We would visit A’nt Nancy in Goldsboro. Her oldest daughter married the undertaker, Jim Guess. And her youngest daughter, me and her was the same age. Bessie Lee. And Mama used to go over there to see A’nt Ella. And A’nt Ella stayed up there on that other little street back there, but her and Nancy were sisters. Two sisters. So, I said, ‘I’m going over there, and they all never come and see me or nothing.’ So I stopped going, and after Mama died, I just forgot about it. ‘Cause they ain’t never bothered nothing about it. And then too, they seemed like they were cool. They wasn’t friendly enough. Like to say, if you’re family and have something to talk about, or go talk about anything, just make up something to say. Act like you like ‘em whether you did or not, while they was around. So I stopped going over there. ‘Cause Bessie Lee …. Let’s see, the last time I was over there, she had gone some place and so I didn’t get to see her that time. So I said, she didn’t never want to come to Wilson to see me, and I had always asked her ‘bout coming to Wilson, and she said she was coming over there sometime, but she never did. So I just stopped going to Goldsboro, too. I don’t know what happened to them.
Nancy, born about 1865, and Louella Henderson, born about 1876, were daughters of James and Louisa Armwood Henderson. In 1881, Nancy married Isham Smith, freeborn son of Milly Smith and her enslaved husband Peter Ward. They settled in the Harrell Town section of Goldsboro, where Isham worked as a wagon driver and then an undertaker. Their children were: Annie Smith Guess (1883), Oscar Smith (1884), Furney Smith (1886), Ernest Smith (1888), Elouise Marie Smith (1890), Johnnie Smith (1891), Mary E. Smith Southerland (1894), James Smith (1896), Willie Smith (1899), Effie May Smith Stanfield (1904), and Bessie Lee Smith (1911). (Was Bessie really a daughter? Or a granddaughter?) Isham died in 1914, and Nancy married Patrick Diggs four years later. After Patrick’s death, Nancy restored her first husband’s surname. She died in Goldsboro in 1944 after suffering a fractured pelvis from a fall from her bed.
Louella Henderson is more difficult to trace. My grandmother recalled that Ella was married twice, the first time to a King, and moved from Goldsboro to a city in the North Carolina Piedmont, perhaps Gastonia. Wayne County census records reveal an Adam and Ella King, but their marriage license lists Ella’s maiden name as Herring. An Ella Wilson witnessed Nancy Henderson Smith’s second marriage, but the Ella Wilson (wife of Ed) listed in the 1930 census is much too young. Though she must have lived into the 1920s at least, I can find no certain trace of Ella after the 1880 census. [Update here.]
[P.S. The continuing connection between Nancy Henderson Smith and her siblings’ families is evidenced by the frequency with which her son-in-law James Guess was called upon to handle their funerals. Nonetheless, knowledge of the connection seems to have dropped off sharply after her death. I have met only one person — my grandmother — who knew that undertaker James Guess (whom people had heard of) had married into the family or that any Smiths in Goldsboro were their kin. And I’ve been unable to locate any Smith descendants.]
Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.