In the era before robust municipal services, Wilson’s County Commissioners contracted with private citizens to perform certain public work. Occasionally, African Americans benefited from such contracts, but most obtaining public money received them in the form of witness fees for court appearances.
“A statement according to the law of the amount claimed and allowed by the Board of County Commissioners and to whom allowed beginning 1st Monday in September 1879 and ending 1st Monday in September 1880, and the county revenue for same period, to wit:”
Richard Lindsey — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, mechanic Richard Lindsey, 51; wife Olive, 42, “keeping house & midwife;” and sons Richard, 14, Henry, 11, and Austin, 23, drayman.
Charles Darden — Charles H. Darden was a blacksmith whose sideline building coffins turned into one of the first African American undertaking businesses in North Carolina.
Transcript of the six pages of Jim Ellis Dew‘s Confederate soldier’s pension application:
SOLDIER’S APPLICATION FOR PENSION
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, COUNTY OF WILSON
On this 24 day of Sept., A.D. 1932, personally appeared before me, M.D. Owens, C.S.C. in and for the State and County aforesaid, Jim Ellis Dew, col., age 94 years, and a resident at Wilson postoffice, in said County and State, and who, being duly sworn, makes the following declaration in order to obtain the pension under the provisions of an act entitled “An Act to amend and consolidate the pension laws of the State of North Carolina,” ratified March 8, 1821: That he is the identical Body Servant who enlisted in Co. ____, ____ Reg., N.C. State Troops, on or about the ____ day of ____, 1861, to serve in the armies of the late Confederate States, and that whole in said service at Wilmington, in the State of N.C., on or about the ____ day of July 1862, he received a wound or wounds, etc.
He further states that he is, and has been for twelve months immediately preceding this Application for Pension, a bona fide resident of North Carolina;
That he holds no office under the United States, or under any State or County for which he is receiving the sum of three hundred dollars as fees or as salary annually;
That he is not worth in his own right, or the right of his wife, property at its assessed value for taxation to the amount of two thousand dollars ($2,000), nor has he disposed of property of such value by gift or voluntary conveyance since the 11th of March 1885;
And that he is not now receiving any aid from the State of North Carolina or under any other statute providing for the relief of the maimed and blind soldiers of this or any other State.
Sworn and subscribed to before me, this 24 day of Sept., 1932. /s/ Jim X Ellis Dew /s/ M.D. Owens, C.S.C.
Also personally appeared before me N.L. Stott, who resided at Simms N.C. postoffice in said County and State, a person whom I know to be respectable and entitled to credit and being by me duly sworn, says he is acquainted with Jim Ellis Dew, the applicant for pension, and has every reason to believe that he is the identical person he represents himself to be, and that the facts set forth in this affidavit are correct, to the best of his knowledge and belief, and that he has no interest, direct or indirect, in this claim.
Sworn and subscribed to before me, this 29 day of Sept., 1932. /s/ N.L. Stott, Witness /s/ M.D. Owens, C.S.C.
North Carolina, Wilson County
To the Pension Board of Wilson County:
I, N.L. Stott, being duly sworn, deposes and says: I have been a resident a resident of Wilson County for seventy two years, and have known Jim Ellis Dew (col) for twenty five years; that the said Jim Ellis Dew has lived on my farm for the past twelve or thirteen years, and I am satisfied that the said Jim Ellis Dew is the same darkey that served in the Civil War in the stead of Jonathan Dew at Wilmington, NC as stated in his application to the Pension Board; that he served under Captains White, Medlin and Sweetman, and that his wound was received while in service in or near Wilmington, NC. I further certify that in my opinion this old darkey should have been receiving a pension ever since the Penstion Act was created.
This Sept. 29, 1932. /s/ N.L. Stott
Sworn and subscribed to before me, this the 29th Day of September, /s/ M.D. Owens, Clerk of Superior Court, Wilson County
North Carolina, Wilson County
C.G. Davis and J.W. Burnett, each being duly sworn, deposes and says: That he has known Jim Ellis Dew for the last thirteen or fourteen years; that he is a darkey of good character and absolutely reliable and dependable; that he believes that the statements he makes in his application to the Pension Board for a pension are true; and in his opinion should have been receiving a pension ever since the Pension Act was created.
/s/ J.W. Burnett/s/ C.G. Davis
Sworn and subscribed to before me, this the 30 day of September, 1932. /s/ M.D. Owens, Clerk of Superior Court, Wilson County
I, Bruce O. Evans, a Notary Public, in and for the town of Wilson, Wilson County, N.C., do herewith set forth what I believe to be a true story as told to me by an old negro, age, above 90 years, who is known in this town by the names of “Jim Ellis” and “Jim Dew.”
I sent for Jim to come to my house one day this past summer in the hope that he could help me with tracing some old history. I asked him to relate to me his experience during the war and this is about what he told me, and about in the manner it was told:
“It was at the time we were making ‘sorgum’ that I was sent to the war. I belonged to my master Mr. Hickman Ellis who married a Miss Dew. You know missus, the white folks are not as strong as the n*ggers and Mr. Jonathan Dew, brother to my missus, was not very well, and they let him draw a man to go in his place and they drew me. I was sent to Fort Fisher and went to work throwing up breastworks. The Captain was Captain Sweetman. The men who had charge of us were a Mr. Whiting – I don’t know his first name – and a Mr. Afton Loftin. Our white folks were fired into by some Yankees. I was ‘chocking’ the wheel of the gun (meaning the cannon) when one the balls went into the barrel of our gun and burst it. I was thrown with a piece of the lever of the gun and almost fell into the ocean. A piece of the gun went into my leg and I have been a cripple ever since. We stayed on the island for while. After a while, I came home. While I was in the war I was known as Jim Dew, but when I came back from the war I was called by my old name “Jim Ellis” because I belonged to my missus.”
From the knowledge I have of the Dew family history and from questions answered by him, which in every way tallied with records I possessed, I believe this old man’s story. It was told to me without knowledge that I might one day relate this hoping to secure a pension for him, or without the knowledge that my father, who is a newspaper man might use it as a story of Civil War days. He says he is about 95 years and I also believe this.
I unhesitatingly recommend that he be considered as an applicant for a pension and that pension be allowed him.
(Miss) Bruce O. Evans, Notary Public
North Carolina, In the Superior Court. Wilson County Before the Clerk
To the Pension Board of Wilson County:
W.A. Dew, being duly sworn, says: that he is citizen of Wilson County and has been for fifty eight years; that he is a grand-nephew of Jonathan Dew; that a certain negro owned by Hickman Ellis served in the Confederate War in stead of Jonathan Dew.
This 27 day of August, 1932. /s/ W.A. Dew
Sworn and subscribed to before me, this the 27th Day of August,1932. /s/ M.D. Owens Clerk of Superior Court, Wilson Co.
Jim Ellis, age 84, is listed as a lodger in the household of George and Louisa Hasting in the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County.
Transcribed from North Carolina Confederate Soldiers and Widows Pension Applications, 1885-1953, http://www.familysearch.org. Originals at North Carolina State Archives.