An introduction to Sharpsburg.

Per county GIS mapping data, there are two property owners remaining in Wilson County whose named include the word “Colored.” The first I know well — Elm City Colored Cemetery Commission. The second pulled me up short — Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church.

Though I have driven through it on U.S. Highway 301 hundreds of times, I know little about Sharpsburg, other than that its town limits straddle three counties — Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe. Because I’m not familiar with the locations of these boundaries, I have not looked closely at Sharpsburg as a source of material for Black Wide-Awake.

I pulled up the GIS map for Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist and was immediately struck by two things.

One, the Wilson County sector of Sharpsburg is cleanly bounded by SE Railroad Street on the west and Main Street on the north. Two, this is the historically Black section of town — the church is there, it is “across the tracks,” and its street names include Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

And then there’s this grainy Google Maps image of the church itself:

Per county tax records, trustees bought the lot at the corner of Railroad and Lincoln Streets in 1915 and built Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church in 1920. Another grainy photograph linked to the tax record and date-stamped 2016 shows a large sign mounted on the church tower that reads “Bellamy Chapel P.B. Church.” Bellamy Chapel appears to be defunct as well. 

I’ve added Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church to my follow-up list. Stay tuned.


If he doesn’t bring that money in, something has happened.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 August 1911.

“The worst had happened, Fields was dead,” and the Times penned a tribute to its loyal subscriber.


On 26 February 1903, James Fields, 52, of Wilson, son of Alex and Mary Fields, married Lucy Warren, 30, of Wilson, at her residence. Missionary Baptist minister E.P. Pearsall performed the ceremony in the presence of Charles B. Gay, Ella Gay, and William C. Barnes.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: James Fields, 49, odd jobs laborer, and wife Lucy, 32, laundress.

James P. Fields died 21 August 1911 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 58 years old; was married; lived at 213 Hackney Street; worked as a gardener; and was born in Boyton [Boydton], Virginia, to Elex Fields and Mary Smithering. W.B. Fields of Wilson was informant.



News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 8 June 1913.

Joe Saunders was arrested for shooting Charles Coley at a house at 114 Wiggins Street. Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home (later known as Mercy) did not open until 1914. Other hospitals in town would not admit African-Americans, so Coley was carried to a boxcar to die or recuperate.


The Old Harper Place.

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In 1918, Atlantic Coast Realty Company prepared this plat cutting new streets and subdividing the “Old Harper Place” into more than 70 lots. The proposal was ambitious, but did not get off the ground immediately. In fact, it never really came together at all.

The streets are readily recognizable today. They are not, however, lined with houses.

Neither Best, Bennett, Oliver nor Lipscomb Streets appear in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, which was the first to include a street-by-street residential listing. Harper Street is there, however, and the directory lists five blocks. The 700 block had fifteen households, but the others were sparser, indicating larger parcels or empty lots. All the households except three are marked “colored.” W.J. Walston appears to have occupied the entire 400 block and possibly the 500 block. On the other side of the street, J.T. Strickland was the sole household listed in the 600 block.

1928 city directory.

However, the 1930 city directory notes that Harper Street was now Lipscomb Road. Unusual for the time, the street had become more integrated. White households replaced black at 238 and 300 Lipscomb. John A. Owens now lived at 400, but the 600 block on both sides of the street contained additional white households.

1930 city directory.

By time the 1941 city directory issued, Harper Street was back, but in a new place. This Harper Street is the one shown in the plat map. Or at least the two blocks of it between Best Street and Herring Avenue. This street was entirely inhabited by white families.

1941 city directory.

The description of Lipscomb Road in the 1941 directory is perplexing. On a modern map, it seems to correspond in part to modern Gold Street, which runs from Herring just past the end of Railroad Street to Reid Street. The inexplicable part is “intersecting 700 Herring av.” 700 Herring Avenue is at the corner of Herring and modern Ward Boulevard. In order to intersect with Herring, Lipscomb/Gold would have to turn back 135 degrees.

Is this 1941 Lipscomb Road? Gold Street is highlighted in solid yellow. The dotted yellow line shows the possible course of Lipscomb as described in the 1941 directory. The blue arrows show modern Lipscomb Road. (Ward Boulevard did not exist in 1941.)

In any case, this area continued to show unusual integration for mid-twentieth century Wilson. Though the majority of households were African-American, several were occupied by white families.

In 1959, per “Survivors Deeded Lucas Property,” Wilson Daily Times, 18 March 1959, George Lucas’ two daughters inherited 71 of the lots shown on the plat on Best, Benton and Harper streets. Eventually, they sold much of the land to the city for a housing project.

