Where did they go?: Pennsylvania death certificates, no. 4.

The fourth in a series — Pennsylvania death certificates for Wilson County natives:

  • Albert Lee Hagans


On 20 January 1915, Lee Hagans, 21, son of Briscoe and Vesta Hagans, and Maggie Croom, 20, daughter of John and Phyllis Croom, in Wilson township. Witnesses were Willie Hunt, Moses Dew and William Pitt. As late as 1940, the family remained in North Carolina. In the 1940 census of Great Swamp township, Wilson County: farm laborer Lee Albert Hagans, 46, wife Maggie, 41, and children Richard, 20, Jesse James, 19, Addie May, 16, Gladys M., 14, Mildren C., 12, and Biscoe, 9.

  • Mary Godfrey Brothers


  • Carrie Rountree Highsmith


  • Magnolia Boykin Henry


  • Annie Ferguson


The mystery of Astor B. Bowser.

Astor Burt Bowser, born 1896, was one of three sons of Burt L. and Sarah Rountree Bowser. He appears with his parents (and grandparents) in the 1900 and 1910 censuses of Wilson, but in 1916 is listed at 17 Mott Street in the city directory of White Plains, New York. When he registered for World War I draft in September 1918, however, he was in Wilson, working in his father Burt’s cafe.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, the Bowser family’s surname was erroneously recorded as “Brown.”


Occupations of the household’s inhabitants were recorded in the right-most columns. Astor’s? Doctor/dentist.


Dentist? When and where did Astor Bowser attend dental school?

Astor married Deloris Harvey of Alamance County on 17 August 1921 in Wilson. Throughout the 1920s, he appears to have continued to move between Wilson and greater New York City.  In the 1922 and 1925 city directories of Wilson, he is listed as an insurance agent residing at 520 East Nash. However, in the 1924 White Plains city directory: Astor B Bowser, clerk, at 17 Mott. And in the 1925 New York state census of White Plains, Westchester County: bank messenger Astor Bowser, 28, wife Deloris, 24, daughter Sarah, 2, and Lettia Bowser, 49, a widow. In the 1926 and 1928 city directories of White Plains, Astor is listed as a porter living at 7 Mott Street. But Astor B. Bowser Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, in May 1928.

In the 1930 census, Astor B. Bowser, 32, Delores, 29, and their children, Astor B., Jr., 1, and Sarah, 6, are listed in Chicago, Illinois, at 4905 Vincennes, where they were lodgers. Astor worked as an artist in his own studio and Deloris as a saleslady in a millinery.

In 1942, Astor registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 29 September 1896 in Wilson, North Carolina; resided at 4905 Vincennes, Chicago; was married to Delores Bowser; and worked for the Fannie May Candy Company.

Astor died in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, in 1981.

Was Astor really then a dentist?

A brief entry in an industry journal may clear up the matter:


The Dental Cosmos: a Monthly Record of Dental Science, Edward C. Kirk, ed. (1917).

In fact, it was Astor’s elder brother Russell L. Bowser who attended dental school, graduating from Howard in June 1917. The same month, he registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card: Russell Linwood Bowser was born 5 March 1891 in Wilson, North Carolina; lived at 416 Oakdale Place, Washington, D.C.; was single; worked as a dental surgeon in Washington; was tall, medium build, with brown eyes and black hair; and had “defective eyesight and a weak heart.”

In the 1920 census of Chicago, Illinois: North Carolina-born Dr. Linwood Bowser, 28, dentist, was a lodger on Evans Avenue.

In 1942, Russell Linwood Bowser registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card: he was born 5 March 1891 in Wilson, North Carolina; lived at 5634 South Parkway, Chicago (telephone number Went 2910); listed as a close contact Mr. A.B. Bowser, 4905 Vincennes Avenue, Chicago; and worked in the Central Investigating Unit, Federal Security Agency, Public Health Service, 54 West Hubbard Street, Chicago.

Per the Cook County, Illinois, Death Index, Russell L. Bowser died 2 December 1951.

