Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 2 May 1919.
Charles Diggs left Wilson County shortly after Emancipation, and I have found no record of him there. He is remarkably elusive in federal census records as well, but newspaper clippings and other records offer glimpses of his family and the rich life he led in Brooklyn, New York. (Why was he called “Colonel,” though? Was he a veteran of the United States Colored Troops?0
On 25 April 1872, in Brooklyn, New York, Charles Diggs, 25, of Wadesborough, Virginia [sic], son of James Diggs and Lydia Harris, married Carter Corlea Jones, 25, of Lynchburgh, Virginia, daughter of Riley Carter and Polly Reed.
In the 1874 Brooklyn, N.Y., city directory: Diggs Charles well sinker 1191 Atlantic av
A female child was born 14 October 1874 in Brooklyn to Charles Diggs and Carter Carlea Jones.
A male child was born 4 April 1878 in Brooklyn to Charles Diggs and Carter Jones.
Florence R. Diggs was born 20 October 1878 in Brooklyn to Charles Diggs and Carter C. Jones.
A male child was born 2 December 1880 in Brooklyn to Charles Diggs and Carter C. Jones.
In the 1889 Brooklyn, N.Y., city directory: Diggs Charles welldriver 289 Franklin av
Carter Diggs died 25 March 1890 in Brooklyn, New York. Per her death certificate, she was 46 years old, was born in Virginia, and was married.
In 1890, Diggs was initiated into the Brooklyn Literary Union, organized in 1886, and where he would rub elbows with journalist T. Thomas Fortune:
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 May 1890.
In the 1892 state census of Brooklyn, Kings County, New York: Chas. Diggs, 45, well digger, and children Rosa, 19, [illegible], 15, Horace, 10, and Florence, 12.
In the 1895 Brooklyn, N.Y., city directory: Diggs Chas welldigger 485 Waverly av
Horace L. Diggs, age 16, died 9 June 1898 in New York, New York.
A 1901 article noted that Diggs was one of a few Brooklyn residents to have been born into slavery:
From “Brooklyn’s Colored Population: It Is Believed to Number Eighteen Thousand — Progress in Prosperity and In Intellectual Advancement — Paying Taxes on Property Amounting to About One Million Dollars. The Brooklyn Citizen, 8 December 1901.
In the 1905 state census of Brooklyn, Kings County, New York: at 111 DeKalb Avenue, Louis Paultry, 42, laborer; wife Harriett Paultry, 38; well digger Charles Diggs, 59; porter James Teamer, 32; stable man Edward Scoot, 46; and laborer John Harry, 27.
“Colonel” Charles Diggs helped plan the Garnet Republican Club’s Lincoln Dinner in February 1908. During the event, he delivered a speech on “Organization and Unity.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 13 February 1908.
Diggs helped plan the Garnet Republican Club’s observance of the 100th anniversary:
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 28 November 1908.
In 1911, the Society of the Sons of North Carolina, to which Diggs belonged, planned a “monster mass meeting” and published an appeal for support of its efforts to address “the condition of immorality existing among the young girls of our race in certain sections ….”
New York Age, 6 July 1911.
Of more personal concern, in late 1911, widow Rosa Hardnut signaled her intent to sue Bristol Meyers Chemical Company, where her husband was buried alive while working on a dig for Charles Diggs.
Brooklyn Daily Times, 9 December 1911.
Charles Diggs died 29 April 1919 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. Per his death certificate, he was born 1848 to James and Lydia Diggs; was a well digger; was a widower; and was buried in Mount Olivet cemetery.
Florence Varner died 28 April 1928 in Manhattan. Per her death certificate, she was 61 years old; was widowed; was born in 1886 in New York City to Charles Diggs of North Carolina and Carter Jones of North Carolina.
Mae Wilson died 23 July 1941 in the Bronx. Per her death certificate, she was 42 years old; was widowed; and was born 24 October 1880 to Charles Diggs of North Carolina and Carter Jones.
[What was the Society of the Sons of North Carolina?
The Bystander (Des Moines, Iowa), 26 May 1911.