migration to Georgia

The Wilson diaspora.

As I was about to board the elevator in my office building, the shirt pocket of the gentleman next to me caught my eye. In large letters on his gold name tag: SHERROD.

“I grew up in a place where there are lots of Sherrods,” I said suddenly. “Eastern North Carolina.”

He turned into face me fully. “I’m from eastern North Carolina, too,” he responded. “Wilson.”

I screamed a little. “What?!?! Get out of here. I’m from Wilson, too!”

He asked my surname, and when I answered, he said, “… Reggie Henderson?”

“That’s my dad!”

“Coach Hen, we called him.”

“That’s my dad!”

He told me he had been sorry to hear of my father’s passing and asked after my mother, then mentioned our next-door neighbor Herbert Woodard, who also recently passed. We talked about a few people we knew in common, and I asked if he’d graduated from Darden, “Yes,” he said, “class of 1970.”

“The last class!,” I exclaimed, and he nodded.

He didn’t know if he is related to my Viola Street cousins, but I claim John Sherrod anyway. Black Wide-Awake!

Where did they go?: Georgia death certificates, no. 4.

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.

  • Mary Lively and Laura Cole

Mary E Lively Day of Laura Coley 1880-1919. Photo of her Greenwood Cemetery headstone courtesy of http://www.findagrave.com.

In the 1900 census of Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia: at 718 Stonewall Street, Laura Coley, 42, widow, laundress, born in N.C.; daughter Mary May, 21, laundress, born in N.C.; and boarder Abram Smith, 78, widower, day laborer.

Mary Lively died 28 March 1919 in Glennville, Tatnall County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was of unknown age; was born in Wilson, N.C. to Hayward Barnes and “Parker”; and the infomant was Laura Coley.

In the 1920 census of Brunswick, Glynne County, Georgia: at 912 Lee Street, Laura Coley, 48, laundress; nieces Mabel, 4, and Alice Anderson, 2; and lodgers Isah, 24, and Liza Boston, 21.

Laura Coley died 29 December 1930 in Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was 62 years old; was a widow; lived in 914 Stonewall Street; was born North Carolina to an unknown father and Riley Winston of North Carolina; worked as a laundress; and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Answer Anderson was informant.

  • Tom Pridgen

Tom Pridgen died 29 December 1935 in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was 60 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to John Pridgen and Margaret [maiden name not known]; was single; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Laurel Grove cemetery, Savannah.

  • Dennis Carol

In the 1870 census of Turkey township, Sampson County, North Carolina: Annie(?) Carter, 18, farm laborer; Dennis Carroll, 16, works on farm; and Richard Chesnutt, 15, works on farm.

In the 1880 census of Turkey township, Sampson County, North Carolina: farm laborer Dennis Carroll, 25; wife Margeonna, 19; and children Osker, 4, and Walter, 2.

In the 1910 census of Montgomery County, Georgia: turpentine laborer Dennis Carroll, 52; wife Margie, 50; and daughter Lila, 24.

In the 1920 census of Montgomery County, Georgia: laborer Dennis Carroll, 50; wife Margie, 58; son Walter, 45 (sic); and Easter, 19.

Dennis Carrol died 16 November 1935 in Ailey, Montgomery County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1860 in Wilson, N.C.; was married; and was a farmer.

  • Helen Fleming

Helen Flemming died 26 July 1924 in Waycross, Ware County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1898 in Wilson, N.C., to Jim Hines; was married; lived at 1122 Teabur; and was buried in Redhill Cemetery. W.M. Flemming was informant.

  • Paul Taylor

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm worker Dallas Taylor, 30, and wife Louisa, 37.

In the 1910 census of Mullis district, Dodge County, Georgia: odd jobs laborer Paul Taylor, 24; wife Mealie, 18; and daughter Lugene, 1.

In 1918, Paul Taylor registered for the World War I draft in Dodge County, Georgia. Per his registration card, he was born 24 June 1880; worked in drawing for E.A. Mullis; and his nearest kin was Amelia Taylor. He signed his card in a firm, fine hand.

In the 1920 census of Chester, Dodge County, Georgia: railroad section laborer Paul Taylor, 39; wife Melia, 25; and children Enijen(?), 10, Orlando, 8, and Morris, 4.

In the 1930 census of Mullis district, Dodge County, Georgia: farmer Paul Taylor, 49, born in N.C.; wife Amelia, 38; children Lou G., 20, Orlando, 18, Morris, 15, and Odessa, 6; and mother-in-law Sallie Dantley, 90, widow.

