Me: There was something I was going to ask you …. Now, I knew — I found out that she had a brother. Named William.
My grandmother: Who?
Me: Nicholson. Ommm, Harriet.
My grandmother: He was a white man, honey.
Me: Her real brother.
Grandmother: It was her half-brother. He was a white man that owned the undertaking business.
Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart had two brothers named William. One black, one white.
The first, with whom she shared a mother, was William H. Nicholson, born Christmas Day 1842. After her husband Abner’s death, Harriet and her youngest son Golar went to live with him in Charlotte, North Carolina, about 35 miles south of Statesville. In 1900, the censustaker recorded the family at 611 E. Stonewall. William worked as a plasterer, and Harriet is designated as his sister. She acted as informant on his death certificate, filed a few days after he died 17 December 1909, naming his parents as Burwell Carson and Lucinda Cowles. I have found no other references to his life.
The other brother, with whom she shared a father, was William Thomas Leonadas Nicholson, one of two sons of James Lee Nicholson and Martha “Mattie” Colvert Nicholson. (The other was John Walter Lee Nicholson.) William was a boy of 7 when Lee Nicholson died in 1871, and he was reared with his mother’s family in northern Iredell County. (She was the daughter of William I. Colvert, former owner of Walker and John W. Colvert. The latter fathered Harriet Nicholson’s oldest child.) In 1878, the Nicholson family “began to make and sell caskets at the general store they operated [in] northern Iredell County. As was common in the late 1800s, many undertakers were also furniture makers, and the Nicholsons continued to sell caskets and conduct funerals in their furniture store when they moved to Statesville. At the time, a casket’s price was based on the wood used and its size—probably between $25 and $35 for an adult casket. W.T. Nicholson moved the funeral home into its current location in 1920, and he remained its owner until his death in 1951.” William T. Nicholson handled preparations for his sister’s burial — whether he acknowledged her or not — as well as John W. Colvert. Nicholson Funeral Home, at 135 East Front Street, Statesville, remains in operation.