A quick chart I drew up.

Among the most rewarding aspects of researching for Black Wide-Awake are discovering, uncovering, and recovering lost family connections, both my own and others’. I was particularly excited to piece together the Taylor family puzzle, which linked three of my childhood friends. Wilson County is small enough that it’s not surprising that many of us share distant common ancestry, but just who those long-lost cousins are can be surprising indeed.

Studio shots, no. 196: Jesse and Levan Wilkins Handy.

Jesse and Levan Wilkins Handy.


In the 1900 census of Red Bluff township, Marlboro County, South Carolina: wood cutter George Handy, 36; wife Mary, 30; and children Neill A., 12, George, 8, Simeon, 5, Iola, 2, and Jessee, 2 months.

In the 1910 census of Stewartsville township, Scotland County, North Carolina: farmer George Handy, 55, and children Neill, 20, George, 18, Sim, 15, Iola, 12, Jessie, 9, Mary, 6, and Archie, 4.

Neil Handy registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1918. Per his registration card, he lived at Route 6, Wilson; was born 30 May 1886; was a farmer for Jesse Barnes; and Nellie Handy was his nearest relative.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Black Creek Road, George Handy, 60, and children Douglass, 18, Arch, 12, and Mary Sudie, 14.

In the 1930 census of Jonesboro, Lee County, North Carolina: odd jobs laborer Jesse Handy, 25; wife Janie, 25; and daughter Mary J., 2.

In the 1930 census of Mannings township, Nash County, North Carolina: farmer John Wilkins, 52, widower, and children William C., 20, farm laborer, Levian, 17, and Zollie, 15, farm laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Spring Street Alley, brickmason Douglas J. Handy, 40; wife Evan, 28, laundress; and daughter Mary J., 12.

Jessie Dugles Handy registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 14 April 1898 in Marion County, South Carolina; resided at 404 South Spring Street Alley; worked for Jones Brothers Construction on Lodge Street; and his contact was brother, Neal Handy, a brickmason.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Handley Jesse (c; Levan) brklyr h929 Carolina

Jessie Handy died 19 August 1979 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 April 1900 in Cumberland County, North Carolina, to George and Mary Handy; resided at 107 South East Street; worked as a brick mason; and was married to Levan Wilkins Handy.

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 13 August 2005.

Photo courtesy of Cassandra Handy Horsley. Thank you for sharing!


Snaps, no. 87: Iora Blanche Wilkins Jones Baines Lucas.

Iora Wilkins Jones Baines Lucas.

In the 1900 census of Old Field township, Wilson County: Francis Kates, 37, widow, farmer, and children Ora, 16, Jane, 14, Willie, 10, and Earnest, 6.

Iora Lucas, 15, of Old Fields township, daughter of Buck Wilkins and Frances Kates, married James E. Jones, 28, of Old Fields, son of Burt Jones and Susan Jones, on 2 June 1901 at Frances Kates’ in Old Fields. Thomas A. Jones was a witness.

On 19 February 1906, Frank Baines, 26, of Old Fields, son of Simon and D. Baines, married Iora Jones, 21, of Nash County, daughter of Frances Cates, at Frank Baines’ residence. Thomas A. Jones, John R. Jones, and Dorsey Powell were informants.

In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Franklin Baines, 28; wife Ora, 24; and children James V., 8, Elroy, 4, Cornelia, 2, and Mary A. Baines, 7 months.

In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: widowed farmer Ora Bains, 33, and children Elroy, 12, Cornelia, 11, Mary E., 10, Rosevelt, 7, Donnie, 5, Armensie, 3, and Josephine, 2.

In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: widow Ora Lucas, 45, and children Donnie, 16, Armensie, 14, Josephine, 12, Junius, 8, and Monzora, 6. [The latter two by her third husband, June Lucas.]

Iora Lucas migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user Jerry Smith.

The People’s Palace.

The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists the People’s Palace, a soda shop at 901 East Nash Street. Washington Wilkins and Edward Taylor co-owned the establishment. Wilkins’ day jobs were in construction.

