With a slight barb for “those who did not help,” the War Mothers thanked the many people who helped with Memorial Day observances. The day included a three-mile walk to “Roundtree Cemetery” (most likely, in fact, Vick and Odd Fellows Cemeteries), which had been cleaned by Camillus L. Darden and staff ahead of their visit.
Sarah Shade — Sarah Shade was about 16 years old in 1927.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: George Farmer, 60, teamster; wife Bettie, 62, laundress; and children George N., 21, teamster, Miner, 19, Aulander, 18, drayman, Willie, 17, farm laborer, Johney, 15, farm laborer, and daughter Emma, 12.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Finchs Mills Road, George Farmer, 78, livery stable laborer; wife Bettie, 62, laundress; son John, 18, butler; and daughter Emma, 16, nurse.
In 1917, Johnie Farmer registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1895 in Wilson; lived on Finch Mill Road; worked as a butler for Mrs. F.S. Davis, Wilson; and was unmarried.
On 25 July 1919, Johnnie Farmer sailed with Company C, 348th Service Battalion, from Brest, France, to the Port of New York abroad the U.S.S. Finland.
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Bynum Street, Bettie Farmer, 56, widow, and children Emma, 23, cook, and Johnnie, 25, butler.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 714 Stronach Avenue, paying $10/month in rent, cook Johnny Farmer, 50, and his mother Betty, 85, widow.
Johnie Farmer died 30 March 1944 after 912 days at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Kecoughtan, Elizabeth City County, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1893 in Wilson, N.C., to George Farmer and Betsey Crowell [Crumell]; was single; was a cook; was a World War I veteran; and ordinarily lived at 714 Stronach Alley, Wilson. His body was returned to Wilson for burial.
Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III; Army Transport Service Arriving and Departing Passenger Lists 1910-1939, http://www.ancestry.com.
Ten Wilson County men named Frank Barnes registered for the World War I draft in 1917-1918; six were Black. One, born 2 April 1895, was the son of Andrew and Stella Williams Barnes. This Frank Barnes was severely injured during his service in France, but absolutely did not die of disease during the war.
This Frank Barnes’ service card shows he was discharged on 12 March 1919. He is listed with his family in the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County and, in fact, lived to 1981.
Who, then, was the Frank Barnes, son of Stella Barnes, who died while in service during World War I?
Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III; North Carolina World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, http://www.ancestry.com.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John Norfleet, 41, farm laborer, and wife Cora, 27, private cook; and widow Nancy Tillery, 58, laundress, and son Cordy, 18, railroad laborer. Nancy Tillery reported that only two of her 18 children were living.
In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery Cardey (c) houseman h 208 W Lee
On 9 February 1914, Cordy Tillery, 22, of Wilson, married Charity Sanders, 22, of Wilson, in Wilson. A.M.E.Z. minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Allen Wilson, Lacy Slome, and Edward Hill.
In 1917, Cordy Tillery registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 August 1889 in Manchester, Virginia; was a convict with the County of Wilson; and was married with one child. Tillery signed his own name.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Park Avenue, Cordy Tillery, 28, and wife Charity, 27; also Will Smith, 38, and wife Rachel, 24. Both men were tobacco factory workers.
In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery Cordy (c) lab h 510 Railroad
Charity Tillery died 18 May 1920 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 25 years old; was born in Smithfield, N.C., to Edward Wrin and Mary Saunders; was married to Cordy Tillery; worked as a tenant farmer; and lived on Daniel Street.
North Carolina World War I Service Cards 1917-1919, Ancestry.com.
When Hood Vick registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1917, he listed his occupation as “machine operator moving picture theatre” and C.L. Jones as his employer. The theatre was the Globe, which operated on the second floor of the Odd Fellows building. Samuel H. Vick is credited as its founder, but in the 1916 Wilson city directory, Charles Jones is listed as the Globe‘s proprietor.
The Daily Times published a handful of letters from African-American soldiers written during World War I, including these from Elton Thomas and two from Arthur N. Darden.
Despite their hopes, Thomas and his buddies did not get home until March 1919. Dave Barnes suffered the effects of his gas attack the rest of his life. This history of Company H, 365th Infantry’s battles in France suggests that the date of injury was November 10, not the 18th.
This service card provides details of Thomas’ time in the Army.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 38, printing office pressman; wife Sarah, 33; children Elton, 9, Louis, 8, Elizabeth, 6, and Hattie May, 2; and lodgers Manse Wilson, 36, and Johnnie Lewis, 21, both carpenters.
