Perry

Robert N. Perry II, educator.

Robert Nathaniel Perry II was born in 1911, in Wilson, North Carolina.  He graduated from J.C. Smith College in Charlotte in 1929.  Robert Perry served as principal of Boggs Academy in Keyville, Georgia, as an administrator in the public schools of Thibodaux, Louisiana, followed by seventeen years as principal of Walter L. Cohen Senior High School in the New Orleans Public School system.  His civic and cultural endeavors included serving as a District Director of the Boy Scouts of America and active memberships in the New Orleans Chapter of Friends of Amistad, the B-Sharp Music Club, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Women and Men Who Care, Inc., the Bunch Club, and the Board of Directors of Dryades Street YMCA.  He also served as editor for the Journal of Louisiana Education Association from 1963 to 1964 and was inducted into Phi Delta Kappa Fraternity, the Honor Society of Educators.  At Central Congregational UCC, Robert served as the Superintendent of Sunday School, was a Lay Minister, a member of the Deaconate, and acted as photographer, capturing the activities of the church and its families.

Robert Nathaniel Perry II and his wife, Lillian Dunn Perry, worked to enhance the quality of life for African Americans living in the racially and economically segregated Louisiana of the 1930’s to 1960’s, acting as educators, musicians, Christian leaders, journalists, and civil rights activists.  They dedicated their work to preparing children and youth intellectually, culturally, and spiritually, to facilitate their lives as responsible citizens.

The parents of both Robert and Lillian played major roles in their local and wider churches.  Their fathers were educated ministers, while their mothers worked to educate within the Christian community.  Lillian Dunn Perry’s mother also served for years as the minister of music at Central Congregational United Church of Christ in New Orleans.

From website of Amistad Research Center, Tulane University.

Leaders of Saint Mark’s Episcopal.

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Junior warden John Boykin, Rev. Robert N. Perry, and senior warden John H. Clark, Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, early 1900s.

  • John Boykin — John Boykin, son of Rose Boykin, married Dicy Bailey, daughter of Moses and Julia Bailey, on 21 April 1870 in Wilson County. In the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Virginia-born farmer John Boykin, 26; wife Disey, 25; and children Julian, 8, Rear Ann, 7, John C., 5, W. Brogner, 3, and Sallie A., 9 months, plus Anna Barnes, 17. In the  1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house mover John Boykin, 50; wife Dicy, 44, cooking; and children Sallie, 19, cooking, James, 18, day laborer, Dotia, 14, Susia, 14, Lillie, 10, and Eliza, 7. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John Boykins, 56, odd jobs laborer; wife Disey, 54; and children Lillie, 20, and Liza, 17. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Virginia-born house mover John Boykin, 70, wife Dicey, 65, and lodgers Sam Stephens, 21, and wife Cora, 20. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 801 Viola Street, widower John Boykin lived alone.
  • Rev. Robert Nathaniel Perry — Rev. Robert N. Perry appears in Hills’ city directory in 1908 as the rector of Saint Mark’s, then located at Lodge Street near Bank Street. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, Robert Perry, 28, wife Mary A., 26, and son William, 5 months. Perry was described as a public school teacher. On 12 September 1918, Robert Nathaniel Perry registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 6 December 1881; resided at 315 South Street; was married to Mary A. Perry; and was minister of the colored Episcopal Church. After leaving Saint Mark’s, Father Perry served 32 years as vicar of Good Shepherd Church in Thomasville, Georgia and headmaster of its parochial school.
  • John Henry Clark

Photo courtesy of Robert Boykin, reprinted from Wilson Daily Times, 4 February 2008.

A continuation of the bad feelings.

This article captures the apparent exasperation of Wilson school officials with the sizable “element” of the African-American community that refused to send its children to public school after Superintendent Charles Coon slapped a black teacher. The “Anti-Reidies” appointed local pastors Robert N. Perry and Spurgeon D. Davis to head their new schools at such time as they were able to open. (An occasion the health department was doing its part to thwart.) The basis of black opposition to J.D. Reid is sorely understated here, and the Reidites claim of public dislike of successor Clarissa Williams misses a larger problem with Reid himself. (Reid rebounded from this setback with a key role in the establishment of Wilson’s only black-owned bank, only to fall again spectacularly.) See here for a fuller account of the Mary Euell incident and its aftermath.