National Register nomination form describes a brick commercial building built about 1940 at 901 East Nash as the People’s Palace, a confectionary operated by Rufus Hilliard. The building has since been destroyed.  If it was the same building that housed Wilkins and Taylor’s Palace, it obviously was built well before 1940.

603 East Green Street.

The fifty-second 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.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1930. 1 1/2 stories. Washington Wilkins house; bungalow with engaged porch and gabled dormer; Wilkins was a carpenter.”

In the 1912 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wilkins Washington, lab 604 E Green. [603 East Green was formerly numbered 604.]

In 1917, Washington Wilkins registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born in 1893 in Wilson County; lived at 604 East Green Street; and worked as a blacksmith for Hackney Wagon Company.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 604 Green, wagon factory blacksmith Washington Wilkins, 26, wife Nancy, 24, children George Washington, 4, and Virginia, 2, niece Beatrice Barnes, and sisters Mittie Wilkins, 22, and Lucy Wilkins, 27. Wilkins owned his home subject to mortgage.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nancy Wilkins, 30; husband Washington, 40, a city laborer; sister-in-law Lucy Wilkins, 45; sons Washington, 15, and James, 10; daughters Virginia R., 11, and Nancy G., 4; roomers Mary Wilkinson, 23, Davis Carroll, 35, and Adline Adams, 65; and niece Beatrice Barnes, 17. The Wilkins’ house was valued at $4000.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 603 Green, plumber Washington Wilkins, 46, wife Nancy, 44, and children George W., 24, and Nancy G., 14.

In 1940, George Washington Wilkins registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 June 1915 in Wilson; resided at 603 East Green; his contact was his mother, Nancy Wilkins, 603 East Green; and he worked at Imperial Tobacco Company, corner of Lodge and Factory Streets.

Washington Wilkins died 13 February 1958 at his home in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he lived at 603 East Nash Street (this is clearly an error); was married; was a laborer; and was born 14 June 1894 in Wilson County to Richmond Wilkins and Patsy Armstrong.

Nancy Wilkins died 24 August 1972 in Goldsboro, Wayne County. Per her death certificate, she was a widow; lived at 603 East Green Street, Wilson; was born about 1892 to Minnie Adams; and had been a tobacco factory laborer.

Studio shots, no. 15: Redden Sanders Wilkins and family.


Redden S. Wilkins and daughters Hattie Margaret and Mary Della.

Redden S. Wilkins, 28, of Wilson, and Mary Blount, 31, of Wilson, were married 20 January 1889 by Methodist minister J.H. Mattocks at Peter Rountree‘s in Wilson. Witnesses were Samuel B. Parker and Samuel H. Vick of Wilson and W.E. Palmer of Washington D.C. [Mary Blount may have been a close relative of Samuel Vick, whose mother was Fannie Blount Vick.]

In May 1897, the Wilkinses, who were living in a house owned by Samuel Vick’s father Daniel Vick, suffered a devastating house fire.


Wilson Times, 20 May 1897.


Wilson Advance, 21 May 1897.

As posted here, Mary Wilkins, 43, died 27 March 1899, of an “internal tumor.” Undertaker Wootten & Stevens’ register notes that “Mary was wife of Redmond Wilkins, was in bad health for a long time, was a good woman.” She was buried in the “colored cemetery.”

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster Redding Wilkins, 35, a widower, and his widowed mother Iserbella Battle, 85. [His children were not listed in the household.]

On 28 January 1903, Redden S. Wilkins, 33, of Wilson, married Mary [Hines] Boddie, 26, of Edgecombe County, at Haret Hines’ in Township No. 14, Edgecombe County. Witnesses were E.L. Reid, A.S. Henderson and John A. Gaston, all of Wilson.

The 1908 Wilson city directory lists Redmond Wilkins, laborer, at 414 South Lodge Street.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at Lodge Street, Redmond Wilkins, 42, odd jobs laborer; wife Mary, 35; and daughters Hallie, 4, Mary B., 23, a cook, and Isabell, 1. [Mary B. was Redden’s daughter with Mary Blount Wilkins. Hallie and Isabell, in fact, were named Hattie Margaret and Mary Della.]

