Town of Elm City

Boy runs amuck, cuts principal.

News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 18 January 1920.

  • Carl Lucas
  • Walter Washington — Probably this man: Walter T. Washington died 9 November 1968 in Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 September 1896; resided at 811 East Edenton Street, Raleigh; was married to Verdie Parrish Washington; was the son of Hillary Washington and Georgianna Sasser; and was a retired schoolteacher. He was buried in National Cemetery, Raleigh.

The obituary of Willie Wynn.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 February 1940.

On 23 September 1886, Willie Winn, 27, and Jennie Hussey, 19, were married in Wayne County, North Carolina.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Willie Winn, 50; wife Jennie, 23; and children Bessie, 18, Cora, 14, Charlie, 11, Annie, 10, John, 9, Ray, 7, Dortch, 4, Pinkie, 1, and Jessie, 17.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer William Winn, 59; wife Jennie, 48; and children Charley, 21, John, 19, Dorch, 13, Pink, 10, and Jeneva, 8.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Willie Winn, 62; wife Jennie, 60; and children Roy, 23, and Pink, 20; and lodger Lula Ward, 45.

Willie Wynn Jr. died 11 February 1940. Per his death certificate, he died 11 February 1940 in Wilson; had been married to Jennie Wynn, but was a widower; resided at 1102 Atlantic Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer; was the son of Willie Wynn and Annie Williams. Geneva Dew, 1102 East Atlantic Street, was informant, and he was buried in Elm City.

  • Wynn’s Chapel
  • McKinley Whitley — in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: church minister McKinley Whitley, 28, and wife Ruth, 28.

N.C.C.U. ’45.

From the 1945 edition of The Campus Echo Review, a yearbook of North Carolina College for Negroes [now North Carolina Central University.]

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Doris Gaston Rosemond (1924-2007).

In the 1930 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: barber Dewey Gaston, 30; wife Mary, 20; and children Doris L., 5, and Victor H., 3.

In the 1940 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: barber Dewey Gaston, 40; wife Mary, 38; and children Doris, 51, and Victor H., 13.

Johnson Chapel Baptist Church.


Johnson Chapel Baptist Church, Elm City, N.C.

Rev. B.J. Daniels, Pastor

Johnson Chapel Baptist Church was organized 1886, under the pastorate of the Reverend Croom, in a house in Wilson Street, in Elm City, North Carolina. This organization grew out of a prayer meeting held in this house by a group of Missionaries. Some of the pioneers were: Bro. Tom Drake and wife; Bro. Levi Loverette and wife; Bro. Ollyston Walters and wife; Sister Blessing Winstead, and others.

During the time of these prayer meetings, a revival was held. Several candidates were added to the membership. Among them were Sister Belle Loverette, Sister Sarah Loverette, Bro. Wells and others.

During the year 1888, or soon afterward, this building was moved from Wilson Street to Main Street (its present site) under the Rev. Johnson’s administration. The name Johnson was selected in honor of the first pastor of the church; thus Johnson Chapel Baptist Church of Elm City was born.

After Rev. Johnson’s administration, other ministers followed. There were: Rev. Cheek, Rev. L.W. Williams, Rev. T. Ceils, Rev. Bill Tucker, and Rev. Dunston. These ministers preceded Rev. John Watson, who became pastor in the year 1914 and served 34 years before his health failed him and he died.

During Rev. Watson’s administration the church expanded. The membership increased; and a “T” was added to the building (1925). During 1944, the church was remodeled and the “T” was removed by widening the building out to encompass the “T,” and a choir stand was built. In 1946, Rev. H. Hoskins served as pastor until the death of Rev. Watson (1948), and succeeded him as a fulltime pastor of the church.

In 1954, Rev. R.H. Johnson succeeded Rev. Hoskins as pastor and served the church for four years. During his ministry, Johnson Chapel saw many innovations in the church program taking place. Some of them are being used today (taking of the Lord’s Supper, etc.)

In 1958, Rev. Daniels, our present pastor, was elected. Under his leadership many improvements have been made, and many members have been added to the membership. Major improvements are: new ceiling, new windows, new heating system and the Pastor’s Lounge and rest room toilets installed. The cornerstone was laid, 1963. We have also built a kitchen, dining room, and several ante-rooms.