In the 1908 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Thomas Elton (c) lather h 616 E Green
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month.
In 1917, Elton Thomas registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 17 July 1889 in Wilson; lived at 616 East Green Street; was single; and worked as lathing contractor for Kittrell & Wilkins.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County:Clarence Dawson, 23, barber; wife Elizabeth, 22; and daughter Eris, 2; widower father-in-law Charley Thomas, 59; brother-in-law Clifton Venters, 24, his wife Hattie, 20; and in-laws Elton, 29, Marie, 15, Sarah, 10, and Beatrice Thomas, 8.
In the 1927, 1929, 1930, 1934, and 1942 Newark, New Jersey, city directories, Elton H. Thomas is listed at several addresses, including 117 Summer Avenue, 105 Somerset Avenue, and 109 Sherman Avenue.
In 1942, Elton Henry Thomas registered for the World War II draft in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1894 in Wilson; resided at 108 Sherman Road, Newark; his contact was Charles Thomas, 619 East Green Street, Wilson; and worked for Julius Rose, 327 Amherst Street, Orange, New Jersey.
Elton Thomas died 15 December 1970 in Goldsboro, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 July 1891 to Charlie Thomas and Sarah Best; was married to Rebecca Thomas; resided in Wilson; and had worked in lathing construction.
Without comment, on 7 June 1917, the Wilson Daily Times published a lengthy list of names and addresses of children who were members of corn (for boys) and canning (girls) clubs in Wilson, Lucama, and Stantonsburg. The groups, supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were the precursors to 4-H Clubs.
Given the canning club membership requirements, it’s astonishing that so many town girls were involved. Per Farm Life Readers, Book 5 (Bryan, Evans & Duncan, 1916, page 38): “Any girl between the ages of nine and eighteen in the county, where the work is organized may become a member. She must plant one-tenth of an acre to tomatoes, and must do all the work connected with her garden except preparing the soil for her plants. Prizes are offered for the largest yield, the largest net gain, the best display in glass jars, best history of garden work, the largest tomato, the most perfect tomato, the largest, neatest best collection of tomato recipes.”
Cover of notebook created by North Carolina canning club girl, 1915. Wilson County girls would have been required to create such a document. Jane Simpson McKimmon Papers (PC 234), State of Archives of North Carolina.
Below, the lists of children consolidated and alphabetized:
Allen, Rose, Route 2
Atkinson, Addie, Route 2
Atkinson, Mattie, Route 2
Barnes, Fletcher, Route 3 Box 68
Barnes, Joseph, Route 3 Box 68
Barnes, Sarah, Route 3 Box 68
Battle, Redmond (son of Columbus and Sallie R. Battle)
Bethea, Lillie, Box 77
Boykin, Ida, Route 3 Box 76 (daughter of William T. and Sarah Boykin)
Boykin, Katie, Route 3 Box 76 (daughter of William T. and Sarah Boykin)
Cherry, Eldora, Route 2 (granddaughter of Arch and Martha M. Atkinson)
Creech, Daisy, Route 3 Box 74 (daughter of Troy and Martha Creech)
Creech, Dorsey, Route 3 Box 74 (son of Troy and Martha Creech)
Creech, James, Route 3 Box 14
Creech, Naomi, Route 3 Box 14
Creech, William, Route 3 Box 14
Dew, Joseph, Box 92 (son of Cornelius D. and Cora L. Dew)
Dew, Martha, Box 92 (daughter of Cornelius D. and Cora L. Dew)
In August 1920, James Dempsey Bullock penned a letter to the newspaper urging the city to establish burial plots for World War I soldiers who had died at war in France and whose remains were just then being repatriated. “… [S]ome one should see to it that a beautiful plat in Maplewood cemetery should be set aside for the interment of those whose parents wish them buried there and one in Oakwood for the colored.”
Oakwood, also known as Oakdale and Oaklawn, was Wilson’s first (or maybe second) public cemetery for African-Americans. If the city established a plat for returning soldiers, it is lost. Oakwood had already fallen out of favor as a burial ground by 1920, as families opted for private cemeteries like Rountree, Odd Fellows, or Masonic, or for the city’s newer public cemetery, now known as Vick. Oakwood was essentially abandoned just a few years later, though the city did not move its graves until 1941.
Six African-American Wilson County men — Henry T. Ellis, Benjamin Horne, Luther Harris, Pharaoh Coleman, Frank Barnes, and Vert Vick — were recorded as having died or been killed in service during World War I. It is not clear to which soldier’s body Bullock was referring as expected to arrive in New York.