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William Scarlett Hagans.

William Scarlett Hagans, born about 1869, was the second of Napoleon and Appie Ward Hagans‘ sons. He is first found as “Snowbee” in the 1870 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, North Carolina, in a household headed by “Poland Hagans” with wife Apcilla.  (Next door was Jonah Williams, brother of Adam Artis.  Artis married Napoleon’s half-sister Frances Seaberry; they were my great-great-great-grandparents.) Two years later the censustaker reported Napoleon’s stepfather, Aaron Seaberry, with the family.

William and older brother Henry E. Hagans attended primary  school in Goldsboro. William then departed for Howard University in Washington, DC, where he completed the preparatory division in 1889, the college department in 1893 (when he was one of six graduates), and the Law Department in 1898 (from whence he received a Bachelor of Arts degree.)

In a glimpse at young William’s social life, here’s a brief from the 20 October 1888 edition of the Washington Bee: “A company of young ladies and gentlemen, composed of Misses Mamie Jones, Ella Perry, Mary Dabney, Emma Ingrim, Louise Chapman, Mamie Dorster and Messrs. St. Clairlind, E. Williston, W.S. Hagans, Benjamin Henderson, J.W. Whiteman, James Usher, H.L. Hyman, L.A. Leftwich, spent an evening of pleasure at Miss E. Alley Thornton’s residence with her uncle, Rev. W.H. Howard, No. 77 Defrees street northwest.”

On 27 September 1894, the Goldsboro Daily Argus printed an article about the confused state of affairs among Wayne County’s Republicans, noting that “old-line leaders” like Napoleon Hagans, Rev. C. Dillard and E.E. Smith opposed “fusion” with Populists. The piece also noted that Will S. Hagans had been nominated to “legislature.”

The 1895-96 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction included a report from A.L. Sumner, principal of the State Normal School at Goldsboro, who noted that the school enrolled 172 students from 13 counties. “The Dorr Lyceum [a mandatory Friday evening lecture] was placed under the supervision of Prof. W.S. Hagans. In this association the students were taught to appreciate, write and speak the masterpieces of our literature, to write essays and debate, and were made acquainted with the meanderings of parliamentary usage.” The school’s catalogue for that year listed as faculty Sumner, Miss L.S. Dorr, and W.S. Hagans, who taught Classical Latin, Natural Philosophy, Theory and Practice of Teaching, Arithmetic, North Carolina History, etc. [Sumner was also editor of the Headlight, a Baptist-affiliated newspaper that published wherever Sumner moved for work.]

Per the 21 May 1896 issue of the Mecklenburg Times, at the state Republican convention, W.S. Hagans was elected alternate delegate to the national convention.

On 20 March 1897, the Raleigh Gazette, in an article about a reception in Goldsboro for African-American state senator W. Lee Person of Hickory, noted that Professor W.S. Hagans “spoke in high terms of commendation and praise of the Senator and his colleagues, and assured them that the colored people of Goldsboro were wedded to them, and would ever honor them for the record made for their race in the General Assembly of the State.”

On 5 June 1897, the Raleigh Gazette commented: “We certainly regret to hear that our friend, Prof. W.S. Hagans of Goldsboro, was not endorsed for the postmastership there. He certainly is worthy of the place. We hope to see him appointed to some good salaried place in Washington yet.”

On 27 June 1898, William S. Hagans, 27, married Lizzie E. Burnett, 23, in Nahunta, probably at the Hagans house. Presbyterian minister Clarence Dillard officiated and neighbor J.D. Reid, brother H.E. Hagans, and sister-in-law J.B. Hagans witnessed. Burnett was a member of the large and locally prominent Burnett family, but her parentage is not clear.

BURNETT -- Lizzie Burnett Hagans

Lizzie E. Burnett Hagans

Lizzie Burnett Hagans gave birth to a daughter Daisy in about 1898. She died in infancy.

The 19 January 1899 edition of the Washington Evening Star ran a breathless review of the season’s judicial reception at the Taft White House. The lengthy recitation of invited guests included Mr. W.S. Hagans.

On 21 March 1899, Henry Hagans and William S. Hagans received proceeds from the partition of about 476 acres in Nahunta township, Wayne County, belonging to the estate of the late Napoleon Hagans.

William and Lizzie Hagans welcomed a daughter, Susan A., in September 1899. The child was named for Lizzie’s mother. (And the A perhaps was for “Apsilla,” William’s mother.)

On 11 October 1899, William purchased from Minnie and Effie Morgan a lot on Oak Street in Goldsboro adjoining that of Lizzie E. Hagans.

On 28 October 1899, the Colored American noted that William S. Hagans “has returned from Goldsboro, where he attended the funeral of a relative. Mrs. Hagans accompanied her husband here, and apartments have been taken at No. 1524 O street northwest.” (Whose funeral?!?!)

On 9 December 1899, in a short article titled “Mr. White as Host,” The Colored American informed all that “Thanksgiving tide was made more joyous by the genial and whole-souled hospitality dispensed on Thursday evening of last week by Congressman George H. White at his handsome home, 1418 18th street northwest. … Those who sat at the festal board were Register [of U.S. Treasury] J.W. Lyons, Recorder H.P. Cheatham, Ex-Senator John P. Green, Major Charles R. Douglass, Messrs. John H. Hannon, Henry Y. Arnett [clerk to Cheatham], S.E. Lacy, W.S. Hagans, Lewis H. Douglass and R.W. Thompson.”

A month later, on 13 January 1900, the Colored American announced that “Mr. W.S. Hagans has returned from a holiday visit to his home at Goldsboro NC.  The great prominence of Congressman White and the voluminous mail occasioned by it, is keeping Mr. Secretary quite busy these days.”

