades had zoomed up to 100%! Only then was I permitted to return to my regular class and rejoin my friends.
Nevertheless, as traumatic as this experience had been to my ego, I’d begun to understand the procedure of learning a foreign language. And despite myself, I’d fallen in love with the process. Moreover, that experience got me hooked on foreign languages. Later on in life, I went on to study French, Spanish, Hebrew and Kiswahili!
There are so many meaningful memories that flood my mind as I think back to those high school days. Such as: our principal himself, driving is in his car to the various tournaments in which we had to participate. Or like arranging for me to have a little library job in order for me to have some spending change — $6.00 per month etc!
During those Terrible Thirties, I used to wonder if my principal realized that the $6.00 was more than spending change for me — but was desperately needed in our house to help out with the bills! How I hoped that he didn’t know this! But once I was an adult and I myself a classroom teacher, I came to realize that there is very little about pupils that the principal and teachers don’t know!
Anyway, during those skimpy days of the Deep Depression, when both the teachers and principal had been obliged to struggle mightily to get to where they were, not only did they know, but what they did for us precisely because they did know. But most importantly for us students — they also REMEMBERED!
Chef Jesse David Pender published his memoirs in 2007 at the age of 92. Pender’s life has been singularly interesting in many ways, but I am most drawn to the book’s first 75 pages, in which he offers a richly detailed account of life in Wilson and Wilson County in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Below, I highlight the people and places he mentions from that era.
mother and father — On 11 January 1899, Joe Pender, 21, son of Ed and Caroline Pender, married Ella Hinnant, 19, daughter of Eliza Barnes, at Dred Barnes’ house in Black Creek. In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Joseph Pender, 21, wife Ella, 22, and daughter Mamie, 8 months. In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Plank Road, Joe Pender, 28, wife Ella, 20, and children Mamie 11, Dred, 5, and Ernest, 1. In the 1920 census of Goldsboro township, Wayne County: farmer Joseph Pender, 49; wife Ella L., 42; and children Edward D., 14, Maggie, 9, Ernest, 12, Alonzi, 7, Jesse, 4, Georgiana, 3, and Josephine, 1. Ella Hinnant Faulkland died 8 October 1967 at her home at 718 Viola Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 April 1886 in Wilson County to Deed Barnes and Luzannie Hinnant. Informant was Georgia Harris.
“my baby sister Josephine,” — Josephine Pender Thompson Williams, the youngest of Jesse Pender’s 13 siblings, died in Wilson in 2014, aged 96. This photo accompanies her obituary.
“my sister Georgia” — Georgia Anna Pender Jenkins Harris (1917-1990).
“We lived on a plantation owned by Mr. Frank Hooks which was way out from a little town called Fremont, North Carolina.”
“my father’s brother, Uncle Tiko” and his children “HB, Sug, Buddy, Pete and Bessie Mae”
moved to Black Creek to “Mr. Johnson Daniels’s farm” from 1923-1926, then to Dudley [in southern Wayne County] from 1927-1928
in 1929 “moved back to Wilson County between Wilson and Willsbanks [sic; Wilbanks] on Mr. Dick Cozart’s farm”
“my older brother Dred” — Edgar Dred Pender.
Wilson Daily Times, 17 May 1929.
a couple named Clyde and Eva; Eva’s brother John — Eva Strickland Roberson died 27 February 1929.
family moved into Wilson in 1930, and father took a job in a tobacco factory
Zeb Whitley’s grocery and fish market on Nash Street — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Whitley Zebediah (c; Mazie) pdlr [peddler] h 202 Manchester. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 702 East Nash, rented for $8/month, Zeb Whitley, 37, wood yard proprietor, and wife Mazie, 38.
“Blacks didn’t live on the west side of town. If you were up there, you were working there. We had everything we needed on the east side of town — theater, drugstores, grocery stores and everything else you could think of.”
mother went to work cooking and cleaning for Duncan Savage, who owned a outdoor advertising agency
“cousin James Robins” who lived in Elm City with his wife Flory and her son Frank, whom he adopted — in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Elm City-Wilson Road, James Robbins, 26, wife Flora L., 23, and son Frank, 12.
