Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Collateral kin: the Halls.

I was a child plagued by respiratory illness and nearly every winter endured a tough bout with bronchitis. When the worst was over, and I was in a recuperating stage, my mother returned to her teaching job, and I sometimes spent a few days at my Aunt Mildred’s house one street over.

Mildred Henderson Hall was not really my aunt. She was my grandmother’s first cousin, daughter of her uncle Jesse “Jack” Henderson. During my grandmother and father’s childhoods, Uncle Jack and his children were the only nearby Henderson relatives. By time I came along, Mildred, her youngest sister Doris Henderson Ward and some of their children were the only other Hendersons left in Wilson. Mildred’s youngest daughters were still at home when I was child, and I grew to know them and the younger of their two brothers best.

I loved my brief stays at Aunt Mildred’s, wrapped in blankets and installed on the couch in her wood-paneled den, drowsing before the television while she handled calls related to the family business. Occasionally, I got a glimpse of the teenaged Patricia, impossibly glamorous in my eyes, leaving for school. More often, Aunt Mildred’s husband, Louis Hall, would stop at home between jobs. He was not a tall man, but he seemed to me a big one. In later years he had a belly, but I think my impression came more from his persona than his actual size. He had a warm smile and a ready laugh, and I, who had no living grandfathers, was drawn to him.

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Louis and Mildred Henderson Hall at home, probably mid-1960s.

Years later, as I researched a thesis examining the involuntary apprenticeship of free children of color, I grew familiar with all the free families of color in Wilson and Wayne Counties. I came upon a set of Halls from the Stantonsburg area and, curious, traced them forward. I was delighted to find that Uncle Louis was descended from this very family. Years after that, I was even happier to be able to provide my Hall cousins with rare documentation of their antebellum forebears’ births.

The family’s earliest known ancestor was Eliza Hall, a free woman of color born about 1820, probably in what was then the heel of southwest Edgecombe County. How she met James Bullock Woodard, a prosperous white farmer and slaveowner, is unknown, but by Eliza’s early 20s they had begun a relationship that would last at least a decade. A sympathetic relative of Woodard’s, perhaps feeling that blood is blood, recorded the births of James and Eliza’s children in her family’s Bible:

Ages of The children of Eliza Hall

William Henry Hall was born Feb the 11th 1844 Patrick Hall was born October the 6th 1845 Margaret ann Hall was born Feb the 12th 1847 Louiser Hall was born April the 9th 1849 Balam Hall was born Feb 7th 1851

William H. Hall lived and farmed near Stantonsburg, Wilson County, most of his life. He married three times — to Lucy Barnes, Annie E. Smith and Mamie Artis — and had at least nine children. His fifth, more or less, was Robert Hall, born 18 July 1886. When Robert was about 4 years old, his father sold to trustees the quarter-acre of land upon which Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was founded. William H. Hall spent his last years living in his son Robert’s household and died 23 June 1925.

On 7 January 1908 in Wilson County, Robert Hall married Katie Farmer, daughter of Robert and Marenda Bynum Farmer. (And Katie’s sister Ida married Robert’s brother Thomas Hall.) Robert supported his large family as his father had done, by farming. Uncle Louis, born in 1920, was Robert and Katie Hall’s fifth child. He and Aunt Mildred reared six children on Queen Street in Wilson as they built East Carolina Vault Company, a family-owned business that now employs third-generation Halls.

Wilson County is a small world of criss-crossing family lines, and Uncle Louis was not the only descendant of Eliza Hall that I knew. Once, I saw my cousin (his daughter) hugging my geometry teacher at the mall. They, in fact, are first cousins. Another of their first cousins was the assistant principal at my high school. And as I prepared this blogpost, I ran across a marriage license for a daughter of William H. Hall’s brother Balam and one of my cousins, Snow B. Sauls.

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William H. Hall is buried in the cemetery of the church he helped establish.

Photographs from collection of Lisa Y. Henderson; excerpt from Lewis Ellis Bible courtesy of Henry Powell; sources include birth and death certificates, World War I draft registration, deeds.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Photographs

Miss Speight & Mister Kenny.

My earliest memory: I am wrapped in a red blanket, slightly faded, edged in satin. The air is chilly. The light, low and pink-gold. It is morning, and I am being carried across the street to Miss Speight and Mr. Kenny’s house. They lived at 1400, and we lived at 1401, and I cannot be more than two years old.

