Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Politics

Pre-election street fracas?

A “pre-election fracas”? What happened? And why did eight of black Goldsboro’s leading lights — including my great-great-great-uncle Matthew W. Aldridge and cousin William S. Hagans — feel compelled to take to the newspaper, hat in hand?


Goldsboro Daily Argus, 18 November 1896.

I didn’t find anything in the Goldsboro papers to which I have access, but two weeks before this letter was published, newspapers across the country ran a sensational story about Negroes “taking control” of Goldsboro after a “clash with whites.” The alleged cause? “An incendiary speech” made by none other than John Frank Baker, “a colored Republican of Dudley,” and husband of Mary Ann Aldridge Baker.


Independence Daily Reporter (Kansas), 4 November 1896.

Four months later, Frank Baker was assassinated, shot dead as he went about his work in a Dudley grocery.

Were Matthew Aldridge and William Hagans and their peers moved to pour oil on the waters because they feared the fallout from Baker’s outspokenness? (I have yet to find anything that touches on what he actually said.) Their letter is frustratingly vague about the events that gave rise to a “race riot” in Goldsboro, speaking only of the aftermath of a recent election. The message is difficult to digest, greased as it is with deferential supplications to the “better class of our white citizens” and anxious apologies for the “slight ripple upon the formally [sic] smooth surface” of race relations in Wayne County. Reading from a 21st century vantage point, it is easy to dismiss this letter as Uncle Tommery. There is an undoubted and substantial element of self-preservation and middle-class conservatism at work here, but their fear was surely real and well-placed.


  • Clarence Dillard (1862-1933), Howard University Theology ’83, came to Goldsboro as a Presbyterian minister and was principal of the colored graded school during this period. He was active in Republican politics and was co-editor of a short-lived African-American newspaper in Goldsboro, The Voice. Goldsboro’s first African-American high school was named for him.
  • A. Sasser was likely Arnold Sasser (1866-1939), who was listed as an undertaker in the 1900 census of Goldsboro.
  • A.M. Smith, I can’t identify.
  • William S. Hagans (1869-1947), son of a prominent farmer, moved between Goldsboro and Washington, where he would soon serve as secretary to African-American United States Congressman George H. White.
  • B.G. Hogans was likely Benjamin H. Hogans (1865-1926), a teacher, a trustee of Saint James AME Zion Church and, later, a mail carrier. He was born in Orange County, North Carolina, and came to Goldsboro as a child. [Hogans’ niece Annie Irene Hogans married Daniel Simmons, first cousin of my great-grandmother Bessie Henderson.]
  • Matthew W. Aldridge (1857-1920) was a grocer and erstwhile teacher who was active in city politics as alderman and poll-holder in the heyday of the Black Second era.
  • William E. Highsmith (1851-1930) was a farmer.
  • Henry Williams, like Hogans, was a pallbearer at the funeral of William Hagans’ father Napoleon Hagans, conducted in part by Clarence Dillard just ten weeks before this letter was published. Beyond that, I have not been able to identify Williams.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2. King.

That’s this week’s thing — King. Whatever way you want to go with it. I thought I had a great Martin Luther King Jr. idea, but the photograph I thought I was going to build it on didn’t show what I remembered it showing. (That is, black folks’ Other Trinity — MLK, JFK and Jesus — mounted on my grandmother’s dining room wall. They were there, but outside the frame of the photo I wanted to use.) Another suggested King, Elvis, is not an option. The apocryphal “all Negroes can do for me is shine my shoes” story held sway in my family, and in consequence the man and his music play no role in any story I can tell. (Except the one in which my sister called her friend to tell him she’d heard Elvis had died. The girl gasped, hung up, then called back later to deliver a tearful thank you message from her father. We were mystified.)

I picked cousin Louella Henderson King instead. Said my grandmother, Hattie Henderson Ricks:

And I think Mama Sarah said that Molly was older than she was, but I reckon they was ‘long there together. Nancy was older than both of them, and A’nt Ella was the youngest one. She and Mama always were together, ‘cause they all played “sisters.” But Sarah was really Molly and Nancy and Ella’s niece. Their brother Lewis’ child.

Unfortunately, I have had few sure sightings of Louella “Ella” Henderson in the record. The first is the 1880 census of Faisons township, Duplin County, North Carolina: James Henderson, 62, wife Eliza, 38, and children Alexander, 21, John, 19, Nancy, 14, Julia, 8, Edward, 6, and Lewellen, 4. (My grandmother was not quite right.  Nancy was oldest, and Ella was youngest, but Julia, called “Molly,” and their niece Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver were about the same age.)

My grandmother recalled that Ella was married twice, and her first husband was a King. In the 1900 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, I found Adam King, day laborer, and wife Ella, cook, married 16 years and living on George Street.  There are a number of problems here though. This Ella was 34. Mine was ten years younger. Most critically, this couple’s marriage license (1) issued 29 August 1884, when my Ella was only 8 years old, and (2) it shows this Ella’s maiden name as Herring.

The same couple appeared in the 1910 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County.

On 22 April 1914, a woman named Ella King died of “exhaustion from acute mania” at the state hospital just Goldsboro. (This was a psychiatric facility reserved for African-Americans.) She was 34 years old, her parents were unknown, and she was buried in Forsyth County, North Carolina. I don’t think this is my Ella either. Her age is off by a few years, and there is no known reason for my Ella to have been buried half-way across the state near Winston-Salem.

Plus, on 27 Dec 1918, Lon Bryant applied for a marriage license for Patrick Diggs and Nancy Smith, both of Goldsboro.  One of the witnesses to the ceremony was Ella Wilson, also of Goldsboro NC.  Nancy Henderson Smith Diggs was the Nancy my grandmother spoke of, the elder sister of Ella.  I suspect that Ella Wilson is Ella Henderson King, remarried, but I have no evidence.

Perhaps: in the 1920 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, living on Smith Street were South Carolina-born Ed Wilson, 39, a supervisor in a box factory, and his wife Ella, 30, a washerwoman.  Is this the right Ella? I don’t think so. Her age is off, too.

And that’s it. That’s all I have. My grandmother told me that Ella left Goldsboro and moved to a city in the western part of the state. Gastonia, maybe? Bessemer City? She could not definitely recall. I’ve searched statewide for women who could have been my Ella. Though I have not found her, but she is not completely lost.

Business, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Vocation

The leading colored funeral director.


Goldsboro Daily Argus, 27 July 1920.

 The esteemed James N. Guess was married to Annie Smith, daughter of Isham and Nancy Henderson Smith. [Small world moment: His nephew Kennon Guess married Esther Edwards of Greene County. I knew Mrs. Guess (later, Askew) as a first grade teacher at elementary school and as a neighbor in Wilson.]