Wilson township

County schools, no. 3: Lane School.

The third in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

Lane School

Lane School was one of two known schools for African-American children outside town limits (but inside Wilson township) that were administered by town of Wilson’s public school system. The date of construction is not known, but white children attended school there until school consolidation circa 1920.

Location: In May 1942, an article in the Wilson Daily Times announced locations for sugar ration registration, including “Lane school, all colored people living within Wilson Township but east of Wilson.”

Seven years later, Wilson City Schools offered Lane Colored School for sale. The metes and bounds are somewhat difficult to decipher: “Beginning at a small water-oak on the North side of the public cart path leading from H.B. Lane’s to A.P. Moore’s (said pathway leading from Moyton and Stantonsburg roads) thence in a Northerly direction, at right angles to said public cart path, eighty yards to a stake, cornering, thence in a Westerly direction parallel with said public cart path sixty-one and one-fourth yards to a stake, cornering, thence in a Southern direction eighty yards to a stake in said public cart path, thence in an Easterly direction along with said public cart path sixty-one and one-fourths yards to the beginning.”

I’d thought “the cart path” was one that ran between what are now Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Stantonsburg Road. However, Will Corbett of Wilson County’s GIS Office steered me in the right direction by locating the general area in which H.B. Lane and A.P. Moore’s properties were adjacent or nearly so. This area is just above what is now Wedgewood Gold Club. (And about a mile due south of the neighborhood in which I grew up.)

A 1925 soil map indicates a church or school on one of a maze of dirt paths meandering between what are now Old Stantonsburg Road and N.C. Highway 58. This is likely Lane School. There are few houses in the area now, and except for a single road leading in from 58, the paths are gone.

A 1937 aerial map shows the land and its use more clearly. Most of the paths shown in 1925 had been plowed up by then, though some are visible through the trees. I have encircled a cluster of buildings that appears to approximate the location of Lane School.

Here, per Google Maps, is my best approximation of the area today. A section of Wedgewood’s golf course is visible at lower right:

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 3.44.17 PM

Wilson Daily Times, 10 September 1949.

Description: one-room school.

Known faculty: teachers Blanche ThomasClara R. Cooke.


Update, 14 June 2020: I found a photograph of Lane School in Charles L. Coon’s report The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24!

My deepest thanks to Will Corbett.

Receipt for negro slaves.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 January 1950.

This brief article appeared in a edition of the Daily Times celebrating Wilson’s centennial. It possibly raises more questions than it sheds light:

  • Did this transaction take place in Wilson County? Burket Barnes and Jethro Aycock appear in Wayne County census records after Wilson County’s 1855 creation.
  • How many enslaved people did Barnes sell to Aycock? The $3400 sale price suggests several. (And why did the Daily Times see fit to omit their names in 1950?)
  • Does the last paragraph relate to the receipt?
  • “One of the negro slaves of the township”? I assume the township is Wilson township, and the reference is to formerly enslaved people.
  • Wiggins Mill was a grist mill on Contentnea Creek, and the modern dam and reservoir can be seen from U.S. 301 South.
  • Who was “Aunt Sylvia“? The 1940 census of Wilson County reveals only one African-American woman named Sylvia in Wilson township old enough to have been enslaved, and barely. Sylvia Jones‘ age was estimated as 75, which yields an 1865 birth year. However, Jones noted that she had lived in Edgecombe County just five years earlier, and in the 1930 census she was living in Toisnot township. And only 50 years old.



From the 1979 National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form for the West Nash Street Historic District:

“Harry West Abbitt House, 1105 West Nash Street.

