studio photograph

An afternoon with Mr. Lathan.

Samuel Caswell Lathan sat in the front row during my presentation at Wilson County Public Library last week, making me a little nervous. This extraordinary musician, who once played drums for James Brown, was especially interested in the topic — he grew up on the 500 block of East Nash Street in the 1930s and ’40s. I visited with Mr. Lathan the next afternoon, soaking up his memories of the people and businesses of the block, whom he credits for setting him on his path as a drummer. He urged me to continue my documentation of East Wilson and expressed appreciation for and satisfaction with my work thus far.

Mr. Lathan also shared with me some extraordinary photographs of pre-World War II East Nash Street. Here he is as a toddler, circa 1931.

This stunning image depicts Neal’s Barbershop, with three of its barbers, circa 1935. Mr. Lathan is the boy leaning against the window, and Walter Sanders is seated in the chair awaiting a cut. “Billy Jr.” stands to his left in the photo, and an unidentified boy to the right.

African-American photographer John H. Baker took this family portrait of an adolescent Sam Lathan with his mother Christine Barnes Collins, grandmother Jeanette Barnes Plummer, and aunt Irene Plummer Dew in the late 1930s.

And this Baker portrait depicts Mr. Lathan’s beloved late wife, Mary Magdelene Knight Lathan.

Sam Lathan has graciously agreed to meet with me again to further explore his recollection of Black Wilson. I thank him for his interest, his time, and his generosity.

Photos courtesy of Samuel C. Lathan, please do not reproduce without permission.

Studio shots, no. 95: Rosa Lee Ross.

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Rosa Lee Edwards McNeil Ross (1913-1989).

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 225 Stantonsburg Street, Billy Edwards, 35, lumber company laborer; wife Clara, 29, tobacco factory worker; and children Rosalie, 7, Booker T., 4, and Shelley, 2.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 804 Lincoln, owned and valued at $1700, fertilizer plant laborer Bill Edwards, 35; wife Clara, 31; and children Rosa L., 14, Booker T., 12, and Shelley G., 9. (Clara reported that she was born in Indiana to North Carolina-born parents.)

On 6 December 1931, Curtis McNeil, 21, of Wilson, son of Hector and Carrie McNeil, married Rosa Lee Edwards, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Billie and Clara Edwards. Methodist minister R.J. Young performed the ceremony in the presence of Nellie H. Carr, Emma King and Lawrence J. Baylor.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco factory laborer William Edwards, 52; wife Clara, 48, laundress; daughter Rose McNeal, 26, divorced, tobacco factory laborer; nieces Ester, 19, laundress, and Rachel Cromartie, 13; and mother-in-law Della Cromartie, 84.

John Henry Ross died 28 April 1973 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 August 1907 to Will Ross and Ida Barnes; resided at 904 Lincoln Street, Wilson; was married to Rosa Lee Edwards; and had worked as a mechanic for Paul Berry Chevrolet. Rosa Lee Ross was informant.

Rosa Lee Ross died 20 November 1989 in Wilson.

Photo courtesy of user kmiles65.

Studio shots, no. 94: Haywood and Mollie Vines Baker.


Haywood W. Baker and Mollie Vines Baker, perhaps taken near Stantonsburg in the 1910s.

Though this is not, strictly speaking, a studio portrait, the formal posing and prop seating of this image strongly suggest that a professional photographer was behind the camera.


On 5 November 1898, Haywood Baker, 20, son of Richard and Almira Baker, married Ora Harper, 19, daughter of Thomas and Leah Harper, in Greene County.

In the 1900 census of Carrs township, Greene County: farmer Haywood Baker, 22; wife Orra, 20; daughter Lula, 6 months; and widowed mother-in-law Laurer Harper, 54.

In the 1910 census of Farmville township, Pitt County: self-employed barber Haywood W. Baker, 30; wife Ora, 29; daughter Lular, 10; and adopted son Stiner, 9.

On 13 November 1912, Haywood Baker, 33, of Nash County, married Mollie Vines, 26, of Nash County, in Nash County.

In 1918, Haywood William Baker registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he resided in Stantonsburg; was 24 February 1870; worked as a barber; and his nearest relative was Mollie Baker.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, Haden [Haywood] W. Baker, 40, barber; wife Mollie, 33; and children Hilda R., 6, Jasper, 4, Harold, 2, Mary C., 2 months; and Haywood, 12; plus Exum Joyner, 25, barber, and wife Bertha, 24.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Haywood W. Baker, 52; wife Mollie, 43; and children Charles, 17, Hildarene, 16, Jasper, 14, Harold, 13, Mary P., 11, Richard T., 7, and Carlton Baker, 5.

In the 1940 census of Farmville township, Pitt County: farmer Haywood W. Baker, 62, and children Jasper, 22, Tensley James, 26, Richard Thomas, 16, and Carlton Baker, 14, and Mary Joyner, 20. All reported living in Greene County in 1935 except Tensley, who had lived in Goldsboro, Wayne County.