stayed with grandparents Dred and Louzanna near Black Creek just before grandfather died in September 1931 — Dred Barnes, 33, of Black Creek township, son of Nelson Barnes, married Luzana Hinnant, 30, of Black Creek township, daughter of Hardy Hinnant, at her home on 14 March 1893. In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dred Barnes, 42; wife Lou J., 37; son Johnnie, 4; and boarder Alex Johnson, 29. In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dred Barnes, 54, and wife Louzanie, 48. In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dred Barnes, 69, and wife Louiza, 67. Dred Barnes died 29 September 1930 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 70 years old; was born in Wilson County to Nelson Barnes and Annie Daniel; was a farmer; and was married to Luzina Barnes.
grandparents’ neighbors James Caper and John Barnes — near Dred and Louzania Barnes in the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer James Caple, 36, wife Mary, 37, and children Willie, 16, and Augusta, 12.
mother’s sister Aunt Maggie and her son John, who lived in Kenly — Supercentenarian Maggie Hinnant Barnes (1882-1998) was the daughter of Louzanie Hinnant.
cousins Buddy and Nell — children of Maggie and Orangie Barnes.
Flory Robins’ brother, who lived at 411 East Jones Street
friend Jimmy D. Barns
hired out on the farm of the Batts family near Elm City (Mr. Batts, wife Lula and sons Douglas and J.D.) — in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Elm City-Wilson Road [next door to the James Robbins family, above], farmer Leroy Batts, 26; wife Lula, 23; son Armour, 9 months; uncle Stephen B. Strickland, 61; and boarder James E. Pender, 22, farm laborer. [Is this, in fact, Jesse Pender?]
Clyde Batts, the tailor in Wilson — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory:
siblings Margaret and George Pipos, cafe owners — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pappas Geo (Elite Cafe) h 404 E Nash and Pappas Margaret waitress Elite Cafe h 404 E Nash.
“Aunt Maggie’s husband, Uncle Orangie Barnes, had a sister living in Wilson on Pettigrew Street named Mittie Barnes“
Martha Coverton, a cook for Betty Powell — possibly, in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 408 South Lodge Street, rented for $18/month, widow Annie Covington, 54, laundress, and children Martha, 20, servant, and James, 9. In the 1930 city directory, Martha Covington was listed as a cook.
Betty Powell, a downtown madam who employed Pender from 1934 to 1946
Powell’s husband, Mr. Taylor, who raised chickens and ran a cafe on Tarboro Street
Mr. Benny, a retired teacher
Mr. Howard, a high school principal — William H.A. Howard, principal of the Wilson Colored High School.
John D. and his sister Irma Dean [Hines], whom Pender married — in the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Hines, 42; wife Martha, 41; and children William D., 15, John D., 11, Lewis Jr., 8, Annie E., 7, Etta E., 6, and Debora, 2, plus mother-in-law Jack A. Barnes, 74. On 29 December 1937, Jesse Pender, 23, of Wilson County, son of Joe and Ella Pender of Wilson County married Erma Dean Hines, 18, daughter of Louis and Martha Hines of Wilson County, in Nashville, Nash County.
daughter Betty Lou Pender, born in 1938
house on Carole Street up by Darden’s High School — Carroll Street.
parents moved to a house on Vance Street
Pa Faulkland, his mother’s second husband, who died in 1956 — Willie Faulkland died 1 November 1955 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 November 1883 in Wilson County to Phillip Faulkland and Jannie Farmer and was a laborer. Informant was Ella Faulkland, 718 Viola Street. [He was buried by Hunter’s Funeral Home, 900 East Nash Street. This was a short-lived funeral home operated by Talmon Hunter.]
mother’s house on Viola Street — 718 Viola Street.
Watson Tobacco Warehouse on Lodge Street
Pender, Milton Fitch, Albert Wingate, Cris [Chrisdell] Leach and Albert Gay got taxi licenses and opened Veteran Cab Company in a “little office shack in the backyard of Hamilton Funeral Home”
cousin Frank Durham — son of James and Flora Robbins, above. On 12 November 1938, at Nashville, Nash County, Frank Durham, 23, son of James Durham and Flora Durham Robbins, married Annie Gray Finch, 23, daughter of Alonzo Finch and Annie Hall Finch in the presence of W.R. Lucas of Elm City and Louis Hines and Dollie Mae Williams Hines of Wilson.
I hasten to state that the use of this statement should be in the third person. To me, it is not important enough to be presented on my own.
I was born in Wilson, N.C. what seems to me now a short time ago – to poor, humble and devoted parents: Elizabeth and Lemon Barnes. Their educational background was minimal but they worked hard and were determined that their children would receive the best of life that was available to them at the time.
