Suggs’ Greensboro dealings.

D.C. Suggs’ real estate speculation was not limited to property in his hometown.

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Brown Flats, 195-201 Lyndon Street, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Greensboro’s Lyndon Street Townhouses, also known as the Brown Flats, were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Per pocketsights.com, “This series of townhouses is rare in Greensboro, where the urban prototype did not gain popularity before apartment houses with shared interior common halls grew acceptable. The four units remain among the few such townhouses in the state.

“The structures were likely built by Brown Real Estate Company, which had offices at 109 East Market Street. The firm was operated by Sample S. Brown, who was involved in several large transactions that transformed the city in the first decade of the twentieth century. At first, the flats were rented to white collar workers such as George Phoenix, clerk for the Southern railroad; rates in 1907 were $15 per unit.

“In 1919, the flats were acquired by Dr. Daniel Cato Suggs. Dr. Suggs was considered one of the wealthiest black men in North Carolina, and possibly the South. A native of Wilson, he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (B.A. and A.M.) and Morris Brown University (Ph.D.) before beginning his career as a professor in the public school systems of Kinston and Asheville. He married Mary Nocho of Greensboro, daughter of educator Jacob Nocho, in 1902. In 1917 he was elected the President of Livingston College in Salisbury. He maintained his residence in the city until his death.”

The nomination form for the townhouses provides details of Suggs’ real estate activity in Greensboro:

“The failure of the townhouses to attract higher-class tenants was probably due to their location at the eastern edge of downtown, almost up against the tracks of the Southern Railway beyond which were the black neighborhoods of east Greensboro.  Their almost immediate transformation to working or lower middle-class housing was likely due to the construction of working-class black housing immediately to their rear along the railroad tracks in 1907 or 1908. These one-story shotgun duplexes, which no longer stand, were built by Daniel C. Suggs, a black teacher and entrepreneur, on an alley named after him (Sanborn Map Company, 1907 and 1913; Greensboro City Directories).

“Suggs had started to acquire property on the east side of Lyndon Street, on all three sides of the townhouses lot, early in the decade (Guilford County Deed Book 184, Page 240; Deed Book 186, Page 681; and Deed Book 230, Page 350, for example). Although listed in city directories as a teacher, Suggs was also an entrepreneur. He owned and lived in a large, two-story frame house at the southeast corner of Lyndon and East Market streets [a site currently occupied by a row of mid-century commercial buildings, one of which houses Uhuru Book Store], two doors up from the townhouses. A block to the west, at 239-245 East Market Street, he owned the Suggs Building, a three-story brick commercial building which housed a variety of black businesses, including a restaurant, a tailor shop, and a drug store (Greensboro City Directories; Sanborn Map Company 1919.)

“Suggs’ impact on the townhouses was to extend beyond any effect his construction of the houses on Suggs Alley may have caused. In 1919 S.S. and Helen G. Brown sold them to him, which gave him possession of the all of the property on the east side of Lyndon between Washington and Market streets and the tracks (Guilford County Deed Book 330, Page 465). Surprisingly, until 1928 the tenants in the townhouses continued to be white. During these years, Suggs was almost certainly one of the only black landlords in Greensboro who had white tenants. Ironically, in 1929, a year after the building’s tenants shifted from white to black, Suggs and his wife, Mary, defaulted on their mortgage and the townhouses came into the hands of a white owner, Mrs. Lottie Hughes Wallace (Guilford County Deed Book 634, Page 83; Greensboro City Directories). Since 1929, the townhouses have generally continued to be rented to low and  lower-income African-Americans.”

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Sanborn fire insurance map, Greensboro, N.C., 1919.

Image courtesy of Google Maps.


News & Observer, 18 December 1907.

  • R.G. Wynn
  • Albert Ward
  • Oliver Brown
  • Sylvia Barnes — in the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Harry Barnes, 67; wife Sylva, 66; son Harry, 20; daughter-in-law Rena, 17; and granddaughter Henrietta, 14. Silvia Barnes died 8 September 1925 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 83 years old; married to Harry Barnes; was the daughter of Peter and Rosa Barnes; and worked as a tenant farmer for Billie Sims. Harry Barnes Jr. was informant.
  • Willie Moore
  • Moses Smith — in the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: day laborer Dudley Smith, 53; wife Mittie, 32; and children Polly, 13, Moses, 6, and Herbert, 4.
  • Tom Faison

Marriages at Saint Mark’s, no. 1.

Patrick M. Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches in Wilson, North Carolina 1856-1995 (1996), features several invaluable appendices that illuminate Wilson’s tiny African-American Episcopalian community. Valentine credits Cindy and Jeff Day with compiling them, and this post is the first in a series annotating the marriage list.

