1920s

Co-worker’s sale.

In late 1927, Oettinger’s (“The Dependable Store”) held a “co-worker’s sale,” in which employees received commissions on the sales of items they vouched for. A full page ad set out the names of dozens of employees, from corsetiere to bookkeeper to wrapper girl, touting store goods. Miss Eula Cram, for example, of the Millinery Department stood to gain from the sale of “a table of new hats.” Mr. G.H. Sullivan, the Floor Manager, noted that “Children’s jersey and silk dresses are most attractively reduced.” In the sixth and last column of the page, at the bottom, without honorifics, appear three final names. These were Oettinger’s African American employees.

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Wilson Daily Times, 29 November 1927.

Where we worked, 1922 — R.

City directories offer fine-grained looks at a city’s residents at short intervals. The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directory reveals the types of work available to African-Americans during the booming tobacco era. This post is the thirteenth in an alphabetical series listing all “colored” directory entries for whom an occupation was listed. The address is the resident’s home, unless a business address is noted.

  • Rawls, Lucy, domestic, rear 408 Whitley
  • Reavis, Etta, domestic, 505 Viola
  • Reed, Allen R., bricklayer, 415 South Goldsboro
  • Reed, John, tobacco worker, 808 Mercer
  • Reed, Elijah, drayman, 211 Sunshine Alley
  • Reed, William, tobacco worker, 212 East Jones
  • Reid, Brodie, tailor, 407 North Vick
  • Reid, J.D., active vice-president — The Commercial Bank of Wilson, 600 East Green, phone 577
  • Reid, Liston, carpenter, 316 Hackney
  • Reid, Lonnie L., tailor, 407 North Vick
  • Reid, Nora, domestic, 207 North Vick
  • Reid, Oscar, cleaner — Powell Cleaning Works, 207 North Vick
  • Reid, Sallie, domestic, 407 North Vick
  • Reid, William, barber — The Mayflower, 304 North Vick
  • Reid, William B., carpenter, 300 North Vick
  • Rice, George, barber — The Mayflower, 703 Viola
  • Rice, Visey, cook, 215 Manchester
  • Rich, George, carpenter, 902 East Vance
  • Rich, James, laborer, 502 Warren
  • Richards, Lucy, domestic, 123 Pender
  • Richardson, Cameron, laundress, 209 Stantonsburg Road
  • Richardson, Dock, laborer, 318 South Lodge
  • Richardson, George, laborer, 318 South Lodge
  • Richardson, Lee, laborer, 318 South Lodge
  • Richardson, Lena, domestic, 503 West Hines
  • Richardson, Richard, laborer, 503 West Hines
  • Richardson, Visie, laundress, 318 South Lodge
  • Richardson, Willard, porter, 209 Stantonsburg Road
  • Richardson, William, tobacco worker, 507 Hadley
  • Riggan, Marie, domestic, 626 East Vance
  • Rivington, Junius, laborer, 806 South Lodge
  • Robbins, Benjamin, barber — The Mayflower, 313 Pender
  • Robbins, Charity, grocer 600 South Lodge, 412 East Walnut
  • Robbins, John, horse shoer — J.Y. Buchanan, 418 South Lodge
  • Robbins, Louise, domestic, 917 Atlanta [Atlantic]
  • Robbins, Wilbert, laborer, 508 Banks
  • Roberts, Matilda, domestic, 802 East Vance
  • Robertson, Eugenia, laundress, 309 Hackney
  • Robertson, John, soft drinks 400 South Goldsboro, 212 East Jones
  • Robertson, Sue, cook, 508 South Goldsboro
  • Robinson, Gertrude, domestic, 526 Smith
  • Robinson, Golden, barber — W.S. Hines, 307 Pender
  • Rogers, Claude, plasterer, 1108 East Nash
  • Rogers, Early, grocer 401 Stantonsburg Road, 109 East
  • Rogers, J. Wesley, porter — Oettinger’s, 548 East Nash
  • Rogers, Mary L., grocer, 1108 East Nash
  • Rogers, Sallie, tobacco worker, 109 South East
  • Ross, William, fireman,105 West Walnut
  • Rountree, Jesse, driver, 200 Stantonsburg Road
  • Rountree, Lucy, laundress, 505 East Green
  • Rountree, Luetta, domestic, 400 East Hines
  • Rountree, Martha, cook, 907 1/2 Mercer
  • Rountree, Peggy, domestic, 907 1/2 Mercer
  • Rountree, Warren, presser, 907 1/2 Mercer
  • Rountree, Wiley, plasterer, 102 Manchester
  • Rountree, William R., barber, cleaner and presser South Tarboro near N-S Railroad track, Wiona [Winona]
  • Rowland, James, cook, 519 South Spring
  • Royster, Lewis, mill hand, 502 South Goldsboro
  • Ruffin, Easter, laundress, 546 East Nash
  • Ruffin, Eliza, laundress, 808 East Nash
  • Ruffin, Gertrude, laundress, 808 East Nash
  • Russell, Jeff E., bricklayer, 910 Atlanta [Atlantic]
  • Russell, Julia, domestic, 910 Atlantic
  • Ryan, Eugene, tobacco worker, 500 South Daniel
  • Ryan, Rosa, cook, 500 South Daniel

