Arthur Bunyan Caldwell.

History of the American Negro and his institutions; (Volume 4) online

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church building.

His favorite reading is along the line of Bible history
and theology. Among the secret orders he is identified with
the Masons, Odd Fellows and Pythians. Although starting
life under hard conditions, and although freuenqtly called
to go through the deep waters himself, Mr. Davis has not
only succeeded as a preacher and pastor, but has made a
good citizen and has acquired considerable property as well.
He has lived to see his people make such progress as was
scarcely to be dreamed of when he was a slave boy and is
well content with it so far. He is not an agitator, and is


pleased with the present conditions of his race and sees
cause for rejoicing that so many of them have learned to
accumulate property, buy homes, pay their preachers and
teachers and make good citizens.

Jefferson Davis Diggs

Within comparatively recent years there has been a
notable cleavage, or out-branching, of various new religion,
schools of thought and discipline from the older Protestant
denominations. One must be ill informed in the history of
religious development if he were to minimize the importance
of these. We have but to recall the Reformation, to remem-
ber that the Methodist denomination had its origin in the
pious heart of the wife of an English curate, its first serv-
ices in the humble kitchen of her home. Nor should we
forget the Salvation Army and the Volunteers, who have
been criticised and ridiculed, but who have earned for them-
selves a high place by humble service which injured no one
but helped many by seeking "to save that which was lost."

Rev. Jefferson Davis D'ggs, formerly a minister of the
M. E. Church, now of the Holiness denomination, is a man
who serves his Master in accordance with the light as it
has been vouchsafed to him. He is following his own con-
victions regardless of whisperings that the more powerful
denominations offered more honors and better pay.

He was born February 14, 1865. His mother, Katie
Diggs, was then a slave. She was a daughter of Joseph
and Tamar Diggs, and a grand-daughter cf Susan Diggs, who
was brought direct from Africa, and lived to be over a
century old. The same can also be said of the great-grand-
mother of Mrs. Diggs. Joseph Diggs was a physical giant
who is said to have picked 737 pounds of cotton in one day,
and who never allowed himself to be wh ; pped. Mr. Diggs'
father was his mother's owner. Thus it will be seen that
he had a peculiar heritage of physical strength, longevity
and mental capacity.



Katie Diggs died when her son was three years old.
He was then cared for by his grandmother and, in turn,
as soon as the boy was able to work at anything, he began
to support himself and her. It was extremely difficult for
him to secure any education, but she required him to study
at night. Other than this, his early schooling consisted of
going for a short while in mid-winter and mid-summer to
the rural schools. He did not begin his professional life
until 1883, by which time he was himself able to teach a
school, and also preached his first sermon. Not the least
remarkable fact is that Dr. Diggs obtained a liberal, higher
education after his maturity.

On April 26, 1885, he made Miss Elizabeth Murphy his
wife. They had fourteen children, eleven of whom lived to
be reared and educated. They are Mamie A., James T.,
Jessie E., Bell R., John P., Annie E., Charles M., Rudyard
K., Frank B., Alice T. and Jefferson Davis, Jr.

Dr. Diggs was graduated from Bennett College in 1899,
with the B. S. degree, and from the Christian College of
Oskaloosa, Iowa, in 1905 with the degree of Master of An-
cient Literature. Livingstone College conferred upon him
the D. D. degree. In addition to all this Dr. Diggs has been
a constant student of the Bible, and a careful reader of
works on theology, philosophy, psychology, history and
biography. To a large extent the support of his large fam-
ily and his own education was provided for by the work
of his hands, as a mechanic and builder.

Practically all his life, Dr. Diggs has felt himself ac-
quainted with a divine, personal Savior, and, placing his
trust in Him, has plodded along asking only to be a vessel
finally fit for the Master's use, not seeking earthly reward.
Viewed in the light of present day discontent and haste on
the part of youth to "succeed" his career is at once an in-
spiration to faithful effort and a rebuke to those who com-
plain in the time of free education, available in night as
well as in day schools, and high wages, that they "have no>

Dr. Diggs' first appointment, under the M. E. Confer-


ence, was to Hickory, N. C, in 1889, where he remained
three years. After serving several appointments under
the auspices of this denomination he resigned his member-
ship and in February, 1904, organized and founded the
Union Mission (non-sectarian) church in Winston-Salem,
where he has since resided and has held the unbroken pas-
torate of the church he founded. Dr. Diggs was for eight
years past the Education Secretary of the United Holy
Church of America, and has just been re-elected to that
position for another quadrennium. He is also President of
the Afro-American Ministerial Union (inter-denomina-
tional) of Winston-Salem.

