migration to Virginia

Family ties, no. 6: we got strayed apart.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the sixth in a series of excerpts from documents and interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney was my grandmother’s father’s first cousin. Born 1878 in Wayne County, North Carolina, to Joshua and Amelia Aldridge Brewington, she married Emanuel King in 1898. By 1910, the couple and their daughters Juanita, Elizabeth, Amelia, Maybelle, and Tilithia had settled in Norfolk, Virginia. Tilithia (pronounced “Ti-LYE-a-thy”) and Emanuel soon divorced and, by 1920, Tilithia had married railroad fireman Walter Godbold and was running a little restaurant.

Cousin Tilithia’s Strand Cafe made a deep impression on my grandmother, who laughingly recalled waiting tables during childhood visits and being dazzled by the  menu offerings.

Cousin Tilithia also offered lodging. Norfolk Journal & Guide, 12 March 1921.

“I was thinking about Cousin Tilithia Godbold when I was a little girl. She had a restaurant large enough to work in and serve patrons. It wasn’t real big, but they were serving patrons, and Mama carried me up there, and we spent the night there. And whenever she’d come to Wilson she’d stay with us.

“Cousin Tilithia, she lived in Norfolk, and she married this man. That wasn’t her children’s daddy. King was her children’s daddy. Godbold was the man she married later. He lived over in Rocky Mount, and he worked in the roundhouse or something.  I think he fixed the train, but he wasn’t the one on the train. And Godbold, Tilithia’s husband, he stayed there in Rocky Mount. ‘Cause Tilithia lived in Norfolk. Her and her five or six girls or whatever it was, and she was running what they call the Strand Café. And it was down on the first floor, and they lived up over it. Go out there, and it was a sleeping compartment. I was over there one time, and I remember it. I think I was about seven or eight years old. Went with Mama over there. We was just running all over the place. She had us waiting tables. I wanted to wait tables. I was wondering, I asked Mama, “Well, why come we couldn’t have a place like that?” And all that food!  Look like whatever the food was – I didn’t even know what it was ‘cause we ain’t never had none. It was a whole lot of stuff, look like they had, I didn’t want it, but then I know it looked good, and we ate down there in the café.

“And another time Mama took me on the train to see her. And it was right down in South Philadelphia where we went to their house. Where they was staying. And when I moved up here to Philadelphia, Tilithia’s sister Hattie, she was telling me ‘bout how the daughters were there in Norfolk, her sister and all them. I said, well, I could remember some of them, but I don’t remember what –  and I asked where some of the girls was. Some of them in Norfolk and some of ‘em, one’s dead. [Inaudible] the family. We got strayed apart.”

Norfolk Journal & Guide, 9 December 1922.

Norfolk Journal & Guide, 28 May 1927.

She and my grandmother lost touch, but Cousin Tilithia lived until 1965.

Virginian Pilot, 22 November 1965.

Interviews of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson adapted and edited for clarity. Copyright 1994, 1996. All rights reserved. 

Cornelia Bass Reddick of Richmond, Virginia.

I wrote in October about Richmond’s Friends of East End, the all-volunteer non-profit which, until recently, was working to reclaim historic East End Cemetery and transform it into “a public site of memory, contemplation, and beauty that honors Richmond’s black community and history.”

F.O.E.E. has turned its attention to neglected corners of Woodland Cemetery, another historic Black cemetery in Richmond, and dedicated yesterday’s find — the gravestone of Wilson County native Cornelia Reddick — to Lane Street Project!

Cornelia Reddick Died Aug. 23, 1928 Heliotrope Lodge 12 I.O. King David

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In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Bass, 41.

On 16 January 1880, Charles Bass, 51, married Rhoda A. Jordan, 23, at C. Bass’ [probably Charles Bass] residence. Justice of the Peace David G.W. Ward performed the ceremony.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Charles Bass, 51; wife Rhoda, 23; and an unnamed four month-old infant daughter. [This child was Cornelia Bass Reddick.]