“One of the largest and most impressive examples of the Colonial Revival style in Wilson, this two-and-a-half story, five bay-by-five bay, double-pile brick residence was built for automobile dealer Harry West Abbitt (1881-1957). It was designed by Solon Balias Moore (1872-1930) and constructed by Robert and James E. Wilkins in 1926. Abbitt was a native of Virginia, came to Wilson ca 1915, and opened Wilson’s first Ford dealership. In addition to being one of the pioneer automobile dealers in Wilson, he was the builder of numerous rental commercial properties. This lot was purchased by Abbitt in October 1925 from Wilson Best, a black bricklayer who resided here. The Bests owned a significant portion of this area, then known as Grabneck, which was occupied by blacks at the turn of the century. The massive Abbitt House is sheltered beneath a gable roof and is flanked on each side elevation by twin interior end brick chimneys with slightly projecting exposed faces which have stone shoulders. The east facade features a slightly projecting formal entrance bay crowned by a front gable. This bay contains an entrance with sidelights and transom on the first story and a similar arrangement surrounding a six-over-six sash window on the second story. The front porch is carried by Tuscan columns and is echoed on the south by the glass enclosed sun porch and on the north by the porte cochere. The fenestration consists of six-over-six sash windows with brick soldier course lintels that have stone keystones and end voussoirs and stone sills. Completing the substantial Colonial Revival finish are dentiled boxed cornices with dentiled frieze which return on the central pediment and the end gables, the dentiled porch frieze, two front gable dormers which contain handsome arched windows, and a brick soldier course water table. Shed rooms which flank a screened porch occupy the rear elevation, which has a handsome second story latticed balustrade. Access to the interior was not permitted. At the rear of the house is an equally handsome two-story, two-car garage that echoes the finish of the house. It has a central peaked gable, returning boxed cornices at the side elevations, an exterior end chimney with stone shoulders, stone sills under the six-over-one sash windows, and brick soldier course lintels over the windows and car bays. Abbitt died in 1957 and his widow, Margaret (Dixon) Abbitt continues to occupy the house.”


In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, Wilson Best, 28, bricklayer; wife Ada, 30, laundress; and children Wilson Jr., 2, and Noah, 14 months.

The Bests’ close neighbors included members of their extended family, including Wilson Best’s father Noah Best and uncle Orren Best Their enumeration district, 114, was almost entirely African-American, with houses clustered just outside town limits on or near Nash Road, Raleigh Road, Finch’s Mill Road, Winona Road, and New Creek Road.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Company did not map the Grabneck neighborhood until 1922, when city limits pushed further northwest.

Here is 1105 West Nash Street, a small one-story wooden dwelling. Abbitt razed it to build his manse.

Sanborn fire insurance map, 1922.

The 1908 and 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory show clusters of Best families at Nash Street near Bynum Street and Best’s Lane near Nash — a dozen in 1912. By 1916, the number had dropped to nine, and by 1920 to eight. By the 1922 city directory, pressures on Grabneck — now seen as attractive real estate for Wilson’s prospering white middle class — had reduced the number of Bests to two, Wilson and Ada at 1105. Had landowners in the community been pressured to sell or other otherwise pushed out? When the Bests sold out in 1925, the makeover of West Nash Street was essentially complete. By 1930, Grabneck’s former residents had dispersed southwest to New Grabneck, southeast to Daniel Hill, or across town to East Wilson, and evidence of this facet of the African-American history of the city slipped into obscurity.

Modern map of Wilson per Bing.com, with Wilson Best’s land marked.

[Coda: on 10 January 1950, the Wilson Daily Times published a Centennial Anniversary edition to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of Wilson. One article, “Citizen of 1949 Returns to Look at Modern Wilson,” reviewed city landmarks through the eyes of fictional time traveler Rountree Tomlinson Aycock Woodard Barnes, born in 1825. As he roamed neighborhoods north of downtown, Barnes remarked, “I haven’t enough time here to say that the trees on Nash Street are as pretty as they were in 1849. … There is no real Grabneck section now. Only pretty homes and grounds.”]


Mortality schedule, no. 4: Wilson township, 1870.

Each of the United States federal censuses from 1850 to 1880 included a mortality schedule enumerating  individuals who had died in the previous year previous. Each entry noted family number in the population schedule, name, age, sex, color, marital status, place of birth, month of death, occupation, and cause of death.

Here is the 1870 mortality schedule for part of Wilson township, Wilson County:

  • Farmer, James. Age 28, black, worked in iron foundry, died in February, consumption.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Rosa Farmer, 35, and children Gray, 16, Turner, 17, Mary, 16, Thomas, 13, Daniel, 12, Leah, 10, Jefferson, 8, Louisa, 10 months, and Anna, 3, plus Arche Barnes, 73, cooper.

