Arthur Bass house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“This house is said to have been the property of Arthur Bass. According to the Wayne County census of 1850 Arthur Bass was born in 1816. Little is known of Bass’ life. … The Bass House appears to date from the 1830s and it consists of a two-story dwelling with an attached shed porch and three-bay façade. Under the porch the façade is sheathed in flush boards instead of the unusual weatherboards, the main house is linked with the kitchen by an open breezeway on the eastern elevation and this breezeway shelters an unusual enclosed exterior stair. On the first floor of the main house there are two main rooms, while the second floor appears to have been one large room.”


In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse River, Wayne County, North Carolina [in an area which became part of Black Creek township, Wilson County, in 1855]: farmer Arthur Bass, 34; wife Martha, 19; and daughter Zilla, 8 months. Per the 1850 slave schedule of the same district, Arthur Bass enslaved a 25 year-old woman, a three year-old boy and a two year-old girl.

In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Arthur Bass, 46; wife Pattie, 28; and children Zillah, 11, Louisa, 8, Perry, 6, and William, 2 months. He listed $4000 in real property and $7000 in personal property. His personal property, per the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, included five enslaved girls and women ranging from 8 months to 32 years old and two enslaved boys. aged 12 and five.

Arthur Bass was just one of several white Basses who enslaved people in Wilson County. The 1870 census of Wilson County lists 134 African-Americans with the surname Bass living in households across eastern Wilson County in Black Creek, Stantonsburg, Gardners, Wilson, Joyners and Cross Roads townships.

Rufus Edmundson plantation.

The Rufus Edmundson House lies just two blocks off Stantonsburg’s main street, but at the very edge of town. Behind it stretch miles of fields and woodland.

“This antebellum house was built circa 1846 for Rufus Edmundson. … The house is similar to the William Barnes and Ward-Applewhite-Thompson Houses (both in Stantonsburg Township) and the Elias Barnes house (Saratoga township). It stands two stories high and the main block is capped with a shallow hipped roof. Unusual heavy dentils ornament the frieze and the three-bay facade was once sheltered by a double-gallery porch supported by square columns. Although the door leading to the second floor porch has been altered, the original trabeated entrance to the first floor is still intact. A single-story, hipped-roof porch with Doric columns replaced the earlier double-gallery porch in the early twentieth century. On the interior the house is divided by a wide central hall with two rooms to either side. Some original woodwork remains intact including a handsomely curved newel post.”  — Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981).


In the 1860 census of Saratoga township [which included Stantonsburg], Wilson County, Rufus Edmundson’s reported wealth comprised $15,000 in real property and $30,600 in personal property. The 1860 slave schedule parses Edmundson’s wealth — the $30,600  mostly took the form of 34 enslaved men, women and children, aged 1 through 38, who inhabited six dwellings on Edmundson’s farm and toiled for him.

The 1870 census was the first post-Emancipation enumeration. Next door to Rufus Edmundson were Margaret and Bailum Hall and their son John, 4 months. (Balaam Hall, son of James Woodard and Liza Hall, had married Margaret Edmundson, daughter of Proncey Edmundson, on 19 July 1870 in Wilson County.) Next to the Halls was a household comprised of members of several families, including Bertha Edmundson, 20, and Winnie, 12, and Gray Edmundson, 14, who were all listed as farmer’s apprentices. Though close proximity and shared surname, as well as indenture as apprenticed labor, do not guarantee that these young people had been enslaved by Rufus Edmundson, these facts are strong evidence.

William Barnes plantation.


