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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
M. Sgt. James B. Newsome, World War II and Korea
Milton Winstead, World War II
Robert Farmer, World War I
Sgt. Booker Tarrant, World War I
PFC James F. Ward, World War II
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.
Officer Rivera pays his respects.
Photos courtesy of Jose A. Rivera Jr.; Headstone Applications for Military Veterans 1925-1963, ancestry.com.
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.
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.
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 Artis, June 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.
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.
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.
Like Wilson, railroad tracks (marked with an arrow) divided Stantonsburg into black and white sections.
Probably, in the 1920 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Moyetown Road, tenant farmer Elijah Ward, 34; his sister Florance, 26; farm laborer Hillery Wootten, 26, servant; farm laborer Robert Speight, 35, servant; his brother James Ward, 19, and sister Sarah Ward, 16.
“The first cafe owned by a black in Stantonsburg was opened in 1947 and was owned by June Scott Artis and his wife, Ethel. They were assisted in the business by their son Edgar Artis. The white frame building was located at the corner of Macon and Greenwood Avenues. The inside was highlighted by the pot belly stove that was located in the middle of the floor. Soft drinks, hot dogs (5¢), peanuts and other snacks were sold. 1965 marked the closing of the business.
“James and Mary Ham owned the first black beauty shop in Stantonsburg and it was located on North Main Street. Hettie M. Forbes was the first licensed black beautician to operate in Stantonsburg. The shop operated from 1946 to 1956.
“In 1940 Toney Woodard opened the first black-owned grocery store in Stantonsburg. The business operated until Mr. Woodard’s death in 1959.
“Oscar Ellis, Jr., opened a combination barber shop, pool room and cafe on Greenwood Avenue in 1960. The business is still in partial operation with the cafe being operated by Annie Mae Barnes and the barber shop operated by RanThompson.
“The first black-ownwed and operated business in Stantonsburg was probably the blacksmith shop that was owned by John Whitley. The business was opened in 1918 and operated until 1950. It was located in the building owned by William and Walter Artis, which was situated on the south side of Yelverton Street about twenty yards from the railroad track.”
Stantonsburg Historical Society, A History of Stantonsburg (1981).
June Scott and Ethel Becton Artis
In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: Adam Artice, 68, a widowed farmer, with children Louetta, 18, Robert, 16, Columbus, 14, Josephfene, 13, Jun S., 10, Lillie B., 9, Henry B., 6, Annie, 3, Walter, 26, and William Artis, 24.
In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Columbus Artis, 24, grocery storekeeper, with brothers June Scott, 20, and Henry J., 16, box factory laborers,plus two lodgers, John Newsome, 30, and Eliza Diggs, 24 (who were relatives of their brother William’s wife Etta Diggs Artis.) [Clearly, there was an African-American grocer in Stantonsburg well before 1940.]
J.S. Artis married Ethel Becton on 29 January 1912 in Wayne County.
June Scott registered for the World War I draft in Wayne County. He reported that he had been born 23 November 1889 near Eureka, Wayne County and resided on RFD 1, Fremont. He farmed for himself near Eureka and was described as being tall and slender with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his name “June Cott Artis” on 5 June 1917.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg & Wilson Road, farm manager June S. Artis, 30, wife Ethel, 26, and children James, 7, Edgar, 7, Manda Bell, 3, and farm laborer Edgar Exum.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer June S. Artis, 40, wife Ethel P., 34, and children James B., 17, Edgar J., 15, Amanda B., 14, and Gladys L. Artis, 5.
In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer June S. Artis, 50, wife Ethel, 46, and children James Brodie, 25, Edger, 23, and Gladys, 16.
June Scott Artis died 2 June 1973 in Stantonsburg of chronic myocarditis, secondary to chronic nephritis. His death certificate reports that he was married to Ethel Becton and was born 23 November 1895 to Adam Artis and Mandy Aldridge. He was buried 7 June 1973 at Artis Cemetery in Wayne County.
Ethel Becton Artis died 14 October 1994, days after her 102nd birthday.
