Education, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

The class of ’52.

Sixty-five years later …

co 52

Wilson Daily Times, 29 May 1952.

When I was home earlier this month, my dad and I did a count. About one-third of his graduating class of 75 has lived to see this anniversary. The Class of 1952 included parents of several of my close childhood friends. Though none of us attended, we were blessed to grow up under the Darden umbrella.

Best wishes to the ’52 Trojans! May you celebrate many more!

North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

It felt like a weight fell off of her.

Papa asked Mama would she come back ‘cause the café wasn’t doing nothing, and she’d put all her money out, so she told Papa she’d come back home. And she come back, and, I don’t know, she seemed kind of puny and sickly. Papa said, “Well, a old man came here and he said he – Well, you come back just like the man said.” And she said, “What man?” And he said, “Well, somebody told me, said go out there and see somebody called a rootworker,” or, well, he didn’t call it rootwork, but see some person like that. And said maybe he could make her come back. And he said — well, I don’t know what he paid him, but anyway, he said he gave him stuff and told him to bore a hole in a tree on the north side and put that stuff in it and take and put a corkscrew in it. To make it stay in there. And for him to, I think he told me, for him to wet on it for nine mornings or something like that, and she would come back. Well, she come back, and she said, “Well, how come you didn’t take the mess out?” Well, he was arguing about it, saying something about it, and what I did, I got the ice pick. And went out there to – we had a peach tree and a apple tree. It was in the apple tree, and I went out there and looked around sure enough it was a corkscrew, great big one ‘bout like that there, stuck up in there, and I took that icepick and picked it out. And it come out this little trashy stuff in this cloth. And it was part of Mama’s underclothes. [We laugh.] And I think it come off – you know at that time they had a lot of lace and stuff — and one of them little pieces cut off where was the lace was up there, and he wrapped it up and put in that…. Least the man fixed it for him and told him how to bury it in the hole. And Mama, and I don’t know whether it was so or not, but she said when that stuff come out of that hole, felt like a weight fell off of her. I’ll never forget that thing. And the tree died. So, I said I don’t know whether it killed the tree, but it didn’t kill her. And Mama told me if that thing stayed there long enough [inaudible] in that mess, she’d a died.

For a scholarly in-depth study of hoodoo and root work, see Katrina Hazzard-Donald’s Mojo Workin’: The Old African American Hoodoo System.

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

Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Religion

Jonah Williams and the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association.

I’ve blogged often about Jonah Williams, prominent farmer, respected preacher, and brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis. I was pleased, then, to find copies of the minutes of the early annual sessions of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association, which oversaw several churches that Jonah helped establish and/or lead. Jonah participated in five sessions before his death in 1915, and the minutes of two survive. I’ve extracted pages from those documents here.

JWms Turner Swamp 1

London’s Church was just north of the town of Wilson (in what would now be inside city limits.) The church is most closely associated with London Woodard, an enslaved man who was purchased by his free-born wife, Penny Lassiter. Just after the Civil War, London founded an African-American Baptist church, which seems to have been the precursor to the London’s Church organized under the Primitive Baptist umbrella in 1897.

As shown below, Jonah was involved in the establishment of nearly every church in the Turner Swamp Association, including Turner Swamp (1897), Barnes (1898), Little Union (1899), and Rocky Mount (1908). Turner Swamp still meets at or near its original location just north of Eureka in Wayne County. Barnes is likely Barnes’ Chapel Church, now located at 1004 Railroad Street in Wilson. [CORRECTION: Barnes Chapel was close to Stantonsburg, in southwest Wilson County.] I had never heard of Little Union church, but a Google search turned up a list of churches within 15 miles of “Bel-Air Forest (subdivision), North Carolina,” Little Union among them. (Which is a little spooky because that’s the neighborhood in which I grew up and I didn’t input that reference point.) Unfortunately, the site’s map is blank. However, another search disclosed a recent obituary that referred to the decedent’s efforts to rebuild Little Union Primitive Baptist Church in Town Creek, North Carolina. I have not been able to find current references to Rocky Mount Primitive Baptist Church.

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Jonah moved from the Eureka area about 10 miles north to Wilson in the late 1890s. Though I knew of his association with Turner Swamp, I was not aware until finding this document that he had also been pastor at London, much less two other churches.

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Romans 7:4 — Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

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The approximate locations of the churches in Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association. Top to bottom: Rocky Mount, Little Union, London’s, Barnes’ and Turner Swamp. As the crow flies, the distance from Rocky Mount to Eureka, where Turner Swamp is located, is about 30 miles.

TS Ass map

This news brief probably made reference to baptisms Jonah conducted at London Church, which stood a few miles from the south bank of Contentnea Creek.


Wilson Daily Times, 6 June 1911.

