Friendship Baptist Church, just outside Lucama, is a long-time member of the Union Primitive Baptist Association.
Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2016.
Friendship Baptist Church, just outside Lucama, is a long-time member of the Union Primitive Baptist Association.
Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2016.
Wilson Daily Times, 2 October 1943.
On 25 January 1933, Curley Bynum, 22, son of Cooper and Wen Ann Bynum, married Pearl Emanuel, 20, daughter of M.P. and Pattie Emanuel, in Wilson.
Pearl Bynum died 21 November 1949 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1910 in South Carolina to Pertis and Pattie Emanuel; was married; lived at 102 North Pender; and worked as a domestic and clerk. Informant was Curly Bynum.
On 3 December 1907, Mack Melton, 55, of Gardners township, son of Lenzy and Eliza Melton, married Sarah Wootten, 40, of Greene County, in Wilson County. Moses Dew applied for the marriage license, and he, Carrie Melton and Marry Thomas witnessed.
In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Mack Melton, 60, wife Sarah, 45, and children Lafyette, 14, Lillie, 12, Gilber, 10, and Warren Melton, 8. Both Mack and Sarah reported that this was a second marriage for each. Sarah reported that seven of her nine children were living.
Fate Milton registered for the World War I draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he resided in Wilson County, was born in Pitt County on 21 December 1895, and worked a farmer.
On 29 December 1921, Fate Melton, 26, of Wilson County, son of Mack and Sarah Melton, married Annie Brooks, 21, of Wilson County, daughter of Grant and Sallie Brooks. Primitive Baptist minister Thomas Bunch officiated at the ceremony, and David Bynum, Leander Harriss and Leander Sauls were witnesses.
Fate Melton was appointed as an elder in the Union Primitive Baptist Association as a young man and served as pastor of at least four Wilson County churches, Oaky Grove, Friendship, Union Grove and Jerusalem Grove. He led Jerusalem Grove from 1924 until his death in 1961; the church is now helmed by a grandson.
Fate Melton died 4 September 1961 at a Veterans Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was a farmer and Primitive Baptist minister; was born 21 December 1896 in Wilson County to Tony Sharp Melton and Sarah Ellis; and was a World War I veteran. Annie Brooks Melton was informant.
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Session of the Union Primitive Baptist Association found at www.archive.org; military headstone application found at U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.
Many thanks to Anthony J. Edwards for permission to feature this photograph.
Continued from here.
In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Amos Due, 39; wife Louisa, 35; and children Isaac, 9, Morning, 1, and Ella, 5. (Next door: Everett Due, 32, wife Jane, 24, and son Edward, 8 months.) Or possibly: in the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Amos Dew, 41, wife Ruth, 30, and children Sarah, 9, Willie, 7, Hester, 6, Anderson, 4, George, 2, and Zebalon, 4 months.
See above. Or, in the 1870 census of Wilson township: farm laborer Everett Due, 58, wife Sarah, 59, and Joseph, 23, and Rachel Due, 18.
From Minutes of the 58th Annual Session of the Union Primitive Baptist Association (1931).
Union Primitive Baptist Association, founded in the early 1870s, is comprised primarily of churches in Pitt and Wilson Counties. In addition to those highlighted above, Wilson County congregations affiliated with the association include Jones Hill Primitive Baptist, located west of the city of Wilson. Most, including Friendship (Lucama), Union Grove (Wilson), Jerusalem Grove (Wilson), and Oaky Grove (east of Wilson), remain active churches today. William Chapel, just outside Elm City, is also a living church, but is now affiliated with the Missionary Baptist denomination. Today’s Healthy Plains Primitive Baptist Church, near Sims in western Wilson County, is a white congregation. I am not sure of its relationship, if any, to the church listed above.
Original print of minutes held at University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Elder Jonah Williams (1841-1915) was involved in the establishment of nearly every church in the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association, including Turner Swamp (1897), Barnes (1898), Little Union (1899), and Rocky Mount (1908). Turner Swamp still meets at or near its original location just north of Eureka in Wayne County. Barnes Chapel was close to Stantonsburg, in southwest Wilson County. Little Union Primitive Baptist Church, which is under reconstruction, was in the Town Creek area east of Elm City. I have not been able to find current references to Rocky Mount Primitive Baptist Church. London’s Church, now inside city limits, was then just north of the town of Wilson. The church is closely associated with London Woodard, an enslaved man who was purchased by his free-born wife, Penny Lassiter. Just after the Civil War, London, who had been a staunch member of Toisnot Primitive Baptist Church, founded an African-American congregation, which seems to have reorganized under the Primitive Baptist umbrella in 1897.
Barnes Church, near Stantonsburg. Said to have been built by slaves of a Barnes family, the structure served an active church into the 1960s. A slave cemetery is said to lie across the road. Photo taken in November 1961 by Guy Cox. Image found here.
Elder Williams participated in five Association annual sessions before his death, and the minutes of two survive, including the 1914 session excerpted below.
WPA writer Samuel S. Taylor interviewed Martha Ruffin, age 80, 1310 Cross Street, Little Rock, Arkansas. (He also interviewed her husband Thomas Ruffin, born in Franklin County, North Carolina.)
