voting rights

Registrars and judges of election.

In August and September 1896, the Chairman of the Republican State Executive Committee submitted lists of  Registrars and Judges of Election for elections to be held in November 1896.

Wilson County was divided into 14 precincts — four in Wilson, two in Toisnot township, and one each in Taylors, Old Fields, Springhill, Cross Roads, Black Creek, Stantonsburg, Saratoga and Gardners townships. Braswell R. Winstead was appointed Judge of Election for Wilson Precinct No. 1 and Toisnot Precinct No. 1 and Elijah L. Reid was appointed Judge of Election for Stantonsburg Precinct. William H. Vick was appointed Registrar for Wilson No. 2; Alexander D. Dawson for Wilson No. 3; and Jeremiah Scarboro for Wilson No. 4. Jessie Howard was appointed Taylors registrar and Gray Newsome, Cross Roads.

Election Records 1896, Officials’ Bonds and Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.

Recommended reading, no. 3.

My well-worn copy.

May I recommend Charles W. McKinney’s excellent Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina? Published in 2010, this fine-grained and meticulous monograph examines the many grassroots groups — including farmers, businessmen, union organizers, working class women — who worked together and separately to drag Wilson County into and through the civil rights movement.

God bless Wilson and her worthy people.

One hundred nineteen years ago today, the Wilson Times ran a letter sent from Monrovia, Liberia, by Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, U.S. consul to that West African country. Largely a sycophantic roll call of Wilson’s elected officials, halfway through Smith suddenly jabs. Praising a hospital director, he commented that all had “the appearance that better things are coming, notwithstanding the ‘Jim Crow Car’ law, the election franchise act, and the constitutional amendment. But I believe you will let me vote.” He then drops a few lines describing Liberia’s system of suffrage. It’s not universal, but. Touché.

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Wilson Times, 9 June 1899.

Work and that woman has kept me right.

Martha Tyson Dixon‘s husband Luke D. Dixon consented to a Federal Writers Project interview, too. His story, starting with his Africa-born grandparents, is electric.

“My father’s owner was Jim Dixon in Elmo County, Virginia. That is where I was born. I am 81 years old. Jim Dixon had several boys — Baldwin and Joe. Joe took some of the slaves his pa gave him, and went to New Mexico to shun the war. Uncle and Pa went in the war as waiters. They went in at the ending up. We lived on the big road that run to the Atlantic Ocean. Not far from Richmond. Ma lived three or four miles from Pa. She lived across big creek — now they call it Farrohs Run. Ma belonged to Harper Williams. Pa’s folks was very good but Ma’s folks was unpleasant.

“Ma lived to be 103 years old. Pa died in 1905 and was 105 years old. I used to set on Grandma’s lap and she told me about how they used to catch people in Africa. They herded them up like cattle and put them in stalls and brought them on the ship and sold them. She said some they captured they left bound till they come back and sometimes they never went back to get them. They died. They had room in the stalls on the boat to set down or lie down. They put several together. Put the men to themselves and the women to themselves. When they sold Grandma and Grandpa at a fishing dock called New Port, Va., they had their feet bound down and their hands bound crossed, up on a platform. They sold Grandma’s daughter to somebody in

“Texas. She cried and she begged to let them be together. They didn’t pay no ‘tension to her. She couldn’t talk but she made them know she didn’t want to be parted. Six years after slavery they got together. When a boat was to come in people come and wait to buy slaves. They had several days of selling. I never seen this but that is the way it was told to me.

“The white folks had a iron clip that fastened the thumbs together and they would swing the man or woman up in a tree and whoop them. I seen that done in Virginia across from where I lived. I don’t know what the folks had done. They pulled the man up with block and tackle.

“Another thing I seen done was put three or four chinquapin switches together green, twist them and dry them. They would dry like a leather whip. They whooped the slaves with them.

“Grandpa was named Sam Abraham and Phillis Abraham was his mate. They was sold twice. Once she was sold away from her husband to a speculator. Well, it was hard on the Africans to be treated like animals. I never heard of the Nat Turner rebellion. I have heard of slaves buying their own freedom. I don’t know how it was done. I have heard of folks being helped to run off. Grandma on mother’s side had a brother run off from Dalton, Mississippi to the North. After the war he come to Virginia.

