Mary Price died 11 December 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, her age was unobtainable; she was a widow; she lived at 519 Church Street, Wilson; and she was born in Duplin County to Clarrissa Whitley. Informant was Thomas O. Davis, Wilson.
“Joseph Charles Price, black educator, orator, and civil rights leader, was born in Elizabeth City to a free mother, Emily Pailin, and a slave father, Charles Dozier. When Dozier, a ship’s carpenter, was sold and sent to Baltimore, Emily married David Price, whose surname Joseph took. During the Civil War, they moved to New Bern, which quickly became a haven for free blacks when it was occupied by Federal troops. In 1863 his mother enrolled him in St. Andrew’s School, which had just been opened by James Walker Hood, the first black missionary to the South and later the bishop of the A.M.E. Zion Church. Price showed such promise as a student at this and other schools that in 1871 he was offered a position as principal of a black school in Wilson. He taught there until 1873, when he resumed his own education at Shaw University in Raleigh with the intention of becoming a lawyer. But he soon changed his mind and transferred to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania to study for the ministry in the A.M.E. Zion Church. He was graduated in 1879 and spent another two years at its theological seminary. During this period, he married Jennie Smallwood, a New Bern resident he had known since childhood. They were the parents of five children.
“In 1881, soon after his ordination, Price was chosen as a delegate to the A.M.E. Ecumenical Conference in London. While there,Bishop Hood urged him to make a speaking tour of England and other parts of Europe to call attention to the plight of black education in the South and, more specifically, to raise funds to establish a black college in North Carolina. His effectiveness as an orator drew large crowds and resulted in contributions of almost $10,000. This, plus the support of white residents of Salisbury, enabled him to establish Livingstone College and to become its president in October 1882, when he was twenty-eight years old. (Originally called Zion Wesley College, its name was changed to that of the African explorer and missionary David Livingstone in 1885.) Sponsored by the A.M.E. Zion Church, Livingstone began with five students, three teachers, and a single two-story building, but it grew rapidly to become one of the South’s most important liberal arts colleges for blacks. Though he encouraged the support of southern whites, such as Josephus Daniels, and philanthropists, such as Leland Stanford and Collis P. Huntington, Price felt that blacks themselves must bear the real responsibility for educating their race. In 1888 he stated that ‘Livingstone College stands before the world today as the most remarkable evidence of self-help among Negroes in this country.’
“Price’s leadership of the college and his ability as an orator gained him national attention. In 1888 President Grover Cleveland asked him to serve as minister to Liberia, though he declined, saying he could do more for his people by remaining in Salisbury. In 1890 he was elected president of both the Afro-American League and the National Equal Rights Convention and named chairman of the Citizens’ Equal Rights Association. But conflict among the groups and lack of financial support led to their decline soon afterwards. Like Booker T. Washington, Price believed that blacks’ self-help through education and economic development was their best hope for solving the race problem, and he assured whites that social integration with them was not among their goals. But he was less conciliatory than Washington in demanding that the civil rights of blacks be upheld. Blacks were willing to cooperate and live peaceably with southern whites, but not at the cost of their own freedom of constitutional guarantees. ‘A compromise,’ he wrote, ‘that reverses the Declaration of Independence, nullifies the national constitution, and is contrary to the genius of this republic, ought not to be asked of any race living under the stars and stripes; and if asked, ought not to be granted.’
“Price’s activist role in civil rights and black education ended abruptly in 1893, when he contracted and died of Bright’s disease at age thirty-nine. He was buried on the campus of Livingstone College. W. E. B. Du Bois, August Meier, and others felt that it was the leadership vacuum created by Price’s death into which Booker T. Washington moved, and that had he lived, the influence and reputation of Price and of Livingstone College would have been as great or greater than that achieved by Washington and Tuskegee.”
This 1925 Daily Times article detailed the business of a single February city aldermen’s meeting. First on the agenda, the Wilson Colored Hospital. The article listed the white members of the hospital’s board of trustees first, then noted its African-American members —S.H. Vick, J.D. Reid and “Permillus” [Camillus] Darden. After some discussion, the “the Board” decided to reinstate the city’s $75/month appropriation to the hospital, which had been discontinued the previous September.
The trustees stated that the hospital was “a necessity among the colored people of the city, and that many of them would be without treatment but for the institution.” Alderman Daniel asked if the trustees had personal knowledge that “the affairs of the institution were properly administered.” Dr. C.A. Woodard responded that “no institution of this kind made any money, and that they understood the disadvantages under which those connected with it were laboring.” Hospital management agreed to file monthly reports to the city. Trustee F.N. Bridgers invited the city to appoint a member to the board, and J.D. Reid noted that alderman Graham Woodard had been asked. Woodard acknowledged the invitation, but cited a busy schedule.
Hospital business satisfactorily concluded, Vick broached another subject — street lights. Would “the city extend its Whiteway below the railroad to the Baptist church, at the corner of Nash and Pender Streets”? A lighted north side and dark south did not present a good look to voyagers passing through on trains. The aldermen referred the matter to the Water and Light Commission. The Business Men’s League and the J.C. Price Literary Society endorsed the project, Vick added. (Joseph C. Price “taught here fifty years ago and afterwards founded Livingstone College.”) Mayor Lucas raised another point: lighting would help the police do their job. One had been killed and another nearly so in “pistol duels in that section of the city.”