On 24 February 1900, the Washington Bee ran “A Pen and Pencil Club: Washington’s Literati Form an Organization for Mutual Improvement and Promotion of Good Fellowship” a “brilliant coterie of journalists and writers” met at the Southern Hotel and organized the nucleus of  the Pen and Pencil Club. Editor T. Thomas Fortune was placed on the honorary roll, reserved for “prominent out-of-town scholars and penman.” Active members L.H. Douglass [Lewis Henry Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass and Civil War Union officer], J.W. Cromwell [John Welsey Cromwell, educator, lawyer, journalist], C.R. Douglass [Charles Remond Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass], C.A. Fleetwood [Christian A. Fleetwood, major, U.S. Colored Troops], E.L. Thornton, T.J. Calloway [Thomas J. Calloway, journalist], E.E. Cooper [Edward E. Cooper, editor, Colored American], W. Calvin Chase [William Calvin Chase, lawyer, editor of the Washington Bee], A.L. Manly, Paul H. Bray, S.E. Lacy, F.G. Manly, J.N. Goins [journalist], J.G. Clayton, J.H. Wills, W.L. Pollard, John T. Haskins, W.M. Wilson, W.O. Lee, A.O. Stafford [Alphonso O. Stafford, folklorist, teacher], W. Bruce Evans [physician and educator], W.L. Houston [William L. Houston, attorney], Lucien H. White [music critic, editor], H.P. Slaughter, Kelly Miller [mathematician, “The Bard of the Potomac”], C.W. Williams, J.H. Paynter [John H. Paynter, journalist/author], W.C. Payne [vice-presidential candidate, National Liberty Party, 1904], W.S. Hagans, R.H. Terrell [Robert Herberton Terrell, lawyer, teacher and later judge] and others.

In the 1900 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, the censustaker recorded William B. Hagins (November 1872), wife Lizzie E. (April 1874), and daughter Susan (August 1898).  William is listed as white; his wife and daughter as black.

On 3 May 1900,  in an article titled “Hagan’s Win Out,” the Goldsboro Weekly Argus noted that Will S. Hagans had been elected to the Republican district executive committee and his brother Henry E. Hagans as a delegate to the national convention.

In 1902, W.S. Hagans, age 34, registered to vote in Wayne County under the state’s grandfather clause. He named “Dr. Ward” as his qualifying ancestor. David G.W. Ward, a physician in Wilson County, was William’s maternal grandfather. William could have named his father Napoleon (as did his brother Henry), and I am certain the choice was deliberate.

On 7 October 1902, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that “leading negroes have issued a call for a negro convention to be held on October 16 in Raleigh to put out a ticket against the Republicans. The call expresses indignation at the treatment negroes are receiving at the hands of Republicans and heaps abuse on Senator [Jeter C.] Pritchard, who, they declare, must be defeated at all hazards. The following negroes sign the call: Jas. E. O’Hara, Scotland Harris, H.P. Cheatham, W. Lee Pearson, R.W.H. Leak, W.S. Hagans, S.G. Newsom, W.F. Young.”

Daughter Eva Mae Hagans was born 1 January 1903 in Goldsboro.

On 31 January 1903, the Colored American shone a spotlight on Goldsboro, “a progressive little town of 8000 inhabitants. It is historic,” it claimed, “for the peaceful relations existing between the races. The chief occupation of its people is trucking. Yet we have negroes who are rapidly forging their way to the front along all industrial lines. Our people own thousands of acres of forming land, as well as excellent city property…. Prof. H.E. Hagans, the principal of our State Normal School and also a farmer, is worth $20,000. Mr. W.S. Hagans, who is one of the most successful agriculturalists, is worth $20,000. …”

On 9 May 1903, The Colored American reported “Mr. W.S. Hagans, who has made a host of friends among Washingtonians by his genial bearing and sterling qualities, will indulge in an extensive hunting expedition in and about his North Carolina home during the Xmas holidays.  He will have as his guests Congressman White and Recorder Cheatham.”

Wm S Hagans in Goldsboro with dogs

William S. Hagans, perhaps with hunting dogs, Goldsboro.

On 13 January 1904, William S. Hagans purchased 38 acres in Wayne County from J.D. Reed [sic] and wife. Reid grew up with William near Fremont, had been a witness at his wedding, and was principal of the Colored Graded School in the nearby town of Wilson.

On 20 January 1904, W.S. Hagans and wife Lizzie deeded 25 acres to J.W. Johnson. This land had been purchased by Napoleon Hagans in 1883 from J.W. Aycock and wife Emma, B.F. Aycock and wife Sallie, and O.L. Yelverton and wife Susan G. for $270. The property was located on the “public road leading from Sauls Crossroads to Bull Head.”

On 9 June 1904, West Virginia’s Charleston Advocate ran an editorial by R.H. Thompson titled “In the National Field/ The Lily-White Situation in The South as Viewed through Northern Glasses.” In it, he decried the state of the Republican Party.  “… The action of the North Carolina republican convention was a crime. The summary turning-down administered to such war-horses as John C. Dancy, Henry P. Cheatham, James E. Shepard, Samuel H. Vick, J.E. Taylor, Isaac Smith, W.S. Hagans and others has been an outrage that requires an emphatic prefix to fittingly characterize it. Not a solitary colored man of all of North Carolina’s able gallery of political lights was chosen as a delegate to the national convention. Time was when the race’s political sun set in the piney woods and moonshining camps in the Blue Ridge mountains, but the ill-fated ascendancy of Jeter C. Pritchard and his coterie of lily-whites has gradually dimmed the luster of the Tar Heel Negro constellation, now there are few so poor to do it reverence. George H. White was wise in moving his lares and penates to the hospitable shores of New Jersey, and it is a mercy that the tired frame of John Hannon went over to its lasting place ere his failing eyes witnessed the downfall of the house of cards he and his faithful allies had created as so ruinous a cost. …”

Daughter Flora Irene Hagans was born in 1904, and Rosalie Lorene Hagans in 1907.

