The local registrar attributed the cause of Esther Atkinson Pridgen‘s miscarriage to recent long-distance travel. Though midwife Nan Best delivered the child in Wilson, it appears that Chauncey Pridgen was living in Atlantic City already, where he is found in the 1940 census.
“Supposed trip from Atlantic City N.J. the day before caused mother to miscarry.”
My mother’s first job after she married and moved to Wilson was as a teacher at North Greene Elementary, a small segregated school fifteen miles southeast in tiny Walstonburg. She carpooled to and from Wilson with several other teachers who worked in Greene County, and in the spring of 1964 was pregnant with me, her firstborn. My mother generally rode in the backseat and, on this particular day, Dora Dickerson was back there with her. As they passed a farm, my mother, a city girl, exclaimed, “Ohhh! Look over there at those pigs!” Ms. Dickerson slapped her hand across my mother’s eyes. “Girl! Don’t look at that! You can’t look at pigs when you’re expecting!”
I have been hearing this story since I was a little girl, and my mother and I never fail to get a good laugh from it. The danger she faced, however, was real to many, as shown on this 1921 death certificate. Though baby John Moore was stillborn in Nahunta township, Wayne County, his parents James and Mamie Moore were from neighboring Wilson County. Midwife Cassie Exum Sherrod, who spent her life in Wayne and Wilson Counties in the Watery Branch area, attended the delivery. Though not a doctor, Sherrod completed the newborn’s Medical Certificate of Death. In her opinion, Mamie Moore’s own carelessness had caused her baby’s death: “She look at a hog an had not of look at him he might of been living to day.”
“She look at a hog an had not of look at him he might of been living to day.”
North Carolina did not mandate death certificates statewide until 1914, but some towns and cities implemented the requirement earlier.
Wilson’s first death certificates date from late 1909. As the record below shows, in the early days there was sometimes confusion about who was to fill in what blanks. It appears here that the family took a shot at writing in personal information about the decedent, a duty that should have fallen to the undertaker. The result, however, is a fascinating collection of details that would otherwise have gone unrecorded.
The basic facts: George and Bettie Ferguson‘s infant son was still born (or died the day after he was born). The family lived at 505 Spring Street, Wilson.
The facts as entered:
The baby’s name — was it Stephen?
His sex? “Nov. 24” — apparently his birthdate, though this date should match his death date, which was recorded by Dr. W.A. Mitchner.
His color? “Color.”
His age? “No” years, which was true, as the boy was stillborn.
Father’s birthplace? “22 bone 1887 Nov 7.” This was George Ferguson’s age and birthdate.
Mother’s birthplace? “Mother bone 1888 August 10.”
Occupation? “Stem tobacco.” This, of course, was the occupation of one or both of the baby’s parents.
Informant? Charles Darden, though Darden did not serve as undertaker. Quinn-McGowan Firniture Company did.
George Ferguson, 20, son of Sam and Mary Ferguson, married Bettie Barnes, 18, daughter of Aaron and Margaret Barnes, in Wilson on 12 July 1909. W.H. Neal of Saint James Holy Church performed the ceremony in the presence of J.A. McKnight, Annie Pitt and Edmonia Perrington.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: George Ferguson, 21, factory worker, and wife Bettie, 18.
Bettie Ferguson died 24 July 1918 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 August 1890 in Wilson to Aaron Barnes and Margarett Blount; was married to George Ferguson; lived at 117 Wiggins; and worked as a stemmer at “Emperial Tobacco Co.” She was buried in Wilson by C.H. Darden & Sons.
George Barnes Ferguson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 8 October 1914 in Wilson County; lived at 1120 East Nash Street, Wilson; his contact was wife Wilhelmina Ferguson; and he worked for R.B. Carroll Grocery.
Georgia L. Barnes died 3 June 1945 in Goldsboro, Wayne County. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1913 in Wilson to George Furgerson of Edgecombe County and Betty Barnes of Wilson County and was married.
Though the state of North Carolina did not require death certificates until 1913, some municipalities began to record them earlier. Below, the returns of a death for two young children born in Raleigh to parents from Wilson County.
Louisa Sims died on 1 March 1900 after a six or seven-day illness. The three year-old had been born in her parents’ home on West Connor Street, Raleigh. Her father was from Wilson County; her mother from “near Goldsboro.”
Thomas and Mary Thorpe’s infant son was stillborn at 832 South Wilmington Street. His father was from granville County; his mother, from Wilson.
Death Certificates 1900-1909, Wake County, North Carolina County Records 1833-1970, familysearch.org.