Month: June 2021

The death of Ellen Clark.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 June 1913.

We have seen Ellen (not Ella) Clark here, in a post about her headstone, discovered in Odd Fellows Cemetery.

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  • Ben Wootten — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on West Walnut Street, Ben Wooten, 45, restaurant proprietor; wife Georgia, 36; and Rosina, 16, and Russell, 11. Ben Wooten died 18 October 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 77 years old; was married to Georgia; lived at 119 West Walnut; engaged in farming; and was born in Pitt County, N.C.
  • Lonnie Hopkins — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Hines Street, Rhesa Moore, 45, laundress, widow; daughter Ethel Moore, 15, factory laborer; lodger Mary Lumford, 23, cook; grandson Willie Lumford, 7; and lodgers Alfred Cook, 28, and Lonnie Hopkins, 26, guano factory laborers. On 24 September 1916, Lonnie Hopkins, 28, of Wilson, son of Jim and Julia Hopkins, married Ara Blount, 19, of Wilson, daughter of Daniel and Sue Bynum Blount, in Wilson. Disciples minister J.B. Kornegay performed the ceremony in the presence of Millard Grady, Ellar Blount, and W.M. Edwards.

Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for the clipping. 

The death of Ann Jack, (probably not a) centenarian.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 August 1922.

“Ann Jack” was Annie Jackson Williamson. Her death certificate is perplexing, as it lists a death date of August 12 — two days after the newspaper notice above. A closer look reveals this notation by the certifying physician: “I HEREBY CERTIFY that I attended deceased from about Aug 1st, 1922, to one visit only, that I last saw her alive on or about Aug 1st 1922 and that death occurred, on the date above, at 735 am. The CAUSE OF DEATH was as follows: ‘I did not visit her but once, extreme old age and heart dropsy.'” So did she die August 1 or sometime between then and August 12? It’s not clear.

Annie Williamson lived on Daniel Street, was a widow, was born in Wilson County to Allace Rice, and was about 100 years old. Ujennia Williamson was informant. 

Annie Williamson was likely closer to 80 years old.

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On 4 February 1868, Jack Williamson, son of Toney Eatmon and Hester Williamson, married Ann Boykin, daughter of John Harper and Alder Ried, at Jack Williamson’s in Wilson.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: domestic servant Robert Vick, 19, and wife Spicy, 18; Anna Williamson, 25, washerwoman, children Jena, 10, Charles, 5, and Ann I.M., 2, and husband Jackson Williamson, 45, blacksmith.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Tarboro Street, Jack Williamson, 55, blacksmith; wife Ann, 30; and children Eugina, 20, cook, Charles 16, blacksmith shop worker, Tete, 14, and Lea, 4.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Annie Williamson, 51, and daughters Lugenia, 35, and Susan A., 23, all laundry women.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Ann and Lugenia Williamson were listed as laundresses living at West Walnut near Tarboro Street.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 604 Daniel Street, Annie Williamson, 85; daughter Lugenia Williamson, 40, laundress; and grandchildren Sylvester, 18, bottling works laborer, and Mittie Williamson, 3. 

Big colored picture.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 October 1922.

Here’s Turner Classic Movies’ synopsis of Spitfire, which was released by Reol Productions in January 1922: “Guy Rogers, the son of a well-known publisher, sets out to prove his father’s racist critics wrong by putting Booker T. Washington’s philosophy into practice. He goes to a little Maryland Hills town where through his efforts a school and a library are built. He falls in love with Ruth Hill, whose recently widowed father, an ex-schoolteacher, is killed after being involved in horse thievery. ‘Buck’ Bradley, the local dealer in hay and feed, who put Ruth’s father up to the crime, has been made her guardian, and he beats up Guy when he tries to defend her. She nurses Guy back to health, love blooms, and they marry.”

Lane Street Project: a road trip to South Asheville Cemetery.

My maternal grandmother was from Iredell County, on the western edge of North Carolina’s Piedmont. Her grandfather John Walker Colvert’s sister, Elvira Colvert Morgan, last appears in records in 1880, when she and her husband shared a household with Squire Gray, a 20 year-old who likely was her close relative. By 1900, Squire Gray, his wife Rachel, and their daughters had moved 100 miles west and were living in the Kenilworth neighborhood of South Asheville. Squire Gray died 21 June 1921. His death certificate noted that he was 61 years old, was married to Rachel Gray, and worked as a common laborer. He had been born in Rowan County to Orange Gray and Rachel Colbert, and was buried in South Asheville Cemetery.

I visited Asheville this past weekend to celebrate my birthday. As we headed home yesterday morning, I pointed the car first at South Asheville Cemetery. Though relatively large, the cemetery is not easy to find. Its address is that of 1920s’ era Saint John “A” Baptist church, now inactive and tucked deep in the middle of a neighborhood that is clearly well-to-do and no longer predominantly African-American. Skirt the gates to the church’s little parking lot, however, and South Asheville Cemetery opens up before you.

It is billed as the oldest and largest public African-American cemetery in North Carolina, and began in the 1840s as a cemetery for the enslaved laborers of the family of William Wallace McDowell. It was active until the 1940s and fell into disrepair thereafter. In the 1980s, church members began working to restore the cemetery and bring it back to the public’s attention. South Asheville Cemetery Association’s website details the cemetery’s history, links to an enviable set of maps of the locations of the cemetery’s two thousand burials, and displays photographs of the site in the early 1990s that make me dare to dream about what is possible at Odd Fellows and Rountree. 