While in national affairs Dr. Diggs votes the Republi-
can ticket, he is locally an Independent.

Like most men who have had to work their own way
from abject poverty to a place of distinction, Dr. Diggs has
excellent practical executive ability, and his talents and good
judgment have been in request. He is President of the
Central Realty Company and Vice-President of the Twin
City Building and Loan Assocation. He owns enough prop-
erty for a modest provision against the time when he
reaches the sunset years, and must cease from active labor.

Dr. Diggs believes first in Divine guidance for his race,
this to be reflected in raising up to them reliable leader
•of their own race and in education that will help them to
reach a high plane of moral and intellectual development.

A native of -Richmond Co., born of a slave girl on the
•east bank of the Pee Dee river, it is really marvelous to
reflect that this helpless little black baby, under Divine
guidance, himself lived to be a leader of his people; that
from the narrow confines of slavery he emerged during the
Reconstruction, traveled extensively over the whole of this
continent, became a cultured minister of the Gospel and is
yet only in that ripe prime which promises many -rich years
in which to add new laurels to a career that one could hardly
credit — save that it, and many another, have been of that
truth which is stranger than any fiction could have dared

Jesse Allen Dodson

One now finds, in many towns of the South, colored
men engaged in professional and business lines in which a
few years ago, they were unknown. It is one of the encour-
aging signs of the times. One of the men who learned
pharmacy and who has built up a successful drug business
is Dr. Jesse Allen Dodson of Durham. He was born in
Halifax Co., Va., just after the close of the war on Aug. 24,
1865. His father, Thomas Dodson, was a mechanic and
was the son of Peggy Waller. Dr. Dodson's mother was
Hannah Hogue, and her mother's name was Hannah also.

Young Dodson first attended the Halifax Co. schools.
He then spent about seven years in the mercantile busi-
ness as clerk in a grocery and dry goods store, at Danville,
Va., where be got his first business training. When ready
for college he matriculated at Shaw University, where he
won his A. B. degree, after which he spent two years in
this institution as a teacher. He decided to take up phar-
macy and in two years completed the three year course at
the Leonard School of Pharmacy in 1895 with the Ph. G.
degree. He passed the State Board of Pharmacy on March
25, 1897. Speaking of the struggles of that period he says,
"My difficulties mainly were making the money to pay for
my schooling. I had no one to help, so I had to make it
during vacations. During the seven years I spent in college
I had only $20.00 given me. I left school not owing a penny.
I spent my summers North working on steamboats and in
the Pullman service. I taught country schools two seasons,
and by such methods I always managed to make enough to
wear good clothes and pay my bills. I was graduated from
a three year course in Pharmacy in two years." Though
these were hard years, yet he found they furnished the
training he needed as a man. After he was through college
he taught as Principal of one of the graded schools of Dur-
ham for five years and at the same time tried to run a


business. The difficulty, however, of securing properly
trained help induced him to give up teaching and devote
himself entirely to business. He was also interested at one
time in insurance, and made considerable investment in
that line of work, but finally settled down to the one thing
which he knew best and which he could handle personally —
the drug business at which he has been successful. His
drug store is situated in a beautiful section of the town in-
habited by people of his own rase, who honor and respect

In politics Dr. Dodson is a Republican. He is a member
of the Baptist church and among the secret orders holds
membership in the Masons and Pythians. In addition to
his business Dr. Dodson owns a comfortable home and con-
siderable real estate in Durham. Speaking of race condi-
tions he says, "Our best protection would be a national law,
impartially enforced, that would protect every individual
and punish every state that did not guarantee that protec-
tion. Have one law for both races and see that it is carried
out. Give me the same chance given the white man. Give
equal opportunity and equal pay for equal service. Let both
races "shut their eyes and shovel coal," with equal oppor-
tunity and protection and there will be no race problem."