On 16 May 1907, William S. Hagans contributed a lengthy column to the Washington Post entitled (and subtitled): “At Issue with Adams/ Goldsboro Man Reviews Politics in North Carolina/ Hopeless for Republicans/ ‘Lily White’ Faction Arraigned for Treatment of Colored Vote – Conventions Held on Trains to Trick the Negroes – Ingratitude Alleged – 20,000 Colored Votes Will Not Submit.” Which pretty much sums up the article, which is aimed at rebutting comments made in an interview with Judge Spencer B. Adams of North Carolina. “Where you find the negro voting at all, he is doing as he has always done — voting the Republican ticket or the ticket that goes by that name. He is just as much a Republican in this State to-day as every, but that he is not so enthusiastic cannot be denied. This can be easily explained. It has been the custom in this State ever since the enfranchisement of the negro for him to follow the lead of a few white men calling themselves Republicans. He expected and got this leadership before the adoption of the Constitutional amendment in 1900, which disfranchised a large majority of colored citizens. Those who happened to be spared from the operations of this new law still looked for this same leadership but found it not — a clear case of being left in outer darkness.”

At the heart of Wayne County Superior Court proceedings stemming from the suit in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis (1908) was a dispute over 30 acres of land.  Thomas “Tom Pig” Artis began renting the property in 1881 from W.J. Exum.  In 1892, Exum’s widow Mary sold it to Napoleon “Pole” Hagans.  In 1896, after Napoleon’s death, the land passed to his sons Henry and William S. Hagans.  In 1899, Henry sold his interest to his brother.  In 1908, William S. Hagans sold the 30 acres to J.F. Coley.  Coley filed suit when Tom Artis laid claim to it, arguing that Napoleon had sold it to him.  Tom claimed the 800 lbs. of cotton he tendered to Napoleon (and later, son William S. Hagans) was interest on a mortgage, but William Hagans and other witnesses maintained the payment was rent.  William Hagans testified that his father was in feeble health in 1896 when he called his sons together “under the cart shelter” to tell them he would not live long and did not know to whom the land would fall.  William testified that Pole asked them to let “Pig” stay on as long as he paid rent, and they promised to do so.  The court found for Coley and against Artis.

On 4 February 1909, the Goldsboro Weekly Argus announced that Will S. Hagans, “one of our best-known and most reputable colored citizens and who owns one of the best farms in the county, has been invited by the inaugural authorities at Washington to officiate as a marshal at the inauguration of President-elect Taft.” The article noted that the selection was particularly significant as Hagans had been “squelched” the local Republican chairman who selected “lily-white” delegates to the convention.

On 17 April 1909, the Indianapolis Freeman printed a nice, but erroneous, article lauding well-educated negro farmers and citing as prime example William S. Hagans, a Harvard graduate. William, of course, was no such thing. He was a proud graduate of Howard University. [Might his half-brother, Indianapolis physician Joseph H. Ward, have commented upon this mistake?]

On 19 May 1909, the Charleston (West Virginia) Evening Chronicle announced that Prof. William S. Hagans of Goldsboro would address the exercises of the Agricultural Literary Society during the tenth annual commencement at North Carolina Agricultural & Mechanical College for colored youth in Greensboro May 23-27.

On 3 June 1909, the New York Age reported that W.S. Hagans of Goldsboro had delivered the principal address at the exercises of the Agricultural Literary Society. Hagans was “one of the most successful and prosperous farmers” in North Carolina.

In the 1910 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: W.S. Higgins [sic], 38, wife Mrs. W.S., 36, and children Sussie A., 11, Eva, 9, Flora, 6, and Loraine, 3.  All are listed as white.

Son William Napoleon Hagans was born 16 May 1910.

On 14 December 1911, the Greensboro Daily News covered a meeting of 750 members of the Grand Lodge of F. & A. A.M. “Prominent negroes” attending included Archdeacon H.B. Delaney, Prof. W.S. Hagans, C.C. Spaulding and ex-Congressman H.P. Cheatham.

On 7 August 1912, Will S. Hagans was listed on page 9 of the “List of Coloed [sic] Pole Tax paid by May the first for Nahunta Township,” which is now found in Wayne County Voting Records at the North Carolina State Archives.

Sometime during 1913, William Hagans moved his family from Goldsboro to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They settled in a rowhouse at 650 North 35th Street, and William entered the real estate business. Lizzie was probably already pregnant with their seventh child, but neither she nor the boy would live to know their new city. On January 11, 1914, Lizzie gave birth to a stillborn son, whom she and William named Henry Edward, after William’s brother. Eleven days later, Lizzie died of double pneumonia and nephritis, conditions brought on or exacerbated by her having carried a dead fetus for five weeks. She and little Henry were buried in the same grave in Eden Cemetery, just outside Philadelphia.

On 25 November 1914, the Weekly Argus ran a lengthy letter to the editor from “one of Wayne County’s best known colored citizens and properous land owners, as was his father before him” — none other than Will S. Hagans. After a self-effacing reference to “looking after his little affairs,” William gave a number of flattering nods to prominent citizens and to “the magnificent new court house.” He proclaimed his fondness for Goldsboro and asserted that only a desire to give his children the “very best school advantages” had compelled his move North. (One suspects, however, that much more in the state’s tense political climate was at play.)

Gboro_Weekly_Argus_11_25_1914 WS Hagans Good Citizen

On 26 January 1916, William Hagans sold his first cousin William M. Artis and wife Hannah two tracts on Turner Swamp in Nahunta township totaling 68 acres.

