Wilson County Deeds

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A partial page out of a Wilson County Deed book reel. Note the encircled words enfeofe(e)d. This means to (under the feudal system) give (someone) freehold property or land in exchange for their pledged service. Wilson was a bit feudal back then.

Most North Carolina counties in our local history collection have a collection of deeds that some dedicated (or crazy) citizen abstracted or transcribed into book form.    But no one in Wilson County ever took on that daunting task, that is until now.

I have decided to transcribe all the Wilson County deeds that we have on microfilm for eventual publishing in book form.  But, in order for me to not lose my marbles from doing something this tedious and mind numbing, I have rounded up some help, Johnny the intern and Elizabeth the super transcriber.  There are 34 reels of microfilm for these deeds so we may already have a successful colony on Mars by the time it is finished.

Lt.Robert Anderson: letters from the front in WW1

unknowns_robert_paul_andersonIn 2014 the 100th anniversary of the First World War arrived. It has become a war that feels nearly as distant as the Civil War or the American Revolution. It is a war that was known for its high death toll as modern technology introduced machine guns, airplanes, and tanks to the battlefield. It is important to remember the men of that war as individuals, not merely numbers on a tally.
Among those men was First Lieutenant Robert B. Anderson of Wilson, North Carolina. Robert was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cantigny on May 29th, 1918, dying at an aid station a short time later. For his bravery he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (US) and the Croix DeGuerre (France).

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The Anderson family has preserved keepsakes of Lt. Anderson’s service. Most cherished among these are three written before his death.
The first was to his father written on New Year’s Day, 1918. In it Robert speaks about his deep respect for his father, and the influence his father left on his life. While not dramatic in its words you can nonetheless feel certain intensity as Robert reflected on his father while looking at the war he was to fight. With his father he shares his pride in being a soldier, as well as being proud of his father.Anderson_1918_3rd_letter_1
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New Years letter to Father

New Years letter to Father

The other two letters were written the same month he died. The first is a Mother’s day letter. Among other things, he describes how everyone in his unit felt how important it was to send a letter for Mother’s day. He goes on to speak of how well written some of his men’s letters were. Robert himself had enough duties that he apparently had to squeeze in the letter throughout the day just finishing in time for lights out. It has a warm and hope filled tone.

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Mother's Day letter

Mother’s Day letter

The last letter was written to his mother on the 27th, just two days before his death. He was suffering from the Spanish Flu, and preparing himself for the upcoming battle. It was almost as if he knew ahead of time that he was not going to survive the fight. The letter talks about his life insurance policy ($11,000 which is a goodly sum for those days). He goes into detail that he hadn’t received all his pay so there should be back pay coming to his family should he fall in battle. Robert tells his parents to “do what they like with the money”. He then follows this practical advice with spiritual words. He says that if he dies for them to remember, “I will be in safe keeping, waiting for when God calls you and Dad and we will…be together.” Apparently, he must have felt bad for having sounded so serious and then tries to say how everything will be alright and the place he is going to be will be in the papers; a place called Cantigny.

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Last Letter of Robert Anderson, two days before his death

Last Letter of Robert Anderson, two days before his death

Death Notification of  Lt. Anderson

Death Notification of
Lt. Anderson

Johnnie Zolman
Guest Blogger/Library Intern
Wilson Public Library

State Troops and Volunteers

state troops and volunteers Yesterday a patron was looking for a book in the local history room and said, “I saw it here twenty years ago!”  Well it turned out that the reference copy had been absconded with before I got here but we still had one in the NCNF circulating collection.

The book is a collection of  photographs of NC Confederate Civil War soldiers called, State Troops and Volunteers: A Photographic Record of North Carolina’s Civil War Soldiers, Vol. 1. I had never even heard of the the book and it is a remarkable, painstakingly researched work that required collecting images from 320 families from all over NC.  And it is  the first work of its kind that didn’t rely on photos found in archives.  The author, Greg Mast, received so many photographs that he decided to end this volume in 1862 with the intention of publishing other volumes.  But the fact that this was published twenty years ago gives me the sinking feeling that there will not be any more volumes, which is very unfortunate.  However, there is still this one and there are some singular photographs in the book, including one collection of photographs from the Woodard family of Wilson County, a family that truly suffered more than most during this period. And much to my surprise there is a photograph of the brother of my great great grandfather.  I had never seen this photo of Ephraim Kale, who is a too young, fifteen years old when it was taken.  I have included the captions for both images in the post. Woodard_family_Civil_War     woodard_family2 ephraim_kale_15years ephraim_kale_15years2

Attack on Cantigny

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Lt. Robert Anderson playing baseball for Trinity College and in his army uniform.

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Another in my series of people giving Power Point presentations. This one is of the author, Matthew Davenport, giving a superb talk on his book. There were many veterans in attendance in including a Medal of Honor winner from the Battle of Ia Drang.

We had a great program last Thursday with  Matthew J. Davenport, former JAG lawyer and now a criminal defense attorney in Greenville, NC who is the author of the book, First Over There: The Attack on Cantigny, America’s First Battle of World War I. 

This battle has a certain significance to Wilson, NC because one of its sons, Lt. Robert B. Anderson, was killed in the fight leading his troops against entrenched German forces to the south of the city of Cantigny.  Robert was the brother of Wade Hampton Anderson who married Lalla Harper of the Luby Harper family that I wrote on recently.

The battle was important because of the pressure on the Americans from the British and French to prove themselves in battle before they trusted them with holding any part of the front lines that were seriously under threat as the Germans poured in troops from the eastern front for their giant offensive.

The Americans proved their mettle as they took the town from the Germans with the help of 10 French Schneider tanks, a creeping barrage of hundreds of artillery guns (including gas shells), flame throwers and 4000  American and French troops.

The Battle of Cantigny on May 28-31, 1918 was the first act for the American troops that then led to the larger battles of Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood  and the eventual, final defeat of the Central powers on November 11, 1918.

New Materials

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21st NC Infantry

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We also have Volume 2 of this book. I can’t believe that we did not have any Johnston County deed books until now. But you know what we don’t have? Wilson County deed books. No one has ever abstracted them. But guess what? My intern and I are going to start doing that soon.

 

I have ordered a lot of materials this year but they just trickle through processing, mostly due to turnover.  Here are a few that we have got on the shelf this week.  The Cumberland County Genealogical Society also recently sent us two deed books that we didn’t have…for free.  Yeah I can afford that.  So stay tuned for some more updates.