 

Bicycles lost and found.

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Wilson Times, 21 January 1922.

——

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John Rodgers, 30, day laborer; wife Mary E., 22; sister Minnie, 17; and boarder Sallie Barber, 35.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, John Rogers, 33, odd jobs; wife Mary E., 30; public school teacher; daughter Mary J., 2; and sisters Winnie, 22, cook, Ethel T., 12, and Ida E., 8.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John Rodgers, 49, general laborer, and wife Mary, 38, at 555 [East] Nash Street.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 546 East Nash, John W. Rogers, 57, janitor at dry goods store; wife Mary R., 47; adopted son Leonard G., 7 (born in the West Indies to West Indian parents); and niece Ernestine Atkinson, 22.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: J. Wesley Rogers, 71, retail candy store operator, and wife Mary, 70, at 546 East Nash Street.

Mary Elizabeth Rogers died 24 May 1950 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 April 1878 in Smithfield, N.C., to John Thomas; was married; resided at 546 East Nash Street; and was buried in Thomas cemetery, Johnston County. Informant was Wesley Rogers.

John Wesley Rogers died 19 December 1951 at his home at 546 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 May 1870 in Durham, N.C., to Charles Rogers; was a widower; had worked as a department store porter; and was buried in the Masonic cemetery. Earnestine Coley was informant.

Wheeler family tragedy.

Misfortune dogged the Wheeler family for decades.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 March 1896.

Sidney Wheeler was a man, not a boy, and married nine months after this mishap. On 23 December 1896, Sidney Wheeler, 24, married Lou Armstrong, 20, in Wilson. W.T.H. Woodard performed the ceremony in the presence of Richard Renfrow, S.A. Smith and Janie Booth.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: day laborer Sidney Wheelus, 27; wife Lula, 23; and son Sidney, 8 months.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Sidney Wheeler, 40, barber; wife Lou, 40, private cook; and children Sidney, 9, Dave, 7, Floyd, 4, and Emma, 2.

In March 1910, Sidney Wheeler Jr. accidentally shot his sister in the head while playing with a gun. She died instantly. Their mother was away from home cooking supper for Frederick Woodard’s family; their father presumably was also at work. The Wheeler girl’s name is unknown. The 1900 census lists only one child; the 1910, only one daughter, Emma, who lived to adulthood. Though described as eight years old, Sidney Jr. was more likely about ten.

News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 17 March 1910.

Fourteen months later, Sidney Wheeler Jr. (still described as eight years old) was charged with assault with a deadly weapon against General Tyler, “another colored boy.”

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Wilson Daily Times, 19 May 1911.

The Daily Times published two articles about the incident. The second doubled down on the sensationalist editorializing, but there seems little question that Sidney Jr. engaged in unusually violent behavior.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 May 1911.

Six months later, a Raleigh paper picked up a local-interest bit from Wilson and printed it using the exaggerated dialect and descriptions saved for negro anecdotes. In a nutshell: Anderson Dew visited Sidney Wheeler”s barber shop. With half his face shaved, Dew attempted to spit. Wheeler warned there was no spitting while he was shaving. Further, there was the matter of Dew having  testified against Wheeler on a liquor charge. Dew distracted Wheeler’s attention, then jumped from the chair and ran off to tell this tale.