Only 98 headstones have been found in the cemetery, though the large undressed fieldstones scattered about most likely once marked graves. 

A small weathered marker. 

The new neighbors.

The grave of George Avery, the freedman and U.S. Colored Infantry soldier who was caretaker for the cemetery until his death in the 1930s. Avery kept mental, not written, records of the locations of burials in South Asheville.

The fine headstone of barber and Prince Hall mason Tecumseh C. Hamilton.

A cluster of headstones among the oaks, tulip poplars, and maples that tower over South Asheville Cemetery.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2021.

724 East Green Street.

The one hundred thirtieth 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 East Wilson Historic District, 724 East Green was built circa 1950 and is a one-story, aluminum-sided, L-plan cottage. It is “non-contributing,” meaning that it did not meet the criteria  However, the house depicted above has asbestos, rather than aluminum, siding, and is plainly shown in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson.

Detail from 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map.

In 1918, Charles Robert Cannon registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 July 1889; lived at 654-25th Street, Newport News, Virginia; worked as carpenter for Boyle-Robinson Construction, Newport News; and his nearest relative was Stattin E. Cannon, 651 East Green.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, at 724 East Green, Cannon, Charles, carpenter; Cannon, Lavalier, domestic; and Cannon, Stattie, dressmaker.

In the 1925 and 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cannon, Stattie (c) smstrs h 724 E Green

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 724 East Green, rented for $20/month, Stadie Cannon, 51, seamstress, widow; son-in-law Bennie Lee, 30, cleaner at dry cleaner plant; daughter Ruth, 28; and lodger Herbert Page, 39, cleaner and dryer at dry cleaning plant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 724 East Green, rented at $6/month, Roscoe Harvey, 32, barber; wife Helen, 28; and daughter Catherine, 9.

In 1940, Roscoe Lee Harvey registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he resided at 724 East Green, Wilson; was born 5 July 1905 in Lumberton, N.C.; his contact was wife Helen McMillan Harvey; and was self-employed at 114 East Barnes.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Rosser Nettie Mrs (c) h 724 East Green.

In honor of soldiers, sailors, marines and nurses.

O. Nestus Freeman built the massive stone base of this World War I memorial.

It stands at the entrance to the Wilson County Fairgrounds (and, formerly, stockcar race track) on 301 South. A June 27 Daily Times article announcing the Fourth of July 1935 unveiling of the monument describes the base as: “a shaft or pyramid of stone 20 by twelve feet, sixteen feet high, containing 86 tons of Wilson county granite surmounted by thirty-four foot flag staff ….” No mention of Freeman.

I don’t know stone masonry technique, but this knife-edge crease, rendered in igneous rock, is pretty amazing. 

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2021. 

Annual farm family picnic.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 June 1941.

County Extension Agent Carter W. Foster published a reminder of the annual county-wide picnic for farm families, held in 1941 at Yelverton School in far southeastern Wilson County.

Rest in peace, Grace Whitehead Artis.

I grew up in a forest of teachers — my parents, their friends, my aunts and uncles, our neighbors. Every Black teacher I had during my elementary years was a woman I already knew away from school, which was both comforting and a little uncomfortable. They cared, and they didn’t need to wait for parent-teacher conferences to voice their concerns.

Grace Whitehead Artis was my sixth-grade math teacher. She had a slightly gruff voice and a reputation for sternness, but her eyes twinkled beneath her crown of swept-back curls. I saw her wheeling her Cadillac through the neighborhood regularly and knew she and her husband S.P. Artis thought the world of my parents. Fairly soon after school began, she called my mother directly. “Get Lisa’s eyes checked,” she counseled. “She’s solving problems correctly, but they’re not the equations I’m writing on the blackboard.” Weeks later, I was peering at the world in trendy aviator frames, marveling at details like pine needles high up in the trees.

Mrs. Artis passed away early this month at age 104. She had moved to Detroit a few years ago to be near a niece, so it had been a while since my father had stopped by to deliver the ice-cold cans of Pepsi-Cola she loved. My mother had been embraced by Mrs. Artis when she arrived in Wilson as a young bride, and she helped celebrate Mrs. Artis’ last birthday via Zoom.

I’ve blogged about Mrs. Artis and her family here and here and here and here and here and here. May she rest in peace, legacy assured.

 

Seeking barbecue photos.

Marion Post Wolcott image of man and two women rendering fat after a hog killing, near Maxton, N.C., 1938. Library of Congress. (Not Wilson County, but this scene would have been familiar.)

Time to dig in those old scrapbooks. Black Wide-Awake is collaborating on a major research project, and we need your help! We are looking for African-American family photos of Wilson County pig pickings, whole hog barbecues, cookouts, and farm life. If you are interested in sharing your family photos for an amazing project that will celebrate the foodways, traditions, and legacy of Wilson, North Carolina, please contact Zella Palmer at zpalmer@dillard.edu. or Lisa Y. Henderson at blackwideawake@gmail.com.

 Photo of Parker’s Barbecue pit worker courtesy of “The Barbecue Bus: Parker’s Barbecue, Wilson, N.C.” (2011).