“When freedom was declared we left and went to Wilmington and Wilson, North Carolina. Dixon never told us we was free but at the end of the year he gave my father a gray mule he had ploughed for a long time and part of the crop. My mother jes

“picked us up and left her folks now. She was cooking then I recollect. Folks jes went wild when they got turned loose.

“My parents was first married under a twenty five cents license law in Virginia. After freedom they was remarried under a new law and the license cost more but I forgot how much. They had fourteen children to my knowing. After the war you could register under any name you give yourself. My father went by the name of Right Dixon and my mother Jilly Dixon.

“The Ku Klux was bad. They was a band of land owners what took the law in hand. I was a boy. I scared to be caught out. They took the place of pattyrollers before freedom.

“I never went to public school but two days in my life. I went to night school and paid Mr. J.C. Price and Mr. S.H. Vick to teach me. My father got his leg shot off and I had to work. It kept me out of meanness. Work and that woman has kept me right. I come to Arkansas, brought my wife and one child, April 5, 1889. We come from Wilson, North Carolina. Her people come from North Carolina and Moultrie, Georgia.

“I do vote. I sell eggs or a little something and keep my taxes paid up. It look like I’m the kind of folks the government would help — them that works and tries hard to have something — but seems like they don’t get no help. They wouldn’t help me if I was bout to starve. I vote a Republican ticket.”

NOTE: On the wall in the dining room, used as a sitting room, was framed picture of Booker T. Washington and Teddy Roosevelt sitting at a round-shaped hotel dining table ready to be

“served. Underneath the picture in large print was “Equality.” I didn’t appear to ever see the picture.

This negro is well-fixed for living at home. He is large and very black, but his wife is a light mulatto with curly, nearly straightened hair.

——

This is the image that Luke Dixon’s interviewer so studiously ignored. The event it depicted, which scandalized white America in 1901, is the subject of Deborah Davis’ recent book, Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation (2012).

I have not found Luke Dixon or his parents in the censuses of Virginia. There is no “Elmo County,” Virginia, but New Port may have been Newport News, which was little more than a fishing village in the antebellum era.

Dixon apparently attended night school at Wilson Academy, but it is not clear when. Joseph C. Price headed the school from 1871 to 1873, when Samuel H. Vick was just a child. Vick assumed the helm at age 21 after graduating from Lincoln University.

The Men’s Civic Club.

“By 1939, [George K.] Butterfield and others began advocating for the creation of a more effective organization to fight for the ballot in addition to the NAACP. Joined by doctors J.F. Cowan, I.A. Shade, and D.C. Yancey, funeral home director C.L. Darden, barber shop owner William Hines and others, Butterfield helped create the Men’s Civic Club in the fall of 1939. At the second meeting the men selected their officers. Dr. B.O. Barnes was selected as president; C.L. Spellman, vice-president; M.D. Williams, secretary and C.L Darden treasurer. … The group’s primary objective was to ‘study and support all proposals that we consider beneficial to the Negroes of Wilson.’ Though interested in the benefit of the entire community, the Club specifically concerned itself with ‘the problems and needs (civic, educational and recreational) of the Negroes of greater Wilson — city and county.'”

This photograph was published in the 2 July 1976 edition of the Wilson Daily Times. Though undated, it most likely was taken at an early meeting of the Men’s Civic Club and certainly before the end of 1941, when two of the men depicted passed away.