Early officers of the church (all deceased) were:

Bro. Tom Drake, Bro. Charlie Hunter, Bro. Robert Lucas, Bro. Thomas Broadie, Bro. Andrew Parker, Sister Blessing Winstead, and Sister Kate Walters, Mothers; and Bro. Dolphus Wilcher, Clerk.

Other officers that followed later were:

Brothers *P.P. Lindsey, *James Robbins, *Noah Dawson, Elisha Wells, *Howard Joyner, Joe Rountree, Jesse Lindsey, Johnny Parker, Governor Winstead, William Kelly, and Elvie Robbins, respectively; Mothers — *Eugenia Lindsey, *Christianna Coley, Flora Robbins, Jennie Dawson, Rosa Armstrong, Bluma Joyner, and Corine H. Winstead, respectively. Other Clerks — Sister Ruby Hargroves and Bro. Governor Winstead, respectively.

* — Denotes deceased members. Total Membership to date: approximately 200. Oldest living members: Bro. Elisha Wells and Sister Minnie Parker.

— Elm City Centennial Committee, Elm City North Carolina Centennial 1873-1973 (1973).


  • Blessing Winstead — in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Bryant Winstead, 49, and wife Blessing, 45, a farm laborer.
  • James Robbins (1897-1979) — in the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer J.R. Robbins, 38; wife Flora L., 40; daughter Nellie Ruth, 2; and grandson Elv., 6.
  • Howard Joyner — Howard Lee Joyner died 27 October 1954 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was resided in Elm City; was married; was a farmer; and was born 24 October 1912 to Bunion and Sarah Farmer Joyner. Blummer Joyner was informant.
  • Governor Winstead (1920-1986) — in 1942, Governor Winstead registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 12 September 1920, and his nearest relative and employer was Josh Winstead.
  • Elvie Robbins — see James Robbins, above.
  • Christianna Coley (1886-1956) — Christiner Coley died 22 September 1956 in Elm City. Per her death certificate, she was born in 20 August 1886 in Sampson County to Virgal Smith and Adline Merritt and was widowed. Carl Coley was informant.
  • Flora Robbins — wife of James Robbins, above.
  • Bluma Joyner (1916-1981) — on 28 December 1934, Howard Lee Joyner, 22, of Taylors township, married Bloomer Winstead, 19, of Toisnot township. Baptist minister Howard Farmer performed the ceremony in the presence of Henry WinsteadWilliam A. Farmer and  W.D. Wells.
  • Noah Dawson (1877-1962) — Noah Dawson died 1 August 1962 on East Nash Street in Elm City. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 February 1877 in Lenoir County to Rachel Sutton; was married; and worked as a railroad man. Informant was Lula Dawson.
  • Elisha Wells (1901-1992) — Elisha Wells, 25, of Toisnot, son of Dave and Sarah Wells, and Pearlie Brodie, 23, of Toisnot, daughter of Peyton and Julia Brodie, were married 17 January 1932 in Wilson.
  • Charlie Hunter — in the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Charlie Hunter, 45, and wife Eliza, 32.
  • Thomas Brodie — on 19 January 1918, Thomas Brodie, 32, of Nash County, son of Payton and Julia Brodie [and brother of Pearlie Brodie Wells, above], married Mary Ford, 37, of Taylors township, daughter of Swift and Mary Ford, at the courthouse in Wilson.
  • Andrew Parker — on 12 September 1918, Andrew Parker registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 1 February 1873; resided at R.F.D. #2, Elm City; worked as a farmer; and his nearest relative was wife Lou Conteser Parker.
  • Dolphus Wilcher — in the 1930 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: odd jobs laborer Dolpher Wilcher, 28; wife Clara, 26; and children Sylvesta, 10, Essie M., 5, Clarance, 4, and Clora M., 2. [The Wilchers were in Dodge County, Georgia, in the 1920 census, and in 1940, in Washington, D.C.]
  • Joe Rountree (1913-2001) — on 27 December 1933, Joe Rountree, 20, of Toisnot township, son of Freeman Rountree and Martha R. Williams, married Geneva Pitt, 20, of Toisnot, daughter of Arthur and Ollie Pitt. Arthur Pitt and Wiley Rountree applied for the license, and Baptist minister McKinley Whitley performed the ceremony in the presence of William Pitt, Elisha Webb, and Frank Webb, all of Elm City.
  • Jesse Lindsey (1914-1994) — on 8 January 1938, Jessie Lee Lindsey, 21, of Wilson County, son of P.P. and Lugenia Lindsey, married Emma Bulluck, 21, of Wilson County, daughter of Alfred and Mattie Bulluck, in Nashville, Nash County. P.P. Lindsey, W.R. Lucas and Virginia Lindsey were witnesses. [P.P. and Virginia wrote their surname as “Lenzy.”]
  • Eugenia Lindsey — Lugenia Lindsey died 25 August 1967 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 August 1889 in North Carolina to George Hawkins and an unnamed mother and her regular residence was Elm City. She was buried in William Chapel cemetery.
  • Minnie Parker — in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Mack Parker, 33; wife Minnie, 20; and children Lula, 8, John, 7, and Mack, 6.
  • William Kelly (1919-1986)
  • Corine H. Winstead — Corine Hunter Winstead (1922-2012) was the wife of Governor Winstead, above. In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Josh Winstead, 59; wife Dora, 45; son Governor, 19; and daughter-in-law Corine, 17.

