Wilson Daily Times, 26 October 1899.
The whole sorry story appeared in the 27 October 1899 edition of the paper. William Coley was Napoleon Hagans‘ oldest (perhaps) son, born about 1867 in Wayne County to Winnie Coley, and I originally thought that he was the one bamboozled. With closer reading, though, I noticed that this William Coley was still living in Wayne County in 1899 and was described as an “old negro.” Napoleon’s son was in his early 30s and living in Wilson at the time, so I’ve revised my opinion.
While I’m at it, though, here’s what I know about “my” William Coley:
I can’t find him in the 1870 census, but in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, Winnie Coley is listed with sons Nathan, 19, and Willie, 12.
On 25 Feb 1891, Cain Artis applied for a marriage license in Wilson County for William Coley, son of Napoleon Hagans and Winney Coley, both living, and Minnie Woodard, daughter of Alfred and Sarah Woodard. The marriage was performed on 26 Feb 1891 by Presbyterian minister George Carson, with Cain Artis and Hilliard Ellis as witnesses. Cain was William’s half-brother; his mother was also Winnie Coley. Further, Cain’s father, Adam Artis, married Napoleon Hagans’ half-sister, Frances Seaberry.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, Willie Coley, 30, is listed with wife Minnie, 30, children Effie M., 8, and James M., 6, mother Winnie Coley, 65, and sister Zilley Coley, 38.
William seems to have been missed again in the 1910 census. Sometime between 1900 and 1920, his wife Minnie died, and he married a woman named Mary. It also seems likely that son James died during this period, as there is no World War I draft registration for him. Daughter Effie Mae married Arthur McCarter on 27 February 1910 in Wilson.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, living on Roberson Street: Will Coley, 50, wife Mary, 47, and granddaughters Ruth and Nannie Coley. Will worked as a public house mover. Minnie Ruth and Nannie Mae were actually McCarters, daughters of William’s daughter Effie (also known as Ethel) Coley McCarter. As I have not found Effie or her husband in the 1920 census, they may have died early as well.
Cain Artis died 23 March 1917 in Wilson County of pulmonary tuberculosis. His death certificate, for which William “W.M.” Coley provided information, noted that Cain was colored, was born March 1851 to Adam T. Artis and Winnie Coley, was married, and was a farmer.
William Coley himself died 26 Jan 1928 at the age 61 of the same dread disease that killed his brother Cain. His wife Mary Coley informed the registrar that he was the son of Pole Hagans and Winnie Coley, was a farmer, and resided at Route 3, Wilson.