Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1948.
Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.
Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1948.
Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.
Wilson Daily Times, 21 September 1946.
“… the well-known twin-brother’s Doan and Dock Sims; saw-mill owners and lumber dealers here”?
Given the prominence of business owners among Wilson’s early 20th-century African-American community, I was surprised never to have heard of the Simms brothers or even any Black-owned sawmills in Wilson. What I can readily find in digital records does not shed much light on the brothers’ business operations, but does provide some details of their lives.
Lula Simms Deans was born in Nash County in 1871, most likely in Jackson township, which borders Wilson County west of Elm City. Her parents, Wiley and Rachel Simms, had been enslaved in Wilson County and registered their two-year cohabitation there in 1866. Lula was about 23 years old when she gave birth to Doan E. and Dolphus F. Simms in either Wilson or Nash County. She was not married, but one source lists their father as John Taylor. When the twins were about 14 years old, Lula Simms married Wiley Deans of Wilson County.
Doan and Dolphus, known as Dock, were earning their own money as early as 1910, and soon after set out on the separate paths that would eventually lead to their lumber business.
Doan Simms was in Franklin County, North Carolina, by 1912. He fathered a son that year, whom he named after his twin brother, and married the boy’s mother in 1917, the year little Dolphus died. The same year, when he registered for the World War II draft, he described his job as a millhand for John K. Barrow, a sawmill and lumber manufacturer near Zebulon in southeast Wake County. By 1930, Doan and his family were living near Whitakers in extreme northern Nash County, and Doan was described in the census as a sawmill foreman. Ten years later, he and his family were living just over the Wilson County line in Wayne County.
Dock Simms remained in Jackson township (or nearby Zebulon) for decades before relocating to the Edgecombe County side of the Whitakers area during the Depression. In 1930, the census described his occupation as lumber mill manager and in 1940, a sawmill logger.
By 1940 (and perhaps ten years earlier), the Simms brothers had established their lumber business(es), but I have not been able to determine where it was located and even what it was called. I’ll continue to search, and any clues are appreciated.
In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Willie Simms, 32; wife Racheal, 23; and daughters Mahala, 1, and Anna, 7.
In the 1900 census of Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.: farmer Rachael Simms, 52, widow; daughter Lula, 27, farm laborer; and grandchildren Loyd, 7, Doan and Dolphus, 6, and Maud, 2 months.
On 13 April 1908, Wiley Deans, 22, of Nash County, son of Pete and Catsey Ann Deans, married Lula Simms, 34, of Nash County, daughter of Wiley and Rachel Simms, both deceased. Free Will Baptist minister C[rockett] Best performed the ceremony at his residence in Wilson.
In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Wiley Deans, 27; wife Lula, 36; stepsons Loyd, 18, Doane and Dolphus, 16, and Theodore R., 5; brother-in-law Hubbert Simms, 19; and niece Mary Simms, 12.
In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: on Wilson and Stanhope Road, farmer Wiley Deans, 36; wife Lula, 45; children Thedo, 15, and Van, 9; and brother-in-law James Sims, 43.
Lula Deans died 18 September 1946 near Whitakers, Edgecombe County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 November 1871 in Nash County to Wiley Simms and Rachel Simms, both of Wilson County; was a widow; and was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson. D.F. Simms, Whitakers, was informant.
Also in the 1910 census of Jackson township, Nash County: Doc and Doanie Simms, 17, odd jobs laborers in the household of N. Harriss Perry, a white 35 year-old farmer.
Dolphus Simms died 21 June 1917 in Harris township, Franklin County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 June 1912 in Franklin County to Don Simms of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Roxana Davis of Dinwiddie County, Virginia.
In 1917, Doan Sims registered for the World War I draft in Franklin County, N.C. Per his registration card, he was born 6 March 1896 in Wilson County; lived in Louisburg, N.C.; and worked as a millhand for J.K. Barrow.
On 9 September 1917, Doane Sims, 28, of Louisburg, Franklin County, married Anna Morgan, 26, of Louisburg, daughter of Wyatt Morgan and Rebecca Morgan, in Zebulon, Wake County. [Presumably, “Anna” was Roxanna.]
