That’s the one lived in the house next door to me where Miz Reid was staying. And she moved in there. She and her husband. Johnnie … Williams. And her name is what? What is her name? And we was best of friends. We’d go to movies together, go all downtown, go shopping. — Hattie Henderson Ricks
This photograph appears to date from the late 1930s-early 1940s. I have been unable to document Loudella Williams’ life in Wilson.
“The Southern Area of The Links, Incorporated came into existence on the Monday after Easter, April 19, 1948 at 1:00 p.m. with the organizing of the sixth club – Rocky Mount-Wilson-Tarboro. The establishment of this group came after more than a year of intense planning and activity by the founders of The Links, Incorporated, Links Sarah Scott and Margaret Hawkins, and their seven friends of the Philadelphia Club. They felt it was time to expand their organization into the South. This duty was given to their friend Julia Delaney of Raleigh, NC and Link Doris Joyner Reynolds, who became a member of the Philadelphia Club late in 1947 (Link Reynolds was born in Winton, NC).
“Julia Delaney discussed this with her daughter, Nan Delaney (Hines) Johnson, who lived in Wilson, NC. Nan felt that eastern North Carolina was an ideal place to extend the chain of friendship. With the help of her friend, Ann Armstrong of Rocky Mount, NC, five friends from Rocky Mount, five friends from Wilson, and one friend from Tarboro, NC were named and this began the Rocky Mount-Wilson-Tarboro Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Julia Delaney brought her cousin, Link Doris Reynolds of the Philadelphia Club, to Rocky Mount to induct the thirteen ladies into the first southern club of Linkdom. Link Doris Reynolds administered the pledge in an impressive candlelight ceremony to Ann Armstrong, Marguerite Armstrong, Sallie Armstrong, Nancy Bowens, Esmeralda Hawkins, and Jessie Pash of Rocky Mount, Grace Artis, Addie Butterfield, Norma Darden, Ethel Hines, Nan Delaney Hines, and Vera Shade of Wilson and Helen G. Quigless of Tarboro.
“Even though the Club was organized in Rocky Mount at the home of Esmeralda Rich Hawkins and initially called Rocky Mount-Wilson-Tarboro, the name later changed to Wilson-Rocky Mount-Tarboro because the inspiration from the idea of having this group came from Nan Delaney (Hines) Johnson of Wilson, NC who served as the first president of the club.”
Vera Green Shade — Vera Shade was married to pharmacist Kenneth M. Shade. She died in Wilson 29 January 1967. Per her death certificate, she was born 24 December 1915 in Bartow, Florida, to Archie Green and Eva Mack; was widowed; was a teacher; and resided at 207 North Vick Street. Informant was Sarah Shade, 602 East Green Street, Wilson.
Beautiful. Last fall, in her quest to learn more about the owners of an abandoned photo album, New York Times reporter Annie Correal stumbled across Black Wide-Awake and contacted me to get a feel for early 20th century Wilson. I am delighted to have played a small role in bringing this story to light.
Here’s a passage:
“Etta Mae Barnes was born on July 28, 1918, in Wilson, N.C., which once called itself the world’s greatest bright-leaf tobacco market. When Ms. Taylor was young, it was a boomtown. Thousands of African-American families had migrated to Wilson from the countryside to pick tobacco on farms and hang it in big warehouses downtown.
“The first pages in the album seemed to be of Wilson; several photos had stamps from photographers’ studios there. There were portraits of women in flouncy dresses, babies, a boy with a dog, a group in straw hats in a field.
“In two portraits placed side by side, a middle-aged couple posed by a flowering bush, in front of a clapboard house. I wondered if they were Etta Mae’s parents.
“Etta Mae’s mother, Anna Bell Green Barnes, was born in Virginia and worked as a hanger at a tobacco company, the documents revealed. Her father, James Frank Barnes, was a grocery store clerk. His family went back generations in Wilson County.
“Etta Mae was one of six. When she was still a child, her oldest brother, Charles, boarded the train that passed through Wilson and became part of what we now call the Great Migration, the exodus of millions of black Southerners from the Jim Crow South. Judging from the album, many of Etta Mae’s relatives had gone north; I could tell them apart from their country kin by their suits and furs.
“Etta Mae left school after seventh grade and went to work as a housekeeper in a private home, according to the 1940 census. That year, 10 other people were living at the Barneses’, including an aunt; an adopted daughter; Etta Mae’s sister Mildred; Mildred’s husband, Jack Artis; and their baby, Charles.”