The Independent School (one, not two) in fact opened a week after this article ran and operated for the next ten years.

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News & Observer (Raleigh), 7 October 1918.

Taylor sisters.

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Alice Taylor Perry and Martha Taylor Jones, circa 1910.

Martha and Alice Taylor were the daughters of Daniel and Lucinda Renfrow Taylor and grew up in Old Fields township. Martha, born 20 September 1887, married Wesley Jones, son of Thomas and Kizziah Powell Jones, in about 1912. She died 24 January 1970 in Wilson.

Alice, born about 1889, married Ransom Perry, son of Richard and Clara Perry, in 1906.

Many thanks to S. Stevens, great-granddaughter of Martha T. Jones, for the image.

Crossing the Divide: A Quick Case Study in Tracing an African-American Family

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Jonah L. Ricks, Wilson, 1953.

Jonah Lewis Ricks was born near Bailey, Nash County, in 1885. His mother, Nancy Jones Ricks, was born about 1865 in western Wilson County to Jacob and Milly Powell Jones, both born into free families of color. (Jacob was a grandson of Bethana Jones.) Jonah’s father was Joseph Ricks.

Several of Joseph Ricks’ descendants, including Jonah, migrated to Wilson and Elm City and beyond beginning in the 1930s. Joseph’s death certificate, filed in Nash County in 1949, asserts that he was born about 1876 in Nash County to Square [sic] and Nicey Ricks. However, the censuses of 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 consistently list 1860 as his birth year.

What follows is a summary of research I conducted to pierce the veil of slavery and shed light on Joseph Ricks’ family just before and after Emancipation.

Initially, I was unable to find either Joseph Ricks or his parents in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. However, I had found a Kinchen R. Ricks (1858-1915) whose Nash County death certificate listed his parents as Squire Ricks and Nicie Braswell, so I looked for him instead. In the 1880 census of Jackson township, Nash County, 22 year-old Kenchin Ricks appears as a servant in the household of Marmaduke Ricks. Next door is this household: Sqare Perry, wife Nicy, and their children, including 18 year-old Joseph. I went back ten years to 1870 to find, in Chesterfield township, Nash County: Esqire Perry, 52, wife Nicey, 47, and children Primus, 22, Willie, 18, Mary J., 16, Rebecca, 13, Kinchen, 11, Joseph, 9, Robert, 8, and Matilda, 6. Also sharing the household were Judy Finch, 19, and her 7 month-old Nancy, and Sham Freeman, 63, Silva, 58, Mary, 25, and Rosa Freeman, 18. Thus I determined that Joseph Ricks was known as Joseph Perry as a child.  His parents were known as Squire and Nicey Perry and, I later learned, all of his siblings except brother Kinchen retained the surname Perry.

Squire Perry was born circa 1815, according to census records. His wife Nicey was born circa 1824. As neither appears in censuses earlier than 1870, I assumed that both were born slaves. I consulted Timothy Rackley’s volumes on Nash County estate divisions and slave cohabitations and discovered records of the division of the estate of Clabourn Finch, which was conducted 18 December 1849.  Finch’s property, which included slaves Jacob, Benjamin, Squire, Sam, Henry, Gilbert, Adam, Primus, and Nicy and her child, was divided among his heirs.  Squire, valued at $550, went to Finch’s daughter Betsy and her husband Jacob Strickland.  Nicy and child, valued at $700, went to Finch’s daughter Nicy and her husband Marmaduke Ricks. Thus, the family was divided during the last decade and a half of slavery.

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Page from the estate of Clabourn Finch, Nash County, 1849. The enslaved people distributed to his heirs at November Term of court differ slightly from those listed in this inventory.

The 1850 slave census of Nash County shows Jacob Strickland as the owner of four slaves and Marmaduke Ricks as the owner of ten. The 1860 slave census of Sullivants township, Nash County, lists him as the owner of 18 slaves.