On Dec. 28, 1898, Dr. Dodson was married to Miss Lil-
lian Fitzgerald, a daughter of Richard B. and Sallie W. Fitz-
gerald. She was educated at Fiske University, and was,
before her marriage, a teacher in the graded schools of
Durham. Dr. and Mrs. Dodson have five children. They
are. Allen L., Gladys E., Hobart L., Richard F. and Lois M.
Dodson, all of whom are now attending various schools.

James Butler Francis

The Presbyterian church since the inauguration of its
work among the colored people has always pursued a policy
of education — Christian education. The result has been



an intelligent ministry and efficient leadership unsurpassed
by any other denomination.

Among the well equipped young men of the church in
North Carolina must be mentioned Rev. James Butler Fran-
cis now (1920) located at Laurinburg. Though educated
and now working in North Carolina he was born in South
Carolina, being a native of Sumter, where he was born on
May 7, 1888. His father, Henry T. Francis, was a farmer,
and was the son of James and Annie Francis. His mother,
before her marriage was Loumanda McCoy, a daughter of
Butler and Eliza McCoy. His parents were devout Chris-
tians and the religious training he received in the home gave
direction to his after life.

On April 26, 1919, Mr. Francis was married to Miss
Mary E. Gathings, a daughter of Samuel and Vinia Gathings
of Pageland, S. C. Mrs. Francis was educated at Claflin
University and was, before her marriage, an accomplished
teacher. They have one child, James F. Francis.

Young Francis laid the foundation of his education at
Sumter. Te did his preparatory work at Biddle University
and passed from there into the college department and
won his A. B. degree in 1916. Following that he took up
the Theological course and was graduated with the S. T. B.
degree in 1919 from the same institution. Being of limited
means and his parents being unable to help him financially,
he found it necessary to work his way through school.

Mr. Francis identified himself with the church at an
early age and when twenty years of age definitely decided
to take up the work of the ministry. During his Theological
course he preached at nearby churches and such was the
character of his service that when he was through school
he was called to the work at Laurinburg, where he -has
firmly established himself. He is of a cheerful, cordial
disposition and makes friends for himself and his work
as he goes along. He has traveled over a large part of
America and parts of Canada. His favorite reading is
along the lines of Theology and Moral Philosophy.

Jacob Duckery Gordon

Prof. Jacob Duckery Gordon, one of the competent edu-
cators of North Carolina, comes to this State from South
Carolina, having been born at Cheraw during the war, on
August 9, 1864. His parents were Alexander and Jane (Er-
vin) Gordon. Alexander Gordon's father, Reuben, was
brought from North to South Carolina and after years of
service was again sold and carried west. His wife, Tamar,
was the daughter of Jack and Maria Kollock. Prof. Gor-
don's mother was a daughter of Jacob Duckery and Juno
Harrington. Thus it will be seen that he bears his grand-
prandfather's name.

On December 23, 1888, our subject was married to Miss
Anna Lillie Harrington, a daughter of John and Elsie Har-
rington. They have one son, John Vereen Gordon.

Those who are familiar with the history of the slave
States know what a struggle the colored boys who were
born in slavery or just after the war, had to secure an
education. Prof. Gordon was no exception to the rule. His
story cannot better be told than in his own simple language :

"I began school life in 1870. I learned my alphabet
before the close of the first day in school and a happier soul
never existed before nor since. My tutor was the son of an
ex-salveholder and his children were in the school with us.
I was very much in earnest about learning. At that time
my highest ambition was to learn to read the Bible, so that
I could join my great-grandfather, Jack, in reading about
Joshua and the Amorites, Samson killing so many people
with the jawbone of an ass and many other familiar stories.
My father, although. unlettered, was very much interested
in the education of his children, but at the close of the
short school term he did not care to see us use our books
too much, especially when the grass was growing. This
handicapped me and it was only when he was absent that I
was able to study. Under these circumstances and without