The Farmer and Mechanic (Raleigh, N.C.), 7 November 1911.

Sidney Wheeler died 8 March 1912 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 35 years old; was born in Nash County to Richard and Annie Wheeler; worked as a barber; was married; and resided at 710 Vance Street. Lula Wheeler was informant.

Six and-a-half years after their father died, Sidney Wheeler Jr.’s younger brother Dabbie fetched up in court on a breaking and entering charge. As he had already done time on a county road gang, the judge sentenced him to five-to-ten in the state penitentiary.

News & Observer, 7 September 1918.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Hackney Street, college cook Lula Wheeler, 49, widow, and children Richard, 12, Emma, 10, John, 8, and Sammie, 6.

Dabbie Wheeler died four years into his prison term of tuberculosis of the shoulder joint and bowels. He was 17.

Dabbie Wheeler died 21 June 1922 at the State Penitentiary in Raleigh, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 August 1904 in Wilson to Sidney Wheeler and Lula Armstrong and worked as a laborer. He was buried in Chapel Hill.

Ten months later, Sidney Wheeler Jr. escaped from a prison camp near the Rocky Face Mountain quarry in Alexander County, North Carolina. I have found nothing further about him.

Alamance Gleaner, 5 April 1923.

Lulu Wheeler died 5 May 1925 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 August 1878 in Elm City to Emma Armstrong; she was the widow of Sid Wheeler; she resided at 523 Church Street; and she did housework for Atlantic Christian College. Emma Wheeler was informant.

Where we worked, 1922 — P & Q.

City directories offer fine-grained looks at a city’s residents at short intervals. The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directory reveals the types of work available to African-Americans during the booming tobacco era. This post is the thirteenth in an alphabetical series listing all “colored” directory entries for whom an occupation was listed. The address is the resident’s home, unless a business address is noted.

