Buffalo (N.Y.) American, 14 August 1924.
Willis Bryant was among the scores of African Americans who left Wilson County for Indianapolis, Indiana, in the last quarter of the 19th century.
Indianapolis Star, 20 March 1915.
Probably, in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Louiza Bryant, 30; Cornelius Harriss, 23; Catherine Harriss, 20; Cornelius Harriss, 1; Ann Bryant, 9; Willie Bryant, 8; and Alice Ellis, 15.
Catalogue of Lincoln University, Chester County, Pennsylvania, for the Academical Year 1886-87 (1887).
On 4 May 1890, Willis Bryant, 26, son of Wiley Bryant and Louisa Branch, married Ida M. Webb, 22, in Marion County, Indiana.
As were many Lincoln alumni, Bryant was very active in the Presbyterian church and helped found Senate Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Indianapolis News, 20 June 1892.
In the 1900 census of Center township, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 808 Wyoming Street, coal dealer Willis Bryant, 36; wife Ida, 32; and children Ralph, 6, and Edna May, 1.
In September 1900, Wilson native Daniel C. Suggs, then teaching at Georgia State College, visited the Bryants in Indianapolis. Suggs was also a Lincoln graduate.
Indianapolis News, 7 September 1900.
Fifteen years after he graduated, Bryant and his wife returned to Pennsylvania to attend a Lincoln graduation, then made a round of East Coast cities.
Indianapolis News, 25 May 1901.
In 1901, Lucy Gay visited her uncle Willis Bryant in Indianapolis. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Sam Gay, 54; wife Alice, 50; and children Charlie C., 23, Edgar B., 25, Lucy, 17, Samuel, 14, Albert and Beatrice, 10, and Lily, 4. [Alice Gay was the 15 year-old Alice Ellis listed in the 1870 census above. When she married Samuel Gay, she gave her maiden name as Bryant.]
Indianapolis News, 28 December 1901.
In October 1904, the Indiana Recorder reprinted “His Trip West,” an article by Harry S. Cummings originally posted in the Afro-American Ledger. In the chronicle of his tour of Indiana cities, Cummings mentioned Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward and Willis Bryant and his father-in-law Charles A. Webb’s transportation and hauling businesses.
Indianapolis News, 22 October 1904.
In 1907, Willis Bryant and other black businessmen formed a committee to assist the city’s Juvenile Court with finding employment for “delinquent colored boys and girls.”
Indianapolis Star, 24 April 1907.
In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 808 Wyoming Street, Willis Bryant, 44; wife Ida M., 42; and children Ottis R., 16, Edna, 11, and Hulda M., 3.
Indianapolis Recorder, 13 March 1915.
Willis Bryant died 19 March 1915, barely a week after celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary.
Indianapolis Recorder, 18 March 1916.
His widow, Ida Webb Bryant, outlived him by decades, and was featured in this 1963 Indianapolis Recorder piece.
Indianapolis Recorder, 22 June 1963.
Greensboro North State, 27 May 1886.
One hundred thirty-three years ago, a Greensboro newspaper ran an article from the Wilson Mirror covering the visit to Wilson of “justly celebrated negro orator” Joseph C. Price. Price, a founder and first president of Livingstone College (in 1886 still known as Zion Wesley Institute), had taught in Wilson for four years at the start of his career. Regarded as one of great orators of his day — grudging recognition in this article notwithstanding — Price’s early death cut short a trajectory that might have vied with Booker T. Washington’s to lead African-Americans.
Samuel H. Vick read an essay to open the program. The writer of the article noted that his speech as “well-written” and “couched in good English,” as well it should have been given that the 23 year-old had a degree from Lincoln University and was principal of the colored graded school.
Daniel C. Suggs, like Vick a former pupil of Price, then gave a tribute recognized by an educated white listener as “most excellent.” Suggs, too, had a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln and was a year away from receiving a master’s.
Wilson Daily Times, 1 June 1946.
