Registered motor vehicle owners, 1919 and 1920.

“The first one I knew to have a car was Dr. Reid, the veterinarian. And the Vicks.”

Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001)

In 1919, the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office published a hefty volume listing the first 112,000 motor vehicles registered in the state. Not surprisingly, Samuel H. Vick was an early adopter, registering five automobiles — by four different car companies — at once and receiving license numbers 685 through 689.

The document is not easily searched, but I was able to find these early African-American Wilson County drivers. Most lived in town, and only two — Chestiney Wilder and Georgia Aiken — were women. (May Locus was a man.)

  • 685 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Chandler
  • 686 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Reo
  • 687 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Hudson
  • 688 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Hudson
  • 689 — S.H. Vick, Wilson, Cadillac
  • 5278 — Albert S. Gay, 620 E. Green St., Wilson, Ford
  • 7563 — J.Z. Staton, 804 Viola St., Wilson, Ford
  • 8583 — C.L. Darden, Wilson, Hudson
  • 17476 — May Locus, Rt. 1, Black Creek, Ford
  • 19608 — Will Artis, Stantonsburg, Oldsmobile
  • 26225 — Chestiny Wilder, Rt. 3 Lucama, Ford
  • 28151 — Josh Armstrong, Rt. 1, Elm City, Grant
  • 29157 — Henry Bryant, 145 Sugg St., Wilson, Dort
  • 32649 — Oscar Best, care of Wilson Live Stock Co., Wilson, Dort
  • 34116 — S.F. Hargrove [F.S. Hargrave], M.D., 625 E. Green St., Wilson, Columbia
  • 47620 — Dr. W.H. Phillips, 530 1/2 E. Nash St., Wilson, Hudson
  • 50184 — Neverson Green, Wilson, Reo
  • 55819 — Noah J. Tate, Wilson, Buick
  • 55820 — W.S. Hines, Wilson, Hudson
  • 57201 — Ned Kent, Rt. 3 Box 100, Kenly, Overland
  • 57479 — D.E. Reid [Dr. Elijah L. Reid], 650 Viola St., Wilson, Ford
  • 57551 — Dr. W.A. Mitchiner [Mitchner], E. Nash St., Wilson, Dodge
  • 60503 — Mrs. Georgia C. Aiken, 314 Barnes St., Wilson, Ford (for hire)
  • 69272 — Dennis Brooks, E. Nash St., Buick (for hire)
  • 71345 — G.E. Tyler, 603 E. Green St., Wilson Ford
  • 72510 — Neil Handy, Rt. 6, Box 144, Wilson, Ford
  • 73129 — A.N. Darden, Wilson, Dodge
  • 85889 — Crawford Darden, Black Creek, Cadillac
  • 86536 — Buck Locus, Rt. 4, Elm City, Grant
  • 87236 — C.E. Artis, 210 Pender St., Wilson, Ford
  • 88103 — Ben J. Ellis, Rt. 1, Box 153, Wilson, Ford
  • 89487 — Roscoe Johnson, 634 E. Green St., Wilson, Jordan
  • 90310 — Jim Brown, 805 Viola St., Ford
  • 90872 — Ed. Artis, Rt. 1, Stantonsburg, Ford
  • 90873 — Leslie Artis, Rt. 1, Stantonsburg, Ford
  • 91282 — Bud Sims, 624 Viola St., Metz
  • 92886 — June S. Artis, Rt. 6, Box 89, Wilson, Ford
  • 93517 — J.D. Reid, 601 E. Green St., Wilson, Reo
  • 94988 — Wm. H. Baker, 1020 E. Nash St., Wilson, Ford
  • 95012 — William Hines, Wilson, Hudson
  • 96664 — Rev. E.S. Hargrove, 702 Viola St., Overland
  • 97230 — Garry Armstrong, RFD, Elm City, Overland
  • 98115 — L.H. Peacock, 141 Ash St., Wilson, Hudson
  • 100721 — John W. Farmer, 635 E. Green St., Wilson, Chalmers
  • 104807 — Linwood Barefoot, E. Nash St., Wilson, Ford
  • 105289 — Turner Hines, Rt. 1, care of J.W. Cherry & Son, Elm City, Ford
  • 109186 — Dotson Locus, Rt. 2, Elm City, Chevrolet
  • 110274 — Garfield Ruffin, 1007 E. Nash St., Wilson, Ford