Establishing a graded school.

From “The Graded School Bill: An Act to Establish a Graded School in Wilson township, Wilson County,” as published in the Wilson Advance. The North Carolina legislature ratified the bill on 27 February 1883.


Wilson Advance, 23 March 1883.

  • E.C. Simms. Edward Cicero Simms was a teacher. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher Edward C. Simms, 23, wife Nicy, 26, and son Edward, 7 months. By 1891, the Simms family had moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where Edward is listed in the city directory. By 1897, Edward was an ordained A.M.E. Zion minister, as shown in this 9 May 1897 edition of the Norfolk Virginian:


  • G.A. Farmer. Probably, Gray Farmer, a carpenter and constable.
  • Peter Rountree was a shoemaker.
  • Charles Battle was a blacksmith.
  • Jerry Washington. Jeremiah Washington was a blacksmith. His daughter Annie Maria married Samuel H. Vick.
  • C.M. Jones
  • Daniel Vick, carpenter, farmer and politician, was the father of Samuel H. Vick.
  • Samuel Williams was a baker, then grocer. In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: baker Samuel Williams, 30, with carpenter Daniel Vick, 25, wife Fanny, 24, and children Samuel, 8, Earnest, 3, Netta M., 5, and Violet Drake, 52. On 24 September 1870, Samuel Williams, parents unknown, married Ann Scarbro, daughter of Jack and Zaly Adams, in Wilson. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Samuel Williams, 38, wife Ann, 47, and daughter Anna, 9. In the 1900 census, grocer Samuel Williams, 58, with lodgers William Jackson, 36, and William Allen, 25, both tobacco graders.
  • C.H. Darden. Charles H. Darden was a blacksmith and, later, undertaker. In 1938, Wilson’s high school for African-American children would be named for Darden.

Visitations, no. 1.

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New York Age, 30 April 1914.

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New York Age, 1 October 1927.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 6 January 1934.

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New York Age, 5 September 1936.

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New York Age, 31 August 1946.

  • W.H. Lytle and Weslow Lytle
  • Mabel E. Roundtree — In the 1920 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: on Old Stantonsburg Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 57, wife Lucile, 47, and children Julius, 24, Julius’ wife Leda, 23, John Henry, 17, Jessie, 16, Mabel, 14, and Ola May Rountree, 10, and Cora Farmer, 19.

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New York Age, 12 July 1919.

  • Mrs. Levy Arrington — In the 1930 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 Reid Street, carpenter Levi Arrington, 38, wife Rosa, 40, daughter Zelma, 16, and lodger Nelly Sharp, 20, a cook. Rosa Arrington died 11 June 1964 in Wilson. Her death certificate reports that she was born in Nash County on 2 May 1887 to Amie Salvage.
  • Gilda A. Whitley
  • Emma Williams
  • Mrs. Georgianna Artis — Nathan Artis married George Anna Fort on 8 January 1929 in Wayne County. In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: laborer Nathan Artis, 39, wife Georgiana, 37, and children Bertha Lee, 17, Virginia, 14, and Minnie Louise, 7. Georgianna O. Artis died 14 October 1949 in Stantonsburg. Her death certificate reports that she was born 16 June 1903 in Wayne County to James Ford [Forte] and Mary Coley.

Wilson news.


New York Age, 9 September 1922.