In 1942, Richard Thomas Baker registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 24 August 1923 in Stantonsburg; resided at 719 East Green Street, Wilson; his contact was Haywood Baker of the same address; and he worked at G.H.T.M. in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Haywood Baker died 17 August 1946 at Duke Hospital in Durham. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 February 1883 in Greene County; was married to Blanch Baker; resided at 719 East Green Street, Wilson; was a barber; and was buried in Marlboro cemetery, Farmville, Pitt County.

On 18 September 1946, the Wilson Daily Times ran the first of a series of executor’s notices posted by John H. Baker, 524 East Nash Street, concerning the estate of Haywood William Baker.

Last will and testament of Haywood W. Baker.

The item Baker specially bequeathed his son John is now a prized collector’s item. The Illinois Watch Company manufactured Santa Fe Special pocket watches from 1913 to 1935.

Photo of Baker courtesy of user cbaker2928; North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Studio shots, no. 91: William H. Richardson.

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William Henry Richardson (1911-1983)


In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer George Richardson, 44; wife Lottie, 37; and children Annie George, 15, Mary J., 11, and William H., 9.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Barnes, 73; daughter Charity, 27; sons Needam, 25, and David, 23; grandson Rosco, 15; daughter-in-law Hannah Bullock, 15; and roomer William Richardson, 25.

On 8 October 1932, William Henry Richardson, 21, son of George Richardson and Laura Bullock, married Queen Esther Evans, 21, daughter of Levy Evans and Lucy Coleman, in Greensville County, Virginia.

In 1940, William Henry Richardson registered for the World War II draft in Rocky Mount, Nash County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 28 November 1911 in Wilson County; resided at 2206 South Church Street, Rocky Mount; his contact was wife Queen Ester Richardson; and worked for the W.P.A. in Rocky Mount.

Photograph courtesy of rogerbarron52.

Studio shots, no. 84: Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs.

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On 27 November 1895, Jesse Jacobs married Sarah Henderson in Wayne County, North Carolina. [The photo probably commemorated their wedding.]

In the 1900 census of Dudley, Brogden township, Wayne County: farmer Jessey Jacobs, 42; wife Sarah D., 28; and children Aner S., 17, Redis J., 15, Carie, 13, Docter, 8, Hatie, 6, and Anie B., 3.

In the 1908 and 1912 Wilson city directories, Jesse Jacobs is listed as a laborer living at 106 Elba Street.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Jesse Jacob,  53, deliveryman for stable; wife Sarah, 35; daughter Annie Belle, 15; and boarders Jesse Henderson, 17, Herbert Jones, 23, both stable laborers, and Nina Fasin, 32, a housemaid.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 606 Elmo [Elba] Street: school janitor Jessie Jacobs, 60, wife Sara, 52, and daughters [great-nieces] Mamie, 12, and Hattie May, 10.

Jessie Adam Jacobs died 6 July 1926 at the “colored hospital” in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 December 1862 in Sampson County, North Carolina, to Jesse A. and Abbie Jacobs; was married to Sarah Jacobs; resided at 303 Elba Street; and worked as a janitor in city schools.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 303 Elba, laundress Sarah Jacobs, 49, and daughter [great-niece] Hattie Jacobs, 19, a servant for a private family.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs died 8 January 1938 in Selma, Johnston County, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was 55 years old, married to Joseph Silver, and was born in Wayne County to Lewis Henderson and Margaret Carter, both of Wayne County. Informant was Hattie Jacobs of 303 Elba Street, Wilson.

Original photograph in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Studio shots, no. 83: Willie Mae Hendley Freeman.

Willie Mae Hendley Freeman (1888-1971).

In the 1900 census of Civil District #11, Davidson County, Tennessee: carriage driver William Hendley, 37; wife Connie, 32; and children Willie May, 12, Virgil, 9, Malone, 7, Hattie, 6, George, 4, Connie, 3, and Iola Leroy, 1.

In the 1910 census of Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee: coachman William Hendley, 54; wife Connie, 44, washerwoman; and children Willie, 20, teacher at industrial school, Virgil, 18, coachman, Malone, 17, houseboy, Hattie, 15, George, 14, Connie, 12, Leroy, 11, John, 9, Mildred, 6, and Julian, 4.

On 18 November 1910, Willie M. Hendley and Oliver M. Freeman were married in Montgomery, Alabama.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, Oliver N. Freeman, 38; wife Willie May, 31; and children Naomi, 8, Oliver N. Jr., 7, Mary F., 5, and Connie, 4.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1300 East Nash Street, valued at $6000, Oliver N. Freeman, 48, building contractor; wife Willie May, 41, born in Tennessee; and children Naomi, 18, Oliver N. Jr., 17, Mary F., 16, and Connie H., 14.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nestus Freeman, 58; wife Willie, 51; and daughters Connie, 25, and Mary Frances, 24.