From the 1920 supplement to the Registry:

  • 113666 — Clifton Best (col.), R. 1, Stantonsburg, Ford
  • 114015 — Harry Carter, 517 E. Nash St., Wilson, Buick (for hire)
  • 121735 — Dempsey Blount, 516 E. Nash St., Wilson, Ford
  • 122953 — George Rutherford, 517 E. Nash St., Wilson, Buick (for hire)
  • 124283 — James Sellers, 651 E. Vance St., Wilson, Oldsmobile (for hire)
  • 124827 — Bill Smith (col.), care of Tilghman Motors Co., Wilson, Columbia

REO touring car, 1919.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved. List of Registered Motor Vehicle Owners — North Carolina (1919); List of Registered Motor Vehicle Owners, Supplement No. 1 (1920).

Griffin Hill.

As detailed here, in 1920 Roscoe Briggs moved in earnest to dismantle the African-American neighborhood of Grabneck to make way for the mansions of West Nash Street. On a single day in March 1920, he bought four parcels from members of the Best family, including Frank and Mamie Best, who exchanged their lot for a house to be built in Griffin Hill by John H. Griffin.

Here’s the plat for “Griffins Hill,” surveyed days later and recorded in Plat Book 1, Page 187, at the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

At first I thought the Bests got the okey-doke. Connor Street runs five blocks from Kenan to Lee. Cone Street runs parallel to the west. To this day, there’s no Griffin Street or Center Street or Boyette Road in Wilson.

So where did Frank and Mamie Simms Best end up?

Frank Best died in 1922. His Wilson County death certificate describes his residence as “country.” Mamie Best remarried, but second husband Charles Jordan soon died. In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, she and her 14 year-old step daughter Mabell Jordan were listed just outside the city limits in New Grabneck, near other former Grabneck families. Mamie Simms Best Jordan died 29 January 1940, and her death certificate lists New Grabneck as her residence.

A list of delinquent property taxes published in the Daily Times on 17 September 1938 included these Griffin Hill residents. All were families who lived in the area otherwise known as New Grabneck.

Though he lived within a few houses of Ed Bobbitt, Emma Lee and Alice Mitchell, Paul Sherrod‘s listing was “New Grab Neck.”

In May 1943, Fred Lucas placed ads for farm animals that suggest that the name Griffin Hill was unfamiliar enough to require location aides. (And emphasize its rural nature.)

Wilson Daily Times, 27 May 1943.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 May 1943.

Finally, in a 21 October 1959 article announcing the construction of low-income housing for whites, the Times noted:

This terrible map accompanied the article, the hashed area depicting the site of the new project at Griffin Hill:

The dark squiggle is the Hominy Swamp Canal. The arc slicing across it is the Norfolk & Southern Railroad. Warren Street (now Elizabeth Road) is the west border; Forrest Street, at bottom. (Parallel to a short road labeled “New Grabneck.”) Griffin Hill was no hill at all. In fact, like Lincoln Heights, it was in a notorious flood plain of Hominy Swamp. And 40 years after it was developed to accommodate the relocation of the Grabneck community, it was gone.

Per Google Map, the public housing built on the former site of Griffin Hill. 

[Note: Connor Street indeed runs as described above, but in this map, Forrest Road is labeled “Connor Street.” Presumably, someone realized the inadvisability of having two streets with the same name, and the anchor street of Griffin Hill was renamed.]

Hominy Swamp.

Hominy Swamp arises in western Wilson County, flows southeast of downtown and empties into Contentnea Creek near the Evansdale community. Prone to severe flooding, the creek has been channeled at several points along its length; from just above Tarboro Street south its plain is largely industrial. Hominy Swamp traditionally served as a boundary between certain black and white neighborhoods — Daniel Hill and Hominy Heights, and Happy Hill and Five Points, for example.

Per the Wilson Daily Times, in December 1924, the city contracted with a Raleigh contractor to build bridges spanning Hominy Swamp at Lodge Street, Goldsboro Street, Mercer Street, Tarboro Street and Park Avenue at a cost of $65,000.

