Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Nuptials discovered. (And a little Misinformation Monday, no. 11.)

My grandmother’s birthday was Saturday, June 6. It would have been her 105th. My cousin D.D., her sister’s great-granddaughter, sent me a photo of a photo via text message — Mother Dear and her husband, Jonah Ricks, my step-grandfather. I’d never seen this particular image, but I recognized it as having been taken in Greensboro, North Carolina, at her niece L.’s wedding in 1963.


… Or was it?

I found their marriage license today. So, first, I had to pick my jaw up. I knew they’d wed in August 1958, but had never been able to find a record in Wilson. Because they married in Guilford County. In Greensboro. I immediately thought about this little snapshot. This wasn’t taken in 1963! Mother Dear and Granddaddy Ricks had traveled to her sister’s for the ceremony, and this photo was taken on their wedding day. Why hadn’t I registered the boutonniere, the corsage, the beringed left hand held high?

Then I got around to looking at the rest of the license.

Ricks Henderson

First, there’s the matter of my grandmother’s name. In that era, legal names were somewhat fluid, and changing them did not necessarily involve legal drama. Bessie Henderson bore my grandmother before North Carolina required birth certificates. Bessie named the baby Hattie Mae and gave her her last name. Bessie died less than a year later, and little Hattie went to live with her great-aunt and Uncle, Sarah and Jesse Jacobs. She called them Mama and Papa and became known as Hattie Jacobs. Only after Sarah’s death in 1938 did my grandmother learn that she had never been formally adopted. (And as a consequence, she was forced out of the house on Elba Street by Jesse Jacobs’ children.) She immediately changed her name to Hattie Mae Henderson. I was surprised then to see her name listed as “Hattie Jacobs Henderson” some 20 years after she dropped the appellation.

Mother Dear also listed Jesse and Sarah Jacobs as her parents on the license. Here is an example of the way documents may reflect social and familial realities, rather than legal or genetic ones. Curiously, though, there is a hint to Mother Dear’s paternity in the license, though inexplicably placed. Mama Sarah was born Sarah Daisy Henderson. Her first husband was Jesse Jacobs and her second Joseph Silver. She was not an Aldridge. But my grandmother’s birth father was. Why did my grandmother report Sarah’s name this way? Maybe Mr. Ricks gave the information and got his facts twisted?

Last, the witnesses. I recognize James Beasley — he married my cousin Doris Holt — but who were the others? Friends of my great-aunt Mamie Henderson Holt, perhaps?

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

“Well, she was pretty.”

And Mama’s daughter’s name Hattie, Hattie Mae. That’s who they named me after. I asked them why they named me Hattie after a dead person. “What, you don’t like Hattie? Well, I just thought ’twas nice.” And after I looked at the picture, I said, “Well, she was pretty.” Well, since Jack knew her, and he wanted her picture, so when I come up here, I give him the picture. And he kept it. They thought she was white, wanted to know what old white girl was that. And the frame was out on, right on whatchacallem street now where Mildred live, it was out there on her back porch, and I saw the frame, and I asked something about the picture, what happened to the picture, and she said she didn’t know what happened to it, it was some of Daddy’s stuff he brought here. I said, “Well, I know ’cause I gave him the picture, that frame where was sitting right out on the back porch.” He wanted it, and it was Bessie — not Bessie, but Hattie, Mama’s daughter Hattie. I said, “’Cause they grew up together.” “I don’t know who that old white girl was. I don’t know what happened, … he brought the stuff when he got sick, you know. Waited on him, you know… And he died, so…” Never did find out what ever come of the picture. They thought ’twas a white woman.

Mama never talked about her. But A’nt Nina, she would tell everything. Mama got mad with her, said, “You always bringing up something. You don’t know what you talking ’bout.” So she’d go behind — Mama wouldn’t want her to tell things. And she never did say, well, if she said, I wouldn’t have known him, but I never did ask her who Hattie’s daddy was. I figured he was white. Because she looked — her hair and features, you know, white.


It’s hard to see, but here lies the first Hattie Mae.  Born just seven months before their marriage, Jesse Jacobs Jr. adopted Sarah Henderson‘s daughter as his own. (I need to clean this stone next time I’m in Dudley. I’m ashamed I left it like this this time.)

Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Misinformation Monday, no. 9: the census edition.

Census records are the gateway to genealogical research for most people, and I am no exception. I can still remember hunkering over a microfilm reader in a dark corner of Davis Library in Chapel Hill, gaping at my great-great-great-grandparents’ names revealed in crabbed script in the 1910 federal population schedule. Like so many others, I squirmed impatiently for the release of the 1930 and 1940 censuses, anxious to determine what whos and wheres could be answered by the fresh infusion of data. As much as I have relied upon census data, however, I am acutely conscious of its limits. The census schedules are imperfect documents that qualify only barely as a primary resource. This is not to discount their usefulness for genealogical purposes. I’m just saying that — based as they are on a mishmash of personal knowledge, second-hand information, hearsay and rank speculation — they don’t prove much of anything about a person’s name, age, ethnicity, relationships, or occupation.