“Appendix J: Marriages, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church” shows the marriages between 1895 and 1905:

  • Richard Norwood to Celia Hill, 27 February 1895

On 28 February 1895, Celia A. Hill, 22, daughter of H. and H[enrietta]. Hill, married Richard Norwood, 21, son of B. Norwood of Chatham County, in Wilson. Episcopal minister J.W. Perry performed the ceremony at Saint Marks in the presence of John H. Clark, B.R. Winstead and S.A. Smith. Cecilia Anna Norwood died 27 June 1944 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 February 1879 in Washington, North Carolina to Edward Hill and Henrietta Cherry; resided at 205 Pender, Wilson; was widowed; and was a teacher. Informant was Hazel Covington of Wilson.

  • Robt. Norwood to Lydia Freeman, 26 January 1899

On 26 January 1899, Robert Norwood, 24, of Wilson County, son of Harris and Rebecca Norwood of Bynum, North Carolina, married Lydia Freeman, 21, daughter of Julius and Eliza Freeman of Wilson. Episcopal priest W.B. Perry performed the ceremony at Julius Freeman’s in the presence of William Kittrell, William Barnes and John Williams. Robert Norwood died 20 October 1916 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was married; was born in 1880; and worked as a cook in a cafe. Informant was Julius Freeman.

  • James Roach [sic] to Jane Tyson, 24 May 1899

James Branch, 29, of Wilson County, married Jane Tyson, 30, on 24 May 1899. J.C. Palmer applied for the license; Rev. W.B. Perry performed the ceremony at the home of Mrs. J.C. Palmer in the presence of J.C. Palmer, Mrs. J.C. Palmer and Robert Norwood. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco packer James Branch, 28; wife Jane C., 31, cook; and stepsons Carrol C. Tyson, 12, house servant, and Caborn C. Tyson, 8.

On 2 August 1899, Walter B. Hulin, 21, of Wilson County married Hattie Artis, 18, of Wilson, at “Mrs. Artis’ home” in Wilson. Rev. W.B. Perry, Episcopalian, performed the ceremony, and James Artis, Miss Irene Winstead and Mrs. Barnes witnessed. [W.B. Perry, in contravention to Jim Crow norms, appears to have been deliberate about his use of the honorifics “Miss” and “Mrs.” for his African-American congregants.]

  • Spincer Barnes to Annie Petyford, 4 December 1899

On 4 December 1899, Spencer Barnes, 26, of Wilson County, married Anna Pettiford, 25, of Franklin County, daughter of Manlis and Frances Pettiford. Rev. W.B. Perry, Episcopalian, performed the ceremony, and Mr. McDonald, Miss Irene Winstead and Mrs. James Branch witnessed.

  • Junius M[illegible] and Jin [illegible], 14 August 1899

Junius Munk, 26, son of Dudley and Pheomy Munk of Magnolia, North Carolina, married Jennie Strickland, 24, daughter of Jim and Neomy Strickland, of Wilson on 14 August 1899. Rev. W.B. Perry performed the ceremony at the bride’s home in the presence of Howard Strickland, John Coleman and Archie Hunt.

  • Dr. Frank Welleston and Done Battle, 17 September 1905

On 17 September 1905, F.O. Williston, 24, of Wilson, son of Henrietta Williston of Fayetteville, North Carolina, married Doane Battle, 19, daughter of Charles Battle of Wilson. F.S. Hargrave applied for the license, and Rev. Robert F. Perry performed the ceremony at James Jenkins‘ home in the presence of F.S. Hargrave, James Jenkins and William Dawson.

  • Colie Barnes and Leaha Barnes, 27 December 1905

Wilson County marriage records do not reflect a marriage between Colie Barnes and Leaha Barnes. However, on 27 December 1905, Colie Barnes, 20, married Ella Taylor, 19, in Wilson.

I certify to his high character.

When Lily-White Republican Senator Jeter C. Pritchard set out to oust postmaster Samuel H. Vick, who represented “the last vestige of negro office holders in the state,” a slew of prominent Wilson Democrats bucked convention to rally in Vick’s favor. Among the politicians, lawyers and businessmen supporting Vick was John H. Blount, whose letter of recommendation noted that Vick’s “mother and grandmother belonged to [his] father.”

The writer of this opinion piece mocks the Democrats who had once lamented Vick’s sinecure, “pictur[ing] how their dear wives and daughters were humiliated by having to transact all their postal business at Wilson with a negro postmaster and negro postal clerks.

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The People’s Paper (Charlotte, N.C.), 10 December 1902.

Bird’s eye view.