Times were difficult, to say the least, because it was the beginning of the “Great Depression.” For those parents born since the inauguration of President Roosevelt, it is hard to understand the meaning of “difficult times.”
The experience I had during my growing years were many. If time and space permitted my telling about them, I am sure you would get a good laugh out of some of them and you would feel sorry for me in many others. I am, however, so happy to have come this far and I have so much for which to thank God, my parents and a multitude of teachers and friends.
Our only public school was emptied of all the students and a private one was formed and operated for many years on the few pennies that parents were able to find to pay for teachers and others in the school’s operation. Standards of good education were necessarily diminished but, in spite of that, many of those students became leaders in activities of national importance.
The Independent School was housed in one of Mr. Sam Vick‘s houses on E. Vance St.
Miss Georgia Burke
Miss Georgia Burke was one of the teachers at the Graded School when the slapping incident happened. With her outstanding musical abilities, she became one of the chief fund raisers to keep the school operating.
She put on lavish concerts in the old Vick Globe Theater. She held two-day commencement exercises in warehouses in order to raise funds to keep the school operating for about 8 or 10 years. The school operated until well after the Wilson Colored High School was built in 1923.
Miss Burke went on to became a famous musical star on New York’s Broadway stage.
A “Poor Soul” Goes To College And Becomes A Principal
This poor soul, at the insistence of Rev. A.H. George, went to Livingstone College without ever having been accepted as a student nor even having made application.
Through sheer determination and with very little money, I was able to stay there eight years, graduating from both its high school and college. Upon graduation, in 1931, I came directly to the Wilson Colored High School which later became C.H. Darden High School.
At that time, the principal was having some difficulty with the people of the community. It seemed to stem from his refusal to hire high school teachers from Wilson. I came as the first high school teacher from Wilson. I taught classes in French and English for one year and part of the second year. During my second year, the principal died in his office on the day we were to close for the Christmas holidays. After his death, the superintendent asked me to take over the supervision of the school until he could find a replacement. I waited 38 years until John W. Jones became the replacement in 1969 — upon my retirement!
During the first five years of my retirement, I served part-time in the office of the superintendent. Time will not permit me to tell of the many pleasant experiences that I had during my tenure as principal. There are many teachers, staff members and other workers who helped me; without them, I would have had no measure of success. Perhaps my greatest pleasure and indeed success — if I had any — came from the many students who were under my supervision. I see so many every day who tell me of the help that I gave them and of the role model that I represented to them. Believe me, those kinds of comments mean more to me than any other things that they could do or say. I must say, however, that pleasures and good times were not all of my experiences. My share of headaches and heartaches cannot be over-looked for there were many of them.
In addition to my school work, I also have a degree of pride in the community service that I undertook during my working years and after retirement.
It was my pleasure to work for 10 years on the Wilson County Library Board, serving during the time of the renovation of the public library. I value the appearance of my name on the corner stone of the new addition to that building.
Before becoming a member of the Wilson County Housing Authority, I served on a city appointed Commission that began the improvements of the blighted areas of our city. The Commission had the responsibility of cleaning up those areas. It took ten years and many legal and other problems to clear before the work on that project could be completed. After that time, I — along with some of the others who had worked on the Commission — were merged with the Wilson Housing Authority. During the ten years that I worked with this group, (serving two terms as chairman) many projects were completed, including Tasman Towers. I shall always be grateful to the Authority and to the City of Wilson for naming a project after me — The E.M. Barnes Manor. I hope that such action is not a prelude to my death.
I am very proud of the part that I played in the organization of our local unit of the Retired Teachers Association. Its history is more complete in its file. However, at the time we had no association in Wilson that was connected with the State organization. I was asked to head a group with a responsibility to organize one. I took that responsibility. I visited personally many persons, pleading for their membership. Some accepted; many refused. We were very fortunate to get Mrs Sallie Lanier to serve as the first president. Many of our first contacts ware still with us. It is delightful to know that our local association is nor one of the largest and most active in the state.
Over the years, I had the honor of serving on many committees and working with many groups. We worked with the group that organized a Community Human Relations Commission. For many years it made a Commendable contribution to our community. For some reasons, it has now lost its effectiveness.
I am proud, also, to have had a part in organizing our Men’s Civic Club, composed of a group of Black men with similar interests. It was never intended to be a representative of the City; we wanted a social group but with equal community interests. We may now be the only continuously operated organization in the city of Wilson. We have met at least once a month for 50 years.