Paul Taylor died 14 December 1933 in Chester, Dodge County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 September 1883 in Wilson, N.C., to Dallis Taylor and Louisa Taylor; was married; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Burch Cemetery, Chester. Amelia Taylor was informant.

Where did they go?: Georgia death certificates, no. 3.

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.

  • James Armstrong

On 23 January 1902, James A. Armstrong married Lucinda Lee in Ware County, Georgia.

In 1918, James Edmon Armstrong registered for the World War I draft in Pierce County, Georgia. Per his registration card, he was 17 April 1880; lived on Route 2, Alma, Pierce County; farmed for A.C. Sweat; and his nearest relative was Lusendy Armstrong.

In the 1920 census of Sweats township, Pierce County, Georgia: farm laborer James Armstrong, 39, born in North Carolina; wife Lucinda, 36; and children Richmond, 19, Luster, 15, Maimie, 13, Prissillar, 11, Lola, 9, Aaron, 7, Lucinda, 5, Edmund, 4, Amos, 2, and Calonia, 9 months.

In the 1930 census of Louisville township, Bacon County, Georgia: farmer James Armstrong, 50, born in North Carolina; wife Lusenda, 44; and children Aaron, 20, Edwin, 16, Amos, 12, Carolonia, 10, Mary O., 8, John, 6, Bernice, 3, and Jasper, 2.

James Armstrong died 1 February 1935 in Alma, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was 53 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Charles Armstrong and Mary Larence; was married; and worked as a farmer. Lester Armstrong was informant.

  • James C. Clark

James C. Clark died 3 July 1933 in Waycross, Ware County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1871 in Wilson, N.C., to unknown parents; was married; lived at 821 Pittman, Waycross; and was buried in Redhill Cemetery, Waycross. Informant was Ammie Clark.

  • Mary Daniels

In the 1910 census of Milan, Telfair County, Georgia: turpentine laborer Hector Daniels, 56, and wife Mary, 45.

In the 1930 census of Milan, Telfair County, Georgia: Henry G. Daniels, 75, and wife Mary, 67. Both were North Carolina-born farm laborers.

Mary Daniels died 11 May 1933 in Milan, Telfair County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 May 1857 in Wilson County, N.C., to Isaac and Cheney Joiner; was married; and was buried at Camp Six, Milan. Rex Daniels was informant.

  • Maggie Mumford

In the 1880 census of Elizabethtown, Bladen County, North Carolina: laborer Troy McMillan, 26; wife Alice, 25; and children Mag J., 4, Mary A., 3, and Attie, 8 months; plus brother Clifton McMillan, 22.

In the 1900 census of Wooten township, Coffee County, Georgia: day laborer John Williams, 21; wife Maggie, 23; and children Lola, 3, and Mary, 1.

In the 1910 census of Dickens Mill township, Ben Hill County, Georgia: farmer John Williams, 35; wife Maggie, 31; children Neil, 16, Mary, 13, Lola, 11, and Esau, 2; plus boarder Clarance Harris, 39.

Maggie Mumford died 4 December 1932 in Douglas, Coffee County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was 56 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Troy McMillian; was married; and was buried in the city cemetery in Broxton, Georgia.

  • William Jones

William Jones died 29 January 1927 in Odum, Wayne County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 July 1867 in Wilson, N.C.; was married to Lody Jones; worked as a common laborer; and was buried in Pine Grove cemetery.

Where did they go?: Georgia death certificates, no. 2.

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.

  • Joseph Horne

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.

  • Grant Thorn

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.

  • Lucy Burgess

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

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.

  • Allen Mercy

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.

  • Daniel Barnes

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.

Where did they go?: Georgia death certificates, no. 1.

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.

  • Adam Oates

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Albert Oates, 51; wife Bettie, 34; and children Charles, 13, Turner, 11, Adam, 9, and Willie, 3.

In the 1910 census of Cairo, Grady County, Georgia: city drayman Adams Oates, 37, and wife Emma, 35.

In the 1920 census of Cairo, Grady County, Georgia: sawmill laborer Adams Oates, 57, and wife Emma, 46.

Adam Oates died 7 February 1928 in Cairo, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was an estimated 47 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Albert Oates and Rebecca [maiden name not known]; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Cairo Cemetery.

  • William Barden

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Bryant Bardin, 61, farm worker; wife Annise, 52; and children Francis, 15, William, 10, and Richard, 8.

William Barden died 6 May 1928 at Charity Hospital, Savannah, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 June 1872 in Wilson, N.C., to Bryant Barden and an unnamed mother; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery.