“[T]he William Barnes house was built in a style which was popular in Wilson County between 1848 and 1860. Barnes was the brother of General Joshua Barnes, one of the most influential men in the area and a founder of Wilson County. Barnes was born in 1811. Like his brother, he was a planter, and by the time of his death he had accumulated over 1,000 acres. …The exterior of the Barnes house has remained basically unaltered except for the constriction of a two-story portico with Doric columns which dates circa 1914. The William Barnes House is very similar stylistically to the house of his brother. General Joshua Barnes, which was built circa 1845. The exterior consists of a plain two-story box with a shallow hipped-roof and a three-bay facade. A wide trabeated entrance, surmounted by a smaller door on the second floor, is located in the central bay. The unusual six-panel door is similar to those found on the Daniel Whitley House (also in Stantonsburg Township). The interior plan is that of a wide center hall with two large rooms located on each side. Major alterations have been made on the interior. A large two-story packhorse and small gable-roof storage building, both contemporary with the house, exist on the grounds.” — Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981).

The six-paneled door.


In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County, 48 year-old farmer William Barnes’ listing notes that he owned real property valued at $35,000 and personal property at $89,000. The latter, of course, largely consisted of enslaved men and women, whose crucial role on his plantation went unmentioned in the description above. The 1860 census credits him as the owner of 10 men or boys and 16 women or girls, ranging in age from 1 to 60.

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Aerial shot of the Barnes House and outbuildings at the intersection of Fairfield Dairy Road and Highway 58.

Photograph of Barnes house taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2015; photo of door taken July 2017; aerial photo courtesy of Google Map.

James Scarborough house.


The Major James Scarborough House is a historic plantation house located near Saratoga, Wilson [formerly Edgecombe] County, North Carolina. It was built about 1821 and is a two-story, five bay, Federal style frame dwelling with a rear shed addition and exterior end chimneys. It has a one-story rear kitchen wing connected by a breezeway. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

The nomination form for the house notes that it is “probably the best preserved example of early nineteenth century architecture in Wilson County” and is “one of the most outstanding Federal houses extant” in the county.

As usual with Wilson County, the nomination form for the Scarborough house, though describing its builder as a “leading planter,” makes no mention of the men and women whose work sustained the place and produced its wealth.

Scarborough was born about 1748 in Southampton County, Virginia. His family migrated into the southern tip of Edgecombe by the late 1750s, and by 1778 Scarborough had secured the 365-acre parcel upon which he sited his home more than 30 years later. On 12 May 1835, James Scarborough, “being in a Low State of helth but in reasonable Since,” penned a will in which he left to wife Martha and daughter Zilly Scarborough, along with his home and other property, “A Parcel of Negros that is to say Name Aggy Simon Silvey Lemon Washington Sumter and Young Aggy and Haywood these Eight negros with the in Creas I lend them Jointly to Geather to my wife & daughter Zilly but by no means to be Hired out but to Remane on the Plantation to labour for them during their natural lifes after there deaths I give the afore said negros by name and their in Creas to my grandaughters & grandsons named Millicent Eason Elizabeth Eason Martha Eason and James S. Eason daughters & son of Joshua B. Eason to be Equelly divided between the above named grandchildren….” To his son John Scarborough: “I also gave him three Likely negros when he went a way and now I give him four more after my death there names is as follows Luke Gilford Orange and Willis the above negros is not to be carryed away without a Lawful authority or Either by himself or his Heirs or Executors….” (Scarborough seems to have taken pains to insure that his “negros” remained together on his land.) Another son, Isaac Scarborough, inherited the Scarborough house after his unmarried sister Zilly’s death, but he died before occupying it. As of the date of the Historic Register, an unbroken line of James Scarborough’s descendants had inhabited the house.

North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],


Wright Edmundson plantation.

The Edmundson-Woodard House is a historic plantation home located near Stantonsburg, Wilson County, North Carolina. The house is a two-story, three-bay, single-pile, L-plan, Federal-style frame dwelling. It has a two-story wing added in the mid-19th century, side gable roof, exterior end chimneys, and hipped-roof porch with flared columns. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Wright Edmundson built the house about 1830 on 1400 acres of land between Toisnot Swamp and Contentnea Creek. He owned another 1600 acres north of Black Creek and was one of the wealthiest planters in the area. The Nomination Form for the property notes that Edmundson reported owning $98,600 in personal property in the 1860 census, but glosses over the form of the bulk of that wealth — slaves. The slave schedule that year is more plain — Edmundson owned 62 men and women housed in 12 cabins.