My mother says that I cannot remember this. It must be an implanted recollection. I don’t think so, but perhaps. There is no question, though, that I retain other vignettes from the brief time that Nina Speight kept me: a canister of Morton salt on a kitchen table; a bag of wooden blocks on a shelf; a Maxwell House can brimming with snuff juice; a thin chenille spread over a four-poster bed; the dimness of the back room shared by the Speights’ teenaged grandsons. We left Carolina Street when I was nine, but my memories of my years at the edge of East Wilson are warm and tinged with gold.  Miss Speight and Mister Kenny loved and nurtured me early and rooted me firmly in the traditions of a Southern community in transition. They passed away within months of each other in 1982 — ironically, the year that I, too, left Wilson, for college.

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Nina and Kenneth Speight.

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Nina Darden Speight was born in 1901 in Black Creek township, Wilson County, to Crawford F. and Mattie Woodard Darden. Her family names indicate deep roots in southeastern Wilson County, which was part of Edgecombe before 1855. Her father, born about 1869, was the youngest of several children born to Howell Darden and Esther (or Easter) Bass, and the only child born free. (Esther’s maiden name also appears as “Jordan” on the marriage license of one of her children.)  On 11 August 1866, Howell and Easter registered their cohabitation with a county justice of the peace and thereby legalized their 18-year marriage. Their older children included Warren (born circa 1849, married Louisa Dew), Eliza (born circa 1852, married Henry Dortch), Martin (born circa 1853, married Jane Dew) and Toby Darden (born circa 1858.) Esther Darden died 1870-1880, and Howell Darden between 1880 and 1900.

Evidence that Howell Darden and Esther Bass were both owned by James A. Barnes may be found in the abstract of his will, dated October 14, 1848 and probated at February Court, 1849 in Edgecombe County. Among other property real and personal, Barnes’ wife Sarah received a life interest in several slaves — Mary, Esther and Charles — whose ownership would revert to nephew Theophilus Bass upon her death. To McKinley Darden, Barnes bequeathed “Negro Howell.” [Other enslaved people mentioned in Barnes’ will included Tom, Amos, Babe, Silvia, Ransom, Rose, Dinah, Jack, Jordan, Randy, Abraham, Rody, Alexander, Bob and Gatsey (the only slave to be sold.) Their relationships to Esther and Howell may never be known.]

Nina Speight’s mother Mattie Woodard Darden was born about 1873 in Wayne County to William and Vicey Woodard. She died 7 May 1935 in Wilson County. Crawford Darden died 3 August 1934.

Kenneth Speight was born about 1891 in Speight Bridge township, Greene County, North Carolina, to Callie and Holland Speight. (Some records show a 1899 or 1900 birth year, but he appears in the 1900 census as an 8 year-old.) His father Callie was born about 1855; his mother Holland, about 1860. Callie was the son of Callie (1825) and Allie Speight (1827). In the 1870 census of Greene County, the Callie and Allie Speight’s family is listed next to a wealthy white farmer named Abner Speight, who may have been their former owner.

In 1902, the Charlotte Observer ran an article by C.S. Wooten of LaGrange, North Carolina, “Old Southern Families: Farmers of Wayne and Greene,” a reminiscence about the “old plantations” and “typical Southern gentlemen” of those parts, including Abner Speight:

James Speight, a nephew of Jesse Speight, was Senator for Lenoir and Greene counties for ten years before the war. He married a niece of my father, Maj. Wooten. He was a splendid stump speaker, and I have seen him debate with lawyers on the stump and get the best of the discussion, indeed in those days the best politicians were farmers. His house was a nice place to visit. He always had a special brand of apple brandy made by Col. C.W. Stanton who could make as good brandy as was ever made. Edwin G. Speight, his cousin, was also Senator from Greene and Lenoir counties from 1842-1852. I was a small boy when he was a public man, but I have heard my father say he was a fine speaker and was a natural orator. His second wife was a daughter of Hon. Jake H. Bryan, of Raleigh, and he removed to Alabama where he died a few years ago. Abner Speight, a cousin of the above, was a large farmer, was a noble man and as good a citizen as the State ever had. He had two boys killed in the army, both bright, gallant young men. I have sometimes thought, suppose the South had not been checked in her onward march of prosperity and greatness what would we have been today. I have also thought that the gallant men, the flower of Southern chivalry that were sacrificed in that unhappy struggle were in vain, but I reckon not, for they by their gallantry and valor, have shed unfading justice upon Southern arms and have given her a name that will never be surpassed in the annals of mankind.

