Enough to close the place.

An article about the results of hearings for businesses charged with liquor law violations contains an interesting tidbit. Effie Boswell, a white woman who ran a roadhouse “just off the Wilson-Lucama Highway,” i.e. today’s U.S. Highway 301, was ordered to reduce her hours and pay a five hundred dollar bond to keep her place open pending her next hearing. The order also provided that “there was to be no more mixed dancing of white and negro persons at the place,” an allegation the judge considered was alone sufficient to shut the place down.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 April 1939.

An earlier article reported that Boswell’s place, described as a grocery store and filling station, had been closed initially, but the judge had amended his order after legions of upstanding citizens vouched for her good character. Nevertheless, by May 1939, Boswell had agreed to shut her doors permanently, and the State dropped its prosecution.

  • Effie Boswell — Per her death certificate, Effie Lamm Boswell was born 21 January 1889 in Wilson County to Edwin and Zillah Bass Boswell. She died 13 September 1970. She was the widow of Jesse Boswell.


  1. J. T. Boswell was my grandmother’s best friend’s husband and as I understand it, he was also a bootlegger. Please let me know if you find any additional information about these cases. I will be following with great interest!

    1. Most female bootleggers I’ve run into got into the business via a husband! It was interesting that so many people surged forward to defend Effie Boswell, and there’s almost a suggestion that she was framed with the insinuations that she allowed race-mixing. It’s exceedingly difficult to imagine a spot that allowed black men to dance with white women in Wilson County in the 1930s. (Though not so much white men with black women.)

      1. I misspoke in my comment. J. T. Abernathy was the friend of my grandmother and one of her husbands, Edmund L. Crawford.

        And I concur with you assessment of how female bootleggers often came to be—quite often because they were good drivers and could deliver the goods perhaps without causing as much notice as their husbands might have.

        You are quite astute to point out that it does seem difficult to imagine a spot that allowed black men to dance with white women, and more likely it would have been the other way round if at all. Knowing what I know about race relations in Wilson when I was growing up, such actions in either direction would have been very risky business.

        I would be interesting in learning more about this from the Boswell angle as well as the name Effie Boswell has a familiar ring to it as well, although I have no idea why.

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