Town of Stantonsburg

County schools, no. 19: Stantonsburg School.

The nineteenth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Stantonsburg School

Stantonsburg School is listed in Survey File Materials Received from Volunteer Surveyors of Rosenwald Schools Since September 2002.” 

In 1926, state assistant agent for Negro schools William F. Credle prepared a report on Wilson County’s Rosenwald schools. It included this notation: “Stantonsburg: This is a three-teacher building building similar to the Saratoga [school] building. However, the building and grounds were in better condition. As in the other schools the chimneys should be provided with terra cotta thimbles and the equipment should be reconditioned and more seats should be provided. This building is provided with a stage which should be removed as it takes up a large part of classroom space in one of the classrooms and its location makes it necessary for the seats to face in the wrong direction. If a stage is permitted in any small building, it should be a removable affair to be used only for public exercises and at commencement time. The sanitary privies at this school were provided with pits and were in very good condition. There is evidence that the teachers at this school took a pride in their work and in the buildings.”

Location:  A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows Stantonsburg School on present-day N.C. Highway 58, just northeast of Stantonsburg. It appears that it is placed outside its actual location because the map is rather cluttered in the town proper. Stantonsburg Colored School stood on North Whitley Street, on the far east side of Stantonsburg.

The former site of Stantonsburg School in the block bounded by North Whitley Street and West Macon Avenue, Stantonsburg.

Per sale advertised for several weeks in the Wilson Daily Times in the fall of 1951: “STANTONSBURG COLORED SCHOOL in Stantonsburg Township, containing 2 acres more or less, and more particularly described as follows: BEGINNING on Whitley Street at a stake, thence South 62 [degrees] West 280 feet to a stake, thence North 28 [degrees] West 295 feet to a ditch, thence with the center of the ditch North 55 [degrees] 29′ East 281.7 feet to a stake, thence South 28 [degrees] East 327 feet to the beginning. Being the identical land described in a judgment recorded in Book 146, at page 343, in the office of the Register of Deeds of Wilson County.”

Known faculty: principal Arnold G. Walker.

Stantonsburg School as seen in a 1940 aerial photograph.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

Like jumping on a holy trampoline.

A number of readers commented on my recent post about Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Association, particularly sharing memories of Rev. Wiley Barnes and Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church, one of three Wilson County churches in the association. Rev. Hubert Tyson identified the location of another, Travelers Rest Primitive Baptist Church, which stood next door to Saint Luke Freewill Baptist Church at the eastern end of Church Street in Stantonsburg.

Rev. Tyson’s grandmother Lillie Thompson Fox Bass was a devoted Primitive Baptist and, even after migrating to Delaware, returned to Stantonsburg every year to attend the annual Association gathering. Says Rev. Tyson, who accompanied her visits to Travelers Rest and Corner Line:

“Ma Lillie was faithful. I always went inside with her. Boy, did I have questions. At first I thought they were singing in a diverse dialect, so she gave one of her old hymn books so that I could sing along. At least five preachers preached each service. No piano, but they didn’t need it. Their tribal rhythm was in the house. Everyone drank out of the same water dipper. Everyone hugged as well as kissed in the mouth (while they still had snuff in their mouth.) While singing, they partnered off with in-sync hand-shaking to the rhythm, rocking the weak shacking of the floor’s foundation. It was similar to jumping on a holy trampoline. I enjoyed taking her there.”

——

On 26 January 1919, Walter Fox, 21, of Greene County, son of Henry and Hattie Fox, married Lillie Thompson, 18, of Greene County, daughter of Will and Kitsey Thompson, in Lindell township, Greene County.

In the 1920 census of Bull Head township, Greene County, N.C.: Walter Fox, 22,  wife Lillie, 20, and Mabell, 3 months.

In the 1930 census of Eureka township, Wayne County, N.C.: Walter Fox, 35; wife Lillie, 34; and children Rosa M., 11, Walter L., 9, Willie, 7, Jessie L., 5, Minnie, 2, and Walter Jr., 6 months.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Main Street, widow Lillie Fox, 40, domestic, and children Rosa Lee, 20, cook, Walter Henry, 18, Willie, 17, Minnie, 15, domestic, Jesse Lee, 13, and Alexander, 9; plus lodger Willie Bynum, 16.

Lillie Thompson Fox Bass died 25 June 1988 in Lincoln, Delaware.

Thank you, Rev. Hubert Tyson, for sharing these memories!

The resting place of Cornelius Barnes.

After reading about Cornelius Barnes, Officer Jose A. Rivera Jr. visited Bethel cemetery to look for his grave. Officer Rivera and the Stantonsburg Police Department have taken an interest in the upkeep of this historic graveyard, and he sent this photo this morning. (The marker was carved by the fine folk artist and stonecutter Clarence B. Best.)

