Wilson Daily Times, 16 May 1922.
For the prolonged arc of justice for Wade Farmer‘s murder, see here.
Wilson Daily Times, 16 May 1922.
For the prolonged arc of justice for Wade Farmer‘s murder, see here.
The counties in which these Wilson County natives died are all in south Georgia and suggest migration to work in the naval stores industry after North Carolina’s longleaf pines were tapped out.
In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Abraham Horne, 45, with Jefferson, 30, Gray, 15, Lettuce, 17, Rayford, 13, Jeff Davis, 8, and Milburn Horne, 6; and Martha Holland, 14.
In the 1880 census of District 384, Dodge County, Georgia: Columbus Barnes, 24; Gray Horne, 22; Samuel Jenkins, 18; Alfred Caruthers, 20; and Everett Farmer, 20. All were described as laborers, and all were born in North Carolina except Caruthers, who was a native Georgian.
On 12 December 1893, Joseph Grey Horn married Tena Small in Glynn County, Georgia.
In the 1920 census of Militia District 1356, Glynn County, Georgia: farmer Joe Horne, 74; wife Clementina, 42; daughter Rosalee Henry, 2 [sic]; and grandson Edwin Henry, 3 months.
Joseph Horne died 22 June 1924 in Southern Junction, Glynn County, Georgia; was about 59 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Abraham Horne and an unnamed mother; was married; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Freeman Rest cemetery. Clementine Horne was informant.
In the 1930 census of Militia District 1356, Glynn County, Georgia: widow Climentine Horn, 48, farm laborer; daughter Rosalee Club, 24, widow; and grandson Edwin Hinry, 10.
In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Warren Thorne, 28; wife Rachel, 28; and children Louisa, 16, Stephen, 15, Rosa, 5, Grant, 4, John, 3, and Patsey, 10 months.
In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Woodard, 36; wife Bashaby, 32; son Henry, 16, farm laborer; and servant Grant Thorn, 14.
In the 1900 census of Arabi village, Dooly County, Georgia: turpentine laborer Grant Thorn, 35, born in North Carolina, and wife Evie, 35.
In the 1910 census of Militia District 762, Crisp County, Georgia: turpentine laborer Grant Thomas, 45, born in North Carolina; wife Julia, 28; and daughter Florie M., 9; sister-in-law Dina Shivers, 40, private family cook, and niece Adel Shivers, 18, public school teacher.
In the 1920 census of Arabi township, Crisp County, Georgia: in Turpentine Quarters, naval stores laborer Grant T. Thorn, 55, born in North Carolina; wife Julia, 36; and children Grant T., Jr., 7, and Evans L., 4.
Grant Thorn died 10 May 1925 in Arabi, Crisp County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1859 in Wilson County, N.C., to Warren Thorn and Rachal Thorn; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Little Rock Cemetery, Arabi. John Thorn was informant.
In 1940, Evans Lawton Thornes registered for the World War II draft in Palm Beach County, Florida. Per his registration card, he was born 1 February 1915 in Arabi, Georgia; lived at 2126 Contentment Avenue, West Palm Beach, Florida; his contact was mother Julia Thornes; and worked for John Zennie, West Palm Beach
In 1941, G.T. Thornes registered for the World War II draft in Crisp County. Per his registration card, he was born 17 July 1912 in Crisp County; lived at R.F.D. No. 2, Arabi, Crisp County; his contact was mother Julia Ray Thornes; and worked for H.W. Hamilton, Arabi, Crisp County.
In the 1920 census of District 1157, Berrien County, Georgia: farmer Joe W. Burgess, 50; wife Lucy, 48; nephews Brie, 10, and Jim, 8; and nieces Minnie, 16, and Agnes Perry, 13.
Lucy Burgess died 20 March 1926 in Nashville, Berrien County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was 52 years old; was born in Wilson County, N.C., to Trim Body and Jennie [maiden name not listed]; was married; and worked as a cook. J.N. Burgess was informant.
