Author: Lisa Y. Henderson

History. Genealogy. Culture.

Closing exercises of the Colored Graded School.

Wilson Mirror, 9 May 1888.

Twenty-five year-old Samuel H. Vick had been teacher and principal at the Colored Graded School since shortly after his graduation from Lincoln University. A year after this graduation, he was appointed by President William H. Harrison to his first stint as Wilson postmaster, a highly sought-after political patronage position. Vick hired his old friend Braswell R. Winstead, with whom he had attended high school and college and taught at the Graded School, as assistant postmaster. Teacher A. Wilson Jones was married to Vick’s sister Nettie Vick Jones — and murdered her in 1897. Annie Washington was about 18 years old when this article was published. She and Samuel Vick married almost exactly four years later.

The Evans and Taylor families of Taylor township.

As we’ve seen here, here, herehere, here and here, “race” in the 19th century could be an expansive construct, even within a family. Some people classified as “mulatto” into the turn of the 20th century transitioned to full whiteness within a few decades. Others, classified as white, but having mixed-race children, became mulatto, though nothing had changed about their physical presentation. The Evans and Taylor family of Taylor township, connected by marriage, are another example. The Evanses were descended from Elizabeth Evans, a white woman, whose children were mixed-race. This Taylor family descended from Sally Taylor via her daughter Harriet Taylor, both white.

In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Elizabeth Evans, 45, white, with Ivey, 16, and Elizabeth Evans, 13, both mulatto; plus Temperance Perry, 35, and Margaret Perry, 7, both white. Also, E. Evans, 50; Edith Evans, 19, both white, and Ivy, 14, and E. Evans Jr., 12, both mulatto.

On 27 August 1851, Elizabeth Evans married Richard Locus in Edgecombe County. [This is the younger Elizabeth Evans.]

On 18 May 1855, Ivy Evans and Sarah Brantley received a license to marry in Nash County, but never returned it to the courthouse.

In the 1860 census of Mannings township, Nash County: Ivey Evans, 23, farm laborer, and wife Sally, 28, with farm laborer Gilbert Howard, 20, all mulatto. Next door: Richard Locus, 35, farm laborer, wife Elizabeth, 26, and children William J., 7, Frances E., 4, Julia A., 3, and John E., 1, all mulatto; plus Elizabeth Evans, 50, white.

In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ivey Evans, 37, and wife Sallie, 39, both mulatto. Next door: Betsey Evans, 65, white. Next door to her: Telitha Driver, 53, Harriet Taylor, 21, and Margrett Taylor, 2, all white.

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Richard Locust, 48, farm laborer; wife Betsey, 36; children William, 17, Francis, 15, Julia, 13, John, 10, Elizabeth, 8, Robert, 5, James, 3, and Henriettie, 1.

In the 1880 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Elisha Driver, 60, white, “stays with niece”; Harriett Taylor, 35, white; her children Margrett, 12, Ellen, 9, John H., 6, and Dora Taylor, 4, all mulatto. Next door: Ivory Evans, 50, and wife Sally, 45, both mulatto. Ivey Evans was the father of at least some of Harriett Taylor’s children.

On 18 November 1888, Ellen Taylor, 18, of Wilson County, son of Harriett Taylor, married Dora Locus, 18, of Wilson County, daughter of John and Delphia Locus, in Taylors township, Wilson County. [Delphia Taylor Locus was the daughter of Dempsey Taylor and Eliza (or Louisa) Pace and was Harriett and Ellen Taylor’s cousin.]

On 10 May 1890, Ivy Evans, 56, son of Betsey Evans, married Harriett Taylor, 47, daughter of Sally Taylor, in Taylors township, Wilson County. Though Harriett was white in 1880, both are described as colored.

On 7 April 1900, John Davis, 50, of Wilson County, married Dora Taylor, 21, of Wilson County, daughter of Iva Evans and Harriette Taylor, in Old Fields township, Wilson County. John A. Jones, James E. Jones, and Deal Howard were witnesses.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Iva Eavins, 68; wife Hattie, 50; children John H., 23, Margret, 17, Manuell, 15, Bettie, 13, and Francis, 10; grandson Leavy, 3; and boarder Willie Blackwell, 23, all black.

