Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church

The final resting place of Rev. John Perry and family.

I’ve written here of Rev. John W. Perry, the Episcopal rector who served both Tarboro’s Saint Luke and Wilson’s Saint Mark’s for more than a decade beginning in 1889. 

I was headed out of Tarboro back toward Wilson yesterday when a sign at the edge of a somewhat shabby cemetery caught my eye — it was Saint Luke’s graveyard. The cemetery was established in the 1890s and likely contains many more graves than its headstones would indicate. Rev. Perry, his wife Mary Pettipher Perry, and several of their children are among the burials. 

The Perry family plot lies in the shadow of this impressive light gray granite marker. 

Rev. John W. Perry 1850-1918 He served St. Luke’s Parish for 37 years with honor to his Maker and himself.

Mary Eliza Pettipher Wife of Rev. J.W. Perry 1854-1929 Our lives were enriched because she lived among us.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, March 2023.

Rev. John H.M. Pollard, rector of Saint Mark’s.

Rev. John H.M. Pollard.

Rev. John H.M. Pollard led the congregation at Saint Mark’s Episcopal for two years. Writes Patrick Valentine in The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches of Wilson, North Carolina, 1856-1995:

John Henry Mingo Pollard succeeded William Perry as minister in charge in 1900. Pollard, consecrated a priest in 1886 and noted for his work in Charleston, S.C., served as North Carolina’s Archdeacon of the Convocation Work Among Colored People (1900-1908). He took a sharp cut in pay to come to North Carolina but the field ‘is larger and the Church atmosphere more congenial.’ Pollard appears to have been a sincere, thoughtful, positive man of great energy. ‘Most people say that the Church is not making any progress …. The Church as she is, is good enough for me.’ ‘The fact [is] that this small work has a very large influence for the good in the diocese.’ In addition to at St. Mark’s, Pollard had charge of six other missions.

“Under Pollard’s direction the number of communicants increased to twenty-six. When he came to Wilson he cited the need for a missionary home and school house, estimated at $500, as one of three top priorities for colored missionary work in the diocese. Pollard was in charge for two years, then was succeeded by Basil B. Tyler who stayed two years. [… After Tyler left,] John Pollard returned briefly and was then succeeded in September 1905 by yet a third Reverend Perry, Robert Nathaniel Perry.”

Photo courtesy of “A Visual History of the Diocese,”

Saint Mark’s Parochial School opening.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 September 1925.

In 1925, Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, and its school, were on Lodge Street at the corner of South Street. The school offered kindergarten through elementary instruction. (This likely meant through fourth grade, as the Colored High School covered grades five and up.) The night school classes were aimed at adults or working children who had left regular school.

Per Patrick M. Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County (1996), “John Herbert Jones became minister in charge [of Saint Mark’s] on Sunday, October 12, 1924. Born in Sanford, Florida, and educated with private tutors in theology, he had married Bessie Bell in 1915. Together they had five sons and two daughters — all with biblical names. In 1921, Bishop E. Thomas Demby of Arkansas ordained Jones a deacon. When he was preparing for the priesthood under Bishop Cheshire, his committee ‘found him quite well prepared in all subjects, and unusually proficient in the Bible.’

“One reason for the long delay in bringing in a new clergyman was that St. Mark’s lacked a rectory. Jones found all the records carefully kept in correct order and no indebtedness, ‘to the praise of our faithful Lay Reader & clerk [John H. Clark],’ but that membership was ‘greatly scattered some having become members of sectarian bodies, and otherwise.’ Starting from a ‘few standing true to the faith,’ Jones canvassed former members to return to St. Mark’s. ‘Although some refused to come back[,] a goodly number returned.’

“Reverend Jones reorganized a number of activities and services in Rocky Mount and Wilson. St. Mark’s Sunday School was put under the care of long term member Walter A. Mitchell. ‘A marked improvement has been registered in our church school life[,] the same showing continued growth.’ With the permission of the suffragan bishop [Henry B. Delany], he and Robert A. Jackson of St. Augustine’s Church in Camden, Maryland, held a public mission in March 1925. ‘This was a success of no small propor[t]ions to say the least.’ Jones was also active in the Convocation. In 1928 he left for St. Stephen’s Mission, Winston-Salem.”


  • Rev. J.H. Jones — John H. Jones.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jones Jno H Rev (c) pastor St Mark’s Episcopal Church h 201 N Vick. [As noted, Saint Mark’s had no rectory. The house at 201 North Vick Street was rented from Lydia Grissom Coley, who does not appear to have been an Episcopalian.]

Rev. Jones and family appear in Winston-Salem, N.C., in the 1930 federal census. All their children indeed bore biblical monikers, but the most remarkable thing is that they were Mary E., John H. Jr., John L., Mary L., John D., John R., and John B. Jones. John R. Jones was the only child born during the family’s brief stay in Wilson.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Studio shots, no. 174: Rev. Robert N. Perry.