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Bass, 71, widower, and son James, 10. 

Cornelia Bass’ life has proved exceptionally difficult to track. We know, however, that sometime prior to 1928, she married equally elusive tobacco worker Henry Reddick. They appear together in the 1928 Richmond, Virginia, city directory: Reddick Henry (c; Cornelia) lab 506-A E Clay

Cornelia Reddick died 23 August 1928 at her home in Richmond, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was 51 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Charles and Roda Bass; was married to Henry Reddick; and lived at 506 East Clay, Richmond. 

UPDATED: Reddick’s gravestone indicates affiliation with Heliotrope Lodge Number 12, Imperial Order of King David. Friends of East End corrected my guess at the name of this fraternal organization, founded in Richmond in 1908.

Richmond Planet, 15 November 1930.

Rev. Edward C. Simms, Presiding Elder.

This brief bio of Rev. Edward C. Simms is found in souvenir volume issued for an A.M.E. Zion General Conference. I do not have the access to the full volume, its title, or its date of publication.

REV. EDWARD CUTHBERT SIMMS, P.E., Tampa, Fla.

Rev. Simms hails from Wilson, North Carolina, and of the year 1862; he graduated from the Wilson Academy in 1883; was converted there in 1875; joining the Farmer A.M.E. Zion Church at the same time. He became a preacher in 1896 at Norfolk, Va., and joined the Virginia Conference. Later on, he was ordained deacon at Hickory, N.C., in 1897, and ordained elder at Franklin, Va., in 1899.

His pastoral labors were exerted at Mosley Street A.M. E. Zion Church, Norfolk, Newport News, Va., and Mount Sinai Church, Tampa, Fla. He built the Centreville Chapel in Norfolk County, and Zion Chapel at Bear Quarter, Va. Rev Simms is a prominent member of the South Florida Conference, and a preacher who draws and holds an audience. As a pastor his success reaches the best average. This will be his first official appearance in the General Conference. He makes a highly acceptable administrator and his constituency love, honor and revere him. 

Biographical Souvenir Volume of General Conference A.M.E. Zion Church

Norfolk Virginian, 9 May 1897.

In its coverage on the Philadelphia Conference of the A.M.E. Zion Church, the 30 May 1908 edition of the Washington Bee noted that “Rev. E.C. Simms, a delegate from Florida, died suddenly from heart disease; a sum of one hundred dollars was raised by Conference for his funeral, and a Florida delegate was sent to accompany the remains home.”

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In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Esther Simms, 45, and Ned Simms, 19, both farmworkers.

On 8 May 1879, Ned Simms, 25, married Nicy Best, 26, in Wilson. Benjamin S. Brunson performed the ceremony at the A.M.E. Zion Church in the presence of Hayes Best, Jas. Harriss, and S.A. Smith.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher Edward C. Simms, 33; wife Nicy, 26; and Edward, 7 months.

In the 1900 census of Norfolk, Virginia: at 62 Moseley, teacher Edward C. Simms, 44; wife Nicy, 43, nurse; and children Edward, 20, porter, Theodocia, 18, teacher, Sacona, 16, errand boy, Adonis, 14, Cicero, 12, Henny, 10, and Hattie, 6. All were born in North Carolina, except the youngest two, who were born in Virginia.

In the 1906 Tampa, Florida, city directory: Simms Edward C (m) pastor A M E Zion Church, h 952 Harrison 

In the 1908 Tampa, Florida, city directory: Simms Edward C Rev (m) pastor A M E Zion Church, h 952 Harrison

E.C. Simms died 14 May 1908 of diabetes at 313 North 38th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per his death certificate, he was 55 years old and was born in Virginia to E.C. Simms of North Carolina and an unnamed mother born in Virginia. Informant was J.B. Harris [who apparently knew little about Simms.] He was buried in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the 1910 census of Tanner Creek, Norfolk County, Virginia: at 4 Byrd Street, widow Nicey Simms, 50, and children Adonis, 22, candy maker in factory, Henrietta, 18, and Hattie, 15.

Nicy Simms died 6 January 1922 in Norfolk, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was 60 years old; was a widow; lived at 914 Dunbar; and was born in Wilson, N.C., to Daniel Bass [Best] and Jane [last name unknown]. Theadesia Simms of Norfolk was informant.

Adonis Simms died 9 July 1930 in Norfolk, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1887 in North Carolina to Edward Simms; worked as a laborer; and was married to Vessie Simms.

Rev. Franklin Brown Woodard.

Portraits of Rev. Franklin B. Woodard are posted on the blog of Legacy Museum of African-American History in Lynchburg, Virginia. The text of the post: “Rev. Frank B. Woodard was born and raised in Wilson County, North Carolina. He studied at Virginia Seminary and graduated in 1904. Woodard led churches in Michigan and Iowa and served as the President of the Iowa–Nebraska Convention. He died in 1919.”

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In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Frank Woodard, 25; wife Appie, 23; son Frank Jr., 1; and Samuel, 20, farm laborer.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Frank Woodard, 37; wife Appie, 32; and children Frank, 11, and Romulus, 9.

On 29 August 1906, in Lynchburg, Virginia, Franklin Brown Woodard, 38, born in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Frank and Apsilla Woodard, married Margaret C. Minnis, 27, born in Bedford County, Virginia, to Henry L. and Mamie Minnis.

In the 1910 census of Bluff Creek township, Monroe County, Iowa: Frank B. Woodard, 41, born N.C.; wife Margurite C., 31, born Virginia; and children Thelma K., 2, born Michigan, and Virginia L., 1, born Iowa. 

On 2 June 1915, Franklin Brown Woodard, 46, widowed, born in Wilson County, N.C., to Frank and A. Woodard, married Rosa Mildred Jones, 36, born in Buxton, Iowa, to Lewis and M. Jones, in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

The Bystander (Des Moines, Iowa), 7 June 1918.

Rev. Frank B. Woodard died 5 September 1919 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The Bystander (Des Moines, Iowa), 12 September 1919.

Rev. Woodard’s body was returned to Lynchburg for burial.

Woodard’s wife Rosa was appointed guardian to her step-daughters Thelma and Virginia. Though certified to teach, Rosa Woodard was in poor health, and year after year applied to the Linn County, Iowa, District Court to draw money from Frank Woodard’s estate to provide for the girls.

Petition for letters of guardianship.

Rosa Woodard’s first application for funds. She stated that it was too late in the year to get a teaching job.

Another petition for funds, in which Rosa Woodard revealed that she had been ill for months and had spent several weeks at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Virginia Lavurn Woodard, born in Buxton, Iowa, to Frank Brown Woodard and Margaret Celeste Minnis, married John Henry Hughes Jr., born in Bedford County, Virginia, to John Henry Hughes and Lucretia Ann Griffin, on 1 March 1931 in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

Rosa Jones Woodard

Rosa Jones Woodard died 1 August 1957 at her home at 904 Eighth Street, Lynchburg, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 February 1885 in Lynchburg to Louis Jones and Margaret Taylor; was a widow of Frank B. Woodard; and had worked as a teacher and school matron. Informant was Virginia Hughes, Lynchburg.

Photos of Frank and Rosa Woodard courtesy of Legacy Museum; photo of Woodard headstone courtesy of findagrave.com; Iowa Wills and Probate Records, 1758-1997, http://www.ancestry.com.

Death notices of Will Bulluck and Nokomis Swinson.

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Wilson Daily Times, 9 October 1941.

  • Will Bulluck

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Will Bullock, 67, driving dray, and wife Pearl, 49, cooking.

Per his death certificate, Will Bullock was a native of Edgecombe County. He was working as a railroad laborer at the time of his death (at age 67), and his body was returned to Wilson for burial.

  • Niknois Swinson — Nokomis Swinson, 19, is listed in the 1940 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County, with his mother Lula Swinson.

Studio shots, no. 152: Albert F. Hinnant.

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Albert Franklin Hinnant (1909-1988).

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Atlas Hinnant, 47; wife Hattie, 43; children Albert, 18, Cleo, 15, Mary, 13, and Paul, 9; plus mother Haley Lane, 62, widow.

In 1940, Albert Franklin Hinnant registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 23 March 1909 in Wilson; lived at R.F.D. #1, Lucama, Wilson County; his contact was mother Hattie Hinnant, R.F.D. #3, Kenly, Wilson County; and he worked for Walter Kirby, Lucama. He was described as 6’5″, 205 pounds.

On 28 December 1972, Albert Franklin Hinnant, single, born 23 March 1911, married Lillie Mae Brown, divorced, born 23 June 1915, in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Albert F. Hinnant died 5 May 1988 in Hampton, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 March 1911 in Wilson, N.C., to Atlas Hinnant and Hattie Pierce; was married to Lillie M. Hinnant; lived in Portsmouth, Virginia, and was a retired merchant seaman. He was buried in Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry user jmt1946808.

Studio shots, no. 151: Matilda Roberts Battle.

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Matilda Roberts Battle (1902-1954).

In the 1910 census of Suffolk, Virginia: furniture salesman W.M. Roberts, 37; wife Sally, 32; and children Leroy, 12, Matilda, 7, Sally A., 4, and Bessie May, 2, all born in North Carolina.

In the 1920 census of Suffolk, Virginia: William Roberts, 46, furniture salesman; wife Sallie, 40; and children Sallie Jr., 15, Leroy, 21, Matilda, 17, Bessie M., 12, Elizabeth, 9, Annie L., 4, and Rebecca F., 1. All the children after Matilda were born in Virginia.

In the 1930 census of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania: at 222 Plum, rented for $25/month, sewer pitman Wesley C. Battle, 27, restaurant porter; wife Matilda, 27; and four lodgers.

In the 1940 census of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania: sewer pitman Wesley Battle, 37; wife Matilda, 37; and children Alice, 10, James, 8, Evelyn, 7, Bessie, 3, and Sarah F., 1; and lodger John Majet, 43, roadwork laborer.

Matilda Battle died 28 April 1954 in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 August 1902 in Wilson, N.C., to William Roberts and Sallie Kaytes; was married; lived at 362 Tulpehocken Street, Reading; and Bessie James was informant.

Photo courtesy of Beverly Hines-Wright.

Funeral services for Mr. Johnnie Winstead.

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In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on State Highway, farmer Ned Winstead, 52, wife Annie, 47, and children Maggie, 18, Lizzie, 14, Daniel, 12, John, 9, Lee, 6, and Bryant, 4.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on State Highway, farmer Ned Winstead, 58, wife Annie, 50, and children Maggie, 23, John, 18, and Bryant, 13, plus granddaughter Annie Bell, 9.

Johnnie Winstead, 22, of Edgecombe County, son of Ned and Annie Winstead of Wilson County, married Carrie Lawrence, 22, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Allen and Carolina Lawrence, on 15 November 1922 in Edgecombe County.

In the 1930 census of Walnut Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Johnie Winstead, 30; wife Carrie, 27; and son Ananias, 5.

In the 1940 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 825 Lincoln Street, steamship company dockhand Johnnie Winstead, 39; wife Carrie, 40; and son A. Winstead, 16.

Funeral program courtesy of Lisa R.W. Sloan. 

Snaps, no. 57: Jessie H. Cone.

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Jessie H. Cone and family.

In the 1920 census of Matoaca township, Chesterfield County, Virginia: farmer Jamison Cone, 34; wife Cornelia, 33; and children Sarah L., 12, Willie, 10, Randolph, 8, Jimmie L., 6, Mabel, 4, Elba S., 2, and Herman J., 2.

