Simms

Wiley Simms house, part 2.

We first saw the Wiley Simms house here. Built about 1840 for either his uncle James or Benjamin Simms, the house still stands, empty but in decent shape, on Old Stantonsburg Road.

Exterior modifications include the closure of the right front door and two narrow windows spaced close together in the center bay of the second floor.

The northern elevation, showing one of the large stepped chimneys, now broken.

A glimpse through the left front window into one of the front rooms, showing a large plaster medallion and cornices.

In the same room, the original woodwork of the fireplace surround is intact, if terribly painted. (To say that the house is “empty” is an oversimplification. Rather, it is uninhabited. Otherwise, it appears to be used for storage.)

Paneled wainscoting in the right front room.

Generations of enslaved African-Americans served inside this house and in the Simms family’s surrounding fields.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

The estate of Patrick H. Simms.

On 8 March 1860, Benjamin E. Simms of Wilson County wrote out a will in which, in part, he left his brother Patrick H. Simms “my Negro woman Harriet & child.” (The Simms brothers were sons of Theophilus T. Simms.)

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When the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County was enumerated, P.H. Simms claimed three enslaved people — a 35 year-old woman, an 8 year-old girl, and a one year-old boy.

Excerpt from 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek district, Wilson County, showing listings for Patrick H. Simms, his mother Abigail Holland Simms, and sister Mary Abigail Simms.

When Patrick Simms died in 1864, an inventory of his personal property named “three negroes named Harriet, Frank and Ellen.” With the rest of his property, they passed to his mother Abigail Simms. (Who was forced to free them the following year.)

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Benjamin Simms Will (1860), Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; P.H. Simms Estate Records (1864), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, http://www.familysearch.org.

The estate of Theophilus T. Simms.

On 13 January 1855, William Bardin, John G. Barnes, and William W. Barnes agreed to pay Amos Horn, guardian of the minor heirs of T.T. Simms, $225 for the hire of Reddick and Willie, enslaved men. Bardin and the Barneses also agreed to provide each man three suits of clothes (one woolen), two pairs of shoes, one pair of stockings [socks], a hat, and a blanket.

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At October Term 1863, the Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions heard the petition of Simms’ daughter Diana A. Simms for partition of her father’s slaves, identified as Gray, Willey, Dick, Austin, Watey, Jane, Lucy, Molly, Stella and Anna. Diana Sims and her minor siblings owned in common.

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I’ve only identified one of the enslaved people from T.T. Simms’ estate — Waity Simms Barnes.

In 1866, Waity Simms and Gaston Barnes registered their 6-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Casten Barnes, 28; wife Waity, 24; and children Austin, 6, Benjamin, 5, Etheldred, 4, and Aaron Simms, 1.

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Gaston Barnes, 42; wife Waity, 35; and children Benjamin, 16, Aaron, 10, Nellie, 7, Willie, 5, and infant boy, 17 days.

T.T. Simms Estate Files, Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Joe Simms and Susie win a blue ribbon.

Wanda Simms Page shared this heartwarming story of her father’s days as a proud young farmer.

Joe Louis Simms was born and raised up in Wilson County, North Carolina, four miles east of Black Creek. He and his brother attended the all-black, two-room Minchew Elementary School and did work in the 4-H Club alongside Raymond Hall, Daniel Green, and other neighborhood kids. Joe had long loved animals, and in 1949 he took on a project—raising and training a competition calf. His goals, simple and ambitious: to have the absolute best-looking and prettiest calf and to win the blue ribbon.

“Same as plenty of others in the area, Joe’s family already kept cows, and when one gave birth to a dark red female calf, he knew she was the one. As was their practice, he named her Susie, and she quickly showed herself to be gentle and a good breed. He made sure she always had her fill of green grass and dry hay. He washed her coat to a shine with fresh water from a bucket and trained her to walk beside him on a rope so that she wouldn’t be scared. She, of course, stayed with the cows, but his eyes never strayed far from her.

“When the day of the competition came, Joe and Susie set off walking beside the three-mile dirt road leading to Minchew. They had no other transportation. Joe carried a stick to protect Susie from the mean dogs they’d meet, though he didn’t think she’d be scared—their family had mean dogs too and she was used to them. They stopped along the road every now and then, as they’d practiced, but the walk still didn’t take so long.

“When they got to the school, Joe realized that it was, in fact, a pretty big day. The yard was full of people and calves. Folks, including Joe’s mom, had canned lots of food and made other preparations. A bunch of things were going on. As was the case with the school, everyone at and in the competition was black. All black. White people didn’t really deal with them—not like that—and Joe knew he wouldn’t even have had a fair shot at the blue ribbon if they did. Eventually, they found and fell in line with the rest of the boys and calves.