James and Mary Frances Hamm, Hettie Hamm Forbes
In the 1910 census of Shine township, Greene County: farmer William Ham, 38; wife Jennie, 34; and children Jacob E., 13, Lucy J., 11, Pearl A., 10, William H., 7, Manor, 6, Lindsey, 4, and James L., 1; and mother-in-law Lucy Best, 70.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: farmer William H. Ham, 54; wife Janie, 51; and children Manor, 23, Linsey, 21, James L., 19, Hettie B., 17, and Mary E., 4.
Frank Toney Woodard
In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Isaac Woodard, 32; wife Arner, 26; and children Fannie, 12, Nellie, 10, James, 9, Frank, 6, Isaac, 3, and Sis, 1.
In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Tony Woodard, 25, wife Eliza, 24; son Marcelous, 5; and mother-in-law Easter Davis, 64.
On 12 September 1918, Toney Woodard registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 1 February 1874; resided on R.F.D. 1, Stantonsburg, Greene County; works a tenant farmer; and his nearest relative was Eliza Woodard.
In the 1920 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer Tonie Woodard, 45; wife Eliza, 42; sons Johnie, 14, and Frank, 7.
In the 1930 census of Eureka, Nahunta township, Wayne County: Tony Woodard, 60; wife Liza, 45; and sons Johnnie, 21, and Frank, 18.
In the 1940 census of Bull Head township, Greene County: farmer Toney Woodard, 65, and wife Liza, 60.
Toney Woodard, 75, married Hattie Belle Lane, 41, both of Stantonsburg, on 13 October 1954 in Wilson County. Witnesses were James Ham, Mary F. Ham, and James Isler.
Tony Woodard died 17 May 1959 in Stantonsburg, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 February 1879 in Wilson County to Isaac and Arner Woodard; worked as a merchant; and was married to Nettie Woodard. Mr. Heattie Woodard was informant.
Oscar Mathew Ellis Jr.
Per A History of Stantonsburg, Oscar M. Ellis Jr. was born on the J.L. Yelverton farm on 2 May 1913. A truck driver and farmer, Ellis was active in Bethel A.M.E. Zion, the Masonic Lodge, the Elk’s Club, Future Farmers of America, 4-H, the local school board, the county Farm Bureau, and the Agricultural Conservation and Stabilization Service. He worked to “upgrade the black section of town” and as a volunteer with the Stantonsburg Fire Department.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg and Black Creek Road, tenant farmer Oscar Ellis, 34; wife Mammie, 29; and children Oscar M., 6, William H., 4, Estell, 3, A.J., 1, and Charlie, 4 months; plus John, 16, and Mathew Robinson, 14.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: Oscar Ellis, 39; wife Mamie, 39; and children Oscar Jr., 16, William, 14, Estelle, 12, Ejay, 11, Colen, 10, James, 9, Bessie M., 8, Hubert L., 6, Leroy, 2, and Dorothy, 1 month.
On 12 January 1934, Oscar Ellis, 20, of Black Creek, son of Oscar and Mamie Ellis, married Lucille Barnes, 19, of Stantonsburg, daughter of Andrew and Stella Barnes, in Wilson. C.E. [Columbus E.] Artis and Stella Barnes applied for the license.
In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, laborer Oscar Ellis, 26, and wife Lucille, 25.
Oscar M. Ellis Jr. died 5 December 1984.
Annie Mae Barnes
On 26 December 1910, John Whitley, 30, of Wilson County, son of Titus and Ida Whitley, married Mollie Locust, 18, of Wayne County, daughter of Wiley and Amy Locust, near Eureka, Nahunta township, Wayne County.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Delaware Street, tenant farmer John Whitley, 37; wife Mollie, 23; and children Artillie, 8, Irene, 5, Madison D., 3, and John W., 7 months.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, 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; and father-in-law Wiley Locus, 70.
In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Delaware Street, odd jobs worker John Whitley, 59; wife Molly, 39; and children Artelia, 22, Irene, 20, Maddison D.H., 19; John Wiley, 17; Mary Frances, 14; and Marjorie, 12. Artelia and Irene were teachers.
[William and Walter Artis, who owned the building in which John Whitley operated a smithy, were brothers of June Scott Artis and Columbus E. Artis. They lived a few miles west of Stantonsburg, across the county line near Eureka, Wayne County.]
Stantonsburg’s black community is centered on a few blocks on the eastern side of the railroad tracks bisecting the town.