Callie and Holland Speight married about 1878, but little else is known of her. After Holland’s death just after 1900, Callie married Minnie Speight (1894-1947), daughter of Stephen and Dillie Woodard Speight, also of Greene County. In addition to Kenneth, Callie Speight’s children included Martha, Mary, Clara, Irwin, Charlie, Callie, Addie, Claud, Mary, Nancy, Flossie, Lewis, Clarence, Effie, Bessie, Pauline, George, Adell, Joe, James and Junius. Callie died after 1940.

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Postscript: After I posted this piece, the Speights’ grandson, whom I played with on his childhood visits from New York City, sent me another photograph. Nina Darden is standing at top left, holding a flower. Thanks, Tyrone, for both images!

Nina Darden

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Enslaved People, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Appie Ward Hagans.

I’ve talked all around Apsilla (or, perhaps, Apsaline) “Appie” Ward Hagans here and here and here. So here she is:

Aspilla Ward Hagans

Appie and her twin Mittie Roena Ward were born 19 April 1849 near Stantonsburg, Wilson County, to David G.W. Ward and Sarah Ward, an enslaved woman. They likely spent their early years in and around this house. How and when Appie met her husband, Napoleon Hagans, who lived in northeast Wayne County perhaps 7 miles from the Ward plantation, is unknown. I have not located their marriage license. Appie and Napoleon had two sons, Henry Edward Hagans (1868-1926) and William Scarlett Hagans (1869-1946).

Appie left little trace in official records, appearing in two census enumerations and on a couple of deeds with her husband. She died 12 April 1895 and is buried near their home in northern Wayne County.

Photo courtesy of William E. Hagans.

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DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

DNAnigma, no. 15: Barnes?

Barnes is far and away the most common surname in Wilson County. It is the “Smith” of Wilson, so common that two Barneses who meet, without further reason, will not wonder if they are kin. It would not occur to them that they might be. My cousin has a Barnes maternal line, and a Barnes paternal line, and married a Barnes. None are connected. My Wilson County roots are neither wide nor deep, so I only have one Barnes line, and it’s a little iffy. Nonetheless, 23andme has matched my and my father’s chromosomes with W.B. and estimates that they are 3rd to 5th cousins, .58% share. (W.B. doesn’t match my cousin, despite her many Barnes lines.)

W.B.’s patrilineal line is traceable to John Barnes, born about 1860, probably in Wilson County. Shortly before 1880, John married Harriet Batts, daughter of Orange and Mary Batts. I have not found a death certificate for John, but census records indicate that he died before 1920. Is he the connection? If he is, the tie is in an earlier generation, as there is no John Barnes in my files.

W.B. also has an ancestor named Nancy Barnes Horne, daughter of Gray and Bunny Barnes and wife of Simon Horne Jr. Is she the connection? Is the connection a Barnes at all?

W.B. is a 3rd to 5th cousin to my father. I know all kinds of 3rd to 5th cousins. In real life. How can I have NO CLUE what our relationship is this one? 23andme and Ancestry DNA are wonderful tools that have been invaluable in confirming connections, but their deeper impact has been to drive home just how little I know.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Remembering Nina F. Hardy.

My parents married in 1961. When my mother arrived in Wilson shortly after, my father took her around to meet the elders who had not been able to travel to Virginia for the wedding. Along the way, they stopped at Dew’s Rest Home. As my mother stepped through the door, Aunt Nina threw up a cautionary hand: “Wait. You ain’t expecting, is you?” My mother, mortified: “No, ma’am!” “All right. ‘Cause it’s some uggggly folks in here!”

My paternal grandmother had a thousand stories about Nina — with a long I — Frances Faison Kornegay Hardy. Though she called her “aunt,” Nina in fact was her cousin. She was born March 15, 1882, probably in northern Duplin County, to John Henry Aldridge and Addie Faison. (John H. Aldridge, born 1844, was the son of John Mathew Aldridge, and first cousin of my grandmother’s grandfather, John W. Aldridge.)  She seems to have been married briefly to Joe Kornegay in 1899 in Wayne County, but I have not found her in the 1900 census. By 1910, she had made her way 40 or so miles north to Wilson and was boarding in the household of Jesse and Sarah Jacobs as “Nina Facin.” The census also shows a “Nina Facon” living and working as a servant in the household of Jeff Farrior in Wilson. Though described as white, this is almost surely Aunt Nina, who cooked and cleaned for the Farriors most of her working life. Though she and her husband lived just outside Wilson on what is now Highway 58, she was at home only on her days off.