On 31 July 1918, Doan Simms, sawyer, was sent to Camp Greene, Charlotte, N.C., for basic training.
U.S. Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty, 1917-18, www.ancestry.com.
In the 1920 census of Little River township, Wake County, N.C.: Doan Sims, 26, sawmill sawer; wife Roxanna, 27, born in Virginia; daughter Mary, 9, born in Virginia; and boarder Nelson York, 27, sawmill cutter, born in South Carolina. [Mary Beatrice Simms was born 3 September 1910 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. She died 16 September 2003 and is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Wilson.]
On 5 May 1927, Mary B. Simms, 18, of Zebulon, daughter of Doan and Annie Simms, married Rubert Weaver, 22, of Zebulon, son of Gus and Ida Weaver, in Raleigh, N.C.
In the 1930 census of North Whitakers township, Nash County, N.C.: sawmill foreman Doan Sims, 36, and wife Roxanna, 31. Sharing their household: Rubert Weaver, 25; wife Mary B., 19; and their daughters Doris, 2, and Ruby V., 11 months. [A number of saw mill laborers were listed in the vicinity, including Nelson York, the Simms’ Wake County boarder.]
In the 1940 census of Great Swamp township, Wayne County, N.C.: farm manager Don Simms, 46; wife Roxanna, 48; grandchildren Doris, 12, Ruby, 10, Anna, 9, and Myrtle, 4; and Jimmie Joyner, 25, laborer.
In 1940, Jefferson Albert Howard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 June 1918 in Wilson County; lived at New Grabneck (Gen Del), Wilson; his contact was Doane E. Simms, R.F.D. Lucama, who was his employer and landlord. The card noted that Howard had a “severe burn scar on left arm & foot.”
In 1940, Jimmy Joyner registered for the World War II draft in Wayne County. Per his registration card, he was born 20 September 1912 in Bailey, Nash County; lived at R.F.D. 1, Lucama, Wayne County (updated: 53 K Street N.E., Washington, D.C.); and his contact was friend Don Simms.
Doan E. Simms died 22 December 1962 at Carolina General Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1896 in Nash County to Lula Deans; was married to Roxanna Simms; lived at 200 Pender Street, Wilson; was a World War I veteran; and was a retired businessman.
Simms was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery under a large headstone engraved D.E. and D.F. Simms Family.
On 30 August 1919, Adolphus Simms, 35, of Nash County married Bessie Lucas, 18, of Nash County at the Wilson County Courthouse.
In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Dolphus Simms, 25, and wife Bessie L., 17.
On 1 October 1923, Dock Simms, 28, of Zebulon, N.C., married Mary Lou Fennell, 22, of Wallace, N.C., in Burgaw, Pender County, N.C.
In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: lumber mill manager F. Dock Simms, 36; wife L. Mary, 39; and lodgers, D. John Fennell, 25, lumber mill laborer, and wife Mary, 25.
In the 1940 census of Upper Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: sawmill logger Dock Simms, 46; wife Mary L., 39; and daughter Evelyn, 4. Per the census, the family lived in Wilson County in 1935.
Dock F. Simms died 30 March 1953 in Whitakers, Edgecombe County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1894 in Wilson County to John Taylor and Lula Simms; was a sawmill operator; and was married to Mary Lou Simms.
Simms was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery under a large headstone engraved D.E. and D.F. Simms Family. His widow, Mary Lou F. Simms of Whitakers applied for a military headstone, which was to be shipped to D.E. Simms, 200 Pender Street, Wilson.
On 6 May 1910, the Times separately noted (1) the arrest of Mattie Ham on a charge of stealing meat, tobacco, and other goods from George Dew and (2) the trial of Bernice Winstead, whose identical twin brother Ernest testified for him in the trial for a similar crime, committed in December 1909 against Dew.
Wilson Daily Times, 6 May 1910.
Four days later, a follow-up piece reconciles and clarifies the stories. Mattie Hamm lived in one room of a two-room house. After taking meat and flour from Dew’s smokehouse, Bernice Winstead stashed them in Hamm’s extra room, claiming they were his. Trackers later arrived at her door step. Frightened, Hamm rushed to Wilson to tell Winstead to move his stuff, then packed up all her own belongings and vacated the house. She was arrested anyway and charged with receiving stolen goods, but released after Ernest Winstead’s testimony cleared her.