“I was born in North Carolina, and I was seven years old when the Surrender was. Every one of my children can tell you when they was born, but I can’t. My mother, Quinettie Farmer was her name. Brother Robert Farmer is my cousin. He is about the same age as my husband. He got married one week and me and my husband the next. My father’s name was Valentine Farmer. My grandmother on my mother’s side was Mandy Harrison, and my grandfather’s name on my mother’s side was Jordan Harrison. My grandpa on my father’s side was named Reuben Farmer, and his wife was Nancy Farmer. I have seed my grandpa and grandma on my father’s side. But my mother didn’t see them on my mother’s side.
“I ‘members my daddy’s white folks’ names, Moses Farmer. My father never was sold. My daddy, Valentine Farmer, was a ditcher, shoemaker, and sometimes a farmer. My mother was a house girl. She washed and ironed. I couldn’t tell exactly what my grandparents did. My grandparents, so my parents told me, were mostly farmers. I reckon Moses Farmer owned about three hundred slaves.
“I was born on Robert Bynum’s place. He was my mother’s owner. He married one of the Harrison girls and my mother fell to that girl. My mother done just about as she pleased. She didn’t know nothin’ about workin’ in the field till after the Surrender.
“The way my mother and father happened to meet — my old master hired my daddy to do some work for him and he met my mama that way.
“The way my folks learned they was free was, a white school-teacher who was teaching school where we stayed told my mother she was free, but not to say nothing about it. About three weeks later, the Yankees come through there and told them they was free and told my old boss that if he wanted them to work he would have to hire them and pay them. The school-teacher stayed with mother’s folks — mother’s white folks. The school-teacher was teaching white folks, not niggers. She was a Yankee, too. My mother was the house girl, and the school-teacher stayed with her folks. The War was so hot she couldn’t git no chance to go back home.
“My daddy farmed after the War. He farmed on shares the first year. The next year, he bought him a horse. He finally owned his own farm. He owned it when he died. He had about one hundred acres of land.
“I have pretty fair health for an old woman like I am. I am bothered with the rheumatism. The Lawd wouldn’t let both of us git down at the same time. (Here she refers to her husband who was sick in bed at the time she made the statement. You have his story already. It was difficult for her to tell her story, for he wanted it to be like his. — Ed.)
“I belong to the Primitive Baptist Church. I haven’t changed my membership from my home.
“I got married in 1882, in February. How many years is that? I got so I can’t count up nothin’. Fifty-six years. Yes, that’s it; that’s how long I been married. I had a little sister that got married with me. She didn’t really git married; she just stood up with me. She was just a little baby girl. They told me I was pretty near twenty-three years old when I married. I have a daughter that’s been married twenty-five years. We had older daughters, but that one was the first one married. I have got a daughter over in North Little Rock that is about fifty years old.
“Her husband is dead. We had ten children. My daughter is the mother of ten children too. She got married younger than I did. This girl I am living with is my baby. I have four children living — three girls and one boy. A woman asked me how many children I had and I told her three. She was a fortuneteller and she wanted to tell me my fortune. But I didn’t want her to tell me nothin’. God was gittin’ ready to tell me somethin’ I didn’t want to hear. I’ve got five great-grandchildren. We don’t have no great-great-grandchildren. Don’t want none.”
The old lady’s style was kind of cramped by the presence of her husband. Every once in a while, when she would be about to paint something in lurid colors, he would drop in a word and she would roll her phrases around in her mouth, so to speak, and shift and go ahead in a different direction and on another gear.
Very pleasant couple though — with none of the bitterness that old age brings sometimes. The daughter’s name is Searles.
In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Vance [Valentine] Farmer, 40, wife Quinnie, 30, and children Clara, 13, Patsey [Martha], 11, Isaac, 10, Nancy, 8, Leah, 6, and Mattie, 2. Also, in Wilson township: Reuben Farmer, 68, wife Nancy, 71, and Luke Farmer, 11.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Bullie [“Vallie”] Farmer, 50, wife Qunnia, 46, and children Patsie, 21, Isaac, 20, Nannie, 18, Lera, 16, Mattie, 10, Caroline, 8, Bettie, 6, Mary J., 4, Charles, 3, and Sarah E., 2, plus Nancy Farmer, 90.
On 5 February 1882, Vaul Farmer, 52, married Mary E. Ruffin, 43, in Wilson County. On 19 March 1882, in the town of Stantonsburg, Robert Farmer, 19, married Marinda Bynum, 18. I have not found Martha Farmer Ruffin’s marriage record.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Valintine Farmer, 70, wife Mary, 58, children Mattie, 30, Elizabeth, 26, Mary J., 24, and Elizar, 22, son-in-law Charly Freeman and daughter Carolina. All did farm work except Elizabeth, who was a cook, and Elizar, who was a schoolteacher. Meanwhile, in Brodie, Pulaski County, Arkansas: North Carolina-born Thomas Ruffin, 48, his North Carolina-born wife Patsie, 42, and children Wiley, 14, Marina, 12, James, 10, Mammie, 8, and Lucy, 4. The last two children were born in Arkansas.