Dedicated to Jennie R. Shaffer.


Has Been Dedicated to


Who Was 100 Years Old on May 8, 1973


ELM CITY — Mrs. Jennie Ransome Shaffer of Elm City, who celebrates her 100th birthday today, was the honored guest of Elm City Sunday during Wilson’s Sunday in the Park festivities.

Mrs. Shaffer, who was born on May 8, 1873 in Enfield, moved to Elm City when she was town years old. She lives alone and still does all of her own cooking, washing and ironing. During her long life she  has been a farmer and a house cleaner. While her hearing is not what it used to be, her eyesight is still good, and she still walks without aid, but limits her walking to a half-mile area.

Elm City, celebrating its 100th birthday this year, sponsored a Centennial display in Wilson Sunday and featured an old covered wagon belonging to Grady Jackson. The background for the display was a red, white and blue sign reading “Elm City Centennial 1873-1973,” and was flanked by the American flag and North Carolina state flag.

The Dixie Land Band and the Elm City High School Band furnished music during the afternoon, while Mrs. Louise Winstead, Hester Tyson, Aquilla Parker, Nancy Mitchell, Nancy Johnson, Ruth Davis, Mary Lou Doles, Joyce Hawley and Pat Humphrey, all in Centennial dress, entertained with “Songs of Yesterday.”

Miss Ocie Batts, chairman of the Elm City Centennial, said that Police Chief Isaac Kirby, Commissioner Lynwood Sharpe and Lloyd Webb restored the covered wagon for the event.

— Elm City Centennial Committee,  Elm City North Carolina Centennial 1873-1973.


In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: laborer Joe Q. Shawfer, 35; wife  Jennie, 43, cook; son Howard,12; and daughter-in-law(?) Jennie, 8.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: house carpenter Quincey Shaffer,  45; wife Jennie, 43; and widowed mother Emma, 78.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: town laborer Quincy Shaffer, 55; wife Genney, 54; daughter Lena, 29; and boarder Mable Dison, 7.

John [Quincey] Shaffer died 19 May 1940 in Elm City. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; married to Jennie Shaffer; worked as laborer; and was born in Elm City to Emma Moore. He was buried in Elm City cemetery.

Jennie Ransome Shaffer died 9 January 1981 in Wilson, aged 107.


Wynn’s Chapel.


Wynn’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church was organized in the early years of the nineteenth [sic; twentieth] century. The original church was located on what was then called the “hill” beside the railroad track at the southern end of Elm City.

Two of the charter members were the late Willis Wynn and William Birstel [Burston].

In 1956, the original church burned to the ground. The present church was then erected on Armstrong Street on the east side of Elm City.

The present pastor is Rev. E.R. Reid, Jr., who resides at 911 Washington Street, Wilson, N.C. A few of the officers now serving are deacons and trustees: Cecil Hagans, Mason Benjamin, George Bunn, Talvin Latham; secretaries: Bertha Evans and Geneva Dew.