“After a while, Carter Foster, Wilson County’s second Negro Agricultural Extension Agent, began the judging. Joe knew Foster from his visits to teach them at the school and because he sometimes worked with Joe’s dad on their farm. In 1945, Foster and Jane Boyd, the Negro Home Demonstration Agent, had been mentioned in the Wilson Daily Times for their “wonderful work among the Negroes in the area” and for “working quietly with little publicity and no brass bands.” Their salaries were reported as less than half that of J.O. Anthony and Lois Rainwater, their white counterparts.

“Foster judged each calf, and at the end of that day Joe and Susie had the blue ribbon, making him one of the first ones at the school to win a prize like that with an animal. Joe felt very, very good. Susie, if she was aware that something had happened, maybe felt good too. When it was time to make a picture, Foster pulled them away from the rest of the group. Just before the camera clicked, Joe threw his arm around Susie’s neck and gave a big smile. Eventually, they headed back down the road they came in on, ribbon in hand.

“Joe’s family made a milk cow out of Susie after she got grown and kept her for some years. Joe went on to do other projects in 4-H, including making things out of wood, tobacco-grading contests (his team won third prize at the state fair), and raising up other animals like turkeys, which he bought twenty of as chicks for very cheap from a hatchery (one was included for free) and later sold around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Minchew Elementary School closed in 1951, and Joe started attending the consolidated Speight High School near Stantonsburg. Through it all, he never forgot Susie.”

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Joe Louis Simms and his prize-winning calf Susie, 1949.

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Reddick Simms, 24, son of Jack and Treacy Simms, married Bettie Barden, 20, on 6 September 1890 at Woodson Rountree‘s in Black Creek township. Frank Simms, Jesse Rountree and Lee Moore were witnesses.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Rederick Simms, 52; wife Elizabeth 40; and children Johnie, 16, Thestus L., 14, Ardena, 11, Amena, 8, Bettie E., 7, Joseph, 3, and Charlie, 1.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Reddick Simms, 62; wife Bettie P., 50; and children Johnnie, 24, Festus, 22, Ardena, 20, Almena, 17, Lizzie, 15, Joseph, 12, Charlie, 10, and Freddie, 7.

Reddick Simms died 6 March 1923 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1861 and was married to Bettie Simms.

On 15 March 1923, C.L. Darden applied for letters of administration for the estate of Reddick Simms. The value of the estate was estimated at $338, and heirs were widow Bettie Simms and children John, Festus, Ardena, Almina, Lizzie, Joseph, Charlie and Fred.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Brockington, 47; wife Mary, 47; children James, 27, Ethel, 18, Eulah Mae, 17, Irene, 14, Mamie, 13, Zollie, 10, Pearle, 8, and Bertha, 5; plus grandson John Ed Cooper, 2. All were described as born in South Carolina except Bertha (North Carolina) and John Ed (Michigan).

Joseph Simms, 21, of Cross Roads, son of Reddick and Bettie Simms, married Ethel Brockington, 20, of Black Creek, daughter of John and Mary Brockington, on 26 March 1932 in Wilson. Mary Brockington, Joe Gibson and J.T. Daniel were witnesses.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Joseph Simms, 29; wife Ethel, 26; children Rosa L., 6, Helen and Ellen, 5, Joseph Jr., 3, and Billie J., 1; and uncle Jesse, 70.

Joe Louis Simms married Rose Elizabeth Arrington on 15 November 1958 in Wilson.

Bettie Barden Simms died 7 October 1962 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 80 years old; had been a farmer; was widowed. Joseph Simms, 705 Carroll Street, was informant.

Thanks to Carol Lee Ware for bringing this story to my attention and to Wanda S. Page for allowing me to share and for citing Black Wide-Awake in the original as a source of reference for Carter W. Foster and Jane Amos Boyd.

The last will and testament of Robert Simms Sr.

Robert Simms Sr. of Wayne County made out his will on 18 December 1789. It entered probate in April Court 1891. Simms’ landholdings were in the area between Contentnea and Black Creeks, which is now in Wilson County.

  • to wife Mary Simms, a life interest “negro man Roger and his wife beck,” “one boy Jack,” and “one boy Pompey,” with remainder to son Benjamin Simms
  • to son Benjamin Simms, “Negro girl Chaney
  • to son Robert Simms, “a Negro boy named Boston
  • to daughter Susanna Simms, “a Negro gairl Named Rashel
  • to son Barnes Simms, “negro boy Charles
  • to son Abm. [Abraham] Simms, “one Negro man named Jim and one Negro boy named peter

Robert Simms Jr. submitted this undated inventory of his father’s property to court in July Term 1791:

A 26 August 1791 account of sales from Simms’ estate shows that his daughter purchased Roger for two pounds.