I crossed over the Lodge Street bridge Saturday. It would seem to be $15,000 well-spent.

Here, Hominy Swamp Canal looking east from the Lodge Street bridge. North of the creek (to the left here) for most of the 20th century was a largely African-American neighborhood centered at Lodge and Banks Streets. South, Five Points, which was a white neighborhood until late in the 20th century.

Three years later, Hominy Swamp jumped its banks, climbing high enough to nearly overtop the walls of the bridge. Homes at Lodge and Mercer Streets flooded, requiring the rescue of a disabled 80 year-old African American woman.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 September 1928.

Kennedy family photos.

Tennessee native Rev. John E. Kennedy was pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church from about 1925 to about 1930. (The family is not listed in the 1930 census of Wilson.) He had married Annie L. Moore, whose mother Serena Suggs Moore was a native of Wilson and a daughter of G. Washington and Esther Suggs.

This photograph was taken on the front steps of Saint John’s parsonage, next door to the church. The Kennedys’ youngest child, son James Reginald, was born in Wilson.

The Kennedy family in 1929 — Rev. John Kennedy, Annie Moore Kennedy, James R. Kennedy and Ruby E. Kennedy.

Screen Shot 2019-08-19 at 9.08.40 PM.png

Rev. Dr. John E. Kennedy (1876-1944).

Screen Shot 2019-08-19 at 9.10.18 PM.png

Annie Lucretia Moore Kennedy (1883-1942).

Screen Shot 2019-08-19 at 9.11.46 PM.png

Rubye Eloise Kennedy (1917-1993).

Screen Shot 2019-08-19 at 9.13.55 PM.png

James Reginald Kennedy (1925-1997).

The parsonage at 121 North Pender Street, Wilson. The shed-roof porch is unfortunate recent add-on.

Kennedy family photos courtesy of Ancestry.com user JamesKennedy621; photo of parsonage taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2019.

On the occasion of his historical marker dedication, another account of Dr. Ward’s appointment.

This weekend, with his granddaughter and great-grandchildren in attendance, the Indiana Historical Bureau, the American Legion, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History will dedicate a historical marker commemorating the lifetime achievements of Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward. Though I’ve blogged about him here and here and here and here, this seemed an appropriate time to feature yet another long newspaper article detailing Dr. Ward’s accomplishments.



“The appointment of Dr. [Joseph H.] Ward to this position marks a decided step forward for the race. In many respects this may be regarded as the highest office to which a Negro has ever been appointed, certainly the most responsible.”

Topeka Plaindealer, 25 July 1924.

Photos courtesy of L. Bates.

The 200 block of East Street and the 900 blocks of Carolina and Washington Streets.

In February 1920, Atlantic Coast Realty Company surveyed an irregularly shaped parcel of land between East and Vick Streets in Wilson. The land, commonly known as the Sallie Lipscomb property, belonged to J.H. Griffin and others, who planned to carve out 45 lots for sale to home builders.

[Note: Sarah A. Barnes (1842-1927), daughter of Edwin T. and Theresa Simms Barnes, married Virginia-born Oswald Lipscomb in 1869. Per documents in Lipscomb’s estate file, Lipscomb and his brother-in-law John T. Barnes entered into a partnership to form Lipscomb & Company (also known as Lipscomb & Barnes), a contracting, carpentry and woodworking business that operated from a shop at Pine and Lee Streets. The business operated profitably until “opposition in business, a general falling off of the trade, the contraction in prices and one or more contracts for building houses in which the firm lost money” caused Lipscomb to give up the trade and “retire to his wife’s farm near the town of Wilson.” It is reasonable to assume that the Sallie Lipscomb property platted here was (part of) that farm. (Lipscomb & Barnes continued to struggle, and Barnes piled on more debt to keep the firm afloat. Lipscomb died in 1891, and Barnes in 1894. Soon after, Edwin T. Barnes, administrator of John T. Barnes’ estate, sued to make sure their brother-in-law’s estate claimed no portion of the business.)]

Plat book 1, page 184, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County.