The oldest members are Mrs. Ellen Birstel Pender and Edward Norman.

— Elm City Centennial Committee, Elm City North Carolina Centennial 1873-1973 (1973).


  • Willis Wynn — Willie Wynn Jr. was born about 1875 in Wayne County. Per his death certificate, he died 11 February 1940 in Wilson; was a widower; resided at 1102 Atlantic Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer; was the son of Willie Wynn and Annie Williams. Geneva Dew was informant, and he was buried in Elm City.
  • William Birstel — in the 1920 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer William Birtsal, 51; wife Ida, 41; and children Lizzie, 18, Salmon, 20, Pearl, 11, William, 10, James, 7, and Lee Roy, 3.
  • E.R. Reid Jr.
  • Cecil Hagans — Cecil Lane Hagans (1916-1982) was a son of Julius and Grace Hagans.
  • Mason Benjamin — Mason Benjamin (1912-1995) was a Florence, South Carolina, native.
  • George Bunn — George Emerson Bunn Sr. died 16 February 1974 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 November 1911 to Emerson and Ella(?) Bunn; resided in Elm City; and had worked as a laborer. Carrie Cooper was informant.
  • Talvin Latham
  • Bertha Evans — Bertha Rountree Evans (1922-1985).
  • Geneva Dew — Geneva Wynn Dew was born 31 August 1911 in Wayne County to Willie and Jennie Hussey Wynn. The owner and operator of Dew’s Rest Home, Dew died 17 November 1984 in Wilson.
  • Ellen Birstel Pender — Ellen Burston, 18, of Toisnot township, daughter of William Burston, married Gold Pender, 22, of Toisnot township, son of Haywood and Mollie Pender, on 10 December 1917 at the bride’s home in Elm City. Baptist minister James Brown performed the ceremony in the presence of Rev. Fred Gardner of Ayden, North Carolina, and J.D. Hockaday and W.R. Hockaday of Elm City.
  • Edward Norman

It shall be known as The First Presbyterian Church of Elm City.


Elm City, N.C., May 29, 1904

The Committee appointed by the Presbytery in session at Burgaw, North Carolina, April 1904, to visit Elm City, N.C. and to organize a church if the way be clear. We met the petitioners on the 29th day of May, 1904 in the Methodist Church. The sermon was preached by the Reverend Clarence Dillard, PhD of Goldsboro, N.C. from 2 Timothy 2:19. After the sermon, those who desired to walk together in the Presbyterian faith were asked to join hands around the pulpit, and the following came forward:

James G. Mitchel, Ada Gaston, Nina Gaston, Minnie Ellis, G.E. Mebane, Clara M. Nicholson, John C. Ellis, J.J. Howard, William C. Ellis, Isaac Smith, Sara Ellis, James Cobb, Lillian Hall, William T. Armstrong and Georgia Gaston. These were examined and received on confession of faith.

John C. Ellis and Ganzy E. Mebane were elected and ordained elders. James G. Mitchel and W.C. Ellis deacons.

The church having been organized, it was agreed that it be known as The First Presbyterian Church of Elm City, North Carolina.

Committee: Rev. C. Dillard, Ph.D.; T.G. Williamson; C.E. Tucker

Elders: S.H. Vick, J.P. Murfree

Respectfully submitted to the Elm City, N.C. Centennial Committee, July 11, 1973.

— Elm City Centennial Committee,  Elm City North Carolina Centennial 1873-1973.

