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El STORICAL EDITION
Hertford County Herald
PAPER WORTH WHILE’’
THE AHOSKIh FRA OF
IN THE YEAR 1939
AHOSKIE, NORTH CAROLINA
NEGRO SECTION. G—6 PAGES
THE NEGROES’ PART IN THE GROWTH OF TOWN OF AHOSKIE AND HERTFORD COUNTY
RECORD OF THE NEGRO RACE IN
THE TOWN OF AHOSKIE
(By ELEANOR MITCHELL)
O N THIS the Fiftieth Anniversary of the town of Ahoskie, the
Mcsrces watch with grateful pride the progress they have made
during the past fifty years, cducotionaily, religiously, economically
Three years after the Civil War the county gave one acre of land
on which a one-room school house was built for Negro boys and girls
of this small cros.sroads community. This building was located near
the corner on Lucy Butler Road, which is now Catherine Creek Road
end Haye.s Avenue. This lot is now the home-place of Jannie Ebron.
Van Butler was the first teacher in this school and the school term
was then four months long.
The school remained about thirty-five years on the same site.
Later the old building was discarded and a better one was erected.
Some parts of the old building are now being used in a grist mill by
Graham Holloman, one of the oldest Negro citizens in this town.
Mary E. Sills, being interested in education, advocated better
school facilities. With the cooperation of the citizens and the county,
the building wa.5 moved on the five-acre plot where the Ahoskie
Born in Ahosliie and moved to Harrellsville while still in his in
fancy, he toiled as a young man in and around Harrellsville, later at
tended Waters Training School, at'Winton; went to Richmond, Va.,
where he was graduated in 1903; and completed his education at Pitts
burgh, Penn., receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1906 and a law
degree from the same University in 1909.
His record as citizen and lawyer won for him national renown,
which has been heightened by his phenomenal success in the publish
ing field. He is owner and publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier, Amer
ica’s largest weekly publication with circulation of 127,010. He was
appointed Assistant Attorney General of the United States by Presi
dent Roo.sevelt, In his adopted State, he wields much power in the
economic, and political fields; and is recognized leader of the Negro
Replying to a letter from the publishers, in search of authentic
information about his life and works, he writes interestingly of his
life, filled as it has been with experiences that come to few men of
the Negro race. At the urgent request of the publishers, he has consent
ed to the publication of the following reminiscenses.
To begin with, I should establish my place of birth. Some
where on what is known as “Old Dr. Mitchell’s Farm,” I first saw
the light of day. I doubt seriously whether anyone now could lo
cate the exact spot. A stone c^st at random on the old farm might
AUTHOR OF “RECORD OF
NEGRO RACE IN THE
TOWN OF AHOSKIE”
ELEANOR MITCHELL, a descendant of a
family of early settlers in Ahoskie before
the days cf inccrpcraticn, gives the high
lights of the activities cf the Negro race in
the development cf the town.
locate the spot with a.s much accuracy as any other method.
I have little or no recollection of Ahoskie because I w?s taken
to Harrellsville when I was very young. I was the sole liability
of my mother, who undertook to perform the miracle of raising a
boy child without the assistance of his father. She claimed that it
was an accepted tradition that a woman could not rear a boy child
with any degree of success. She wore to shreds many an elm
sprig in her endeavor to refute the tradition. Whenever I broke
her established code of behavior for me, she gave me *a sound
thrashing and, thanked anybody else who performed that function
My earliest recollection is that of living on the old Slaughter
farm, owned by Joseph Slaughter and located near Pitch Landing.
This was on the old Ahoskie to Harrellsville road by way of the
Big Swamp. From the Slaughter farm, my mother took me to
Harrellsville where she became a domestic for Mr. and Mrs. John
O. Askew. The Askew estate is still hallowed ground to me and
Mrs. Molly Askew is still the finest specimen of womanhood I ever
knew. It was she who shaped my early education and I attribute
to her whatever foundation was laid for me when I was unable to
choose my own course of conduct.
I shall never forget the things I learned in the big yard at the
Askew home. There I was surrounded with the luxury and aris
tocracy of the South. The large farm, any number of farmhands, an
overseer, beautiful lawns, stately trees, labyrinth upon labyrinth
of flowers and shrubbery surrounded me as if I, myself, were an
heir to wealth. In this environment I lived until I was twelve
years of age, and during these years, my life as it has been lived
for this past half century took definite form. I knew the best
people of Harrellsville, played in their yards and with. their
Across the road at Harrellsville—or .should I say, the street—
lived tije Thomas Williams family. Then came the Cullens family,
then the Sculls. I remember definitely Mr. Charles Pruden, who
was our constable, magistrate and judge, all rolled into one.
