migration to Washington DC

William Burns of Elm City; Portland, Maine; and Washington, D.C.

While looking for more about William Burns, whose 1942 World War II draft registration indicated that he was born in Elm City, I ran across this entry in the 1940 census of Washington, D.C.:

William Burns, 51, born N.C., laborer on W.P.A. construction project; wife Lulu, 48, private family cook, born in Virginia; daughter Marjorie, 27, born in Maine, restaurant waitress; son-in-law Manuel, 26, born in Mexico, hotel waiter; granddaughter Carmelita, 4, born D.C.; daughter, Marion, 24, maid for private family, born in Maine; son William, 20, born in Maine; sons Herman, 18, and Carol, 18, born in D.C.; and daughter Janet, 6, born in D.C.

… Maine?

William Burns was born William Bunn. In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Amos Bunn, 51; wife Mojano [Margianna], 40, cook; children Tildy, 24, cook, Amos, 21, farm laborer, William G., 19, farm laborer, Lewis B., 17, Genetta B., 14, Sallie B., 13, cook, Jonas B., 10, nurse, Louisannie, 7, Eddie B., 3, and James W., 2; and widowed mother Tabitha, 80, “idle.”

By 1910, William Bunn had left home. In the 1910 census of Portsmouth, Virginia: at 817 Queen Street, William Battle, 33, blacksmith helper, and wife Bettie, 31, shared a household with Charles Morris, 28, wharf stevedore, and William Bunn, 29, gas plant driver. All were from North Carolina. William Bunn reported that he was married.

In 1918, William Burns registered for the World War I draft in Portland, Cumberland County, Maine. He reported that he was born 26 July 1881; lived at 10 Deer Street, Portland; and worked as a cook and laborer for Portland Company (a marine repair company.) His nearest relative was Amos Burns, Wilson County, N.C.

8-10 Deer Street, Portland, 1924. Collections of City of Portland — Planning & Development, www.mainememory.net

On 24 September 1918, William Burns, 37, and Georgia Robinson, 31, both of Portand, Maine, were married in Portland. Both worked as cooks. William was born in Wilson, N.C., to Amos Burns and Margianna Bowser. Georgia was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, to Jarrett Robinson and Martha Cook.

Prior to this marriage, William had several children in Portland with Lulu Robinson, also of Virginia. (Was this Georgia, using a nickname?) An unnamed daughter born 27 September 1911 was described as the second living of three children. [Note that William is described as “W” — white. In other records, he is described as mulatto, and may have been light enough to pass.] An unnamed son was born 29 August 1917 in Portland. These children appear to be Marjorie and William Jr.

The Burneses left Maine around 1919. In the 1920 census of Washington, D.C.: Mary Williams, 38, charwoman for “Pullman (RR)”; William Burns, 28, apartment building porter; wife Lula, 30, laundress; and children Marjory, 8, Marion, 4, and William Jr., 2 (all born in Maine); and lodger Martha Robinson, 48, laundress.

In the 1930 census of Washington, D.C.: at 915 Fifth Street, William Burns, 44, rectory cook (birthplace: Maine); wife Lula, 36, rectory pastry cook (birthplace: Rhode Island); daughter Carmen Galan, 20, restaurant bus girl; granddaughter Carmen Galan, newborn; daughters and sons Marion, 15, William Jr., 12, Herman, 9, Carrol, 5, and Janet, 3; nephews Sin, 21, rectory dishwasher, and Henry Burns, 18, railroad cook; and lodgers Edward Young, 24, restaurant cook, and Mack, 6, and Margaret Herndon, 9.

In 1940, William Girard Burns registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 29 August 1917 in Portland, Maines; lived at 624 O Street, Washington, D.C.; his contact was mother Lula Martha Burns; and he worked for Z.D. Gilman.

Z.D. Gilman’s Drug Store, Washington, D.C. Historic American Buildings Survey, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Per his 1942 World War II draft registration card, William Burns was born 26 July 1882 in Elm City, N.C. He lived at 624 O Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.; his contact was Jeanie Peoples, 629 Rhode Island Avenue, Washington; and he worked at the Archives Building, 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

Herman Amos Burns registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 27 December 1920 in Washington; lived at 624 O Street, N.W.; his contact was Mrs. Lula Burns; and he worked for Z.D. Gilman Drug Co., 627 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921, http://www.familysearch.org.

