Month: December 2018

Austin Branch killed accidentally.

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Wilson Daily Times, 19 December 1925.

Austin Branch, 50, son of Charles and Marjie Branch, married Lucinda Wood, 30, daughter of Albert and Harriett Wood, on 11 November 1906 in Wilson. Free Will Baptist minister W.H. Neal performed the ceremony in the presence of Martha Wood, Martha Ann Hearon, and Thomas Williams.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Gay Street, factory laborer Austin Branch, 45, and wife Lucinda, 33, both Virginia-born. Austin was twice-married.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 818 Robinson [Roberson], oil mill laborer Austin Branch, 59, and wife Cindy, 47, tobacco factory worker.

Austin Branch died 17 December 1925 at the Colored Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was about 55 years old; married to Lucinda Branch; resided at 1016 Robinson [Roberson] Street; was born in Enfield, N.C.; and worked as a day laborer at Farmers’ Oil Mill.

“Hemorrhage & shock from accident — Mutilated right leg from accident at oil mill.”

On 20 March 1926, the Wilson County Superior Court granted letters of administration for the estate of Austin Branch. Per the application, his estate was valued at about $750, and his heirs were widow Lucinda Branch, Charlie Branch, Hettie Branch and Bernice Branch.

1209 East Nash Street.

The ninety-sixth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East 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.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “1927; 1 story; William Wells house; bungalow with gable roof and engaged porch; built by Nestus Freeman; Wells was an auto mechanic.”

The house lies within the boundaries of the first phase of the Freeman Place housing redevelopment project and is the sole remaining pre-World War II house between Carroll Street and U.S. Highway 301.

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In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wells Mazie tchr h 1209 E Nash; (also) Wells Wm auto repr RFD No 4 h 1209 E Nash;

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wells Wm (c; Mazie H) prop Wells Garage h 1209 E Nash

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1207 [sic] East Nash, owned and valued at $1500, auto mechanic at garage William Wells, 34; wife Mazie, 32, public school teacher; son George, 7; brother-in-law George Cooper, 46, tobacco factory laborer; and sister Aldreta Cooper, 26, cook.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wells Wm (c; Mazie H) (Wells’ Garage) h 1209 E Nash; (also) Wells’ Garage (c; Wm Wells) 1401 E Nash

Charles Rudolph Bridgers died 15 January 1937 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 7 months, 5 days old and was born in Wilson to Jessie Bridgers and Margaret Kittrell.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: renting for $8/month, Jessie Bridgers, 32, truck driver for furniture company; wife Margaret, 27; and children Elizabeth, 6, and Jessie Jr., 5.

In 1940, Jessie James Bridgers registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 6 July 1905 in Halifax, N.C.; his contact was wife Margarette Bridgers; and he worked for J.W. Thomas and V.C. Martin at Thomas Yelverton in Wilson.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bridgers Jesse (c; Margt; 4) furn repr h 1209 E Nash

Wilson Daily Times, 19 January 1946.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Currie David (c; Rematha) lndry wrkr h 1209 E Nash

In a 3 September 1993 Wilson Daily Times article, “City OKs Owner Occupancy-Based Redevelopment”:

“City Council unanimously approved the Redevelopment Demonstration Project Area plan Thursday night despite concerns expressed by some property owners.

“The city proposes to redevelop the two-acre area bounded  by Nash, Carroll, Atlantic and Wainwright streets through housing acquisition, demolition and new construction activities. The redevelopment plan calls for construction of 12 new single-family homes for owner occupancy.

“The sole existing house to be spared demolition — and the only owner-occupied unit — is at 1209 E. Nash St. Charity Speight and her husband own that property.

“‘I was very concerned that no one came to talk to us,’ Mrs. Speight told council. ‘I feel we should have some input too.’ She said the house was rehabilitated two years ago. Even with those improvements, the house will not meet the standards of the new houses to be constructed on the rest of the block. Mrs. Speight said she and her husband are still paying off the rehabilitation loan and cannot afford to put more money into home improvements.”

A notice of conveyance published in the Times a year later made clear the exclusion of the Speights’ home from the city’s redevelopment project:

Wilson Daily Times, 29 October 1994.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2018.

New Negro school opened.

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Wilson Daily Times, 11 December 1936.

