Toisnot township

Report of vaccinations, no. 4.

In the winter of 1902, doctors in Wilson County commenced a vaccination campaign to counter the spread of smallpox across North Carolina. Physicians in the county were paid ten cents per resident inoculated and sent in lists of patients to justify their fees. Dr. Edwin G. Moore practiced in Elm City and surrounds. On 3 February 1902, the County paid him $52.70 for fees and expenses related to 164 vaccinations (including ten pounds of sulphur used to treat three houses.)

The following list of African-American patients is abstracted from the roll Dr. Moore submitted to the County:

Sidney Harriss, 8 January 1902, age 18

Clarence Drake, 8 January 1902, age 14

Fred Gaston, “, age 12

Ivy Barnes, “, age 15

Nellie Ellis, “, age 17

Blanche Barnes, “, age 12

Haywood Ellis, “, age 13

Martha Ellis, 9 January 1902, age 20

Haywood Ellis, “, age 10

Lily Hall, “, age 18

Cora Gaston, “, age 16

Violet Bullock, “, age 16

Lena Armstrong, “, age 18

Wm. Armstrong, “, age 7

Ricks Whitaker, “, age 14

Ben Whitehead, 10 January 1902, age 19

Jennie Bunn, “, age 16

Ivrah Farmer, “, age 23

Almeta Williams, “, age 14

Mag Bullock, “, age 12

Elmer Gaston, 11 January 1902, age 9

Alma Gaston, “, age 7

Tom Coggins, “, age 16

Mag Armstrong, “, age 14

Etta Kelly, “, age 14

Pearly Mitchell, “, age 11

Viola Kelly, “, age 8

Flossie Gaston, “, age 7

Ada Gaston, “, age 15

Georgia Gaston, “, age 17

Serena Hunter, “, age 12

Julius Mitchell, 13 January 1902, age 10

Nina Gaston, “, age 13

Walter Locus, “, age 11

James Rosser, “, age 9

Maggie Ricks, “, age 16

Mancy Gaston, “, 9

Gus Gaston, “, 7

Malvina Johnson, 14 January 1902, age 16

Arie Williams, “, age 15

Catherine Hall, “, age 6

Anna Belle Hall, 15 January 1902, age 12

Minerva Anderson, 16 January 1902, age 15

James Anderson, “, age 9

Jno. Red Barnes, “, age 18

Redmond Barnes, “, age 66

Kinny Ellis, ” , age 17

Will Barnes, 17 January 1902, age 26

Scilla Parker, “, age 40

Nathan Williams, 18 January 1902, age 60

Alice Williams, “, age 40

Emma Williams, “, age 14

Melvina Whitehead, “, age 42

Wily Bynum, “, age 38

John Ellis Sr., “, age 46

Ed Barnes, “, age 27

Caroline Reid, 20 January 1902, age 21

Farro Sanders, 21 January 1902, age 13

George Sanders, “, age 13

Wily Barnes, 30 January 1902, age 30

Jno. Ellis Jr., “, age 19

Nan Williams, “, age 13

Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Studio shots, no. 26: Mary Howard Gaston McPhail.

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In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on the Elm City and Wilson Road, farmer Junius Rosser, 59, wife Lizzie, 46, children Daniel, 14, Annie, 12, Bennie, 10, and Lizzie, 8, and boarder Mary Howard, 19, a teacher.

On 8 March 1923, Dewey Gaston, 23, son of George and Priscilla Gaston, all of Wilson County, married Mary B. Howard, 24, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Mary E. Darden. Dewey’s brother Mancie Gaston applied for the license, and Rev. R.E. Sentelle performed the ceremony in Edgecombe County in the presence of Mancie Gaston and Fannie F. Ricks of Elm City.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: barber Dewey Gaston, 30, wife Mary, 20 [sic], and children Doris L., 5, and Victor H., 3.

In the 1940 census of the Town of Elm City, Wilson County: on Dixon Street, barber Dewey Gaston, 40, wife Mary, 38, a teacher, and children Dorris, 15, and Victor H., 13.