  • Page, Emma, waitress, 1022 Robinson [Roberson]
  • Page, Stephen, laborer, 1022 Robinson
  • Palmer, Ella, domestic, 702 South Lodge
  • Palmer, Joseph C., grocer 700 South Lodge, 702 South Lodge
  • Panner, Sallie, tobacco worker, 530 East Barnes
  • Parham, James, butler, 305 East Jones
  • Parker, Allison, laborer, 1110 East Nash
  • Parker, Charles, carpenter, 104 Ashe
  • Parker, Eddie, laborer, 304 Spring Street Alley
  • Parker, George, laborer, 121 Ashe
  • Parker, Jerry, tobacco worker, 811 Viola
  • Parker, John, tobacco worker, 211 East Spruce
  • Parker, John A., barber, 111 East Spruce
  • Parker, Kessia, laundress, 117 Fourth
  • Parker, Lucy, cook, 607 West Hines
  • Parker, Maggie, cook, 104 Ashe
  • Parker, Mamie C., student, 609 South Spring
  • Parker, Martha, cook, 530 East Barnes
  • Parker, Mary, cook, 121 Ashe
  • Parker, Mary, domestic, 1110 East Nash
  • Parker, Mattie, cook, 306 East Walnut
  • Parker, Moses, drayman, 419 South Goldsboro
  • Parker, Prodigal, drayman, 117 Fourth
  • Parker, Sallie, cook, 204 Pender
  • Parks, John, tobacco worker, 405 East Walnut
  • Pate, Joseph, tobacco worker, 505 East Green
  • Patrick, Edward, laborer, 406 North Pine
  • Patterson, Annie, laundress, 208 West Lee
  • Patterson, Ethel, domestic, 208 West Lee
  • Patterson, George, laborer, 208 West Lee
  • Paul, Sylvester, laborer, 502 South Daniel
  • Peacock, Hannah, teacher, 138 Ashe
  • Peacock, Hannah L., hairdresser, 138 Ashe
  • Peacock, Junius W., barber, 524 East Nash
  • Peacock, Levi H., post office clerk, 138 Ashe
  • Peacock, Levi H., Jr., barber, James H Barnes 141 Ashe
  • Pearce, Budd, laborer, 413 Warren
  • Pearce, James, auto mechanic, 520 Carroll
  • Pearce, Louella, laundress, 108 North Pettigrew
  • Pearce, Nase, tobacco worker, 905 East Vance
  • Pender, Charles, chauffeur, 213 Sunshine Alley
  • Pender, Emily, cook, 611 Warren
  • Pender, Isaac, laborer, 1007 Stantonsburg
  • Pender, Jonah, porter, 801 East Green
  • Pender, Patsy, domestic, 1007 Stantonsburg Road
  • Pender, Richmond, drayman, 504 East Vance
  • Perkins, John C., tobacco worker, 417 South Goldsboro
  • Perkins, Vance, grocer 405 South Railroad, [home] Newtown
  • Perrington, Louisa, nurse, 316 South Spring
  • Perrington, Rowena, tobacco worker, 621 Suggs
  • Perrington, Viola, tobacco worker, 621 Suggs
  • Perry, Edward, millhand, 518 Banks
  • Perry, Henry, janitor Branch Banking & Trust Co, 204 W Lee
  • Perry, Nelson, driver, Reid cor Viola
  • Perry, Rena, domestic, 113 Ashe
  • Perry, Sam, laborer, 108 Manchester
  • Perry, Thomas, laborer, 108 West Lee
  • Pettiford, Carrie, domestic, 603 Stantonsburg Road
  • Pettiford, Hugh, tobacco worker, 608 South Lodge
  • Phenious, Ben, driver, 517 South Spring
  • Phillips, Laura, tobacco worker, 214 South Reid
  • Phillips, Lou, cook, 402 East Hines
  • Phillips, William H., dentist 525 East Nash
  • Picot, William, furniture repairer 706 East Vance, 622 Viola
  • Pierce, Andrew, barber W M Hines, 413 South Warren
  • Pierce, Fannie, cook, 107 W Gold
  • Pierce, Sandy, laundress, 107 W Gold
  • Pierce, William M., Grand High Priest Knights of King Solomon Inc., Wainwright Ave
  • Pitt, Carter, fireman, 217 Manchester
  • Pitt, Hattie, laundress, 903 East Vance
  • Pitt, Lewis, farmer, 704 East Green
  • Pitt, Violet, laundress, 903 East Vance
  • Plummer, Etta, midwife, 1104 Wainwright Avenue
  • Plummer, Jennie, domestic, 553 East Nash
  • Plummer, Samuel, laborer, 1104 Wainwright Avenue
  • Poem, Porter, tobacco worker, 509 East Green
  • Poole, Charles, tobacco worker, 644 Wiggins
  • Poole, Clara, tobacco worker, 644 Wiggins
  • Poole, James, tobacco worker, 511 South Railroad
  • Poole, Mary, tobacco worker, 612 Railroad
  • Poole, Mattie, tobacco worker, 511 South Railroad
  • Pope, Frank P., tobacco worker, 911 Viola
  • Pope, Martha, tobacco worker, 203 Stantonsburg
  • Powell, Delia, laundress, 115 West Walnut
  • Powell, Itlaw, laborer 608 South Spring
  • Powell, James, cleaner and presser, Five Points Settlement
  • Proctor, Frank, driver 405 Banks
  • Pugh, Maggie, tobacco worker, 602 Stantonsburg
  • Purcell, Ruby I., dressmaker, 202 South Vick
  • Purrington, James, cook, 621 South Goldsboro

Suffer the little children: alimentary and gastrointestinal disorders.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away in sorrowful numbers. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children. Few children who died in Wilson County were buried in marked graves. In town, most early burials were in Oaklawn, Rountree, or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, Rountree was engulfed by pine forest, and their headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time.