  • John Lynch and Noah Lynch (brothers)

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: brick maker Wyatt Lynch, 48, wife Nicey, 35, and children Harriet, 4, and John, 1.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on the south side of the Plank Road, widow Nicy Lynch, 40, children Harriot, 13, John, 11, Noah, 9, Sammy, 7, and Mary Wyatt, 3, with mother-in-law Nancy Lynch, 98.

On 12 January 1892, Noah Lynch married Mary A. Horne in Dodge County, Georgia.

In the 1910 census of Rawlings township, Dodge County, Georgia: farmer Noah Lynch, 40, born in North Carolina; wife Mary, 35; and children John, 18, odd jobs laborer, Noah Jr., 15, Hattie, 13, Rachel, 10, and George, 6.

In the 1920 census of Rawlings township, Dodge County, Georgia: farmer Noah Lynch, 50, born in N.C.; wife Mary, 48; son George, 20; daughter-in-law Cary, 16; son John, 25l daughter-in-law Pinkey, 23; and orphan Edgar Thomas, 12.

John Lynch died 5 March 1929 in Eastman, Dodge County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1869 in Wilson, N.C., to Wyatt Lynch and an unnamed mother; was married to Queen Lynch; and worked in farming. He was buried in Pleasant Hill cemetery, Dodge County. Noah Lynch was informant.

In the 1930 census of the Town of Eastman, Dodge County, Georgia: Noah Lynch, 60, born in N.C.; wife Mary, 53; daughters Hattie M., 26, and Rachel, 23; and granddaughter Hattie M. Jones, 7.

In the 1940 census of the Town of Eastman, Dodge County, Georgia: at 520 Sixth Street, Noah Lynch, 67, farmer, born in N.C.; wife Mary, 65, laundress; roomer Hattie M. Jones, 18; and granddaughter Johnnie M. Lynch, 1.

In the 1950 census of the Town of Eastman, Dodge County, Georgia: Noah Lynch, 78, born in N.C.; wife Mary, 76; and granddaughter Johnnie Mae Lynch, 11.

Noah Lynch, 78, died 2 December 1950 in Decatur, Georgia. Daughter Rachel Chatman was appointed temporary administrator.

  • Harvey Williams

In the 1920 census of Douglas, Coffee County, Georgia: at 615 Coffee Street, fertilizer factory worker Harvey Williams, 45, born in North Carolina, and wife Susan, 39, born in South Carolina.

Harvey Williams died 22 August 1928 in Douglas, Coffee County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was about 50 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C.; did public work; was married to Susan Williams; and was buried in Douglas Cemetery.

  • Victoria Bird

In the 1910 census of Militia District 58, Emanuel County, Georgia: on Wadley Southern Railroad, Willie Byrd, 28; wife Victoria, 18, born in South [sic] Carolina; and children Earnest, 6, Wiley Lee, 4, Ethel, 2, and Katie, 2 months.

In the 1920 census of the Town of Aline, Candler County, Georgia: farmer Willie Bird, 35; wife Sugar, 22; and children Ethel, 12, Ernie Lee, 14, Ernest, 16, Katie, 10, Lula, 7, and Willie, 3.

Victoria Bird died 13 March 1920 in Aline, Candler County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was 27 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Willie Strickland and Silvie Binon; was married to Will Bird; and worked as a farmer. She was buried in New Life Cemetery. [Hillard Strickland, 21, married Silvia Bynum, 20, on 21 March 1879 in Wilson County.]

Leaving for the turpentine districts of Georgia and South Carolina.

By 1890, North Carolina’s long-leaf pine forests had been decimated, and the state’s once-dominant share of the national naval stores production had plummeted. As highlighted in Imagination Station‘s exhibit “Journey to Wilson,” though the county was never a major player in the turpentine game, western Wilson County had a thriving naval stores industry through much of the nineteenth century. When workers began to follow the work, the Advance took notice.

Wilson Advance, 2 January 1890.

Wilson Advance, 25 December 1890.

The estate of Melissa Winstead.

Braswell R. Winstead was a close associate of Samuel H. Vick, attending Wilson Academy and Lincoln University, teaching at the Colored Graded School, helping establish Calvary Presbyterian Church, and working as assistant postmaster and political ally.

Winstead was born about 1866 in Wilson County to Riley Robbins and Melissa Winstead. Melissa Winstead died about 1880, leaving three heirs — adult daughters Jennie Smith, wife of Charles Smith, and Eliza Joyner, wife of Joe Joyner, and minor son Braswell Winstead (whose name is first listed as John Braswell.) Two of the children filed in Wilson County Superior Court to have their mother’s lot in Wilson township partitioned into equal parts. There was a problem though — the lot was too small to yield useful thirds. Accordingly, the Smiths and Braswell Winstead were petitioning for the sale of the property with six weeks’ notice in the local paper for the benefit of the Joyners, who lived in Georgia. The petition was granted.