Household of Frank and Annie Green Barnes at 1000 South Carroll Street, Wilson, 1940 census.
The fifth in a series of posts highlighting buildings inEast Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
623 and 625 East Green Street.
In Green Street’s heyday, brothers Albert and Charles Gay inhabited these adjacent houses near the intersection of Elba Street.
In the application for inclusion of East Wilson in the National Historic Register, 623 Green Street is described: “ca. 1922. 2 story. Albert Gay house; Colonial Revival house with hip-roofed, cubic form; side lights frame entry; Gay was a porter.” 625 was described: “ca. 1913. 1 story. Charles Gay house; L-plan cottage with decorative millwork in front-facing cutaway bay; contributing auto garage; Gay was a laborer.”
Albert and Charles Gay were sons of Samueland Alice Bryant Gay. Sam Gay, son of Amos Thigpen and Harriet Gay, married Alice Bryant, daughter of Louisa Bryant, on 10 February 1870 in Wilson. P.E. Hines performed the ceremony.
In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Samuel Gay, 24, wife Alice, 20, and brother Albert, 21.
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm worker Samuel Gay, 27, wife Allice, 25, and children Blanch, 8, Louizah, 7, Edgar, 4, Charlie, 3, and Mamie, 1 month.
On 6 November 1886, Blanch Gay, 16, married Jeff Farmer, 23, at Sam Gay’s residence. J.N. Rasberry, an A.M.E. Church South minister performed the ceremony in the presence of Sam Gay, Dallas Taylor and George Farmer.
On 29 October 1891, Louisa Gay, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Samuel and Allice Gay, married Edward Barnes, 22, of Wilson, son of Willis and Cherry Barnes of Wilson township at Sam Gay’s house. J.W. Levy, an A.M.E. Zion minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of S.H. Vick, Spencer Barnes, and Thomas Deans.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Sam Gay, 54; wife Alice, 50; and children Charlie C., 23, Edgar B., 25, Lucy, 17, Samuel, 14, Albert and Beatrice, 10, and Lily, 4.
On 6 March 1902, C.B. Gay, 24, of Wilson, son of Sam and Alice Gay, married Ella Tate, 21, of Wilson, daughter of Hardy and Mary Tate, in Wilson. Rev. N.D. King performed the ceremony at Saint John’s A.M.E. Zion church in the presence of Rev. E.A. Mitchell, J.D. Reid andS.H. Vick.
On 25 June 1902, John H. Lewis, 22, of Wilson, son of Henry and Matilda Lewis of Tarboro, married Lucy A. Gay, 19, of Wilson, daughter of Sam and Alice Gay, at Saint John’s A.M.E. Zion Church. Rev. N.D. King performed the ceremony. John Reid applied for the license, and S.C. Ligom, C.R. Cannon and Mary Taylor witnessed.
In the 1908 Wilson city directory, Samuel Gay is listed at 620 East Green Street, which was the same lot (if perhaps an earlier house) as 623. (The numbering system changed in the early 1920s, and even numbers switched to the south side of the street.)
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Gay, 28, wife Ella, 28, and Charlie, 18 months. Next door: Samuel Gay, 65, wife Alice, 55, and children Albert, 20, and Lilly, 15. Though no street name or number is listed, it is clear that Sam and Charlie and their families were living at 623 and 625 East Green.
On 20 February 1913, Albert S. Gay, 23, of Wilson, son of Samuel and Alice Gay, married Annie B. Jacobs, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Jesse and Sarah Jacobs, in Pasquotank County, North Carolina. Rev. N.D. King performed the ceremony at his residence at 38 Bunnell Avenue, Elizabeth City. Witnesses included Albert’s sister, Mrs. Mamie R. King.
On 29 December 1913, Fred Bolling Jr., 30, of Lynchburg, Virginia, and Lillie Gay, 21, of Wilson were married by Rev. B.P. Coward at the A.M.E. Zion Church in Wilson. Camillus Darden applied for the license, and witnesses included Dr. W.A. Mitchner and Elizabeth Hinnant.