In the 1880 census of Smithfield, Johnston County, North Carolina: laborer Nestus Bryant, 48; wife Annie, 38; children Alice, 17, Arthur, 15, Thedo, 10, Harry, 6, John, 4, and Baby, 5 months; and mother Penny, 80.
Harry Bryant, 21, of Wilson, son of Nestus and Ann Bryant, married Julia Suggs, 20, of Wilson, daughter of Washington and Easter Suggs, on 26 September 1895 at the Methodist church, Wilson. Richard Renfrow applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister L.J. Melton performed the ceremony in the presence of Mattie Harris, L.A. Moore and Lovet Freeman.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Harry Bryant, 34; wife Julia, 34; and sons Leonard, 14, and Leroy, 4.
In 1918, Harry Haywood Bryant registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his draft registration card, he was born 23 January 1873; lived at 132 Sugg Street; was married to Julia Bryant; and worked as a carpenter for Boyle-Robertson Company in Newport News, Virginia.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, Harry Bryant, 44, carpenter for construction company, and wife Julia, 41.
Julia Bryant died 27 January 1929 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 23 September 1874 in Wilson to Washington Sugg and Easter Best of Greene County; was married to Harry Bryant; and resided at 618 Sugg Street.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 Suggs Street, meat market butcher Henry Bryant, 58; son Leon, 33; daughter-in-law Alice, 32; and granddaughter Christine, 9.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 Suggs Street, tobacco factory laborer Leon Bryant, 42; wife Alice, 42, tobacco factory laborer; daughter Christine, 19; and father Harry H., 68, widower and tobacco factory laborer.
Harry Bryant died 26 May 1946 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 July 1873 in Smithfield, North Carolina, to Nestus Bryant and Annie Bryant of Johnston County; he resided at 653 Suggs Street, Wilson; he was the widower of Julia Bryant; he had worked as a laborer; and he was buried in the Masonic cemetery. Leon Suggs was informant.
In 1909, Daniel C. Suggs gave attorney Sidney A. Woodard a $3600 purchase option on nine-acre lot just outside town limits adjacent to the Wilmington & Weldon and Norfolk & Southern railroads. The option included the grant of a right of way for construction of a railroad siding “beginning at the second or third telegraph pole from Floyd Bynum’s house” to run through the property.
The description suggests that the nine acres was located in the lowest quadrant of the X formed by the railroads just below Contentnea Guano Company, as shown in this detail from the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.
Here is the area today, per Google Maps:
In 1883, Congressman James E. O’Hara of North Carolina’s Second District nominated Daniel Cato Sugg of Wilson to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point in June 1884. However, Suggs, a student at Lincoln University, failed the entrance examinations in arithmetic, geography and history. In fact, the only African-American to gain entry to West Point that year was Charles Young.
U.S. Military and Naval Academies, Cadet Records and Applications, 1800-1908 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; Brian Shellum, Black Cadet in a White Bastion: Charles Young at West Point (2006), page 36.
State of North Carolina, Wilson County }
Know all men by these presents that for and Consideration of the sum of one Thousand Dollars to me in hand paid the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged doth grant bargain sold and conveyed and doth hereby bargain and sell and by these presents convey unto Jerry Washington his heirs administrators and assigns all that certain piece or parcel of land situate in the State of North Carolina & County of Wilson, near the Town of Wilson and bounded as follows Beginning at a stake on the Barefoot roads and street leading from the African Church to said Road thence with said Road to Jerry Washingtons corner thence with said Washington line Four hundred and twenty feet to a stake thence Two hundred and ten Feet to R.W. Taylors line Thence with said Taylors line to the line of the W&W R.R. Line thence with said R.R. line to Allen Tyson Corner thence with said Tysons line to Washington Suggs Corner thence with said Suggs line to the street Thence with said street to the beginning said to Contain Ten acres Be the same more or less to have and to hold the same forever and I do hereby warrant and defend the title to my whole Interest in said piece or parcel fo land to the said Jerry Washington his heirs and assigns against the claims of any and all persons whatsoever In testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal this the 11th day of Oct 1872 W.M. Gay, Mary Gay
This deed, the second filed in Wilson County by Samuel H. Vick‘s future father-in-law, Jerry Washington, is notable for its reference to “the African Church.” Though Barefoot Road has not been definitely identified the reference to the church and to the Wilmington & Weldon Rail Road suggest that this parcel was located near modern Hines and Pender Streets.