the aid of a teacher, I learned to work vulgar fractions,
denominate numbers and so on. I was very careful not
to erase the copies wh.'ch my teachers wrote for me on the
last days of school, but would preserve them and write and
re-write from them throughout the entire vacation. The
day on which I learned to read, I ran ahead of all the
other children to tell my mother and to read to her a
few simple sentences. She was as proud of it as I was.
My mother died in 1877 and father lost interest in me
and my only sister, who was two years my senior. She
married young and I went to live with her. I had now
quit the old field school and was a student of Col. H. L.
Shrewsburg, where I studied for two or three terms. My
uncles, seeing my determination, induced me to save money
to go to Bicldle University. I hired to a farmer at seven
dollars a month and in the fall of 1880 entered Biddle with
$25.00 in cash. I remained until this was exhausted, bor-
rowed railroad fare and returned. On reaching home I
learned from my father that he had not sent me any money
for the reason, that the man for whom he was working had
refused to pay him any money when he learned that it
was to go for the education of his son. Instead of being
discouraged, this spurred me to greater efforts and I was
now more determined than ever to obtain an education.
The following year I returned to college and at the end of
the term thought I was 'some scholar' and was eager to
begin teaching. I was discouraged on the ground that I
was too young and did not begin teaching until two years
later. In 1884 I began in Marborough Co. and remained
there for eleven consecutive years."

In 1885, Prof. Gordon went to Palatka, Florida, and
began merchandising, but did not find that kind of work
congenial so at the end of the year he returned to South
Carolina and resumed teaching. In 1894 he was on the
Grand Jury of the U. S. District Court. Following that he
moved to Concord, N. C, where he has since remained.
His principal work since he came to the Old North State
has been teaching though he has been active in other fields


as well. He is now (1920) serving his eleventh year as as-
sistant principal of the Concord Colored Graded & Indus-
trial School.

When the Coleman Manufacturing Company erected at
Concord a cotton mill to be operated entirely by colored
people, Prof. Gordon found employment there during his va-
cations as a private secretary. In 1919 the Colored Division
of the Textile Workers of America was organized at Concord
and Prof. Gordon was elected Financial Secretary, which
position he has held since. In October of the same year he
was elected delegate to the annual meeting of the Textile
Workers which was held in Baltimore, and was the only
person of color present and the only colored union represen-
tative out of the 200 delegates from fifteen States. His po-
sition as an educator in the county may be seen from the
fact that he is President of the Colored County Teachers'
Association. Prof. Gordon is a member of the A. M. E. Zion
church and is President of the Sunday School Union of Con-
cord, and was for two years District Sunday School Superin-
tendent of the Concord District.

He has found particular help and inspiration in reading
the lives of Lincoln, Grant, Garfield, Fred Douglas and oth-
ers. With the years has come success not only in his chosen
profession but in a business and financial way as well. He
has accumulated considerable property in and around Con-
cord so that his annual taxes amount to at least $100.00.

John Thomas Hairston

Rev. John Thomas Hairston, B. Th., is pastor of the
Shiloh Baptist church in a section of Greensboro known as
Warnersville, where his ministry has been very successful.
He is a son of a preacher and is especially equipped for
the chosen work of his life.

Mr. Hairston was born in Davie Co., Sept. 8, 1876.
His father was Rev. Wiseman Hairston and his mother was,



before her marriage, Miss Susan Mason. His grandparents
on his father's side were Adam and Bashie Hairston, and
on his mother's side they were Burrell and Phyllis Mason.
They were all slaves and hence he cannot trace his ancestry
further back.

Mr. Hairston was a poor country boy, and when he
entered school had only a dollar and a half, a peck of pears,
a little meat and some flour. Notwithstanding the fact
that he started in this way he is making his mark and he
attributes his success to hard work, honesty and living a
moral life.