  • James G. Mitchel — in the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: tenant farmer James G. Mitchell, 38; mother Rosa, 58; and children Kester R., 18, Cynthia, 14, Robert L., 12, Jimmie D., 10, and Lelia B., 8.
  • Ada, Nina and Georgia Gaston — in the 1900 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Pender Street, barber and plasterer George W. Gaston, 44, wife Cilla, 44, a cook; and children Rosco, 18, bricklayer; John, 16, common laborer; Georgia, 15, cook; Addar, 12, nurse; Nina, 11, nurse; Mancy, 6; Lacy, 6; Augustas, 6; Boston, 1; and Dewey, 6 months.
  • John C. and Minnie Ellis — in the 1900 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Main Street, school teacher John C. Ellis, 44; wife Della, 44, cook; and children Walter, 20, Martha, 18, Minnie, 16, John, 14, Haywood, 11, Arthur, 7, and Doretha, 4.
  • G.E. Mebane
  • Clara M. Nicholson — in the 1910 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wilson Street, Thomas H. Nicholson, 34; wife Clara, 33; and children Alonzo, 7, and Alice M., 4 months.
  • J.J. Howard
  • William C. and Sarah Ellis — in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County:  sawmill worker William Ellis, 20; wife Sarah, 21; and mother Leah, 80.
  • Isaac Smith
  • James Cobb — in the 1910 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: at 57 Wilson Street, railroad track repairman James Cobb, 28; wife Lula, 27; and children Wiley, 2, and John A., 8 months.
  • Lillian Hall
  • William T. Armstrong — in the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Proctor Road, farmer William T. Armstrong, 35, and wife Lucy, 28.

First Presbyterian Church of Elm City stands up to the Ku Klux Klan.


This handsome, but bedraggled, church looms over a dead-end intersection just off the main road bisecting Elm City. It now appears to be home to a Tabernacle of Prayer for All People. It began life, however, as First Presbyterian Church, one of many congregations in eastern North Carolina fostered by Rev. Clarence Dillard, but one with a unique and startling place in the Civil Rights history of the Region.


From The 112th Annual Report of the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1914).

Here’s how the story is told by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Cape Fear Presbytery Centennial 1886-1986:


Charles W. McKinney gives a historian’s perspective in Dispatches from the Front: The Civil Right Act and Pursuit of Freedom in a Small Southern City:

“The first volley between local authorities and activists in Wilson in the summer of 1964 gave change agents the opportunity to continue their pursuit of greater freedom. In the early part of June, James Costen, the young pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, a small church located in Elm City, invited an interracial group of northern students from New York and Pennsylvania to Wilson to paint the outside of the church. Costen and his parishioners were African American. Upon arriving in the small town north of Wilson, the group of students was approached by Robert Jones, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. In a not-so-veiled threat, Jones informed the students that he could not guarantee their safety if they remained in town and attempted to paint the church alongside Negro volunteers. The northern volunteers promptly packed up and returned home.

“Events in Elm City quickly took a turn toward the bizarre. On the evening of July 9, Costen received a phone call from Jones, who informed him that he had gathered approximately two hundred fifty Klan members from Wilson and Nash Counties in front of the town hall. Then, Jones offered the services of his crew to paint the church. Jones’ assortment of handymen included thirty-five expert painters equipped with forty floodlights and forty gallons of paint. They would work all night, said Jones, and finish by noon the next day. Undoubtedly flustered by the Grand Dragon’s offer to paint the rural black church, Costen demurred, maintaining that the decision to paint the church now rested in the hands of his superiors. Jones accused the pastor of “not wanting to get the church painted, but of desiring to make a racial issue by bringing in outsiders.” Jones then informed Costen that an “integrated brush” would not touch the walls of the church, and that another attempt toward that end could get somebody killed. When Mayor George Tyson found out about the presence of hundreds of Klansmen armed with paintbrushes and paint in his city, he called the sheriff’s office in Wilson. The sheriff’s office then notified the mayor that Governor Terry Sanford had just mobilized the state highway patrol. Authorities broke up the assembly around eleven that evening. “I feel safe in saying,” Costen later told a reporter, “at this point we will refuse their help.””

Please follow the link above for the full text of the article, which was published on-line in History Now: The Journal of Gilder-Lehrman Institute. First Presbyterian’s resistance, which unfolded during the mounting tensions created by the disappearance in Mississippi of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, received wide coverage across the country. Today, though, the story of this small rural church’s stand against the Klan is largely forgotten.


Church’s location at 522 East Wilson Street, Elm City. (U.S. Highway, at bottom, is a north-south artery.) First Presbyterian has merged with Mount Pisgah Presbyterian in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Hat tip to Cassandra W. Wiggins for identifying the photograph I took of the church in July 2016. Map courtesy of