  • Rountree, Louisa. Age 18, black, died in February, consumption.
  • Rountree, Jesse. Age 3 months, mulatto, died in November, hooping cough.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Rebecca Rountree, 50, and children and grandchildren Henry, 20, butcher, John, 23, barber, Dempsy, 26, farm laborer, Charles, 15, Benjamin, 24, butcher, Mary, 30, domestic servant, Joseph, 9, Willie, 8, Lucy, 20, domestic servant, Worden, 2, and Charles, 1.

  • Taylor, Marcellus. Age 1, black, died in November, scrofula.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Peter Taylor, 32; wife Classy, 37; and children Harred, 8, Haywood, 10, William, 5, and Susan, 8 months.

  • Blount, Mary. Age 30, mulatto, married, died in June, consumption.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Calvin Blount, 35; farm laborer John Bantler, 23; and Dick, 12, Tillman, 10, Frank, 6, Wright, 7, and William Blount, 4.

  • Mitchell, Maggie. Age 6 months, black, died in July, inflammation stomach.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Eliza Mitchell, 26, and daughter Rebecca, 9.

  • Renfrow, [illegible].  Age 46, black, married, farm laborer, died in October, pneumonia.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Sarah Renfrow, 45, Isaac, 14, Rosa, 30, and Dennis, 4, plus Lewis Kelly, 23.

  • Milton, Lindsey. Age 48, black, married, farm laborer, died in May, heart [illegible].

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: domestic servant Eliza Milton, 41, and children John, 13, Robert, 12, and Francy, 8; Susan Benjamin, 2; and Mark Blount, 18.

  • Ruffin, infant. Age 1, black, died in October, unknown.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Green Ruffin, 36; wife Tamer, 30; children Ora, 3, and Martha, 2; and Nicey Watson, 58.

  • Farmer, Luther. Age 19, black, died in February, farm laborer, pleurisy(?).

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Washington Farmer, 43; wife Wady, 44; and children Edith, 14, Fortin, 13, Gimsey, 11, John W., 8, Nancy, 6, and Orgius, 6; and farm laborer Nelson Thomas, 21.

  • Bell, Adeline. Age 20, black, died in February, worked on farm, consumption.
  • Battle, Manerva. Age 30, mulatto, died in May, worked on farm, asciteas.

Ascites is the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Hardy Bell, 65; Lucinda, 48; and children Wilson, 17, Isabella, 13, and Ellen, 7; and Turner, 4, Julia, 10, William, 8, Lucinda, 6, Anna, 3, and infant Battle, 10 months.

  • Not known. Age 65, black, widowed, died in March, general debility.

Remarks: “The name of the person in column 2, line 19 could not be ascertained.”

  • Barnes, Caswell. Age 1, black, died in October, cholera infantum.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Barnes, 26, born in Maryland, and Jackson, 19, and Williams Barnes, 3.

  • Saunders, Jane. Age 4 months, black, died in October, pertussis.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Guilbert Sanderson, 34; wife Mary, 36; and children Nash, 12, Timothy, 9, Henry, 8, and Margrett, 6.

  • Eatman, Judea Ann. Age 8 months, black, died in September, pertussis.
  • Eatman, Zora. Age 8 months, black, died in October, pertussis.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Cynthia Eastman, 40, and children Luke, 23, domestic servant, Turner, 21, Wady, 18, and David, 6.

  • Barnes, Vilet. Age 75, black, widowed, domestic servant, died in September, died from general debility.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Mark Barnes, 56; wife Judea, 55; daughter Adeline, 19; and grandchildren Lara, 2, and Warren, 7; farm laborer Robert Rountree, 19; and invalid Sophia Barnes, 40.

  • Barnes Rachel. Age 1, black, died in March, epilepsy.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Short Barnes, 35, wife Rosa, 21, and daughter Rena, 5.

  • Wilder, Caroline. Age 75, black, widowed, died in March, consumption.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Mathews, 68, and wife Sarah, 65; farm laborer Alfred Farmer, 26, wife Cilla, 23, and son Henry, 2; and Jane Noobly, 8.

