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

Flimflammed?

Wilson_News_10_26_1899_Wm_COley_flimflam

Wilson Daily Times, 26 October 1899.

The whole sorry story appeared in the 27 October 1899 edition of the paper. William Coley was Napoleon Hagans‘ oldest (perhaps) son, born about 1867 in Wayne County to Winnie Coley, and I originally thought that he was the one bamboozled. With closer reading, though, I noticed that this William Coley was still living in Wayne County in 1899 and was described as an “old negro.” Napoleon’s son was in his early 30s and living in Wilson at the time, so I’ve revised my opinion.

While I’m at it, though, here’s what I know about “my” William Coley:

I can’t find him in the 1870 census, but in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, Winnie Coley is listed with sons Nathan, 19, and Willie, 12.

On 25 Feb 1891, Cain Artis applied for a marriage license in Wilson County for William Coley, son of Napoleon Hagans and Winney Coley, both living, and Minnie Woodard, daughter of Alfred and Sarah Woodard.  The marriage was performed on 26 Feb 1891 by Presbyterian minister George Carson, with Cain Artis and Hilliard Ellis as witnesses.  Cain was William’s half-brother; his mother was also Winnie Coley.  Further, Cain’s father, Adam Artis, married Napoleon Hagans’ half-sister, Frances Seaberry.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, Willie Coley, 30, is listed with wife Minnie, 30, children Effie M., 8, and James M., 6, mother Winnie Coley, 65, and sister Zilley Coley, 38.

William seems to have been missed again in the 1910 census. Sometime between 1900 and 1920, his wife Minnie died, and he married a woman named Mary. It also seems likely that son James died during this period, as there is no World War I draft registration for him. Daughter Effie Mae married Arthur McCarter on 27 February 1910 in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, living on Roberson Street: Will Coley, 50, wife Mary, 47, and granddaughters Ruth and Nannie Coley. Will worked as a public house mover. Minnie Ruth and Nannie Mae were actually McCarters, daughters of William’s daughter Effie (also known as Ethel) Coley McCarter. As I have not found Effie or her husband in the 1920 census, they may have died early as well.

Cain Artis died 23 March 1917 in Wilson County of pulmonary tuberculosis.  His death certificate, for which William “W.M.” Coley provided information, noted that Cain was colored, was born March 1851 to Adam T. Artis and Winnie Coley, was married, and was a farmer.

William Coley himself died 26 Jan 1928 at the age 61 of the same dread disease that killed his brother Cain. His wife Mary Coley informed the registrar that he was the son of Pole Hagans and Winnie Coley, was a farmer, and resided at Route 3, Wilson.

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Business, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Demanded possession of the body.

Wilson_Daily_Times__8_12_1921 Batts & Artis

Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1921.

This terrible dispute over the body of a dead 12 year-old girl took place in the early days of C.E. Artis‘ first undertaking business, Batts & Artis. The death certificate of Martha Lucas, who died of peritonitis, shows that Darden & Son prevailed.

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Agriculture, Free People of Color, Land, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Politics

Our colored friend has grown richer.

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ImageGoldsboro Messenger, 21 October 1880.

These propaganda pieces are part of a single article published to demonstrate that the rising tide of Democratic rule had floated all boats as land values increased while taxes fell. (In other words, the end of Republican rule meant more money in the pocket, as well as a foot on the neck of African-Americans.)

Two of the “colored friends” noted were my kin — my great-great-great-grandfather Robert Aldridge and Napoleon Hagans, the brother of my great-great-great-grandmother Frances Seaberry Artis. (And Washington Reid’s nephews William and Henry Reid, sons of John Reid, married Adam Artis’ niece Elizabeth Wilson and daughter Cora Artis, respectively.) Aldridge, Hagans and Reid (as well as Artis, Frances’ father Aaron Seaberry and Betty’s father John Wilson) were all prosperous free-born farmers.

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

“That’s your wife.”; or, finding the Perrys.

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Wilson News, 21 September 1899.

(Ignore the snark, which was par for the course for newspapers covering African-American social and cultural events.)

