Month: August 2021

Bynum killed by lightning in tobacco barn.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 July 1931.

This Times article provides more details of the tragic death of Abraham Bynum, which was also reported in the Pittsburgh Courier


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: sawyer Charley Bynum, 41; wife Julia Ann, 43; and children Calvin, 21, Mary Jane, 18, Ameta, 16, Annie, 13, John C., 9, and Abraham, 1.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Bynum, 52, factory laborer, born in N.C. to Virginia-born parents; wife Sarah, 26; and children Abraham, 10, Augusta, 4, and Etta, 2; and lodgers John Call, 17, factory laborer (born in Mississippi to a N.C.-born father and Mississippi-born mother), Calvin Bynum, 26, factory laborer, and Anna Boon, 20, house servant.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, Sarah Bynum, 30, widow, and children Abraham, 25, Anna, 20, Charlie, 6, Augustas, 15, Etta, 13, and James, 10.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 807 Stantonsburg Street, owned and valued at $800, John C. Bynum, 38; wife Estelle, 37; daughter Cora A., 10; and siblings Abraham, 32, Augusta, 24, and James, 19. 

On 2 February 1931, Abraham Bynum, 30, son of Charlie and Julia Bynum, married Carrie Beaman, 23, daughter of Dave and Sarah BeamanWillie McLondon, a Free Will Baptist minister, performed the ceremony at 707 Suggs Street in the presence of Jack RountreeAlice Davis and Leemoor Hannah.

Per his death certificate, Abraham Bynum died 21 July 1931, “killed accidentally by being struck by lightning during electrical storm.” He resided at 1008 Woodard Street, Wilson; was 31 years old; was married to Carrie Bynum; and worked as a day laborer at a tobacco manufacturing plant. He was born in Wilson to Charles Bynum and July Ann Davis, a Pitt County native, and J.C. Bynum of 807 Stantonsburg Street was informant.

The bare facts.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 April 1932.

The Lincoln Theatre, a white-owned theatre catering to African-American audiences, operated in the late 1920s and early 1930s at 417 East Nash Street. Can anyone identify the “daring inside story of the traffic in souls”?

417 East Nash Street, courtesy of Google Maps. In the 1970s, the building housed a legendary discotheque, Midtown Lounge, and now is home to a branch of Whole Truth Church.

Hill’s 1930 Wilson, N.C., city directory lists Greek immigrant George C. Woller as the manager of the Lincoln.

Praying for rain.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 August 1930.

Late in the summer of 1930, Steven Ray issued a call “to all races, tribes and tongues” to join him at Calvary Presbyterian Church to pray for rain. Ray was not pastor of Calvary, and it is not clear of which church he was minister. 


In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Washington Street, David Jeffers, 47, laborer; wife Ethel, 43; stepchild Luther Mack, 18, laborer; father-in-law Stephen Ray, 55, widower, laborer. [Also on Washington Street: Jessie Williams, 42, wagon factory laborer; wife Lizzie, 38; sisters-in-law Sarah, 14, Hattie, 12, and Katie Ray, 9; brother-in-law Stephen L. Ray, 7; and sister-in-law Lillian Ray, 5; and daughter Margrett Williams, 13.]

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ray Stephen (c) lab h Washington av nr Vick

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ray Stephen (c; Emma) 901 Stantonsburg

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ray Steph (c) porter Miller’s 200 E Nash

Stephen Ray died 24 April 1933 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 59 years old; was married to Emma Ray; lived at 914 Washington Street; was a preacher; and was born in Cumberland County, N.C., to Phillip Ray and Annie Ray. Informant was Lizzie Williams. 

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Men’s Civic Club, no. 3.

This photo of the Men’s Civic Club was taken in the home of one of its members in 1975. Though dated after the period of Black Wide-Awake, like this photo of the Book and Garden Club, it captures several men who came to prominence in Wilson’s African-American middle class in the first half of the 20th century.

Seated (all of whom were original members depicted in the 1941 photograph of the club):

Second row:

  • ??
  • ??
  • ??
  • Rev. Talmadge Watkins, Baptist minister.
  • Separise P. Artis, business owner.
  • Rev. Obra J. Hawkins, Presbyterian minister.
  • Dr. Frank N. Sullivan Sr., physician.
  • John W. Jones, educator.
  • ??
  • Milton M. Daniels, educator.
  • John M. Miller Jr., educator
  • Cleveland W. Lewis Sr., educator.
  • Walter Stevens, educator

Third row:

Any assistance identifying the other club members is much appreciated!

Photo from the collection of the late Susie Chavis Sullivan, courtesy of Frank N. Sullivan Jr. (who taught me to swim at Reid Street Community Center!) Thank you!


Save your money by seeing us.

Wilson Blade, 20 November 1897.

Ed Smith and Goodsey H. Holden ran this ad in the Blade, a late nineteenth-century African-American newspaper published in Wilson.

For more highlights of the single surviving issue of the Blade, the original of which is housed at Freeman Round House and Museum, see here and here and here and here.

Trees of Wilson available at DigitalNC.

DigitalNC’s blog recently announced the availability of 25 years of Wilson County Genealogical Society’s newsletter, Trees of Wilson. I’ve been a member of WCGS since 1998 — see my hat tip here — and am pleased to see that its fine newsletters — which I’ve saved faithfully for more than 20 years — are now widely available to all.

As a bonus, DigitalNC shouted out a Trees article about Black Wide-Awake:

“One notable article was published in the March 2016 newsletter titled: “Black Wide-Awake: The Roots of Wilson’s African-American Community.” The article recounts a presentation given by Lisa Y. Henderson—a Wilson County native, WCGS member, researcher, and writer. In her lecture, she talks about the local history and heritage of Wilson County’s early African American community, including information on the earliest recorded account of African Americans in Wilson County. In addition, Henderson discusses the difficulties of researching African American family history, early communities, and provides links to places where she has gathered her information so that others may also use the resources. Her blog was highlighted here last year as a great example of how DigitalNC is used on the web.”

108 years ago this month …

Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church opened its iconic brick edifice at the corner of East Nash and Pender Streets. First Missionary Baptist’s pastor Rev. Marshall A. Talley welcomed a line-up of mostly local prominent guest speakers.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1913.

John F. Bruton was the keynote speaker on opening day and delivered this strange and eye-poppingly (by today’s standards) offensive homily: “One thing you people cannot afford to stop, it is your native song. When you cut that off, you cut off your right hand. I remember my old mammy as she clasped me to her withered bosom singing ‘These bones shall rise again.’ Then I was taught the meaning of immortality, ‘when I can read my title clear,’ she sang. I knew that she was going to read her title in the skies. I do not know what heaven is, but I know she is there. As for me I’ll be content to spend the first thousand years there, listening to the angels singing, with that old mammy joining in the chorus, with her hand in mine leading me to my mother. That will be heaven for me. You can’t abandon those songs! When you do, you’d just as well turn this church into a moving picture show.”


Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The funeral of A.D. Dawson.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 June 1930.


Alexander D. Dawson was a man of many pursuits, including teacher, poll holder (a person who was in charge of and supervised voting, secured ballots, and tallied and certified election results), census enumerator, grocer, and fish dealer. He was buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.