Here’s an example, courtesy of the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, North Carolina:

1920 real

A husband and wife with two daughters, no? If you didn’t have reason to know better, you might accept this at face value. “Hattie May” happens to be my paternal grandmother, however, so I do know better. (She was Hattie Mae, by the way.) Let’s take each person one-by-one:

“Jessie Jacobs” was Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. He was actually born in 1856, so was 63 or 64 years old, not 60, when the census taker stopped by. He is described as “B,” which is a designation he never would have provided. I am fairly certain that his wife gave information for the household, and I am equally certain that she described everyone in it as “colored.” Jesse himself might have offered “Croatan,” as the multi-racial, ethnically Native American members of the Coharie tribe were then called.

“Sara Jacobs” was Sarah Henderson Jacobs. She was, indeed, Jesse’s wife. She was born in 1872, so her age is a little off, too. She was 47 or 48, not 42.

Mamie Jacobs” was born in 1907, so her age is basically correct. She was not, however, the daughter of either Jesse or Sarah Jacobs. Nor was she a Jacobs. She was the daughter of Bessie Henderson, who was the niece of Sarah H. Jacobs. In other words, Sarah was her great-aunt. Her mother died when she was three, and she was reared for her first eight years by her great-grandparents, Lewis and Margaret Balkcum Henderson. See:

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 5.35.21 PM

Here, in the 1910 census of Brogden township, Wayne County, North Carolina, is a correctly described family unit. (This, by the way, is the census entry that dropped my jaw so many years ago and got me hooked.) My great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson, great-great-great-grandmother Margaret, great-grandmother Bessie, and great-aunt Mamie. (Bessie was more than seven months pregnant with my grandmother when the census taker showed up on April 18. And look at how many children Margaret had lost. Only three of nine surviving. It breaks your heart.)

Back to 1920: “Hattie May Jacobs” was born in 1910, so her age is basically correct, too. She spent her first eight months or so in her great-grandparents house, but when Bessie died in the late winter of 1911, Sarah and Jesse Jacobs took her to Wilson to live with them. Mamie remained in Wayne County until her great-grandparents died, then she, too, went to Wilson. She and Hattie were known as Jacobses as a result, and for years my grandmother believed she had been formally adopted. Well into adulthood, when she learned that she had not, she reverted to her birth mother’s surname, Henderson.

Fast forward twenty years to the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County. Have things gotten better?

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 7.18.54 PM

No. Sarah Jacobs was 58 years old, not 49. That was likely deliberate deception. Hattie, of course, was her great-niece, but their relationship was essentially mother-daughter and undoubtedly so reported to the census taker. Their occupations are not shown here, but Sarah was described as a laundress “at home” and my grandmother as a servant for a private family. The former accords with what I was told about Sarah’s work, but I have never heard that my grandmother worked as a maid. Most curious, however, is not what’s in this entry, but what is not. Namely, my two uncles. They were three and one in 1930, and I’ve found them listed nowhere else in the census either. A deliberate omission? A mistranscription? I don’t know, but it’s another stark example of the unreliability of census records.

So, three consecutive census schedules for one family and only the first reasonably accurate. As I’ll demonstrate in coming weeks, this was not the exception. Caveat emptor.

Free People of Color, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Collateral Kin: the Carters.

One of the most rewarding results of my decades of genealogical sleuthing has been the development of a deep connection with many of my Carter cousins, descendants of Milford and Beulah Aldridge Carter. My grandmother talked often of the Carter family, to which she was connected both via the Aldridges and “Papa” Jesse Jacobs, who was Milford Carter’s uncle.

The Carters looked ‘bout like white folks. I didn’t really know all of  ‘em. I think it was nine of them boys. The three I knew was Milford and Johnnie and Harold, I think. They used to come to Wilson, but the older one [Willoughby] didn’t come up. But Milford, Harold — the two youngest ones come over and stayed with Annie Bell [Jacobs Gay, Papa’s daughter.] Johnnie – and Freddie, too.   When I’d go to Uncle Lucian’s, they lived not too far from there. But I never went to their house. I think Harold was the youngest one. ‘Cause that’s the one came to Wilson, and Albert, Annie Bell’s husband, got him a job down to the station driving a cab. And he got his own car, and he was down there for a long time. Harold. He’s the youngest one. Carter. All of them was great big.

There were indeed nine Carter brothers — Willoughby (1880), Ammie (1881), Freddie (1890), Milford (1893), Granger (1895), Lippman (1898), John Wesley (1899), Harold (1903) and Richard (1906) — plus a sister Florence (1887). (Florence’s son William Homer Camp Jr. married Onra L. Henderson, Beulah A. Carter’s niece and my grandmother’s double cousin.) The brothers were born in Sampson and Wayne Counties to Archie Marshall (or Marshall Archie) Carter and Margaret Frances Jacobs, sister of Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. Marshall Carter (1860-1926) was the son of William and Mary Cox Carter of Sampson County. (My grandmother also spoke of Marshall’s sister, Virginia Ann “Annie” Carter, who married Hardy Cox and was a close friend of “Mama” Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver.) William Cox (1833- ca. 1875) was the son of Michael Carter (ca. 1805-ca. 1875) and his wife, Patience.

As attached as Papa was to my grandmother, he did not take her with him on visits home to Dudley, very likely in deference to the feelings of his nephew’s wife Beulah, who had little use for the child her brother Tom fathered out of wedlock.

When Papa was living, he used to go to Dudley down there to the mill where they ground corn and all down there.   They’d carry him around down there on horse and buggy, wagon, whatever it was. He was their uncle. Their mama’s brother. He’d go there every once in a while. But he didn’t never say nothing ‘bout taking me down there with him. I guess ‘cause Beulah, Milford’s wife, was my daddy’s sister, but she was kind of cool toward me. And he know he wasn’t gon carry Mamie.  So we didn’t never get to go down there with him. 