North Carolina, Photographs

Landscape, no. 1.

The first of a new series of posts, many drawn from my Tumblr, that attempt to evoke the settings of my family’s lives through photographs.


Wilson, North Carolina, April 2011.

I was at home, prowling the streets on a limpid blue morning, when out of the corner of my eye, this window.  I wheeled around, parked and nosed about.  The house was a shotgun, one of hundreds built in East Wilson pre-World War I to house a flood of ex-farmers trading tobacco fields for tobacco factories.  The house had been abandoned as a regular home, but showed signs of fairly recent usage as a shelter for the homeless or perhaps those otherwise wanting to keep their business out of sight.  The door had been ripped from an interior room and laid against an empty window frame, which faced the street on the broadside of the house.  The door’s cool, lemony yellow was a calming contrast to the rough grayness of the house’s siding.  When I went home next, the house was gone.

© Lisa Y. Henderson

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


Aunt Ninas stone

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about looking for my cousin Nina Frances Faison Hardy‘s unmarked grave and wanting to honor her by placing a stone. Today, I got a text from my cousin and an email from my mother with photos. My cousins’ business, Eastern Carolina Vault Company, installed the marker today and, after 45 years, A’nt Nina’s final resting place is no longer lost.

Eastern Carolina Vault at work

My cousins L., left, and T., right, and a helper install Nina Hardy’s gravestone today at Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson NC. When A’nt Nina arrived in Wilson from Wayne County circa 1910, she lived for a while with Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs, who reared L. and T.’s great-grandfather Jesse “Jack” Henderson and his nieces, my grandmother and her sister Mamie.

North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Eureka! … Not.

I was flipping through an old notebook and came across this abstract of entries in the 1912-1913 city directory of Wilson, North Carolina:

Taylor, Bertha, laundress, h 114 w Lee

Taylor, Greenman, h Stantonsburg rd nr Rountree av

Taylor, Hennie, dom, h 114 w Lee

Taylor, Jordan, lab, h Stantonsburg rd nr Rountree av

Taylor, Mack, driver, h 114 w Lee

Taylor, Mattie, laundress, h 114 w Lee

Taylor, Robert, barber, h 114 w Lee

Taylor, Roderick, barber Paragon Shaving Parlor, h 114 w Lee

The house at 114 West Lee Street belonged to my great-grandfather Michael (“Mike,” not “Mack”) Taylor. Bertha, Hennie, and Mattie were his younger daughters. Roderick was his only son. Jordan and Greeman, over on Stantonsburg Road, were Mike’s niece Eliza’s husband and son. But who in the world was Robert Taylor?

Robert … Robert … An epiphany! Of course! This was Robert Perry, son of Mike’s wife Rachel‘s sister Centha Barnes Perry! The boy grew up in Mike and Rachel’s household and quite naturally he was sometimes known as Robert Taylor! … Right?

Well, perhaps, but this is not him. Robert Perry was only 9 years old in 1912. Not only would a child not have been plying a trade at that age, he would not be counted among the adults included in a city directory. (Even Rachel was omitted, as “dependent” homemakers did not make the cut either.)

So, who was this Robert Taylor who both lived in Mike Taylor’s house and worked in the same trade as Mike’s son Roderick?

Census records do not show an African-American Robert Taylor in all of Wilson County in the 1900 or 1910 censuses. In 1920, however, there is Robert Taylor, age 36, a laborer, with wife Mary G., age 29, living at 611 Green Street. Now this is really puzzling.

Two years earlier, when Roderick Taylor registered for the World War I draft, he stated his birth year as 1883, his occupation as barber, and his address as 611 East Green Street. There is no “Roderick Taylor” listed in the 1920 census, but in 1930, at 610 [sic, house numbers shifted in the early 1920s] Green Street, there is barber Roderick Taylor, 45, wife Mary J., 39, and three children.

While it is conceivable that there were both a Robert Taylor and Roderick Taylor of the same age, living in the same houses, with wives of the same name and age, and working in the same profession, it seems unlikely. Rather, in an era in which “Roderick” was rare name, an inattentive census taker or canvasser might easily have heard “Robert” when making his inquiries. Absent further independent evidence that a Robert Taylor existed, I conclude that Roderick’s doppelgänger is a figment of error.

North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

A photo.

A nice surprise came in yesterday’s mail — a copy of another photo of Aint Nina Faison Kornegay Hardy, courtesy of J.M.B. A handwritten note on its back identifies the two boys leaning into her and the date, 18 September 1939 — 75 years ago today.


Here you can clearly see her right leg and ankle swollen over the sides of her shoes, evidence of the chronic pain and debility she suffered. Lymphedema, perhaps. Or maybe chronic venous insufficiency. Conditions difficult to treat even now, and then impossible. Always, though, that sweet smile.