Month: January 2021

The Gazette visits Wilson.

Raleigh Gazette, 30 January 1897.


A glimpse of the past.

To stand at the intersection of Goldsboro and Spruce Streets, looking northeast, is to see Wilson much as it looked in the 1920s. Several early tobacco factories operated in this area, and the surrounded streets were lined with the small houses rented to African-American factory laborers.

At left, the two-story brick building, in its original cast-iron form, was Dibrell Brothers Tobacco Factory and Re-Ordering Plant and, by 1922, was the warehouse of tobacco brokers Monk-Adams & Company. The rail line, originally a spur of the Norfolk & Southern Rail Road, is visible in the detail of the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map below. 

The low brick building at the right of the photo contained the office and tobacco storage and drying areas of the British-American Tobacco Company’s facility. The water tower at the far end of the block above can be seen on the map below as a small gray square with a blue insert near the corner of Spruce and Spring [now Douglas] Streets. 

The tin-roofed red building in middle distance appears to be an expanded version of the small auto shed marked just above the rail line on the Sanborn map. 

The three houses on the west side of Spring/Douglas Street have been demolished, but the little saddlebag house in the distance, its roof white with the remnants of a brief snow, is 515 South Douglas Street. Formerly numbered 601, the house appears in Sanborn maps as early as 1908.


Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, January 2021.

Lane Street Project: digging for markers.

I don’t know when or why two dozen intact headstones, and bits of several more, were piled atop one another in Odd Fellow cemetery’s midsection, or who did it. (Though I don’t believe this was the city’s dirty work.) Here’s the way I found a buried stack in the pile.

After disassembling the visible stack, I prodded the earth around it for hidden stones. My soil probe struck a solid surface here:

I snapped the wisteria runners with a lopper, brushed away soil and leaves, and found this:

I turned it over — the top half, and below that the bottom half, of the headstone of infant Johnnie McNeal. (And a few pieces from a different grave marker.)

Below McNeal’s headstone, another came into view.

This belonged to Belle Dewey, who died in the middle of the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic.

And under Belle Dewey’s stone, half the headstone of Adeline, wife of Daniel S[mith], plus more bits of others.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, January 2021.

Lane Street Project: Rachel Barnes Taylor.

The grave marker of my father’s paternal grandmother, found 27 January 2021.


In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Willis Barnes, 30; wife Cherry, 25; and children Rachel, 7, West, 5, Jesse, 2, and Ned, 5 months.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Willis Barnes, 42; wife Cherey, 20; stepdaughter[?] Rachel Battle, 17; children Wesley, 15, Jesse, 13, Ned, 11, Eddie, 7, and Mary Barnes, ; niece Ellen Battle, 2; and son Willey Barnes, 1.

On 21 September 1882, Mike Taylor, 20, Wilson, married Rachel Barnes, 19, of Wilson, in Wilson. Baptist minister Louis Croom performed the ceremony in the presence of W.T. Battle and Edmon Pool. [Prominent planter Howell G. Whitehead (Jr. or Sr.?) applied for the marriage license on Mike Taylor’s behalf, suggesting a personal relationship — most likely employment. Whitehead erroneously named Taylor’s father as “John” Taylor and admitted he did not know the names of Taylor’s mother or either of Barnes’ parents.]

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Mike Taylor, 36, drayman; wife Rachel, 36; and children Roderick, 17, Maggie, 14, Mattie, 13, Maddie, 12, Bertha E., 8, and Hennie G., 6.  Rachel and daughters Maggie, Mattie and Maddie were occupied at washing.  Roderick and the youngest girls “go to school.”

On 16 May 1906, W.T. Taylor applied for a marriage license for Roddrick Taylor, 23, of Wilson, 23, son of Mike Taylor and Rachel Taylor, and Mary J. Pender of Wilson, 18. Fred M. Davis, Baptist Minister, performed the ceremony the same day at Mike Taylor’s in Wilson, with witnesses W.T. Taylor and Addie Rauls.