Willie Mae Freeman died 9 October 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 June 1888 in Tennessee to William Hendley and Connie Stevens; was a widow; was a retired teacher; and resided at 1300 East Nash Street.



Studio shots, no. 82: Edgar and James Broady Artis.

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Edgar Joel “Buddy” Artis (1914-1988) and James Broady Artis (1912-1963), sons of June S. and Ethel Becton Artis, circa 1919.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg & Wilson Road, farm manager June S. Artis, 30, wife Ethel, 26, and children James, 7, Edgar, 5, Manda Bell, 3, and farm laborer Edgar Exum.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer June S. Artis, 40, wife Ethel P., 34, and children James B., 17, Edgar J., 15, Amanda B., 14, and Gladys L. Artis, 5.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer June S. Artis, 50; wife Ethel, 46; and children James Brodie, 25, Edgar, 23, and Gladys, 16.

Many thanks to Edgar J. Artis’ grandson Adam S. Artis for sharing this photo.

Studio shots, no. 81: Pattie Hagans Freeman.

Pattie Hagans Freeman (1900-1977).


In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Larnce Haggan, 49, wife Etha, 44, and children Joe, 21, Augustus, 19, Oscar, 18, Charlie, 16, Annie, 13, Connie, 10, Lena, 8, Mollie, 7, William L., 4, Minnie, 3, and Pattie, 1, and Lawrence’s widowed mother Alice Hagans, 70.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Laurence Hagans, 60, wife Mary, 56, and children Laurence Jr., 16, Minnie, 4, and Pattie, 12.

Julius F. Freeman, 31, of Camp Pike, Pulaski County, Arkansas, married Pattie Hagan, 21, of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, on 1 October 1918.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Julias Freeman, 33, brickmason for construction company; wife Pattie, 21; and son Julias Jr., 3 months.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1113 Washington Street, owned and valued at $3000, brickmason Julious F. Freman, 42; wife Hattie, 31; and children Julious, 10, Doloris, 9, Robert P. and Richard P., 8, John C., 6, Charles E., 4, Patricia E., 3, Mary E., 1, and Rubey, 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1114 Washington Street, owned and valued at $3000, brick mason Julius Freeman, 52; wife Pattie, 40; and children Julius L., 20, Doris, 19, Robert and Richard, 18, John, 16, Charles, 14, Eunice, 12, Mary, 11, Ruby, 10, Tom, 9, Dan, 8, Lillian, 6, and Henry, 2.

Pattie H. Freeman, age 77, died 12 August 1977 in Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 August 1977.

Photograph courtesy of Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, the 100th anniversary commemorative booklet of Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Studio shots, no. 77: Benjamin and Phereby Barnes Artis.

Benjamin and Phereby Artis, Winstead Studio, Wilson, circa 1895.

This photograph was published in a 1987 Daily Times article about the history of photographers in Wilson. The caption identified the subjects as Benjamin Artis Jr. and wife Phariby Woodard Artis. However, this identification is incorrect (if understandably so). Benjamin Artis Senior, born about 1824, married Phereby [Phariby, Ferebee, etc.] Woodard, daughter of London and Venus Woodard. Their son, Benjamin Artis Junior, born about 1849, married a woman with the same name as his mother, Phereby Barnes, daughter of Silas and Rose Barnes. The photograph above — whose subjects are middle-aged, rather than in their 70s — depicts Ben Artis Jr. and Phereby Barnes Artis.


For an earlier post about this photograph, please see here.

Photograph contributed by the late Wilson historian Hugh B. Johnston Jr. for “Say Cheese!,” Wilson Daily Times, 23 May 1987.


Studio shots, no. 61: Florence Howard Zimmerman.

This portrait of Florence Howard Zimmerman, likely taken circa 1920, is immediately identifiable as taken in the studio of African-American photographer George W. “Picture-Taking” Barnes.

Florence Howard Zimmerman.


In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Horne’s Road, farmer Zelius Howard Jr., 49; wife Nancy, 49; and children Albert, 17, Thomas, 15, Alvin, 13, Herman, 11, Tina, 9, Florence, 7, and Ella, 5.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Deal Howard, 56; wife Nancy, 60; and children Albert, 28, Herman, 22, Tiner, 19, and Florence, 17.

On 1 July 1920, Sheppard Zimmerman, 22, of Wilson, son of Caesar and Irene Zimmerman, married Florence Howard, 18, of Taylor township, daughter of Deal and Nancy Howard. Admire Zimmerman applied for the license, and a justice of the peace performed the ceremony at Wilson County Court House in the presence of David Woodard, B.E. Howard and Admire Zimmerman.


P.S. Here’s Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver with the same crossed feet sitting in the same one-armed chair in front of the same window at Barnes’ studio:

Many thanks to Europe A. Farmer for use of the photo of Florence H. Zimmerman. Photo of Sarah H.J. Silver in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.