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  • Dr. B.O. Barnes — Boisey Otha Barnes (1902-1956), physician, a Wilson native, son of Dave and Della Hines Barnes.
  • Dr. G.K. Butterfield — George Kenneth Butterfield (1900-1995), dentist and city councilman, a native of Bermuda.
  • David Coley — David Henry Coley (1895-1974), barber, native of Wayne County.
  • C.L. Darden — Camillus Lewis Darden (1884-1956), undertaker, a Wilson native, of Charles and Diana Scarborough Darden.
  • Dr. William Mitchner — William Arthur Mitchner (1882-1941), physician, native of Johnston County.
  • Walter Hines — Walter Scott Hines (1879-1941), barber, native of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, son of Della Hines Barnes.
  • Knolly Zachary — Joe Knolly Zachary (1900-1984), barber, native of Perquimans County, North Carolina.
  • Dr. J.F. Cowan — Joseph Franklin Cowan (1896-1985), physician, native of South Carolina.
  • E.M. Barnes — Edward Morrison Barnes (1905-2002), high school principal, a Wilson native, son of Lemon and Elizabeth Smith Barnes.
  • Dr. D.C. Yancey — D’Arcey C. Yancey (1883-1957), pharmacist, native of Danville, Virginia.
  • Howard Fitts — Howard Monroe Fitts (1890-1968), teacher, native of Warren County.
  • Malcolm Williams — Malcolm Demosthenese Williams (1909-1991), school principal, native of Duplin County.
  • Spencer Satchwell — Spencer Jordan Satchell (1910-1992), music teacher, native of Hampton, Virginia.
  • Jim Whitfield — James Ashley Whitfield (1892-1960), painter, Wilson native, son of A.W. and Sallie Whitfield.
  • Rev. Sanders — Otto Eugene Sanders (1886-1978), Presbyterian clergyman, native of South Carolina.
  • Randall James — Randall Roland James Jr. (1916-1981), undertaker, Wilson native, son of Randall and Elizabeth Darden James.
  • Robert Johnson — Robert Josiah Johnson (1884-1964), Episcopal priest, native of Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Milton Fisher — Milton Wallace Fisher (1907-??), school principal, native of New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Levi Jones — Levi Hunter Jones (1876-1961), barber, native of Hertford County, North Carolina.
  • Charlie Jones — Charles T. Jones (1878-1963), barber and minister, native of Hertford County, North Carolina.
  • Dr. W.H. Phillips — William Haywood Phillips (1875-1957), dentist, native of Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • William Hines — William Hines (1884-??), barber and hospital administrator, native of Edgecombe County, son of Della Hines Barnes.
  • W.M. Bethel — Wilton Maxwell Bethel (1906-1986), insurance agent, native of Florida.
  • Sidney S. Boatwright — Sidney Sherwood Boatwright (1900-1977), barber, native of Mullins, South Carolina.
  • Carter Foster — Carter Washington Foster (1914-1955), county agricultural extension agent, Wilson native, son of Walter and Rosa Parker Foster.
  • Roderick Taylor — Roderick Taylor (1883-1947), barber, Wilson native, son of Mike and Rachel Barnes Taylor.

Passage excerpted from Charles W. McKinney Jr., Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina (2010).

Howard Farmer had a voting record.

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County Man, 96, Has 74-Year Voting Record

By Claude Starling

For some voters the task of remembering the last time they cast a ballot is a formidable one, for others the memory of that first ballot often escapes them.

But Howard Farmer remembers the last ballot he case. He also knows the first ballot he ever cast, and he remembers a whole lot of those in between.

Farmer’s last ballot was cast June 4 in the Wilson County Democratic Party’s runoff primary to nominate a sheriff’s candidate.

And his first ballot?

Well, Howard Farmer voted Republican that first time — casting a ballot for then incumbent President William McKinley in the election of 1906.

McKinley and his running mate, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, outpolled free silver Democrat William Jennings Bryan and his running mate, Adlai Stevenson (grandfather of a a more famous son of a more recent era), for the presidency and vice presidency that year.

For most of us the names McKinley, Roosevelt, Bryan and Stevenson, are little more than names out of history books. But for Howard Farmer they were real. Howard Farmer was 22 years old when he cast that first ballot 74 years ago.

Th election was something of a milestone for him — a black man, son of slave parents, voting in a Southern state, casting a ballot for the first time in his life.

It was almost his last election. Various statutes enacted in following years prevented many Negroes from again going to the polls. It was a long wait — 14 years until he again voted, this time in a local election.

Voting became a habit with Howard Farmer and he claims he hasn’t missed an election since, especially not a presidential election. It’s a record few voters can match.

Today, Howard Farmer is a retired tobacco farmer and landowner who lives in his own home on his own farm in Taylors township at Rt. 2, Elm City.

He is married to a second wife and what time isn’t spent in gardening and around the house is spent religiously — he has been a preacher since 1920 and only last week was asked to preach in area church services.

He was born Feb. 2, 1878 in Wilson County, a son of Alford Farmer, who derived his name from the Wiley Farmer plantation on which he was born a slave. His mother was a slave on another nearby plantation near the intersection of N.C. Highways 97 and 58, said Farmer.

