Ward

Willis Bryant of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Willis Bryant was among the scores of African Americans who left Wilson County for Indianapolis, Indiana, in the last quarter of the 19th century.

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Indianapolis Star, 20 March 1915.

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Probably, in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Louiza Bryant, 30; Cornelius Harriss, 23;  Catherine Harriss, 20; Cornelius Harriss, 1; Ann Bryant, 9; Willie Bryant, 8; and Alice Ellis, 15.

Bryant probably attended the Wilson Academy. Like Samuel H. Vick ’84 and Braswell R. Winstead ’85, he received a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

Catalogue of Lincoln University, Chester County, Pennsylvania, for the Academical Year 1886-87 (1887).

On 4 May 1890, Willis Bryant, 26, son of Wiley Bryant and Louisa Branch, married Ida M. Webb, 22, in Marion County, Indiana.

As were many Lincoln alumni, Bryant was very active in the Presbyterian church and helped found Senate Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Indianapolis News, 20 June 1892.

In the 1900 census of Center township, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 808 Wyoming Street, coal dealer Willis Bryant, 36; wife Ida, 32; and children Ralph, 6, and Edna May, 1.

In September 1900, Wilson native Daniel C. Suggs, then teaching at Georgia State College, visited the Bryants in Indianapolis. Suggs was also a Lincoln graduate.

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Indianapolis News, 7 September 1900.

Fifteen years after he graduated, Bryant and his wife returned to Pennsylvania to attend a Lincoln graduation, then made a round of East Coast cities.

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Indianapolis News, 25 May 1901.

In 1901, Lucy Gay visited her uncle Willis Bryant in Indianapolis. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Sam Gay, 54; wife Alice, 50; and children Charlie C., 23, Edgar B., 25, Lucy, 17, Samuel, 14, Albert and Beatrice, 10, and Lily, 4. [Alice Gay was the 15 year-old Alice Ellis listed in the 1870 census above. When she married Samuel Gay, she gave her maiden name as Bryant.]

Indianapolis News, 28 December 1901.

In October 1904, the Indiana Recorder reprinted “His Trip West,” an article by Harry S. Cummings originally posted in the Afro-American Ledger. In the chronicle of his tour of Indiana cities, Cummings mentioned Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward and Willis Bryant and his father-in-law Charles A. Webb’s transportation and hauling businesses.

Indianapolis News, 22 October 1904.

In 1907, Willis Bryant and other black businessmen formed a committee to assist the city’s Juvenile Court with finding employment for “delinquent colored boys and girls.”

Indianapolis Star, 24 April 1907.

In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 808 Wyoming Street, Willis Bryant, 44; wife Ida M., 42; and children Ottis R., 16, Edna, 11, and Hulda M., 3.

Indianapolis Recorder, 13 March 1915.

Willis Bryant died 19 March 1915, barely a week after celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary.

Indianapolis Recorder, 18 March 1916.

His widow, Ida Webb Bryant, outlived him by decades, and was featured in this 1963 Indianapolis Recorder piece.

Indianapolis Recorder, 22 June 1963.

There was something unusual in that green-looking country boy.

In which the Indianapolis Freeman enlightens us regarding Joseph H. Ward‘s journey from Wilson to Naptown:

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Indianapolis Freeman, 22 July 1899.

A few notes:

  • Joseph Ward’s mother was Mittie Ward Vaughn. His father Napoleon Hagans was a prosperous free-born farmer in Wayne County near Fremont.
  • The school in LaGrange at which Ward worked was most likely Davis Military Academy:  “By 1880 a second school for boys … Davis Military Academy, was founded by Colonel Adam C. Davis. “School Town” became La Grange’s nickname as the military school would eventually have an enrollment of 300 students from every state and even some foreign countries. The school also had a band, the only cadet orchestra in the country during that time. The school prospered, but an outbreak of meningitis closed it in 1889.”
  • Dr. George Hasty was a founder of the Physio-Medical College of Indianapolis, which Joseph Ward later attended.

Physio-Medical College of Indiana, undated. IUPUI Image Collection.

Sankofa: the Wards come home.

Joseph Henry Ward left Wilson in the late 1880s on a journey that would lead him to a trail-blazing career as a physician in Indiana and Alabama. It does not appear that he ever returned to his birthplace. Yesterday, however, his granddaughter and great-granddaughter, both born and reared in the Midwest, came home. Zella Palmer FaceTimed me as she and her mother Alice Roberts Palmer stood outside David G.W. Ward‘s house near Stantonsburg, the house in which Joseph Ward’s mother Mittie Ward and grandmother Sarah Ward toiled while enslaved. David Ward was the father of at least three of Sarah Ward’s children, including Mittie.