Dewey Milton Gaston died 14 February 1946 in Elm City. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 November 1899 in Elm City to George Gaston and Priscilla (no maiden name listed); worked as a self-employed barber; was married to Mary Gaston; and was buried in Elm City cemetery. Mary Gaston was informant.

On 21 January 1951, Mary B. Gaston, 47, of Elm City, daughter of Victor and Mamie Howard, married Hector H. McPhail, 48, of Wilson, son of R.J. and Laura Waddell McPhail. A.M.E. Zion minister Allen J. Kirk performed the ceremony in Elm City. Mrs. C.L. Darden, Dr. J.B. Rosemond, and Mrs. Grace Artis were witnesses.

Mary Howard Gaston McPhail died 7 July 1985 in Wilson.

Photograph courtesy of Maria Rosemond Logan — many thanks.

Where did they go?: out-of-state obituaries, no. 1.

Lula B. Moody, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), 3 July 2000.

Lula B. Moody, 81, of 131 S. 6th St., Allentown, died Saturday, July 1, in her home. She was the wife of Edward Moody. Born in Wilson, N.C., she was a daughter of the late William and Ora (Wells) Grantham. She was a member of Union Baptist Church, Allentown. She was a member of the Negro Cultural Center, Allentown, and was formerly a Cub Scout Den mother for Pack 98, Allentown. Survivors: Husband; sons, Albert Johnson of Philadelphia, Edward Jr. of Bradford, McKean County, William H. of York, York County; daughters, Orabell, wife of Sandy Owens, Millicent Turner, and Shirley, all of Allentown, Addie Elure of Columbia, S.C., Gladys, wife of Daniel Parsons, with whom she resided; 26 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.


On 4 February 1905, William Grantham, 25, of Toisnot township, son of William and J. Grantham of Wayne County, married Ola Wells, 22, of Toisnot township, daughter of Creecie Wells, in Toisnot township.


Cemeteries, no. 9: William Chapel church cemetery.

William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church is one of three extant 19th-century churches in the Elm City area, and the only one with a cemetery. The church is about three miles northwest of Elm City on William Chapel Church Road, which runs just inside and roughly parallel to the Wilson-Nash County line. The cemetery lies a few hundred feet west of the church, across from Silver Lake Cotton Gin.


Among the oldest graves at William Chapel are those of:



  • Alexander and Sarah P. Barnes


  • Harriet Hines


  • W.S. Ward


He be damned if she do anybody else any.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

The examination of Pharo Saunders, Col, Wm Howell, Col, and Lear Rice (Col) taken before the undersigned, Coroner of said County, this the 4th day of Dec. 1900 in the town of Toisnot upon the dead body of Willie Bell Saunders (Col), then and there lying dead, to wit:

Pharo Sanders duly sworn says: I was at my mother’s house Willie Bell Saunders about 8 1/2 o’clock last night Dec 3rd. John Taylor came in and said to mother “Willie I have come” and shot her with a pistol in the head. She fell and died in a few minutes. He only shot one time. Soon after shooting he ran out of house. John has been Living with my Mother several years as his wife. Knew of no difficulty between them before. I guess at time when I say 8 1/2 o’clock.  Pharo /s/ Saunders

William Howell sworn says: John Taylor was at my house last Saturday and said he was in trouble, that Willie Saunders was giving him so much trouble he intended going away soon and that he was going to kill Willie before he left. Willie Saunders and John Taylor have been living together about 6 years and I never knew of trouble between them before nor do I know what this trouble was about.  William (X) Howell

Lear Rice Col Sworn says: John Taylor & Willie Bell Saunders have been living together as man & wife several years. I heard of no trouble between them until recently. Sunday morning she told me he was jealous of her and said he intended to kill her. Sunday I heard him say if she didnt do him any good he be damned if she should do any body else any. He be damned if he didn’t kill her. I live in about 20 yards of her.  Lear (X) Rice

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on this the 4th day of Dec. 1900, I, John K. Ruffin, Coroner of the County of Wilson, attended by a jury of good and lawful  men Viz W.H. Pridgen, Eli Felton, Jerome Bowen, P.H. Braswell, W.J.T. Beland, J.R. Winstead, by me summoned for that purpose according to law, after being by me duly sworn & empaneled at the Town of Toisnot in the County aforesaid, did hold and inquest over the dead body of Willie Bell Saunders: and after examination of the facts and circumstances of the death of the deceased form a view of the corpse, and all the testimony to be procured, the said jury find as follows, that is to say,