Marquee and Bismarck Scull stand out definitely in my memory.
I even went to the lumber camp with, Bismarck and cooked for
twelve or fourteen men when I was nothing but a kid. He pitched
camp in Virginia, near Churchland, and I remember how hard he
worked in the lumber woods, round and about Hertford County.
Then there was Dr. Askew, Abner was his name, whose lovely
wife was Mrs. Agnes Askew. The doctor was a brother to John
O. They had no children, but they had a beautiful home. Dr.
Askew was the physician for everybody. I used to count it a pri
vilege to hold his horse at the gate of a patient while he went
insJde to minister to the sick.
I remember very definitely Mr. E. M. Wooten, He was a
traveling salesman and actually commuted between New York and
Harrellsville, selling Scott’s Three Thristle Snuff. A fine specimen
he was, tall, handsome, alert and most affable.
I recall with equal distinction, Mr. Charles H. Smith, who, at
'first, was a clerk in the John O. Askew store, but later went into
business for himself. This man was my father confessor. It was
he who was my chief advisor. He really helped me pack my old-
fashioned telescope and started me off for Boston. The spirit of
the man has always been a part of me because he never told me
a wrong thing in his life. Many a lime, I have gone to tlie well and
brought fresh water to the store only to hear him spin some fath
erly advice to a boy who did not know that the sun rose or set any
where else except in Harrellsville,
Then.there was the Sharp family. This family had three boys:
Aubrey, Willie and Bainbry. This may be more phonetic than
accurate v.'ith respect to Bainbry. These boys had a stepfather or
guardian by the name cf Henry Clay Sharp. He was my ideal
statesman. He did little or nothing but look after the estate of the
minors and read the Virginian-Pilot in front of the postoffice
every day except Sunday. I recall that he gave me a copy of his
newspaper once and indicated to me the pictures of the blow
ing-up of the battleship Maine, in the Havana Harbor. I treasur
ed that paper until I was quite a ttian and still regret the loss of it.
Aubrey Sharp was the oldest of the three boys. He was
waiting to aiTive at his majority to get his share of the estate, and
did little or nothing but smoke cigarettes, read novels and go down
to Mrs. Fanny Jernigan’s to get music' lessons two or three times a
week. He rode a bicycle—about the first bicycle owned in Har
rellsville. Aubrey was my hero. I actually loved him, and as I
look back upon the whole scene now, it must have been because
he taught me to ride ride his very own bicycle. His liberality was
known to all of the boys of the streets. I have often wondered what
became of Aubrey Sharp.
Then there was another Sharp family, John Sharp. As I re
member him, he was a real character. He had a large farm and
always kept many horses and mules and he would stop anywhere
to trade horses with anybody, but he always wanted a little some-
Colored High School is now located. The old site was sold to the
New Ahoskie Baptist Church.
After being moved, the .school was changed to Hertford County
Training School. C. S. Yeates served as principal of this school for
several years. The training school remained in Ahoskie for five years,
after v/hich the state support for the training school Was given to
Waters Institute, Winton, N. C. The school in Ahoskie wa.s then
changed to Ahoskie Graded School.
C. F. Wilder succeeded C. S. Yates as principal and worked
deligently for a better school building, sin9e the old building was
condemned. The county and the state erected a fourteen-room brick
building for the elementary school.
H. D. Cooper, the present principal, succeeded C. F. Wilder. Un
der H, D. Ccoper’.s supervision the schools has made rapid strides
totvard progress and now has three school consolidated with the
elementary department. During the school term of 1937-38 the state
erected a nine-room high school brick building.
Years of untiring efforts have changed the one-room building of
long ago to the present higll^school of Ahoskie with two brick build
ings, fourteen elementary teachers, five high school teachers and an
enrollment of about eight hundred Negro boys and girls.
The first Negro church was organized in 1866. Rev. Emmanuel
Reynolds was the pastor. This church was made with the, weather
boards put on straight up, with the door, four windows, no steeple, and
a seating capacity of two hundred. The church was located on the
same .spot that the New Ahoskie Baptist Church now stands. The
church grew from a small membership to near five hundred members.
The building has been remodeled three times and has a' six-room
parsonage on the church campus. Regular services are held twice a
month. The -present pa.stor is Rev. R. H. Patterson.
