The Baker-Bullock Family of Suffolk, Virginia, and Wilson County, North Carolina
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The Baker-Bullock Family of Suffolk, Virginia, and Wilson County, North Carolina

The Baker-Bullock Family of Suffolk, Virginia, and Wilson County, North Carolina

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 7, 2012. All rights reserved.

“With a great crash and roar that was heard a block away, the entire front of the two-story brick building at 403 East Washington plunged outward into the sidewalk and street, crushing the life out of Madison Baker, colored, and badly injuring a colored boy, Emmett Bynum, aged 14, this afternoon. Although many others were passing by on the sidewalk or in the street at the time, no one else was seriously injured. The crash occurred without a moment’s warning at 1:10 o’clock.


Baker, who was 44 years old, with a wife and six children living in ‘Boston,’ and the boy, his employee, were engaged unloading material from a cart standing in front of the doomed building. Baker was caught in the mass of tons of brick and debris and badly crushed about the body and head. Bynum fell under the mule, which was also badly injured, and this is thought to have saved his life. The cart was crushed.


Passersby rushed to the scene of the collapsed building and rescued Baker from the debris. His heart was still beating and the man was carried across the street to Cook’s undertaking establishment and Dr. Archie Flemming summoned. Upon examination he found that Baker was dead. Bynum was taken to Dr. Flemming’s office where an examination showed that he was suffering from multiple bruises and abrasions but had suffered no broken bones. He also lives in ‘Boston.’


The building, which collapsed today, was the scene of a fire that completely gutted it several months ago, burning out Hunter’s Antique Shop and causing the death by suffocation of a six-year-old colored boy. It was being repaired and workman were engaged inside when the front collapsed. None of them were injured so far as could be learned this afternoon.


The property belongs to Stuart Lewis, local banker. The front of the building had been propped us and it was thought to be perfectly safe. No cause has been ascribed for the disaster.”


Madison Baker, Sr., was born in 1873, in (old) Nansemond County, Virginia, into a family of free African American ancestry. Madison was the youngest child of Thomas Henry Baker (b. ca. 1821), and Mary Ann Copeland (b. ca. 1826). His siblings included Robert Baker (b. ca. 1848), Mary Frances Baker Scott (1848-1888), Emeline Baker (b. ca. 1850), Sarah Baker (b. ca. 1851), Susan Baker (b. ca. 1852), Thomas Henry Baker, Jr. (b. ca. 1856), John C. Baker (1860-1916), Celia Catherine Baker Johnson (b. ca. 1863), and Martha Eliza Baker Bailey (1867-1932).

In 1850, the family lived in the Holy Neck District of Nansemond County, near other free-born African American families. Thomas Henry Baker, Sr., worked as a general laborer.1 By 1860, the Baker family were documented in a Free African American community in Nansemond. Thomas Henry, Sr., was noted as in possession of fifty-dollars worth of personal property. Some of Madison’s elder siblings, including sister Celia Catherine, and Mary Eliza, had married, and had young families of their own in Nansemond County.2

The Baker-Copeland Family of Nansemond County, Virginia

Copyright 2021 Nadia K. Orton

In Suffolk, on March 21, 1894, Madison married Miss Ella Mae Bullock, daughter of Jeremiah “Jerry” and Martha Bullock of Wilson County, North Carolina. It was reported that the couple’s wedding was held at night in the presence of a few friends and family.3 Ella Mae Bullock Baker was a native of North Carolina. She, and her siblings John, Edmond, Anna, Joshua Ross, David, General Grant, Emma Susie, and Bettie, had grown up in the Joyners District of Wilson County.

The Bullock Family of Wilson County, North Carolina

Map of North Carolina and Central Virginia. Joyners Depot, Wilson County, North Carolina, Washington, Beaufort County, North Carolina, and Suffolk, Virginia are indicated. Library of Congress

Per census records, the Jerry Bullock family lived in Joyners Township (Joyner’s Depot), in northern Wilson County. The area was originally part of southern Edgecombe County, prior to the formation of Wilson County from portions of Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston, and Wayne counties in 1855. The area in and around Joyners Depot was later renamed Toisnot Township.

The Bullock Family patriarch, Jeremiah Bullock, served with the Union Army during the Civil War, as a member of the 37th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. Born about 1814 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, he enlisted on January 26, 1864, at Washington, North Carolina. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as a forty-one year old carpenter, five feet, eleven inches tall, with a brown complexion. Jeremiah was appointed Sergeant on March 1, 1864, and served on daily duty as a color sergeant.

Because of their strategic value (and their visibility), the color sergeant was a ready target. Although normally protected by six corporals, it remained a very dangerous assignment. Yet the position and title held special significance amongst the troops, and it was considered a high honor usually reserved for the bravest and strongest soldiers. The flags they carried represented the reputation of the unit, and were not to be surrendered.