Early in their marriage, Beulah and Milford Carter lived in Wilson in a small house on Green Street whose yard touched those of Milford’s uncle and first cousin Annie Bell. The Carters’ second child, son Dewey Belvin, who died before his second birthday, was born during their short stay there.

Beulah stayed in Cora Miller’s house there on Green Street. A little house down there ‘cross from where we were staying, first house behind the church, near ‘bout on the corner there. And she and Milford were there.

After a few years shifting between Wayne to Duplin Counties, Milford moved his family north to Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and then New York City — first Brooklyn, then Queens — where he pursued a long career as a chef.


Milford E. Carter, during his time as a chef at H. Hicks & Son, 30 West 57th Street, New York City.

Freddie, Freddie was the one that went to Atlanta for a year and day. Moonshine. And Johnnie was fat. And rosy. Like, you know, like if somebody say like, seeing a baby and say that it was “oh so fat, look like you pinch they cheek the blood pop out?” And just fair, and just that red look.

Johnnie Carter was also the brother that cared for my grandmother’s great-uncle, J. Lucian Henderson, and his wife Susan Henderson in their final infirmity. In June 1934, John W. Carter was named administrator and sole legatee of Lucian’s estate. Johnnie and his family lived near Lucian just west of Dudley, but I am not sure of the genesis of their close relationship.

The Carter boys was always nice. They come up here, come to stay with Annie Bell, Papa’s youngest daughter. They wasn’t here at the same time. They was driving cabs. So they used to come over all the time. I went with Harold down to Dudley once ‘cause he was going and coming back that same day. See, Uncle Lucian was sick, so I went down with him and come back.



Top: John, Ammie, Wesley (a cousin), Richard, Granger, Richard Jr. and Harold Carter; bottom: Milford, John and Harold Carter; both 1955. Copies of photos courtesy of Dorothy Carter Blackman and Daniel M. Carter.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents

I did the best I could.

North Carolina } In the Superior Court October Term 1897

Sampson County }

Hardy A. Brewington, Joshua Brewington, Simon Brewington, Nathan Brewington, Nancy Goodman and her husband J.B. Goodman, Lucy Strickland and her husband J.S. Strickland, Eliza Manuel and her husband Alvin Manuel, Bashaby Brewington, Mary Wheeler, Lulu Brewington and Luther Brewington heirs at law of Raiford Brewington Jr. and Allen B. Brewington by his guardian Hardy A. Brewington, Plaintiffs

Jno. R. Jacobs, Rocia Lee Brewington and her husband J.A. Brewington, Lillie B. Brewington and her husband M.L. Brewington, and Jno. R. Jacobs, guardian ad litem of Della Jacobs and Lavinia Jacobs, Defendants

The plaintiffs complain of the defendants and allege:

I. That on the 20th day of Nov. A.D. 1890 Raiford Brewington & his wife Bashaby Brewington executed a deed to John R. Jacobs and his wife Polly Ann Jacobs for the following described tract of land to wit: Situate in Sampson County State of North Carolina and adjoining the lands of Nathan Brewington, James M. Parker and others and bounded as follows; Beginning at a stake on the lane and runs about S 550 yards to a stake at an old post oak stump the line of Jas. M. Parker & W. Royal thence west about 750 yards to a stake on the west wide of Beaver Dam swamp, thence up the edge of the swamp to a shortleaf pine at the ditch, thence East 750 yards to the beginning containing 75 acres more or less.

II. That the deed aforesaid is duly recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds of Sampson County Book 76 p 193 a copy of which deed is marked “Exhibit A” and hereto attached and made a part of this complaint, which deed does not convey the said lands in fee simple but upon certain stipulations and conditions in words as follows: — The said Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby Brewington excepts their life time estate in said lands and the said John R. Jacobs and Polly Ann Jacobs and their heirs are to support the said Raiford Brewington and wife Bashaby Brewington and their son Allen B. Brewington during their natural life time and furnish them with good comfortable cloths. When the said John R. Jacobs and wife Polly Ann and their heirs fails to comply with the above obligations then their right and title to the aforesaid land shall be void and a further condition in said deed is that the said Raiford Brewington & wife Bashy shall have the use of said property during their life time but shall not sell any of said property not land unless it is agreeable with J.R. Jacobs & wife Polly Ann. Neither the said J.R. Jacobs and Polly Ann shall sell any of said property nor land unless it is agreeable with Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby.

III. That upon the execution & delivery of said deed to wit on Nov 20th 1890 the said Jno. R. Jacobs & wife Polly Ann Jacobs went into possession of the lands described in said deed and exercised possession and full control of same until 1893 when Polly Ann Jacobs died, but during this period they did not fully comply with the conditions of said deed and Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby were required to work and furnish their own support. After the death of Polly Ann Jacobs, her husband Jno. R. Jacobs & the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs continued to live on the premises & exercise possession & full control of same until about Jan 1st 1896 when they quit the premises & furnished no further food or support in any way since to Raiford Brewington & wife Bashaby Brewington of their son Allen Brewington nor did the said Jno. R. Jacobs & the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs comply with the conditions in said deed before they deserted the premises but instead wasted & used the provisions made & provided by the said Raiford Brewington & wife with whom the said Jno. R. Jacobs & family loved.