In the 1920 census of Philadephia, Pennsylvania, at 643 North 34th [sic, should read 33rd] Street, 49 year-old widowed real estate broker William S. Hagans and his children Eva M., 17, Flora I., 15, Rosalie L., 12, and William N., 9, all described as mulatto and born in NC.  Hagans owned this home, a three-story rowhouse in the Mantua neighborhood that is still standing.

William Hagans' children after 1913

William’s children Rosalie, Eva, Susan, Flora and William, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, circa 1916.

The 10 November 1921 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Court of Common Pleas awarded $750 to Lillian Wolfersberger, who sued William S. Hagans for injuries received at 36th and Powelton. Wolfersberger, who was blind, was being led across the street when she was struck by Hagans’ vehicle.

In its 29 December 1925 issue, the Pittsburgh Courier announced that William S. Hagans was elected president of the Citizens’ Republican Club with no opposition. “Mr. Hagans is popular and competent and a banner year is anticipated by the Citizens.” He was reelected to the office several times.

On 16 March 1929, according to the Pittsburgh Courier, the Citizens’ Republican Club president William S. Hagans appointed a committee to discuss ways to form a “Big Brother movement” in Philadelphia. “The need for such an organization is apparent because the white society have no provision for handling Negro cases.”

In the 1930 census of Philadelphia, at 643 N. 33rd Street, widowed real estate broker William S. Hagans, 59, and children Flora I., 26, public school teacher; Lorena,23, real estate stenographer; and William N., 19, all described as white.  All born in NC, but children’s mother’s birthplace listed as NY.  The house was valued at $8000.  The Haganses were the only “white” family on the block.  All others were Negro.

On 18 January 1930, the Pittsburgh Courier ran an article lauding the Citizens’ Republican Club’s hosting a “fanfest and fed” for “varsity football players of color” from Philadelphia high schools. Dr. Charles Lewis, “father of the Howard-Lincoln classic … for the first time

In 1930, Alfred Gordon, M.D. published an essay titled “Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School” in a slender volume called Philadelphia: World’s Medical Centre. After setting forth the history of the hospital, Gordon named W.S. Hagans as a member of its Board of Managers.

The Scranton Republican on 15 October 1931 reported that Governor Pinchot had announced the termination of 43 employees in an reorganization of the department of labor and industry. Among them: William S. Hagans, special investigator, Philadelphia, whose salary was $1000.

On 18 January 1932, the Delaware County Daily Times reported that a special committee of the Pennsylvania State Negro Council had presented to the state superintendent of public schools a resolution calling for the establishment of a vocational school in Philadelphia. William S. Hagans, president of the Citizens Republican Club was a committee member.

On 27 September 1932, the Harrisburg Telegraph reported that the Republican state chairman had appointed a Colored Voters Advisory Committee for the current campaign. Members included William S. Hagans of Philadelphia.

In 1933 in Philadelphia, William married Emma L. Titus. The Great Depression dealt the couple crippling blows, and William lost his home and other holdings. In the 1940 census of Philadelphia, at 650 – 57th Street, realtor William Hagans, 65, was renting an apartment for $40/week with wife Emma, 40, a public school teacher, and mother-in-law Ellen Titus, 70. (Assuming this address is North 57th, William’s final home was a flat in a three-story rowhouse just two blocks from the house my grandmother later owned at Wyalusing and North 56th.)

William Scarlett Hagans died in 1946 in Philadelphia.

Wm Scarlett Hagans portrait

William S. Hagans.

Personal photographs courtesy of W.E. Hagans and W.M. Moseley. Other sources as cited.

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Henry Edward Hagans.

The second oldest of Napoleon Haganssons, Henry Edward Hagans was born in 1868 near Fremont, Wayne County. (Napoleon was the half-brother of my great-great-great-grandmother, Frances Seaberry Artis.) His mother was Apsilla “Appie” Ward Hagans. He and his brother William S. Hagans (then called “Snowbee”) appear with their parents in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. Little is known about their childhood, but it would have been one of relative and increasing comfort as their father’s landholdings expanded. Henry and William attended local elementary schools, then left home to enter the preparatory division of Howard University in Washington, DC. Henry returned to North Carolina to attend college at Shaw University in Raleigh, graduating in 1890.

HAGANS -- Henry Hagans Photo

Henry in his teens, probably as a young collegian at Shaw.

Most of what we know about Henry’s life is gleaned from numerous mentions in newspaper articles resulting from his social, professional, civic and political career. To call him an active man is an understatement. While still in college, he hit the ground running and slowed only in the last few years of his life, when ill health may have dampened his passions. What follows is a narrative built largely from his public life. The portrait is incomplete, but reveals a remarkable man nonetheless.

On 11 November 1885, the Raleigh News & Observer carried a glowing review of the “Colored Fair,” an annual exhibition convened by the North Carolina Industrial Association. The fair opened with a procession of the Association’s marshals, followed by their assistants, including H.E. Hagans of Fremont, who was only about 17 years old. NCIA, founded in 1879, was an organization of African-American civic leaders, founded “to encourage and promote the development of the industrial and educational resources of the colored people of North Carolina.” Governor Starks “spoke of his great surprise at the extent and merit of this the first colored fair he ever attended. He was really amazed to see what progress the colored people had made in twenty years. In that time he said they had really become a race ….”

On 6 November 1888, the New Bern Daily Journal announced that stockholders of the Eastern North Carolina Stock and Industrial Association had elected officers, including H.E. Hagans — then 20 — as chief marshal.

On 10 May 1890, the Washington Bee, an African-American newspaper in the nation’s capitol, noted in a “Personals” column that “Mr. H.E. Hagans of Tremont [sic], N.C. is in the city on a visit.” (The two entries preceding Henry’s notice detailed the travels of former U.S. senator Blanche Kelso Bruce and Congressman John Mercer Langston.)