Redden S. Wilkins died 7 October 1915 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was found dead of a lung hemorrhage. He was born in 1861 in Edgecombe County to Ephram Wilkins and Margaret Battle, both of Edgecombe; was married; and worked as a drayman. Mary Wilkins was informant. Per findagrave.com, he was buried in Hines/Bullock cemetery (his second wife’s family graveyard), near Pinetops, Edgecombe County.

On 6 November, Mary Wilkins applied in Wilson County Superior Court for letters of administration for his estate. She listed his assets as a house and lot valued at about $800.00, money in the bank at $145.00, and house and kitchen furniture at $50.00. As heirs at law, she listed only herself and her daughters, though at least one of her step-daughters — Redden’s oldest child, Lula Wilkins Brown — was living.


In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Vance Street, widow Mary Wilkins, 45, cook, and daughters Margaret, 13, and Della, 10.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 506 Vance Street, rented for $12/month, cook Mary Wilkins, 47; daughter Della Mary, 18; lodgers Ethel Adkins, 20, a divorced teacher, and Henretta Smith, 53, widow; and nephew Paul Bullock, 21.

On 5 July 1932, Hattie M. Wilkins of Detroit, 24, born in North Carolina to Reden Wilkins and Mary Hines, married Abraham Butler of Detroit, 28, born in South Carolina, a factory worker.

In the 1940 census of Cairo, Alexander County, Illinois: physician Urbane F. Bass, 30, a native of Virginia, and wife Mary Della, 28, a North Carolina native. Urbane reported that he had been living in Saint Louis in 1935; Mary Della, in Wilson, North Carolina. [Urbane was the son of Dr. Urbane Francis Bass Sr., an African-American doctor and first lieutenant in the United States Army who was posthumously  awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his actions in World War I. See also entry for “Urbane Francis Bass” in W. Douglas Fisher and Joann H. Buckley, African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteerswhich touches upon Urbane Jr.’s practice in Cairo, which he abandoned several years after his and Mary Della’s home was firebombed in 1952 by segregationists. The family relocated to Los Angeles.]

In the 1940 census of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan: at 1505 Labelle, Abraham Butler, 37, auto plant laborer; wife Hattie, 34; children Gibson, 6, Mary, 4, and Hattie, 2; and mother Josephine Butler, 69.

Per findagrave.com, Mary Della Wilkins Bass, born 2 February 1909, died 10 February 1988. She was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.

Per the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, available at http://www.ancestry.com, Hattie Margaret Wilkins Butler Franklin, daughter of Redden Wilkins and Mary Ann Hines and born 9 March 1906 in Wilson, North Carolina, died in August 1993 in Highland Park, Wayne County, Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user laviemsvie.


[Personal note: for a brief period in the spring of 1998, I corresponded prolifically with Deborah Moore Vles, a descendant of Redden S. Wilkins and his first wife, Nelly Bynum Wilkins. Deborah shared with transcripts of letters Redden wrote in 1912 and 1915 to his eldest daughter, Lula Wilkins Brown — his “dear baby” — who had left Wilson for Missouri before 1910. In the letters, tender testaments to a father’s love for his child, Redden asks about his grandchildren, frets about his failing health and laments the distances between their far-flung relatives. I have been unable to find current contact information for Deborah and hope that she will somehow find this post. — LYH]

A very worthy and highly respected colored man.


Wilson Mirror, 19 November 1890.

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A.B. Caldwell, ed., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Amos Bynum, 42, wife William Ann, 35, and children Charley, 14, Lulu, 4, George W., 3, Turner, 1, and Jonas, 17.

Though the article above avers that C.H. moved to Kinston in 1899, he married Janie Booth in Wilson in April of that year.


She apparently died soon after, as she does not appear with the Bynum family in the 1900 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County. (Charles Bynum is described as married, rather than widowed or divorced, however.)

1900 Wilson CH Bynum

In any case, he married Helen B. Wooten in 1904, and they are listed in Kinston, Lenoir County, in the 1910 census. The 1912 Kinston city directory shows Charles well established.

Kinston 1912

Charles H. Bynum died in 1938.