Month: February 2018

Smith’s and Brown’s filling stations.

By the late 1920s, automobiles were common on Wilson County roads, and “filling stations” and garages began to cluster on roads leading out of town. The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory includes these three owned by African-Americans:

Annie Smith was listed as the proprietor of Smith’s Filling Station, located on East Nash beyond the city limits, in the 1925 city directory. (There was no listing for the business in 1922.) It seems, then, that she sold the gas station to Columbus E. Artis (who otherwise ran an undertaking business) and the garage to Alex Obey [Obery] shortly before 1928.

Similarly, in 1925, the owner of Brown’s Filling Station, at the corner of East Nash and Wainwright, was contractor/stonemason Nestus Freeman, who lived a few houses down Nash Street. It is not clear who “Brown” was, but Albert Speight elected to retain the name when he purchased the business from Freeman.

A reminder of “quasi-innocent wrongdoing.”

This chapter, offering a wistful comment on the destruction of a vestige of Jim Crow, is excerpted from William B. Clark Jr.’s Some Reflections On and Trivia of Wilson’s Tobacco Auction Warehouses 1890-1980, self-published in 1991:

A LESS THAN OBJECTIVE COMMENTARY?

Whenever local history buffs engage in a discussion involving the BANNER WAREHOUSE’s original segment (built in 1899), surely they concur that this particular construction deserves to be recognized as a Wilson landmark. The presently on-going demolition, therefore, cannot help but elicit at least some cry of protest and disappointment.

Inside the structure’s Kenan and South Tarboro Streets corner area formerly stood a two-unit, public drinking fountain (previously mentioned on page 47), its water cooled by passage through segments of half-inch galvanized pipe arranged in convolution and laid upon the floor of a deep box-like container kept filled with large blocks of ice delivered, when needed, to the warehouse by a local ice company. Vestigial evidence of this archaic fixture is found in the continued, but flaking-off, presence of two words (black in-color-of-paint, capitalized lettering) on the white-washed Kenan Street wall an eye level’s height above the warehouse sales floor; viz., WHITE to the viewer’s right and COLORED on the left … guilt-evoking “artifacts” from a by-gone era of southern culture and history when even water fountains in places so publically wide open — at least during the marketing season — as tobacco auction warehouses were rigidly maintained on a separate-but-equal basis.

Social reformers need not despair; for whatever taboos Civil Rights Legislation has failed to erase inside a commercial building long ago closed to the general public will be vanquished in their entirety once this demolition project has been completed.

If the dismantling of BANNER WAREHOUSE for a moment in brevity causes something of another era to resurface and remind the observer of a prior generation’s quasi-innocent wrongdoing, then the crumbling of these aged walls serves-up a meaning and purpose which reaches far beyond the mere physical activities taking place on this plot of urban soil.

It is more than simply traditions which are being laid to a dusty rest; for “transgressions” are being obliterated in reality even if not expunged from the pages of all our history books; and if nostalgia abounds in the loss of a tobacco auction warehouse long the epitome of this community’s central warehouse district, yet must there rise spontaneously a wholesome candor that applauds the demolition of walls and their lettered, gasping reminders of a “way that was.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 9.00.06 PM.png

This aerial view of Banner Warehouse, taken perhaps in the 1930s, shows the building’s location at Tarboro and Kenan Streets, at the edge of Wilson’s sprawling central tobacco warehouse district. Photo courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III’s Historic Wilson in Vintage Postcards (2003).

Studio shots, no. 68: Bessie Richardson Jones Bowden.

Born in Oxford, North Carolina, Bessie Richardson [as she was known, despite her marriages] was brought to Wilson as a housekeeper and cook by Mr. and Mrs. Carl Goerch. After about a year, she went to work for opthalmologist Thomas Blackshear and his wife. “She was with the Blackshears so long until she earned the nickname of Bessie ‘Blackshear’ by many patients, friends and neighbors of the Blackshears.”

Richardson also sewed curtains for homeowners on West Nash Street and cooked [catered?] meals for black businessmen, including Dr. George K. Butterfield, Daniel “Mack” McKeithan and Dr. William M. Mitchner.

She cared for two of her brothers, Wilbur and Leo Taylor, during their last illnesses. Wilbur Taylor worked for many years as a cook at the Ship and Shore Restaurant on West Nash.

Bessie Richardson was a devout Catholic and long-time member of Saint Alphonsus Church. She and her husband, Willie “Skeeter” Bowden, had no children.

——

  • William R. Bowden, age illegible, of Wilson, married Bessie T. Jones, 34, of Wilson on 15 June 1926. Oscar Reid applied for the license, and J.W. Aiken, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, performed the ceremony at Willie R. Bowden’s home in the presence of Ferdinand Faison, John Sanchas and John Lee Devaughan. Willie Bowden died 5 March 1960 at his home at 203 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 13 November 1901 to Mary Adams; was married to Bessie Bowden; and worked as a laborer. He was buried at William Chapel cemetery, Elm City.

Text adapted from article in and photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

515 East Walnut Street.

This large bungalow, heavily modified from its original form, is not located within the East Wilson Historic District. Seated on the north side of East Walnut Street, it is now surrounded by Whitfield Homes, a 1960s-era urban renewal project that obliterated several blocks immediately west of the Seaboard railroad and south of downtown. (Specifically, it is south of the former tobacco warehouse district, from which it is cut off by Hines Street Connector/Carl Renfro Bridge, a 1970s overpass project that wiped out additional streets to bypass Nash Street and link east and west Wilson.) The house is owned by the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith and is part of a compound that includes the church and the delectable Whole Truth Lunchroom.

