In 1929, a circus cook died instantly after falling under the wheels of a large truck on South Goldsboro Street. Per the Daily Times‘ October 1 issue, circus officials identified him as Frank Whitley, but knew little else about him.
By time his death certificate issued the following day, more information was available. The man’s name, instead, was Henry Thompson, and he was a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He was 25 years old, but his marital status was unknown.
Per the news article, Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Circus paid undertaker C.H. Darden & Sons to bury Thompson in Wilson. Rest Haven had not yet been established; he was probably laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Vick Cemetery.
In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Calvin Sutton, 25; wife Silvania, 26; children Hattie, 3, and twins Joel B. and Josephin, 1; mother Dolly, 55; brothers Dallow, 18, and Henry, 16; and sister Mary, 12.
On 20 December 1899, Frank Taylor, 21, of Wayne County, son of Alfred and Pleasant Taylor, married Hattie Sutton, 22, daughter of Calvin and Sylvania Sutton, at Calvin Sutton‘s house in Spring Hill township, Wilson County. Rev. W.H. Horton performed the ceremony in the presence of R.R. Braswell, A.B. Braswell, and L.H. Horton.
In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Frank Taylor, 19; wife Hattie, 23; and nephew Alfred, 7.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Upper Black Creek Road, farmer Calvin Sutton, 54; wife Sylvania, 58; daughter Hattie Taylor, 33; and grandchildren Olivia, 9, Viola, 7, Lillie M., 5, Georgiana, 4, and Mittie, 2; plus adopted grandson Frank McNeal, 16.
Olivia Barnes died 28 October 1918 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1899 in Wayne County, N.C., to Frank Taylor and Hattie Sutton; was married to Rossie Barnes; and was buried in Pate graveyard.
In the 1920 census of Selma township, Johnston County, N.C.: farmer Icm J. Joyner, 52; wife Hattie, 40; and children Viola D., 17, Lillie M., 15, George A., 14, Mittie L., 12, Lizzie, 7, Annie, 3, Zalista, 2, and James I., 5 months.
In the 1930 census of Beulah township, Johnston County: farmer James I. Joyner, 59; wife Hattie, 50; and children Lillie, 24, Lizzie, 18, Annie, 12, and James I., Jr., 10.
In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Isom Joyner, 67; wife Hattie, 61; daughter Annie, 23; son James, 20; daughter-in-law Victoria, 20; and granddaughter Lenis Atkinson, 5.
Isom Joyner died 3 June 1943 in Spring Hill township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 July 1875 in Wilson County to Mary Barnes; was married to Hattie Joyner; was a farmer; and was buried in Polly Watson.
Hattie Joyner died 4 August 1957 in Spring Hill township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 26 January 1878 in Wilson County to Calvin Sutton and Sylvania Simmons; was the widow of Isom Joyner; was a retired farmer; and was buried in Polly Watson cemetery. Annie Edwards was informant.
When tobacco processing plants could not convince or coerce or otherwise attract sufficient workers, Wilson’s office of the U.S. Employment Service of the War Manpower Commission turned to the Negro Ministerial Alliance. With a hiring center set up at Saint John A.M.E.Z. — the article says First Baptist, but that photo is Saint John — African-American ministers fanned out across Wilson with a basic message: “the harvest is ready and the workers are few.” (Delivered occasionally with a little of the Good Word.) In a week, they spoke with about 1500 people and signed up 700. [For perspective — Wilson’s total population in 1944 was about 20,000, of whom about 40%, or 8000, were Black.]
Citing the example of two skilled craftsmen who came to Wilson to decorate floats in the annual Tobacco Festival parade, Rev. Richard A.G. Foster encouraged African-American youth to gain employment skills. “There is work for you to do, if not in Wilson, in some place if you are prepared to do that work.”
I am continually surprised by evidence of Wilson County’s labor history. In addition to the Tobacco Workers Union, the Knights of Labor were active in the 1880s, and African-American brickmasons engaged in a series of strikes between 1902 and 1906.
This 1948 strike by stone workers was not the first in the industry, however, though it may have been the first union-led walkout. Laborers at Neverson quarry, the apparent predecessor to Bryan Rock and Sand, struck in 1916 to protest the arrest of several workers.
This aerial view of Lane Street (now Bishop L.N. Forbes Street), date-stamped 27 December 1994, offers surprises.
First, the bare expanse of Vick Cemetery, outlined in solid yellow. The city first cleared the cemetery with bush hogs in 1991. In late 1994, the period during which the photo was taken, city council was engaged in debate that led to reclearing, grading, and the complete removal of Vick’s headstones in the spring of 1995.
Second, the relative openness of Odd Fellows, whose approximate boundaries are outlined in dotted orange. The dark smudges closest to the street are pines that apparently were removed when Vick was cleared. The rear two-thirds of the parcel is overgrown with what appear to be bare deciduous trees. These trees, primarily poplars, hickory, and sycamore, remain today. The pines now cluster near the tree line on the southwestern half of the lot.
Rountree Cemetery, outlined in broken red, shows mostly a dark canopy of pine trees except along the edge of Sandy Creek.
Many thanks to Matthew Langston for the link to the 1994 aerial, NCDOT Historical Aerial Imagery Index, arcgis.com.
Unfortunately, this article does not name the “real talented [colored amateur] artists, presenting a series of different types of dances that originated within the colored race, [and] all sorts of singing and musical selections.”