When Samuel H. Vick Elementary School opened in December 1936, about 600 children were transferred from the aging and seriously over-crowded Stantonsburg Street School to a brand-new building at 801 North Reid Street. (The older school was soon after renamed Sallie Barbour School and continued to serve children south of Nash or Hines Streets.)

Brown Skin Models — sho nuf they’re coming to town.

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Wilson Daily Times, 1 December 1936.

Though booked at the whites-only Wilson Theatre, “Brown Skin Models” revue (featuring “struttin'” and “moanin’ low tunes,” uproarious comedy, and “spirituals as only the negro can sing them”) the show’s “special midnight midnight performance” was an accommodation that allowed an African-American audience through the doors.

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As adapted from Wikipedia:

Irvin Colloden Miller (1884–1975) was an African-American actor, playwright and vaudeville show writer and producer. He was responsible for successful theater shows including Broadway Rastus (1921); Liza (1922); Dinah (1923), which introduced the wildly popular Black Bottom dance; and Desires of 1927 starring Adelaide Hall. “In the 1920s and 1930s, he was arguably the most well-established and successful producer of black musical comedy.”

In 1925, Miller started an annual show, Brown Skin Models, inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies, but glorifying attractive black women and exclusively using black performers. The show toured the country with great success for forty weeks a year and during the Second World War toured army camps as part of the United Service Organizations. Although the shows included song, dance, and comedy, the focus was on the models themselves, who “did not necessarily sing or dance [but] merely appeared in costume, walked across the stage, and posed.”

The show was hailed by the Chicago Defender as a radical departure from stereotyped plantation song and dance shows. Miller continued to produce versions of the show with his wife Blanche Thompson, one of the leading models, until he retired around 1955.

And see here for more on Sammy Stewart’s orchestra.

Irvin Miller - Brown Skin Models - poster

Photos courtesy of Matthew F. Delmont’s blog, Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers.

The division of the Ned Kent farm.

Ned Kent of Springhill township passed away 22 July 1940. The details of his will are detailed here.

Nearly eight years later, Wilson County Superior Court accepted the report of the commissioners appointed to divide Kent’s land among his many heirs. Born into slavery, he had accumulated 159 acres in southern Wilson County.

Book 150, pages 409-410, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

The interested parties were: James Kent and wife Nettie; Louise Kent Barnes and husband William Barnes; Narcissus Kent Lucas and husband John Lucas; Percy Kent and wife Cherrie; Cassanda Kent Williams; Jane Boykin; Jennie Lucas and husband W. Fred Lucas; Charlie Kent and wife Victoria Kent; Roscoe Kent and wife Mary; the children of Clara Ann Kent Hamilton (Purcelle Hamilton, Clara Beatrice Hamilton Payne and Matthew Hamilton); Fred Kent’s daughter Thelma Kent Barnes; Ada Kent Williams‘ son Willie Kent; the children of Arcelars Kent (Daisy Kent Williams, Chaney Kent Parker, Helen Kent Lipton, Ned Kent and Jim Kent); the children of James Kent (James R. Kent, Joseph W. Kent, Bessie Hardy, Thaddeus Kent, Johnnie W. Kent, Algie Marie Kent and Flora May Kent); the children of Narcissus Kent Lucas (Pearl Lucas Barnes, Kezzie Lucas Boykin); the children of Percy Kent (Carnell Kent, Lydie Frances Kent Craddock and Davie Nell Kent); the children of Louise Kent Barnes (Nannie Barnes Paschall, Sophie Mae Pulley, Benjamin Barnes, Randolph Barnes, Lydia Barnes Griffin, Gaybella Barnes Harris, Willie Mae Barnes Strickland, Glintle Lee Barnes Finch, Marcus Barnes, Mercedes Barnes, Joya Dennis Barnes, Kay Georgia Barnes and Shirley Barnes); the children of Jane Boykin (Grady Boykin, Willie Foster Boykin, William Gay Boykin, John Henry Boykin, Lillie Mae Boykin; Addie Boykin Miles, Fannie Boykin Clark, Tincie Boykin Williams, and Lydia Boykin Finch); the children of Jennie Lucas (Carrie Lucas Williams, George Lucas, William Lucas, Raspor Lucas, Callie Lucas, Emily Lucas, Chellie Lucas Gastings and Oscar Lucas); the children of Charlie Kent (James O. Kent, Roy Kent, George Kent, James T. Kent, Hubert Kent, Ned Kent, Ruth Kent Hinnant, and Janie Kent Richardson); and Casanda Kent Williams’ son Eddie Williams., plus any “unborn and unascertained children.”