In about 1892, Henry married Julia B. Morton, daughter of Andrew and Mary Morton of Danville, Virginia. Andrew Morton was a prosperous barber and entrepreneur. The nomination form for historic place registration for Danville’s Mechanicsville district notes: “Another freedman, Andrew Morton, built 543 Monroe Street ca. 1882. Morton became a successful barber and prominent member of the black community, helping to establish Calvary Baptist Church in 1892.” Images of America: Danville Revisited, a photographic history of this southwest Virginia city, includes photographs and brief bios of Andrew and Mary Morton. Henry and Julia may have met through connections at Howard — she graduated from the school’s Normal Department in 1888. Henry’s listing as a teacher in North Danville in the Virginia State Superintendent’s Report for School Years 1891-2 and 1892-3 reveals that the couple lived briefly in Danville before settling permanently in Fremont, then Goldsboro.

HAGANS -- Julia Hagans

Julia B. Morton Hagans.

On 15 September 1892, the Goldsboro Weekly Argus trumpeted big news: “The State Colored Normal School opened in this city yesterday, of which Prof. H.E. Hagans, son of Napoleon Hagans, one of the most respected and prosperous colored men in the State, from the Fremont section, has recently been elected principal.  The ARGUS is glad to note his election.  He merited the preferment, and we wish the school all success under his administration.” According to an article in the Colored American, see below, Henry left this position to become Chair of English at A&M College in Greensboro (now North Carolina A&T State University).

On 31 July 1893, Julia Hagans gave birth to Henry’s only child, son Earle Morton Hagans, in Danville.

Henry’s mother Appie died in 1895, and his father almost exactly one year later. Under the terms of Napoleon Hagans’ will, Henry and his brother William divided the estate equally.

On 26 June 1897, the Raleigh Gazette noted that “Prof. H.E. Hagans of Fremont” was an attendee at the North Carolina State Teachers Association’s 16th annual session at Shaw University.

On 23 October 1897, the Raleigh Gazette reported on the closing exercises of the city school of Eureka, whose “able corps of teachers” included Prof. George W. Reid, Mrs. H.E. Hagans and Miss Elnora S. Ferrell. After devotional exercises, students were examined — revealing “an amount of familiarity with the subjects taught very seldom witnessed in the average school of this kind” — then a “sumptuous repast” was served. (In fact, “the best dinner ever given in Eureka.”)

On 20 November 1897, the short-lived Wilson (NC) Blade noted in “Fremont Items,” that “Professor Henry E. Hagans made a flying trip to Goldsboro last Saturday and returned last Sunday.  While here he visited the Sunday school and delivered an elegant address.” After closing exercises were over, several distinguished persons spoke, including “Prof. H.E. Hagans, formerly an instructor in the A.&M. College, Greensboro.”

On 30 May 1898, the Goldsboro Daily Argus announced:


This was surely 501 East Elm Street, a corner address just across the street and slightly northeast of Willow Dale, the cemetery for Goldsboro’s white residents. (The “big ditch” is still there.) There is a house on the lot today, but it dates from no earlier than the mid-20th century. Sanborn maps from the era show a large two-story dwelling.

On 25 June 1898, the Colored American, a Washington, DC, newspaper, noted that: “Mr. H.E. Hagans of Goldsboro, N.C., and a brother of Mr. W.S. Hagans, secretary to Hon. George H. White, was in the city for a few days last week. He is a splendid specimen of the superior young men of the race in North Carolina.” Henry previously had been White’s secretary.

On 27 June 1898, Henry and his wife “J.B.” were official witnesses at the marriage of his 27 year-old brother William Hagans and Lizzie E. Burnett, 23. The ceremony, conducted by Rev. Clarence Dillard, took place in the Nahunta district of Wayne County, probably at William’s home. Neighbor J.D. Reid was an additional witness.

By his late 20s, Henry was thick in the middle of local Republican politics. Coverage of African-American politicians in Goldsboro newspapers was snarky at best and crudely racist the rest of the time. A 20 September 1898 Weekly Argus article was typical, snidely mocking the elocution of black speakers and jabbing at their decorum. The point of the coverage — an agreement between black and white factions of the party concerning the nomination of a county ticket — arrives late in the piece, and there we learn that Professor Henry E. Hagans gained the chairmanship of Wayne County’s Republican executive committee.

On 9 Nov 1898, Daniel Vick and wife Fannie of Wilson NC executed to Henry E. Hagans of Goldsboro a promissory note for $400 with interest after maturity at 6% and payable 9 Feb 1899.  If Vick defaulted, Hagans would sell at public auction two lots on Church Street and Barefoot Road in Wilson.  The deed was registered and filed in Wilson County on 16 Apr 1903 in deed book 66, page 236.  A handwritten note on the entry: “The within papers transferred to S.H. Vick this the 6th day of May AD 1899 /s/ H.E. Hagans”  Another note: “This mortgage is satisfied in full by taking taking a new mortgage and is hereby cancelled 4 Dec 1903 /s/ S.H. Vick”  Samuel H. Vick, Daniel’s son, was turn-of-the-nineteenth-century black Wilson’s most prominent citizen and was active with George H. White and Henry Hagans in Republican politics.

On 21 March 1899, the nearly 476 acres comprising the bulk of Napoleon Hagans’ estate was divided between his sons. Parcels included two tracts in Nahunta township containing 173 and 48 acres; a tract containing 3 acres; two tracts containing 75 ¾ and 6 acres; three tracts containing 39 ¼, 30 and 8 1/3 acres; a tract containing 4 1/8 acres; a tract containing 25 acres; a tract containing 9 ¼ acres; a tract containing 24 acres; and a tract containing 30 acres.