Lizzie Bradley died 6 October 1924 in Fort Mudge, Ware County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 May 1882 in Wilson, N.C., to Ike Williams and an unnamed mother; was married to R.B. Bradley; and worked as a domestic. Mattie Williams was informant.
In the 1900 census of Smiths township, Laurens County, Georgia: farmer Allen Mercer, 40, farmer; wife Bettie, 44; son Willie, 18; and daughter Anna, 14.
In the 1910 census of Smiths township, Laurens County, Georgia: farmer Allen Mercer, 50, born in North Carolina, and wife Bettie, 52, born in Virginia.
Allen Mercy [Mercer] died 22 April 1922 in Dublin, Laurens County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was 65 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to John and Sarah Mercy; was a widower; and worked as a ditcher. Johnny Mercy was informant.
In the 1900 census of Abbeville, Wilcox County, Georgia; Alison Atwater[?], 60; wife Mollie, 45; stepson Daniel Barnes, 21; and grandsons Mager Shaws, 13, and Richard Barnes, 4. All were born in North Carolina except Richard, who was born in Georgia.
Daniel Barnes died 23 November 1920 in Fitzgerald, Ben Hill County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, he was 42 years old; was born in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Daniel Barnes and Mollie [maiden name not given]; was married; lived in Osierfield, Georgia; and was buried in Abbeville, Wilcox County, Georgia. Lawyer Davis was informant.
Wilson Times, 10 January 2023.
In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Sam Williams, 26; wife Mary, 17; and son Sam Jr., 2 months.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 527 Lodge Street, paying $6/month for each side of a duplex, widow Louise B. Johnson, 34, laborer in redrying tobacco factory; also Samuel Williams, 37, redrying factory laborer; wife Mary, 28, redrying factory laborer; and children Samuel Jr., 11, Daisy Lee, 6, Cleo, 5, Charlie Lee, 2, and Eugenia, 9 months.
In 1947, Samuel Williams Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 22 January 1929 in Wilson County; lived at Route 4, Wilson; worked for his father on Mark Lee Ellis’ farm; and his contact was his mother Mary Williams.
On 30 December 1950, Gurney Bullock, 48, of Ed Bullock and Lula Thomas Bullock, married Mary Mercer Williams, 38, daughter of Demp Mercer and Mattie Knight Mercer, in Wilson.
Samuel Williams [Jr.] died 3 October 1953 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 22 January 1927 in Wilson to Sam Williams and Mary Mercer; lived at 603 Cemetery Street; was married to Minnie L. Williams; and worked as a laborer.
Wilson Daily Times, 16 March 1936.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer Henry Mercer, 48; wife Florence, 36; children Lesley, 18, Aderns, 14, Candis, 9, Isaac, 7, and Augustus, 2; plus boarder Jesse Farmer, 29.
On 17 June 1903, Leslie Mercer, 21, of Wilson, son of Henry and F. Mercer, married Carrie Gunner, 21, daughter of James and M. Gunner, at Henry Mercer’s residence in Wilson County. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of J.D. Reid, H.S. Edwards, Jason Farmer, and E.L. Reid.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lipscomb Road, Henry Mercer, 63, town wagon driver; wife Fourence, 45, laundress; children Lesslie, 23, brickyard laborer, Odjus, 19, market butcher, Isear, 12, brickyard laborer, Augustus, 9, Henry, 3, and Cora, 22, cook, and [grand]daughter Lucel, newborn.
On 28 May 1911, Leslie Mercer, 27, son of Henry and Florence Mercer, married Cora Barnes, 22, daughter of Maddison Barnes, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister William Baker performed the ceremony in the presence of Will Bullock, Jason Farmer, and [illegible] Baker.
On 25 December 1914, Leslie Mercer, 35, of Wilson, married Mary Jones, 37, of Wilson, in Wilson. Banks Blow applied for the license, and Baptist minister William Baker performed the ceremony in the presence of Blow, Isaac Cobbs Jr., and Willie A. Cobbs.