The plat map shows neighboring landowners as “Vick” (almost certainly Samuel H. Vick), Dorsey Williams, Robert Rice and “Howard.” Development did not commence immediately, as the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map below shows empty space along the 200 block of East Street and between the 900 blocks of Washington and Carolina Streets. The six houses on Washington and one on Carolina lie beyond the borders of the Sallie Lipscomb property. Sam Vick’s house is at top left on Green Street, and the strip of land he owned at the edge of the map seems to have been behind houses in the 700 block of Green. Dorsey Williams’ house was at 304 (formerly 147) East Street.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of WIlson, N.C.

On 12 February 1924, barber David H. Coley and wife Eva Speight Coley, a teacher, purchased Number 44, one of the larger lots in the subdivision, and built a house on it. On 1 October 1929, they executed a deed of trust with realtor D.S. Boykin to secure a loan from Carolina Building and Loan Association. Exactly four weeks later, the stock market collapsed, and it is not hard to imagine that the Coleys’ fortunes fell with the country’s. They defaulted on their loan, and in February 1932, Boykin advertised the impending sale.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 February 1932.

Here is the approximate location of the Sallie Lipscomb property as shown on Google Maps today. The Coleys’ house at 931 Carolina Street was long ago demolished; it is not listed in the East Wilson historic district inventory.


Deeds of trust, no. 1.

A deed of trust is essentially an agreement between a lender and a borrower to give legal title to a property to a neutral third party who will serve as a trustee. The trustee holds the property until the borrower pays off the debt owed to the lender. During the period of repayment, the borrower keeps the actual or equitable title to the property and generally maintains full responsibility for the premises. The trustee, however, holds the legal title to the property and is empowered to sell the property to satisfy the debt if the borrower defaults.  (In that event, once the sale is complete, the trustee will distribute the proceeds between the borrower and the lender. The lender gets whatever funds are required to satisfy the debt, and the borrower receives anything in excess of that amount.)

Here are details of several deeds of trust filed in Wilson County:

  • Levi H. Peacock and his wife Hannah H. Peacock borrowed $65.88 at 6% interest from Kathleen Smith Grady to purchase a 53′ by 210′ lot with buildings on Ash Street adjacent to lots owned by O.L.W. Smith and others. The loan was due 1 January 1929. On 24 September 1928, trustee R.A. Grady filed a deed of trust that was recorded at Book 181, page 302. It carries a stamp noting thet the loan was paid in full and the deed cancelled on the due date.
  • Laura Reid and her husband H.S. Reid, Minnie Reid Creech and her husband M.C. Creech, Levi J. Reid, Hugh C. Reid, J. Harvey Reid and Walter Reid borrowed $1000 at 6% interest from A.O. Dickens to purchase 46 acres on New Raleigh Road and Contentnea Creek. Laura Reid had purchased the acreage, identified as Lot #5 of the plat at Plat Book 1, Page 24, from F.J. and Mattie Finch. Trustee Bryce Little filed a deed of trust that was recorded at Book 181, page 470. There is no indication that the loan was satisfied.

Plat Book 1, Page 24, “Division of J.D. Farrior Raleigh Road Farm Three Miles West of Wilson, N.C.,” 5 December 1916.

Lot #5 of the above plat.

The location of Laura Wilder Reid’s land today, out N.C. Highway 42 West, just past Forest Hills Road and just before Greenfield School.

  • W.M. King, J.H Neil and G.J. Branch, the trustees of “Mount Zion Holiness Church (colored)” borrowed $75 at 6% interest from J.T. Dew & Brothers to purchase a lot on the south side of Lodge Street on which a church building stood. The loan was due 14 April 1929. On 14 April 1928, trustee R.A. Grady filed a deed of trust that was recorded at Book 181, page 26. There is no indication that the loan was satisfied.
  • John Whitehead, Mat Turner and Alonzo Walker, the trustees of “Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church (colored)” borrowed $400 at 6% interest from R.A. Grady. (“Witnesseth: That whereas at a special meeting of the membership of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church (colored) held on the 4th day of January 1929 … it was made to appear that in order to complete the church building now in the course of erection” and to pay the purchase price of the lot, they needed to borrow money. … F.F. Battle, Moderator, Mary Jones, Clerk.) The lot and church building were on Atlantic Street. The loan was due 10 January 1930. On 16 January 1929, trustee R.A. Grady filed a deed of trust that was recorded at Book 181, page 543. There is no indication that the loan was satisfied.