Thank you!

Corporal Artis arrives at hospital.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 September 1944.

Columbus Esdella Artis registered for the World War II draft in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1940. Per his draft registration card, he was born 9 June 1918 in Black Creek, North Carolina; lived at 859 Landing Street, Norfolk (updated to Rt. 2 Box 335, Stantonsburg, N.C., then 1423 R Street N.W., Washington, D.C.); his contact was mother Laurine Artis, Stantonsburg; and he worked for Mr. Ferbee, Dependable Company, 617 Boush Street, Norfolk.

[SIdenote: Artis was named for his paternal uncle, undertaker Columbus E. Artis.]

The history of Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church.

BETHEL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

The Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church was founded in 1900 on a bank of Contentnea Creek at Woodard’s (also called Peacock’s or Ruffin’s) Bridge in an old stall. The pastor was the Reverend Mack Daniel.

Water from the creek flooded the floor causing it to decay. By a deed dated July 1, 1900, Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Stanton, Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Hales, Mr. and Mrs. H.E. Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. L.F. Hales, and Mr. G.W. Stanton transferred to Mr. Henry Bernie, Mr. Daniel Harriss, Mr. George Applewhite, Mr. Green Edmundson, Mr. William Edmundson, and Mr. Joseph Jones, trustees of Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church, a lot on the road from Moyton along the road to Ruffin’s Bridge. On this lot measuring thirty five yards along the road and seventy-five yards deep a church building was erected.

In 1920, the church was moved into the town of Stantonsburg. Mr. John Yelverton transferred a lot adjoining Mr. Macon Whitley to the trustees.

The Reverend A.J. Jones, the church’s second pastor, was serving at the time of the move. Serving on the trustee board at this time were Mr. Robert Farmer, Mr. Daniel Harris, Mr. Jesse Ruffin, Mr. John Edwards, Mr. Sampson Edwards, and Mr. Henry Bernie. Serving on the mother board were Mrs. Annie Edwards (mother of John Edwards), Mrs. Arkansas Harris, Mrs. Hannah Bernie, and Mrs. Nelia Edwards (daughter of Robert Farmer.)

Two years after the church was built, the Reverend Rose resigned. Following him in order and with their approximate times of service were: Reverend A.G. Dunston, Reverend (Slender) Jones, Reverend C.W. Jones — 1933-1935, Reverend Stewart — late 1930s, Reverend Pridgen — 1940 (1 year), Reverend Pearsall — 1950 (less than one year), Reverend W.B. McCoy — 1958-1959, Reverend L.V. Kennedy — 1960-1967.

During this time the church building destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in the 1960s. The Reverend Kennedy returned and stayed until his death in late 1968. The Reverend Dunston returned and served until the end of the year. Reverend H.R. Campbell — 1968-1977, Reverend H.B. Shaw — 1978 (1 year), Reverend C.C. Cornelius — 1978 (serving 1981).

Stantonsburg Historical Society, A History of Stantonsburg (1981).

——

[N.B. This history does not square with the 1877 deed for the purchase of a lot by Lawrence Ward on behalf of “the A.M.E. church known as Bethel.” The 1877 lot appears to be the same one described above.

Bethel buys its acre.

In November 1877, steward Lawrence Ward, acting on behalf of Bethel A.M.E. [Zion] Church, purchased the acre of land on which its church stood on the road leading from Stantonsburg to Contentnea Creek near Ruffin’s Bridge. The church is now located about a mile north of Stantonsburg, but its cemetery remains on the original acre. Ruffin’s Bridge was originally known as Peacock’s Bridge, and Peacock’s Bridge Road runs east of present-day NC Highway 58. 

Deed Book 14, page 366.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County } This deed made this the 16th day of November 1877 by F.M. Moye of Wilson County and State of North Carolina to Lawrence Ward of said County & State holding the office of Steward in the A.M.E. church known as Bethel Witnesseth that the said F.M. Moye in consideration of Twenty Five Dollars to him paid by the said Lawrence Ward as the representative of said church the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged have bargained & sold by these presents do bargain & sell & convey to the said Lawrence Ward and his successors in office for the benefit & use of said Church a certain lot of land in said county, it being the land on which the building of the said church is situated on the North side of Big Contentnea creek near Ruffins bridge and on the east side of the road leading to said Bridge and is a part of the tract of land Known as the Davis land containing one acre To have and to hold the aforesaid lot of and all privileges thereto belonging to the said Lawrence Ward and his successors in office for the benefit & use of said church And the said F.M. Moye covenant that he is seized of said lot of land in fee and has the right to convey the same in fee simple and that he will warrant & defend the said title to the same against the claims of all persons whatsoever In testimony whereof the said F.M. Moye have hereunto set his hand & seal the say & year above written  /s/ F.M. Moye   Attest J.K. Peacock, J.S. Ellis 