IV. That Polly Ann Jacobs is one of the children and heirs of Raiford Brewington & Bashaby Brewington and has been fully provided for by them before said deed was executed to them. That Allen Brewington one of the children is an idiot and the only heir not provided for by Raiford Brewington, and the lands conveyed to Jno. R. Jacobs & Polly Ann Jacobs in the deed set out above was the sahe of the Raiford Brewington estate that he intended for his son Allen Brewington and for himself and wife Bashaby Brewington as long as they should live.

V. That in January 1896 Raiford Brewington died leaving his wife Bashaby Brewington & son Allen Brewington with no one to support them, as Jno. R. Jacobs and the heirs of Polly An Jacobs had broken the conditions in said deed by leaving the premises & refusing to provide them any support.

VI. That if said deed shall remain in full force & effect, it would be in violation of the conditions in said deed, and contrary to the will and intent, and the express declaration of the grantors therein & would leave them without any means of support.

VII. That if said deed shall remain in full force and effect Jno. R. Jacobs and the heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs would thereby receive a double share of the estate of Raiford Brewington to wit: the share of Allen Brewington and the share of Polly Ann Jacobs which latter share had been allotted to her before the execution of said deed.

Wherefore the plaintiffs pray:

I. That the deed referred to in Article I of this Complaint be declared null and void and that a suitable person be appointed by the court to take the title of said land and hold the same in trust for Bashaby Brewington and her son Allen Brewington and the rents and profits therefrom be applied to the feeding, clothing & support of them as long as they both shall live and the remainder to the heirs at law of Raiford Brewington.

II. For cost and general relief – Lee & Butler attys for the plaintiffs.

Hardy A. Brewington being duly sworn according to law says that he has read the foregoing complaint or heard it read and that he knows the contents thereof to be true except such matters and things as are set out on information and belief and those he believes to be true.

Subscribed & sworn to before me this the 29 day of October 1897 /s/ H.A. Brewington


The file also contains notes from trial testimony:

Hardy Brewington — am son of Raiford Brewington – he had twelve children – Polly Ann Jacobs is my sister – My father gave her Polly Ann $300 in money & $100 in other property – My father never gave Allen Brewington anything – He is an idiot – 48 yrs old never did any work – My mother is living is 86 or 87 yrs old – not able to work – Allen lives with her – Jacobs & wife came into possession at date of deed They lived on the land with my mother 5 yrs – Polly Ann died about ’93 – Jacobs lived there 2 ½ yrs after death of wife – Jacobs went to Dudley in Wayne Co & has lived there ever since – My father was then living on the land – he died at 85 yrs – Jacobs provided very poorly for the old man wife & son provisions were poor & not plenty of it. Jacobs was liable to drink & will go off & leave them unprovided for in food & fuel. Land tolerably good when Jacobs took possession, pretty poor when he left He always had plenty to eat & good clothes – The Heirs of Polly Ann Jacobs left the old people neglected – Jacobs could have remained on the land & made them more comfortable – He cut timber & carried to Wilmington – and wasted the money – Myself & son have supported the old people since Jacobs my married defnts daughter – Jacobs has done nothing for them since ’95 – Have heard old man complain of being hungry – cold &c. – Raiford Brewington & wife did not consent to the mortgage didn’t know of it until six or eight months after – He said Jacobs had given a mortgage & he didn’t know what wd become of him – My father died in ’96 – My mother & Idiot have no means of support except this land – Whitney Royal wrote the deed – Jacobs moved from Dudley down on this land – Jacobs married 2nd time after about 1 ½ yr after wife’s death – Jacobs got money from Parker $30 & my father said he would see it paid. – Note given about 12 mos before mortgage

Jim Strickland — Live 2 ½ miles from place – I married Raiford Brewington’s daughter – He gave her $200 – Jacobs didn’t give them enough to eat – at all times – his clothes were common – Jacobs has done nothing for them since ’95 – Place was better when he came than when he left – Land not worth much now – Brother Hardy & son Arthur have been supporting them since Jacobs left

Arthur Brewington – Am son of Hardy Brewington Jacobs staid on the land about 5 years – The food was pretty poor like the most of us meat & bread – Before Jacobs went there could get as good a meal as anywhere – he wd leave land neglected – Drank every week – Raiford put me there after Jacobs left – Me & my father have been supporting the old people – They complained of want of food & fuel – I did the best I could under the circumstances – Jacobs could have done better than he did.

J.R. Jacobs – Am one of Defn’ts – When I went there but little provisions – fence gone down pretty much – I made a crop next I put 2000 [illegible] the spring I went there & clean out ditches I did the best I could – all eat at same table – He complained some like old people will do – Neither of them suffered for food or fuel I cut timber & carried to Wilmington – no profit – My wife lived about 4 yrs after I went there – I did the best I could – Arthur seemed to be their choice – We bargained for Arthur to go there & take my obligation with consent of old people – I was in debt in Clinton – I went to Parker to get the money – Old man helped to get up money – Old Man was present – gave boundaries &c — $35 note was to pay for guano – I owed Vann $25 for corn – I carried it home he carried it [illegible] – All of it was for money used on the place & for mule worked on place. Raiford [knew] all about it – I gave a lien on crop that year – The $35 mortgage was included in the $125 mortgage Raiford Brewington only once came here – The $125 mortgage was made on the plantation & he knew about it, and was willing to it – Judgmt agst me for Parker – 40 acres of cleared land on the place – Raiford Brewington asked me to cancel the deed I told him I didn’t [think] it right to do so. This was after my wife died.

