Illuminating Pages from Wilson’s African American History Now Online

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The NC Cultural Heritage center has digitized a three page sections from a ca. 1914 edition of the Wilson Times on the progress African Americans in East Wilson have made in the past fifty years.  These pages document the African American entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers,  businesses and churches that have flourished during the period as well as give give us an insight into the thriving economy, schools and society that then existed in East Wilson.  A large part of the article speaks with pride of the Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home for African Americans that is being constructed with funds from all over NC.  The term ‘White Plague’ is used in the pages and after Google-ing the term I found out that it  is another phrase used for tuberculosis that refers to the sufferer becoming pale.

The article mentions the Lincoln Benefit Society, a fraternal and insurance organization for African Americans in Wilson that is led by Sam Vick.  I had never heard of this society, but I had certainly heard of Sam Vick, the former postmaster and Wilson luminary.  There also some interesting ads sprinkled throughout the pages.

The word progressive is used a lot in this article and I wish people weren’t so scared of the concept these days; it is a great word that means tolerant, dynamic and growing.

New Wilson County Materials Online at Digital NC

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There are clearly not ‘just pants’ in this store.

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I can put a whole turkey in the register.

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Welcome to Just Nail Polish!

I was rummaging through storage and found about two hundred and fifty slides that were produced by the Wilson County Chamber of Commerce in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s. It is a wonderful depiction of feathered hair, cash registers the size of refrigerators, women getting arrested and stores named Just Pants that clearly also sell shirts and vests (you can see the evidence in the picture and in this un-ironic  commercial from 1978). UNC Chapel Hill has digitized fifty-five of these little slices of Wilson heaven and they are now online.

Lisa Henderson Collection

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William and Sarah Bryant are selling land to the renowned (and maybe a little infamous) Napoleon Hagans in 1871.

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Plat of Edmundson land being sold to Napoleon Hagans.  Did you know I used to be a land surveyor?

Last week when Lisa Henderson was in town to give her presentation, she also brought by a collection of family deeds for me to digitize.  My focus at graduate school was in the digitization of historic, archival records so anytime someone brings me musty old documents, I am very happy. These deeds are records that may not be in the state archives and if they are they are not easy to access. Very few of North Carolina’s historical records have been digitized so anyone that wants access has to plop down at the archives and sort through them.  Hopefully, in the not too distant future, all of their holdings will be digitized, but I am not holding my breath because it is expensive and requires a lot of man (or woman) hours.  This also calls for  a state government that wants to invest in the future.  So read into that what you will.

The deeds involve many of the families that Lisa talks about so eloquently on her Scuffalong blog, especially the families allied to Napoleon Hagans in and around Wayne County, NC.  I believe that the earliest date of the deeds are 1847, which makes these gems genealogical gold for African Americans researching this period where very few records exist.  After I am finished digitizing and creating metadata for them (hopefully soon) I will put the images up on the Wilson County Local History and Genealogy Library Flickr page for all to enjoy!

Finding a Lost Son of Wilson

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Lisa Henderson in another one of my award winning photographs of presentations.

Last night the Wilson County Genealogical Society had  its best presentation that I have seen.  Lisa Henderson’s program about finding her cousin Dr. Joseph H. Ward was like a tightly crafted novel, except in this case it was true.  She truly showed her gift for research when she recounted all the different sources she used to pin this man down and figure out who his father was (a plantation owner), his mother (a former slave) and how the enslaved  and free persons of color of Wayne and Wilson intermarried or cohabitated.  Some of the sources she used were a digitized newspapers, voting records (free persons of color could vote if their grandfather was a registered voter), cohabitation records, census records, and even a Confederate field map.

Dr. Ward rose up from the cotton fields of Wilson to get his medical license and open up the first African American hospital in Indianapolis, IN.  When WWI broke out he became the head of the Colored Medical Corps. and eventually became a Lt. Colonel and the highest ranking African American in the US Army.

The NC Family History Fair 2014

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Dr. Pruitt discussing the aspects of Royal Land Grants

Last Saturday I went to this year’s NC Family History Fair at the Government & Heritage Library in Raleigh.  While there I mingled and talked to old colleagues and made new connections.  One person I was impressed with was the president of the NC Genealogical Society, Victoria Young.  We had a long discussion about the loss of the great abstractor Wynnette Parks Haun.  Not only did she die several years ago but there seems to be no avenue to get any of her mountain of work.  She used to have booth at the family history fair but now her work is in the hands of her grandson and he is unreachable.  Lord knows I have tried and after talking to Ms. Young it seems that half the state has tried unsuccessfully to contact him and in order to buy her monographs.

