migration to California

M.H. Wilson defaults on five lots.

In February and March 1938, trustee D.M. Hill ran a notice of sale of real estate for five large parcels of land that carpenter-contractor Mansfield H. Wilson owned on Pender, Church, and Smith Streets. Wilson had defaulted on loans taken out in 1926.

The first lot was 116 North Pender Street, which Wilson had purchased from E.F. Nadal and wife in 1906.

The second lot bordered O.L.W. Smith; Wilson had bought it from D.C. Suggs and wife in 1906. The one-third acre lot contained houses numbered 521, 523, and 525 Church Street.

The third lot had been cobbled together from several purchases made between 1907 and 1924 and included 121 and 123 North Pender and 529, 531, 533, and 535 Smith Street.

Wilson had bought the fourth lot, bordering Charles Knight, from William and Ethel Hines in 1920.

O.L.W. Smith and wife sold Wilson the fifth lot, 201 North Pender, in 1920.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 March 1938.

Virginia-born Mansfield Wilson arrived in Wilson before 1908, but was far away before the trustee called in his debt. By 1934, he was well enough established in California to register to vote in Los Angeles.

California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968, http://www.ancestry.com

In April 1935, however, Mansfield H. Wilson died at the Richmond, Virginia, home of his son Samuel H. Wilson. Three years later, during the depths of the Great Depression, Wilson’s creditors called in their loans and forced the sales of his properties.

In this detail from the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, asterisks mark nine of Mansfield H. Wilson’s properties.

——

In the 1880 census of Powellton township, Brunswick County, Virginia: farmer Henry Lewis, 33; wife Matilda, 38; and children Edward, 10, Catharine, 6, Louisa, 4, and John H., 6 months; plus step-children Mansfield, 21, and Mary Wilson, 17.

On 10 September 1890, Mansfield H. Wilson, 30, born in Brunswick County, Virginia, to William and Matilda Wilson, married Maggie J. Richards, 24, born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in Richmond, Virginia.

In the 1900 census of Tarboro township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: carpenter Mansfield Wilson, 39; wife Maggie, 32; children Gertrude, 6, Samuel, 3, and Mansfield, 1; and sister-in-law Lucy Richards, 30, dressmaker.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp h 126 Pender

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Mansfield H. Wilson, 49; wife Maggie, 43; son Samuel, 15; sister-in-law Lucy Richard, 45; and servants John M. Madderson, 14, and William Dew, 21.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp h 126 Pender

Maggie J. Wilson died 30 June 1914 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 February 1865 in Virginia to Henry Richards and Annie R. Crozier; and was buried in Tarboro, N.C. M.H. Wilson was informant.

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp contr h 126 Pender

In 1918, Samuel H. Wilson registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 5 September 1897 in Edgecombe County, N.C.; his father was born in Brunswick County, Virginia; he lived at 126 Pender Street; and worked for Mansfield Wilson, who was his nearest relative.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 126 Pender Street, Virginia-born house contractor Mansfield H. Wilson, 60; son Samuel H., 20; and sister-in-law Lucy Richards, 40.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp contr h 126 Pender

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C, city directory: Wilson Mansfield H (c) carp h 123 Pender

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 123 Pender Street, owned and valued at $2000, Virginia-born carpenter Mansfield Wilson, 50, widower; son Samual, 30, insurance company agent; daughter-in-law Sarah, 24, public school teacher; granddaughter Audrey, 3; and sister-in-law Lucey Richard, 50.

Mansfield Harrison Wilson died 25 April 1935 in Richmond, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was about 70 years old; was born in Brunswick County, Virginia, to Henry Wilson and Harriett [maiden name unknown]; was a carpenter; lived at 1271 East 33rd Street, Los Angeles, California; and was buried in East End Cemetery, Richmond. Samuel H. Wilson was the informant.

Samuel Henry Wilson, 41, born in Wilson, son of Mansfield Wilson and Maggie Richards, married Janie Thomas Williams, 32, born in Richmond, Virginia, daughter of Roland Williams and Eliza Ricks, on 18 November 1938 in Richmond, Virginia.