——

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lawrence Ward, 25, farmer, owned $1000 in real property; wife Mary, 20; and daughter Mary A., 3; Chloie, 14, Lydia, 11, Jennie, 10, and Patrick Pope, 7; and Sophia Ward, 48.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Lawrence Ward, 38; wife Mary, 29; daughter Mary, 14; mother Sophia, 58; and farm worker Henry Lane, 12. [Their proximity in 1870 and 1880 to the house and plantation of Dr. David G.W. Ward suggests that Lawrence and Sophia Ward had been owned by the doctor in slavery.]

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: Laurence Ward, 55, farmer; wife Mary, 43; mother Sophia, 84; and granddaughter Amie Yelverton, 13.

In the 1910 census of Pikeville township, Wayne County: Lawrence Ward, 66, farmer; mother Sophia, 98; wife Mary, 60; and granddaughter Amy Yelverton, 21.

Lawrence Ward died 29 August 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1831  in Wilson County to Sophia Ward; was married; was a retired farmer; and was buried in Wayne County.

Deed book 14, page 366, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Memorial Day salute in Stantonsburg.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Jose A. Rivera Jr., a police officer in Stantonsburg. Officer Rivera is a relative newcomer to Wilson County and his patrols led him past a small cemetery on the edge of town. He is a veteran and was particularly interested in the military headstones he found. He also saw a marker for William H. Hall. The cemetery is badly overgrown in areas, and Officer Rivera and his chief of police wished to clean it up and place flags on the graves of these veterans that are laid to rest there.

Officer Rivera came across Black Wide-Awake while searching for more information about the cemetery and learned that it is owned by Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church. My cousins’ family, descended from William Hall, have been members for generations, and I was able to provide him a contact information for a church member.

This morning, Officer Rivera emailed me again: “In observance of Memorial Day, our Police Department placed a flag at each of the military headstones that we found at the Bethel AME Zion Church Cemetery.” And he attached photos. (Where available, I’ve added the applications for these markers.)

  • Pvt. Oscar Isler, World War I

IMG_20200523_083613_01

Screen Shot 2020-05-23 at 1.18.44 PM

  • M. Sgt. James B. Newsome, World War II and Korea

IMG_20200523_083609_01

Screen Shot 2020-05-23 at 1.22.01 PM

  • Milton Winstead, World War II

IMG_20200523_083620_01

  • Robert Farmer, World War I

IMG_20200523_083607_01

Screen Shot 2020-05-23 at 1.24.51 PM

  • Sgt. Booker Tarrant, World War I

IMG_20200523_083615_01

Screen Shot 2020-05-23 at 1.27.56 PM

  • Leroy Ellis

IMG_20200523_083604_01

  • PFC James F. Ward, World War II

IMG_20200523_083622_01

Screen Shot 2020-05-23 at 1.37.11 PM

  • Pvt. Council T. Reid, World War I

  • SFC Willie L. Speight, World War II

I look forward to seeing the results of Stantonsburg Police Department’s collaboration with Bethel A.M.E. Zion to clear this historic cemetery.

IMG_20200523_083629_01

Officer Rivera pays his respects.

Photos courtesy of Jose A. Rivera Jr.; Headstone Applications for Military Veterans 1925-1963, ancestry.com.

Division of lots in Stantonsburg.

Brothers William M. Artis and Walter S. Artis were primarily residents of the Eureka area of northeast Wayne County, but owned property in Wilson County. (As did their siblings Cain Artis, June S. Artis, Columbus E. Artis, Josephine Artis Sherrod and Alberta Artis Cooper.) Walter Artis and wife Hannah E. Forte Artis sued William Artis and wife Etta Diggs Artis for the partition of three lots they jointly owned in the town of Stantonsburg. (Filing suit does not necessarily indicate an adversarial situation. It is simply the mechanism for initiating a legal division.)

In January 1941, a trio of commissioners met to partition the three lots into two more-or-less equal parts:

  • Lot 1 — This 50′ by 150′ lot at the intersection of Broad and Yelverton Streets was allotted to Hannah Artis. [This is odd and interesting. Why Hannah alone, and not to her and Walter jointly? He was alive in 1941, and they were still married.] Because Lot 1 was more valuable than Lot 2, Hannah was to pay William $212.50. Also, William had sixty days to move a small building behind the store on Lot 1 to Lot 2, or it would become Hannah’s property, and the owner of an oil tank buried on Lot 1 had sixty days to move it or to come to terms with Hannah. [The “store” is identified here as the building rented by John Whitley for a blacksmith shop.]
  • Lot 2 — A 100′ by 150′ lot (comprising two lots on a town plat map) adjacent to Lot 1.