I also attended two presentations. The first was Grants in North Carolina before 1776, presented by Dr. AB Pruitt.  It was a Powerpoint and a lively discussion on Royal and Proprietary Land grants, which included information on grants by Governor William Berkley of Virginia, grants by Lords Proprietor, grants by the King and grants by the Earl of Granville with minor discussions about petitions resurveys, Wachovia grant to Moravians and grants to the rascal Henry McCulloch.  One thing I learned was that indentures for land were so-called because the three copies of the surveys were folded together and then a piece was ripped out of the top an indenture if you will.  Then when they were brought back together the rips should match and you knew you had a genuine plat.

The second presentation was Road, Bridge and Ferry Records: A New Path in Genealogy Research presented by Stewart Dunaway.  I bought a few of his books last year and they can be useful especially if you have hit some brickwalls and can’t find anything in the usual places or if you just want to supplement what you know.  Road, bridge and ferry records will identify land owners that may not be found in any other materials.  They are another tool in the genealogist toolkit, one that can be overlooked.  His presentation was about how to use the books he writes and sells.

Also, I got a lot of nice swag!

Dr. Joseph H. Ward

Lisa Henderson program

On Tuesday October 28 a local genealogy phenom (although she is now a lawyer in Atlanta) will present her findings on Dr. Joseph H. Ward, an African American doctor who was born in Wilson in 1870.   Although he began his life in Wilson, a place that at the time had few prospects for an African Americans, by the 1890′s he was in Indianapolis practicing medicine as a licensed physician.  Come and listen to Lisa tell how she untangled the complicated history of his life and family.

In the mean time get absorbed in her brilliant blog about the history and genealogy of the free and enslaved persons of color in North Carolina, Scuffalong: Genealogy

Civil War letter of Pvt. Bunyan Barnes, 4th Regiment, Co. F

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Pvt. Bunyan Barnes’ letter home to Black Creek in Wilson County, NC

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They were very concerned about Rubin swinging with the Girls.

Last week I scanned over 100 archival documents that were brought in by a patron.  I will not give her name but I am calling it the Lois Watson Bass Collection.  There are letters, deeds, wills, indentures, receipts and plats that she found tightly folded in a small tin box on a shelf in her father’s storage shed that range in date from the 1700′s to the early 1900′s.  She doesn’t seem too keen on giving any of it to the state archives so I wanted to scan the documents for use in the library at least.

Here is a transcription of the second Civil War letter in the collection.  This one is from Private Bunyan Barnes and Private Ervin Bass.  They were very concerned about all the girls back home being married off to someone named Rubin before they got back from the war.

Manassas Junction Va

Jan 9th 1862

Dear Nephew,

I this evening take the time and pleasure of writing you a few lines to inform that I am well at present and hope these few lines may come to hand and find you and Charity enjoying the same good blessings I received your letter a few days back and I was glad to hear that you were well and I was sorry to hear that there is so much sickness about there and to hear the sad Death (of) Gabriel Bass we don’t have no gradeal (great deal) of Sickness here Considering the number (of) folks there is here I can tell we have a heep of fun here with the Black Creek Boys but Girls is Scarce here we cant have no fun with Girls (who ) is not here to be with you all but I cant tell when it will be but I live in hop(e)s of coming back Some Time I tell you the Boys is Vary anxious to come to see you all again I have nothing more of interest to write this time So I will come to a close I want you to write soon

Jan 12th

P.S. I will put in a few words of news I saw your sweet heart this evening and he was feeling very poorly with a bad cold I would like to be back there to see some more fun with you and the girls but I cant fo(re)tell when I will be able to get back to see You any more but you must tell the Girls they must not get married until we all come back for I don’t think you have got any young men there to be with except Rubin I guess he is thare yet I guess he has got his own swing round the Girls I don’t think I have anymore of interest to write this Time You must excuse bad writing and mistakes for I had to do this in the knight and I was getting sleepy I will close by sayin I remain yours Truly

Bunyan Barnes

Ervin Bass