By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

Diarrhea and dysentery

  • On 29 October 1909, Mary Perry, 2, of Wilson, daughter of Ed and Mary Perry, died of “supposed to be diarrhea.”
  • On 16 April 1910, Bettie Louise Askew, 5 months, of “corner of Vick Viola,” Wilson, daughter of John Askew and Dosia Boykin, died of diarrhea.
  • On 14 May 1910, Mary John Rodgers, 10 months, of Wilson, daughter of J.W. Rodgers and Mary E. Thomas, died of dysentery and bronchitis.
  • On 6 October 1910, Lillie Christine Foster, 1, of 132 Manchester Street, Wilson, daughter of Claud Foster and Cora White, died of “summer diarrhoea.”
  • On 20 May 1920, Clide Parker, 1, of Saratoga township, son of Henry Parker and Mary Barnes, died of dysentery and ileocolitis, with “too much rich food” as a contributing factor. [The certificate noted that Parker had been born on Edwards’ farm, WIlson County.]
  • On 29 June 1915, Estella Farmer, 15, of Stantonsburg township, daughter of Robert Farmer and Pennie Bynum, died of acute dysentery.
  • On 27 May 1917, Louis Armstrong, 12, of Black Creek township, son of Bill Armstrong, died of dysentery.
  • On 31 May 1917, Dorsey N. Powell, 10 months, of Wilson township, son of Dorsey Powell and Ella Hines, died. “No doctor. This child was cutting teeth, which effected the stomach, causing diarrhea.”
  • On 1 October 1917, Cecil Thomas Lucas, 1, of Elm City, daughter of Wiley Plymouth Lucas and Minnie Cooper, died of diarrhea and enteritis due to “faulty feeding.”
  • On 24 June 1918, Willis Edmundson, 21 months, of Saratoga township, son of Doc Edmundson and Mary Cullen, died of dysentery and was buried at Mrs. Eliza Barnes’ place.
  • On 30 June 1923, John Wesley Reid, 2, of 707 Harper Street, Wilson, son of John C. Reid and Byner Cutchon, died of summer complaint. [Summer complaint an acute condition of diarrhea, occurring chiefly in infants and children during weather and caused by bacterial contamination of food. The condition is associated with poor hygiene.]

Stomach disorders and conditions

  • On 16 October 1910, Chas. H. Gunn, 1, of Wilson, son of Moses Gunn and Annie Barnes, died of gastritis.
  • On 21 November 1910, Joseph Batts, 13 months, of Wilson, son of Willie and Oliver Batts, died of gastritis.
  • On 17 May 1917, Naomi Petway, 2, of Toisnot township, daughter of Allen Petway and Annie Mercer, “started with a very sick stomach, died in 24 hours.”
  • On 11 July 1917, Emma Davis, 1, of Wilson township, daughter of David Davis and Mary Johnson, died of gastritis.
  • On 24 July 1930, Detha Lee Mitchell, 22 days, of Taylors township, daughter of Gus Mitchell and Cora Hicks, died of starvation and dehydration and congenital pyloric stenosis.
  • On 8 August 1930, Ben Dalton Ricks, 27 days, of Toisnot township, son of Dalton Ricks and Quinnie Farmer, died of pyloric stenosis.
  • On 30 August 1930, Laura Mae Dew, 2 months, of 412 Lodge Street, Wilson, daughter of William Dew and Laura Cogdell, died of gastritis, with bad milk a contributor.

Indigestion

  • On 23 December 1910, Lucial Whitehead, 1, of Wilson, daughter of Henry Whitehead and Victora Ennis, died of “don’t know, was suffering from indigestion at the time.”

Pellagra

  • On 30 June 1916, Mark Parker, 6, school boy, of Wilson, son of Herbert Parker and Mary Simms, died of probable pellagra. [Pellagra is a disease caused by lack of niacin in the diet.  In the early 1900s, it reached nearly epidemic levels among poor people in the South as a result of over-reliance on milled corn in the diet.]
  • On 19 June 1918, Johnnie Hagans, 5, of Wilson, son of Alonza Hagans and Fronney Anderson, died of pellagra.

