Atlantic Coast Line.

They went where the train went. Clutching tickets. Piled suitcases tied with rope. To a cafe in Norfolk. A government job in Washington. A Philadelphia dock. A season of day’s work in the Bronx. A school year in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Coast Line took them. It brought them back. It took them again.


Atlantic Coast Line system map, circa 1900. Wilson is midway through the column of stops stacked across eastern North Carolina along the stretch of railroad that had formerly been the Wilmington & Weldon.


Standing in the railroad crossing at Nash Street, passenger train station at left, looking North. Wilson, May 2016.

First-generation freedom, pt. 1.

The first in a series of annotated abstracts of Wilson County death certificates of African-Americans born before 1870, the cusp of slavery and freedom. The records are a trove of information about otherwise obscure family relationships among enslaved and free people of color and shed light on intra- and interstate migration patterns in the decades after Emancipation.


Adams, Alice.  Born 1857, Wilson County. Died 1 June 1927, Cross Roads township. Hemorrhage on brain. Father, Willis Taylor, born Wilson County. Mother, Sarah Rose, born NC. Married to Onley Adams. Worked for Ambrose Loucas. Buried in Lucama. Informant, John Adams, Lucama. [In the 1860 census of Kirbys district, Wilson County: Sarah Rose, 50, and Richard Odom, 21, cooper, both white; plus turpentine worker Willis Taylor, 45, Nancy Rose, 11, and Alice Rose, 7, all mulatto. In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township: Sarah Rose, 59, and daughter Alice, 15, both white. Next door, Willis Taylor, 51, also white. In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township: Willis Taylor, 70, farmer, living alone. Next door: Leonidas Adams, 38, wife Alice, 25, and children Willis, 8, Junius, 7, Mary Ann, 5, and John, 2, plus, Piety Lynch, 54, cook, and John E. Denson, a 30 year-old white fruit tree seller.]

Adams, Della.  Born 9 December 1866, Wilson County. Died 11 April 1952, Lucama, Cross Roads township. Cerebral hemorrhage. Father, Gray Adams. Mother, Mollie Cotton. Widow. Buried at Daniel cemetery, Fremont NC. Informant, Zeno Adams, Route 2, Lucama. [Gray Adams was the informant’s father, not Della’s. (This a common error caused by the manner in which the register of deeds questions the informant.) Per their marriage license, Gray Adams, 23, son of Ben Peacock, married Della Daniel, 20, daughter of Amos and Mollie Daniel, on 4 March 1880 in Wayne County.]

Adams, James Gray. Born 10 September 1860, Wilson County. Died 12 February 1927, Black Creek township. Carcinoma of pancreas. Father, Benjamin Peacock. Mother, Mary Peacock. Wife, Della Daniels Adams. Farmer. Buried at Daniels graveyard, Wayne County. Informant, Alex Adams. [See Della Adams, above.]

Adams, John. Born 1866, Richmond County. Died 6 April 1938, Black Creek township. Lobar pneumonia. Father, John Adams, born Richmond County NC. Wife Maggie Adams. Farmer. Resided Route 1, Black Creek. Buried Wilson County. Informant, Addison Adams, Route 2, Bailey.

Adams, Leander. Born 1843, Virginia. Died 19 April 1931, Black Creek township. No doctor within last 30 days. Father, John Adams, Virginia. Mother, Matilda Fountain. Widower of Alice Adams. Farmer. Buried Wilson County. Informant, W.D. Adams. [See Alice Adams, above.]

Adkins, Preacela. Born 1862, Rocky Mount NC. Died 8 November 1934, Toisnot township. Father, Richard Parker, Edgecombe County. Mother, Charlotte Parker, Edgecombe County. Widow of John Adkins. Buried Elm City NC. Informant, David L. Parker. [In the 1870 census of Cokey, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Richard Parker, 39, wife Charlotte, 37, and children Effy D., 16, Milly, 11, Richard, 8, Priscilla, 6, Mary E., 5, William Ann, 4, John, 1, and Harriet, 1 month.]

Adkinson, Mamie. Born 17 November 1869, Savannah, Georgia. Died 8 December 1947, Wilson NC. Probably malnutrition due to old age. Father, Charles Crick, Savannah. Widow of Henry Adkinson. Resided 115 Narroway Street, Wilson. Buried Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson. Informant, Viola Parker of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Adkinson, Sallie. Born 1850, Johnston County. 22 February 1926, Toisnot township. Influenza pneumonia. Father, Joe Whitsby, Johnston County. Caroline Whitsby, Johnston County. Widow. Buried Elm City. Informant, A. Batts.

Adkison, Martha. Born February 1866, Edgecombe County. Died 29 October 1932, Wilson township. Father, Alex Bullock. Mother, Hannah Bennett, Edgecombe County. Widow. Buried in Wilson. Informant, Mary Brown. [In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek, Edgecombe County: laborer Alex Bullock, 30, wife Hannah, 34, and children Martha, 14, Charlie, 13, Gen’l Grant, 8, George, 7, Puss, 6, Mary, 5, Nannie, 3, and Orren, 4 months.]