Mortality schedule, no. 3: Wilson township, 1870.

Each of the United States federal censuses from 1850 to 1880 included a mortality schedule enumerating  individuals who had died in the previous year previous. Each entry noted family number in the population schedule, name, age, sex, color, marital status, place of birth, month of death, occupation, and cause of death.

Here is the 1870 mortality schedule for part of Wilson township, Wilson County (which does not include the town of Wilson and does not specify family numbers):

  • Hines, Charles. Age 1, black, died in June, cholera infant.
  • Locust, Infant. Age 1 day, black, died in February, asphyxia.
  • Mercer, Robert. Age 1 month, black, died in December. Hooping cough.
  • Thomas, Lucy. Age 25, black, domestic servant, died in April, consumption.
  • Blunt, Vilet. Age 70, mulatto; married; domestic servant; died in July; cancer.
  • Jordan, Mary. Age 26, mulatto, domestic servant; died in May; died from child birth.
  • Edwards, Marzillie. Age 3 months, black, died in December, intermittent fever.
  • Lassiter, Jesse. Age 6, mulatto, died in November, typhoid fever.

“Remarks: 366. Lassiter Jesse. Cause of death unknown; supposed to be typhoid fever from best information obtained.” Household #366: farm laborer Silas Lassiter, 47, and children Ophelia, 25, Mary, 20, Elizabeth, 16, Handy, 14, Penninah, 15, Silas W., 12, Milly, 8, and Jerusha, 4.

  • Powell, Nannie. Age 25, mulatto, farm laborer, died in September, bowel disease.
  • Edmundson, Shepard. Age 51, black, married, farm laborer, died in September, paralysis.
  • Due, Amanda. Age 4, black, died in October, “brain inflam. of.”
  • Horn, Mary. Age 30, black, married, died in April, child birth.
  • Due, Stella A. Age 6 months, black, died in July, cutting teeth.
  • Cook, Alex’dr. Age 3, black, died in August, ascites.
  • Cook, Infant. Age 1 month, black, died in April, epilepsy.
  • Cook, Infant. Age 1 month, black, died in April, epilepsy.


Daniel Best awaits the resurrection morn.


Wilson Advance, 25 July 1889.

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Daniel Best, 62; wife Jane, 50; and children Laura, 19, Nicy, 17, Noah, 16, Orange, 21, and Hancy, 21.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: hireling Daniel Best, 72, and wife Jane, 55, living amid a cluster of household that included farmer Orren Best, 31, wife Hancy, 31, and children James, 9, Oscar, 6, George, 4, Frances, 2, and Hattie, 3 months; hireling Lewis Best, 53, wife Harriette, 50, and children Daniel, 23, Sarah, 12, John, 8, and Willie, 10; and brickmason Noah Best, 27, wife Sarah, 25, and sons William, 2, and Thomas, 4 months.

The Jim Baker family.

On 24 February 1984, subscribers to the Wilson Daily Times received a supplement with their regular papers. “Tracing Our Roots” was packed with old photos contributed by readers, including this one.


“FARM FAMILY,” the caption read. “Mr. and Mrs. Jim Baker, their children and family dog posed outside their farmhouse on Old Stantonsburg Road in 1914. Baker was a farmer, and his descendants still live in Wilson County. The house is still standing.”


On 5 January 1905, James Baker, 24, of Wilson, son of Dossey and Ella Baker, married Mollie Cooper, 18, of Toisnot, daughter of Lucy Williams, at the office of Justice of the Peace J.W. Cox in Elm City.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer James Baker, 30, wife Mollie, 24, and children Rena, 4, Moses, 2, and Roncey, 4 months.

When Jim Baker registered for the World War I draft on 12 September 1918, he reported his address as RFD 1, Wilson; his birthdate as 15 April 1879; his occupation as farmer and employer as Atlantic Christian College; and his nearest relative as wife Mollie Baker. He was of medium height and weight, with brown eyes and dark hair, and signed his name with an X.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, farmer James Baker, 40, wife Mollie, 33, and children Irena, 14, Moses, 12, Rony, 10, and Lossie, 7.