Mary Matthewson Meachem died 22 February 1948 in Tarboro, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 July 1876 in Brunswick County, Virginia, to Mansfield Wilson and Mildia Dunn; was the widow of A.B. Meachem; and was buried in Community Cemetery, Princeville, North Carolina. William Matthewson, Norfolk, Virginia, was informant.

Snaps, no. 91: At home with friends, Los Angeles, 1950s.

Two of Walter S. and Sarah Dortch Hines‘ children migrated to Los Angeles, California, where they joined the city’s emerging mid-century Black high society. Elizabeth “Scottie” Hines Eason and her Texas-born husband Newell Eason were educators. Eason grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA and, after several years teaching at Shaw University in Raleigh, took his family back to California just after World War II. Scottie Eason’s brother Walter D. Hines and his wife Cadence Baker Hines, who met in Michigan, arrived in the late 1940s. Their friend, lawyer Walter Gordon, left a trove of photographs that captured the era, including this one:

On couch, left to right: Kenneth Levy, Honore Levy, Newell Eason, Scottie Hines Eason, Dr. Arthur Mitchell, Gloria Mitchell. Seated: Clara Gordon, unidentified girl, Cadence Hines, and Dr. Walter D. Hines.

The Shaw University Bulletin, July-August Edition, 1937.

At home with friends, Los Angeles, 1950s,” Walter L. Gordon Jr./William C. Beverly Jr. Collection, UCLA Special Library Collections.

Charles S. Darden’s groundbreaking legal work against segregation.

In 2018, the City of Los Angeles nominated the Cordary Family Residence and Pacific Ready-Cut Cottage at 1828 South Gramercy Place, Los Angeles, California, for historic-cultural monument designation. 

Page 13 of the nomination form contains this arresting statement: “Until recently the case of Benjamin Jones and Fanny Guatier, Plaintiffs v. Berlin Realty Company, a corporation, Defendant, has been an obscure footnote to history. But observers are now not just rediscovering the case itself, but also reminding us that the legal arguments against racial covenants used by Plaintiffs’ attorney Charles S. Darden in this case — and adopted by the Los Angeles Superior Court judge in ruling favorably for the Plaintiffs — preceded and foresaw what became the notable winning argument of later precedent-setting “Sugar Hill” case that took place in Los Angeles in 1945.” That case, involving actors Hattie McDaniel and Louise Beavers‘ fight against racially restrictive covenants, is credited with being the first to cite the 14th Amendment as justification for overturning such covenants. That recognition, however, more properly belongs to Jones and Gautier — and the arguing attorney, Wilson’s own Charles S. Darden — which has been overlooked because it did not rise to California’s Court of Appeals. Read more about Darden’s innovative arguments below.

Other suns: California.

Though the Great Migration to California most often drew seekers from states like Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, Wilson County natives also joined the tide that increased the African-American population of that state exponentially.

Perhaps the first nationally known Wilson native to take up residence in California arrived not in the Great Migration, but as a result of the National Football League draft. The Los Angeles Rams drafted Saint Augustine’s College defensive end Isaac T. Lassiter in 1962, and he later spent five seasons with the Oakland Raiders, playing in the 1967 Super Bowl. Lassiter was born in 1940 in Wilson to Dempsey and Mary Jane Bynum Lassiter and graduated from C.H. Darden High School.

Hat tip to Bernard Patterson for the football card image.

Walter Dortch Hines, U. of Michigan A.B. ’30, M.D. ’33.

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 2.44.11 PM.png

Walter D. Hines, son of Walter S. and Sarah Dortch Hines, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1930 and a medical degree from the same in institution in 1933. Above, his senior portrait as it appears in the university’s 1930 yearbook. Below, the 1933 yearbook.

——

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 30; wife Sarah, 29; children Elizabeth, 2, and Walter D., 8 months; and boarder Inez Moore, 31, a school teacher.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 40, wife Sara, 37, Elizabeth, 11, Walter Jr., 10, and Carl, 5.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 50, wife Sarah, 48, and children Elizabeth, 21, Walter, 20, Carl W., 16, and Clifton R., 7.

