Black Wide-Awake has featured several of Wilson County’s remaining antebellum plantation houses, including the James Scarborough house, built circa 1821, just outside Saratoga.
Now an event space and bed-and-breakfast, “Scarborough House Resort is committed to a long-term and ongoing effort to more deeply understand and respond to the historic role this property contributed to the injustice of slavery, as well as the legacies of enslavement on the Scarborough Plantation. Through engagement with the members of the Preservation of Wilson, collaborative projects with our surrounding community, and continued initiatives of learning and research, the Scarborough House Resort resolves to memorialize and reconcile with the wrongs of the past. We aim to follow a path of love and respect for all humanity, creating an inclusive environment, where all people will feel welcomed.” The site goes on to request that anyone with information, photographs, documents or other artifacts pertaining to Scarborough Plantation or its residents, enslaved or free, to contact PreserveOldWilson@gmail.com or reach out to the Scarborough staff.
I am thrilled and honored that Scarborough House has engaged me to research the property’s African-American past, a first step toward respect and reconciliation. On 22 April 2023 Scarborough House Resort is hosting a tea party to benefit Preservation of Wilson. Guests will enjoy a tree-planting in honor of Earth Day, learn the history of the house and its original inhabitants, and join in the dedication of a bench memorializing the lives of enslaved people who worked its land.
Photo collage courtesy of Scarborough House Resort.
The Wilson Lodge of the Knights of Labor was not the only African-American lodge operating in the county. In 1888, the Saratoga branch purchased a lot in the Town of Saratoga, presumably upon which to build a small hall. Here is the deed transcribed from Book 26, pages 378-379:
This deed made the 31st day of March 1888 by and between W.B. Young party of the first part and Essic Horn Blount Bess Benjamin Ruffin and Robert Hines trustees for the Lodge of the Knights of Labor (col) No 8221 of Saratoga Wilson County North Carolina the parties of the second part Witnesseth That for and in consideration of the sum of Eighty five (85) Dollars in hand paid by the parties of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged the party of the first part has bargained and sold and by these presents does give grant bargain sell and convey unto the parties of the second part all that lot or parcel of land lying in the Town of Saratoga Wilson County State aforesaid and fully described in a deed made by John Robbins and wife to said W.B. Young and recorded in Book No 23 and page 336 in the office of Register of Deeds of Wilson County to which deed reference is made for description of said land To have and to hold together with all rights priviledges and appurtenances thereunto belonging, to the parties of the second part and their successors in office and assigns in fee simple forever. And the said W.B. Young does covenant to and with the parties of the second part & their successors in office and assigns that he has a right to convey the above described land that the same is free from encumbrance, and that he will forever warrant and defend the title to the same against the lawful claims of all persons whomsoever. In testimony whereof, I the said W.B. Young have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year first above written /s/ W.B. Young Witness J.D. Barden
Essie Horn — in the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Essic [Essex] Horn, 50, and children Abraham, 20, Diana, 18, Henry, 17, Aggie, 15, Sam, 13, Herbert, 8, and Walter, 3.
Blount Bess — in the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Blount Best, 53; wife Sarah, 44; and children Joe H., 27, John I., 20, Minnie, 18, Blount, 16, Ida, 14, Annie, 13, Mariah, 10, Ella, 8, Albert, 4, Sack, 2, and Joshua, 1.
Benjamin Ruffin — in the 1880 census of Gardners township, WIlson County: farm laborer Benn Ruffin, 56; wide Salie, 45; and children Margret, 16, July A., 13, Charley, 10, Mary, 8, Louvenna, 6, William, 4, and Sallie, 1.
Robert Hines — in the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: laborer Robert Hines, 21, and wife Elizabeth, 18.