Scott Curtis,

Not directly involved in any battles or conflicts, Sgt. Jeremiah Bullock succumbed to the effects of general malaise and lingering illness, and received an early discharge at Wilmington, North Carolina on November 25, 1865.4

Enlistment record of Jeremiah “Jerry” Bullock, 37th U. S. Colored Infantry, 1864
The Wilmington Herald, December 5, 1865

After Jerry’s discharge in Wilmington, he settled in Wilson County. Considering that he was born about 1814, forty years prior to Wilson County’s formation from portions of Edgecombe County, he may have settled in or very near his home prior to the war. The family was enumerated in the 1870 Census of Wilson County, North Carolina as denizens of Joyners Township (Joyners Depot). Jeremiah continued his work as a carpenter, and had amassed a personal estate worth two hundred dollars. Martha kept house, while children John and Ichabod (Edmond), worked on the farm. Daughter Anna, aged eleven, and sons Joshua Ross, aged eight, David “Doc,” aged two, and General Grant, five months old, were noted “at home.” 5

Joyners Depot, Wilson County, ca. 1880.

Jeremiah passed away in 1877. Per probate records, his estate was worth about three hundred dollars at the time of his death. The estate inventory included:

  • 4 beds
  • 8 bushels, corn
  • 2000 pounds, fodder
  • 10 chickens and ducks
  • Collards (greens)
  • 15 bushels, potatoes
  • 8 hogs (@ $3 per hog)
  • 2 hogs (@ $10 per hog)
  • $500 farming tools & implements

In the estate record, Martha claimed herself and five dependents: Joshua (Ross), David (Doc), General Grant, Ella Mae, Emily Susan (Emily Susie), and Bettie, the children who were minors, or, under age eighteen, at the time of their father’s decease. Martha was enumerated in the 1880 Census of Wilson County as a widow, and lived in Toisnot Township with her sons Ichabod (Edmond), Joshua Ross, David, General Grant, Ella Mae, aged seven, Emma susie, aged five, and Bettie Bullock. Son Ichabod (Edmond), worked on the family farm.6 As his lawful widow, Martha filed for and received Jeremiah’s military pension in 1889. Martha passed away about 1893 in Wilson County. Soon after, Ella Mae Bullock, and her sister, Emma Susie Bullock, moved up to Suffolk, Virginia.

The Baker-Bullock Family of Suffolk, Virginia

Between 1900 and 1925, Madison Baker and Ella Mae Bullock Baker made their home in the Chuckatuck District of Suffolk, where Madison worked as farmer. Ten children were born to the couple, including daughters Clementine (b. ca. 1891), Ella Mae Baker Gary (1893-1920), Margaret Susie Baker (1905-1927), Bettie Baker Edmonds (ca. 1906-1934), and sons David Baker (b, ca. 1893), Arthur James Baker (1894-1969), Joshua “Josh” Baker (1898-1970), Abner Thomas Baker (1901-1928), and Madison Baker (1909-1920). Madison Baker, Jr. died in a tragic drowning on June 17, 1920, and was interred the following day in Oak Lawn Cemetery.

Grave of Madison Baker, Jr., as seen on January 16, 2012. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2021 Nadia K. Orton

After Madison’s decease in 1927, Ella Mae became the matriarch of the family. In 1930, she was enumerated in Chuckatuck District, on Pitchkettle Rd., as a laundress and head of a household of fifteen folks. Her son Arthur James, a contractor, daughter Bettie, and son-in-law Charles Edmonds, lived with her, along with several grandchildren, and unrelated boarders.7 Little sister Emma Susie lived separately, and worked as a laundress for a private family. Susie passed away in early January 1939 from complications of pneumonia. She was interred in Oak Lawn Cemetery by the Thomas Everette Cooke Funeral Company. Ella remained in the home on Pitchkettle Rd. until her death in 1950. She too, is interred in Oak Lawn Cemetery. She and her sister, Emma Susie, have a granite family monument in Oak Lawn.

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, November 28, 2014. All rights reserved.
The Boston Community, Suffolk, Virginia. Home of the Baker-Bullock Family. Photo: Nadia K. Orton.

  1. “1850 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 23 February 2021), Virginia, Nansemond County, Dist: Not stated, p. 102, citing, “Year: 1850; Census Place: Nansemond, Virginia; Roll: 962; Page: 178b.”
  2. “1860 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry ( : 23 February 2021); Virginia, Nansemond County, Dist: Lower Parish, p. 71, citing, “Year: 1860; Census Place: Lower Parish, Nansemond, Virginia; Page: 543; Family History Library Film: 805365.”
  3. The Weekly Virginian and Carolinean, March 22, 1894.
  4. Ancestry, “37th U. S. Colored infantry,” database with images, “Civil War Service Records (CMSR) – Union Colored Troops, 36th-40th Infantry,” Fold3 ( : accessed 2 March 2021), entry for Jerry Bullock, Sgt., Co. E, 37th U. S. Col. Inf., Union.
  5. “1870 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 20 February 2021); North Carolina, Wilson, Dist. Joyners, p. 10, citing, “Year: 1870; Census Place: Joyners, Wilson, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1166; Page: 500B; Family History Library Film: 552665.”
  6. “1880 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 2 March 2021); North Carolina, Wilson, Toisnot, Dist. 310, citing, “Year: 1880; Census Place: Toisnot, Wilson, North Carolina; Roll: 987; Page: 323B; Enumeration District: 310.”
  7. “1930 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 February 2021); Virginia, Nansemond, Chuckatuck, Dist. 0002, p. 32, citing, “Year: 1930; Census Place: Chuckatuck, Nansemond, Virginia; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0002; FHL microfilm: 2342185.”
Nadia Orton

Professional genealogist and public historian. Graduate of Duke University. President of the Sacred Grounds Project, Inc. Studying historic African American cemeteries and communities.

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