  • Mrs. Jasper Coley —  Laura (or Laurena) V. Coley, daughter of Isaac and Penny Coley, married Jasper Allison Coley on 6 June 1912 in Wayne County. A native of Pikeville, Wayne County, like her husband, Laura died 12 May 1923. She was a teacher. Jasper Coley was the son of Phillip R. and Annie Exum Coley. He is listed in Wilson city directories in the early 1920s as a carpenter, a plasterer and a bricklayer, and lived at 401 North Vick Street.
  • Mrs. William Hines — Ethel Cornwell Hines (1894-1983) was a South Carolina native.
  • Roberta Battle, Glace Battle, Georgia Burks and Henrietta Colvert
  • Mrs. B.P. Coward — Sarah Adelaide Brown Coward (1867-1946) was the wife of A.M.E. Zion minister Bryant Pugh Coward.
  • Mrs. Stattie Cannon — In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charles Cannon, 35, barber in a “white shop”; wife Statie, 34; and children Charles, 11, Ruth, 9, and Statie Benton, 13. In the 1922 Wilson city directory, Stattie Cannon is listed as a dressmaker and Charles Cannon as a carpenter; both resided at 724 East Green Street. In the 1940 census of Newark, Essex County, New Jersey: Charles Cannon, 44, mother Stattie Cannon, 65, brother-in-law Fred Langford, 29, and sister Ruth Langford, 33. All were born in North Carolina and described as “white.”
  • A.N. Darden — Arthur N. Darden (1889-1948) was a son of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden and worked in his father’s undertaking business.
  • John Clark
  • Mrs. C.L. Darden — Norma Duncan Darden (1895-1987), a native of Montgomery, Alabama, was married to Arthur Darden’s brother, Camillus L. Darden.
  • Rev. A.H. George
  • Mrs. S.L. Bowser — Burt Bowser, born in Halifax County, married Sarah Rountree, daughter of Peter and Lucinda Rountree, on 4 December 1888 in Wilson. Reddin S. Wilkins, A.J. Lindsay and James W. Parrington were witnesses to the ceremony. In the 1900 census, Burt L. Bowser is described as a bar tender and in 1910 as the conductor of a pool room. Sarah is described as a dressmaker. Burt Landers Bowser died in 1920; Sarah Bowser, in 1935.
  • John Spells — In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pender Street, carpenter John E. Spell, 50, wife Martha A., 39, and son John E., Jr., 16. (John’s death certificate lists his middle name as Stephen.) Martha A. Spell, a native of Guilford County, died in Wilson in 1966.
  • Wesley Rogers — Per the city directory, in 1922, John Wesley Rogers lived at 548 East Nash Street and worked as a porter at Oettinger’s department store. His wife,  a native of Johnston County, was Mary Elizabeth Thomas Rogers (1878-1950). Rogers was born in Durham County in 1870 and died in Wilson in 1951.
  • Deby Harper — Deborah Harper Swindell () was the daughter of Argent Harper. She was briefly married to Louis Swindell.
  • Dr. DuBissette
  • Dr. and Mrs. J.B. Darden — Pharmacist James Benjamin Darden was a brother of Arthur and Camillus Darden. After a brief partnership with his brother John W. Darden, a doctor in Opelika, Alabama, he settled in Petersburg, Virginia.
  • Mrs. A.B. Bowser — Astor Burt Bowser, born 1896, was a son of Burt L. and Sarah L. Bowser, above. He married Deloris Harvey of Alamance County on 17 August 1921 in Wilson. Rev. B.P. Coward officiated. In the 1930 census, the couple and their children, Astor B., Jr., and Sarah, are listed in Chicago, Illinois. Astor worked as an artist in his own studio and Deloris as a saleslady in a millinery. Astor died in Hennepin County, Minnesota, in 1981.

On Christmas mornin’ we serenaded de master’s family.


Henry Rountree, 103 years old, of near Newsom’s Store in Wilson County.

“I wus borned an’ bred in Wilson County on de plantation of Mr. Dock Rountree. I wus named fer his oldest son, young Marse Henry. My mammy, Adell, my pappy, Shark, an’ my ten brothers an’ sisters lived dar, an’ aldo’ we works middlin’ hard we has de grandes’ times ever.

“We has two er three corn shuckings ever’ fall, we has wood splittin’ days an’ invite de neighbors in de winter time. De wimmen has quiltin’s an’ dat night we has a dance. In de col’ winter time when we’d have hog killin’s we’d invite de neighbors case dar wus a hundret er two hogs ter kill ‘fore we quit. Yes, mam, dem wus de days when folkses, white an’ black, worked tergether.