On 30 May 1906, W.I. Barnes, 22, married Madie Taylor, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Mike and Rachel Taylor, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister N.D. King performed the ceremony in the presence of William Mitchell, Alex H. Walker, Roderick Taylor, and Sarah Ward.

On 10 August 1906, Sam Ennis, 22, of Durham, N.C., son of Freeman and Della Ennis of Smithfield, N.C., married Maggie Taylor, 20, of Durham, daughter of Mike and Rachel Taylor of Wilson, in Durham. Presbyterian minister I.H. Russell performed the ceremony.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lee Street, drayman Mike Taylor, 52; wife Rachel, 51, laundress; daughters Mattie, 21, Bertha, 18, and Henny, 16, laundresses; and niece Louise, 12.

Hennie Taylor died 25 December 1916 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 1897 in Wilson County to Mike Taylor and Rachel Barnes; worked as a domestic; and was buried in Wilson. Rodderick Taylor was informant. 

On 14 January 1920, Bertha Taylor, 24, of Wilson, married Jimmie Reaves, 26, of Pitt County, in Wilson. Rev. B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Roderick Taylor, John Barber, and Van Smith. 

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 114 Lee Street, Mike H. Taylor, 50, cook in cafe; wife Rachel, 58; son [actually, nephew] Tom Perry, 12; bricklayer Van Smith, 33, and his wife Mattie, 28.

Rachel Taylor died 2 October 1925 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 54 years old; was born in Wilson County to Willis Barnes and Cherry Barnes; was married to Mike Taylor; lived at 108 West Lee Street; was buried in Wilson; and worked as a laundress. Roddrick Taylor was informant.

Mike Taylor died 8 January 1927 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was about 68 years old; was the widower of Rachel Taylor; worked as a day laborer; was born in Wilson County to Green Taylor and Ferby Taylor; and was buried in Wilson. Roddrick Taylor was informant.

Roderick Taylor Sr. died 4 August 1947 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 March 1882 in Wilson to Henry Taylor and Rachel Barnes and worked as a barber.  Informant was Mary J. Taylor, 607 East Green St., City.

Bertha Reaves died 18 June 1962 in Greenville, Pitt County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 March 1891 in Wilson County to Henry Taylor and Rachel [no maiden name]; was married to James Reaves; worked as an elevator operator; and lived at 1400 West Fourth Street, Greenville. She was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.

Lane Street Project: a sign.

Not that I needed affirmation, but …

When I found this stack of gravestones at the end of February 2020, I described the assemblage as a “broken granite marker support[ing] two intact concrete headstones, two marble footstones, and a few other chunks of rock.”

Yesterday, when I started prising the mound apart and snapping the wisteria runners that bound it, I quickly realized there was a whole lot more than had initially met my eye. And today — well, let me start where I ended:

Forgive me. Rachel Barnes Taylor was born in 1863 and died in 1925. (Her husband, my great-grandfather Henry Michael Taylor, died in 1927. Does his grave marker survive, too?) Her death certificate states only that she was buried in Wilson, N.C. I had not known if that meant Rountree or Odd Fellows or Vick cemetery. Odd Fellows it turns out. Nearly one hundred years after her death, I uncovered her stone face down, strapped to the earth by wisteria and covered in leaves and loam, in a jumble of more than two dozen other markers, several too broken to decipher. I’d say the ancestors approve of Lane Street Project.

I will speak more of Rachel Taylor later, but right now I want to call the names on the slabs I found with her:

  • Bessie McGowan, 1888-1925, Gone But Not Forgotten
  • Jesse Parker, 1890-1937, A Light From Our Household Is Gone
  • Frank Scott
  • Sunny Simms
  • Rev. J.H. Scott, 1857-1940
  • _____ Mercer
  • Ed Hunter
  • Rufus, son of James and Amelia Artis, 1900-1916, We Can Safely Leave Our Darling Harboring In Thy Trust
  • Tempsey, wife of Rufus Speight, died 1917, age 75 years, Gone To A Brighter Home Where Grief Cannot Come
  • M.E.S.
  • Cha_____
  • Omelia Artis
  • Adeline, wife of Daniel S_____
  • Johnnie, son of John and Lula McNeal, 1917-1917, Asleep in Jesus
  • Belle, wife of A. Dewey, 1929, age 28, Gone But Not Forgotten
  • James F. Scott, 1887-1939, Who Is Now With The Lord 

Lane Street Project: decades of desecration.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 June 1967. 