That the deceased, Willie Bell Saunders (col), came to her death by a pistol shot wound feloniously inflicted by the hands of John Taylor (Col) on the night of Dec 3rd 1900, and we advise that he be bound over to the next Court and imprisoned without bail.  /s/ Eli Felton, P.H. Braswell, W.H. Pridgen. W.J.T. Beland, J.R. Winstead, Jerome Bowen.

Inquest had, and signed & sealed in the presence of John K. Ruffin, Coroner of Wilson County.


In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wilson & Thompson, cook Leaher Rice, 43, and her children John, 18, a railroad laborer, Frank, 16, a brickyard worker, Bettie, 14, a “nurse” [nursemaid], and Annie, 12.

Despite Leah’s testimony about the proximity of her house to Willie Bell and John’s, they do not appear in the 1900 census.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

The roots of Rev. W.O. Wells.


The Rev. Dr. Willie Oliver Wells Sr.–- pastor of Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, in Cocoa, Florida, for more than 50 years, well-known civil rights leader, and great servant of the Lord in church and civic affairs –- died on November 4, 2015. He was 84.

Rev. Wells was an inspiring leader who identified with the struggle for decency, justice and security for all people. The U.S. Army veteran served the church and his country with fearless courage and was a champion of all causes he believed to be right. His kind, friendly spirit will be missed, especially by those who worked closely with him.

Rev. Wells rendered faithful service and will long be remembered for his many contributions to the betterment of our community. Not the least of these is the part he played in the development of affordable housing for local residents, equal opportunity employment, and his leadership and courageous support of racial justice.

Rev. Wells was born on April 11, 1931, in Miami. He was the youngest of seven children born to Lillie and Rev. Oliver W. Wells Sr., pastor of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Fort Lauderdale.

He graduated from Dillard High School in 1949 and attended Bethune Cookman College on a football scholarship. During his sophomore year, his father passed, and he entered the U.S. Army. He attended leadership school in Virginia, and was stationed in Germany for two years. Afterwards, he attended Fisk University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. Also, he attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, and graduated with a Bachelor of Theology degree in 1955.

In 1955, he married Annie Ruth Collins of Cocoa. The couple lived in Tennessee, and he was pastor of Westwood Baptist Church, Nashville, for two years.

In 1959, when there was a vacancy for a pastor at Greater St. Paul Baptist Church, Rev. Wells was selected to fill that position. Then, the couple moved to Cocoa.

At that time, blacks were barred from public beaches, parks, restrooms and restaurants, in Brevard County and elsewhere. Rev. Wells worked to change the oppressive “Jim Crow” laws. During the early 1960’s, Rev. Wells was a Freedom Rider who led non-violent civil protests. He was an original member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -–along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–- and during his lifetime Rev. Wells spearheaded many projects to combat racism, poverty, drug abuse and crime. He was instrumental in bringing about desegregation in Brevard County, where he led anti-segregation campaigns and held various civic leadership positions.

He served as president of the Brevard County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, vice-president of the Florida branch of the NAACP, and chairman of the Redevelopment Commission of the City of Cocoa.

Rev. Wells established the Community Action Agency of Brevard, which provided low-income day care centers; Project Uplift, a fund for interest free loans to the church’s members; and in 1968, he constructed two low-rent apartment complexes, Shull Manor in Melbourne and Tropical Manor in Merritt Island. In 1978, Dr. Wells led Greater St. Paul Baptist Church in building a $1.2 million complex.

Dr. Annie Ruth Wells passed in 2008. Rev. Wells retired as pastor of Greater St. Paul Baptist Church in 2011. He leaves to mourn his passing his four children, Rev. Willie Oliver Wells Jr. (Jimmie Lee), Rev. Oliver W. Wells (Linda), and Annette O. Wells, all of Cocoa; and Dee Dee Wells (Michael) of Maryland; and 10 grandchildren.