Will of Robert Simms (1789), Estate Records of Robert Simms (1791), Wayne County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Wiley Simms house.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 March 1975.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981): “Local tradition maintains that this house was built circa 1840 for James or Benjamin Simms, who were twins. The Simms brothers were born in 1787. Wiley Simms is said to have occupied the house after his marriage to Sarah E. Wilkins in 1862. Wiley Simms died in 1876 and the Simms family still owns the property. The house was built in the Greek Revival style and is similar to the Edwin Barnes House. The main section of the house is two stories high with a one-story shed extension at the rear and a one-story kitchen wing. Large, single-shoulder stepped chimneys are on the exterior ends. The attached porch is elegantly designed and is supported by tapered, reeded columns with a Greek key design below the capital. The two front windows and two front doors have typical reeded surrounds with square corner blocks. On the interior a hall-and-parlor plan is followed with a long narrow rear shed room giving access to an enclosed stair. The original woodwork has remained intact as have the unique floromorphic plaster medallions and cornices. Panelled wainscot is found in the two front rooms.”

For more on the 1922 tornado that struck the Evansdale community, see here.

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In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Willie Simms, 29, farmer. He reported $5178 real property. [“Willie” was the usual spelling of “Wiley” in 19th century eastern North Carolina.]

In the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County, Willie Simms is reported with 11 slaves, four women aged 23 to 60 and seven boys and men aged 1 to 45.

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Willie Simms, 38, farmer. Simms, a bachelor, reported $25,070 in real property and $39,140 in personal property.

In the 1860 slave schedule of Saratoga township, Wilson County, Willie Simms is reported with 30 slaves, 13 girls and women aged 3 to 50, and 17 men and boys, aged 1 to 52.

The 1870 census of Wilson County lists many African-Americans with the surname Simms in Wilson County, especially in the southeast section. These include Rose Simms, 37, with her children Milly, 10, Susan, 7, and Lucy Simms, 8 months (plus Mary Hall, 23), listed next-door to Willie Simms.

The first drowning at Contentnea Park.

I posted here about the accidental drowning of Samuel H. Vick Jr.‘s friend Eugene Fisher. The Daily Times noted that Fisher’s death was the second at Contentnea Park in a little over a week. Eddie Simms was first:

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1924.

  • Eddie Simms — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, tobacco factory worker Frances Simms, 34, and children Milton, 22, Eddie, 18, Raymond, 10, Maggie, 8, Ava, 5, Richard, 2, and Bay, 3 months. Eddie B. Simms died 17 July 1924. Per his death certificate,he was born 3 August 1904 in Wilson to Ed Mitchell and Frances Simms; was single; lived at 610 Manchester Street; worked as a shoeshiner; and “drowned while in the act of swimming accidentally.” Informant was Millie Simms.

Snaps, no. 50: Susan Locus Simms Ellis.

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Susan Locus Simms Ellis (1890-1980).

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In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Johnnie Lucus, 43; wife Delpha, 51; children Kinion, 26, Nannie, 24, Edwin, 15, Sidney, 12, and Susan, 9; and grandsons Bunion, 5, and Martin L., 3.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Howards Path, John Locust, 66; wife Delphia, 64; children Kinyan, 36, and Susie, 19; and grandchildren Bunyan, 15, Luther M., 13, and Roxie, 7 months.

On 15 May 1913, Loyd Simms, 21, of Taylors township, son of Lou Simms, married Susan Locus, 22, of Taylors, daughter of John and Delphia Locus, at the Register of Deeds office in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: on Stanhope & Wilson Road, farmer Lloyd Sims, 28, and wife Susie, 27.

On 1 December 1924, Roxie Ann Lucas, 18, daughter of Susie Sims Lucas, married Asberry Blackwell, 28, son of Howard and Classy Blackwell, in Nashville, Nash County.

In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: Turner Deans, 45, wife Nannie, 52; sister-in-law Susie Simms; and nieces Gatsey Dean, 20, and Alphia Dean, 1.

Roxie Ann Blackwell died 3 September 1959 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 September 1910 in Wilson County to Frank Mitchell and Susie Lucas; was married to Ashbury Blackwell; had engaged in farming; and was buried in the Lucas cemetery in Wilson County.

Susie Locus Ellis died 20 August 1980 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 July 1890 in Wilson County to John and Delphia Lucas; was a widow; had engaged in farming; and was buried in the Lucas cemetery in Wilson County. Grandson Kenneth Blackwell was informant.