In the 1931 edition of Polk’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, Directory: Hines Walter D student 1003 E Huron

In the 1933 edition of Polk’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, Directory: Hines Walter D student 1005 Catherine

On 2 January 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier carried this announcement of the marriage between Walter D. Hines and Cadence Lee Baker, formerly of Chicago, and her ascension into the haute mode of Detroit’s black elite:

The Hineses had been married for some time, however, as they appear in the 1936 Durham, N.C., city directory; Walter working as a physician and Cadence as a stenographer for North Carolina Mutual.

In 1940, Walter Dortsch Hines registered for the World War II draft in Detroit, Michigan. Per his registration card, he was born 17 July 1909 in Wilson, North Carolina; he resided at 7068 Michigan [Avenue], Detroit; he was a self-employed physician at the above address; his next-of-kin was mother Sarah Elizabeth Hines, 617 East Greene, Wilson; he was 5’10’, 154 lbs., with blue eyes and brown hair; he had a dark complexion; and he had a scar on the dorsal aspect of his left hand.

On 27 April 1946, the Pittsburgh Courier printed a photo (so dark as to be useless) of the Detroit Hineses visit to Los Angeles, where Elizabeth Hines Eason and her husband Newell lived. Sarah Dortch Hines crossed the country from Wilson to join her children. Within two years, Walter and Cadence Hines had relocated to California.

Per the 1960 California Board of Medical Examiners Directory, Hines was licensed to practice in California in 1948 and maintained an office at 4830 Avalon Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Dr. Walter D. Hines died 6 February 1996 in Los Angeles.

Jesse Pender, veteran and chef.

In 2011, a Palm Springs, California, news reporter interviewed Wilson native Jesse D. Pender Sr., then 96, about his World War II service, his early work for a brothel keeper, and his years cooking for a president.

IMG_20180709_225222345.jpg

The Desert Sun, 4 December 2011.

In the 1920 census of Goldsboro township, Wayne County: farmer Joseph Pender, 49; wife Ella L., 42; amd children Edward D., 14, Maggie, 9, Ernest, 12, Alonzo, 7, Jesse, 4, Georgiana, 3, and Josephine, 1.

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.

In 1940, Jesse David Powell registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Note his employer.

Betty Powell and Mallie Paul, Depression-era Wilson’s most notorious white madams, ran neighboring brothels on Jones and South Streets. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, Georgia native Bettie Powell, 46, is listed without occupation, and her three lodgers, all white women in their early 20s, were occupied as “companion-private home.”

Betty Powell made out her will in March 1945. After disposing of bonds, bank accounts, real property and jewelry, she bequeathed “all the residue of my estate to Jesse Pender and all of the girls including my maids, that may be residing with me at my death, to share and share alike.” She died just over a year later.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 May 1946.

Pender’s workplace before Betty Powell hired him to drive. Advertisement, Facts About Wilson North Carolina, Wilson Chamber of Commerce (1934).

Pender at age 102. Photo courtesy of “A Flowery Tribute in Palm Springs as Warplanes Fly in Formation in Memorial Day Salute,” The Desert Sun, 29 May 2017.

Thanks to my frequent collaborator S.M. Stevens (and her grandmother Willia Jones Turner) for forwarding this clipping. North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

Where did they go?: California World War II draft registrations.

These men, who registered for the World War II draft across California, reported that they were born in Wilson, North Carolina.

  • Lenard Barnes

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 9.39.05 PM.png

  • Oscar DeBell

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 9.34.46 PM.png

In the 1940 census of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California: at 300 East 51st Street, renting an apartment for $30/month, Wyman H. Burney, 43, born in Kansas, bartender at steam railroad bar, and Oscar DeBell, 37, born in North Carolina, janitor at a motion picture studio. DeBell reported that he had lived in New York City five years before.

  • Samuel Clinton Dupree

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 9.35.44 PM.png

  • Robert Haskins

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 9.31.59 PM.png

  • Lee Morgan

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 9.32.37 PM.png

In the 1940 census of Oakland, Alameda County, California: Lee Morgan, 51, waiter for shipping company, born in North Carolina. He reported that he had lived in Seattle, Washington, five years prior.

  • Oscar Williams

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 9.37.00 PM.png

Charles S. Darden, Esq.

The second of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden’s sons, Charles Sylvester Darden made his mark far from home — in Los Angeles, California.  Though he largely eluded the decennial censuses, the trajectory of Darden’s career as a hard-charging attorney can be glimpsed in contemporary newspapers and other documents.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charles Darden, 26; wife Diana, 21; and children John, 3, Annie, 2, and Charlie, 9 months.

Charles Darden received an undergraduate degree at Howard University and graduated from its law school in 1904.

The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 31 May 1904.

In short order, Darden headed West and in 1906 passed the examination for admission to the California bar. He was one of the first licensed African-American lawyers in the state.

The anomaly of Darden’s position early caught the attention of the local press, and in 1907 this mocking piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Times, 25 December 1907.

Within his community, however, Darden was taken seriously. In May 1908, his place in the political life of black Los Angeles was signaled by his inclusion among leaders calling for a protest against Republican presidential nominee William H. Taft for his recommendation that President Theodore Roosevelt dismiss black soldiers blamed for murder in the Brownsville Affair.

 

Los Angeles Herald, 31 May 1908.

That same year, Darden was instrumental in organizing a Howard University alumni association in Los Angeles. The Times covered the group’s annual banquet in 1909.

Los Angeles Times, 11 February 1909.

By 1911, Darden had entered the arena in which he had the greatest impact — real estate development and litigation. That year, as the first black lawyer to argue before the California Supreme Court, Darden attacked racially restrictive covenants

By 1913, he and ten others incorporated the Co-operative Commercial Investment Company.

Los Angeles Times, 27 November 1913.

He also was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1913.

Journal of the Supreme Court of the United States.

In 1915, black police officer Homer L. Garrott purchased a home in the Angeles Park subdivision of Los Angeles. Angeles Park lots were covered by a restrictive covenant prohibiting sales to black, Japanese and Chinese buyers, and the Title Guarantee Company sued to enforce it. Charles S. Darden stepped up to defend Garrott. A Superior Court judge ruled in Garrott’s favor, striking down race restrictions as null and void. Angeles Park and the title company appealed, and the case reached the California State Supreme Court in 1919. The ruling was affirmed, but bizarrely undercut by the court’s decision in another case upholding the validity of occupancy clauses. (For more re Garrott, see Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (2005)).

As the United States entered World War I, Darden got involved in protests over the forced retirement of African-American Colonel Charles Young in the wake of resistance by white officers balking at being outranked by a black man. In a letter to Dean Kelly Miller of Howard University, Darden also championed of the causes of Captain Benjamin O. Davis Sr. and a Captain Green, who had also been effectively sidelined.

Kansas City Sun, 21 July 1917.

Two months later, Darden wrote directly to the Secretary of the War Department, complaining that the applications of well-qualified young African-American men were being turned down “because of their color.” The response was terse and not entirely to the point: “At the present time no colored squadrons are being formed and applications from colored men for this branch of service cannot be considered for that reason.”

Letter from Secretary of War to Charles S. Darden, 11 August 1917; W.E.B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312); Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

In 1918, Charles Sylvester Darden registered for the World War I draft in Los Angeles. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1879 in Wilson, North Carolina; resided at 224 South Spring, Los Angeles; was a self-employed lawyer at 407 Germain, Los Angeles; was 5’4″ and of medium build; and his nearest relative was Charles H. Darden, 110 Pender Street, Wilson, North Carolina.

“Incorporations,” Southwest Builder and Contractor, volume 57, number 11 (18 March 1921).

The beach at Santa Monica’s Bay Street, popular with African-Americans in the early 20th century, was derogatorily called “The Inkwell”. While they appreciated the access to the Pacific Ocean that the beach represented, local African-American leaders also wanted an end to all efforts to inhibit their freedom to use all public beaches. In 1922, the Santa Monica Bay Protective League attempted to purge African Americans from the city’’s shoreline by blocking an effort by the Ocean Frontage Syndicate, an African American investment group led by Norman O. Houston and Charles S. Darden, to develop a resort with beach access at the base of Pico Boulevard. Santa Monica officials quickly enacted zoning laws to deny the Ocean Frontage Syndicate beach front property, changing such regulations once whites bought the land and made similar development proposals.