“Dar wus Candy pullin’s when we makes de ‘lasses an’ at Christmas time an’ on New Year’s Eve we has a all night dance. On Christmas mornin’ we serenaded de marster’s family an’ dey gived us fruits, candy an’ clothes.

“My marster had game cocks what he put up to fight an’ dey wus valuable. When I wus a little feller he had one rooster that ‘ud whup me ever’ time I got close ter him, he’d whup young Marse Henry too, so both of us hated him.

“One day we set down wid bruised backs ter decide how ter git rid of dat ole rooster, not thinkin’ ‘bout how much he cost. We made our plans, an’ atter gittin’ a stick apiece ready we starts drappin’ a line of corn to de ole well out in de barnyard. De pesky varmint follers de corn an’ when he gits on de brink of de well we lets him have it wid de sticks an’ pretty shortly he am drownded. Marse ain’t never knowed it nother.

“De missus had a ole parrot what had once ‘longed ter her brother who wus a sea captain. Dat wus de cussingest thing I ever seed an’ he’d Cuss ever’body an’ ever’thing. One day two neighborhood men wus passing when dey heard somebody ‘holler “Wait a minute.” Then dey turns ‘roun’ de ole parrot sez, “Go on now, I jist wanted ter see how you looks, Great God what ugly men!” ‘An’ de ole thing laughs fit ter bust.

“Dat ole parrot got de slaves in a heap of trouble so de day when de hawk caught him we was tickled pink. The hawk sailed off wid de parrot screamin’ over an’ over, “Pore polly’s ridin’. We laughed too quick case de hawk am skeerd an’ turns de ole fool parrot loose.”

“De war comes on an’ as de niggers l’arns dat dey am free dar am much shoutin’ an rejoicin’ on other plantations, but dar ain’t nothin’ but sorrow on ours, case de marster sez dat he always give us ever’thing dat we needs ter make us happy but he be drat iffen he is gwine ter give us money ter flingaway. So we all has ter go.

“Ole marster doan live long atter de war am over, but till de day dat he wus buried we all done anything he ax us.

“I has done mostly farm work all of my life, an’ work aroun’ de house. Fer years an’ years I lives on a part of Marse’s land an’ atter dat I lives here I ain’t got no kick comin’ ’bout nothin’ ‘cept dat I wants my ole age pension, I does, an’ I’d like to say too, Miss, dat de niggers ‘ud be better off in slavery. I ain’t seed no happy niggers since dem fool Yankees come along.

— From Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, Works Progress Administration (1941).



The poor house.

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In 1880, seven of the 22 paupers living in Wilson County’s poorhouse were African-American — Cary Williams, 65; Sampson Odam (“sore leg”), 89; David Rountree, 75; Mary Applewhite, 50; Mourning Privett, 52; Sallie Selby, 54; and Doublin Short, 75. Rountree appears in the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, as a 67 year-old farm laborer living alone. The others’ whereabouts in 1870 are unclear.



No. 7170.

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Peter Rountree‘s residency in New Bern, North Carolina, where he opened this Freedmen’s Savings Bank account, was apparently temporary. He, Lucinda and their children appear in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County, in which Peter is described as a shoemaker. In 1880, they are again in Wilson, on Nash Street, Peter this time describing himself as a merchant. In 1900, Peter and Lucinda head a household comprised of two generations of offspring, and Peter is still working as a shoemaker.

Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line],

The last will and testament of Henry C. Rountree.

H Rountree Will p 1

H Rountree Will p 2

Last Will and Testament of Henry C. Rountree.

Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry C. Rountree, of Wilson in the County of Wilson and State of North Carolina, being of sound mind and memory does make and publish this my last will and testament revoking all former wills at any time before made.

And as to my worldly estate, and all property real, personal or mixed of which I shall die seized and possessed, or to which I shall be entitled at the time of my decease, I devise, bequeath and dispose of in the following manner:

First. My will is, that all of my just debts and funeral expense shall by my executor hereinafter named be paid as soon after my decease as shall by him be found convenient.