Intestinal disorders and conditions

  • On 14 November 1909, E.G. Bostis, 1, of Wilson, son of E.G. and Julie Bostis, died of “supposed to be bowel trouble.”
  • On 27 April 1910, John William Barnes, 11 months, of Wilson, son of J.M. Barnes and Annie Darden, died of “inflammation of bowels.”
  • On 9 June 1910, Johnnie Bryant, 10 months, of Wilson, son of Anthony Bryant and Bertha Best, died of entero-colitis.
  • On 11 July 1910, Marie R. Taylor, 4 months, of Wilson, daughter of Rev. H.B. Taylor and M.L. Taylor, died of entero-colitis.
  • On 29 June 1911, Charles Fletcher Morgan, 1, of 504 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson, son of Calvin Morgan and Almater Bynum, died of intestinal cramps.
  • On 2 June 1914, William Maning Barnes, 3, of 109 East Street, Wilson, son of Lemon Barnes and Lizzie Smith, died of intestinal catarrh.
  • On 3 June 1914, Vanjaline Williamson, 4, of Wilson, daughter of William and Hattie Williamson, died of an “obstructed bowel, cause unknown, should have been operated on.”
  • On 24 June 1914, Ernest Artis, 12, of Stantonsburg township, son of Willie and Mollie Artis, died of an intestinal perforation, with typhoid fever as a contributing cause.
  • On 29 July 1915, Howard Simmons, 13, of Wilson, son of John Simmons and Emma Bray, died of intestinal obstruction.
  • On 26 April 1917, Davis Snookums Barnes, 1, of Old Fields township, son of Wiley Barnes and Martha Homes, died of “acute enteritis caused from eating fresh green vegetables.”
  • On 9 May 1917, Willie Moore, 1, of Wilson township, son of Samuel Smith and Clara Moore, died of “possibly bowel trouble and teething.”
  • On 20 August 1917, McChata Barnes, 1, of Wilson, son of William Barnes and Maedie Taylor, probably died of ileocolitis.
  • On 12 September 1918, Novilla Barnes, 13, “in school,” of Saratoga township, daughter of Ned Barnes and Allice Locust, died of an intestinal hemorrhage, with typhoid fever as a complicating factor.
  • On 24 December 1918, Pauline David, 3, of Taylors township, daughter of Herman David and Annie Parker, died of “elleo-colitis, probable cause.”
  • On 10 June 1922, Jessy Hussey, 12, “school child,” of Wilson township, son of Willie Hussey and Bessie Holmes, died of gastroenteritis with “non-ripe berries” a contributing cause.
  • On 6 September 1922, Rematha Barnes, 8, of Stantonsburg, daughter of L.R.S. Barnes and Edealia Scott, died of an intestinal obstruction.
  • On 15 April 1929, Jessie Henderson Jr., 5 months, of Wilson, son of Jessie Henderson and Pauline Artis, died of ileo-colitis. He was buried in Rountree cemetery.
  • On 21 February 1930, Euraline Thompson, 7 months, of Cross Roads township, daughter of Addie Thompson and Lenetta Newsome, died of acute intestinal toxemia improper feeding.
  • On 17 June 1930, Herline Fulton, 8 months, of Taylors township, daughter of Rufus Fulton and Maggie Blackburn, died of “acidosis and dehydration. Undetermined. Possible intestinal obstruction operation too hazardous to attempt.”

Poisoning and esophageal burns

  • On 15 March 1916, Lee Roy Vick, 1, of Black Creek township, son of Willie Vick and Nancy Lewis, died from eating lye.
  • On 12 June 1916, Claude Homes, 4, “farmer’s child,” of Stantonsburg township, son of Stanford Homes and Louisa Pate, died of “poison from potash, accidental.”
  • On 23 October 1917, Allie Hunter, 8, of Old Fields township, daughter of James Hunter and Rosetta Barnes died of “ptomaine poisoning from eating sour vegetables.” [Ptomaine is “any of a group of amine compounds of unpleasant taste and odor formed in putrefying animal and vegetable matter and formerly thought to cause food poisoning.” Ptomaine poisoning, then, is a non-scientific term, no longer in use, for food poisoning.]
  • On 13 May 1917, Willie Benjamin Wells, 1, of Wilson, son of Willie Wells and Mazie Holland, died of “ptomaine poisoning from eating fish.”
  • On 18 June 1917, Ruffin Rowe, 8, of Lucama, son of Ruffin Rowe and Piety Tucker, died of “ptomaine poisoning ate cold cabbage not thoroughly cooked & highly seasoned with meat.” He was buried in the Rose graveyard.
  • On 18 March 1918, Olivia Dickens, 3, of Wilson, daughter of R.D. Dickens and Nora Joyner, died “supposed of poisoned milk.”
  • On 29 May 1919, George Braswell Jr., 2, of Old Fields township, son of George Braswell and Lizzie Bridges, died of “stricture esophagus for caustic lye.”
  • On 20 December 1918, Andrew Tinley, 3, of 117 Manchester Street, son of James Tinley and Lula Coppedge, died of “constriction of esophagus” as a result of drinking of boiling water from tea kettle.”
  • On 20 December 1923, Connie Barnes, 2, of Spring Hill township, daughter of Fletcher Barnes and Jemima(?) Wilder, died of accidental poisoning with lye. He was buried at Rocky Branch.