Patriarch Samuel Gay died 1 February 1919 in Wilson, Wilson County. Per his death certificate: he was 73 years old, married to Allace Gay, resided at 620 Green Street, worked as tenant farmer for W.E. Warren, and was born in Wilson County. Charley Gay was informant.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Alice Gay, 45; daughter Beatrice, 26; grandson Jerome Wood, 11; granddaughter Gereddine, 10; son Albert, 30; daughter-in-law Anabell, 24; grandsons Albert Jr., 4, and Jesse, 2; son-in-law Fredrick Bolling, 35; daughter Lillie, 23; and grandchildren Delma, 4, and Fredrick, 2. Next door: Charley Gay, 39, ice house laborer; wife Ella, 30; and sons Charlie Jr., 11, and Edgar, 7. [Thus, it is clear that after Sam’s death, Alice remained at 623 with three of her children and their families.]
Mamie Gay King died in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on 28 July 1927. She was buried in Wilson.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 623 Green, widow Annie B. Gay, 30, a laundress; husband Albert, 40, a bellboy; mother-in-law Alic, 73; and children Albert Jr., 14, Jessie, 11, Hal, 8, Samual, 6, Mirrian, 4, and Ralph, 2. The house was valued at $8000. Next door at 625: Chas. B. Gay, 52, hotel janitor, wife Ella J., 48, laundress, and children Chas. Jr., 21, bellboy, and Ednor R., 17. The house was valued at $3000.
Albert Gay died 4 October 1932 at Moore-Herring Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born 29 August 1889 in Wilson to Samuel Gay and Alice Bryant; was married to Annie Bell Gay; and was a bellman at Cherry Hotel for 25 years. Beatric Holden was informant. [In that segregated era, Moore-Herring was a whites-only hospital. Perhaps Albert gained admission — or, at least, treatment — because of relationships he built during his long tenure as a bellman.]
Ella Gay died 19 November 1933 in Wilson. Per her death certificate: she was 50 years old; was married to Charlie Gay; resided at 402 Reid Street, Wilson; and was born in Greenville, North Carolina, to Noah and Mary Jane Brown. Informant was Charlie Gay. [It would appear that Charles and Ella Gay lost their home at 625 East Green in the early 1930s, perhaps as a consequence of the Depression. Also, Ella’s parents were, in fact, Hardy and Mary Jane Tate.]
Alice Bryant Gay died 24 October 1938 in Wilson. Per her death certificate: she was born 1 January 1854 in Wilson County to Lousie Bryant of Goldsboro, North Carolina; was a widow; and resided at 402 North Reid Street, Wilson. Lucy Lewis of Newark, New Jersey, was informant.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 623 Green, Albert Gay, 24, truck driver for retail furniture store; and his siblings Harrell, 19, Samuel, 17, Annie M., 14, and Ralph, 12; plus lodgers Mrs. Julia Russell, 40, and her son, Albert, 22. Next door, at 625: Rev. Eddie H. Cox, 49, and wife Carrie H., 32.
Charlie Gay died 2 January 1953 at his home at 220 Pender Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born 3 April 1881 in Wilson County to Samuel Gay and Alice Bryant; he was a widower; and he had worked as a laborer. Beatrice Gay Holden, 623 Green Street, was the informant.
Samuel Gay died 13 February 1954 in Richmond, Virginia, as his residence at 2412 East Main Street. Per his death certificate: he was born 2 February 1886 in Wilson, North Carolina, to Samuel Gay and Alice (last name unknown); was married to Elizabeth Gay; and was a tobacco worker at P. Lorillard Company.
Blanch Farmer died 27 March 1959 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate: she was born 29 July 1889 in Wilson to Samuel Gay and Alice Bryant; resided at 897 East Viola Street, Wilson; and was widowed. Goldie Ricks, 1413 East Nash Street, Wilson, was informant.
Louisa Gay Barnes died 12 June 1960 in Wilson at her home at 563 Suggs Street. Per her death certificate: she was born 10 April 1871 in Wilson County to Sam Gay and Alice Bryant and was a widow. Alice Bryant [her daughter, not mother], 653 Suggs Street, was informant.
Beatrice Gay Holden died 28 July 1967 in Wilson. Per her death certificate: she was born 29 February 1903 in Wilson County to Samuel Gay and Alice Bryant; resided at 623 East Green Street; and was the widow of Jesse Holden. Informant was Albert Gay, 623 East Green. [In fact, Beatrice was born about 1890.]