Ojetta C. Harrison, Saint Aug freshman.

Ojetta C. Harrison was listed in the freshman class of Saint Augustine’s College in 1936-37. She does not appear in subsequent school catalogs.


In the 1930 census of Bailey township, Nash County: farmer Ellie W. Harris, 45; wife Rosa A., 44; and children Carrie L., 21, William E., 19, Ojetta, 18, Lila M., 16, Ethel M., 14, Mattie E., 13, Robert H., 10, Jessie L., 10, Beatrice, 8, George L., 6, and Hellin J., 2. Ellie, Rosa, and their four oldest children were born in South Carolina; Ethel in Virginia; and the remaining in North Carolina.

On 25 November 1937, Ojetta C. Harrison, 25, married Fred D. Palmer, 25, in Washington, D.C. She remained in D.C. the rest of her life.

Snaps, no. 83: John W. High.

John W. High Sr.


In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Peter High, 50; wife Mary, 50; sons Grant, 10, and John W., 9; and hireling William Young, 12.

On 1 October 1891, John High, 19, of Taylors township, son of Peter and Mary High, married Trecy Rowe, 17, of Taylors township, daughter of Samuel and Louisa Rowe, at Ellises Chapel, Taylors township. Noah Battle applied for the license, and Freewill Baptist minister Crockett Best performed the ceremony in the presence of Hilliard Ellis, Joshua Bunn, and William Ray.

In the 1900 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer John High, 26; wife Treasy, 23; and Walter, 8, and Sam, 6.

On 8 September 1907, John High, 37, of Wilson married Flora Lucas, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of Elbert and Rosa Lucas, at Ace Thompson’s house in Selma, Johnston County, N.C. Edward Battle of Wilson was a witness.

In the 1910 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer John High, 40; wife Florine, 19, farm laborer; and Lena M., 2.

In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John W. High, 55; wife Flore R., 34; and children Lizzie, 14, John Jr., 16, Rennie, 12, Perlia, 10, Minnie, 8, Gldyes, 7, Bessie M., 5, and Earnest T., 1; daughter Julia Wood, 20, and granddaughter Rasey M. Wood, 8 months.

In the 1940 census of Washington, D.C., John High Sr., 67, widower, is listed as a lodger in the household of James E. and Pauline Tyler.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user gia707.

“I didn’t want red. … Well, you know why.”

The pandemic has shuttered Vanilla Powell Beane‘s millinery shop, but could not stop her from creating a hat especially for Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri. Now This Politics delivers the take:

The Reid-Miller marriage announcement.

Baltimore Afro-American, 12 July 1930.

James D. Reid Jr., a dentist, was born in Wilson in 1905 to J.D. and Eleanor Frederick Reid. On 7 July 1930, he married Irene Miller, whose father Kelly Miller was a renowned mathematician and sociologist at Howard University and an outspoken anti-racism intellectual.

In the 1940 census of Washington, District of Columbia — at 2826 Fourth Street, widow Annie M. Miller, 71; son-in-law James D. Reid, Jr., 39, dentist; daughter Irene Miller Reid, 39, teacher at Miner Teacher College; daughter-in-law Carlissa Miller, 39, clerk; and granddaughters Annie Mae 18, and Gloria Miller, 16.

In 1940, James D. Reid Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 5 January 1905 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 2225 Fourth Street, N.W., Washington; his contact was wife Irene Miller Reid; and was self-employed, with an office at 1203 U Street, N.W. [2225 Fourth Street is now the site of Howard University’s Bethune Annex residence hall.]

Dr. Reid’s U Street office was in this building.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Studio shots, no. 156: Eddie C. Powell.

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Eddie C. Powell (1892-1968).

In the 1900 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farm laborer David Powel, 35; wife Sallie, 27; and children Eddie, 8, Rosa, 5, Henry, 4, and Joseph, 1.

In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Edward C. Powell, 17, and wife Nellie B., 17.

In 1917, Eddie C. Powell registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 5 September 1892 in Wilson County; lived near Sims; was a self-employed farmer; and had a wife and four children.