——

  • Charles and Virginia Smith

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Roberts Winstead, 26, farm laborer; Caleshea, 28; Eliza, 15; Virginia, 13; Barnwell [Braswell], 7; Caroline, 19; Simmons, 17; Prince, 14; Frank, 7; and Harret Winstead, 7. [The relationships between the members of this household are not clear. Eliza, Virginia “Jenny,” and Braswell were siblings, but I am not sure about the others.]

On 28 August 1874, Charly Smith, 22, married Jennie Barnes, 17, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, minister Charles Smith, 26; wife Virginia, 22; and children Arminta, 7, John T., 3, and Charles H., 1; and brother-in-law Braswell Winstead, 20, teaching school.

  • Joseph and Eliza Winstead Joyner

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Roberts Winstead, 26, farm laborer; Caleshea, 28; Eliza, 15; Virginia, 13; Barnwell [Braswell], 7; Caroline, 19; Simmons, 17; Prinnce, 14; Frank, 7; and Harret Winstead, 7.

On 3 June 1879, Joseph Joyner, 24, and Eliza Winstead, 23, were married in Wilson County by A.M.E. Zion minister R.B. Bonner in the presence of A. Lindsay, Joseph Hinton, and Jas. Harriss.

In the 1880 census of Wayne County, Georgia: Robert Roberson, 30, and wife Hattie; Joseph Joyner, 25, and wife Eliza, 22; and Jacob Dove, 30, and wife Susan, 25. All were born in North Carolina, except Susan Dove, who was born in Florida. All the men worked turpentine.

Wilson Advance, 10 September 1880.

Dr. A.S. Clark’s institute.

We did a little trip down to Cordele, Georgia, this weekend. Once there, I was a little hazy on the directions, but I spotted A.S. Clark Drive and knew we were good.

Augustus S. Clark was among the cohort of (mostly) young men who erupted from Wilson in the 1880s and ’90s,* determined to lead. Born in the final days of slavery, or just after, they drank in everything J.C. Price and Samuel H. Vick poured at Wilson Academy, went straight to university (often at Lincoln, their instructors’ alma mater), then set out, in Clark’s later words, to “… do what I can for the uplift of my people.”

Dr. Augustus S. Clark (1874-1959). (Photo courtesy of Frank T. Wilson, ed., “Living Witnesses: Black Presbyterians in Ministry II,” Journal of Presbyterian History, volume 53, number 3 (Fall 1985).)

For his part, in 1902 Clark founded, with his wife Annie, the Gillespie Normal School, later Gillespie-Selden Institute, in Cordele. In 1925, the institute added an hospital. (The closest Black medical facility was 142 miles away in Atlanta.) I’ve written of Gillespie-Selden here and finally went to see it.

Gillespie Institute Founded By Rev. and Mrs. Augustus Clark September 1, 1902 Served By Them Until October 1, 1941 Alumni 1942

The school complex forms the heart of Cordele’s Gillespie-Selden Historic District. Below, the school’s administration building, built in 1935.

The girls’ dormitory below, built in 1929, is the most imposing building in the neighborhood.

A rear addition has been largely torn down, and an open door grants access to the interior.

The building holds evidence of fairly recent use as a family resource and daycare center, as well as squatters. All things considered though, it is in pretty good condition.

This room runs the length of the back wall on the first floor.

At the front of the building, a series of small interconnected rooms flanks a central entry hall. I didn’t venture upstairs.

The cornerstone of the girls’ dormitory.

A marble plaque inlaid by the class of 1929.

The President’s House, also known as Dr. Clark’s house, which sits just to the west of the girls’ dormitory. The Clarks retired from active teaching and school leadership in 1941.

Below, Saint Paul Presbyterian, also founded by Rev. Clark. The tin-roofed section at right appears to be the original church, updated with brick.

Gillespie-Selden Institute, Class of 1947, in front of the girls’ dormitory. (Photo courtesy of St. Paul Gillespie-Selden Learning Center Facebook page.)

Gillespie-Selden Institute closed in 1956 when Cordele finally erected a high school for African-American students. Named in honor of A.S. Clark, the school eventually converted to an elementary school, but closed in 2014. The building is now under development as a non-profit biomedical institute.