Ned Kent’s farm was divided into 13 lots of just over 12 acres each. Lot #4, which contained the family cemetery, was slightly larger to compensate. A plat map shows an unpaved road running through lots 1 through 6 and a creek running at the edge of lots 7 through 10. Lots 1, 6 and 12 contained dwellings.

Plat Book 5, page 71, Register of Deeds office, Wilson County Courthouse.

The Kent land today, just west of Sullivan Road in far southwestern Wilson County. The road remains unpaved, and the cemetery is well-kept. Per Wilson County, North Carolina Cemeteries — Volume 1, a publication of the Wilson County Genealogical Society, the graveyard contains about 51 graves, including Ned Kent and wife Lydia; their daughter Mary Jane Kent Boykin, her husband John H. and son Grady; their sons Charlie and Marcellus; and others. The tiny creek at the bottom edge of the plat map is now an arm of Buckhorn Reservoir.

A close-up of the Ned Kent family cemetery and the road that runs past it:

Photographs courtesy of Google Maps.

Mattie B. Coleman of the Orange Hotel.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1985.

Per the Nomination Form for recognition as a National Historic District for “Wilson Central Business District – Tobacco Warehouse Historic District,” “According to the Sanborn maps, by 1913 the Orange Hotel was known as the Lynn Haven Hotel and by 1922 it was a dwelling. Vick lost the building during the Depression and the Mechanics and Farmers Bank held title until 1944. The present owner, Mrs. Mattie B. Coleman, purchased the property in 1950 and continues to live here and rent furnished rooms.”

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On 5 September 1920, Henry Coleman, 32, of Wilson, married Mattie B. Williams, 18, of Wilson, at her home in Wilson. Disciples of Christ minister Walter Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Jim Barkidale, Fillies Barkdale and A.L. Spates, all of Sampson County, North Carolina.

In the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Coleman Mattie B (c) h 526 E Nash

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 526 East Nash Street, paying $12/month in rent, widow Carrie Shaw, 48; and children Robert, 21, dry cleaning plant laborer, Cornie, 20, laundress, Louise, 18, private nurse, Jovester, 17, Aline, 15, and Nettie R., 12. Also paying $12/month, Dave Harris, 32, guano plant laborer; wife Bessie S., 27, laundress; and children Timothy, 12, Roy, 10, Ardria M., 8, Roland, 5, Odessa, 3, and Herman, 1. Also paying $12/month, boarding house keeper Mattie B. Coleman, 25; tobacco factory stemmer Enemicha Kent, 20; tobacco factory stemmer Carrie M. Shine, 22, and Callonia Shine, 15; wholesale grocery delivery boy Mitchel Hamon, 24, and wife Ella, 17; restaurant dishwasher James Nelson, 21; laundry ironer Irene Rountree, 27; and cook Maggie Downing, 26.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 526 East Nash Street, rented for $20/month, Mattie B. Williams, 36, rents room-lodging house; Herbert Wiggins, 25, filling station helper; Ernest Davis, 28, veneer factory fireman, and wife Dolly, 29, both of South Carolina; George Rountree, 33; and Sadie Collins, 31, of New York, cafe proprietor.

Mattie Bea Coleman died 10 November 1986 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 March 1904 in Wilson County to Thomas Williams and Sylvester [maiden name unknown]; resided at 526 East Nash; was a widow; and was a hotel owner. Informant was widow Hattie Margaret Williams of Baltimore, Maryland.

Melia azedarach.

Chainyball trees, as they are locally called, are small, multi-trunked trees that produce copious yellow drupes in fall. These fruit persist well into winter and create a noisome sludge when they fall and rot. Though now widely regarded as an invasive species and a “trash tree,” the chinaberry tree, Melia azedarach, was once as common in East Wilson landscapes as the still-popular crepe myrtle.

Fruit, close-up.

“Chainy balls” in late December.

Chinaberry tree in front of a South Lodge Street house.