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Last update:Monday, 21-Sep-2009 13:33:57 MDT

African-American Leaders


Reverend Bryant Lee

The Rev. Bryant Lee was born a slave, and attended the Connaritsa Baptist Church. After the War, he and about 60 other African-American members, who had attended Connaritsa and Republican Baptist Churches, formed the new worshipping community meeting in a Bush Arbor near Lewiston. It was later called Mt. Olive Baptist Church. The first church building was built on land purchased around 1886, near the Bush Arbor.

The church celebrates Founder's Day on the first Sunday in November, and the gravesite of Rev. Lee is visited at that time.

Rev. Lee's work in finding jobs for the congregation in his cotton gin as well as providing homes for orphaned children, helped the Lewiston black community in those early days of freedom.

in 1884, Rev. Lee and several other individuals -- Noah Powell, Joshua Lee and Joseph Powell--founded Luella Baptis Church. St. Luke Guide to African American History in Bertie County - (Benj. Speller and Le Rae Umfleet. page 6,7 )

Mr. Richard Biggs-Kelford

Mr. Richard Biggs, Kelford, was a leader in the black community in the Kelford area. He owned the Biggs Funeral Home and Pete Austin shared "he had a Model "T" hearse which was enclosed with glass so the coffin could be viewed from all four sides."

He is credited with being the founder of the First Baptist Church of Kelford in 1884.

He helped both white and black families with financial assistance.

W.S. Etheridge

William Stewart Etheridge was an early headmaster of Bertie Academy (one of the oldest private academies). This academy had an outstanding reputation.
He later became principal of Windsor School for Colored Students (we know for sure the date 1934 ) Around 1945, the name was changed to W.S. Etheridge High School in his honor.
Rankins Richards Institute for Negroes and financed by people in the North became the Bertie Academy in 1901 and was located on Triangle Hill.

Parker David Robbins

Contributed by Harry Thompson and Benjamin Speller
An Artisan, merchant, legislator, framer of the post Civil War North Carolina state Constitution, postmaster, patenting inventor, and builder.
>Born near Colerain, Bertie County July 5, 1834. Married Elizabeth Collins of Pleasant Plains Community of Hertford County. In 1860 he was listed in the census in Powellsville, Bertie Co. 1873, moved to Harrellsville in Hertford Co. Became Postmaster and patented farming machinery.
He is currently(Aug 2000)featured in the North Carolina Museum of History's Exhibition on the Civil War in his Union Uniform as Sergant-major of the Second U. S. Cavalry. (H. Thompson saw the exhibit for the second time recently)
Parker Robbins as an example [Free Negroes had more trouble in some cases than the former slaves of the community] left the area and went to Duplin County abruptly (we think for that reason). It did not help also that he was married to a white woman. Up until that time free blacks were marrying anyone that wanted to. This has not been mentioned in published history on him but when I look at the Census Records, [not sure the date of the census referred to] he is clearly the head of a household in what is now Lewiston-Woodville with a white female and two children in the house. I later discovered that these were apparently not his children of record in any case.

Rev. D. L. Simons

Dr. D. L. Simons was born in Bertie County near Powellsville, North Carolina. He was the son of Daniel Simons and Cherry Simons and was educated in the public schools of Bertie County. He did further study at the State Normal School, Now Elizabeth City State University and Winston -Salem State University.

Although an educational leader, he made outstanding contributions in the field of Christian education and religious activities throughout the State of North Carolina.

Dr. Simons professed Christ at an early age and became a member of Piney Wood Chapel Baptist Church and served as church clerk for more than twenty years. Later he began his ministerial career and pastored a number of churches in Bertie and Hertford Counties. Among these churches were Mt. Ararat, St. Paul, St. Elmo, Ashland, Elm Grove, Mt. Pleasant and Piney Wood Chapel Baptist Church.

His larger view of human relatationship was translated into reality through the many aspects of fraternal, religious, and business activities which he encouraged in his local community and state He was for a number of years Moderator of the West Roanoke Association, Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, and a member of the Tri- County Ministers Alliance.

A pioneer educator in Bertie County, He retired in 1952 after forty years of continuous service as teacher and principal. In 1951 Shaw University conferred upon him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity.

As a fraternal leader he served as Deputy Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall, Grand Lodge of Masons of Jurisdiction of North Carolina, Worshipful Master and Chaplain of Masonic Lodge No. 312 of Colerain, Secretary of the Endowment Board of Grand Lodge of the Brothers and Sisters of Loving Charity of North Carolina, Elk and an Odd Fellow.

In June, 1917, He was joined in Holy Matrimony to Miss Florida E. Jenkins of Ahoskie, N.C. To this union Two children were born.

In a career that spanned more than three score years, he was brought in close contact with the Nation's best leaders. He won the respect and influence of countless men and women throughout the country.
Biographic Sketch taken from the 1970 Centennial Program
Contributed by Brenda

Dr. J. Jasper Freeman

Schooling: Bertie Academy, Windsor, N.C. C. G. White High School, Powellsville, N.C. Graduate: Rich Square Institute (now W. S. Creecy High School) Public School Teacher: Spring Hill Elementary School, 1929-1931 Training A.B. degree, Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C. B. D. degree, Shaw Universty Divinity School, Raleigh, N.C. M. A. degree, New York University, New York, N.Y. Further Studies: Hampton Institute (sp) Wheaton College, eaton, Ill. Columbia University, New York, N.Y. Union Theological Seminary, New York, N.Y. Princeton Theological Seminary (3 summers) Princeton,N.J. Honorary Degrees: D.D. Virginia Theological Seminary and College,Lynchburgh, VA Dr. Humane Letter, Shaw University Positions Presently Held: Recording Sec'ty. Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Miss. Con. Trustee, Shaw University Trustee, Virginia Theo. Seminary and College Teacher, Norfolk State (12 yrs) Teacher, Roanoke Institute (Unit of Shaw Univ.) since 1952 President, Hampton Inst. Ministers Conference Pastor, Queen Street State Baptist Church since Oct. 1,1949 Previous Positions Held: Pastor, Browns Missionary Baptist Church 1934-1939. Pastor, New Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Roxboro, NC 1935-1939. Pastor, Lawson Chapel Baptist Church, Person Co, NC 1937-1939. Pastor, 1st. Baptist Church (L.P.) Norfolk, VA 1939-1949. Pastor, 1st. Baptist Church, Powellsville,N.C. 1964-1970. Recording Sect'y. Lott Crey Convention. First Vice President, Hampton Inst. Ministers Conf. Director, Police-Community Relations Board, Norfolk, Va. President and sect"y Baptist Conf. Norfolk, Va. Devotional speaker, Hampton Inst. Ministers conf. Contributed by Brenda Sessoms: (From the program of the Piney Wood Chapel Baptist Church centennial celebration.)

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