This table reveals the stark disparities in wealth between whites and blacks in early twentieth century Wilson County.

The columns, representing tax categories and values, are Number of Polls; Number Acres Land; Value Land and Timber; Number Town Lots; Total Value Real Estate; Total Value Personal Property; Aggregate Value Real and Personal.

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[I am intrigued by the differences in land ownership among African-Americans in different townships. Some surely is attributable merely to population, but I wonder about additional causes of inequality. Why so few taxable individuals or landowners in Stantonsburg township? Why were African-Americans in Spring Hill township so much more prosperous? I have some theories, but I want to explore more. — LYH]

Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission as a Board of State Tax Commissioners (1907).

Shaw secures a debt.

To secure debt of $54.55 and an additional loan of $100, Spencer S. Shaw agreed in the event of default to convey to Hawley & Revell an iron gray mule, a Hackney top buggy, five hogs, a one-horse wagon, and several farm tools.


In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Spencer Shaw, 40, wife Tabitha, 41, and children George A., 17, James R., 11, Hattie, 9, Joeseph G., 6, Seth T., 5, and Albert S., 2.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson and Raleigh Branch Road, Spencer Shaw, 51, wife Bitha, 49, and children James R., 21, Joseph T., 16, Seth T.,14, Albert S., 11, Merlin S., 9, Willie H., 7, and Alice M., 5.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Shaw Avenue on Springhill Road, farmer Spencer S. Shaw, 60; wife Bitha, 60; and children Albert, 22, Marlie, 19, Willie, 16, and Alice, 14.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 January 1920.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Buckhorn Road, farmer Spencer S. Shaw, 70; wife Bitha J., 70; sons William H., 26, and Seth T., 34; daughter-in-law Georgeanna, 24; and grandchildren Alice M., 4, Seth T. Jr., 2, and Franklin S., 6 months.

Book 72, Page 292, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson.

The brickmasons’ strike(s).

Newspaper reports reveal a strike (or series of strikes) by African-American brick masons in Wilson in the first decade of the 20th century. Though the record is sparse, these articles offer rare glimpses of black workers flexing their economic muscle, and surprising hints of the reach of organized labor during a time and place well-known for hostility toward unionization.

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Wilmington Messenger, 21 October 1902.

Brickmasons led by Goodsey Holden struck for a nine-hour work day consistent with that required by “the International union.” The protest, at least temporarily, resulted in concessions from the contractors for whom they worked.


News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 2 April 1903.

Six months later, bricklayers struck again, crippling progress on the construction of several large brick commercial buildings, including Imperial Tobacco’s new stemmery. Contractors brought in nearly 20 masons from Raleigh and Durham to pick up the work. The sub-headline suggests that the men refused to cross picket lines once they arrived in Wilson, but the article does not address the matter. Masons in those cities were also engaged in strike activity.


Greensboro Daily News, 18 March 1906.

Three years later, Will Kittrell was arrested and charged with conspiracy and blackmail for allegedly warning a Henderson brickmason to leave town. Contractors continued to import masons from across North Carolina to fill the gap created by Wilson workers’ refusal to work without limits on long workdays.


The estate of Wilson Sharpe.

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Wilson Sharpe died without a will in late 1900, and the Court appointed Samuel H. Vick and Braswell R. Winstead to assist as commissioners in the handling of his estate.

Sharpe’s sole heir was his widow Cherry Sharpe, who was entitled to an immediate portion of his assets for her support. There was not much; she received an old buggy and harness, an old gun, some cart wheels, and pile of old tools. This being insufficient, on 15 January 1901 the commissioners reclaimed property that T.R. Lamm had taken, presumably to settle a debt — a forty-dollar mule, eight hogs, and $25 worth of corn and fodder.



In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farm laborer Wilson Sharp,42, and wife Cherry, 27.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Wilson Sharp, 52; wife Cherry, 45; nephew Jerry Bynum, 6; and James Mitchel, 47, with wife Rosa, 33, and son James G., 11.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Wilson Sharp, 65; wife Cherry, 40; and children Willie, 16, Eva, 9, and Besse, 2 months. [These were likely foster children.]

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Tilman’s Road, widowed farm laborer Cherry Sharp, 65, living alone.

Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

He yelled at her to stop.

In which a warrant is sworn out for the arrest of an African-American man who yelled at and frightened a white child standing in the path of his wagon. I have not found further reference to this “crime.”


Kinston Daily Free Press, 20 January 1903.


  • Will Farmer — probably, in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: teamster George Farmer, 51; wife Bettie, 46; and children George N., 21,  teamster; Miner, 19; Aulander, 18, drayman; Willie, 17; Johney, 15; and Emma, 12.
  • Finch Mill Road

These streets, 1904.

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The United States Geological Survey’s 1904 topographic map of Wilson Quadrangle offers clear detail of Wilson just after the turn of the 20th century.

East Wilson’s streets are clearly recognizable to anyone who knows them today:

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A few observations:

  • The long diagonal at top right is now Ward Boulevard and, once it crosses U.S. Highway 301, Lipscomb Road.
  • Crowell, Vance, Viola and Green Streets terminated at the town limits, just west of present-day Vick Street. Elba is the tiny street between Green and Viola.
  • Church Street runs parallel and south of Green.
  • Though Manchester appears to continue north across Nash Street, it in fact doglegged slightly to become Ash Street.
  • The street I’ve identified as East may have been Narroway.
  • Once it crossed city limits headed east, Nash Street became the Plank Road. It is now known as Martin Luther King Parkway east of U.S. Highway 301.
  • Pender Street became Stantonsburg Street when it crossed Nash. Now, just past Cemetery Street, the street is Black Creek Road. Another road branches off to join Lane Street. Just south of what is now Lincoln Street, the road branches again. The eastern branch (below the number 133) is now Stantonsburg Road.
  • The map shows a couple of houses on the north side of Lane Street, located on land that is now part of Rest Haven cemetery. The map also shows a tee intersection at elevation 131. One may still turn left toward Rountree cemetery on the continuation of Lane Street, but there is no road to the right.
  • The waterway in the top right corner is Toisnot Swamp. The smaller waterways south of Toisnot are branches of Hominy Swamp.

On the other side of town, Grabneck is also clearly visible at upper left:


Desperate gambling gang.

In 1909, Wilson police raided Samuel H. Vick‘s Orange Hotel to bust up a “gambling joint” ensconced in its upper floor. Two gamblers escaped through windows, but the police managed to round up seven, plus the operator.


News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 11 June 1909.

  • Charles Evans, alias Charles Stover, alias “Dog Head”
  • Banks Blow
  • Arthur D. Keiser
  • Wallace Dixon
  • Walter Scott
  • “Kid” McKoy
  • Henry Battle — perhaps, in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wiggins Street, railroad laborer Harry Battle, 50; wife Ezabell, 45, hotel servant; and sons Henry, 24, and Frank, 21, railroad laborer. Henry Battle died 31 December 1910 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he lived on Nash Street; was born 6 January 1888 in Edgecombe County to Harry Battle and Isabella Bullock; and worked as a railroad hand. Informant was Harry Brant.
  • Jim Thompson