Hattie Henderson Ricks was related to Albert Gay by marriage. Her adoptive mother and great-aunt Sarah Henderson Jacobs was the second wife of Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., Annie Bell Jacobs Gay’s father. In interview given in 1998, she told Lisa Y. Henderson this:
That was the home house — where Albert Sr. lived. And his daddy would be in the back where there was a space running back to Viola Street. Albert’s daddy – he didn’t have but one leg. I think they called him Charlie, too. [In fact, he was named Sam Gay.]
He would sit in a chair, a low chair, and take a hoe and chop all the way around him. Chop, make a wedge [inaudible] and then get up and move that chair around, get back in there. And I could see him from our house [on Elba Street] in the back over the fence, ‘cause it wasn’t a wooden fence, it was just a wire fence. See him out there working. It was right around the corner from us. Annie Bell’d hang clothes out there all the way back down in the garden where he was chopping. It was a nice garden back out there. And he got around on that peg leg. And I never knowed what happened to the leg. I didn’t never think to ask nobody. I wasn’t nosy enough to ask nobody. But ever since I can remember, didn’t have nothing but that one leg. And when you see him sitting in that chair, with a hoe, chopping as far as he could reach. And make them rows, plant seeds, dig a hole, put seeds in there. And he’d call some of ‘em to bring him this thing or that thing and all.
This annotated portion of the 1922 Sanborn insurance map of Wilson clearly shows 623 and 625 East Green Street, as well as Annie Bell’s father’s house around the corner. On this map, 623 is marked (by a small “1” in the upper left corner of the house’s plan) as a one-story house, which supports another of Hattie H. Ricks’ recollections:
And the house, well, it hadn’t always been a two-story house. They put the top on it.
Annie Marian Gay Hawkins, daughter of Albert S. and Annie Bell Jacobs Gay. She grew up at 623 East Green Street, and descendants of her brother Albert Jr. lived there into the 1990s.
Photograph of houses by Lisa Y. Henderson; edited excerpt of interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, copyright 1998, all rights reserved; original photo of Annie G. Hawkins in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.
This handsome, but bedraggled, church looms over a dead-end intersection just off the main road bisecting Elm City. It now appears to be home to a Tabernacle of Prayer for All People. It began life, however, as First Presbyterian Church, one of many congregations in eastern North Carolina fostered by Rev. Clarence Dillard, but one with a unique and startling place in the Civil Rights history of the Region.
“The first volley between local authorities and activists in Wilson in the summer of 1964 gave change agents the opportunity to continue their pursuit of greater freedom. In the early part of June, James Costen, the young pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, a small church located in Elm City, invited an interracial group of northern students from New York and Pennsylvania to Wilson to paint the outside of the church. Costen and his parishioners were African American. Upon arriving in the small town north of Wilson, the group of students was approached by Robert Jones, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. In a not-so-veiled threat, Jones informed the students that he could not guarantee their safety if they remained in town and attempted to paint the church alongside Negro volunteers. The northern volunteers promptly packed up and returned home.
“Events in Elm City quickly took a turn toward the bizarre. On the evening of July 9, Costen received a phone call from Jones, who informed him that he had gathered approximately two hundred fifty Klan members from Wilson and Nash Counties in front of the town hall. Then, Jones offered the services of his crew to paint the church. Jones’ assortment of handymen included thirty-five expert painters equipped with forty floodlights and forty gallons of paint. They would work all night, said Jones, and finish by noon the next day. Undoubtedly flustered by the Grand Dragon’s offer to paint the rural black church, Costen demurred, maintaining that the decision to paint the church now rested in the hands of his superiors. Jones accused the pastor of “not wanting to get the church painted, but of desiring to make a racial issue by bringing in outsiders.” Jones then informed Costen that an “integrated brush” would not touch the walls of the church, and that another attempt toward that end could get somebody killed. When Mayor George Tyson found out about the presence of hundreds of Klansmen armed with paintbrushes and paint in his city, he called the sheriff’s office in Wilson. The sheriff’s office then notified the mayor that Governor Terry Sanford had just mobilized the state highway patrol. Authorities broke up the assembly around eleven that evening. “I feel safe in saying,” Costen later told a reporter, “at this point we will refuse their help.””
Please follow the link above for the full text of the article, which was published on-line in History Now: The Journal of Gilder-Lehrman Institute. First Presbyterian’s resistance, which unfolded during the mounting tensions created by the disappearance in Mississippi of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, received wide coverage across the country. Today, though, the story of this small rural church’s stand against the Klan is largely forgotten.