The Methodist Church was organized by Rev, John Wesley Wood,
of Edenton, N. C., in 1901, years after the New Ahoskie Baptist was
Scenes On The A’cgro Farms of Hertford County
Ahoskie Colored School Is Monument
To Struggling Pioneers
By H. D. COOPER
(IJotc: For many of tho faots denllnc v.
Ahoskie. wo arc indebted to Mr. V/. H. jenkin
jur 41 years, beins chairman for 30 years )
Aho-skie’s educaliaiial center for Negro children was not swept
into its prcse.nt high state of serviceability by the surging tide of
development of Ihi.s fast-growing community. The advantages now
enjoyed have bfen long dreamed of and .struggled for; and the hi.stoiy
of the school is a great drama, growing out of the cea.sele-ss labors,
temporary victories, heart-rending disappointments, and final- triumphs
of parents, Negro leaders, and white friends. Tragically, many who
iv;ught with only a -vision to guide them are not here today to see
standing in their own community a .strong, well equipped, State ac
credited high school, serving their children with opportunities and-
making them into worih-wliile citizens of this great commonwealth.
As the scenes above indicate, the Negro farmers of Hertford
'County keep abrec.-.t of all the modern trepds in agriculture and are
adopting a program of diversification that will help to put them in
the forefront in agricultural progress; and develop the race to a point
of still greater independence and leadership. Under the leadership of
their agent, W. C. Davenport, they not only made excellent records on
their farms and in the county, but they Irave consistently been at the
very top in State and section exhibitions and have won awards for
their excellence in agricultural pursuits.
organized. It was located on the corner of what is now Catherine
Street. The church still stands on the (miginal plot. The some build
ing is still being used. 'The membership has decreased rather than
increased. The present paster is Rev. C. A. Malone.
The Calvary Baptist Church was organized by Rev. Armstead
Cooper. This church was located on the corner what is now Catherine
and First Streets. The church continued there for a number of
years, after which a new church was buHt on the extreme end of
Catherine Street, where it is now located. This church grew from a
small membership to a large one, with a belter and larger building.
(Continued on page 2)
AN AHOSKIE LEADER FOR FORTY YEARS
REV. JAMES SOLOMON
SILLS, 324 Maple Street,
Ah-oskie, born in Louisburg,
N. C., Franklin County, July
11, 1869. Father, Joseph Sills,
dead; -mother, Sallie Sills,
dead. He married July 27,
1897, to Miss Mary Emily El
lison, of Jamesville, N. C. No
children born to this imion.
He is a member of a family
of twelve children, five broth
ers and six sisters, all of which
he survives. He attended the
elementary schools and State
Normal School of Franklin
County, and in late teens en
tered Shaw University, did
no complete courses offered
there but in his early twen
ties, entered the ministry of
Baptist faith, and for forty-
seven years has -conscien-.
tiously and successfully work
ed to the saving of more than
eight thousand souls.- He has
pastored some of the out
standing churches of Eastern
Carolina and Virginia, name
ly: Zoar Baptist Church of
Northampton County, Con
way; Triumph Baptist Church,
,'Washington; Mineral Springs
Baptist Church Whaleyville,
Va.; Second Baptist Church,
Union; Mill Branch Baptist
Church, Aulander, most of
Hertford Tjounty, are among
his last charges. He has -been
afflicted the past three years
with paralysis. (Cont. at top
right of cut.)
He moved to Hertford
(Continued on Page 5)
County December 11, 1899,
just a few months after Bran-
ning Manufacturing Company
made its set up here, but of
the same calendar year. Along
with this enterprise which
employed more than one hun
dred members of his race. He
began pioneer work, religious,
physicial, and civic, to ame
liorate social conditions and
mutual understanding be
tween two races. He enjoyed
the distinction of being ap
pointed by Town Council in
1901, in charge of eighteen or
more men in his squad, to
change the long road leading
from the Afioskie Swamp
(west) running east through
Main Street, and down Maple
Street now, but known then
as Ahoskie Road, which led
through the Fannie Taylor
and Sills lots, on pass the
-Colored Baptist Church, and
joined Catherine Creek Road.
Much growth and rubbish
were cut and ditches also to
drain the land that was under
W'ater most of the year.
Streets were elevated, and
afterwards named; First, Sec
ond, Third, etc., later named
First Street, Hayes Avenue,
Second Street, and Catherine
During the last quarter of the previous century, while present-
day Ahoskie was budding, Miles Hall, a rugged pioneer teacher, held
up the banner of education in a small, low-roofed log cabin, which
was located in a thickly wooded .section, on the spot where the par
sonage of the New Ahoskie Baptist Church now stand.s. This cabin
was hardly larger than twelve by fourteen feet, and its. long, narrow
windows, formed by the omission of a log at a convenient height, was
closed at the end of the day’s work by allowing a rough plank to swing
down into place.