Among post-Emancipation Nash County cohabitation records, I discovered that, on 19 August 1866, Esquire Strickland and Nicey Ricks registered their 22-year marriage with a Nash County Justice of the Peace.  At the time they reunited, each was using the surname of his or her most recent former owner. By the 1870 census, however, as noted above, Squire had settled upon Perry.

It is probably not coincidence that another of Clabourn Finch’s daughters, Ann C., was married to a Perry. Clabourn Finch’s slaves were divided among his children at his death and may have been further sold or traded within the family. At present, Squire’s reason for choosing Perry rather than Ricks or Strickland is not clear, nor is the basis for Joseph Ricks’ report on his brother Kinchen’s death certificate that their mother’s maiden was Braswell. Similarly, the reason that two of their sons, Kinchen and Joseph, reverted to Ricks is unclear.

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Original photograph and funeral program in my possession. Federal population schedules; North Carolina Certificates of Death filed in Nash and Wilson Counties; Timothy W. Rackley, Nash County North Carolina Division of Estate Slaves & Cohabitation Record 1862-1866; Rackley, Nash County North Carolina Division of Estate Slaves 1829-1861; North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

We tender our resignation. (And East Wilson follows.)

COLORED PEOPLE INDIGNANT.

Eleven Colored Teachers Resign from the Colored Graded School Alleging Discourteous Treatment on the part of Principal Reid and that Mr. Coon Slapped One of Them.

This afternoon a delegation of colored teachers from the Wilson colored school, six in number of eleven that have resigned with Rev. Weeks, pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, colored, and Rev. H.B. Taylor, pastor of the Presbyterian church colored, with a petition addressed to the Board of Education of Wilson County and setting forth therein the reasons for their resignations as teachers from the school.

It seems that the trouble originated when Mr. Coon slapped one of the teachers as she alleged in the face when she was called into his room at the instance of Reid to be reprimanded for a disagreement regarding the opening of the school on Easter Monday, April the first, when the new daylight law went effect.

The teacher alleges that on that particular morning the teachers endeavored to open school on the new time and Principal Reid was late.

When the janitor called him he answered let the teachers and the children wait.  School was opened on the old time, and this teacher alleges that she dismissed her pupils when they finished their work at the regular hour at 2:25.  She further says that Reid asked her whether she was dismissing school on the old time or the new time and she replied: “I am dismissing on the new time, since these children have been here since 7:30 in the morning.”

She alleges that Reid replied that is your fault, and preferred charges against her to Mr. Coon, and Mr. Coon sent for her to come to his office in the Fidelity building at five o’clock which she did.  She alleges the slapping took place then.

The resolutions follow:

Wilson, N.C., April 9, 1918.

To the Board of Education of Wilson County, Superintendent of Schools of Wilson County, and Principal of the Colored Graded School of Wilson; and to All Whom It May Concern:

On account of the discourteous treatment of Prof. J.D. Reid, the principal of the Wilson Colored Graded School, to us as teachers under his direction, and on account of the terrible ordeal through which one of us, a teacher in the above stated school had to go on account of the unchristian and unmanly procedure of the principal, J.D. Reid; which aforestated ordeal if told would cause every man who respects pure womanhood to look upon the above-stated principle, J.D. Reid, as the worst specimen of manhood possible to find.

And further on account of the incompetency and untruthfulness of the above mentioned principal, J.D. Reid, which we are prepared to prove, and which he attempts to hide from the superintendent, Board of Education, and the public in general by a high handed, ironclad and abusive rule over those who serve under him;

We, the undersigned teachers of the Wilson Colored Graded School who have tried in every way to help him, but in return have only been treated as a chain-gang crew under criminal offense, have lost respect for the above mentioned principal, J.D. Reid, and tender our resignation.

Done at the Wilson Colored Graded School, this 9th day of April, 1918.

Miss M.C. Euell, Miss J.B Pride, Miss M.L. Garrett, Miss S.R. Battle, Miss G.M. Battle, Miss G.M. Burks, Miss L.B. Davis, Miss M.M. Jennings, Miss S.D. Wiseman

Since that time two other teachers who live here in town have sent in their resignations, namely: Mrs. Walter Hines and Miss Elba Vick.