Mary Jane Jones died 21 July 1920 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born April 1877 in Wake County, N.C., to Henry Mathews; was married to Leslie Mercer; worked as a stemmer for Wilson Tobacco Company; and lived at 510 Narroway Street, Wilson.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Leslie Mercer, 42, tobacco factory laborer; wife Mary, 40; and son-in-law [sic] Albert Parker, 50, widower.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 712 Viola, rented for $12/month, Marrion Mercer, 32, tobacco factory laborer; wife Sarah, 28; brother Leslie Mercer, 50, tobacco factory laborer; and children Isear, 10, Marjorie, 8, and Florence Mercer, 5.
Leslie Mercer died 15 March 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 59 years old; was born in Wilson to Henry Mercer of Edgecombe County, N.C., and Florence Farmer of Wilson County; was married to Bertha Mercer; lived at 614 Viola; and worked as a laborer. His cause of death: intracranial hemorrhage after “auto ran over him on Green St.”
“Very old negro died at County House & very little information as to family history to be had.”
Green Mercer‘s regular home was on Church Street, but he died in the Wilson County poorhouse. He was described as married, but his wife did not serve as informant on his death certificate. The role was left to Clarcy Taylor, who apparently knew very little. Mercer was buried in the “colored cemetery,” which at that time was Oakdale, near Cemetery Street.
I have found very little record of Mercer in Wilson County:
On 25 August 1866, Green Mercer married Margarett Wilkins in Edgecombe County, North Carolina.
In the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: farm laborer Green Mercer, 27; wife Margaret, 27; and children Fanny, 3, Major Talton, 1, William, 12, and Redding, 5; Frederick Cotten, 53; Randle Parker, 24; and Lewis Ruffin, 21.
In the 1880 census of Cocoa township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: Green Mercer, 42; wife Margarett, 37; and children Redin, 15, Fannie, 14, Tatin, 11, William, 8, and Joseph, 3.
On 12 December 1884, the Wilson Advance published the annual statement of accounts paid by Board of Wilson County Commissioners. In September 1884, this entry: No 331 for work at poor house to Green Mercer 2.00.
Wilson Daily Times, 20 December 1982.
Leroy Mercer was recently featured in a post about his long-time home at 406 North Reid Street.
The one hundred-sixtieth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; bungalow with cross-gable roof and engaged porch.”
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 Reid Street, rented for $16/month, Leroy Mercer, 37, grocery store delivery boy; wife Netta, 38, laundry; and children Sylvester, 11, Dempsey, 10, Mattie, 8, Annie D., 6, and James Nixon, 4.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 406 Reed, rented for $14/month, Leroy Mercer, 47, truck driver, Peacock Grocery Company; wife Mattie, 47, private family laundress; roomer Luvenia Brown, 20; and son Dempsey Mercer, 21, show shiner.
In 1940, Dempsey Mercer registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 19 November 1920 in Wilson; lived at 406 North Reid Street; his contact was Leroy Mercer of the same address; and he worked for Willis Prince, 519 East Nash Street.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Mercer Leroy (c; Mattie) driver Peacock Gro Co h 406 N Reid
In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Mercer Leroy (c; Mattie) hlpr Peacock Gro Co h 406 N Reid
Mattie K. Mercer died 24 August 1959 at her home at 406 North Reid. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 May 1892 in Enfield, N.C. to Berry King and Adeline Bellen and was married to Leroy Mercer. Informant was Mattie Best, 807 East Green.
Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2022.
In June 1964, the Rocky Mount Telegram reported the tragic death of two teenaged siblings from Spring Hope, Nash County. Seventeen year-old Nora Jane Mercer had drowned trying to save her 16 year-old brother William Earl Mercer, who also drowned in a pond a few miles north of Bailey.
Rocky Mount Telegram, 12 June 1964.
Nora Mercer’s death certificate listed her cause of death as “drowning … while swimming in farm pond” and described her accident as “trying to save her brother.” William Toney’s Funeral Home, still active today in Spring Hope, handled the burial, which took place in … Rountree Cemetery? In 1964?!?
William Mercer’s death certificate also lists Rountree Cemetery in Wilson as his burial place. Why would two Spring Hope children be buried more than 20 miles away in Wilson?