Cousin Alice is an accomplished educator and politician, a former member of the Illinois state senate. Zella is chair of the Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture in New Orleans. One hundred and thirty years after Joseph Ward left Wilson County, in the spirit of sankofa, they returned to claim their ancestors. There was laughter — Zella said she felt like she was in a scene from The Color Purple — and tears, as Cousin Alice, standing in her people’s footsteps, recalled the teachers who told her that black people did not have any history. The pilgrimage to North Carolina included time in Robeson County at a Lumbee pow-wow in honor of Dr. Ward’s wife, Zella’s namesake, Zella Locklear Ward. It was “magical, spiritual and sobering,” Cousin Alice said.

I’m so thankful to have been able to share, even if remotely, this incredible homecoming with you, cousins!

Zella’s photo of the house in which her great-great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother were enslaved by her great-great-great-grandfather.

1100 East Nash Street and 1208 Woodard Avenue.

The one hundred-seventh in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

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 Wilson Daily Times, 12 April 1946.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, 1100 East Nash Street: “ca. 1913; 2 stories; Sallie Barbour house; Queen Anne house with hip-roofed main block and front two-story wing; asphalt veneer; modernized porch; Barbour was noted schoolteacher whose name was given to the former black elementary school (Wilson Colored School) that once stood on Stantonsburg Road.” The house was demolished in the early 1990s.

In the 1922, 1925 and 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Parker Allison (c; Mary) hlpr h1100 E Nash

Allison Parker died 27 January 1930. Per his death certificate, he was 75 years old; was born in Halifax County, North Carolina, to Hillard and Dianah Parker; was married to Mary Parker; lived at 1100 East Nash; and worked as a housecleaner. Cause of death: “heart attack probably died suddenly while sitting up in chair. Died before Doctor reached him.”

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1100 East Nash Street, Sallie Barber, 67, widowed public school teacher, and her sister Tiny Hill, 69, also a widowed teacher.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barbour Sallie M (c) h1100 E Nash; Barbour Luther (c) barber h 1100 E Nash

Sallie Minnie Barbour died 22 April 1942 at her home at 1100 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 71 years old; was born in Wake County to Essex Blake and Clara Hodge; was a widow; and was a schoolteacher. Ardelia Nunn, 1100 East Nash, was informant.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Rogers Rufus (c; Dora) tob wkr Export Tob h1100 E Nash

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

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As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, 1208 Woodard Avenue is: “ca. 1917; 1 story; shotgun with gable returns and hip-roofed porch; asphalt veneer.”

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, this house was vacant. In the 1930 directory: Davis John (c; Vinie) h 1208 Woodard Av

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1208 Woodard Avenue, rented for $12/month, sawmill laborer William Davis, 42; wife Vina, 42; and children Margana, 17, Curtis, 14, Viola, 13, Arabella, 8, Castella, 7, James, 5, Laura J., 4, and Augusta, 3.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Nash Sidney (c) tob wkr h1208 Woodard av

In 1942, Alvin Sidney Nash registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 9 August 1900; lived at 1208 Woodard Avenue, Wilson; his contact was Rosa Nash Battle, 913 Washington Street; and he worked for W.T. Clark’s Tobacco Factory, Wilson.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ward Floyd (c; Beatrice) rodmn City h1208 Woodard av

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

The obituary of Dr. Joseph H. Ward.

The Indianapolis Star, 13 December 1956.

Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward passed away in Indianapolis in December 1956. Read more about him here and here.

A letter in which W.E.B. DuBois expresses his support of the selection of Dr. Ward to receive the Spingarn Medal in 1933. (It instead went to Y.M.C.A. missionary Max Yeargan.)

Iconic photograph of Major (later Colonel) Joseph H. Ward during his World War I service, from Emmett J. Scott’s The American Negro in the World War (1919).

Document courtesy of Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963. Memorandum from W. E. B. Du Bois to Spingarn Medal Award Committee, January 2, 1933. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Artis’ Cafe padlocked.

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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.

Wilsonian Ward appointed Chief Surgeon at Tuskegee.

Wilson Daily Times, 28 January 1924.

More than 40 years after he left, the link between Dr. Joseph H. Ward and Wilson was well-enough known that the Daily Times printed an article about his appointment as Chief Surgeon at Tuskegee’s veterans hospital.