In the 1900 census of Coopers township, Nash County: farmer John Pulley, 44; wife Margarett, 33; children Jesse, 10, Tabitha, 11, Martha, 7, Minnie, 5, and Fed, 3; widowed mother Harriett, 77; and brother-in-law Ellen Taylor, 28, day laborer, widower, and his children Sallie A., 10, and Thomas, 7.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: day laborer Richard Locus, 85; wife Betsy, 68, cook; and grandson Wiley, 6.

On 19 November 1902, John Blackwell, 22, colored, of Wilson County, son of Albert and Classie Blackwell, married Bettie Liles, 18, colored, of Wilson County, daughter of Ivy Evans and Sis Liles, in Isaac Ivens’ residence in Taylors township, Wilson County. Ellen Taylor applied for the license, and George Taylor, Dock High and Hence Brantley were witnesses.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Ellen [sic] Evans, 39; wife Eliza, 25; son Thomas, 18; mother Harriet, 68, cook; widowed sister Dora Davis, 28; and nieces and nephews Levi, 14, Ivy, 12, Lillie, 10, Mamie, 5, and Margaret Davis, 2.

Eliza Evans died 19 November 1921 in Old Fields township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was about 40 years old; was married to Allen Evans; was engaged in tenant farming for John Griffin; was born in Nash County to Elija Joyner and Mary Taylor. Allen Taylor was informant.

Margaret Pulley died 13 December 1935 in Sturgeon district, Brunswick County, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1876 in Wilson County, N.C., to Ivey Evans and Harriet Taylor; and was a widow. Monnie Pulley was informant.

Dora Strickland died 6 August 1949 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 22 July 1899 [actually, circa 1886] in Wilson County to Ivory Evans and Harriet Taylor; was married; worked as a farmer; and was colored. Isaac Strickland was informant.

Lane Street Project: Louis Thomas Sr.

Louis Thomas‘ marker, which bears insignia indicating his membership in the Order of Odd Fellows, stands about twenty feet from those of his parents, Charles and Sarah Best Thomas. He was a well-known carpenter.


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 38, pressman for printing office; wife Sarah, 33; and children Elton, 9, Louis, 8, Elizabeth, 6, and Hattie May, 2.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month.

On 14 November 1912, Louis Thomas, 21, son of Charlie and Sarah Thomas, married Georgia Aiken, 19, daughter of John and Mary Aiken, in Wilson. L.A. Moore applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Moore, Dr. W.A. Mitchner, and C.L. Darden.

Louis Thomas registered for the World War I draft in Wilson in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 3 February 1892 in Wilson; lived at 644 Green; worked as a carpenter for Sam Vick; was married; and claimed his wife and three sisters as dependents.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 644 Green, house carpenter Lewis Thomas, 26, and wife Georgia, 24.

On 1 April 1923, Louis Thomas, 27, of Wilson, son of Charlie Thomas, married Lillie Jane Howell, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Daniel J. and Rosa Howell, in Wilson. Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the ceremony in the presence of George Coley, Rosa Howell, and George McKee.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green, owned and valued at $3000, Gus Thomas, 35, carpenter; wife Lilly, 24; and children Louis, 6, Chas., 4, and V. Jewel, 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green, Louis Thomas, 43, building carpenter; wife Lillie, 33; and children Louis Jr., 16, Charlie H., 14, and Van Jewel, 12.

Louis Thomas Sr. died 5 October 1950 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born November 1894 in Wilson to Charlie Thomas and Sarah Best; lived at 715 East Green Street; worked as a self-employed carpenter; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery. Lillie Jane Thomas was informant.

Wilson Braves, Negro nine.

I was delighted to find that the Daily Times regularly covered the 1932 season of the city’s semi-pro African-American baseball team, the Wilson Braves.

I’ve been able to discover very little about the team. They played home games in the “Vance Street ballpark,” a forerunner to Fleming Stadium that stood in the vicinity of modern-day Wells Elementary School. The articles highlight players generally by first or last name only, but I am working to identify them further. They included second baseman George Leach, centerfielder Monk Johnson, pitcher Jarvis BankJoe Harris, catcher LeroyWynnHoldenTaylor, HargrovesFisher, pitcher Henry, and “Dummy.”

Here are the April games, in which the Braves played the Capital City Blue Aces (of Raleigh), the Kinston Royal Giants, the Rocky Mount Aces, the Statesville All-Stars, and a team from Suffolk, Virginia, and went 2-3-1.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 April 1932.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 April 1932.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 April 1932.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 April 1932.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 April 1932.