Plat Book 1, page 58, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; aerial view per Bing.com.

Drunk on cider.


After the registrar noted that no physician had been in attendance at Washington Simms‘ demise, some other person added “getting drunk on cider” as a cause of death.

A newspaper article sheds some light.

Charlotte Observer, 19 October 1916.


There were at least two Washington Simmses in Wilson County in the late 19th century. This seems most likely to be the one above.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsuhrg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Washington Sims, 34, in the household of Rufus, 47, and Rebecca Edmundson, 34.

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Washington Simms, 40, common laborer.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Washington Simms, 64.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Washington Simms, 71.

Boiler explosion.

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“No Dr. Instantly killed and body badly mutilated, caused by explosion of boiler at pumping station.”

A fireman tends the fire for running of boilers, heating buildings, or powering steam engines. The job involves hard physical labor, including shoveling coal or wood into a boiler’s firebox, and is inherently dangerous.

I have been unable to locate additional information about Walter Brailey‘s life or death.

Correspondent George F. King.

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The Denver Star, 27 September 1913.

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The Denver Star, 10 January 1914.

George F. King was a Virginia-born news reporter and editor who built his career as a correspondent covering African-American people and issues in the South. He reported on Booker T. Washington’s visit to Wilson in 1910, but I can find no sources beyond these two Denver Star articles to establish that he actually lived in Wilson.

Greensboro Daily News, 3 November 1910.


Dr. James T. Thomas, briefly of Wilson.

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Madison (Ind.) Daily Herald, 12 August 1922.


In the 1900 census of Winston, Forsyth County, North Carolina: tobacco roller William Taylor, 31; wife Mary, 27; and children Anna, 8, James T., 6, Geneva, 4, and Charles, 1.

James T. Taylor registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1917. Per his draft card, he was born 27 December 1893 in Danville, Virginia; lived at 653 [later 706] East Green Street, Wilson; and worked as a bellhop at Yarmouth Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey (“student” crossed through). [Taylor was a college student at the time. Why was he living in Wilson with the family of John W. and Edmonia Barnes Farmer?]

On 12 August 1922, James T. Taylor, born 27 December 1893 in Danville, Virginia, to William T. Taylor and Mary Thompson, and a resident of Wilson, N.C., married Gertrude E. Tandy, born 15 January 1898 in Bedford, Kentucky, to George Tandy and Josephine Stafford, in Madison, Indiana.

In 1926 James Taylor took a position as professor of psychology at North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) and later Dean of Men and Athletic Director and then Director of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Circa 1930, the Taylors bought a house at 2106 Fayetteville Street.

College Heights Historic District, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.

In the 1930 census of Durham, Durham County, North Carolina: college teacher James Taylor, 36, and wife Gertrude, 32, school supervisor.

In the 1940 census of Durham, Durham County, North Carolina: James T. Taylor, 45, born in Virginia, college teacher; wife Gertrude E., 40, born in Indiana, public school supervisor; and nephew James B. Clarke, 19.

Gertrude Elinor Taylor died 24 January 1954 in Durham, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 January 1900 in Marion, Indiana, to George Tandy and Josephine Stafford; was married; and was a school teacher. Prof. James T. Taylor, 2106 Fayetteville Street, was informant.

The Eagle (1954), the yearbook of North Carolina College [now North Carolina Central University.]

On 30 June 1955, James T. Taylor, 57, of Durham, son of William T. and Mary T. Taylor, married Galatia Elizabeth Lynch, 41, of High Point, N.C., daughter of James C. Cunningham and Lillie B. Cunningham, in High Point, Guilford County, North Carolina.

N.C.C.U.’s James T. Taylor Education Building, constructed in 1955.

In November 1968, North Carolina Governor Dan Moore named James T. Taylor as chairman of the state’s Good Neighbor Council, “the official state agency for moderating racial troubles.” Per a 14 November 1960 article in the News and Observer, Taylor retired from N.C.C.U. in 1959 and was a past president of N.C. Teachers Association (where he led a fight for equal pay for African-American teachers) and an organizer of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs.

James Thomas Taylor died 29 March 1970 in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 December 1893 in Danville, Virginia, to William Thomas Taylor and Mary Brown; was a widower; and was a retired professor at N.C. Central University. Mrs. Irma Lash of Brooklyn, N.Y., was informant.

The Women Who Ran the Schools: The Jeanes Teachers and Durham County’s Rural Black Schools, http://www.durhamcountylibrary.org

News and Observer, 30 March 1970.