Robert M. and Zillah Horne Cox house.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):


“Dr. Robert Cox was born in 1825 and he married Zillah Horne, an heir to the Horne land where this house was built. In 1844 Cox purchased his wife’s share of the Horne land, amounting to 385 acres. This house was probably built in the 1840s. After the death of Zillah, Cox married her sister, Elizabeth Horne. According to the 1860 census he was identified as a farmer with real property worth $8,000. … The Cox House consists of a two-room dwelling with an engaged porch and rear shed. The sturdy porch posts are chamfered and a shed room with access from the outside was built under one side of the porch. There are two exterior end chimneys; one centrally located on the west elevation which served the parlor and one on the east elevation on the rear shed. On the interior the house is divided into two main rooms with a shed room running the width of the house at the rear.”


In the 1850 census of the North Side of the Neuse River, Wayne County, North Carolina [in an area which became part of Black Creek township, Wilson County, in 1855]: farmer Robert Cox, 25; wife Zillie, 23; and daughter Julia, 10 months. Per the 1850 slave schedule of the same district, Cox enslaved a 37 year-old woman, four girls ranging in age from 4 to 14, a 42 year-old man, and two boys, aged 7 and 14.

In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Robert M. Cox, 35; wife Elizabeth, 21; Barney B. Cox, 21, clerk; John H. Minshew, 28, clerk; and J.S. Holt, 28, merchant. Cox reported $8000 in real property and $36000 in personal property. His personal property, per the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, included five enslaved girls and women ranging from 9 to 30 years old and ten enslaved boys and men ranging from 9 months to 35 years old. Cox provided three dwellings to house them.

The 1870 census of Wilson County lists 20 African-Americans with the surname Cox living in four households in Black Creek, Stantonsburg and Cross Roads townships. Though Robert Cox was the sole Cox slaveholder listed in Wilson County in 1860, several of his Cox kin in neighboring Wayne County owned slaves.


Rufus Edmundson plantation.

The Rufus Edmundson House lies just two blocks off Stantonsburg’s main street, but at the very edge of town. Behind it stretch miles of fields and woodland.

“This antebellum house was built circa 1846 for Rufus Edmundson. … The house is similar to the William Barnes and Ward-Applewhite-Thompson Houses (both in Stantonsburg Township) and the Elias Barnes house (Saratoga township). It stands two stories high and the main block is capped with a shallow hipped roof. Unusual heavy dentils ornament the frieze and the three-bay facade was once sheltered by a double-gallery porch supported by square columns. Although the door leading to the second floor porch has been altered, the original trabeated entrance to the first floor is still intact. A single-story, hipped-roof porch with Doric columns replaced the earlier double-gallery porch in the early twentieth century. On the interior the house is divided by a wide central hall with two rooms to either side. Some original woodwork remains intact including a handsomely curved newel post.”  — Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981).


In the 1860 census of Saratoga township [which included Stantonsburg], Wilson County, Rufus Edmundson’s reported wealth comprised $15,000 in real property and $30,600 in personal property. The 1860 slave schedule parses Edmundson’s wealth — the $30,600  mostly took the form of 34 enslaved men, women and children, aged 1 through 38, who inhabited six dwellings on Edmundson’s farm and toiled for him.

The 1870 census was the first post-Emancipation enumeration. Next door to Rufus Edmundson were Margaret and Bailum Hall and their son John, 4 months. (Balaam Hall, son of James Woodard and Liza Hall, had married Margaret Edmundson, daughter of Proncey Edmundson, on 19 July 1870 in Wilson County.) Next to the Halls was a household comprised of members of several families, including Bertha Edmundson, 20, and Winnie, 12, and Gray Edmundson, 14, who were all listed as farmer’s apprentices. Though close proximity and shared surname, as well as indenture as apprenticed labor, do not guarantee that these young people had been enslaved by Rufus Edmundson, these facts are strong evidence.

William Barnes plantation.


“[T]he William Barnes house was built in a style which was popular in Wilson County between 1848 and 1860. Barnes was the brother of General Joshua Barnes, one of the most influential men in the area and a founder of Wilson County. Barnes was born in 1811. Like his brother, he was a planter, and by the time of his death he had accumulated over 1,000 acres. …The exterior of the Barnes house has remained basically unaltered except for the construction of a two-story portico with Doric columns which dates circa 1914. The William Barnes House is very similar stylistically to the house of his brother, General Joshua Barnes, which was built circa 1845. The exterior consists of a plain two-story box with a shallow hipped-roof and a three-bay facade. A wide trabeated entrance, surmounted by a smaller door on the second floor, is located in the central bay. The unusual six-panel door is similar to those found on the Daniel Whitley House (also in Stantonsburg Township). The interior plan is that of a wide center hall with two large rooms located on each side. Major alterations have been made on the interior. A large two-story packhorse and small gable-roof storage building, both contemporary with the house, exist on the grounds.” — Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981).