In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: on Old Wilson and Raleigh Road, farmer Eddie C. Powell, 27; wife Nellie, 27; and children Beula M., 9, Sallie M., 7, Willard, 6, Rosa Lee, 4, and Johnie, 8 months.

In the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Williard Powell, 17, farmer; mother Nellie, 37; siblings Beula, 20, Rosie, 14, Johnie, 11, Hattie, 8, Pattie, 8, Betrice, 7, and Earnest T., 3; plus sons(?) E.C. Jr., 5, and James R., 2.

In the 1940 census of Washington, D.C.: on K Street NE, Beula M. Powell, 28, maid; siblings Willard, 25, lunchroom bar tender, Rosa L., 24, lunchroom waitress, John, 21, club busboy, and Pattie L., 19, maid; nephew Willie T. Powell, 8; sister Hattie L. Warren, 19, maid, and her children Melton T., 2, and Barbara J., 7 months; father Eddie C. Powel, 50, drugstore porter; and lodgers Beatrice Smith, 17, and Issac Brown, 30, W.P.A. sewer project laborer. Per the census, in 1935, Beula, Rosa, Pattie, Eddie and Beatrice had been living in Washington, D.C.; Willard in Newport News, Virginia; John and Hattie in Wilson; Willie in Philadelphia; and Isaac in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1942, Eddie Conner Powell registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C. Per his registration card, he was born 5 September 1895 in Wilson, N.C.; resided at 1859 California Street, N.W., Washington; his contact was Sally Powell of the same address; and he worked for Peoples Drug Store #128, Bethesda, Maryland.

Eddie C. Powell died in September 1968 in Washington, D.C.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry user Eva Renee Powers.

Minerva Louise Ward Artis Biggins Hanks.

After he left Wilson, Joseph H. Ward‘s close family members migrated to Washington, D.C. Once he was established in Indianapolis, Indiana, however, his mother Mittie Ward Vaughn and younger half-sister Minerva Vaughn, also known as Minerva Ward, joined him in the Midwest.


In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Sarah Darden, 57, son-in-law Algia Vaughn, 23, daughter Mittie, 22, and grandchildren Joseph, 8, Sarah, 6, and Macinda Vaughn, 5 months. [Joseph “Vaughn” was actually Joseph Ward, listed with his stepfather’s surname.]

In the 1900 census of Washington, D.C: William Moody, 27, wife Sarah S., 24, and children Augustus, 5, and Crist Moody, 4, plus sister-in-law Minerva Vaughn, 10, mother-in-law Mittie Vaughn, 46, and mother Fannie Harris, 55, all born in North Carolina.

Indianapolis News, 12 December 1903.

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Indianapolis News, 2 January 1909.

On 11 June 1910, Minerva Ward married S. Dillard Artis, of Marion, Indiana, son of Thomas and Esther Hall Artis (who were migrants to Indiana from Wayne County, North Carolina.) Per Grant County Indiana Biographies, www.genealogytrails.com, Artis “began as janitor of the court house located in Marion, Indiana in 1900. He later accepted private contracts trimming trees, laying sod and making lawns. This work led to contracts for digging cellars, sewer and cement work, street building, and finally municipal contracting. Dillard had a cement contract connected with the $100,000 residence of J. W. Wilson, with the First Baptist Church and numerous others as well as finishing contracts on tar via roads amounting to $840,000 in 1914.” (Artis’ first wife, Asenath Peters Artis, died in December 1909.)

Indianapolis News, 18 June 1910.

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Indianapolis Star, 26 June 1910.

In 1911, Dr. Ward and his young son, Joseph Jr., visited his sister and mother in Marion.

Indianapolis News, 19 August 1911.

Per Google Street View, the house at 920 South Boots Street, Marion, Indiana, today.

Dillard and Minerva Artis’ social life was occasionally noted in Indiana newspapers. For example, in 1915, they were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Beverly Lafoon of Kokomo, Indiana.

Kokomo Daily Tribune, 10 April 1915.

And in 1916 they joined the J.H. Weavers of Weaver, Indiana, for dinner.

Indianapolis Recorder, 4 November 1916.

But just a few weeks later:

Indianapolis Recorder, 25 November 1916.