Nutritional disorders, marasmus and inanition

  • On 27 July 1916, Timothy Vick, 1, of Cross Roads township, son of John Vick and Thanie Williamson, died of “nursing from a pregnant mother — unknown.” He was buried at Williamson cemetery.
  • On 7 March 1917, Louisa Speights, 3, of Wilson, daughter of Jacob Speights and Rebecca Robbins, died of malnutrition.
  • On 16 July 1917, William Alonzo Finch, 20 days, of Elm City, son of Alonzo Finch and Annie Hall, died of “inanition due to inability of mother to nurse and lack of suitable diet.” [Inanition was a term for exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment.]
  • On 12 August 1917, David Junius Smith, 10 months, of Toisnot township, son of David Smith and Lessie Dawes, died of inanition resulting from improper feeding.
  • On 14 August 1917, Matha Matlena Braswell, 9 months, of Stantonsburg township, daughter of Ezecial Braswell and Minnie Barnes, died of morasmus and improper feeding. She was buried at the Jack Sherard place. [Marasmus is severe malnutrition causing a child to be significantly underweight.]
  • On 18 January 1919, Mayetta Jones, 1, of Saratoga township, daughter of Oscar Jones and Sue Edwards, died of “some wasting disease, don’t know exactly, looked like morasmus, don’t know cause unless was tuberculosis.”
  • On 10 November 1930, Gonnell Wallice Hagans, 2, of Wilson, son of Isaac Hagans and Essie Mae Farmer, died of rickets. [Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency. It is not, in and of itself, a fatal disorder.]

The first drowning at Contentnea Park.

I posted here about the accidental drowning of Samuel H. Vick Jr.‘s friend Eugene Fisher. The Daily Times noted that Fisher’s death was the second at Contentnea Park in a little over a week. Eddie Simms was first:

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1924.

  • Eddie Simms — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, tobacco factory worker Frances Simms, 34, and children Milton, 22, Eddie, 18, Raymond, 10, Maggie, 8, Ava, 5, Richard, 2, and Bay, 3 months. Eddie B. Simms died 17 July 1924. Per his death certificate,he was born 3 August 1904 in Wilson to Ed Mitchell and Frances Simms; was single; lived at 610 Manchester Street; worked as a shoeshiner; and “drowned while in the act of swimming accidentally.” Informant was Millie Simms.

Details of a drowning.

The day after Eugene Fisher drowned while swimming in the lake at Contentnea Park, the Daily Times printed an article suggesting that “Sam Vick,” i.e. Samuel H. Vick Jr., bore some responsibility for the accident.

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Wilson Daily Times, 29 July 1924.

Vick immediately fired back. His grief, he stated sharply, had “been still more aggravated by the misstatement of facts concerning my part in the matter, for the facts were badly twisted and really just the opposite what really happened.” Georgia Aiken also contributed a corrective, milder in tone, but just as firm.

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7 30 1924.png

Wilson Daily Times, 30 July 1924.