I came across this article using my great-grandfather’s name as a search term. Mike Taylor was an usher at this wedding and, look, so was his brother-in-law Edward Barnes. Mike’s daughter Maggie Taylor, my grandfather’s sister, then about 13, was a maid of honor, and his daughter Bertha Taylor, 7, was a flower girl. The bride and groom were Henry Perry and Centha Barnes. Were either of them related to the Taylors?

“Perry” rang a little bell. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County, living along the A.C.L. Railroad: 42 year-old railroad laborer Pierce Barnes, wife Mary, 34, adopted son Robert Perry, 8, and Mary’s father Willis Barnes, 72.  Mary was my great-grandmother Rachel Barnes Taylor‘s sister. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, at 114 Lee Street: Mike H. Taylor, cook at cafe, wife Rachel and their son Tom Perry, 12.

Then there was this death certificate:

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So Tom Perry was the son of the couple that married above. But what was Tom’s relationship to Robert Perry, who was adopted by Mary Barnes Barnes and served as informant for Tom’s death certificate? And how were the Perrys related to Mike Taylor or his wife Rachel Barnes Taylor?

I found an abstract of Henry and Centha Barnes Perry’s marriage license. Henry was 24; Centha, 18. Both Henry’s parents were listed, but only her father, Willie Barnes, was. Could that be a transcription error? Was her father really Willis Barnes?

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, Willis Barnes appears with his wife Cherry, six of their children (the youngest aged about 4) and a niece. By 1900, and probably long before, Cherry Battle Barnes was dead. Had she had one last child, Lucinda, called “Centha,” in 1881?

Let’s say Cherry died in or shortly after childbirth. Her oldest daughter Rachel, who married Mike Taylor in 1882, likely would have reared her baby sister with her own children. (The oldest, my grandfather, was born in 1883.) The 1890 census might have captured this family together, but those records were destroyed by fire. By 1900, Centha (“Sindie”) and her new husband Henry S. Perry were living together in Wilson, as yet childless. Ten years later, however, Henry was listed as a single man boarding at the New Briggs Hotel, where he worked as a bellboy.

What happened in those ten years? The best guess is that Cintha, having given birth to at least two sons, Robert (1903) and Thomas (1908), died. Her children went to live with her mother’s relatives, just as she had done. The family, however, never quite recovered. Henry eventually remarried, but died in 1927 when his second set of children were still young. Tom, who worked as a boot black in a barbershop (perhaps the one in which my grandfather cut hair), was shot in the leg in the spring of 1931, then seems to have died of tuberculosis less than a year later. (Cause of death: “problematically T.B. caused by gun shot wound”? Wha?) Robert Perry worked as a grocery delivery boy for a while, then as a janitor for Carolina Telephone & Telegraph Company, but in 1930 was listed as a convict living at the Wilson County Stockade. He married a woman named Pauline, but it is not clear whether they had children. In 1942, he registered for the World War II draft:

TAYLOR -- RL Perry WW2 Draft Card

The back of the card notes that Robert Lee Perry was 5’11”, 155 lbs., had a scar under his left eye, and had brown eyes, black hair and a dark brown complexion. “Mike Taylor,” the person who would always know his address, was not the Mike Taylor who had been an usher at his parents’ wedding. Rather, he was that Mike’s son, Roderick “Mike” Taylor, Robert’s first cousin and my grandfather. Robert Perry died 15 May 1977. His death certificate lists no parents.

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

Is Mama dead let me know at once.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evangelist

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

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

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Births Deaths Marriages, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Funeral Program Friday: Bessie Henderson Smith.

Bessie Henderson schoolgirlBessie, aged about 12.

Jack Henderson named his first child, born 24 September 1917, after his sister Bessie Lee Henderson. In the early years of World War II, she and her only child moved from Wilson to Baltimore, where she lived for 54 years.

zeke & bessieCousin Bessie, right, with her sister Alice Henderson Mabin on the porch of their sister Mildred Henderson Hall in Wilson, 1986.

FP Besse H Smith_Page_1FP Besse H Smith_Page_2

Cousin Bessie is buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson NC.

Bessie H Smith headstone

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