In 1940, Darden partnered with two African-American doctors to form the Los Angeles Negro Professional Men’s Athletic Club, a venue for boxing matches, ball games, dances and other affairs.

Pittsburgh Courier, 29 June 1940.

A whiff of scandal touched Darden in 1940, but failed to gain traction. He was held blameless in a fatal automobile accident on Anaheim’s Santa Ana Canyon Road. Darden apparently never married, and the paper was careful to note that his female companion was white.

Santa Ana Register, 27 August 1940.

In 1942, Charles S. Darden registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1879 in Wilson, North Carolina; he resided at 1802 Central, Los Angeles; his phone number was PR 3750; he was employed as an attorney at 1802 Central; and his contact was C.L. Darden, Wilson, North Carolina.

Charles S. Darden died in March 1954 in Los Angeles.

The Daily Press (Newport News, Va.), 17 March 1954.

Photograph of Dardens courtesy of N.J. and C. Darden, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine; J. Clay Smith Jr., Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844-1944 (1993).

Studio shots, no. 38: the Freeman brothers.

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 10.30.34 PM.png

Ernest Aaron Freeman (1890-1970) and Joseph Thomas Freeman (1894-1991) were sons of Julius F. and Eliza Daniels Freeman and younger brothers of Oliver N. Freeman and Julius F. Freeman Jr.

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 10.30.02 PM.png

Tom and Ernest Freeman.

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.

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 9.08.46 PM.png

Ernest A. Freeman.

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.

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 8.56.24 PM

Joseph T. Freeman.

Ernest Freeman registered for the World War I draft in Cleveland, Ohio. Per his registration card, he was born 3 November 1890 in Wilson, N.C.; resided at 2169 East 90th Street, Cleveland; worked as a sailor for the Pitts. Steam Ship Co. on the the steamer D.M. Clemson; and was single.

In the 1920 census of Cleveland, Ohio: at 2339 East 49th Street, steel foundry laborer Earnest Freeman, 30; wife Gertrude, 26; and daughter Gertrude, 11 months.

In the 1920 census of Los Angeles, California: at 1501 Essex Street, North Carolina-born post office clerk Joseph T. Freeman, 26, a lodger.

In the 1930 census of Cleveland, Ohio: at 2258 Ashland Road, factory clerk Earnest Freeman, 39; wife Gertrude, 35; and children Evelyn, 11, Eanest, 7, and Arthur J., 10 months; as well as boarder Myrtle Bufford, 35, a domestic servant. Freeman owned the house, valued at $4000, and rented apartments in it to two families.

In the 1930 census of Los Angeles, California: at 1220 – 33rd Street, mail clerk Joseph T. Freeman, 34, and wife Phyllis N., 31, cafe waitress. Joseph was born in North Carolina, and Phyllis was born in Minnesota to a Danish immigrant parent.

In the 1940 census of Cleveland, Ohio: at 2211 East 81st Street, National Steel foreman Ernest A. Freeman, 49; wife Gertrude; children Evelyn G. 21, Ernest Jr., 17, and Arthur J., 10.

In 1942, Earnest Aaron Freeman registered for the World War II draft in Cleveland. Per his registration card, he was born 3 November 1890 in Wilson, N.C.; resided at 2211 East 81st Street, Cleveland; worked for National Acme Company, East 131st and Coit Road; and his nearest relative was Mrs. Gertrude Freeman.

In 1942, Joseph Thomas Freeman registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he lived at 1248 West Jefferson, Los Angeles; was born 31 July 1894, Wilson, North Carolina; worked for the U.S. Postal Department, Terminal Annex, Mary Street and Alameda Street, Los Angeles; and his contact was Mrs. Sophia Freeman.

Ernest A. Freeman died 17 December 1970 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Joseph T. Freeman died 8 February 1991 and was buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, Fort Bliss, Texas.

Photographs of Freeman boys and teenaged E. Freeman courtesy of Ancestry user JaFreeman34; photo of J.T. Freeman as young adult courtesy of Ancestry user rcbrown1592rcb; The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18, The F.J. Heer Printing Co. (1926), online at Ancestry.com.