DigitalNC recently uploaded a ledger of African American children admitted into Grant Colored Asylum, an institution established by the North Carolina legislature in 1883. The facility’s name was changed to the Colored Orphanage Asylum of North Carolina in 1887 and is now known as the Central Children’s Home of North Carolina. Ledger entries record a child’s name, town and county of residence, date of admittance into the orphanage, date of birth, physical description, and observations about the child’s character. Other information documented could include the child’s parents’ names and church affiliation, notes about the parents, and names of those recommended the orphanage and filed the application for admittance. Some entries contain detailed information about the child’s stay at the orphanage and his or her whereabouts after the stay. [Warning: by today’s standards, descriptions of the lives of these children and their families can appear harsh and judgmental.]
I found entries for these six Wilson County children:
- Edwin [Edward] Pitt
Ten year-old Edwin Pitt entered the orphanage on 8 June 1908. His parents, who were not married, were Thomas Day, who died in 1902 after a fall, and Martha Pitt, who was living. Dr. Frank S. Hargrove recommended Edwin’s admission; Martha Pitt applied; and A.M.E. Zion minister Nicholas D. King approved it. “Neither mother nor child bear good reputation. The mother once stood well.”
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Violet Pit, 50, washing, and children Martha, 24, washing, Hattie, 22, cooking, Lula, 21, cooking, Ben, 19, tobacco stemmer, Carry, 12, cooking, Rosa, 16, nurse, Meaner, 11, Jenney, 5, and Edward, 2.
In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pitt Martha (c) laundress h 410 S Goldsboro
In the 1910 census of Fishing Creek township, Granville County, North Carolina: at Oxford Colored Orphanage, Edward Pitt, 12, inmate, home farm laborer.
Edward Pitts died 14 January 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 21 years old; was born in Wilson County to Thomas Day and Martha Pittman [sic]; was single; and worked as a hotel waiter. Elsie Pitts was informant.
- Eddie Woodard
Twelve year-old Eddie Woodard entered the orphanage on 23 November 1908. His parents, who were not married, were Eddie Sanders, who died in 1902, and Chloe Woodard.
In the 1910 census of Fishing Creek township, Granville County, North Carolina: at Oxford Colored Orphanage, Eddie Woodard, 12, inmate.
In 1917, Eddie Woodard registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 21 October 1896 in Wilson, N.C.; lived in Wilson; was single; and worked as a delivery boy at a dry goods store, Barrett Patrick Company, Wilson.
On 17 July 1919, Eddie Woodard, 23, married Ada Melton, 18, at Milton’s house. Otis Wright applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister William Baker performed the ceremony in the presence of Augustus Blow, Otis Wright, and Sarah Jones.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Cora [sic] Woodard, 47; won Eddie, 24, tobacco factory worker; daughter-in-law Ada, 19, tobacco factory worker; grandson Robert Wright, 6 months; and son-in-law Odis Wright, 25, widower, hardware company laborer.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 815 Mercer Street, owned and valued at $1500, Clora Woodard, 56, washing; son Eddie Woodard, 34, clothes presser at pressing club; and Robert L. Wright, 10, grandson.
In 1942, Eddie W. Woodard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 3 October 1895 in Wilson; lived at 815 Mercer Street (411 Church Street, Norfolk, Virginia, was crossed out); was unemployed; and his contact was mother Cloara Woodard.
- Nola Davis
Sixteen year-old Nola Davis entered the orphanage on 16 November 1909. Her parents Alonzo and Adeline Parks Davis were dead; they had had a “good reputation.” Dr. William Mitchner had recommended her admittance; Amanda Bynum had applied; and Samuel H. Vick had approved it.
- Lillian and Dave Morris
Siblings Lillian Morris, 12, and Dave Morris, 7, entered the orphanage in February 1917. Their father Dave Morris had died of tuberculosis several years earlier, and their mother Lillian Hinson Morris was “a hopeless invalid.” Episcopal rector E.R. Perry [R.N. Perry] recommended that they be sent to Oxford.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Green Street, painter David Morris, 34; wife Lillian, 30; and children Pearle E., 12, Charles, 9, Lillian, 7, and David, 7 months.
By 1920, Lillian had aged out of the orphanage and returned home. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 108 Smith, William Johnson, 25, born in South Carolina; wife Lillian, 32, born in England; and [his] stepchildren Charles, 17, Lillie, 15, and Mabel, 6.
However, in the 1920 census of Fishing Creek township, Granville County, N.C.: in the Oxford Colored Orphanage, inmate David Morris, 10.
Lillian [Hinson Morris] Johnson died 6 March 1921 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 38 years old; was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia; was married to William Johnson; and lived on Smith Street.
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Lillian (c) elev opr Court House h 22 Ashe
On 14 December 1935, David E. Morris married Lorenza Williams in Brooklyn, New York.
In the 1940 census of Kings County, New York: at 624 Madison, David Morris, 30, W.P.A. worker; wife Lorenza, 22; and son Edward, 4.
However: also in 1940, David Edward Morris registered for the World War II draft in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. Per his registration, he was born 28 February 1909 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 99 Stockton Street, Brooklyn; his contact was Sylvia Lipshitz Morris; and he worked for W.P.A., 70 Columbus Avenue, New York. On the reverse of the card, Morris is described as having a light brown complexion with black hair and brown eyes. Under “Race,” the check mark beside “Negro” is blacked out and the word “Error” written in; “White” is checked with a different pen in a different hand.
Detail from David E. Morris’s draft registration card.
In the 1950 census of Brooklyn, David Morris is not found, but S.O. Morris is described as divorced, and Lorenza Morris as separated.
David Morris died in Brooklyn on 3 August 1965.
- Maggie Cox
Scant notes survive for Maggie Cox, who was 13 years old when she entered the orphanage in, most likely, 1917. There were “no particulars” about her background, other than that she had been “sent by S.N. [sic] Vick.”
Grant Colored Asylum and the Colored Orphanage Asylum of North Carolina Enrollment Ledger, Central Children’s Home of North Carolina, North Carolina Memory, digitalnc.org.