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Edmundson-Woodard House, 1980. Photo attached to nomination form.


Wright Edmundson’s land today.

General Joshua Barnes plantation.

Gen. Joshua Barnes House is a historic home located near Wilson, Wilson County. Built about 1844, it is a two-story, central-hall-plan, Greek Revival-style frame dwelling built around the nucleus of an earlier, Federal style dwelling dating to 1830 and was remodeled about 1870. The house features a shallow hipped roof and one-story, full-width front porch. Attached to the rear of the house is a small one-story Greek Revival frame structure connected by an enclosed breezeway. Gen. Joshua Barnes, who built the house, is considered the father of Wilson County.

The National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the house waxes enthusiastic: “The exterior appearance of the house is very simple and elegant. The house is set in a grove of mature trees at the intersection of Waterworks Road and London’s Church Road just outside the city limits of Wilson. Prime agricultural land surrounds the house. The boxy massing of the house is typical of Greek Revival architecture in general and of this type of plantation house in Wilson County in particular. The house, set on a low brick foundation, is oriented to the east and to the road. A plain continuous frieze forms a band under the boxed cornice. Applied diamond motifs ornament the rear and parts of each side elevation. Similar diamonds are found on buildings in Wilson dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century and these diamonds may date from this period. Many plantation houses originally had a double gallery porch on the front elevation, which may account for the lack of frieze ornament on the main facade of this house. A single story porch with square posts with molded caps shelters the main facade. The broad trabeated door boasts some original etched cranberry glass in the transom and sidelights. Large six-over-six-sash windows are the dominant window type used in the house. The southern side facade has four bays on the first floor, but only three on the second floor. The rear elevation gives clues to the orientation and placement of the earlier structure as well as showing the additions which have been made to the house since 1844 including a pantry, laundry and enclosed porch.”

Of Joshua Barnes’ success: “In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War and five years after his great success in the legislature, Barnes was one of the wealthiest men in Wilson County. According to the 1860 census he was a farmer owning $27,500 worth of real property and $79,000 worth of personal property.” As usual, nowhere in the glowing description of Barnes, his house and his accomplishments is any mention of the main source of Barnes’ wealth — his slaves.

The 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County pulls back the curtain: Joshua Barnes owned 66 men, women and children, ranging in age from eight months to 94 years, housed in ten dwellings. Benjamin Ellis‘ family were among them:


Wilson Daily Times, 13 June 1922.

J Barnes house 1976

Joshua Barnes house, 1976. The house, recently sold, remains in excellent condition. 

Joseph J. Pender plantation.

Joseph John Pender House is a historic plantation home located near Wilson, Wilson County. The house consists of an original, two-story, three-bay, Federal frame section, built about 1840, and a one-story frame kitchen/dining room ell. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Though the Nomination Form describes Pender as a “large landowner and successful planter,” it makes no mention of his status as a slaveowner. Census records, however, tell the story. The 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County lists J.J. Pender with 15 slaves (12 male and 3 female), ranging in age from one month to 60 years. By time the Wilson County enumerator arrived in 1860, he had increased his holdings by two-thirds to 25 — 15 men and ten women ranging in age from six months to 75 years and sheltered in four cabins.

Slave schedules do not list the names of enslaved people, but one of the 25 may have been Carolina Pender, born circa 1853. She appears as a widow in the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County, with several children, including Thad (1884) and Cadmus Pender (1885). These children were apparently named for Thaddeus W. Pender (1838-1892) and Cadmus C. Pender (1841-1862), Joseph J. Pender’s oldest children.

JJP house

Joseph J. Pender house, circa 1986. Image from National Register of Historic Places — Nomination Form, above.