There are many other community organizations with which I have served, but my promised brief statement does not permit me to mention them by name. I tried to perform well in them all.
I cannot close without mentioning at least two more, however, that are second to none. I joined and attended the Presbyterian church when I was a child — too young to go alone. I have always thought of myself as a Christian, but it was not until after my retirement that being a Christian means more than just words. It includes action and lots of it. I learned my church after my retirement. Before that, Darden High School was my only real interest. Since retirement I have learned much and done much to promote a viable church. For many years I have been closely connected with my church on the local, regional and national levels. Our national church was split over one hundred years ago over the existence of slavery.
We are now in the process of coming together again. I have had the honor of serving on the local and regional levels of two very important committees. We had the responsibility of doing the “leg work” on both. I am happy to state the configuration that was recommended by the committee that I chaired has been accepted by the total group and we are now in the process of operating as a new national church beginning January 1, 1989.
The second and final statement concerns my family. Odelle [Whitehead Barnes] and I have been married for 51 years. We are now trying to determine which of us should have the medal, but we will never agree on that question. I can only say that they have been for me, 51 happy years. Odelle, Carolyn [Barnes Kent] (our daughter) and the boys (grandchildren): Howard (Howie) and Edward (Eddie) — are my life.
I refuse to say more. Wilson, N.C. 1988
This memoir by Edward Morrison Barnes (1905-2002) appears to have been published by the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association circa 1992. Photograph courtesy of 1950 edition of The Trojan, the yearbook of C.H. Darden High School.
In 1991, front desk clerk turned newspaper man Roy G. Taylor (1918-1995) self-published a memoir of his years working in Wilson. Though tinged with the casual racism of the time, My City, My Home offers fascinating glimpses of Wilson in the World War II era.
Here are excerpts:
“Anyway, [hotel owner J.T. Barnes] had a suite on the mezzanine floor, 221 and 223. And Jesse Knight was his personal servant and also a bell hop. Lessie, Jesse’s wife, had worked for the Barnes family.” p. 9
“The roster of bell hops at the Cherry in the 1940s included Jesse Knight, whom I mentioned earlier; Ruel Bullock, Henry Potter, Robert Haskins, Clarence Holly, Fred Artis, Peacock (the only name he was called by), Louis Hines and “Rent” Gay, Uncle Charlie’s son. Uncle Charlie was old and had a stiff leg and he went around with a feather mop, dusting off things, and he loved whisky better than most men love women.”
“… Henry was a large man and rather lazy acting. When he wasn’t busy he would sit in the lobby in a rather slouchy position, but jumped up hurriedly when the bell sounded. And he was the best one about going for the mail. But I’d have to say Henry was the ‘densest’ one of the crowd.”
“Ruel was of light skin, and a rather handsome man. He was a family man and had 10 children. He worked during the day, as did Henry.”
“Robert was dark-skinned and a rather tall, large man and he was a little more serious than most of the men. Robert worked mostly the day shift also but would work at night if it became necessary.”
“Clarence was a night man. And talk about sly! He was something else. Of course, all the boys were sly, although all of them were always courteous to the desk people and all were ready to do whatever was asked of them. I never remember any of the bell hops being disrespectful while I was there.”
“Fred Artis was a tall, thin man and he could swing from day to night duty. And Fred is still around. He is employed by the Arts Council of Wilson.”
“Peacock always worked nights. He was the head night man. Peacock was nice too, and he looked after the guests. But he was a sly one too.”
“Louis was a tall, well-built man that had a lot of charisma. ‘Rent’ was also thin and tall and very neat in appearance and as I recall, he worked mostly at night also.” pp. 29-30
Jesse Knight — Jessie Knight was an Edgecombe County native. When he registered for the World War II draft, he listed his employer as J.T. Barnes.
Ruel Bullock — Ruel Bulluck was an Edgecombe County native. He married Louise Missouri Jones, daughter of Charles T. and Gertrude Johnson Jones, on 10 December 1930 in Wilson. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 412 Viola, owned and valued at $2000; Charles Jones, 61, janitor at Vick School; wife Gertrude, 59, a tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ruth Plater, 35, divorced, teacher; grandsons Torrey S., 12, and Charles S. Plater, 11; son-in-law Ruel Bullock, 35, a hotel bellboy; daughter Louise, 30; grandsons Jacobia, 7, Robert, 6, Harold, 4, and Rudolph, 7 months; and granddaughter Barbara Jones, 6.