J.L. Brewington – Raiford Brewington was my father – Hard to please he wanted something to drink He had a heap to feed – people & stock – Jacobs did the best he could The old man grumbled all the time – but had plenty to eat –

Jonathan Goodman – Live about ½ miles from the place – I saw the old man frequently – He lived as good as most any farmer – While Jacobs lived there – he lived as well as common run of people that had no more – Jacobs drank some – It seemed as if Jacobs wished to please him – he was off at times –

Mary Eliza Brewington – Raiford was my husbd father – I lived ½ mile from him I heard Raiford say it was a just debt as far as he [illegible] and he wanted Parker paid – The old people got along as well as one could expect

J.R. Parker – The $35 mortgage Raiford & Jacobs came to me & wanted to borrow some money – Raiford proposed to meet him in Clinton & make up the papers – which we did – I let Jacobs have some corn & bacon – This was cancelled to make up the $125 mortgage – The cash that I gave Jacobs – and the note for $35 with the money due me makes up the $125 – I know that Raiford knew of the $125 note & mortgage — $35 was all money – how much more I don’t know – over half of it – There was an indictment agst Jacobs for passing counterfeit money. Raiford came to me & didn’t say he would or wouldn’t sign the $125 –

Marshal Newman – Was J.P. – at time mortgage was made – Parker & Jacobs got me to write this mortgage – it was made at Nathan Brewington’s house Raiford was not present, and never said anything to me about it. Nathan Brewington’s was convenient to Jacobs –

Hardy Brewington (re-called) – We knew nothing about $125


Judgment for Hardy Brewington et al. The judge found that John and Polly Ann Jacobs had not complied fully with the terms of the deed and ordered that (1) the deed from the Brewingtons to the Jacobses be declared null and void; (2) Hardy Brewington be appointed trustee of the land for the sole use and benefit of Bashaby and Allen Brewington during their lifetimes; (3) after the deaths of Bashaby and Allen, Hardy was discharged from his trusteeship, and (4) John Jacobs and the Parkers were to pay court costs.


I’m not a Brewington or a Jacobs and have no direct link to any of the players in this sad intrafamily squabble over Polly Ann Brewington Jacobs’ estate. Nonetheless, as was the rule among free families of color in and around Dudley, Wayne County, there was multi-strand intertwining between these folks and my extended family:

  • Joshua L. Brewington, the J.L. who testified on behalf of John R. Jacobs, married Amelia Aldridge, sister of my great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge.
  • John R. Jacobs was the older brother of “Papa,” Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., who married Sarah D. Henderson (my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson’s sister) and reared my grandmother.
  • John Jacobs’ sister Frances married Marshall Carter of Sampson County. Frances’ son Milford E. Carter married Beulah M. Aldridge, John W. Aldridge’s daughter. Another son, John W. Carter, cared for Lucian Henderson (brother of Sarah) and his wife in their old age and inherited their small farm.
  • Milford E. Carter Jr. married Jessie Bell Brewington, granddaughter of Hardy A. Brewington.
  • Michael and Ann Eliza Brewington Manuel’s son, Alonzo Manuel, married Sallie Wynn, daughter of Edward and Susan Henderson Wynn. Susan H. Wynn was the sister of my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson.
  • Michael and Ann Eliza Brewington Manuel’s daughter Celestial married Hillary B. Simmons after the death of his first wife, Ann Elizabeth Henderson, who was a sister of Sarah, Loudie and Lucian Henderson.
  • Raiford Brewington’s wife Bashaby was the daughter of Shadrach and Zilpha Hardin Manuel. Her kinship to Michael Manuel is not entirely clear to me, but research by others suggests that they were cousins.

From the file of Polly Ann Jacobs, Sampson County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, Original, North Carolina State Archives.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Religion

This Book was give to Sarah Jacobs.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver left two Bibles. One, a gift from her second husband, Rev. Joseph Silver, had originally belonged to his first wife, Felicia Hawkins Silver. The other passed through several hands before arriving in mine.

There are three inscriptions inside the front cover. “This book was give to Sarah Jacobs from Ganny Caroline 1920 of Wilson NC” — that’s my grandmother’s handwriting. Then, faintly: “Present by Mrs Caroline Vick of Wilson N.C. present in May 18th year 1904.” Then: “Gladys OKelley book give to her by Charity Pitt keep as long as I live no one to take it a way from me year 1913 Dec 23.”


Who are these folk?

Carolina Williamston Vick was born in Newton County, Georgia in 1844. How or why she came 425 miles north to settle in Wilson, North Carolina, may never be known, but a clue might lie in her maiden name. “Williamson” was a prominent southwest Wilson County family that included slaveholders. Did some migrate — or sell their slaves — South? In any case, Carolina was in Wilson by 1880 when she is listed in a household headed by 28 year-old Robert Vick. They are married and have three children, Alice, 18, Willie, 15, and Cora Vick, 3. (It appears that the older two were Robert’s step-children.) By 1900, Carolina was living in the 700 block of Green Street (around the corner from the Elba Street house) and spent the reminder of her life living with a rotating series of children, grandchildren, in-laws and lodgers and serving as a midwife to women in the community. “Granny Caroline” died in July 1925, when my grandmother was 15 years old.

carolina Vick

As for Gladys O’Kelly (or Gladys O. Kelly), the nine year-old that so vigorously assorted her ownership in 1913 — see below.