To the best of his knowledge he was one of five sons and three daughters — he is unsure about aunts and uncles due to fact that slave families were sometimes broken up by their owners.

Farmer spoke little of his early years, but he did explain the loss of his left eye at age 15 in an incident involving a white landowner’s son.

According to Farmer, he was visiting on a neighboring farmer’s land and the man asked him to help in the harvesting. When he refused, the man, angered by such a refusal, struck him across the side of the head with a weeding hoe, destroying his left eye.

Later the man was convicted by a local jury for assault and ordered to pay Farmer $50 and costs of court — an action Farmer said was “unheard of” in those times: a white man being order to pay for injuries done a black man.

Even though the offender is “long once dead,” said Farmer, no malice was held. To Farmer, the incident is simply an occurrence out of his past.

Howard Farmer was probably more fortunate than most young Negroes around the turn of the century. He received an education — through high school — at what was then Farmer’s School (named for Wiley Farmer.)

In 1900, he was living in Nash County sand voted that first time at Joyner’s Crossroads in that county. “Most all of us (Negroes) were voting Republican at that time, ” he remembers.

In 1903 he married his first wife Sarah at a location near what is today the Rocky Mount Wilson Airport. They built a frame house on the Walter Pridgen farm near Elm City and Farmer, in addition to working on the Pridgen farm, worked in a nearby saw mill

He remembers putting $100 in an Elm City bank in 1906 and leaving it on deposit until 1913 when he and his wife purchased a lot and built a house on Pine and Beal streets in Rocky Mount. But only a year later, he rented a farm from an area man named Offie Parker. Three years later, he rented a second farm. Later Farmer and three of his brothers-in-law purchased the two farms.

Farmer said he paid $9,000 for the 56-acre tract he purchased. He later bought another 140-acre tract but that has since been sold. A few acres of the original 56-acre tract have been sold off for building lots, but Farmer still holds title to more than 40 acres of the land he first bought more than 50 years ago.

In 1920 Farmer became a preacher — he said he was converted in 1909 — in the Missionary Baptist denomination. From 1931-33 he pastored a Lucama area church, which had called him. He got 35 cents each Sunday for his expenses and the final year the congregation raised $16 for him, he noted.

In 1922, Farmer’s only son Quentin, was born. He was educated in county elementary school and graduated from Wilson’s Darden High School — the only black high school in the area at that time. Quentin now resides in San Francisco, Calif.

Howard Farmer has a grandson, James, serving in the U.S. Army in Germany, and one great-grandson, James Anthony Farmer, who, with his grandfather, visited Howard Farmer a week ago.

Howard Farmer hides his years well. The events he has witnessed, the men he has met, seem like turning back the pages of history.

Farmer returned to the ballot box in 1914 and remembers voting for local candidates: county commissioners. The exact years faded in his memory, but the first local candidate he can remember casting a ballot for was John Thompson, a Wilson County commissioner. Howard Farmer claims he hasn’t missed an election since and has been a registered Democrat in Wilson County since 1914, casting his ballots in Taylors township.

The first automobile he remembers is a 1913 Model T Ford; he remembers Booker T. Washington; and more recently he remembers — but not too fondly — his first airplane ride: he was 95 and flew a 727 “Whisperjet” to California and a 747 “Jumbo” jet on the return trip; he knew Martin Luther King and went to New York once to meet him.

“Everything is better now,” said the 96-year-old Farmer when asked to compare life as he he has known it to the life now possible, and cited “better opportunities” for black man and women.

But, in an afterthought, he added “Maybe not necessarily what it ought to be but it is better.” Religiously speaking, he said “We’ve got to live right; it doesn’t matter what church you join; if you don’t live right, hell is our own.”

Farmer’s health remains robust. His son took him to a doctor recently and was advised to let his father “do whatever he wants to do; whatever makes him happy.”

There will be no surprise if Howard Farmer continues to do a little gardening, to do some guest preaching, and, in November, to see him visit the polls in Taylors Township — it’s what he’s been doing for most of his 96 years anyway.

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— Wilson Daily Times, 6 July 1974.

——

On 18 September 1868, Alfred Farmer, son of Charles and Sarah Matthews, married Precilla Strickland, daughter of Carey Williams and Rhody Taylor, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Alfred Farmer, 38, wife Priscilla, 34, and children Henry, 11, Charley, 9, Pharo, 5, and Howard, 1.