On 21 July 1899, the Fayetteville Observer reported that “[t]he Summer School of Methods, which opened in this city on the 10th inst., for the benefit of colored teachers, closed its labors last night with an interesting programme.” The article noted that 183 teachers from 17 counties attended the school, and faculty included “Prof. E.E. Smith, the efficient conductor, Prof. Edward Evans, Prof. Emma J. Council, Profs. J.W. Byrd and G.W. Herring, Dr. R.S. Rives, Rev. W.M. Jackson, Supt. J.I. Foust, and Profs. H.E. Hagans and J.W. Woody.”

The following month, the Goldsboro Headlight reported that Henry Hagans had been selected for jury duty at the September term of court.

The Raleigh Morning Post carried pleasant coverage of commencement exercises at Goldsboro’s Colored State Normal School and credited Henry Hagans and his assistants, Ed. Williams and C.A. Whitehead, for an “excellent system of training.”

On 5 April 1900, the Goldsboro Weekly Argus cheerfully chronicled the “sorry plight” of the county’s Republican party, a mostly white faction of which was in open revolt against chairman Hagans. The white Republicans were “sick and sore” of Hagans and refused to attend a committee meeting he called. In their absence, delegates to the state and Congressional conventions were selected, with African-Americans gained the primo latter. Dark hints were thrown that “Czar Hagans” must have taken money for his brazen actions as, whatever the law, “public sentiment was opposed to negroes filling offices over white people.” The problem, railed a white Republican, was “educated negroes,” who wanted only to teach school, preach or engage in politics.

The same day, the Raleigh Morning Post published a letter from H.E. Hagans, coldly furious in his defense of his actions and honor:


Exactly one month later, the Colored American‘s “Political Horoscope” column ignored the kerfuffle to record Henry’s rise in party leadership: “At the convention of the second district of North Carolina held at Tarboro April 26, Congressman George H. White and H.E. Hagans were chosen to the Philadelphia convention.”

In the 1900 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, in Ward 2, Henry E. Hagans, born September 1867, is listed with wife Julia A., born July 1869, and son Earl, born September 1892.  Henry owned his home; no occupation listed. Earl is also listed 135 miles away in Danville, living with his Morton grandparents. This is, perhaps, the first clue that the boy was not following in his father’s footsteps.

Henry’s own steps were a little shaky in 1900. At the September term of Superior Court, judge W.S. Robinson entered a judgment against him in the matter of The Bank of Wayne vs. H.E Hagans: “It appearing to the County  that the Summons herein was duly served on the defendant the 10 days before the beginning of this term, and that a verified complaint was duly filed herein on the 4th day of Sept 1900 and  that the defendant has failed to appear and answer or demur to the complaints; It is thereupon on motion of Aycock & Daniels, attorneys for plaintiff considered and adjudged by the court, that the plaintiff, The Bank of Wayne, recover of the defendant H.E. Hagans, the sum of Three Hundred and Eighteen and 45/100 ($318.45) dollars of which Three Hundred ($300) dollars is principal and Eighteen and 45/100 ($18.45) dollars is interest, together with the costs of this action to be taxed by the clerk.”

On 19 March 1901, the Wilmington Messenger ran a story about an 18 year-old Goldsboro mulatto man arrested for stealing mail. Andrew C. Alexander, “an attache of the postoffice,” turned to Henry Hagans to stand surety for Alexander’s $200 bond.

On 19 April 1901, per the Raleigh News & Observer, Henry addressed the annual meeting of the alumni association during commencement week at Shaw University.

In 1902, H.E. Hagans, age 34, registered to vote in Wayne County under the state’s grandfather clause. He named Napoleon Hagans as his qualifying ancestor. (His brother William named their maternal grandfather, a white physician named David G.W. Ward.)

On 3 April 1902, the Charlotte Observer printed the following letter:


The News & Observer covered the “negro mass meeting,” attended by about 150 men from 18 counties, on 16 April. The purpose of the gathering, headed by elected president Henry Hagans was “to discuss the status of the negro as an officeholder in the Republican party and to devise plans to make his power felt by the white Republicans his votes had elevated to power.” Senator J.C. Pritchard came in for especially harsh criticism. An appointed committee, which included Henry’s brother William, devised an address to the colored people of North Carolina that encouraged sober respectability, self-respect, home ownership, support of “race enterprises,” payment of poll taxes, country living, loyalty and thrift, while pointedly remarking upon pressing issues such as jury discrimination, Jim Crow laws, and the need for accountability from elected officials.

On 31 January 1903, the Colored American shone a spotlight on Goldsboro, “a progressive little town of 8000 inhabitants. It is historic,” it claimed, “for the peaceful relations existing between the races. The chief occupation of its people is trucking. Yet we have negroes who are rapidly forging their way to the front along all industrial lines. Our people own thousands of acres of forming land, as well as excellent city property….  Prof. H.E. Hagans, the principal of our State Normal School and also a farmer, is worth $20,000. Mr. W.S. Hagans, who is one of the most successful agriculturalists, is worth $20,000. …”

On 9 May 1903, the Colored American, “Mr. H.E. Hagans, formerly an attaché of the office of the Recorder of Deeds, and later private secretary to Congressman George H. White, is now principal of the Colored State Normal School of Goldsboro NC.  This office is in receipt of a unique invitation to attend the Commencement Exercises of this school Friday, the eighth, instant.” This is the only mention I have found of Henry’s service under Tarboro’s John C. Dancy, see below.