Wilson Daily Times, 10 May 1910.
In the 1880 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Berry Winstead, 52; wife Loucinda, 48; children Sidney, 22, Riny, 18, Melviny, 16, Margaret, 14, William, 12, Charles, 9, and Ernest and Burnett, 6; grandchildren Julius, 4, and George, 2; and boarder Charlotte Winstead, 75.
[Sidenote: Bernice, pronounced BERniss, though not common, was a name most often given to boys in this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Eventually, female BerNEESE gained popularity. As is the case with most unisex names — think Gayle, Dana, Leslie, Ashley, Courtney — Bernice for boys soon disappeared.]
On 27 October 1897, Ernest Winstead, 24, of Nash County, son of Berry and Louinda Winstead, married Martha Wright, 18, of Nash County, daughter of David and Elizabeth Wright, in Rocky Mount township, Nash County.
On 13 September 1903, Ernest Winstead, 27, of Taylors township, son of Berry and Lou Winstead, married Dora Deans, 18, of Nash County, daughter of Peter and Manda Deans, in Taylors township.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Finch Mill Road, laundress Martha Griswold, 50, widow; nephews Jeffrey, 20, brick moulder in brick yard, and Walter Hill, 15, odd jobs laborer; and lodgers Willie Simms, 20, brick moulder in brick yard, and Earnest Winstead, 36, widower, farm laborer.
In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Ernest Winstead, 49; wife Louisa, 41; and children Roosevelt, 18, Essie May, 17, Mildred, 15, William, 12, Enman, 8, Leodell, 6, Dona May, 3, Sherrod, 2, and Jesse, 3 months.
Louise Winstead died 6 June 1925 in Edenton township, Chowan County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was 48 years old; was married to Ernest Winstead; was born in Wilson County to William Hyman and Lizzie Woodard; and was buried in Chowan County. Ernest Winstead, Edenton, was informant.
Ernest Winstead died 17 April 1952 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 74 years old; was born in Nash County to Berry and Lurenda Winstead; was married; worked as a carpenter and minister; and lived in Norfolk, Virginia. He was buried in Granite Point cemetery, Wilson County.
Wilson Daily Times, 15 April 2006.
Harry Dunston married Mary Stancil on 28 December 1897 on Oneal township, Johnston County.
In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Harry Dunston, 58, his wife of 6 years Livia A., 46, and children James, 10, Pearly, 7, Percy, 7, Alparada, 3, and Ollie, 1 1/2.
In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Harry Duncan [sic], 59; wife Livian, 39; and children Alparato, 11, Oliver W. 9, Bettie, 8, Clara, 7, Joseph, 6, Sidney, 5, Ruby and Ruth, 3, and Pearl and Percy, 15.
Livan Dunston died 29 April 1947 in Old Fields township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 May 1885 in Wilson County to Best Taborn and Clara Locus; was married to Harry Dunston; and is buried at New Vester.
Harry Dunston died 10 August 1950 in Old Fields township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born December 1859 in Wake County to Ben Dunston and Harriett Hester; was a widower; was a farmer; and was buried at New Vester. Eliza Dunstan Hayes was informant.
Ruby Dunston Jones passed away 6 March 2016, just before her 100th birthday.
Wilson Advance, 21 April 1892.
The Gaston twins were John A. Gaston and George A. Gaston. George established perhaps the leading barber shop in Elm City, seven miles north of Wilson. Though John was sometimes referred to as “Twin Gaston,” this ad, with Gastons plural, suggests that the brothers were in business together in Wilson at least briefly.
In the 1870 census of Kinston, Lenoir County, North Carolina: brickmason George Gaston, 53, wife Matilda, 30, and 13 year-old sons George and John, both farm laborers.
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason George Gaston, 60, wife Matilda, 44, and son John, 23, a farm laborer. John’s twin George Gaston, 23, barber, is listed by himself in the 1880 census of Town of Toisnot, Wilson County.
Wilson Daily Times, 21 December 1883.