Oliver Nestus Freeman’s Family Albums Now Online



Freeman family


Unidentified woman from the Freeman family.

The NC Digital Heritage Center continues its great work of making archival resources more accessible by digitizing the family albums of Oliver Nestus Freeman.  This great window into East Wilson in the early 1900’s can be reached at this link.

But we need help with metadata so if you can identify anyone or anything in the photographs please let me know.

North Carolina Slave Narratives

nc slave narratives

     North Carolina Slave Narratives : a folk history of slavery in North Carolina from interviews with former slaves from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938, is a singular new resource for our library.  The work that the WPA and the Federal Writers Project did in the 1930’s to interview, record and transcribe the words of the last people in the United States to have endured the pathological institution of slavery will hopefully be kept through the ages as a reminder and as a warning of the potential brutality of mankind.  You can access seven hundred hours of sound recordings of interviews from this project at LOC American Memory.

Within these pages you find voices that crack with humanity as they recall the sometimes good and often terrible times that they witnessed and lived.   The orators describe the minutia of life that is sometimes missing in history.  You hear about how one former slave and her brother would scratch and rub the missus feet as she laughed and sang.  Another recounts prayin’ sinners through and stealing hogs while another talks about how hungry and skinny her mother was even though she cooked the master’s food.  One interviewee spoke of the speculators that came through with chains of slaves for sale stopping at their plantation for the night but leaving the shackled slaves outside in the winter cold.

There are a lot of entries from the adjoining counties of Wilson and one entry is an interview of a man named Blount Baker who was a slave in Wilson County.  Below is his interview.


Blount Baker

An interview with Blount Baker, 106 Spruce Street, Wilson, North Carolina.

“Yes’um, I ‘longed ter Marse Henry Allen of Wilson County an’ we always raise terbacker, Marse Henry wus good to us so we had a heap of prayer meetin’s an’ corn shuckin’s an’ such.

I ‘members de big meetin’s dat we’d have in de summer time an’ dat good singin’ we’d have when we’d be singin’ de sinners through.  We’d stay pretty nigh all night to make a sinner come through, an’ maybe de week atter de meetin’ he’d steal one of his marster’s hogs.  Yes’um, I’se had a bad time.

You know, missy, dar ain’t no use puttin’ faith in nobody, dey’d fool you ever time anyhow.  I know once a patteroller tol’ me dat iffin I’d give him a belt I found dat he’d let me go by ter see my gal dat night, but when he kotch me dat night, he whupped me.  I tol’ Marse Henry on him too so Marse Henry takes de belt away from him an’ gives me a possum fer hit.

I ain’t never hear Masrse Henry cuss but once an’ dat wus de time dat some gentlemens come ter de house an’ sez dat der am a war ‘twixt de north an’ de south. He sez den, ‘Let de damn yeller bellied Yankees come on an’ we’ll give’em hell an’ sen’ dem a-hoppin’ back ter de north in a hurry.’

We ain’t seen no Yankees ‘cept a few huntin’ Rebs.  Dey talk mean ter us an’ one of dem says dat we niggers am de cause of de war.  ‘Sir,’ I sez, ‘folks what am a wantin’ a war can always find a cause.’  He kicks me in de seat of de pants fer dat, so I hushes.

I stayed with Marse Henry till he died den I moved ter Wilson.  I has worked everwhere, terbacker warehouses an’ ever’thing. I’se gittin’ of my ole age pension right away an’ den de couty won’t haver ter support mi no mo’, dat is if dey have been supportin’ me on three dollars a month.”


Redwood Tree in Wilson

redwood tree 1redwood tree 2Wilson, NC has the tallest tree in the world.  Not this one specifically, but the Coastal Redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens) is the tallest species of tree in the world and Wilson has one.  A friend pointed it out to me recently and today I took some pictures.  I heard that it was one hundred years old and it is fairly girthy and as tall as the tallest hardwood around, but it is no Hyperion (the tallest tree in the world at 379.7 feet and 600 years old),  but it is very beautiful. I wish I knew the history of how it got here,  maybe one of my readers will tell me.

Update It seems that Our State Magazine had an article on the trees. There are actually ten of them and they are about 60 years old.  Read the piece for more info.

Great Article About Growing up in North Carolina


In 1908 Joseph Mitchell, former writer for The New Yorker, was born in Robeson County, North Carolina and last week The New Yorker magazine published a portion of his unfinished memoir “Days in the Branch: Remembering the South in the City.” The excerpt is about growing up in the country of Robeson County.  It is a magnificent piece full of beautiful descriptions of the people, culture, nature and  landscape of Robeson County in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.  You don’t even have to be from NC to read it, you just have to have been a wide-eyed kid.

The Country’s Most Famous Santa


Donna Deekens talking about the life of Bill Strother.  Another photo in a series of photos of people giving presentations.

Not many people showed up last night but thanks to all that came out, it was a very interesting presentation and I think it put me in the Christmas spirit.  Thanks to Donna Deekens and her husband Billl for driving down here from Richmond, VA. If you are interested in buying her book The Real Santa of Miller & Rhoads:  The Extraorinary Life of Bill Strother, you can buy it on Amazon.