I give, devise and bequeath to my beloved wife, Emma Rountree, all my household furniture, my horse, wagon and harness and all personal property and all moneys with which I may died possessed with the exception of money sufficient to pay my just debts and one hundred and twenty five dollars to be hereinafter disposed to her and to hold the same to her and her assigned forever.

I also give to her the use, improvements and income of my dwelling house land, and its appurtenances situated on Stantonsburg road, the dwelling in which I now reside, to have and to hold the same to her forever during her natural life.

To my son, Ernest Rountree, I give and bequeath the sum of five dollars.

I give, devise and bequeath to S.H. Vick ten dollars.

I give, devise and bequeath to Calvary Presbyterian Church Ten dollars.

I give, devise and bequeath to my beloved wife in addition to the above amount the sum of one hundred dollars to be held in trust for her and to be paid only when necessity demands it.

In case my wife dies before the said one hundred dollars is needed, I give, devise and bequeath to my wife’s grand daughter, Emma Gay, the said one hundred dollars.

After the demise of my beloved wife my house and lot situate on Stantonsburg road is to be sold, and the proceeds divided as follows:

I give, devise and bequeath to my Brother DeWitt Rountree one third of the proceeds of the sale of the house and lot.

I give, devise and bequeath to my sister, Lucy Rountree, one sixth of the proceeds of the house and lot.

I give, devise and bequeath to my niece, Josephine Hoskins, one twelfth of the proceeds of the sale of the house and lot.

I give, devise and bequeath to my niece, Mena Carter one twelfth of the proceeds of the sale of the house and lot.

And, lastly, I do nominate and appoint Rev. H.B. Taylor to be the executor of this my last will and testament.

Henry C. {X} Rountree

Subscribed by the testator in the presence of each of us, and at the same time declared by him to be his last will and testament and thereupon we, at the request of the testator and in his presence sign our names as witnesses — this 15th day of September, 1916, at Wilson, N.C.

/s/ S.H. Vick, J.D. Reid   } Wilson, N.C.


  • Henry C. Rountree (1848-1916) was the son of Jesse Artis and Rebecca Rountree. (The Artises were a free family of color. Several Jesse Artises lived in southeast Wilson/northeast Wayne Counties in that era, but Henry’s father was like the Jesse H. Artis listed in the 1850 census of the Town of Wilson.) He owned a grocery on Stantonsburg Road. In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Henry and his brother Benjamin reported their occupation as butcher. Another brother, John Rountree, was a barber. Other siblings included Dempsy, Charles, Mary, Joseph, and Willie. (Lucy was Benjamin’s wife, and Worden and Charles were their sons.)


  • Emma Gay Rountree (1845-?) married Henry Rountree on 4 February 1892 at her home in Wilson. Witnesses to the ceremony, apparently a second for both, were Edmund Pool, Mark Blount and Samuel H. Vick. She was likely the widow of Charles Gay; the family appears in the 1870 census of Wilson township.
  • Ernest Rountree (1872-?)
  • Emma Gay was Emma Gay Rountree’s granddaughter.
  • DeWitt Rountree
  • Lucy Simms Rountree () was Henry’s sister-in-law, rather than sister. Her husband Benjamin Rountree was also a son of Jesse Artis and Rebecca Rountree. Lucy was the daughter of Reddick (or Redrick) Simms and Harriet Simms of Wilson County.
  • Josephine Rountree Hoskins (1878-?) was a daughter of Ben and Lucy Rountree.
  • Mena Rountree Carter (1890-1983) was a daughter of Ben and Lucy Rountree and wife of Clarence Carter.
  • Halley B. Taylor, a New Bern native, was pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church.
  • Samuel H. Vick (1863-1946), arguably early 20th century East Wilson’s most prominent resident, was an educator, a postmaster and a real estate developer.
  • Judge James D. “J.D.” Reid was a school principal and bank officer.