Aikins, John H. Born 1860, North Carolina. Died 20 July 1914, Wilson. Cardiac asthma. Father, Edward Akins, Virginia. Mother, Annie King, Virginia. Horse dealer and liveryman. Married. Buried in Wilson. Informant, Georgia Akins.

Allen, Sarah Jane. Born Jun 1851, North Carolina. Died 5 June 1938, Old Fields township. “D.K. Sudden. Probably cardiac.” Mother, Lucy Williams, North Carolina. Widow of Isaac Allen. Buried, Southern Grove cemetery, Johnston County. Informant, Jerry Richardson.

Allen, William. Born 14 January 1839, Warren County. Died 17 August 1918, Spring Hill township. “Died suddenly no physician in attendance.” Father, Jim Allen, North Carolina. Mother, Mary [last name unknown], born North Carolina. Farmer. Buried in North Carolina. Informant, Kenzy Allen, Bailey, North Carolina.

Allen, Violet. Born 1858, Riverdale, Craven County. Died 27 March 1943, Wilson township. Father, Solomon [last name unknown], Riverdale, Craven County. Pellagra. Mother, Mary Alexander, Riverdale, Craven County. Widow. Farmer. Resided Wilson County Home. Usual residence in Black Creek. Buried in Black Creek. Informant, Henry Allen, Black Creek. [In the 1870 census of Wildwood, Craven County: Virginia-born farmer Solomon Alexander, North Carolina-born wife Mary, 34, and children Margerat, 13, Ann E., 10, and Violet, 4, plus farm laborers William Bright, 18, and Matilda Powell, 50. In the 1940 census of Black Creek, Wilson County: Violet Allen, 75, widow, living alone.]

Alston, James O. Born 1866, Franklin County. Died 12 September 1950, Wilson. Father, Charles Alston. Mother, Elsie [last name unknown]. Married. Orderly at Mercy Hospital. Resided at 507 East Green Street. Buried Rest Haven cemetery. Informant, Eula Locus. [Possibly, in the 1870 census of Sandy Creek, Franklin County: farmer Charles Alston, 40, wife Amy, and children Frances, 6, and James, H., 2. Also, per her death certificate, Eula Locus (1899-1964) was the daughter of James Alston and Martha Dew.]

Alston, Robert T. Born 1859, Granville County. Died 10 August 1931, Wilson township. Cardiovascular disease. Father, Aaron Alston, Granville County. Mother, Rosetta Alston, Warren County. Widower of Julia Alston. Jewelry and watchmaker. Informant, John T. Alston, Elm City. [In the 1870 census of Walnut Grove, Granville County: Aron Alston, 47, wife Rosetta, 18, and children Anna, 15, Haywood, 14, Robert, 12, Sallie, 10, Agnes, 9, Thomas, 7, Mary J., 4, and John H., 1.]

Anderson, Benjamin. Born 1856, Wilson County. Died 25 January 1920, Wilson County. Father, Benjamin Anderson, Wilson County. Mother, Kattie Barnes. Tenant farmer for Joseph C. Farmer. Wife, Maggie Anderson. Informant, Nathan Anderson. [In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Benjamin Anderson, 39, wife Catharine, 38, and children Robert, 13, Joseph, 10, Dink, 8, Dinah, 4, and Lucy, 1. All were born in North Carolina except Catharine, who reported a Virginia birthplace. In the 1880 census of the family, same location, Ben Anderson is listed as a 4 year-old, which would seem to indicate that he was about 20 years younger than reported on his death certificate.]

Anderson, Joseph. Born 1860, Wilson County. Died 25 February 1930, Wilson County. “Suppression of urine & valvular heart disease as complication.” Father, Benjamin Anderson, Wilson County. Mother, Kattie Anderson, Wilson County. Tenant farmer for Seth Tyson. Widower. Buried Wilson County. Informant, James Anderson, Route 2, Wilson. [See above.]

Applewhite, Luke. Born 1855, Nahunta, Wayne County. Died 13 June 1923, Cross Roads township. “Died sudden and not attended by physician.” Father, Luke Applewhite, Nahunta, Wayne County. Mother, Malindia [last name unknown], Nahunta, Wayne County. Farmer. “Husbane of Henry Etta.” Informant, B.F. Applewhite. [Per their marriage license, Luke Applewhite, 22, son of Luke Applewhite and Malinda Bridgers, married Henrietta Bridgers, 20, daughter of Liberty Bridgers, on 16 October 1879, at Ben Sauls’ plantation in Nahunta, Wayne County.]

Applewhite, Thomas. Born 1865, Wilson County. Died 11 June 1933, Saratoga, Wilson County. “Cardiac & renal dropsy.” Father, Thomas Applewhite, Wilson County. Mother, Amanda Applewhite, Wilson County. Widower. Farmer. Buried Wilson County. Informant, Walter Applewhite, Route 5, Wilson.