Say Their Names: Reclaiming Wilson’s Slave Past

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Join us next month 2/7/2017 @ 7 pm in the WCPL assembly room for Lisa Henderson’s presentation: Say Their Names: Reclaiming Wilson’s Slave Past. If it is anything like her past presentations, it will be stellar.

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 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.

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