Agriculture, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

An educated colored man comments.

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After a few observations about colored dockworkers in Norfolk and the spirit of brotherly love that enveloped black and white railroad workers, Alfred Islay Walden arrived in Wayne County. At Mount Olive, he asserted confidently that “nearly all the families own their homes and farms” and marveled at the reported wealth of “some men.” The former is not true, but the latter could have been a reference to the members of the Simmons and Wynn families, whose relative wealth dated back to their status as free skilled craftsmen and landowners in the antebellum era.

The week in Dudley is particularly interesting, as all of my paternal grandmother’s Henderson and Aldridge ancestors and relatives lived in this community in 1879, when Walden was perambulating. The “excellent school carried on by the American Missionary Society” was probably the school conducted at First Congregational Church, which my forebears founded and attended. The many who taught first and second grades in public schools included my great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge and his brothers Matthew W. and George W. Aldridge. I’m not sure who owned the saw and shingle mills, but the landowners included the Aldridge brothers and their father Robert Aldridge, Lewis Henderson and his father James Henderson, Hillary B. Simmons’ father George W. Simmons, and other extended kin.

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Goldsboro Messenger, 28 August 1879.

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7 thoughts on “An educated colored man comments.

  1. I liked reading about your personal connection to this story. As you probably know Walden left Goldsboro and returned to Randolph County where he founded the First Congregational Church of Randolph County, and a school, renamed Promised Land and then Strieby. He died there just 4 and a half years later in February 1884. He’s buried in the cemetery there. Today Strieby is a Cultural Heritage Site and Literary Landmark in honor of his work as the “Blind Poet of North Carolina.”

  2. Interesting! My ancestors were founding members of a Congregational church in Wayne County in 1870. Its early members were largely families who had been free prior to the Civil War. The church is still active, and my cousins are still members!

    • Well despite my having corrected them, the community was largely people who had been FPOC, but joined by freed people usually due to marriage. As you know Walden had been enslaved but his sister married into the pre-existing community. He lived with them on returning from NJ. And you should check if your family Congregational church was established with help of the American Missionary Association as so many were. It’s a fascinating history. I wrote about it in my book on Walden and the history of the church and school: From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina.

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