Hannah Artis and William Artis split the cost of the proceeding, paying $22.35 each.

The approximate location of the Artis lots at the corner of West Broad and North Yelverton. As in Wilson, Stantonsburg’s African-American community was clustered “across the tracks.” 

William and Etta Diggs Artis and three of their children, circa 1930s.

Deed Book 150, page 315, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson. Photo from personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Artis’ Cafe padlocked.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 11.15.18 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 13 February 1939.

  • June Scott Artis — A history of Stantonsburg gave the date of the cafe’s opening as 1947, which apparently was off by at least a decade. It remained in business into the 1960s.
  • Edgar Artis, June S. Artis’ son.
  • Walter Ward — The 6 February 1939 edition of the Wilson Daily Times reported that Ward pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a 15 to 18-year sentence.
  • H.B. Swenson — H.B. Swinson died 28 January 1939. Per his death certificate, he was “murdered, knife wound of breast”; was born 18 April 1913 in Greene County to Allen Swinson and Henrietta Applewhite of Greene County; lived i Stantonsburg; and worked in farming.

Delinquent taxes.

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 8.33.08 PM.png

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 8.31.08 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 7 November 1932.

The five columns at right show delinquent taxes for property in the town of Stantonsburg for years 1928, 1929, 1930 and 1931, and the total owed. As in everyday life, tax notices were segregated by race.

  • Wm. & Hannah Artis — [This, presumably, is an error. Hannah Forte Artis was the wife of Walter S. Artis, not his brother William M. Artis. (Both were brothers of Cain ArtisJune S. Artis, Columbus E. Artis, Josephine Artis Sherrod and Alberta Artis Cooper, and their primary residence was across the county line in the Eureka area of Wayne County.)] In the 1930 census of Eureka township, Wayne County: Walter S. Artis, 56, farmer; wife Hannah E., 47; and children Adam T., 18, and Elmer H., 5.
  • Sare J. Artis — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Yelverton Street, widow Sarah J. Artis, 65; son-in-law Clinton Artis, 30, a sawmill laborer; daughter Mattie, 26, a washerwoman; and grandchildren Ruby, 5, Clinton Jr., 4, and Hazel Artis, 1.
  • Nealy Barnes
  • Wiley Barnes
  • Walter Bynum
  • Adeline Donald — in the 1930 census of Fork township, Wayne County, Adeline Donald, widow, 54, is listed as an inmate of the Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum (Colored). Donald died 1 January 1931 at the state hospital in Wayne County. Per her death certificate, her regular residence was Wilson County.
  • John E. Ellis
  • Dallas Finnell — Dallas Fennell died 21 April 1935 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 41 years old and married to Sarah Fennell. Informant was Elijah Ward, Stantonsburg.
  • Louis Lewis Est.
  • George Powell Est. — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, valued at $1000, truck farmer George Powell, 60; wife Fannie, 60, washerwoman; and children Bruce, 21, and Fannie, 16, odd jobs laborers. George Powell died 18 August 1930 in Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township. Per his death certificate, he was 60 years; a farmer; married to Fannie Powell; and was born in Nash County to Lawson Powell and Lannie Taylor. Robert L. Powell of Stantonsburg was informant.
  • Mrs. Tom Tyson — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, valued at $700, Tom Tyson, 50; wife Arneta, 36; and children Ordella, 18, Celesta, 13, Ethel L., 11, Hubert, 9, Larry L., 2, and Clementon, 1; plus mother-in-law Ordella Barnes, 58.
  • Dave Ward
  • Tom Whitted — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, Tom Whitted, 50; wife Kitsey, 35; and children J.B., 25, Bertie, 20, Ada, 18, Claude, 15, Henry, 14, Irene, 13, Aaron, 11, Minnie, 10, and Emma, 8.
  • Titus Whitley — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, valued at $600, farm laborer Titus Whitley, 75; wife Ida, 71; grandson Leslie, 10; and lodger Allen Edmondson, 68.
  • John Whitley — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, valued at $600, blacksmith John Whitley, 49; wife Mollie, 25; and children Artillia, 18, Irene, 15, D.H., 13, John W., 10, Mary F., 8, Marjorie, 3, and Clavon, 1 month; plus father-in-law Wiley Locus, 70.
  • James Woodard

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 7.26.49 PM.png

Like Wilson, railroad tracks (marked with an arrow) divided Stantonsburg into black and white sections.