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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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