Photograph courtesy of samjoyatk.

 

Snaps, no. 33: Hannah Malinda Smith Simms, Jeanette Simms Bonner and Claude D. Bonner Jr.

 

This photo depicts Hannah Malinda Smith Simms, her daughter Jeanette Simms Bonner, and grandson Claude L. Bonner Jr., circa early 1940s. A family portrait of Hannah and John Simms and their children is found here.

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On 7 February 1894, John L. Smith [alias Simms] married Lyndy Smith in Wayne County.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Simms, 33, wife Malinda, 23, and son Ashley, 1.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Simms, 43, wife Melinda, 37, and children Ashley, 10, Marcellus, 8, Frank, 7, Gertrude, 6, Jennette, 4, and Rosettie, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: John Simms, 63, wife Milindy, 54, and children Jenette, 23, Rosetta, 20, Johnnie, 18, Paul, 16, Julia, 13, and Mary, 12.

Claude Bonner, 30, son of Richard and Maggie Bonner, married Jeanette Simms, 23, daughter of John and Melinda Simms, on 3 August 1931 in Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: John Simms, 78, wife Melanie, 65, and children and grandchildren John Simms, 29, Paul Simms, 26, Mary L. Simms, 21, Cleo Bonner, 8, and Jesse, 6, Willie, 5, and Else Simms, 5.

John Simms died 15 December 1942 in Wilson township, Wilson County. His death certificate indicates that he was born 9 October 1867 in Wilson County to Curtis Simms and Caroline (last name unknown), that he was married to Malinda Simms; and that he was buried in Rountree cemetery near Wilson. Marcellus Simms was the informant.

Claude Leonard Bonner Jr., 22, son of Claude L. Bonner and Jennatta Simms Bonner, married Jean Williams, 19, daughter of Jim and Josephine Batts Williams, on 12 October 1957 in Wilson.

Hannah Malinda Simms died 28 March 1961 in Wilson, North Carolina. Her death certificate indicates that she was born 15 August 1880 in Wayne County to Minerva Smith and an unknown father. She was buried in Rest Haven cemetery. Jeanette Bonner was informant.

Jeanette S. Bonner died 1 December 1999 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 21 January 1907 in Wilson County.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user brianandrewbonner.

515 East Walnut Street.

This large bungalow, heavily modified from its original form, is not located within the East Wilson Historic District. Seated on the north side of East Walnut Street, it is now surrounded by Whitfield Homes, a 1960s-era urban renewal project that obliterated several blocks immediately west of the Seaboard railroad and south of downtown. (Specifically, it is south of the former tobacco warehouse district, from which it is cut off by Hines Street Connector/Carl Renfro Bridge, a 1970s overpass project that wiped out additional streets to bypass Nash Street and link east and west Wilson.) The house is owned by the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith and is part of a compound that includes the church and the delectable Whole Truth Lunchroom.

East Walnut Street (circled), as shown in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map.

The area today, per Bing.com.

West Walnut Street was pulled relatively late into the confines of Wilson’s max segregated residential pattern, and the point at which the street “turned” is easily detected.

The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists carpenter Cullen Uzzell at 515 East Walnut. He was white. A comparison of the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map and the directory reveals that the 500 blocks of Walnut and its adjacent street, Spruce, were white, with little exception.

The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists John and Mary Winstead at 515 East Walnut. They were white as well.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 515 East Walnut, rented for $9/month, house painter Elisha F. Lane, 43, wife Lena, 43, and daughter Nellie, 13. The 1930 city directory also lists E. Franklin Lane at 515 East Walnut. The street-by-street listing at the back of the directory reveals that East Walnut was solidly “colored” from Goldsboro Street east across Spring [Douglas] and Lodge Streets to #505. The next house, 509 (across a vacant lot, as a Sanborn map shows), is occupied by a white family, and white families fill the street’s remaining blocks to a dead end at Factory Street. [Lane died in Wilson in 1948. Per his death certificate, he had lived at his Nash Street address for 15 years, which means he left Walnut Street in or before 1933.]

During the latter half of the Great Depression, the 500 blocks of East Walnut and East Spruce shifted to an all-African-American neighborhood of renters.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists: Sims Cary (c; Delia; 2) h 515 E Walnut. As the directory reveals, white residents remained only in the last three houses on the street, hard by the railroad.

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1941 city directory.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map showing cluster of African-American-occupied houses east of Lodge Street in an otherwise white area. 515 East Walnut is shown at the bottom edge of the map.

Photograph taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2018.