In the 1920 census of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois: at 486 South Wabash, Diller Artis, 44; wife Minerva, 41; mother-in-law Mittie Ward, 56; and three lodgers, John Smith, 30, and William, 49, and Anna Brown, 46. Artis was working as a railroad poster. [What happened?] Minerva claimed that she and her father were born in Indiana. [In fact, both were born in North Carolina.]

The couple apparently divorced between 1920 and 1923.  On 1 January 1923, Minerva Ward married Jonas B. Biggins in Denver, Colorado. (Dillard Artis died in 1947 in Evanston, Illinois.)

The 1935 Denver, Colorado, city directory lists Jonas B. Biggins as a Pullman porter and Minerva Biggins as a charwoman at the Custom House.

However, per Findagrave.com, Jonas B. Biggins died in 1935 and was buried in Denver. On 15 July 1936, Minerva Louise Biggins married John Q. Hanks in Greeley, Colorado. The couple is listed in the 1936 Denver directory living in the home Minerva had shared with her previous husband.

In the 1940 census of Denver, Colorado: at 1433 East 25th, owned and valued at $4000, John Q. Hanks, 49, butler; wife Minerva, 37; and son Roy, 7. [Roy was born in Illinois. Whose son was he — John’s or Minerva’s?]

In 1942, John Q. Hanks registered for the World War II draft in Denver. Per his registration card, he lived at 1433 – 25th Avenue, Denver; was born 5 February 1889 in Osage, Kansas; his contact was wife Louise Hanks; and he worked for Laurence C. Phipps, 3400 Belcaro Drive, Denver.

John Hanks died in May 1966 in Denver. I have not found a death date for Minerva Ward Artis Biggins Hanks.

Vanilla Beane celebrates 100!

Jeni Hansen has graciously allowed me to share plans for the observation of the 100th birthday of her grandmother, celebrated milliner Vanilla Powell Beane, who was born in Wilson County on 13 September 1919.

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Find more on Vanilla Beane here:

  • Articles

The Washington Post, Celebrating 3 sisters’ lives and longevity, Avis Thomas-Lester, 5 November  2011

The Washington Post, C​elebrated D.C. Milliner Marks 90th Birthday With Friends, Hats, Hamil R. Harris, 20 September 2009

Afro-American Newspapers, ​D.C. Woman Celebrates 100th Birthday with Sisters, 97, and 93, Avis Thomas-Lester and Teria Rogers, 14 November 2012

Associated Press,​Dr. Height’s Hat Immortalized in Metal, Sarah Karush and Teneille Gibson, 15 June 2010

  • Videos

Hat Academy: “​Bene Millinery​
Museum of Fine Arts: ​Dorothy Height’s Hats 360

Press contact:

Jeni Hansen

Snaps, no. 52: Jessie Ruffin Hill.


Jessie Beatrice Ruffin Hill (1908-1990).

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1007 East Nash Street, transfer man Garfield Ruffin, 39; wife Thennie, 28; and children Jessie, 12, Emma, 8, Mary, 7, Cora, 5, Naomi, 3, Kernice, 1, and Thennie, 7 months.

On 23 May 1929, William Hill, 21, of Durham, married Jessie Hill, 23, of Durham, daughter of Pres Binn (dead) and Thenie Ruffin of Washington, D.C., in Durham, North Carolina.

In the 1930 census of Durham, Durham County: at 504 Fowler Avenue, rented for $8/month, and shared with another family, factory worker William Hill, 24, wife Jessie, 22, and son William Jr., 2 months.

[In the 1930 census of Washington, D.C.: at 728 – 12th Street, barber James G. Ruffin, 45; wife Parthenia, 36; and children Emma, 19, Mary E., 18, Cora, 16, Naomi, 15, Kernice, 12, Parthenia, 11, James B., 9, Linwood, 7, Izah, 6, Calvin C., 4, and Canlice, 2.]

William Hill registered for the World War II draft in Durham, N.C., in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 8 April 1906 in Roxobel, Bertie County; lived at 704 Pickett Street, Durham; worked for Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Company; and his contact was wife Jessie Beatrice Hill.

Jessie R. Hill died 29 July 1990 in Durham. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 March 1908 in Wilson to Henry G. Ruffin and an unnamed mother; was a widow; and had been a tobacco worker. George Hill of Albany, Georgia, was informant.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user jfount6081.