Said my grandmother:

Aint Nina lived up over the Farrior house on Herring Avenue.  Herring’s Crossroads, whatever you call it.  And that’s where she come up there to live.  Well, the maid, as far as the help, or whoever, they stayed on the lot, where they’d have somewhere to sleep. So Aint Nina was living on Nash Road, way down there, and when we went to see her, me and Mamie would run down there five miles. She was working for Old Man Farrior then.  When she was living out in the country, she was working for white people, and so she went up to their house and cooked for them.  And when we’d go down to her house, she’d have to come from up there and cook when she get home.  So we would go and spend a day, but it would be more than likely be on her day off.  But when we had the horse and buggy, Mama drove out there once, and we went, I went with Papa with the wagon to where you grind corn to make meal, down to Silver Lake or whatever that place was down there.  Lord, them were the good old days.  

The Farriors, their back porch was closed in.  It had windows.  And had a marble floor in the back, and that stairway was on, where it was closed in on the back porch, you could go upstairs, and there was a room up there.  You couldn’t go from out of that room into the other part of the house.  You had to come back down them steps then go in the house.  And that’s where Aint Nina stayed.  I said, Lord, I wouldn’t want to have stayed up there.  And then something happen … She had to come down and go down the steps, go upstairs, I mean, and come out of the kitchen, and then go up them steps out on this porch in her room.  So she stayed up there.  Lord, I wouldn’t want to stay up there.  She get sick out there, she couldn’t get nobody.  I didn’t see no – I was up in there one time, and I went up there just to look around.  Well, she had a nice room, nice bed and chair and dresser and everything.  There was a whole set in the room where she was.  That was the only time I was up there. But I wouldn’t want to stay up there.

In 2004, J.M.B., a Farrior descendant, sent me copies of several photos of Aint Nina. My grandmother had described her (“She wasn’t real short.  But she was heavy built, and she had big limbs.  But she wasn’t that fat, but she just had big limbs and had a big face.”), and I had seen a couple of pictures of her before, like this one, taken in the mid-1950s with my uncle’s children:

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And this one,

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[There’s a photo booth shot that I can’t find right now. But I will.  UPDATE: I found it. 1/3/2016]

But these …

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… these touch me. Nina at work. Nina in a kitchen with a floured pan, perhaps making biscuits, perhaps the dumplings my grandmother relished. Nina, her own legs aching, tending to whitefolks. The columned Farrior mansion, since torn down, with Nina’s little room tucked out of sight.

In 1917, Nina married Julius Hardy in Wilson township. It is likely their house that my grandmother and great-aunt visited out on Nash Road:

They had guinea chickens.  A car run over a chicken and killed it, and it kept going.  And we, me and Mamie, was going out there, and we picked up the chicken and carried it ‘round there.  And Aint Nina poured water and scald the chicken and picked it and cooked it, and we had the best time eating it.   Wont thinking ‘bout we was going out there to eat.  And so we come walking in there with that chicken, and she wanted to know, “Well, where’d you get that?”  “A car run over it, and we picked it up and brought it on over so you could cook it.”  And she said, “Yeah, it’s good.  A car just killed it?”  And it wasn’t too far from the house.  And I reckon it was one of her chickens anyhow.  Honey, she cooked that old stewed chicken, had to put pastry and vegetables in it.  Lord, we stayed out all that time, then had to come home from way out there.  But we was full. 

And her brother, his name was James Faison, lived across the street from her, and his wife, and I think the lady had been married before because they wasn’t his children.  It was two girls.  And he worked at the express, at the station.  The place was on that side, Nash Street station was over on this side.  Baggage used to come over there.  The baggage place where’d you take off the train.  That’s where you put it over on that side at that time.  And he was working over there.

Nina was a font of information about the family back in Dudley that my grandmother barely knew. Mama Sarah was impatient with questions about the past. Nina, on the other hand …

Mama never talked about her daughter Hattie.  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.

