“I remember the first election held here after the negroes were given the right to vote. The negroes were corralled in Little Washington by J. E. O’Hara, a West India negro, and formed in two lines and marched to the Court House. I was standing on the piaza [sic] of the old Griswold Hotel, when they turned down Walnut Street, and as the last of the line passed where I was standing, the head of the column was turning into the court house square near where Col. I. F. Dortch’s office stands. The election lasted for three days and the votes were sent to Gen. Canby’s headquarters at Charleston, S.C. to be counted. At the first election held after the adoption of the Canby Constitution, one negro, Green Simmons, was elected on the Board of County Commissioners. Negroes were appointed on the police force of the town. A Yankee, J. H. Place, who came here with the army, was elected mayor. The finances of the town and county both got into bad shape, county orders getting down as low as forty cents on the dollar.”
From J.M. Hollowell, “War-Time Reminiscences and Other Selections,” Goldsboro Herald, June 1939.
In the 1850 census of South Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Green Simmons, 33, cooper, wife Betsy J., 26, and children Needham, 5, Cicero, 3, and Mary, 1. All were born in Wayne County, except Betsy, born in Sampson.
Born in 1844 in New York of West Indian and Irish parentage, James E. O’Hara migrated to North Carolina after the Civil War with African Methodist Episcopal Zion missionaries. He served as clerk for the 1868 state constitutional convention and was elected to the North Carolina State House of Representatives in 1868 and the United States House of Representatives in 1882. O’Hara died in New Ben in 1905.