Deed book 23, page 486, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.
State of North Carolina Wilson County
Know all men by these presents that for and in consideration of the Sum of Sixty dollars to me in hand paid the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged that I Virginia C Edwards of the State and county aforesaid hath bargained sold and conveyed and doth hereby bargain sell and convey unto Washington Sugg of the county and State aforesaid to him and his heirs and assigns a certain piece or parcel of land situate in the County of Wilson State of North Carolina and bounded as follows to wit beginning at a stake Allen Tyson corner thence with Thomas Hadley line two hundred & ten feet to a stake Calvin Blounts corner thence with said Calvin Blounts line two hundred & fifty two feet to a Stake corner grave yard Lot thence with said grave yard lot two hundred and ten feet to a stake on street leading to the African church thence with said street two hundred and fifty two feet to the beginning to have and to hold to him the said Washington Sugg his heirs and assigns in fee simple forever and I Virginia C Edwards for myself my heirs and assigns do hereby warrant and defend the title of the aforesaid land unto the said Washington Sugg his hairs and assigns free from the lawful claim of any and all persons whatsoever. In testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal this 23rd day of March AD 1870 /s/ V.C. Edwards
Witness M.J. Edwards
Received and registered 22 August 1870 …
This deed is remarkable not only as the first filed by Washington Suggs, just five years after his emancipation in Greene County, but also for its reference to the “graveyard lot” and “the African church.”
If the graveyard lot is, as it surely appears, the cemetery later known as Oakdale, this deed pushes the founding date of that burial ground back more than 25 years.
The African church appears to be the church later known as Jackson Chapel (and later still, after a merger, as Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church), which was located on Barnes Street just off Pender Street (then Stantonsburg Street), a block south of Nash Street. If so, this deed pushes back the date of the building of the congregation’s first edifice.
Sugg’s new neighbor, Calvin Blount, was also African-American and formerly enslaved. His will, drafted in 1909, contains this provision — “Fourth: To my beloved sons Wright Blount and Tillman Blount, whom I have not heard from in many years — I do hereby give and bequeath to them to share and share alike my other lot of land on the edge of the Town of Wilson, State and County aforesaid, adjoining the lands of G.W. Sugg, Cater Sugg, and the Colored Cemetery, containing about one acre.”
Deed book 4, page 135, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.
During academic year 1882-’83, 73 of Lincoln University’s 214 students were from North Carolina. Five of that 73, all in the collegiate division, were from Wilson County: juniors Frank O. Blount, Cato D. Suggs [Daniel Cato Suggs], and Samuel H. Vick; sophomore Braswell R. Winstead; and freshman Francis M. Hines (whose home was Toisnot.)
N.B.: Though Francis M. Hines’ home was listed as Toisnot, now Elm City, and firmly within Wilson County, it seems certain that he was in fact from the Temperance Hall area of Edgecombe County, a few miles east and just across the county line. Hines graduated from Lincoln in 1886 and, upon his return to Edgecombe County, plunged into local politics. He quickly rose to leadership of the Knights of Labor and, on the strength of the African-American voting power in a county in which they were the majority population, was elected Register of Deeds. Tragically, Hines died of kidney disease at the age of 28. Local newspapers’ laconic reports of his death did not fail to include aspersions.
Tarborough Southerner, 21 February 1889.
He is buried in the cemetery of Pyatt Memorial A.M.E. Church in the Temperance Hall community.