Both the Colored Ministerial Union and the Negro Business League have appointed a special committee to take up the matter with the graded school board.

Committee from the Ministerial Union: Revs. H.B. Taylor, president; A. Bynum, Chas. T. Jones, Robert N. Perry and A.L.E. Weeks.

Committee from the Business League: S.H. Vick, chairman; B.R. Winstead, Walter S. Hines, Rev. H.B. Taylor, and Robert N. Perry.

The committee of the Ministerial Union communicated with the Graded School Board on yesterday and is expecting a reply in the very near future.  — Wilson Daily Times, 11 Apr 1918.

——

The Board’s reply – that Coon and Reid were blameless – was not surprising.  The response of Wilson’s black community, however, was.  Following their teachers, parents pulled their children out of the public graded school and established a private alternative in a building owned by S.H. Vick.  Financed with 25¢ a week tuition payments and elaborate student musical performances, the Independent School operated for nearly ten years.

THE ACTORS

  • J.D. Reid — Judge James Daniel Reid (1872-) was the son of Washington and Penninah Reid.
  • M.C. Euell — Mary C. Euell was not a native of Wilson County and, not surprisingly, apparently did not remain in the city long after this incident. I am continuing to search for more about her.  — LYH
  • J.B. Pride
  • M.L. Garrett
  • S.R. Battle — Sallie Roberta Battle Johnson (1884-1958) was a daughter of Parker and Ella Battle. She later worked as business manager of Mercy Hospital.
  • G.M. Battle — Glace (or Grace) Battle (circa 1890-1972) was another daughter of Parker and Ella Battle. She later married Timothy Black.
  • Georgia M. Burke
  • L.B. Davis
  • M.M. Jennings — Virginia-born teacher Mary Jennings, 28, boarded with the family of Hardy Tate at 208 Pender at the time of the 1920 census.
  • S.D. Wiseman
  • Mrs. Walter Hines — Sarah Elizabeth Dortch (1879-1967) married Walter S. Hines (1879-1941) in 1907 in Boston, Massachusetts. Born in Goldsboro, Wayne County, she was the daughter of Ralph Whitmore Dortch and Mary Burnett Dortch.
  • Elba Vick — Elba Vick, born 1893, was a daughter of Samuel and Annie Washington Vick. She married Carlos C. Valle in Wilson on 12 June 1922. (And also in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County, on 20 December 1921. Carlos was reportedly living in Durham County, and his parents Celedonio and Leticia Valle lived in New York.) In the 1930 census of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee: Puerto Rico-born lodge secretary Carlos C. Valle, 37, wife Elba, 33, and children Melba G., 6, and Carlos Jr., 4.
  • Halley B. Taylor
  • A. Bynum
  • Charles T. Jones  — Barber and minister, Rev. Charles Thomas Jones was born in Hertford County in 1878 to Henry and Susan Copeland Jones. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, at 667 Nash Street: minister Charlie Jones, 41; wife Gertrude, 39; children Ruth, 61, Charlie, Jr., 14, Elwood, 12, Louise, 10, and Sudie, 4; and mother-in-law Louisa Johnson, 65. He died in Wilson in 1963.
  • Robert N. Perry — Rev. Robert Nathaniel Perry was a priest at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church.
  • A.L.E. Weeks
  • Samuel H. Vick
  • B.R. Winstead — A teacher turned barber, Braswell R. Winstead (circa 1860-1926) was the son of Riley Robins and Malissa Winstead of Wilson County. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Braswell Winstead, 60, wife Ada E., and daughter Ethel L., 13, at 300 Pender Street.
  • Walter S. Hines
  • Mary Robertson
  • Celia Norwood — Celia Anna Norwood (1879-1944), daughter of Edward Hill and Henrietta Cherry, was a native of Washington, North Carolina. She died in Wilson.
  • Olivia Peacock — Born about 1895, Olivia Peacock was the daughter of Levi H. and Hannah Peacock. She later married Eugene Norman.
  • Sophia Dawson — Born about 1890 to Alexander D. and Lucy Hill Dawson, Sophia Dawson married Wayne County native Jesse Artis, son of Jesse and Lucinda Hobbs Artis.
  • Delzell Whitted — Helen Delzelle Beckwith Whitted (1888-1976) was the wife of Walter C. Whitted.
  • Lavinia Woodard — Lavinia Ethel Grey Woodard (1891-1921) was the daughter of Ruffin and Lucy Simms Woodard.
  • Eva Speight — Eva Janet Speight (1899-1944), native of Greene County, later married David H. Coley.
  • Hattie Jackson
  • Rose Butler
  • Clarissa Williams
  • Mrs. J.D. Reid — J.D. Reid married Eleanor P. Frederick on 17 October 1899 in Warsaw, Duplin County, North Carolina. By 1925, despite the disapproval of the community, she was principal of the Wilson Colored Graded School, later known as the Sallie Barbour School.