“During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the cheap cost of printing lithographs coupled with the pride of small towns laid the foundation for the success of artists who specialized in hand drawn panoramic birds-eye view maps of American cities. The idea behind the panoramic birds-eye view was to draw the town at an oblique angle from an imaginary vantage point in the air, from the viewpoint a bird would have flying over the city. Although the scale of certain buildings were exaggerated to make the town more visible, the accuracy and attention to detail was otherwise so meticulous that each building was almost an exact copy of its real world counterpart down to the number of windows it possessed. There were numerous artists that gained popularity during this period. One such artist was Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler, known more by the name printed on each of the maps he completed, T.M. Fowler.” From Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler, Pennsylvania State Archives, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us

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In 1908, T.M. Fowler issued a bird’s eye map of Wilson. Drawn from the perspective of, say, a hawk floating above what is now Barton College, the map focuses on the town’s most prosperous districts. The Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road slices across the top left corner of the map, however, and beyond the track — Black Wilson.

Though none of the district’s buildings were highlighted on the margins of the map, a close examination reveals several that are immediately identifiable. At (1), looming over the 600 block of Green Street, is the turreted home of postmaster-cum-real estate developer Samuel H. Vick. At (2), at the corner of Green and Elba Streets, Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church. At (3), Calvary Presbyterian Church. At (4), Darden and Sons funeral home. At (5), First Baptist Church. At (6), Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church.

Continuing across the top of the map — headed southeast on the ground —  at (7), down Stantonsburg Street, the Colored Graded School, and (8) the stemmeries and tobacco factories of Little Richmond.

In 1908, little of East Wilson was inside city limits, which did not extend much beyond Pender Street or the tobacco factory district. Thus, many of the houses and other buildings depicted in Fowler’s fabulous map, including the graded school and all of Vick’s neighborhood, were not surveyed in the Sanborn fire insurance map produced the same year.

Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, North Carolina (1908).

The once moral man is the father of the bastard child.

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News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 2 November 1909.

Rev. Owen L.W. Smith had, of course, been a Presiding Elder of the A.M.E. Zion Church and United States minister to Liberia. The News & Observer‘s restraint in covering his downfall is especially remarkable when earlier coverage of the affair is considered. The Smith-Moye had scandalized black Wilson. Moye not only worked for the church, she was married, and her husband had been driven off by Smith’s peremptory claims to her time. Just as shocking — the magistrate’s dismissal of Smith’s suit!

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News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 27 August 1908. 

“Delia R. Moye” was Delia A. Moye, listed in the 1908 city directory as a teacher residing at Goldsboro near Bank. Also at that address, her teenaged son, porter Albert Moye. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 459 Goldsboro Street, widowed laundress Della Moye, 31, with her children Albert, 17, twins Hattie and Mattie, 9, and Ethel, 2, who was Smith’s child. (In subsequent city directories, too, Delia Moye was described as a laundress. She lost her teaching job as a result of her pregnancy. She also likely was not actually a widow.)

On 18 August 1944, Ethel Mae Moye, 35, daughter of O.L.W. Smith and Della Smith [sic], married David H. Coley, 49, son of W.H. and Luanna Coley, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister W.A. Hilliard performed the ceremony in the presence of C.L. Darden, Norma Darden and Mrs. Ambrose Floyd.

Delia Ann Moye died 19 April 1955 at her home at 1207 East Washington Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 March 1882 in Greene County to Sandy Malone and Mattie [maiden name unknown; was widowed; and was a retired school teacher. Informant was Ethel M. Coley, 1207 East Washington.

Studio shots, no. 15: Dardens and friends.

Lizzie Darden commemorating her high school graduation with Roderick Taylor (standing), her brother Camillus L. Darden (seated), and a friend (seated in Picture-Taking George W. Barnes‘ chair), circa 1903.

Photograph courtesy of N.J. and C. Darden, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine (1978).

Struck on the head by an iron cog wheel.

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Wilson Daily News, 20 September 1900.


On 30 November 1892, Thos. Day, 24, parents living, but not listed, of the town of Wilson, married Julia Battle, 19, daughter of Lewis Battle, of the town of Wilson. Presbyterian minister L.J. Melton performed the ceremony at Lewis Battle’s house. J.J. Wilson and J.W. Rogers were witnesses.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco stemmer Thomas Day, 33; wife Julia, 27, laundry woman; and boarders James Parham, 25, teamster, and John H. Gregory, 19, and Donald Parker, 17, both tobacco stemmers.

Negroes take advantage. (Vick is an unusual negro.)

NY Times 12 7 1902 Vick

President William H. Harrison appointed Samuel H. Vick postmaster of Wilson in 1889. President William McKinley selected Vick again for the position in 1898. Despite the setback described above, the Lily Whites ultimately were successful in thwarting Vick’s reappointment in 1903.