In the 1900 census of Rocky Mount township, Nash County: widowed farmer Zanie Winstead, 56, her children Josha, 20, Sarah E., 19, and Emma, 15, and grandson Clarance, 2, plus boarder Howard Farmer, 22, a farm laborer.

On 10 February 1903, Pharaoh Farmer applied in Nash County for a marriage license for Howard Farmer, 25, son of Alfred and Priscila Farmer, of Wilson County, and Sarah Eliz. Winstead, 25, daughter of Reddick and Zanie Winstead, of Nash County. The marriage took place the next day at the home of Sarah’s mother in Rocky Mount township, Wilson County.

In the 1910 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Howard Farmer, 31, and wife Sarah, 31.

On 12 September 1918, Howard Farmer of RFD 4, Elm City, registered for the World War I draft at the Wilson County draft board. His registration card reports that he was born 2 February 1878, that he worked as a farmer for Offie Parker, and that his nearest relative was Sara Lisa Farmer. He signed his card with an X.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Howard Farmer, 42, and wife Sarah, 42.

In the 1930 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Howard Farmer, 52, wife Sarah, 51, and son Quinton, 7.

In the 1940 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Howard Farmer, 61, wife Sarah, 61, and son Quenten, 17.

Howard Farmer died 1 October 1980 in Wilson, North Carolina.

The Union League.

Nearly 80% black, and representing the 40% of North Carolina’s population that was African-American, the Union League was critical to the success of the Republican Party post-Civil War. Governor William W. Holden, committed to black political and social equality, pulled the Union League under the party’s umbrella with white Unionists. The newly formed Ku Klux Klan rose up in opposition, unleashing a scourge of retribution and intimidation across the state and driving Holden from office. Under this pressure, the League effectively collapsed by 1871.

In 1912, the Sewanee Review published J.G. de Roulhac Hamilton’s “The Union League in North Carolina,” a disapproving assessment of the League’s activities across the state. In the article, Hamilton, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and founder of that institution’s esteemed Southern Historical Collection, briefly touched upon Wilson County’s organization:

“In December, 1869, at Wilson Court, in the case of two members of the League who were indicted for whipping a negro for voting the Conservative ticket, Judge Thomas refused to admit any evidence to show that the League had ordered the whipping, and sentenced them when convicted to thirty and sixty days’ imprisonment respectively. They were immediately pardoned by the governor.”

 

 

Judges of elections.

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Wilson Advance, 15 October 1880.

  • Wash Sugg — George Washington Suggs was a Greene County native. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason Washington Sugg, 51, wife Esther, 38, and children Nicy, 21, Sarena, 17, Cator, 16, Molly, 12, Edmonia, 10, Juda, 5, and James, 3. Wash Suggs died 19 February 1914 in Wilson. His death certificate lists his parents as Lu Suggs and Gulia Best.
  • Howell Durden — See Howell Darden here.
  • Raiford Daniel — In the 1880 census of Black Creek, Wilson County: farmer Raiford Daniel, 58, wife Emma, 56, sons Raiford, 16, and Jacob, 14, and granddaughter Lessie Heggan, 8.
  • Pat Williamson — See Patrick Williamson here.
  • Hilliard Ellis — See Hilliard Ellis here and here.
  • M. Adams — Probably farmer Moses Adams, 49, listed in the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County, with wife Rebeca, 46, Aggy, 21, Billy, 14, Nathan, 7, and John, 2.
  • Stewart Williams — Stewart Williams, son of John Halie and Eliza Williams, married Margaret Farmer, daughter of William and Mary Farmer on 23 December 1869 in Wilson County.
  • Hilliard Woodard — Hilliard Woodard, son of Mose Barnes and Winney Woodard, married Rose Ellis, daughter of Benjamin and Nelly Bynum on 11 January 1868 in Wilson County. In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Hilliard Woodard, 30, wife Rosetta, 25, and children Winnie, 9, Aaron, 8, Mary E., 6, Cora, 3, and James, 1.
  • Frank Woodard — Probably the Frank Woodard, 37, who is listed with wife Appie, 32, and sons Frank, 11, and Romilus, 9, in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County.