The Bible’s frontispiece introduces another owner:


Unfortunately, her name is too common to begin to identify her.

As was custom in good quality Bibles of the era, the book’s text is halved by a shiny section of maps and illustrations and charts. My grandmother filled blank pages and the backs of leaves with the births and deaths and marriages of her family, her handwriting gradually shifting from a barely recognizable, youthful, curlicued version to the one I know so well.



The “Births” page introduces another family. Or maybe families. Gladys O’Kelly is there, and there are two Carolina Vick entries.


The others seem to be members of an extended family I found in the 1880 census of Hillsboro, Orange County, North Carolina: Yunk Strayhorn (45), his wife Patsey (36), son Isaac (18), son-in-law Louis Pitt (25) and daughter Charity Pitt (23), children Rose (24), Jane (17), Henry and Reuben (13), Sandy (23) and Clara (21), and grandchildren Richard (3), Adeline (12) and Margaret (9). (Lewis Pitt married Charity Strayhorn in Edgecombe County in 1872 and moved to Wilson.) Little Gladys O’Kelly? She seems to have been the daughter of Rose Strayhorn’s daughter Gatsey and her husband, Reubin O’Kelly, both of Orange County.

And then there are Madison Perry, son of Carolina Vick’s daughter Cora, who married Isham Perry, and the Shiverses:


IMG_4935I’ve been unable to find all the Shiverses, and what I have found doesn’t align cleanly with the dates inscribed here (for example, John and Nicey Shivers, born about 1872 and 1880, are listed in the 1900 census with six-month-old daughter Kizzy), but this appears to be a family that lived in Greenville, Pitt County at the turn of the 20th century.

I don’t hope to be able to reconstruct how this Bible bounced all over eastern North Carolina like this before coming to rest with my family, which has had it nearly 100 years. I share it here in hopes that descendants of the other families who cherished it will find themselves in its pages.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Is Mama dead let me know at once.

Mama got sick after we come back from Greensboro.  She got sick.  At least, Mama, we never could tell when she was sick.  ‘Cause she put on so much.  If she wanted to go somewhere – go to New York, Norfolk, anywhere she could get, pack that bag, honey, and she’s gone.  And leave us home!  Leave us there.  She took me to New York with her, and she carried Mamie to Norfolk, carried me to Norfolk one time, then she carried Mamie there.  Oh, she was just always wanting to go.  And Papa didn’t have enough sense, but just wherever she said she was going, she was going, and he give her the money and she’d go. 

But Mama didn’t know she had a bad heart until two weeks before she died.  She was always sick, sick all the time.  She’d go to the doctor, and the doctor would tell her it was indigestion and for her not to eat no pork and different things she couldn’t eat.  ‘Cause Mama was fat.  She weighed 200.  She wasn’t too short.  She was just broad.  Well, she was five-feet-four, I think.  Something like that.  And so, but she loved pork, and she’d try to eat some anyhow ‘cause we always had a hog, growing up.  All the time.  So after they said she couldn’t, she tried not to eat no pork, much.  Fish and chicken, we eat it all the time.  But she was so tired of chicken until she didn’t know what to do.  And I was, too.  But Papa loved all pork, so he’d always get a whole half a shoulder or a ham or something and cook it, and she’d eat some.  But when she went to the doctor, and her pressure was up so high, and he told her, “By all means, don’t you eat no pork.  It’s dangerous to eat pork when your pressure is too high.”  And then that’s when she stopped eating pork.  Well, it didn’t help none, I don’t reckon. 

After that, when she was going to Mamie’s, she had that little bag.  A little basket.  A little, old basket ‘bout that tall with a handle on it.  She had all kinds of medicine in there to take.  And Mr. Silver told her, said, “Well, you just take your medicine bag.”  She’d been married to him a good while.  He said, “Well, you shouldn’t go up there by yourself.  Since I’m down here—”  See, she’d go up and stay with him a little while, and then he’d come back to Wilson and stay a while.  So he said, “You just take your little basket there with your medicine in it.”  So, he said, “Well, I’ll go with you up there and then I’ll come back on to Enfield.”  So he went with her down there to the station.  He was picking up the bags to go up there, told her to walk on up to the station and wait for the train.  

So, she went up there to the station and got on there, and went on and got on the train, and when she got off the train, in Selma —  ‘cause she’d done told me to send her insurance and everything to Greensboro, ‘cause she wont never coming back to Wilson no more.  Because she’d done seen, the Lord showed her if she stayed in Wilson, she wouldn’t live.  If she went ‘way from there, she could get well.  So she was going to Mamie’s.  And when she got off the train and went there – she’d just got to the station door.  And she collapsed right there.  And by happen they had a wheelchair, a luggage thing or something.  The guy out there, he got to her, and he called the coroner or somebody, but he was some time getting there.  But anyway, they picked her up and sat her in the wheelchair.  They didn’t want her to be out ‘cause everybody was out looking and carrying on, so they just pushed her ‘round there to the baggage room. 