The six-paneled door.


In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County, 48 year-old farmer William Barnes’ listing notes that he owned real property valued at $35,000 and personal property at $89,000. The latter, of course, largely consisted of enslaved men and women, whose crucial role on his plantation went unmentioned in the description above. The 1860 slave schedule credits him as the owner outright of 79 men, women and children and in trust of an additional 26.

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Aerial shot of the Barnes House and outbuildings at the intersection of Fairfield Dairy Road and Highway 58.

Photograph of Barnes house taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2015; photo of door taken July 2017; aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.

James Scarborough house.

The Major James Scarborough House is a historic plantation house located near Saratoga, Wilson [formerly Edgecombe] County, North Carolina. It was built about 1821 and is a two-story, five bay, Federal style frame dwelling with a rear shed addition and exterior end chimneys. It has a one-story rear kitchen wing connected by a breezeway. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

The nomination form for the house notes that it is “probably the best preserved example of early nineteenth century architecture in Wilson County” and is “one of the most outstanding Federal houses extant” in the county.

As usual with Wilson County, the nomination form for the Scarborough house, though describing its builder as a “leading planter,” makes no mention of the men and women whose work sustained the place and produced its wealth.

Scarborough was born about 1748 in Southampton County, Virginia. His family migrated into the southern tip of Edgecombe by the late 1750s, and by 1778 Scarborough had secured the 365-acre parcel upon which he sited his home more than 30 years later. On 12 May 1835, James Scarborough, “being in a Low State of helth but in reasonable Since,” penned a will in which he left to wife Martha and daughter Zilly Scarborough, along with his home and other property, “A Parcel of Negros that is to say Nan Aggy Sen’r Silvey Lemon Washington Sumter and Young Aggy and Haywood these Eight negros with the in Creas I lend them Jointly to Geather to my wife & daughter Zilly but by no means to be Hired out but to Remane on the Plantation to labour for them during their natural lifes after there deaths I give the afore said negros by name and their in Creas to my grandaughters & grandsons named Millicent Eason Elizabeth Eason Martha Eason and James S. Eason daughters & son of Joshua B. Eason to be Equelly divided between the above named grandchildren….” To his son John Scarborough: “I also gave him three Likely negros when he went a way and now I give him four more after my death there names is as follows Luke Gilford Orange and Willis the above negros is not to be carryed away without a Lawful authority or Either by himself or his Heirs or Executors….” (Scarborough seems to have taken pains to insure that his “negros” remained together on his land.) Another son, Isaac Scarborough, inherited the Scarborough house after his unmarried sister Zilly’s death, but he died before occupying it. As of the date of the Historic Register, an unbroken line of James Scarborough’s descendants had inhabited the house.

North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Updated photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

Wright Edmundson plantation.

The Edmundson-Woodard House is a historic plantation home located near Stantonsburg, Wilson County, North Carolina. The house is a two-story, three-bay, single-pile, L-plan, Federal-style frame dwelling. It has a two-story wing added in the mid-19th century, side gable roof, exterior end chimneys, and hipped-roof porch with flared columns. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Wright Edmundson built the house about 1830 on 1400 acres of land between Toisnot Swamp and Contentnea Creek. He owned another 1600 acres north of Black Creek and was one of the wealthiest planters in the area. The Nomination Form for the property notes that Edmundson reported owning $98,600 in personal property in the 1860 census, but glosses over the form of the bulk of that wealth — slaves. The slave schedule that year is more plain — Edmundson owned 62 men and women housed in 12 cabins.

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Edmundson-Woodard House, 1980. Photo attached to nomination form.


Wright Edmundson’s land today.

David G.W. Ward plantation.

The Ward-Applewhite-Thompson House is a historic plantation home located near Stantonsburg, Wilson County’s oldest incorporated town. It was built about 1859 and is a boxy two-story, three-bay, double-pile, Greek Revival-style frame dwelling. It has a shallow hipped roof and wrap-around Colonial Revival style porch with Doric order columns added about 1900. Attached to the rear of the house is a gable roofed one-story kitchen connected by a breezeway.

“Country doctor” David G.W. Ward bought the property in 1857 and probably built the house two years later. (In the 1890s, his heirs sold it to heirs of W.H. Applewhite.) Situated on the confluence of Whiteoak and Goss Swamps, the old road to the coast (now Highway 58), and Contentnea Creek, the county’s only navigable waterway, “this well-watered, flat an fertile tract … was a prime site for the home of an important planter.” D.G.W. Ward, who was also a farmer and merchant and was active in local civic and social affairs, was such a man.