For more about Gillespie-Selden Historic District, see the Gillespie-Selden Historic District National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, which contains this passage:

“Within the Gillespie-Selden Historic District, the outreach missionary role of Dr. Augustus S. Clark (1874-1959) and St. Paul Presbyterian Church is significant to the development of the neighborhood. Dr. Clark completed his theological training at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1897; he was sent by the Presbyterian National Board of Missions to Cordele in 1898 as a missionary to help the struggling Portis Memorial Presbyterian Church. During that same year, a loan was secured from the Board of the Church Erection Fund of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church for the construction of a new church building to be named St. Paul Presbyterian Church.

“In 1902, Dr. Clark and his wife, Anna, realized that there were less than adequate educational institutions for African-Americans to attend in Cordele as well as the entire southwest region of the state. Dr. Clark taught elementary-level and Sunday-school classes in the basement of St. Paul Presbyterian Church, but found he needed more space. … By 1904, enough money had been donated by white members of northern Presbyterian churches, especially the Gillespie family of Pittsburgh, that three buildings of the school complex were constructed. …”

See also, this 2009 design charrette prepared by University of Georgia’s Center for Community Design and Preservation and the 2103 Gillespie-Selden Historic District Design Guidelines.

Another memorial plaque, this one embedded in a brick pillar in front of the administration building.

——

* This cohort included A.S. Clark’s brothers John H., William H., and Thomas G. Clark, Samuel H. Vick, his brother William H. Vick, and cousin Frank O. Blount, brothers Daniel C. and James T. Suggs, Henry C. Lassiter, Braswell R. Winstead, and Charles H. Bynum, all Lincoln University graduates; the Suggses’ sister Serena Suggs MooreJoseph H. Ward; Ardella Kersey; Mahala Williamson Reid; sisters Ada G. Battle and Geneva Battle Faver; and J. Arthur Cotton.

Photos of G.S.I. taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

Last will and testament of Nellie Bullock Whitehead.

When Nellie Bullock Whitehead made out her will on 10 November 1949, she was very clear that only her daughters Anna Whitehead Hagans and Elnora Whitehead Sauls would inherit.

Nellie Bullock Whitehead was a native of Wilson County; her husband John Whitehead was from Georgia. I have not found a marriage license for them, but they lived in Dodge County, Georgia, in 1910, and all their children were born in Georgia. By 1920, they had returned to live in Nellie Whitehead’s home county.

——

In the 1910 census of Mullis township, Dodge County, Georgia: John Whitehead, 26; wife Nellie, 25; and sons Edmund, 7, and Will. H., 4.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on S.H. Crocker Farm Road, tenant farmer, John Whitehead, 37; wife Nellie, 36; children E.K., 16, William H., 13, Anna V.O., 7, Anna Nula, 5, and J.B., 4; and great-uncle[?] Josh Whitehead.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Highway 91, express laborer [no first name] Whitehead, 49; wife Ella, 45; and children Anna V., 17, Nora, 16, John, 14, and William, 24. All were born in Georgia except Ella [Nellie], who was born in North Carolina.

John Whitehead died in Wilson on 24 October 1937. Per his death certificate, he was 55 years old; was born in Georgia to Joshua Whitehead and Georgian Melvin; was married to Nellie Whitehead; lived at 1513 Nash Street; and worked as a meat packer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: widow Nellie Whitehead, 56; son J.B., 24, truck driver for a contractor; daughter Anna Hagans, 27, tobacco company stemmer; son-in-law Henry Hagans, 32, town garbage remover; and daughter Elnora Whitehead, 26.

John Baptist Whitehead registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 25 December 1915 in Chester, Georgia; lived at Route 4, Box 39, Wilson; worked for Imperial Tobacco, Barnes Street; and his contact was his mother, Nellie Whitehead.

Nellie B. Whitehead died 27 March 1951 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 August 1884 in Elm City, N.C., to Equia B. Bullock and William Ann Barnes and was a widow. Anna B. Hagans was informant.

“I want to advise the colored people against gambling.”

Months after the fact, a North Carolina newspaper picked up this blurb about the murder allegedly committed by a Wilson man:

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Wilmington Messenger, 1 August 1893.

This short account appeared in an Atlanta paper just after the crime:

The Atlanta Constitution, 4 April 1893.

After Courney’s execution, The Constitution ran a deeply detailed story of Courney’s life and the events that led to Smith’s death:

The Atlanta Constitution, 29 July 1893.

  • Jim Courney — His real name was Burroughs Kearney. Though not found in Wilson County records, in the 1880 census of Shocco township, Warren County, North Carolina: farmer Logan Kearney, 45; wife Virginia, 35; and children Burroughs, 15, Lucy, 13, Cherrie, 10, Cilla, 7, George, 4, and Emely, 3.  The family appears in the 1870 census of Sparta township, Edgecombe County, and Burroughs Kearney was married there in 1887.