Parks

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 1.

A few weeks ago, I promised to go a teeny way toward carrying out my original plan for several one-place studies by turning the focus of Black Wide-Awake briefly to other beloved Black communities. This week I’ll be guest-blogging (though in my own space) from time to time about Iredell County, North Carolina, my maternal grandmother’s birthplace, two hundred miles west of Wilson on the western edge of North Carolina’s Piedmont.

I’ll start with an introduction to my great-great-great-grandfather Walker Colvert, who was born enslaved about 1819 in Culpeper County, Virginia. When Samuel W. Colvert died in 1823, Walker passed to his son John Alpheus Colvert, who had migrated to Iredell County and bought land on Rocky Creek, a South Yadkin River tributary.

Only four years later, John A. Colvert died. This excerpt from his estate records shows  “Negroes hired for one year,” that is, enslaved people leased to neighbors to earn money for Colvert’s estate and the support of his widow and children. “Boy Walker” was about eight years old. That he was listed without his mother may suggest that he was an orphan, though he was about the age to be separated from her and put to work on his own. Walker’s kinship to Jerry, Amy, Joe, Ellen, Meel, Anda, Charlotte, and Lett is unknown. 

Inventory of the estate of John Alpheus Colvert, Iredell County, North Carolina, 1827.

When he reached adulthood in 1851, John’s son William Isaac Colvert inherited Walker and held him until Emancipation on his farm in Eagle Mill township. The same year, Walker Colvert fathered a son, John Walker Colvert, by Elvira Gray. The boy and his mother were likely enslaved on a nearby plantation, perhaps that of William I. Colvert’s sister, Susan Colvert Gray. Around 1853, Walker married Rebecca Parks, a relationship that was not legalized until they registered their cohabitation as freed people in 1866. Their registration notes three children — John (Rebecca’s stepson), Elvira, and Lovenia. Rebecca also had a son Lewis Colvert, born about 1860, whom Walker reared but apparently did not father.

Iredell County Cohabitation Records, Register of Deeds Office, Statesville, N.C.

Walker Colvert and his son John Walker worked for decades after slavery for William I. Colvert, likely both on his farm and at his cotton manufacturing enterprise, Eagle Mills. Walker eventually bought a small farm in nearby Union Grove township, though he did not record a deed for it. On 16 March 1901, with the help of his neighbors he drafted a short will leaving all his property to his widow Rebecca Colvert, and then to his son John Colvert. Four years later, he died.

The Landmark (Statesville, N.C.), 10 February 1905.

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In the 1870 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farm worker Walker Colvert, 50; wife Rebecca, 25; and Lewis, 10.

In the 1880 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farm worker Walker Colvert, 62; wife Rebecca, 37; grandson Alonzo, 5; and niece Bitha Albea, 3.

In the 1900 census of Union Grove township, Iredell County: farmer Walker Colvert, 84, and wife Rebecca, 60. Both reported having been born in Virginia.

Snaps, no. 56: John Parks.

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John Parks (1889-1958), in 1955.

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Clyde Parks died 1 August 1916. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 March 1915 in Wilson County to John Parks and Emma Barbour.

In 1917, John Parks registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 September 1890 in Wilson; lived at 613 Walnut Street; and worked as a laborer for R.P. Watson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 404 Walnut Street, John Parks, 28, tobacco factory worker; wife Emeline, 26; children Beatrice, 7, John Jr., 6, Ida, 3, and Mark, 1.

Chas. Aster Parks died 23 January 1921 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 22 February 1920 in Wilson to John Parks and Emeline Babbitt and lived at 405 Walnut.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Mercer, owned, John Parks, 59; wife Emeline H., 32; and children Beatrice, 17, John H., 16, Ida D., 13, Helen G., 7, Douglas R., 5, and Mark A., 11.

Emmaline Parks died 5 March 1938 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in August 1898 in Clayton, North Carolina, to Mark Bobbitt and Dora Arrey [Avery]; worked as a laborer; and was married. John Parks was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Walnut, redrying tobacco factory laborer John Parks, 49, widower; and children Beatrice, 27, John Henry, 26, redrying tobacco factory laborer, Ida Doretha, 22, Mark Alexander, 21, odd jobs laborer, Helen Gray, 17, and Douglas Wright, 15; and Fred jr., 9, Vivian Lavonne, 8, and George Randolph Woods, 4.

Mark Alexander Parks registered for the World War II draft in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 30 May 1918 in Wilson; resided at 405 East Walnut; his contact was father John Parks; and he worked for Southern Tobacco Company, South Tarboro Street.

On 4 November 1943, John Parks, 53, son of Ben and Ida Parks, married Maggie Rogers, 43, daughter of Philip and Martha Williams, in Wilson. Baptist minister Charles T. Jones performed the service at 412 North Vick Street in the presence of Charlie Pender, Beatrice Pender and Ruth J. Brown.

John Parks drafted his last will and testament on 11 January 1952. In it, he left all his personal property to be shared evenly among his children John H. Parks, Mark A. Parks, Douglas W. Parks, Beatrice P. Parks, Ida P. Hinnant, and Helen Fleming Parks and his real property to be shared equally by his children subject to use by his wife until she died or remarried.

Johnnie Parks died 12 January 1958 at his home at 405 East Walnut Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 September 1889 in Wilson County to Ben Parks and Ida Davis; was married to Maggie Parks; and worked as a laborer for R.P. Watson Tobacco Company.

John Henry Parks died 23 February 1963 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 November 1913 in Wilson to Johnnie Parks and Maggie [unknown]; and lived at 507 North Carroll Street. Informant was Margaret Parks.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry user Barbette46.

Studio shots, no. 125: Emmaline Bobbitt Parks.

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Emmaline Bobbitt Parks (1898-1938).

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 404 Walnut Street, John Parks, 28, tobacco factory worker; wife Emeline, 26; children Beatrice, 7, John Jr., 6, Ida, 3, and Mark, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Mercer, owned, John Parks, 59; wife Emeline H., 32; and children Beatrice, 17, John H., 16, Ida D., 13, Helen G., 7, Douglas R., 5, and Mark A., 11.

Emmaline Parks died 5 March 1938 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in August 1898 in Clayton, North Carolina, to Mark Bobbitt and Dora Arrey [Avery]; worked as a laborer; and was married. John Parks was informant.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry user Barbette46.