Great v/as the day when, in 1892, under the superintendency of
Lawyer John Vann, the county assumed full re.sponsib!iity for the
operation of the Ahoskie Colored School. A building of real, mill-
sawed lumber was erected, and the schoolmaster no longer had to
depend upon chickens and potatoes donated by the children’s parents,
but was placed on a salary of fifteen or twenty dollars a month for the
At about this time the school was governed, by a committee headed
by Richard Hayes, white, and Jobe Newsome and March Holloman,
colored. When the school was placed under the County Superintendent
an all-colored committee was named, consisting of W. H. Jenkins,
Preston Newsome, and James Jenkins. This committee made reports,
i employed teachers, and transacted all business of the school for a
1 period of approximately twenty years. Other committeemen who
I served later were J, Hassell, Richard Britt, Richard Holloman, John
Newsome, C. B. Hall, Rev. J. S. Sills, J. W. Futrell, Robert Howard,
and J. W. Lawrence. Tiic last two were .serving v.'illi W. IT .Tr^
'Who continued a-s cliaiiVnan, when me committee'wa~abolIsDednoy
the State Legislature when it inaugurated the District Plan in 1933.
The few years that followed 1892 brought a wave of building
schools at different points in the rural section.? of the county; and
1899 saw a two-story structure placed at Ahoskie. It was not long,
however, before the stairway had to be taken out of this building and
placed on the outside, in order to provide additional classroom space.
Not only was the Negro population of the section beginning to increase
with the development of Ahoskie as a commercial center, but the
people were becoming more and more school-minded. Parents who had
been denied the opportunities of education strove all the more to
provide these opportunities for their children. Principals who followed
I Miles Hall during this period were Tony Ses.soms, Norfleet Sessoms,
I Martha Sessoms, Charlie Lewter, Mrs. Mary E. Sills, Paul Jenkins,
Marcellas Newsome, Rev. P. J. Vann, and Joe Gay.
COUNTY TRAINING SCHOOL
At the time of the participation of the United States in the World
War, the Department of Education of North Carolina was conducting
.a vigorous campaign to develop schools in the State. One aim was to
‘secure the establishment of at least one high'school in each county
for Negro children. These high schools were to be known as “County
Training Schools,” and would receive certain aid from the State,
provided the counties would furnish satisfactory buildings, equipment,
and funds for operation.
The people of Ahoskie, led by their courageous principal, Prof.
C. S. Yeates, wanted their school developed along'this plan, but there
were great obstacles in the way. A larger plot of land had to be secured
as a site for the school. The woods which had once surrounded the
school had given way to city streets and dwellings, so that this land
(Continued on Page 3)
INDEX TO NEGRO SECTION G
Record of the Ne^ro in the Totvn of Aho.skie, li'v' Eleanor
Hertford County Notables, including Robert L. Vann.
History of the .Vho.skie Colored School, by H. D. Cooper.
Record of the Negro Race in Alioskie, cont. from Page i.
lOr. C. S. Brown, })y C. S. Yeates.
Ctus of Waters Training School, Colored Bookmobile
and Negro Leaders.
ClioTvan Beach .\d. Puritan Cafe .-Xd.
In 1920 and for several
years, he and his wife took
major interest in agitation so
licitation of State authority.
white and colored friends, and worked for the construction of an accredited State School in this community, for the physician and moral
training of girls’ and boys’ future helpfulness to themselves, and service to the human family in their secial contact. Finally, through the
various activities of many who have been sympathetic workers and prosecutors of this movement, and successful in the achievement of the
high school for the racial group of this comm-unity. It is with a deep sense of gratitude, and we do them praise and honor for the accom
plishments achieved through unselfish service, for the welfare of those who are yet to come.
Herifovd County Negro Rural Education.
Ahoskie Colored School, Continued from Page
Sketches of Prominent Negroes.
Hertford Rural Education, Continued from Page 3.
Parker Bi'os. Ad.
Hertford County Notables, Continued from Page 1.
A Sketch of Murfreesboro and Vicinity, by G. T. Rouson.
Pictures of Prominent Colored Institutions.
Order of Love and Charity Ad. ]. W. Wiggins Ad.
History of Achievement Among Hertford Negroes, by
W. C. Davenport.
Sketch of Murfreesboro, Continued from Page 5.
Hunter Garage, Brad Hunter, Frank Pritchard, D. Jones,
and Doris’ Beauty Shop Ads.