In the 1930 census of Matoaca township, Chesterfield County: on Reeder Branch Road, tobacco farmer Jimerson C. Cone, 43; wife Cornelia, 42; and children Willie, 20, Randolph, 18, Jimmie L. 17, Mabel, 15, Elba I., 13, Jessie H., 11, Charles W., 7, Dorothy M., 5, and Mary H., 11 months.

On 23 September 1939, Jesse Cone, 21, construction worker, born in Wilson, N.C. to Jamison and Cornelia Heggins Cone, married Dorothy Wilkinson, 19, born in Newark, New Jersey, to William Wilkinson and Annie Murray

In the 1940 census of Richmond, Virginia: at 512 South Randolph Street, rented for $10/month, Jesse H. Cone, 21, building construction laborer; wife Dorothy, 19; and daughter Shirley, 1 month.

Jessie Herman Cone registered for the World War II draft in Richmond, Virginia. Per his registration card, he was born 29 May 1917 in Wilson, North Carolina; lived in Richmond; his next-of-kin was Dorothy Cone; and he worked for E.I. DuPont.

Photos courtesy of Ancestry.com user TeiaHarper1.

A visit to Wilson.

On 3 September 1908, the New York Age‘s society page announced that Martha Farmer of Portsmouth, Virginia, was spending the week visiting family and friends in Wilson. Martha was the daughter of Benjamin and Mollie Barnes Farmer, who migrated to Portsmouth about 1893.

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New York Age, 3 September 1908.

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Robert Barnes, son of Tony  Flowers and Hannah Bass, married Harriett Barnesdaughter of Sampson Farmer and Ann Barnes, on 20 July 1867 in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County, North Carolina: Robert Barnes, 40; wife Harriet, 30; and children Robt., 12, Nathan, 11, Amos, 7, John, 8, William, 6, Mary, 3, and Alfred, 8 months.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: blacksmith Robert Barnes, 70; wife Harrett, 40; and children Robert, 21, Nathan, 13, Amos, 17, John, 14, William, 12, Mary, 9, Alford, 8, and Lillie, 7.

Benjamin Farmer, 26, of Wilson County, married Mollie Barnes, 18, of Wilson County, daughter of Robert and Harriett Barnes, on 1 February 1888 in Saratoga, Saratoga township. Crummell Bullock applied for the license, and minister Thomas J. Moore performed the ceremony in the presence of D.H. Calhoun and A.J. Tyson.

In the 1910 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 308 Chestnut Street, Benjamin Farmer, 44, insurance agent; wife Mollie, 38; and children Martha, 19, Charles, 18, and Lee, 16; plus niece Cora Barnes, 17, and aunt Phebe Pope, 67, widow.

In the 1920 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 308 Chestnut Street, Benjamin Farmer, 48, insurance collector; wife Mollie, 49; and daughter Martha, 27, public school teacher; plus aunt-in-law Phoebe Pope, 81, widow.

Phoebie Pope died 22 October 1922 in Portsmouth. Per her death certificate, she was about 88 years old; lived at 308 Chestnut; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Cherry Rodgers; and was “retired many years” from domestic work. J.W. Barnes was informant.

In the 1930 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 308 Chestnut Street, owned and valued at $1800, Ben T. Farmer, 56, insurance agent; wife Mollie, 55; and daughter Martha Boyd, 38; plus roomer Peter Solomon, 52, navy yard laborer.

On 16 March 1948, Benjamin Farmer died at his home at 308 Chestnut Street, Portsmouth. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 September 1868 in Wilson County to Joshua and Martha Farmer; had lived in Portsmouth 55 years; was married to Mollie Farmer; and worked in insurance. Martha F. Boyd was informant.

Mollie Farmer died 9 January 1962 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was about 92 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Robert Barnes and Harriet (no maiden name); and lived at 436 Chestnut Street. Martha Boyd was informant.

Martha F. Boyd died 8 April 1973 in Portsmouth. Per her death certificate, she was about 82 years old; was born in North Carolina to Benjamin and Mollie Farmer; lived at 436 Chestnut; and was a retired teacher.