And so when the coroner got there, he said, “This woman’s dead.”  So they called Albert Gay, and he was working for Artis then.  Undertaker Artis.  And Jimbo Barnes.  And called them and told them that she was dead.  So, Mr. Silver couldn’t even tell them who to notify. He had Mamie living in Thelma, North Carolina, on McCullough Street, but didn’t know what the number of the house was.  So he was so upset. So they had to call the police for the police to go find Mamie Holt.  On McCullough Street.  And her mother, they said, her mother died. Well, she did die.  But they said it was, I think, Thelma.  Not Selma, but Thelma.  “Well, where is Thelma?  It can’t be my mother. ‘Cause my mother don’t live in no Thelma.  I never heard of that place.  She live in Wilson.” But, see, it was Selma where she died. They got it wrong. 

So then Mamie went down to Smitty’s house and had Miss Smitty send a telegram to me.  On the phone.  Charge it to her bill, and she’d pay her: “IS MAMA DEAD LET ME KNOW AT ONCE”   She asked me if Mama was dead.  And I said, when I got that, Annie Miriam and all them, a bunch of kids was out there on the porch, and so at that time, Jimbo or one of ‘em come up.  And when I saw them, I knowed something.  I had just got the telegram.  Hadn’t even really got time to read it.  Had just read it.  And he said, “Well, you done got the news.”  And I said, “The news?  Well, I got a old, crazy telegram here from my sister, asking me is Mama dead, let her know at once.”  He said, “Yeah, we just, we brought her back from Selma.”  I said, “What in the – ”  Well, I went to crying.  And I don’t know.  Albert Gay or some of the children was ‘round there, and they was running.  Everybody in the whole street almost was out in the yard – the children got the news and gone!  That Mama had dropped dead in Selma.  So I said, well, by getting that telegram, I said, that’s what threw me, honey.  I wasn’t ready for that. I’d been saying I reckon Mamie’ll think Mama was a ghost when she come walking in there tonight.  Not knowing she was dead right at the same time. 


Remembering Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver on the 76th anniversary of her death.


Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved. Photo in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Land, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

This deed.


This is the deed for Jesse Jacobs‘ purchase of 303 Elba Street. He bought the house (in which he was already living) and lot for $725 from E.L. and Ietta R.M. Reid on 4 May 1908. (Elijah Reid, a veterinarian, was born into a free family of color from the opposite end of Wayne County than Jesse and Sarah Jacobs.) The same day, Jacobs gave George W. Connor, Trustee, a mortgage on the property, perhaps to secure a $400 loan he used to buy it.  Jacobs was to repay Connor at the rate of $2.50 per week. 

On 10 April 1917, the Jacobses arranged another mortgage on their Elba Street home, this time promising to repay W.A. Finch, Trustee, $395 at 6% interest. Circumstances intervened. By about 1922 or ’23, Jesse Jacobs was too ill to work. He died in 1926. Sarah and Hattie Jacobs, her great-niece (and my grandmother) paid what they could from their meager earnings as laundresses. When Sarah Jacobs died in early 1938, the house remained encumbered. Finch’s loan was not repaid until September of that year, most likely from the sale of the property.

North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

Papa’s sons.

Jesse Jacobs Jr.’s first wife, Sarah “Sally” Bridgers, died shortly after the birth of their youngest child, Annie Bell in 1895.  A year later, he married Sarah Daisy Henderson, who reared Sally’s children alongside her own daughter and her sister’s two children. Jesse’s sons, James Daniel Jacobs (1881-1952), Dock Davis Jacobs (circa1888-1944), and Reddick Jacobs (1889-1921), were grown by time my grandmother came to live with Jesse and Sarah.  They were not her blood kin, but were family nonetheless.

Jim Daniel.  Jim Daniel Jacobs.  He and Roxie lived down in Clinton down there, and he come to Wilson when they got married, before they had a family.  I remember that.  They talked about me coming to visit, but he used to come up to bring tobacco.  I remember, “Why in the world he had to come all the way to Wilson …?” I just do remember him, by him – lots of times they would come by the house, see Papa, wanted to know how he was doing, and whatever.  They didn’t stay no time, had to get back and see what time they was gon sell tobacco.  So, I don’t know whatever became of him.  Now, Mamie went down when Jim Daniel got married.  He married Roxie, a girl named Roxie, and they was still down there in Clinton, wherever, somewhere down …  anyway, I know it wasn’t Mount Olive, and so when Roxie got pregnant, then Jim Daniel wanted Mamie to come down there and stay with his wife.  He said, “I’ll pay for her to look after her, stay with her in the house,” ‘cause he was working down in the field and needed some one to look after her.  So Mamie went down there to stay.  Didn’t stay, but …  I never did go down there.  I never did see ‘em, after Jim Daniel brought up some corn one time to see Papa ‘cause he was sick.


James D. and Roxie Simmons Jacobs.

Dock, now he married a lady named Nettie.  I met her.  She was brown-skinned, small, brown-skinned lady, and they had about six, seven children.  He met her, they got married up there in New York and had all these children, and I think, I think they had a falling out, and he went to stay with somebody else.  I don’t know.  Yeah.  I went to their house.  Nettie, I saw her one time.  And her hair was ‘bout like that, I reckon.  ‘Cause it looked like it was plaited.  She tucked it under.  But she was very pretty and nice….  Well, she wont pretty to me.  But I remember where she was a very sweet and nice person.

Dock, like his siblings Carrie and Reddick, migrated to New York City. In 1923, Jesse and Sarah H. Jacobs deeded their house at 303 Elba Street, Wilson, to Jesse’s surviving children Carrie, Jim Daniel, Dock and Annie Bell.  On 15 Apr 1938, Dock filed a deed for the sale for $20 of his undivided interest in the house to my grandmother (then called Hattie Jacobs). He used the money to buy a train ticket back to New York, and my grandmother used the deed to claim a share in the sale of the only home she’d ever known.