As pointed out by a descendant, an early 1900’s photograph of early leaders of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church misidentified its rector, the Rev. Robert N. Perry. Charlotte, N.C., native Perry, who served in Wilson from 1905 to 1919, is depicted in the portrait above. He was married to Mary Ada Jackson Perry, and their children William M., Robert Nathaniel II, Alice L., John L., and Frank Hargrave Perry were born in Wilson.

Patrick M. Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches in Wilson, North Carolina 1856-1995, provides a detailed account of Rev. Perry’s tenure, including this opening summary: “… Perry ‘found things some what neglected and the congregation scattered but hopeful. The work began to take on new life and enthusiasm was created for anything [that] might be suggested.’ During his fourteen years in Wilson, Perry married thirty-four parishioners, baptized forty-three, presented thirty-three for confirmation, and buried eight. Membership rose rapidly from eighteen in 1906 to twenty-five in 1907, thirty-three in 1909, forty-seven in 1917, and sixty-seven the very next year. The congregation remained at that level during the rest of his tenure.”


In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, Robert Perry, 28, public school teacher; wife Mary A., 26; and son William, 5 months. [“Public school”? Was Rev. Perry actually a teacher at Saint Mark’s private elementary school?]

Robert Nathaniel Perry registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 6 December 1881; lived at 315 South Street, Wilson; was minister of the Colored Episcopal Church; and his nearest relative was wife Mary Ada Perry.

During Rev. Perry’s tenure, Saint Mark’s church and school were located at the corner of South and Lodge Streets. 315 South Street was the school’s address, as well, and suggests that its building did double-duty as a parsonage.

Photo courtesy of user ivan_gilkes.

Saint Mark’s organist honored at concert.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 February 1971.

“Mrs. Wilton Maxwell (Flora Clark) Bethel, church organist of St. Mark’s [Episcopal] Mission since 1930, will be honored Sunday for her faithful years of service during the 5 p.m. concert featuring the St. Augustine’s College choir.

“Mrs. Bethel served as a student organist for the Raleigh school during the worship services at the college chapel.

“From 1932 to 1964, Mrs. Bethel was employed in the Wilson city schools system where she furthered the use of her musical talents. For many years, she was the musical assistant for the Darden School Choir.

“In addition she has taught private classes in piano and organizing for a number of students in the Wilson community, while at the same time serving as organist for the St. Mark’s Mission. Mrs. Bethel’s contribution to music at St. Mark’s Mission will be recognized during the concert by the St. Augustine’s choir, which is said to be a tribute to all the makers of music to the greater glory of God.”

Saint Mark’s confirmation class (and new interior.)

This brief article about a confirmation class at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church offers lovely details of the provenance of the church’s furnishings.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 November 1948.

  • Dr. and Mrs. Robert J. Johnson — Father Johnson served as rector at Saint Mark’s from 1943 to 1957 and supply priest from 1957 to 1964. His wife was Anna Burgess Johnson.
  • Rev. Robert N. Perry — Father Perry was rector from 1905 to 1919.

Marriages at Saint Mark’s, no. 2.

Patrick M. Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches in Wilson, North Carolina 1856-1995 (1996), features several invaluable appendices that illuminate Wilson’s tiny African-American Episcopalian community. Valentine credits Cindy and Jeff Day with compiling them, and this post is the second in a series annotating the marriage list.

“Appendix J: Marriages, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church” shows these marriages between 1906 and 1910:

  • James Taylor to Mamie Spicer, 26 April 1906

On 25 April 1906, James Taylor, 22, married Mamie Spicer, 22, at the bride’s residence in Wilson. Rev. Robert N. Perry performed the ceremony in the presence of D.J. Barnes, Elmer Stokes, and John H. Clark.

  • D.S. Farmer to Janie Lewis, 7 October 1908

License applied for for D.S. Farmer, 46, and Janie Lewis, 35, but not returned to the Wilson County Register of Deeds’ office.

  • John S. Askew to Thedotia Boykin, 2 September 1908

License applied for for John S. Askew, 26, of New Jersey, and Dothia Boykin, 24, of Wilson, but not returned to the Wilson County Register of Deeds’ office.

  • Dorsey Powell to Georgia Ella Hinell, no date.

License applied for for Dorsey Powell, 27, and George Ella Hines, 25, on 28 October 1909, but not returned to the Wilson County Register of Deeds’ office.

  • Ezekiel McKoy to Jane Ford, 15 November 1909.

License applied for for Ezekiel McKoy, 34, and Jane Farmer, 37, but not returned to the Wilson County Register of Deeds’ office.

  • William Dawson to Bessie Body, November 1910.

License not found.

Confirmations at Saint Mark’s, no. 1.

Patrick M. Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches in Wilson, North Carolina 1856-1995 (1996), features several invaluable appendices that illuminate Wilson’s tiny African-American Episcopalian community. Valentine credits Cindy and Jeff Day with compiling them, and this post is the first in a series annotating the confirmations list.

“Appendix H: Confirmations & Receptions, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church” shows these confirmations by Right Reverend T.B. Lyman:

On 20 March 1890:

In May 1891: