This photograph was found at 208 North Pender Street shortly before the house was demolished. The house had been owned by the Clinton and Minnie Lockhart Bess family since the 1920s and was last occupied by their children Ruth Gladys Bess (1912-2003) and Rev. James Clinton Bess (1915-2002).
The photograph, which probably dates from shortly after the turn of the century, depicts four African-American men in suits and six women dressed in nurses’ caps and pinafores. The men at right are John Merrick (1859-1919) and Dr. Aaron M. Moore (1863-1923), who founded North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association (now North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company) in Durham in 1898.
In John Merrick: A Biographical Sketch, published in 1920, R. McCants Andrews quoted a long-time North Carolina Mutual employee: “The second oldest agent in the service of the company is Mr. L.A. Moore, of Wilson, North Carolina, who is still in the employ of the company.”
Lee A. Moore lived on Pender Street, but not at 208, and it is not clear whether anyone in the Bess family worked for N.C. Mutual. Though the insurance company employed nurses, such as Henrietta R. Colvert, that provided home healthcare, none of the women above has been identified as someone with a direct connection to Wilson. Nor have the men at top left.
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., Directory (1908-1908).
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Many thanks to Edith Jones Garnett for sharing this image.