My mother is not a native of Wilson, but has lived here most of her life — and much longer than I have. My mother taught in rural and city schools before and after integration, was for decades a member of Saint Luke A.M.E., and participates in social and service organizations in the East Wilson community. She is my first go-to for questions about people and places of the Wilson she knows, especially the community she found when she arrived in 1961.
This, of course, is the least of the reasons I treasure her. She sparked (and my father fed) my boundless curiosity, my love of reading, my wanderlust, my appreciation for the road less traveled. I aspire to her kindness and generosity. I credit her with the best in me. I am grateful for her buoyant love. I love her endlessly.
Beverly Allen Henderson, fresh from Wilson Memorial Hospital with my sister Karla, and me, looking a little dazed by it all, 1401 Carolina Street, 1967.
The two children she birthed did not live to adulthood, but Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver nonetheless was mother to the Wilson County branch of my Henderson family. She reared my great-grandmother Bessie Henderson and great-great-uncle Jack Henderson alongside her step-children in Wayne County. Around 1907, she and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Sr. and his youngest children settled in Wilson in a little cottage on Elba Street, and Jack Henderson followed. When Bessie died, my eight-month-old grandmother Hattie Mae Henderson and later her sister Mamie came to live on Elba Street, too. And she lived long enough to help my grandmother raise her four children in their earliest years. Though she was the direct ancestor of none of us, I recognize and honor Mama Sarah as matriarch to us all.