Even as she waited on others, Nina struggled with her health:

But she was kind of sickly, and I went up there for something.  See ‘bout her.  Carry her something.  And then when her leg was sore, and she come to stay with us.  Oh, she stayed with us a long time ‘cause she had to go to the doctor, had to be taken to the doctor with that leg.  That leg was still big.  But it was much bigger than the other one.  But it healed over.  But it was so knotty-looking, like it’d heal up and draw up in places, and it just looked so bad, and so she’d wear her dresses long.  But she had big feet!  Oooo, she had big feet.  With those big legs … And she was the one that Mama made Mamie iron her clothes on Sunday.  ‘Fore you even got to playing, had to get her clothes.  She was at Rocky Mount in the hospital with that leg.  They had operated on that leg and Mama would go every Sunday and take her clothes, bring her dirty clothes home and wash ‘em and bring them back to her.  So, Lord, we had a time with that.  And I looked at that big leg and just said, ‘Wooo….  What in the world is that?’  Looked like it just swelled up.  And I saw a lady right here in Philadelphia.  I had passed, and I seen her, and she had a great big leg.  And so by that woman having that big leg, I said, ‘Lord have mercy, I hope I don’t get that.  I wonder what’s wrong with it?  How come the swelling won’t go down in it?’  People don’t know what they’ll have to go through….  Yeah, ‘cause we went over there, and you didn’t have — it was an open sore, and it was always running.  She had to keep her foot up and had to keep the flies from on it, and so I said, well, finally it got better, but that leg healed up, it drawed up and you could tell where the sore was all on her leg.  And that leg was much bigger than the other one.  It took a long time to heal.  It was all healed up though before she died.

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In the photo above, taken in her last years at the rest home where she protected my young mother from a disastrous maternal impression, Nina smiles her same sweet smile despite ailing legs wrapped and swollen feet encased in split loafers.
N Hardy Death Cert
Aint Nina died 20 March 1969, just five days after her 86th birthday. Frances Sykes Goodman, granddaughter of Nina’s aunt Frances Aldridge Wynn, was the informant on her death certificate. She was buried in Rest Haven, Wilson’s black cemetery. (I’ve walked that graveyard and never seen her stone. Is her grave unmarked? If it is, and I can find it, it won’t be.)
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Enslaved People, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Photographs

Dr. Ward’s house. And me.

After my recent rediscovery of a Confederate map that revealed the locations of several plantations significant to my genealogical research, I began searching for more information about John Lane, Silas Bryant and David G.W. Ward‘s landholdings. Pretty quickly, I found a link to a copy of a nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places Inventory, submitted for the Ward-Applewhite-Thompson house near Stantonsburg, North Carolina. This Greek Revival house, dating back to about 1859, was owned and occupied by several of the area’s leading planters — including “country doctor” D.G.W. Ward, who purchased it in 1857 — and it and its outbuildings are little changed from their antebellum forms.

As I read the detailed architectural description of the house and its setting, a tiny kernel of recognition began to form in the back of my mind. A big, white, two-story house? Set well back from the road? Just outside Stantonsburg? Could it …?

I scoured the maps attached to the nomination form, trying to lay them over the current topography. State Road 1539 … that would be Sand Pit Road today …  just east of a fork in the road and just north of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad (which was not there in Ward’s time) … and there it is, just like I remember.

sand pit road

Yes. Like I remember.

I’ve BEEN in this house. Many times, though long ago.

Growing up, my sister and I were very close to my father’s sister’s daughters. Our local family was quite small, but my cousin’s father came from a big family with deep Wilson County roots. Her grandmother had nearly a dozen siblings — whom we also called “aunt” and “uncle” — and we were often invited to attend their family gatherings. I remember best the delectable Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners gathered around tables groaning with food, but there were also the annual 4th of July family reunions at Aunt Minnie’s out in the country near Stantonsburg. The Barneses were tenant farmers for an absentee landowner and rented his large two-story house. We’d pull off the road into a sandy circular drive and park under the trees alongside cars with New York and New Jersey plates. I vividly remember my cousin’s great-uncles and cousins tending a barbecue pit in which a split pig roasted, chickens strutting among them.  A screened side porch protected platter after platter of home-grown, home-cooked goodness.  My memories of the interior of the house are vague: a central staircase, two large front rooms, the kitchen in back. (The staircase I remember mostly because, carefully tending a tall glass of lemonade, I missed a riser and slid down their length, smacking my ribcage against the steps and knocking the wind out of myself.)

I couldn’t believe it. It is exciting enough to identify D.G.W. Ward’s house and find that it is still standing, but to realize that I knew the house at which Appie and Mittie Ward had lived and worked as the enslaved children of their own father was uncanny.

IMG_4960Ward-Applewhite-Thompson House today.

Photo taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2014.

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