Florida civil rights leader Rev. W.O. Wells had roots in Wilson County. His grandfather Burt Wells was born in Toisnot township circa 1872 to Alexander and Nancy Joyner Wells and migrated to south Georgia in the late 1800s. Burt Wells’ son Oliver W. Wells, born in 1895 in Willacoochee, Georgia, was Rev. W.O. Wells’ father.

On 28 May 1868, Ellick Wells, son of Kain and Milly Wells, married Nancy Joyner, daughter of Polly Joyner, at Harris Winstead’s in Wilson County.

On 19 December 1868, Isaac Wells, son of Cain and Milly Wells, married Clarky Farmer, daughter of Ben Dowley and Ellen Dowly, at C.C. Barnes’ in Wilson County.

In 1868, Cain Wells obtained a license to marry Sarah Braswell, daughter of Quincy Braswell. The license was not registered with the Wilson County clerk and, presumably, the couple never married.

Toney Wells, son of Cain and Milly Wells, married Laura Ethridge, daughter of Julia Ethridge, in Liberty township, Nash County, on 30 January 1869.

In the 1870 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Ellick Wells, 26, Nancy, 18, Clara, 2, and Milly Batchelor, 70.

Nancy died in the early 1870s, and, on 3 August 1879, Alex Wells, 33, married Easter Parker, 22, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer Al’x Wells, 35, wife Easter, 19, and children Delpha, 10, Birt, 8, and Arnold, 7.

Delphia Wells married William Drake on 1 July 1888 at A.F. Williams’ in Toisnot township.

In perhaps the early 1890s, Burt Wells and perhaps his father Alex moved from Wilson County to south Georgia. The 1900 census of Pearson township, Coffee County, Georgia, shows: Alexander Wells, 60, born in North Carolina, with his wife of seven years, Mary Ann, 40. Burt is not found in the 1900 census, but the World War I draft registrations of his oldest sons Willie, Oliver and Dewey show that they were born in Coffee (now Atkinson) County, Georgia.

In the 1910 census of Pearson township, Coffee County, Georgia: farmer Burt Wells, 45, wife Susie, 34, and children Sindy, 15, Elisah, 14, Willie, 12, Oliver, 11, Duey, 10, Oscar, 8, Delphy, 7, Squire, 6, Arnold, 4, Felton, 2, boarder Solomon Street, 21.

In the 1920 census of Pearson township, Atkinson County, Georgia: on Columbine Road, Burt Wells, 50, wife Lela, 30, and children Dewey, 22, Arnel, 13, Felton, 10, Osie, 3½, and Odom, 1 1/2.

In the 1930 census of Military District 1026, Atkinson County, Georgia: North Carolina-born Bert Wells, 60, wife Lelia, 37, and children Ocie, 13, Odom, 11.

Photograph credit to and obituary adapted from



The Matthew and Tempie Ann Harris family.


Tempie Ann and Matthew Harris.


Nathan, Hattie, Novella, Emma, Oliver and Sidney Harris, circa 1920.


Sidney Harris with Model T Ford.


Alus, Martha and Ada Harris.


In the 1870 census of Cedar Rock township, Franklin County: James Fogg, 52, wife Berchet, 51, daughter Frances, 25, and granddaughters Fannie, 11, and Temperance Fogg, 5.

In the 1880 census of Nashville, Nash County: farmhand Mathew Harris, 24, and wife Tempie, 16.

On 2 June 1880, Matthew Harris, 24, of Nash County, son of Sol and Cealy Harris, married Tempy Fogg, 18, of Nash County, daughter of Jas. Fogg and Frances Fogg.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Mathew Harris, 39, wife Tempy, 30, and children Sidna, 16, Saunders, 14, and Minnie C., 1.

On 2 June 1903, Alias Harriss, 20, married Martha Powell, 20, in Taylors townships. Witnesses were James Harriss, M. Thompson and Mena Thompson.