THE COVERAGE

The shocking stance taken by Wilson’s black community reverberated throughout eastern North Carolina, compelling the principal of a colored graded school in Greenville to intervene. He was quickly pulled up short though, and the Wilmington Dispatch crowed over his discomfiture.

Wilmington Dispatch 4 23 1918 JD Reid

Wilmington Dispatch, 23 April 1918.

This was a serious matter indeed; Mary Euell pressed charges. On 30 April, 1918, the Wilson Daily Times printed an account of Charles L. Coon’s initial court appearance that was surprisingly detailed and sympathetic toward Euell. (A posture possibly motivated by Coon’s dismissive alleged comments about its editor, Gold.) In summary, Euell and her lawyer arrived before the magistrate only to find that Coon had come and gone, having obtained an earlier court date of which Euell was not notified. Euell’s counsel (who was he?) was granted permission to make an astonishing statement in which he declared that Euell was prosecuting Coon in order to make sure that the public was made aware of what had happened, to assert her rights to protection under the laws of the State of North Carolina, and because rumors were flying that she was a troublemaker who, among other things, had protested against riding in the “colored section” of a train.

Euell then made a statement to the press summarizing the facts of her encounter with Coon and Reid. In a nutshell: Reid called her a liar; she protested; Coon shouted, “Shut up, or I’ll slap you down;” Euell stood her ground and chastised Reid; Coon delivered a blow.

WDT_4_30_1918_Coon_chargedWilson Daily Times, 30 April 1918.

Within weeks, the story had spread from coast to coast. Cayton’s Weekly, published in Seattle, Washington (“[In the interest of equal rights and equal justice to all me for ‘all men up.’ A publication of general information, but in the main voicing the opinions of the Colored Citizens.”) printed this startling editorial:

Cayton's

Cayton’s Weekly, 4 May 1918.

The New York Age got wind of matters a week later, reporting excitedly that Reid had been hounded out of Wilson for his role in the affair:

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New York Age, 11 May 1918.

Belatedly, the Age also published a brief bit about the warrant for Coon’s arrest, including a quotation from Coon himself:

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New York Age, 18 May 1918.

Ultimately, Coon plead guilty to simple assault and was fined one penny, plus costs. Despite the mass resignation and boycott in April by teachers, students and the black community at large, he and the Wilson public school administration soldiered on. In September, they announced a new staff for the colored graded school and appointed Clarissa Williams principal in J.D. Reid’s stead.

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Wilson Daily Times, 24 September 1918.

The New York Age came back with stronger reporting to cover the opening of the Industrial, or Independent, School, as it was called. Hattie Henderson Ricks, who was 7 years old in the spring of 1918, recalled: “First of the year I went to school, and [then] I didn’t go back no more to the Graded School. They opened the Wilson Training School on Vance Street, with that old long stairway up that old building down there — well, I went over there.”

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New York Age, 23 November 1918.

Two months later came a progress report on the “school started to protect womanhood” and a request for support:

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New York Age, 18 January 1919.

A year after Coon’s slap, the Age continued to report on the courageous stand taken by Wilson’s African-American community, noting that a fundraiser had exceeded its goals, and the school was “flourishing.”

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New York Age, 15 April 1919.

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Postcard image of Wilson Colored Graded School, J. Robert Boykin III, Historic Wilson in Vintage Postcards (2003).

