I find myself with an unexpected day off, so what better way to kick off the real holiday than chopping it up with Zella Palmer about family, Black history, and Wide-Awake Wilson?
Zella is chair and director of Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture and renowned for her innovative work to preserve African-American food culture. Find out what she and I have in common — besides everything Black — this afternoon at 3:00 PM Eastern in our Instagram Live conversation @maisonzella!
Dr. Joseph H. Ward, circa World War I. Photo credit unknown.
In September 1926, Dr. Joseph H. Ward sent a note of thanks to Daily Times editor John D. Gold for a complimentary article the paper had published a few weeks before. The New York World had picked up and reprinted the piece, which had caught Dr. Ward’s attention.
Dr. Ward noted the “generosity and goodwill” of Wilson’s citizens and proclaimed that he was “proud to have been touched by the benign influence of the men who laid the foundation of the Wilson of today — the Messrs. Barnes, Woodards, Ruffins, Rountrees, Golds, Daniels, Conners, Davises, Vicks and Prices, and their illustrious compatriots.”
By populating his roll call with surnames only, Dr. Ward was able to place on an equal footing the African-American men who had positively impacted his youth — Samuel H. Vick and Joseph C. Price (and possibly, Rev. Fred M. Davis.) Notably, he did not name the family of his biological father, Dr. David G.W. Ward.
Wilson Daily Times, 3 September 1926.
I have not been able to find the August 19 article.
Many thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for the clipping.
Dr. Frank S. Hargrave did not take a position at Tuskegee Veterans’ Hospital, but he left Wilson in 1924 nonetheless, migrating to Orange, New Jersey. Who got the job, then? Dr. Joseph H. Ward of Indianapolis, who was a Wilson native.
Jesse and Mary Sherrod Ward‘s entire family was stricken with accidental arsenic poisoning in June 1923, perhaps from eating cabbage from their own garden. Jesse Ward died immediately and his four year-old daughter Virginia Dare Ward two days later.
The occupation and industry columns in federal population schedules sometimes yield unusual results, even in an era in which most African-Americans in Wilson worked as farm laborers, tobacco factory hands, or domestic workers.
In the 1930 census, 22 year-old Alfonso Ward gave his occupation as:
I have not been able to find any additional information on Ward’s career as a roadshow comedian, though he likely played chitlin’ circuit venues.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 122 East Street, laborer John Ward, 28; wife Addie, 27; and children Alfonsa, 13, Edgar, 8, Oritta, 5, Thelma, 2 months, and Jos[illegible], 3.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 112 East Street, rented at $12/month, widow Addie Ward, 37, and children Alfonso, 22, Edgear, 17, Othena, 16, Jasper, 14, and Thelma, 10.
In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ward Alfonso (c) hlpr r 112 East
In 1940, Alfonso Ward registered for the World War II draft in Kings County, New York. Per his draft card, he was born 1 May 1908 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 3040 B 7th Street, [Brooklyn], Kings County; his contact was friend Flossie Barrington, 614 Ocean View Avenue; and he worked for Louis Super, 419 B[righton] B[each] Avenue, Kings County. Ward’s address was amended to 413 Bri[ghton] Beach Ave. on 15 February 1943. [Per his signature, Ward spelled his first name “Alfonza.”]
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.
The Netflix limited series Self Made is refocusing attention on Madam C.J. Walker, the millionaire entrepreneur and empowerer of women best known for her haircare empire. The series is honest about being more “inspired by” Madam Walker’s life than true to it. Chockablock with B-list black star power (plus Octavia Spencer), Self Made is entertaining if you don’t think about it too hard. Ultimately, however, its heavy-handed resort to tropes and types and its soap opera style do a disservice to her story. Anyone wanting a closer truth should turn to A’Lelia Bundles’ On Her Own Ground, or my fave, Beverly Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker. Among other things, you’ll find an important part of Walker’s story completely omitted from Self-Made — her relationship with Dr. Joseph H. Ward, an African-American physician born in Wilson about 1872.
When she first arrived in Indianapolis in 1910, Walker boarded with Joseph and Zella Locklear Ward and gave beauty culture demonstrations in their parlor.
Indianapolis Recorder, 12 February 1910.
Indianapolis Recorder, 5 March 1910.
Walker and her daughter Lelia Robinson grew close to the Wards, and Dr. Ward was Madam’s personal physician the remainder of her life. He was at her bedside when she died.
The Wards accompanied Madam Walker on a drive to Kansas City, Missouri, where she addressed the National Educational Congress on “How the Negro Woman May Success in Business.” Indianapolis Star, 13 July 1913.
On a drive from Saint Louis to Kansas City, the automobile in which the Wards and Walker were traveling was jumped by a wild animal.Indianapolis Star, 28 September 1913.
Also in 1913, on the steps of the newly dedicated Y.M.C.A., Madam Walker with Booker T. Washington and, behind them, her lawyer Freeman Ransom and Dr. Joseph H. Ward.
From Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams:
“By Friday, Ward informs the household that Madame Walker cannot last longer than Sunday. On Saturday night, about midnight, she slips into unconsciousness. And her faithful friends and doctors and family gather around her bed; they are religious people who also believe in love and company, and that no one should pass from this life into the next alone. And so they wait, hushed, whispering, watching her, waiting.
“Sunday dawns warms and clear, and early rays of the sun crack through the drawn damask curtains and perhaps fall in splinters across the rose silk coverlet on Madame’s bed. At seven o’clock her people are still there, but no one feels her go and no one knows when she dies until Ward turns and says, ‘It’s over.’
“And if they weep it is with relief, for the end of her suffering. Her dying words, Ward later reports, were ‘I want to live to help my race.'”
Photo courtesy of Madam Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society.
Joe Ward, 23, of Stantonsburg, son of P.W. and Cherry Ward, married Edith B. Winstead, 18, of Stantonsburg, daughter of William Heath and Amanda W. Williams, on 13 May 1924 at Edith B. Winstead’s house in Stantonsburg. Witnesses were Willie F, W.H. Jones and Lavenia Jones, all of Stantonsburg.
James Herman Ward died 25 August 1928 in Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 June 1927 in Wilson County to Joe Ward of Greene County and Edith Winstead or Wilson County. he was buried in Bethel graveyard.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Joe Ward, 30, lumber company planer; wife Edith B., 22; and children Marie, 4, and Mildred, 2 months.
In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Amanda Williams, 63, widow, domestic, and grandchildren William, 15, and Edward Jones, 11, and Marie, 14, Mildred, 10, Braxton, 9, and Preston Ward, 6.
Amanda Williams died 24 December 1955 in Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 May 1883 in Pitt County to Isaac Winstead and Jane Winstead and was a widow. Informant was Edith Ward, Stantonsburg.
Joseph Ward died 19 September 1971 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 May 1896 to Perry Ward and Cherry Speight; was married to Edith Ward; lived at 919 Poplar Street, Wilson; and his informant was Mildred Kirby, 125 Powell Street, Wilson.
Of course, we knew the story here and here and here and here and here, but for more about the project that lead to the erection of an historic marker to commemorate the life of Dr. Joseph H. Ward, see the February 2020 edition of The American Legion magazine.