After attending the public schools of Davie Co., he at-
tended the State Normal at Salisbury for three years and
then entered Livingstone College, located in the same town
and graduated from the normal department in 1904. He
afterwards pursued the course in Theology at Shaw Uni-
versity and was graduated with the degree of B. Th. in

Dr. Hairston has been married twice. On Oct. 8, 1908,
he married Miss Lucile Ingram of Rockwell, N. C. She
bore him two children, Jasper R. and George Thomas Hair-
ston, and passed away on Dec. 14, 1911. His second mar-
riage was to Miss Nancy Alice Wright of Asheville, on Oct.
21, 1913. They have two children, Otis L. and Elmer H.
Hairston. The children are all being given the best edu-
cational advantages.

Dr. Hairston's first pastorate was at China Grove,
where he preached eight years and built a new church.
He pastored the church at Mill Bridge two years, Alber-
marle three years and remodeled the church. He served
as assistant pastor to his father at Spencer and went from
there to Reidsville for three years. In 1907 he came to his
present work, which has prospered under his administra-
tion. The house of worship has been repaired and a com-
fortable new parsonage erected. In 1918 he was elected
Moderator of the Rowan Association, which is one of the
largest Baptist Associations in the State.

At the early age of twelve Mr. Hairston was converted


and was licensed to preach by the Cedar Grove Bapt. church
in 1895 and ordained to the full work of the Gospel min-
istry in 1900. In addition to his work as a pastor he has
done considerable evangelistic work at which he has been
blessed in the winning of many to the Master. His idea of
the race situation is that there ought to be frequent meet-
ings of the best people of both races for candid discussion
of the various problems that arise and thus let the races
better understand each other and he believes that the result
will be mutual sympathy and help from both sides.

Matthew Curtis Harvey

All too frequently, our books of history and biography
deal with official life and with professional men. These
are important ; but, after all, advanced civilization depends
upon the business man and the manner in which he does
business. As the colored people have increased their earning
capacity there have sprung up in various towns and cities,
enterprising men who as merchants and business men are
not only successful themselves, but have served as worthy
examples for other members of the race. Such a man is
Matthew Curtis Harvey, of the picturesque old town of
Washington. He was born at James City, in Graven Co.,
October 28, 1863, which it will be recalled, was in the midst
of the war between the States. That part of the State,
particularly, was practically a battle ground at that time.
His parents were Moses and Susan Harvey. The family
moved to Washington when the child was four years old and
such schooling as he had was secured in Washington. He
himself says that he was raised on the streets of Washing-
ton and was accustomed to do just such work as a man
about town would be expected to do. In November, 1886,
he was married to Miss Amy Latham, also of Craven Co.
They have one daughter, Annie R. Harvey, an accomplished
young lady who was educated at Livingstone College and



now has charge of the kindergarten department of the pub-
lic schools at Washington.

Mr. Harvey went into business for himself in 1900.
One going into his well stocked general store today would
be astonished to know that he began business with the
insignificant capital of eight dollars twenty years ago. Two
or three times he has found it necessary to move into larger
quarters and he is today regarded as one of the safest and
most successful business men of his race in the city.

Since young manhood he has not been active in politics,
but he is active and prominent in the work of his local
church, being a member of the Metropolitan A. M. E. Zion
church, of which he is a trustee and a teacher in the Sunday
School. Among the secret and benevolent orders he is
identified with the Masons, the Pythians and the Elks.
Though himself deprived of a college education, he believes
that the progress of the race depends on proper training and
the development of a larger spirit of co-operation among
colored people.

Samuel Thomas Hawkins

To multiply the institutions of a fine civilization and to
extend their benefits to all mankind is beyond doubt the
great material purpose of all practical effort. Yet in the
stories of some men we are clearly reminded of the under-
lying truth of destiny so well expressed in the familiar line:
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."

Picture to yourself a humble Negro woman, left sud-
denly widowed through the drowning of her husband, with
eight young children to care for and you see a situation so
hopeless, from a worldly standpoint, words are inadequate
to describe it. Yet it is with the career of one of these
children, Rev. Samuel Thomas Hawkins, A. B., D. D., Pre-
siding Elder of the Statesville District of the A. M. E. Zion
church of the Western North Carolina Conference that this
biography deals.


Online LibraryArthur Bunyan CaldwellHistory of the American Negro and his institutions; (Volume 4) → online text (page 40 of 48)