Oral interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

Married 55 years.

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New York Age, 9 January 1937.

John Perry married Susan Hodge on 28 December 1881 in Stantonsburg. J.H. Applewhite, a wealthy farmer and justice of the peace, performed the ceremony. His brother William H. Applewhite and Susan’s parents Jack and Gillie Hodge were witnesses.

Perry-Hodge marr

It is likely that the Hodges were tenant farmers on Applewhite land, as suggested by the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County:

Perry-Hodge

That’s your wife.

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Wilson News, 21 September 1899.

Ignore the snark, which was par for the course for newspapers covering African-American social and cultural events. This is a fascinating peek into early East Wilson’s social circles.

  • Henry S. Perry — Henry S. Perry (1873-1927) was a native of Lagrange, Lenoir County. He worked as a bellhop, porter and waiter.
  • Centha Barnes — Lucinda Barnes (1881-circa 1909), known as “Cintha” or “Cindy,” was the youngest child of Willis and Cherry Battle Barnes.
  • Roebertha E. Long
  • Rev. S.B. Hunter — Rev. Southey B. Hunter (1847-??) was an A.M.E. Zion minister.
  • Chas. B. Gay — Charles Benjamin Gay (1878-1953) was the son of Samuel and Alice Bryant Gay.
  • J.H. Brown
  • Michael Taylor — Henry Michael Taylor (1861-1927), married to Rachel Barnes, was the bride’s brother-in-law. Known as “Mike,”he worked as a drayman.
  • Edward Barnes — Edward Barnes (1869-1912) was the bride’s brother. He was much better known as Ned Barnes and married Charles and Lucy Gay’s sister Louisa Gay.
  • Walter Clark — Walter Clark (1884-??) was the son of mechanic Rhoden Clark and Sarah Hill Clark, who were Edgecombe County natives. The family lived at 606 E. Green Street.
  • Lucy Gay — Lucy Gay was a sister of Charles Gay. She later married John H. Lewis in Wilson.
  • L.H. Jones — Levi Hunter Jones (1877-1961), a native of Hertford County, North Carolina, was a barber.
  • E.J. Tate — Tate was probably a relative of Hardy Tate (1854-1938), a brickmason.
  • Williams Barnes — William Barnes (1879-1917) was also the bride’s brother.
  • Leutha Clark — Alethia Clark (1882-1936) was the sister of Walter Clark.
  • John Coleman
  • Sattena Barnes — Sattena Barnes (1878-1928) was born in Elm City, Wilson County, to Dublin and Eliza Batts Barnes. She later married John Gaston.
  • William Kittrel — William Kittrell (1875-??) was an Oxford, North Carolina, native and bricklayer.
  • Catharine Clark — Catherine Clark (1880-1933) was a sister of Walter and Lethia Clark.
  • Maggie Taylor — Maggie Taylor (1885-) was Mike and Rachel Barnes Taylor’s daughter.
  • Virginia Dawson — Virginia Dawson (1890-1933), daughter of fishmonger/merchant Alexander D. Dawson and dressmaker Lucy Annie Hill Dawson.
  • Bettie Clark — Bettie Clark (1885-??) was another of Rhoden and Sarah Clark’s children.
  • Lucy Hines — Lucy Hines (1886-??) was the daughter of Della Hines Battle.
  • Anna Pridgen
  • Glace Battle — Glace Battle (circa 1890-??) was the daughter of Parker and Ella Battle. She later married Timothy Black.
  • Alice Pierce — Alice Pierce (1889-1915) was the daughter of Andrew Pierce and Alice Knight Pierce. She later married Walter A. Maynor.
  • Bertha Taylor — Bertha Taylor (1891-1962) was also Mike and Rachel Barnes Taylor’s daughter.

Episcopal mission.

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Diocese of Massachusetts, Journal of the One Hundred and Twenty-Second Annual Meeting of the Convention (1907).

Here’s a piece on Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church published on the website of the Diocese of North Carolina. I suspect the reference to “John W. Perry” is an error and should be Robert Perry.

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http://www.dionc.org/dfc/newsdetail_2/3172366