Henry Potter — John Henry Potter was a native of Aurora, Beaufort County. In the 1925 city directory, Henry Potter, bellman, is listed at 719 East Green. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1210 Atlanta [Atlantic] Street, hotel bellboy John Potter, 40; wife Ruth, 28; and daughter Ruth, 9 months.
Robert Haskins — Robert Douglas Haskins was the son of Robert and Gertrude Haskins. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 55, drug company salesman; wife Gertrude, 48; and children Mandy, 36; Elizabeth, 33, cook; Estelle, 29, beauty shop cleaner; Robert D. Jr., 29, hotel kitchen worker; Lossie, 24, N.Y.A. stenographer; and Thomas, 20, barbershop shoeblack; plus granddaughter Delores, 15, and lodger Henry Whitehead, 21.
Clarence Holly — Clarence Virgo Holley was a Bertie County native. He registered for the World War II in 1940 in Wilson. Clarence Holley died 4 May 1964 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 May 1919 in Bertie County to William Holley and Molly Smallwood; operated a shoeshine parlor; and lived at 300 North East Street. Informant was Elma Holley.
Fred Artis — Probably Fred Artis Jr., who was the son of Fred and Mattie Lewis Artis.
“Peacock” — Levi Harry Peacock was the son of Levi H. and Hannah Pyatt Peacock. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 204 Vick Street, hotel bellboy Levi Peacock, 30; wife Elouise, 28, a public school teacher; children Jewel D., 4, and Thomas L., 14; and mother-in-law Etta Reaves, 50, post office maid.
Louis Hines — Probably Louis Hines Jr. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 303 Elba Street, Eva Hines, 50, household servant; son Charlie, 21, yard boy; and daughter Henrietta, 13, shared a household with Louis Hines Jr., 21, whiskey storage loader; wife Dolly M., 19, tobacco stemmer; and daughter Martha L., 6 months.
“Rent” Gay — Edgar Reynold Gay was the son of Charles B. and Ella Tate Gay.
Norma Jean and Carole Darden, Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine: Recipes & Reminiscences of a Family (1978).
Spanning more than a century of African-American life and culture, this oral history — now a classic — celebrates the remarkable heritage of Charles H. Darden‘s descendants as told through family photographs, reminiscences, and cherished recipes.
In 1986, Mary Freeman Ellis publishedThe Way It Was, a memoir of life with her father, noted stonemason Oliver Nestus Freeman.
Freeman Ellis describes her grandparents, Julius Franklin Freeman and Eliza Daniel Freeman, in the first pages:
I remember my paternal grandfather, Julius Freeman, as being a very eccentric and private individual. Grand Dad always looked old to me since he wore a long, gray beard and his hair was also graying. He was born in Johnson [sic] County in 1844 and died in 1927 at the age of 83. His first wife, Eliza Daniels, was born in 1844 in Wilson County She was the oldest of three siblings, two sisters, Millie, Zannie, and one brother, Warren. I never saw my paternal grandmother Eliza Daniels Freeman. She was very pretty from a portrait. You could see her Indian heritage and she wore her hair in two long braids. She had a light, olive complexion.
Julius F. Freeman Sr.
Eliza Daniel Freeman.
In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Alfred Boyit, 26, and wife Eliza, 29, and carpenter Julius Freeman, 21, in the household of white farmer John R. Farmer, 56.
On 6 February 1873, Julius Freeman, 26, of Wilson, married Eliza Daniel, 19, of Wilson County, at Amos Daniel‘s house. London Johnson, a Methodist Episcopal minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Washington Sugg, Charles Harper, and Sarah Jones.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: 56 year-old carpenter Julius Freeman, wife Eliza, 46, and children Elizabeth, 19, Nestus, 17, Junius, 11, Ernest, 9, Tom, 6, Daniel, 4, and Ruth, 4 months.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house carpenter Julius Freeman, 65; wife Eliza, 54; and children Nestus, 28, bricklayer; Ollie, 18, Daniel, 14, John, 7, Junius, 22, Ernest, 20, and Thomas, 17.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, grocery store merchant Julius Freeman, 72, and son Henry A., 43, brick work laborer.
Julius Franklin Freeman died 18 September 1927 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 April 1844 in Johnston County, North Carolina, and was married to Nancy Freeman.