On 19 September 1903, the Colored American, “Prof. H.E. Hagans, of Goldsboro NC, who is principal of the public schools of that city and an extensive farmer and real estate owner, spent a few hours in the city last week, the guest of Hon. John C. Dancey [sic], recorder of deeds.  Mr. Hagans is a prominent Pythian and attended the conclave held in Baltimore last week.  He is one of the coming men of his State.”

On 24 September 1904, as Henry’s political career perhaps reached its crest, the Colored American paid him homage with a full front-page feature:

HE_Hagans_Colored_American_9_24_1904 (1)

“Educator, orator and scholar.”

On 10 July 1907, the Charlotte Observer‘s coverage of recent state legislative activity noted that the body approved a charter for the Southern Fidelity Life Insurance Company “to do also a health industrial and sick benefit business” and named J.E. Shepard, John C. Dancy and H.E. Hagans among the shareholders. Three days later, Greensboro’s Daily Industrial News announced the close of the Negro State Inter-Denominational Sunday School Convention. Henry E. Hagans had been elected secretary of the organization.

Henry played no direct role in the Wayne County Superior Court proceedings in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis (1908), a dispute over 30 acres of land.  Thomas “Tom Pig” Artis began renting the property in 1881 from W.J. Exum.  In 1892, Exum’s widow Mary sold it to Napoleon Hagans.  In 1896, after his death, the land passed to Napoleon’s sons Henry and William.  William S. Hagans gained the 30 acres in partition and, in 1908, sold it to J.F. Coley.  Coley filed suit when Tom Artis laid claim to it, arguing that Napoleon had sold it to him.  At trial, William testified that his father was in feeble health in 1896 when he called him and his brother Henry together “under the cart shelter” to tell them he would not live long and did not know to whom the land would fall.  William testified that Pole asked them to let “Pig” stay on as long as he paid rent, and they promised to do so.

In the fall of 1908, the Haganses attempted a new tack with Earle, sending him to Indianapolis to live with his uncle/cousin Dr. Joseph H. Ward. The Indianapolis Freeman informed all that Earl was to  attend school in the city and that he was “the son of Prof. H.E. Hagans of Goldsboro, N.C., who is the head of one of the oldest and most substantial families in North Carolina. The Hagans [sic] are relatives of Dr. J.H. Ward …” [Italics added; mythmaking at work….]

The 1910 census of Goldsboro lists Henry L. Higgins [sic], 38, public school teacher, wife Julie, 34, and son Earl, 14.  (The ages of everyone in the household were off by about 4 years.)  Henry and Julia had been married 18 years, and she reported one of two children living. Earl left home within a few years of this census. When he registered for the World War I draft in June 1917, he was living in Norfolk, Virginia, working as a hotel waiter and had a wife and child. He was described as a chauffeur in the 1920 census and was dead by 1930. His wife Sarah and son Earle Jr. survived him.

On 21 July 1910, the Greensboro Daily News reported that the negro Knights of Pythias had met in Wilmington and among “those prominent in public affairs attending the grand lodge” was Professor H.E. Hagans of Goldsboro.

The 1911-1912 Goldsboro City Directory lists “Hagans Henry E tchr h 501 Elm e” and “Hagans Julia B mgr Beneficial Millinery Co h 501 Elm e.” I have not been able to find any additional information on the millinery company.

On 18 July 1913, the New Berne Weekly Journal reported on the annual session of the North Carolina Grand Lodge of Colored Knights of Pythians at which H.E. Hagans was elected Grand Lecturer.

On 21 May 1915, the Williamston (NC) Enterprise reported on commencement exercises at the Higgs Roanoke Institute at Parmele. The several-day event included a speech by Henry E. Hagans to the Invincible Literary Society.

In July and August 1916, large advertisements ran in the Washington Bee recruiting members to the Royal Knights of King David, Old North State Fraternal Insurance Organization, touting its “unblemished record of 33 years” and warning that “the usual life of a negro organization is 20 years, and usually it is 20 years of internal strife and mismanagement — then the inevitable failure.” Not so with R.K.K.D., whose financial policy was “safe, sound and sane.” A week or so before the ads, a small article announced the arrival of  H.E. Hagans and R.E. Owens, staying at the home of the “well-known” Mr. and Mrs. John Doster of 1205 Tea Street northwest. As for Hagans and Owens, “these two well known representatives of North Carolina are not only well known to the editor of The Bee, but they are known to every North Carolinian as being men of the highest business integrity.”

Henry was not the only one to move about. The 15 June 1918 New York Age reported that Mrs. Henry E. Hagans had stopped in D.C. a few days after visiting her sister, Mrs. M.A. Galloway, and niece, Mrs. William Solomon, in New York City and her youngest sister, Mrs. Charles Reid, in Danville.

It’s not clear whether Earle Hagans served in the war. However, on 6 July 1918, the Washington Bee trumpeted the establishment by the Colored Auxiliary of the War Community Service Commission of the District of a “finely equipped recreation center” for colored soldiers, “filling a long-felt want.” “Temporarily the club room is in the charge of Mr. Henry E. Hagans.” The 13 July edition of the New York Age provided additional details about the center’s “dedicatory services.”

In the 1920 census of Goldsboro, still living in the Elm Street house: H.E. Hagans and wife J.B., both teachers.

On 2 August 1920, Henry contributed to the Bee a long feature article entitled “James E. Shepard, President of National Training School, A Great Benefactor/ Manual Training Center / My Visit to the Summer School of the National Training School, Durham, N.C., and Some of My Observations.” In the typically ornate language of the day, Henry penned a paean to “that indomitable leader Dr. Jas. E. Shepard.” “To tell the story of the rapid growth of this institution would be too long; it is full of romance, and its development has, indeed, been so wonderful that it is almost beyond mental conception.” Nonetheless, despite this challenge, Henry managed to wring out several dozen column inches of praise for this institution and its founder, “the most constructive genius of the Negro race today.” The National Training School is today North Carolina Central University.