On 27 July 1940, James Baker died at Wilson’s Mercy Hospital. His death certificate states that he was 57 years old, married to Molly Baker, and lived at 812 East Green Street. Baker was buried at Rountree cemetery, and his daughter Irene Farmer was informant for the certificate.

Mollie Baker died 22 February 1964 and is buried in Rest Haven cemetery.

Hat tip to Will Robinson of Wilson County Public Library.

Cemeteries, no. 1: the Hilliard Ellis family.

Hilliard Ellis, born in slavery, was a successful farmer and landowner in Wilson township. He married Fereby Rountree circa 1848 and registered their 18-year cohabitation in Wilson County on 11 August 1866. As culled from census, marriage and death records, their children included: Louisa Ellis Rowe (1850-1924), Adeline Ellis Mitchell (circa 1853-??), Caroline “Carrie” Ellis Coleman Woodard (1854-1914); William Ellis (1856); George Ellis (1859-1941); Emma Ellis Bunn (1861-1937); Hilliard D. Ellis (1865-1924); Mary Anne Ellis(1866-??); Warren Ellis (1869-??); Phillis Ellis Barnes Hagans (1870-??); and Millie Ellis Smith Hunt (1874-??).

The Hilliard Ellis family cemetery is located just off Nash Street in the New Hope area, which is now within the extreme northwest limits of the city of Wilson. There are approximately 25 identifiable graves in the cemetery, including those of Ellis and his children Hilliard Ellis Jr., Carrie Coleman, Louisa Rowe, and Warren Ellis Jr.


Hilliard I. Ellis, 6 Jan 1825-22 Sept 1900.


Louisa Rowe, 1850-7 May 1924.



General Joshua Barnes plantation.

Gen. Joshua Barnes House is a historic home located near Wilson, Wilson County. Built about 1844, it is a two-story, central-hall-plan, Greek Revival-style frame dwelling built around the nucleus of an earlier, Federal style dwelling dating to 1830 and was remodeled about 1870. The house features a shallow hipped roof and one-story, full-width front porch. Attached to the rear of the house is a small one-story Greek Revival frame structure connected by an enclosed breezeway. Gen. Joshua Barnes, who built the house, is considered the father of Wilson County.

The National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the house waxes enthusiastic: “The exterior appearance of the house is very simple and elegant. The house is set in a grove of mature trees at the intersection of Waterworks Road and London’s Church Road just outside the city limits of Wilson. Prime agricultural land surrounds the house. The boxy massing of the house is typical of Greek Revival architecture in general and of this type of plantation house in Wilson County in particular. The house, set on a low brick foundation, is oriented to the east and to the road. A plain continuous frieze forms a band under the boxed cornice. Applied diamond motifs ornament the rear and parts of each side elevation. Similar diamonds are found on buildings in Wilson dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century and these diamonds may date from this period. Many plantation houses originally had a double gallery porch on the front elevation, which may account for the lack of frieze ornament on the main facade of this house. A single story porch with square posts with molded caps shelters the main facade. The broad trabeated door boasts some original etched cranberry glass in the transom and sidelights. Large six-over-six-sash windows are the dominant window type used in the house. The southern side facade has four bays on the first floor, but only three on the second floor. The rear elevation gives clues to the orientation and placement of the earlier structure as well as showing the additions which have been made to the house since 1844 including a pantry, laundry and enclosed porch.”

Of Joshua Barnes’ success: “In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War and five years after his great success in the legislature, Barnes was one of the wealthiest men in Wilson County. According to the 1860 census he was a farmer owning $27,500 worth of real property and $79,000 worth of personal property.” As usual, nowhere in the glowing description of Barnes, his house and his accomplishments is any mention of the main source of Barnes’ wealth — his slaves.

The 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County pulls back the curtain: Joshua Barnes owned 66 men, women and children, ranging in age from eight months to 94 years, housed in ten dwellings. Benjamin Ellis‘ family were among them:


Wilson Daily Times, 13 June 1922.

J Barnes house 1976

Joshua Barnes house, 1976. The house, recently sold, remains in excellent condition.