On 17 February 1909, Sidney Harriss, 24, of Toisnot, son of Matthew and Tempy Ann Harris, married Hattie Lena Batts, 19, of Toisnot, daughter of Dennis and Rose Ann Batts at Dennis Batts’ house. Witnesses were G.A. Gaston, J.G. Mitchell, and J.F. Carter, all of Elm City.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Mathew Harris, 54, wife Tempie, 44, and daughter Minnie G. Harris, 11.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Sidney Harris, 26, drayman, wife Hattie, 21, and daughter Emma, 4 months.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Alus Harris, 24, and wife Martha, 25, who shared a home with John Davis, 30, and wife Mary, 28. Alus worked as a drayman for a sawmill, and John, as a sawmill fireman. Martha was a laundress, and Mary, a private cook.

On 12 September 1918, Sidney Harris and Alus Harris registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Sidney’s registration card listed his address as Elm City, his occupation as a laborer for B.A. Harrelson, and his next of kin as Mrs. Sidney Harris. Alus’ registration card lists his address as 909 Carolina Street, gives his date of birth as 1 November 1883, and his occupation as a carpenter with Bobbitt & Roberson, Contractors, of Camp Hill, Newport News. His temporary address was 708 20th Street, Newport News. His next of kin was wife Martha Harris.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Matthew Harrise, 59, and wife Tempy, 51.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Sidney Harris, 41, wife Hattie, 26, and children Emma, 9, Oliver, 7, Nathan, 5, and Novela, 3.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Alous Harris, 28, house carpenter, wife Martha, 30, and daughter Ada O., 8.

Tempie Ann Harris died 31 December 1922 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 January 1865 to Jerry Perry and Frances Fogg in Franklin County, North Carolina. Her husband, Mathia Harris of Elm City, was informant.

On 20 July 1923, Matthew Harris, 50, son of Solomon and Celia Harris, married Sarah Person, daughter of Larry and Henrietta Person, in Nashville, Nash County.

Alus Harriss died 19 September 1923 of a stroke. Per his death certificate, he was 38 years old; born in Wilson County to Mathew Harriss and Tempy Corppedge; was married to Martha Harriss; worked as a carpenter; and resided at 1007 Carolina Street.

Per his gravemarker, Matthew Harris died 1 June 1927. He is buried at William Chapel church cemetery near Elm City. Upon authentication by witnesses Lula Whitehurst and John D. Gold, Harris’ last will and testament entered probate in Wilson County in January 1928. In the document, dated 28 September 1923, Harris bequeathed (1) to Martha Harris the forgiveness of Alus Harris’ debt of $550; (2) his personal property to be divided between children Sidney Harris and Minnie Armstrong; and (3) his real property to Sidney and Ada; and appointed Sidney Harris his executor.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Sidney Harris, 50, wife Hattie, 40, and children Emma, 17, Oliver, 16, Nathan, 13, Novella, 11, Volious, 8, Hattie M., 6, Beatrice, 3, and Clarence, 1.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Sidney Harris, 59, wife Hattie, 50, and children Novella, 22, Volious, 17, Hattie Magarette, 15, Beatrice, 13, and Clearance, 12, and granddaughter Deloris McMillian, 6.

Sidney Harris died 1 July 1964 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 October 1881 in Nash County to Matthew Harris and Tempie Copplege; was married to Hattie Harris; was a farmer; and resided at 1008 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson. Informant was Nathaniel Harris, Elm City.

Many, many thanks to Shearer Bridges, a great-granddaughter of Matthew and Tempie Fogg Harris, for sharing these wonderful family photographs. They stand as important documentation of Wilson County’s African-American heritage.

Elm City’s Negro community, pt. 3.

Cecil Lloyd Spellman was a professor of rural education at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. In 1947, he published “Elm City, A Negro Community in Action,” a monograph intended to employ sociology to “interpret the Negro in his actual day to day activities and interrelationships with members of his own and other races.”

Early in the work, on page 11, Spellman included this hand-drawn map of the Elm City community and its neighborhoods.

ELm City neighborhood

Below, the same community via Google Maps. Topographically, little has changed in 70 years. The major roads lacing the area — all two-lane except U.S. Highway 301 — remain in place, though now all are paved. The railroad still slices north to south. The small communities marked by one-room schools have largely dissipated in all but name, however.

Google Elm City