This is the only photograph I have seen of Henry in late maturity. He is probably not many years away from death here, but the boy that was is still visible in his thick eyebrows and the abundance of curly black hair swept back from his brow. Henry wears his prosperity in the fullness of his smooth-shaved face and his pinstriped suit; my best guess is that the picture was taken in Goldsboro.

Henry Hagans Brother of Wm S Hagans

Henry Edward Hagans died 17 Mar 1926 in Goldsboro of myocarditis and an enlarged liver.  He was 58 years old. He was buried 19 March 1926 at Elmwood cemetery. Before she returned to Danville to live out her years, his wife erected this headstone in his memory:

HAGANS -- HE Hagans headstone

Family photos courtesy of W.E. Hagans and W.M. Moseley; photo of grave marker by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2013.

Sources: Federal census records; deeds, birth, marriage and death records, Wayne County Register of Deeds office; deeds, Wilson County Register of Deeds office; North Carolina State Archives; others as cited.

Civil War, Free People of Color, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Politics

He would be murdered if he did not cease.


Weekly Standard Raleigh 5 6 1868 Jacob Ing

Raleigh Weekly Standard, 6 May 1868.

Jacob Ing’s radical ideas surfaced well before Reconstruction. As made clear in his last will and testament, he had a long relationship with a free woman of color named Chaney Jones (also known as Hester or Easter Jones) and fathered several children for whom he provided. One, daughter Lucinda, was the first legal wife of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis.

[Small world: Jacob Ing witnessed the last will and testament of Reubin Taylor of Nash and Edgecombe Counties and served as executor of the estate of Reubin’s sons Dempsey and Kinchen Taylor, who owned my great-great-grandparents.]

Births Deaths Marriages, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Politics, Rights

Remembering J. Frank Baker.

The myth goes something like this: John Frank Baker was the first black man elected to Congress from Wayne County. He never made it to Washington, assassinated as he attempted to board a train north for his swearing-in.

Something about this didn’t sit right with me.

Wayne County was part of the so-called Black Second, the Congressional district that encompassed most of northeast North Carolina’s majority-black counties during Reconstruction and into the early 20th century. The history of African-American political activity in the district is extensive and well-documented, and I couldn’t recall having read of Baker. A Google search quickly refreshed my recollection. North Carolina voters sent four black Congressmen to Washington in the nineteenth century: John Adams Hyman of Warren County (1875-1877), James Edward O’Hara of Enfield (1883-1887), Henry Plummer Cheatham of Littleton (1889-1893), and George Henry White of Tarboro (1897-1901). No Baker.

As his headstone reveals, J. Frank Baker died 20 March 1897, the same month that George H. White was sworn into the 55th Congress, having defeated white Democratic incumbent Frederick A. Woodard of Wilson. [Sidenote: My junior high school was named for Woodard.] Clearly, Frank Baker was never elected to Congress. Why, then, was he killed?

To call newspapers of the era racist is to say “the sky is blue.” Articles about African-Americans were condescending and mocking at best, derogatory and vicious most times. Objectivity was not a hallmark of journalism in the late 19th century in general, but if their names appeared in the local paper, African-Americans could generally expect the worst. Notwithstanding this general bleak picture, when consumed with a grain of salt, early newspapers can be an invaluable source of otherwise unrecorded information about black Americans.

Frank Baker’s murder was covered in detail in the Goldsboro Headlight and the Weekly Argus, the rival newspapers operating in Wayne County at the time. Even before his death, however, his fiery advocacy seized the attention of the white community. This story was picked up by papers across the country:


Goldsboro Headlight, 5 November 1896.

I don’t know what Baker was speaking about or why his words touched off such a response — if, in fact, “150 negroes” actually took the streets like this. It is clear, though, that he was a powerful and polarizing figure in Wayne County. And four months later he was dead. A Raleigh newspaper broke the story:


Raleigh Daily Tribune, 24 March 1897.

The tone set, the Goldsboro papers picked up the report:

Gboro_Weekly_Argus_3_25_1897_Frank_BakerGoldsboro Weekly Argus, 25 March 1897.

Assuming that the basic description of the murder is correct, we learn that Baker was not boarding a train when he was killed. Rather, he was minding customers at his grocery store, located near the railroad warehouse in Dudley. (The Headlight reported that the store belonged to Ira W. Hatch.) He was shot at fairly close range, but a room full of people saw nothing. Nonetheless, a wholly unbelievable statement attributed to his brother, W.B. Baker, placed the responsibility for Frank’s death on his own head. The reporter then emphasizes the “deadly hatred” that Baker engendered among his neighbors by insisting on legislation incorporating the town of Dudley. [Sidenote: don’t you have to love Bishop Henry McNeal Turner?]


Goldsboro Weekly Argus, 29 April 1897.

A month later, the wheels of justice were spinning uselessly, as newspapers indignantly proclaimed the innocence of two white men implicated — but not actually charged — in the crime. A week after W.B. Bowden’s good name was cleared, J. Will Grady was released when the “facts of his innocence were established.” On 27 May 1897, the Headlight tersely noted that the governor of North Carolina had offered a reward for the capture of Frank Baker’s killers. That’s the last I’ve found on the subject.

John Frank Baker was born about 1845. I don’t know much about his early life, but in 1879 he married Mary Ann Aldridge, daughter of J. Matthew and Catherine Boseman Aldridge, and likely first cousin to my great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge. Frank Baker was not a Congressman. Nonetheless, he made his mark in Wayne County as an African-American politician capable of stirring the masses and willing to take on unpopular causes in an era in which even voicing opinions was a daring undertaking. He is not forgotten.



Photo from Baker article posted at