Vick raised item number three — the colored cemetery. Would the city place an awning and also fix the roads so people could get in and out? Mr. Grantham of the cemetery commission responded defensively: “it was difficult to get the cemetery into a correct shape, and lay it out. The graves had been placed everywhere, and without regard to lines or streets.” Also, “there was some of the land that was worthless for the purpose, as it was a bottom. He spoke of land in the old cemetery which if the graves were removed would be worth considerable money.” Anyway, he agreed to “go over the property and work out some plan to get it in shape.”
No further colored business.
Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1925.
Why had the city discontinued its $75/month allocation in the first place?
What did the J.C. Price Literary Society do? When was it founded? Who were its members?
When did streetlights finally cross the tracks?
For what purpose was an awning needed in the cemetery?
“Fix the roads“? What roads led to the cemetery?
Were there still burials in Oakdale as late as 1925? Was the question more of access to existing graves than for new ones?
Sherman Bridgers, 21, married Susan Moore, 19, on 25 March 1903 in Saratoga township, Wilson County.
Jesse Price, 23, of Stantonsburg, son of William and Susan Price of Nash County, married Hattie Barnes, 22, of Stantonsburg, daughter of Nelson and Ellen Barnes, on 26 December 1906. Nathan, Sidney and Mittie Locust were witnesses to the ceremony.
In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: odd jobs ditcher Sherman Bridgers, 28; wife Susan, 26; and children Rosa L., 6, Willie, 4, Georgiana, 2, and Nathan, 2 months.
In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: odd jobs farm laborer Jesse Price, 24, and wife Hattie, 23, and lodger John Floyd, 34, a widower and farm laborer.
On 12 September 1918, Gen. Sherman Bridgers registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 19 March 1882; lived on route 4, Wilson; farmed for I.M. Washington; and his nearest relative was Willie Bridgers.
Cecil Lloyd Spellman was a professor of rural education at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. In 1947, he published “Elm City, A Negro Community in Action,” a monograph intended to employ sociology to “interpret the Negro in his actual day to day activities and interrelationships with members of his own and other races.” This is an excerpt.
In searching the records, one finds no mention of early Negroes in this area, however, by contacting some of the older living residents, the following information dealing with pioneer Negro residents has been obtained.** All the following people are now dead unless the fact is otherwise indicated.
J.H. Bellamy and his wife Cherry were among the first Negroes to move into the Sharpsburg vicinity. Bellamy was a preacher and a teacher. He did some good work in the general section in both these capacities. Together these two acquired a small tract of farm land. This was held up in his preaching and teaching as an example of what Negroes generally should do in order to succeed in life.
Sam Rice, a minister, was another of the early settlers in this area. No mention was made of the fact that he had a wife. He also bought farm land.
Thomas Dawes came early to this section and bought farm land. Dawes was an ex-slave. He came into the section from South Carolina. We are told that Thomas and his twin sister, Sarah (Bunn) were sold as slaves when they were about twelve years hold. It is not clear whether they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, or achieved their freedom in some other manner.
Henry Bunn and his wife Sarah (sister of Thomas Dawes) came into the section from South Carolina. Sarah was an ex-slave. She and her twin brother Thomas Dawes were sold into slavery when they were about twelve years old. Sarah became a midwife, and was in constant demand for her service by both white and colored people during the late years of her life.
Dawson Armstrong was a very conspicuous early character of the area. He was known as the root doctor. Many fancy tales are told about him and his roots and herbs. He was well liked and no doubt his root medicine did some good because of the confidence which so many of the people had in him. Of course, there were always fanciful tales about some of his doings as he moved about in field and forest in search of the right roots, herbs and barks for the concoctions which he brewed.
In the 1900 census of Sharpsburg township, Edgecombe County: farmer James H. Bellamy, 42, wife Cherrie, 34, and children Clara, 18, Jacob, 8, Cora, 6, and Rena, 1.
Dawson Armstrong died 24 May 1911 in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County. Per his death certificate, he was at least 45 years old, was born in Wilson County to Abram and Priscilla Barnes Armstrong, was single, and engaged in general labor. Mattie Bryant was informant.
**This is odd. African-Americans came to the Toisnot area with the earliest white settlers pushing down from southern Virginia. They were the pioneers, not people who moved in after the Civil War. Spellman named black county extension agent C.W. Foster as his source.
Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions January Term AD 1859
The Jurors for the State on their oath present that Benjamin Price a free negro late of the County of Wilson on the 1st day of December AD 1858 and divers other days and times both before and after that day at and in the county aforesaid did unlawfully cohabit & live as man & wife with Easter a slave the property of Dempsey Barnes contrary to the form of the statute in such cases made & provided and against the peace & dignity of the state. /s/ B.B. Barnes Sol
[Reverse: State vs Ben Price A Slave for Wife / Gov Pros Wit Dempsey Barnes / Not a true Bill W.E.J. Shallington For’n Grand Jury]
Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
M.A. Majors, ed., Noted Negro Women: Their Triumphs and Their Activities (1893).
The 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson township, shows Washington Suggs, 42, brickmason, with children Sarena, 8, Mary, 2, Decatur [Daniel Cato], 6, plus farm laborer, Richard Harper, 17. Wife Esther was apparently overlooked.
Edward Moore, per his death certificate, was born in 1853 in Washington, North Carolina, to James and Peggy Keys Moore. A “doctor and teacher,” he died in Salisbury in 1927.