East Walnut Street (circled), as shown in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map.

The area today, per Bing.com.

West Walnut Street was pulled relatively late into the confines of Wilson’s max segregated residential pattern, and the point at which the street “turned” is easily detected.

The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists carpenter Cullen Uzzell at 515 East Walnut. He was white. A comparison of the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map and the directory reveals that the 500 blocks of Walnut and its adjacent street, Spruce, were white, with little exception.

The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists John and Mary Winstead at 515 East Walnut. They were white as well.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 515 East Walnut, rented for $9/month, house painter Elisha F. Lane, 43, wife Lena, 43, and daughter Nellie, 13. The 1930 city directory also lists E. Franklin Lane at 515 East Walnut. The street-by-street listing at the back of the directory reveals that East Walnut was solidly “colored” from Goldsboro Street east across Spring [Douglas] and Lodge Streets to #505. The next house, 509 (across a vacant lot, as a Sanborn map shows), is occupied by a white family, and white families fill the street’s remaining blocks to a dead end at Factory Street. [Lane died in Wilson in 1948. Per his death certificate, he had lived at his Nash Street address for 15 years, which means he left Walnut Street in or before 1933.]

During the latter half of the Great Depression, the 500 blocks of East Walnut and East Spruce shifted to an all-African-American neighborhood of renters.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists: Sims Cary (c; Delia; 2) h 515 E Walnut. As the directory reveals, white residents remained only in the last three houses on the street, hard by the railroad.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 7.00.22 PM.png

1941 city directory.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map showing cluster of African-American-occupied houses east of Lodge Street in an otherwise white area. 515 East Walnut is shown at the bottom edge of the map.

Photograph taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2018.

55th anniversary.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 9.42.03 PM.png

New York Age, 16 February 1935.

On 12 January 1880, James T. Teacher, 21, son of Andrew J. and Nancy J. Teacher, married Betsey J. Musgrove, 20, daughter of Hay’d and Penny Musgrove, at the Wayne County courthouse.

In the 1900 census of Dudley, Wayne County: farmer James T. Teachie, 41, wife Betsey, 37, and children Jhon H.M., 19, Lu V.J., 17, Hareward T., 15, Ann L.J., 13, Betsey J., 10, Julia A., 6, Louis J.E., 3, Susan A.L.B., 11 months.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, house carpenter James Teachee, 53, wife Betsey, 48, and children Haywood, 22, Julia, 18, Louis J., 14, Susie L., 12, and Chas., 10; plus Garfield Granton, 30, Betsey, 23, and son John, 2.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vick Street, house contractor John [sic] Teachey, 64, wife Betsey, 52, and sons James H., 36, a carpenter, and James E., 23, a contractor.

James Thomas Teachey died 27 December 1944 in Wilson, probably of a heart attack. He was a widower and had worked as a contractor and builder. He was 86 years old and had been born in Duplin County to Nancy Teachey. He was buried at Rountree cemetery. Daughter Luvicy Wynn, who resided at 402 North Vick with Teachey, was informant.

Teachey’s daughter Bessie Grantham died 31 October 1965 at her home at 402 Vick Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 December 1895 in Wayne County to Thomas and Betsey Teachey. Informant was Mrs. J.A. Pearine, 35 West 128th Street, New York City.

Papered or painted, cheap and quick.

In the earliest years of his ministry, Rev. Fred M. Davis continued to ply his trade as a wallpaper hanger, sign painter and interior decorator.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 9.14.33 PM.png

Wilson Advance, 8 February 1894.

——

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Fred M. Davis, 33, paper hanger; wife Diannon, 31; children Eva M., 6, Bertha E., 5, and Fred M., 17 months; plus mother Judith Davis, 50, laundress.

The People’s Palace.

The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists the People’s Palace, a soda shop at 901 East Nash Street. Washington Wilkins and Edward Taylor co-owned the establishment. Wilkins’ day jobs were in construction.

National Register nomination form describes a brick commercial building built about 1940 at 901 East Nash as the People’s Palace, a confectionary operated by Rufus Hilliard. The building has since been destroyed.  If it was the same building that housed Wilkins and Taylor’s Palace, it obviously was built well before 1940.

H.T. Bowers, known for his sinful life, gets saved.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 12.23.56 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 3 February 1922.

Alfred L.E. Weeks was pastor of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, then located on Hadley Street.

Though he may have been “chief among the gamblers,” H.T. Bowers [not Bowser] did not leave much record in Wilson. He and Bertha Knight were married 30 January 1922 by Rev. Weeks. Per their marriage license, Bowers, 33, was the son of H.T. and Manda Bowers of Wilson County, and Knight, 31, was the daughter of Mahala Knight of Wilson County. The ceremony took place in the presence of F.F. Battle, Mack Bullock and David C. Weeks.

Bowers repented just in time, as he died of typhoid fever on 23 January 1923, a week shy of a year after his marriage. Per his death certificate, he was about 40 years old; was born in Texas; lived at 306 South Street; and was married to Bertha Bowers. Daisy McClain, 306 South, was the informant.