Though he could hardly have worked his vast acreage otherwise, as usual, the Nomination Form glosses over Ward’s slave ownership. In a discussion of his residency, a footnote mentions that Ward is listed with 46 slaves in the 1850 Greene County slave schedule. In the 1860 census of Greene, he is credited with owning 54. Among them were Sarah Ward and her children Henry, Mittie and Appie, who were his children, too. Ward owned extensive property in both counties and likely maintained quarters in both. Certainly, his slaves labored across county lines.


Ward-Applewhite-Thompson house, February 2014.

The Civil War set D.G.W. Ward back, but not for long. When he died in 1887, he stood possessed of more than 1900 acres in Wilson and Greene Counties.


Wilson Advance, 22 August 1889.

For a personal account of my history with this house, see here.

The Applewhite plantation.

Built about 1847, the W. H. Applewhite House is a historic plantation home near Stantonsburg, Wilson County, North Carolina. It is a two-story, three-bay, single pile, Greek Revival-style frame dwelling with a one-story, shed-roofed rear wing. The house features a double-gallery porch with sawn ornament and trim added about 1900. The plantation has been in the possession of the Applewhite family since 1841, when Henry Applewhite (1806-1850) purchased 425 acres on the west side of Toisnot Swamp. After Henry Applewhite’s death, his widow Orpha Pike Applewhite came into possession. Their son William H. Applewhite (1840-1903) was its next owner.  The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Though the Nomination Form describes Henry Applewhite as a “prominent planter,” it makes no mention of the Applewhites’ status as slaveowners. Census records, however, tell the story. The 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County reports that Orpha Applewhite owned eight slaves — five females aged 68, 40, 16, 14, and 5, and three males aged 21, 12 and 8. In the 1860 slave schedule of Saratoga township, Wilson County, Orpha Applewhite is listed with two slaves, her daughter Celia Applewhite with one, son Jonathan Applewhite with five, and son W.H. Applewhite with two.

This, from an unsourced post at “Among the surviving papers of Henry and Orpha Pike Applewhite of the Stantonsburg area of Wilson Co., NC are the names and ages [sic] of the following negroes: Sherod, born 16 July 1838; Patrick, born 1 May 1840; Mariah, born 27 September 1844; Penny, born August 1834; Mary, born spring 1832; Enos, born 1 January 1829.”

In the 1870 census, Stantonsburg, Wilson County: Patrick Applewhite, 25, wife Luvenia, 21, and son George, 6, with Loucinda Taylor, 18, and daughter Sarah, 1.

In the 1870 census, Stantonsburg, Wilson County: Enoch Applewhite, 40, Cherry, 24, Mary, 35 (described as “idiotic”), and Lucindah, 1. In the 1880 census, Stantonsburg, Wilson County: Enos Applewhite, 50, wife Cherry, 33, Lucinda, 12, Luvinia, 11, Henry, 7, Frank, 6, John, 4, and Virginia, 2 months.

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Photo of the Applewhite house in 1985 in nomination file.

Respected poet James Applewhite, born in Stantonsburg in 1935, is a great-grandson of William H. Applewhite. His poetry often explores the rural South of his childhood, much spent at the Applewhite farmhouse, and the fraught relationships between blacks and whites in the era.

In his poem “The Deed”:

“… certain human beings. Beedy, Lewis, Offy;

Wealthy, Feruba, Bright; Tabitha

Mereca, Jinna, and Litha – I write your names again

here, since the many burnings of the iron-fenced family

graveyard have erased whatever chalked letters

once named you on the blackened

boards of heart pine.”

Click to access WL0692.pdf



Joseph J. Pender plantation.

Joseph John Pender House is a historic plantation home located near Wilson, Wilson County. The house consists of an original, two-story, three-bay, Federal frame section, built about 1840, and a one-story frame kitchen/dining room ell. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Though the Nomination Form describes Pender as a “large landowner and successful planter,” it makes no mention of his status as a slaveowner. Census records, however, tell the story. The 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County lists J.J. Pender with 15 slaves (12 male and 3 female), ranging in age from one month to 60 years. By time the Wilson County enumerator arrived in 1860, he had increased his holdings by two-thirds to 25 — 15 men and ten women ranging in age from six months to 75 years and sheltered in four cabins.

Slave schedules do not list the names of enslaved people, but one of the 25 may have been Carolina Pender, born circa 1853. She appears as a widow in the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County, with several children, including Thad (1884) and Cadmus Pender (1885). These children were apparently named for Thaddeus W. Pender (1838-1892) and Cadmus C. Pender (1841-1862), Joseph J. Pender’s oldest children.

JJP house

Joseph J. Pender house, circa 1986. Image from National Register of Historic Places — Nomination Form, above.