Valentine Farmer made out his will the following spring, and his estate went into probate in 1906:
North Carolina, Wilson County } I, Valentine Farmer, of the aforesaid County and State, being of sound mind, but considering the uncertainty of my earthly existence, do make and declare this my last will and testament.
First: My executor hereinafter named, shall give my body a decent burial, and pay all funeral expenses, together with all my Just debts out of the first money which may come into her hands belonging to my estate.
Second: I give to my daughter Clary Batts, the wife of Amos Batts, and Patsy Ruffin, the wife of Thomas Ruffin, the sum of one dollar each.
Third: I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Mary Eliza Farmer, during her lifetime or widowhood, my entire estate, both real and personal.
Fourth: At the death or marriage of my wife, I give and bequeath to my four daughters, hereinafter named — Mattie Farmer, Elizabeth Farmer, Mary Jane Farmer and Sarah Eliza Farmer, all of my personal property of whatsoever kind.
Fifth: At the death or marriage of my wife, I give and bequeath to my children hereinafter named, viz: Nannie Farmer, Louvenia Farmer, Elizabeth Farmer, Mary Jane Farmer, Charlie Farmer and Sarah Eliza Farmer all of my real estate.
Sixth: I hereby constitute and appoint my wife Mary Eliza Farmer my lawful executor to all intents and purposes to execute this my last will and testament, according to the true intent and meaning thereof; hereby revoking and declaring void all other wills and testaments by me heretofore made.
In witness whereof, I, the said Valentine Farmer, do hereunto set my hand and seal this 9th day of April, 1901. Valentine (X) Farmer
Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said Valentine Farmer to be his last will and testament in the presence of us, who at his request and in his presence do subscribe our names as witnesses thereto /s/ E.O. McGowan, W.H. Dixon
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers Project, 1936-1938, Arkansas Narratives, Volume 2, Part 6. Federal Writers Project, United States Work Projects Administration; Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
On 15 December 1915, Zion’s Landmark published a lengthy obituary for Elder Jonah Williams of Wayne and Wilson Counties. The Landmark was a semi-monthly newsletter begun in 1867 by Pleasant Daniel Gold, (1833-1920), pastor of Wilson Primitive Baptist Church, who filled the periodical with sermons and homilies, ads for homeopathic remedies, testimonials, altar calls and, most enduringly, obituaries of Primitive Baptists throughout eastern North Carolina.
African-Americans did not often make it into the pages of the Landmark, but P.D. Gold held Jonah Williams in considerable esteem as the founder or leader of nearly every church in the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association, including Turner Swamp (1897), London’s (1897), Barnes (1898), Little Union (1899), and Rocky Mount (1908). The middle three congregations were in Wilson County.
Wilson Daily Times, 16 September 1910.
Charles Battle, son of Benja Sorsby and Edith Battle, married Lear Hargrove, daughter of Alfred Parker and Venice Hargrove, on 20 June 1869 in Wilson County.
In the 1870 census, Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: blacksmith Charles Battle, 27, wife Leah, 29, and daughter Susan, 9 months.
In the 1880 census, Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Charles Battle, 35, wife Leah, 30, and children Adelia, 5, Geneva, 2, Virgil, 1 month, and Nicholas, 18.
In 1900 census, Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Charley Battle, 50, a widower; son Charley, 10; and Menerver Edwards, 58, a hired washwoman.
In the 1910 census, Stantonsburg, Wilson County: blacksmith Charlie Battle, 60, and son Charlie Jr., 21, also a blacksmith, were lodgers in the household of widowed farmer Sarah Artis, 48, and her children Willie, 22, Lillie G., 16, and Nora, 10, grandsons Marcellous, 14, and Alexander Artis, 10, and son-in-law Paul Harris, 22.
As detailed here, Charles Battle’s son Charles Tecumseh Battle became a prominent teacher of manual trades in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama. However, his presence in Stantonsburg in the 1910 census and his biography suggest that his father was visiting a different son in Alabama when he passed away. Was it the Nicholas R. Battle, 56, farmer, born in North Carolina, listed in the 1920 census of Chandler township, Lincoln County, Oklahoma, with Mississippi-born wife Dora J., 58, and Oklahoma-born son Henry N. Battle, 12?
Charles Battle was buried in the Masonic cemetery on Lane Street, Wilson, beside his wife Leah and mother Edith.
Charles Battle, 30 August 1841-12 September 1910.
Leah Battle, 1 March 1851-8 March 1898.
Grandmother Edith Battle, 4 April 1818-3 March 1899.
Wilson Daily Times, 6 June 1911.
Rev. Jonah Williams (1845-1915) was a Primitive Baptist elder who led several African-American congregations in Wayne, Wilson and Edgecombe Counties, including London Church and Barnes Chapel in Wilson and Little Union near Town Creek, east of Elm City. Born free near Eureka in Wayne County to Vicey Artis, a free woman, and Solomon Williams, her enslaved husband, Rev. Williams spent his final years living in Wilson.