Dock Jacobs.

The other brother, the younger one.  Reddick.  He was one that got shot in the café.  He was getting ready to leave, and say him and another fellow got to arguing, and the man shot him.  Well, they brought him home.  Papa was living then.  They brought him home, and they had to bring the body up to the house.  And me and Mamie had to go examine it, you know.  But I didn’t put my hands on him.  I went in there and looked at him, and I said, “Well, where did he get shot?”  After he was all dressed up, laying out there in the casket.  And so Mamie said, she said, “Girl, don’t you see?  They shot him right in his face.  Right there.”  And I said, “I don’t see nothing.”  And then she had to put her finger right in his eye.  And it was in his left eye.  It went right in through there and come out the back of his head.  He was sitting at the restaurant, and a fellow shot him.


Congregational Church cemetery, Dudley NC


Photograph of James and Roxie Jacobs courtesy of Carla Carter Jacobs. Original photograph of Dock Jacobs in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson. Photograph of gravestone taken by Lisa Y. Henderson in March 2013. Interviews of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

Her story.

Bessie Henderson has died, and her children remain.

Mamie Lee was the first child, and my grandmother was the second. And the second Hattie Mae.  The first was Sarah Henderson Jacobs’ daughter.

That’s who they named me after.  I asked them why they named me Hattie after a dead person.  “What?  You don’t like Hattie?  Well, I just thought ’twas nice.”  And after I looked at her picture, I said, “Well, she was pretty.”  Since Jack knew her, and he wanted her picture, when I come up to Philadelphia, I give him the picture.  ‘Cause they grew up together.  And his children thought she was white, wanted to know what old white girl was that.  Mama never talked about her.  But A’nt Nina, she would tell everything.  Mama got mad with her, said, “You always bringing up something.  You don’t know what you talking ’bout.”  And she never did say – well, if she said, I wouldn’t have known him, but I never did ask her – who Hattie’s daddy was.  I figured he was white.  Because she looked — her hair and features, you know, white.

Jack Henderson told my grandmother that he remembered “when she was got,” that he was nearby when it was happening, that Tom had Bessie over a barrel, literally.  Bookish and soft, James Thomas Aldridge tended his mother and younger sisters and his ailing father’s dry goods store while dreaming of a bigger and better world faraway.  He would have been a nerd if they’d had them then.  Bessie’s pregnancy changed his life:

‘Cause his mama didn’t want her son to get married.  ‘Cause he wanted to be a doctor, and so she was gon help him be one.  And if he got married and started having children, he couldn’t be a doctor.  And down there in a little town like Dudley, you had to go away from there ‘cause it wont no more than ‘bout sixth, seventh grade.  And you had to go to a larger place if you wanted to go to school. 

So the pregnancy stirred him, thrust him out toward his reveries, away from Dudley and the grey-eyed baby whose mother was soon to die.  Tom, already 24 years old but claiming to be much younger, fled to Raleigh, where he entered Shaw University’s preparatory division and exited its college eight years later on his way to Meharry Medical School.  He would become a doctor, indeed, a big-time, money-making, Cadillac-driving Saint Louis doctor, elected president of the National Medical Association in 1961.  But it’s his daughter’s story we’re telling right now, the daughter who never got past sixth grade, who never met her father ‘til she was good and grown.

Let me back up.  Sometime around 1905, Mama Sarah and her husband, a good man named Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., moved 40 miles north of Dudley to Wilson, a tobacco market bursting with new golden-leaf millionaires.  Colored folks from all over coastal Carolina, drawn to the town’s bustling opportunity, built a vibrant community on the southeast side of the railroad that cleaved the town in two. Sarah took in washing and ironing, did seasonal work at tobacco factories, and reared Jesse’s brood, who turned out largely ungrateful.  Her own daughter died in 1908, aged 14, and nobody knows why.

Meanwhile, down in Dudley, Lewis and Mag Henderson faded in their iron bedstead with only their teenaged granddaughter Bessie to manage the household.  Lucian Henderson likely farmed his parents’ reduced acreage with his own, but it was left to Bessie to cook and clean and sew and launder and do all the other relentless drudgery that needed doing.  Her mother was long dead, and there were no other close relatives nearby upon whom to rely.  Did she resent her responsibilities?   Did she chafe under the grind of pot-stirring and water-fetching and skillet-scouring and jar-slopping?  What did she want?  She was a chancey girl, a risk-taker, one who took her pleasure where she found it, even when it clamped the lid tighter on her trap.  She was a beautiful girl, but nearly unmarriageable, as she dragged her heavy belly through the spring of 1910.

Bessie gave birth to my Hattie Mae on June 6, very likely attended by the child’s grandmother, a midwife named Louvicey Artis Aldridge.  Though Vicey had forbidden a marriage between this girl and her special boy Tom, she was not altogether unmoved by her grandbaby, who looked much more Aldridge than Henderson. Vicey and her daughters played small intermittent roles in my grandmother’s early life, but there is no doubt: Sarah Henderson Jacobs was the family’s matriarch and matrix, though no children of her own lived even to adulthood. She reared Bessie’s children and kept them clothed and fed and sheltered, if not exactly loved.