Church’s location at 522 East Wilson Street, Elm City. (U.S. Highway, at bottom, is a north-south artery.) First Presbyterian has merged with Mount Pisgah Presbyterian in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Hat tip to Cassandra W. Wiggins for identifying the photograph I took of the church in July 2016. Map courtesy of bing.com.
Jim Thorp — On 22 March 1900, James J. Thorp, 22, of Wilson, son of Edy Thorp, married Hattie Bunn, 17, daughter of Joshua and Emma Bunn, at Joshua Bunn‘s house in Wilson. Richard Renfrow applied for the license, and Baptist minister Fred M. Davisperformed the ceremony in the presence of Hilliard Ellis, Levi Jones and Phyllis Ellis. In the 1912 Wilson city directory, James Thorp, insurance agent, is listed at 654 Viola Street.
Fannie McGowan — on 30 August 1905, at the bride’s residence on Vance Street, Henry Matt Daniel, 40, son of Dave and Flora Daniel, married Flora McGowan, 28, parents unknown. A.M.E. Zion minister N.D. King performed the ceremony in the presence of L.A. Moore, J.S. Spell, and Mack Sharp.
In the 1900 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: widow Harriet Jones, 32, and daughters Viola, 11, Nancy, 6, and Roxie, 3.
In the 1900 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Benjamin Coley, 38, wife Tempy, 35, and sons James, 16, and Eddie, 13.
On 2 January 1910, Jas. Coley, 21, of Old Fields, son of Ben and Tempie Coley, married Roxie Hinnant, age not given, of Old Fields, daughter of Gillis and Harriet Hinnant, in the presence of William Boykins, Williamson Jones, and Freddie Jones.
In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: widow Harret Kerny, daughters Dazle, 12, and Lillian Kerny, 11, grandson George Kerny, 6, son-in-law James Coley, 21, ad daughter Roxie Coley, 16.
In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer James Coley, 34; wife Roxie A., 26; and children Harriett, 9, Martha, 7, Nancy, 4, and James E., 2. Next door: Ben Coley, 60, wife Tempie, 60, and granddaughter Maggie, 13, with servant George Kerney, 17.
In the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer James Coley, 42; wife Roxie, 34; and children George, 19, Willie, 17, Ben, 4, and Beulia, 1.
In the 1940 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer James Coley, 54; wife Roxie, 43; children Harrit, 17, Martha, 16, Nancy, 14, James E., 13, George L., 11, Willie, 8, Bennie, 14, and Beulah, 11; Carrie Marie, 4, and Lou, 1; niece Rematha Coley, 8, and nephews, L.V., 7, Johnny Lee, 6, and William Arthur Coley, 4.
Roxie Coley died 27 February 1960 at her home at 207 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate: she was born 25 December 1900 in Wilson County to Douglas Jones and Harriette Jones; was married to James Coley; her usual residence was in Sims, Wilson County; and she was buried in Jones Hill cemetery.
Bvt.Col. A.G. Brady, Supt. Central Dist. N.C., Raleigh N.C.
Col., I had the honor about ten (10) days since to receive through you a communication from a man in Boston inquiring about a family of freedmen in Wilson Co. which I sent to Mr. J.J. Lutts in Wilson and he replied that the family was then doing well etc. but I mislaid the communication so I cannot find it or it may have been taken or dropped from my pocket, or I fear most torn up and swep out with waste paper and you will much oblige by sending a copy of the breif with endorsements. The family inquire about was Taylor and Barnes. Your kind attention and early reply is respectfully solicited. Very respectfully, yr obt. Svt., Jas.W.H. Stickney [illegible]
Bureau of Refugees Freedmen &c., Hd.Qrs. Asst. Commissioners, Raleigh N.C. Dec 14th 1866
Bell Jas B., Boston Mass
Sir, In answer to your communication of Oct 19th [illegible] in relation to whereabout of certain colored people. I quote language of Asst Supt at Goldsboro N.C.
“This family inquired for are living in the town of Wilson Wilson County N.C. are doing well and any communications for them can be addressed to Mr Benjamin Woods or to his care at Wilson”
Your communication having been mislaid the names of the family cannot be given.
Very respectfully, Your Obdt Servant, Jacob F. Ohm, Bt.Lt.Col. & A.A.A.G.