And where was Contentnea Park? References in contemporaneous news articles reveal that (1) it was not an African-American-only park — the Kiwanis met there regularly — but rather seems to have had a section reserved for black patrons, “the negro park”; (2) it was privately owned and operated; (3) it was located above the dam on Contentnea Creek; and (4) entrance was gained via a road marked by two stone pillars. A dam spans Contentnea Creek just above U.S. Highway 301 to form what is now known as Wiggins Mill Reservoir, still a popular recreational area. With a hat tip to Janelle Booth Clevinger, here is my best guest at the park’s location:

——

  • Eugene Fisher — Connecticut-born Eugene Leonard Fisher was newly arrived to Wilson at the time of his tragic death. His father Edwin W. Fisher was a manager with North Carolina Mutual and moved his wife and remaining children to Wilson between 1926, when Edwin is listed in the 1926 Durham, N.C., city directory, and 1928, when he appears in the Wilson directory. They settled into 624 East Nash Street, the house built for Dr. Frank S. Hargrave next door to Samuel Vick’s family home at 622. The Fishers appear in Wilson in the 1930 census, and Daisy Virginia Fisher (Eugene’s stepmother) died there on 25 April 1935. Per her death certificate, she and her husband were living at 539 East Nash at the time. Eugene Fisher’s younger brother Milton W. Fisher remained in Wilson into the 1940s, and his older brother Edwin D. Fisher lived there the remainder of his life.

Eugene Fisher’s death certificate reveals that he was an insurance agent for North Carolina Mutual. Fisher was living at an unspecified address on Nash Street. His father Edwin, then a Durham resident, was informant.

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Eugene L. Fisher served in the United States Naval Reserve Force during World War I as a mess attendant. The Messman Branch of the Navy, which was restricted to non-white sailors, was responsible for feeding and serving officers. Fisher was assigned to U.S.S. Black Hawk, a destroyer depot ship. After his death, his brother Edwin D. Fisher of 600 East Green Street applied for a military headstone to be shipped to the “Negro Cemetery (Fayetteville Street)” in Durham. [Edwin Fisher, himself a veteran of World War I, signed as “Liaison Officer, [illegible] A.V. of World War, Sumter S.C. chap. #2.” (What does this signify?)]

Aerial images courtesy of Google Maps.

UPDATE, 9 April 2019:

The “stone” pillars I identified above are actually brick. Until a better guess arrives though, I will stick with hypothesis that they mark the entrance to Contentnea Park. Many thanks to Janelle Booth Clevinger for this photo. — LYH

UPDATE, 11 April 2019: Per additional intel, the pillars shown above were erected in the 1960s. Thus, the location of Contentnea Park remains a mystery.

The wrong Turner: a correction (if not an apology).

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Wilson Daily Times, 15 July 1924.

  • Turner Lewis — in the 1920 census of Flea Hill township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: sawmill labor Turner Lewis, 40; wife Mellie, 22; and sister-in-law Gertrude Murphy, 12. In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lewis Turner lab h 211 S Railroad. Turner Lewis died 1 March 1925 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 40 years old; his parents were Isaac and Pennie Lewis; he was single and worked as a fireman for Sims Company tobacco factor; and informant was Gertrude Murphy. Lewis died of “homicide; wound on head; skull broken; no doctor; fighting; wound produced by blow from ax.”
  • Turner Stokes — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 535 Nash Street, Turner Stokes, 50, carpenter; wife Morah, 39; mother-in-law Martha Pitt, 83; and boarders Isac Shade, 44, drugstore manager; wife Estella, 38; and children Kenneth, 13, and Sarah, 9. In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Stokes Turner carp 524 E Nash. Turner Stokes died 29 June 1950 in Wilson.  Per his death certificate, he was born in 1868 in Nash County to Simon Stokes and Mariah (last name unknown); was a carpenter; was married; and resided at 104 Ash Street. Jennie Kerbo, 104 Ash, was informant.

Killed in sawmill.

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Fayetteville Observer, 26 October 1921.

Bob Speight was also known as Bob Hill. A Greene County native, he was 17 years old at his death.

Perhaps due to confusion created by his use of alternate surnames, Robert Hill, alias Speight, has two death certificates. Bob Hill’s document notes that an epileptic seizure contributed to the saw mill accident that killed him. Odie Speight acted as informant and undertaker, and W.B. Wooten signed the certificate at filing.

Robert Speight’s certificate does not mention an underlying medical event. Jessie Speight was informant, and, curiously, C.H. Darden & Son signed as undertaker. There is no registrar’s signature.