Dumping in Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries has been a problem for more than half a century. By 1967, ordinary citizens had taken over the job of trying to clear the burial grounds, which were already overgrown and junky. 

In studying the newspaper photo, I immediately recognized Walter and Nettie Foster‘s headstones in the foreground. Here they are as of this morning: 

But is that a dirt road at the bottom edge of the newspaper photo? Yes! If you were to look left from the vantage point of my photo, you’d be looking through two iron poles that once supported a gate into Odd Fellows cemetery. There is a cut in the bank alongside Lane Street that clearly once was the opening for the access road visible in the 1967 image.

The 1964 aerial view below clearly shows the access road, with (A) being the gate. It is also visible in the 1971 aerial view.

(B) is now at the chain-link fence separating Vick and Odd Fellows cemetery. The only evidence of the road at this location is a large midden strewn with plastic bags and synthetic oil jugs. (Hat tip to Erin Hollaway Palmer of Friends of East End, who pointed out that dump locations were likely located along the sides of overgrown and forgotten access roads.) Much of the trash is criss-crossed with wisteria runners, which will complicate its removal.

At the chainlink fence, looking northeast into Odd Fellows cemetery.

Cemetery photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, January 2021.

Gen. Austin has ties to Wilson.

On 22 January 2021, the United States Senate confirmed Gen. (Ret.) Lloyd Austin as President Joe Biden as Secretary of Defense. The Wilson Times noted that Gen. Austin had ties to Wilson through his wife Charlene D. Austin and quoted Congressman G.K. Butterfield Jr.‘s remarks about his close friendship with her parents. Mrs. Austin’s father was Maryland Lee “M.L.” or “Tank” Banner, and her stepmother was Margaret Reid Banner. M.L. Banner was a Concord, N.C., native who moved to Wilson in the late 1950s to work at Reid Street Community Center. Margaret Reid Banner was a Wilson native, a descendant of the Wayne County Reid family whose Wilson branches included veterinarian Elijah L. Reid, principal and banker J.D. Reid, farmer Henry S. Reid, barber Willie G. Reid, and carpenters John R. Reid and John B. Reid. After many years in Pennsylvania, M.L. and Margaret Banner returned to Wilson in the 1980s, where both were deeply involved in community service for the rest of their lives.


In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 614 Vick Street, laborer Oscar Reid, 26; wife Nora, 20; and daughter Thelma, 2. 

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1007 Washington Street, dry cleaner Oscar Reid, 41; wife Nora, 39, laundress; and children James O., 20, Cecil, 18, Percell, 16, Leotis, 14, Margarett, 7, Evangeline, 4, Eugene, 3, and Lettie Romaine, 2 months.

Margaret Reid graduated Darden High School in the Class of 1949.

From the The Trojan (1949), the Darden High School yearbook.

The Round House Museum adds virtual tours.

I met historical consultant Beth Nevarez in late February 2020, just a couple of weeks before COVID-19 shuttered the world. I followed Beth on Instagram @bethnevarezhistory and came to admire the work she does on behalf of two local institutions, the Tobacco Farm Life Museum and Ava Gardner Museum, to help them maintain their missions and keep their collections accessible in the unprecedented conditions created by a global pandemic. I was excited last fall to be able to connect Nevarez and Bill Myers, the Freeman Round House’s Executive Director, and the result is a fantastic update to the Round House museum’s website. The museum is now open with safety protocols in place, but until you’re able to get there, you can enjoy virtual tours of several of its exhibits. Please check it out here, and please consider including the Freeman Round House and African-American Museum in your giving plans. As a small institution with a unique and important local focus, it needs your support more than ever.

Bill Myers introduces the virtual exhibits.

A little of what you’ll find.