Wilson Daily Times, 28 April 1932.

919 Mercer Street.

This house is not within the bounds of East Wilson Historic District. However, the blocks of Mercer Street southwest of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad lines have been an African-American residential area since the early twentieth century.

Now numbered 919, it appears that this house was numbered 915 Mercer Street until the late 1930’s.

The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists laborer Thomas Hatcher and wife Estelle at 915 Mercer, as well as James Hatcher.

The 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists farmer James Richardson and wife Henrietta at 915 Mercer.

In April 1935, Samuel and Annie M. Vick lost 915 Mercer Street and more than one hundred other houses and lots at auction.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 919 Mercer, paying $8.50/month in rent, James Watson, 29, ditcher on a sewage project; wife Golden, 30, worker on stemmer machine at redrying plant; and children Earnestine, 11, Bessie Jean, 4, and Lucy Gray, 1. The family had lived in Kenly, N.C., in 1935.

In 1940, James Watson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 26 December 1909 in Johnston County; lived at 919 Mercer Street; his contact was wife Golden Watson; and he worked for Imperial Tobacco, Barnes Street.

In 1941, Johnnie Clay Jones registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 23 April 1920 in Kenly, N.C.; lived at 117 South Pettigrew Street; his contact was Golden Watson, 119 [sic] Mercer Street; and he worked as a laborer for Williams Lumber Company.

The 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists laborer James Watson, wife Golden, and four unnamed others at 919 Mercer.

On 19 April 1941, the Wilson Daily Times listed Willie Brown of 919 Mercer Street as a recipient of a questionnaire from the local draft board.

In 1944, Rev. Chester B. Beamon, pastor of nearby Trinity A.M.E. Zion church, lived at 919 Mercer Street, where he lead an adult education night school and a leadership training organization. The Beamons were likely renters, as Beamon and wife Louise were listed at 904 Mercer in the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, and shortly after left Wilson for a new pastorate.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 March 1944.

Tobacco worker Frank Lassiter and his wife Settie are listed at 919 Mercer in the 1947 directory. The Lassiter family remained in the house through Frank Lassiter’s death in 1972 and Settie Sanders Lassiter‘s in 1981.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2021.

Lane Street Project: Nettie Young Foster.

Nettie Wife of Walter M. Foster Born July 5, 1871 Died July 7, 1912. As a wife, devoted As a mother, affectionate As a friend, ever kind and true.


In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Young, 34; wife Anna, 37; and children Joseph, 5, Jane, 4, John, 2, and George, 5 months.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Young, 45; wife Zelpha Ann, 21; and children Joseph, 15, Nettie, 13, and George, 10.

On 14 August 1896, Walter Foster, 23, son of Peter and Phillis Foster, married Nettie Young, 28, daughter of Henry and Annie Young. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at Lou Ellis‘ house in Wilson in the presence of William Coley, Cora Ellis, and Minnie Coley.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter Foster, 26, day laborer; wife Nettie, 29; daughter Mollie, 6 months.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter Foster, 34, fireman at wagon factory; wife Nettie, 39; and children Henry E., 8, and Walter A., 5; plus boarder Arthur Broady, 22, laborer.

Nettie Young Foster died 7 July 1912.

The death of John Henry Evans.

The cause of death on John Henry Evans‘ death certificate is fairly laconic: “brain injury due to auto accident.”

Newspaper accounts detail a more complicated story. About eight o’clock on the evening of April 11, Evans and J.D. O’Neal, on whose land he lived, were driving wagons to fertilizer to O’Neal’s farm near Lamm’s School [today, near the intersection of Interstate 95 and U.S. 264.] The men stopped on the shoulder of the road to talk to O’Neal’s brother. Both wagons were lit with lanterns. Erwin Stewart of Durham smashed into other wagons in a Graham truck and flipped over in a ditch. According to witnesses, Stewart’s truck had only one headlight working and had drifted partly on the shoulder of the road. The wagons were demolished, one mule was badly injured, and John Henry Evans was first thought dead. He was rushed to the “colored hospital.” As his death certificate notes, Evans lingered for five days before succumbing to injuries to his head.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 April 1929.

For all the carelessness hinted at in the initial report, a month later, Stewart was acquitted of a manslaughter charge in Evans’ death.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 May 1929.