I first wondered if this were a family cemetery — Rountree is not an uncommon surname here — located just over the Nash County line in Wilson County. (I don’t know of any such cemetery, but I wondered.) However, the double obituary for the siblings made clear that they were indeed buried in Rountree (or its sister cemeteries, Vick and Odd Fellows, collectively and confusingly known as Rountree). Further, their funeral was also in Wilson — at Piney Grove Free Will Baptist Church.
Rocky Mount Telegram, 14 June 1964.
The obituary gives Nora and William Mercer’s parents as Mr. and Mrs. Willie Austin. However, this was likely their stepfather and mother (and the surname, per the death certificate, was Alston.) Louise Alston was informant for the certificates, and she named the children’s parents as William Mercer and Louise Webb. William Mercer and Louvenia [actually, Louisianna] Webb were married in Wilson County in September 1946. Both were Wilson County natives. It appears that they divorced, and Louise Webb Mercer married an Alston. So, as we can establish that the Mercer children did have close ties to Wilson, we can be more certain that they were buried in one of the set of cemeteries on (former) Lane Street collectively called Rountree Cemetery.
Now to the most puzzling fact — 1964.
This is an aerial view of Vick, Odd Fellows, and Rountree Cemeteries in 1964.
Vick Cemetery had been condemned in the late 1950s as unfit for human burial. (Vick is the most likely of site of the children’s burials as it was a public cemetery, they were not members of Rountree Missionary Baptist Church, and there is no evidence that their father was an Odd Fellow.) By 1964, all three cemeteries were severely overgrown, with none of the bare-earth family plots so readily observable in earlier decades.
I checked Joan L. Howell’s Wilson County Cemeteries, Vol. V: The Two City-Owned African-American Cemeteries, which contains a list of 600+ burials from the last 25 years or so these cemeteries were active as burial sites. In her searches of local death certificates, the latest burials Howell found were three from 1960, six from 1961, and one from 1962. Thus, as far as now known, Nora Jane and William Earl Mercer were the last people buried in Vick, Odd Fellows, or Rountree Cemeteries.
Many thanks to Noelle Vollaro for bringing the Mercer siblings to my attention.
This version of an obituary for Joe Mercer is considerably less racist than the one that ran in the News and Observer.
Wilson Daily Times, 18 March 1920.
Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.
Wilson Daily Times, 3 December 1920.
In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: James Forbes, 38; wife Sarah, 25; and children Garrot, 12, Joseph, 4, Bynum, 3, and William, 1.
In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: James Forbes, 48; wife Sarah, 31; and children Garrett, 21, Joseph, 15, Bynum, 14, Martheny, 10, Rose, 9, Mary, 8, Florence, 4, and Reddin, 1.
On 5 July 1888, Bynum Forbes, 22, of Wilson County, son of James and Sarah Forbes, married Mary Smith, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of James and Edney Smith in Gardners township, Wilson County. Harry Barnes and Abram Sharp were witnesses.
On 21 June 1899, Bynum Forbes, 55, of Edgecombe County, son of Jim and Sarah Forbes, married Ida Pleasant, 21, daughter of George Pleasant and Mary Smith, at S.T. Cherry’s farm in Cocoa or #13 Township, Edgecombe County.
In the 1900 census of Township #13, Edgecombe County: Bynum Forbs, 51; wife Ida, 21; children John, 5, Henry, 1, and Edney, 9; sister Florance, 25; niece Mattie, 3; and nephew Jef. B., 2 months.
In the 1910 census of Township #13, Edgecombe County: on Cokey Road, Bynum Forbes, 67; wife Ida, 31; children John, 16, Henry, 13, Mary, 8, William, 5, James W., 2, Bynum Jr., 1 month, and Edna, 18; and grandchildren Mack, 4, Joseph, 2, and Jackann, 1 month.
I have not located Bynum Forbes’ death certificate. His death was one of a string of tragedies for the Forbeses — daughter William Ann Winston was shot to death in Rocky Mount, N.C., in 1924, and son John Forbes, a cement mixer, was crushed to death in a sand cave-in in 1930 in Rocky Mount.