1930s

Applications for military headstones, no. 4: Rountree Cemetery.

None of these veterans’ headstones have yet been found in Rountree, Odd Fellows, or Vick Cemeteries, the cemeteries collectively known as “Rountree.” 

  • David McPhail

Dave McPhail registered for the World War I draft in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born April 1896 in Wade, N.C.; lived in Darden’s Alley; worked as an auto mechanic for S.H. Vick; and was single.

David McPhail died 6 March 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 31 December 1899 in Cumberland County to Raford and Laura McPhail; lived at 208 South Vick; was married to Juanita McPhail; and worked as a mechanic.

  • Jessie Oliver 

Jessie Oliver registered for the World War I draft in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 24 December 1890 in Waynesboro, Georgia; lived in Black Creek; worked as a laborer for M.B. Aycock; and was single. 

Jessie Oliver died 12 February 1938 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 48 years old; was born in Georgia; was divorced; and worked as a laborer. Mary Jones was informant.

  • Robert Reaves

Robert Reaves died 7 December 1932 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 37 years old; was born in Orangeburg, S.C., to Robert and Luella Reaves; was married to Daisy Reaves; lived at 510 Smith Street; and worked as a mechanic for a cement finisher.

  • Doc Richardson

Doc Richardson registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 1887 in Johnston County, N.C.; lived at 523 Lodge Street, Wilson; and worked as a railroad section hand for J.B. Hooks.

Doc Richardson died 5 March 1937 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 March 1889 to David and Vicey Ann Richardson; was single; worked as a laborer; and lived at 713 Viola Street. Lee Richardson was informant.

  • Dock Royall

Dock Royall died 31 March 1938 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 September 1898 in Sampson County, N.C., to Samuel and Rachel Royall; was married to Ossie Mae Royall; lived at 310 Hackney Street; worked as a mechanic for Hackney Body Company. George W. Royall of Clinton was informant.

  • Plummer Williams

Plummer Williams registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 1896 in Pitt County, N.C.; lived at Route 6, Wilson; worked as a farm hand for W.F. Williams, Wilson; and was single.

Plummer Williams died 11 December 1937 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 44 years old; was married to Annie Williams; worked as a common laborer; and was born in Falkland [Pitt County], N.C., to Haywood Williams and Francis Barnes.

Family ties, no. 1: a shoebox full of food.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as in the Great Migration north. This post is the first in a series of excerpts from interviews with Hattie Henderson Ricks, their adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, born in 1872, was the eighth of nine children. By time she moved to Wilson, only her brothers James Lucian Henderson, born 1859, and Caswell C. Henderson, born 1865, were living. (Hattie was her sister Loudie Henderson’s grandchild.) Caswell had migrated to New York City by about 1890, but Lucian remained in Dudley to farm. He and his wife, Susan McCollum Henderson, had only one child, who died in early adulthood without a spouse or children.

Susie Henderson had long been sickly and, by the late 1920s, Lucian Henderson’s health had begun to fail. Jesse Jacobs’ nephew, John Wesley Carter, lived nearby. He had developed a close relation with the Hendersons, but could not be expected to assume complete responsibility for their care.

The family turned to the Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road for a solution:

“Mama Sarah [would] fix dinner and send it down to Dudley on the train. The man that run the whatchacallit — engine?  Up there, where stokes the fire or whatever is on the train. He would take it.  But she would tell what day she was gon send it. And so somebody’d be up there to the train station to get it.  And the train, ‘cause a lot of time the train didn’t stop in Dudley. But anyway, the man, the conductor, he would pull the thing, whatever, for the train to stop long enough for him to drop off this package.  … Somebody she’d have be out there when the train come through, and then the porter on the train — Mama knew him —  and so then Johnnie and them or somebody be out there to take the package. It’d be a shoebox full of food, already cooked and ready to eat. So that’s the way they helped Uncle Lucian and A’nt Susie, like that. Until they died, and so that was the end of trying to feed them and take care of them.”

Look closely at this snippet of a 1936 map of the Atlantic Coast Line’s routes. Wilson is just above the center point. Lucian and Susie Henderson’s care packages traveled south through Goldsboro to the whistle stop at Dudley’s platform, nine miles below and just above Mount Olive.

Adapted from interviews of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, 1996 and 1998. All rights reserved. 

In honor of soldiers, sailors, marines and nurses.

O. Nestus Freeman built the massive stone base of this World War I memorial.

It stands at the entrance to the Wilson County Fairgrounds (and, formerly, stockcar race track) on 301 South. A June 27 Daily Times article announcing the Fourth of July 1935 unveiling of the monument describes the base as: “a shaft or pyramid of stone 20 by twelve feet, sixteen feet high, containing 86 tons of Wilson county granite surmounted by thirty-four foot flag staff ….” No mention of Freeman.

I don’t know stone masonry technique, but this knife-edge crease, rendered in igneous rock, is pretty amazing. 

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2021. 

Governor’s Day attendees.

Baltimore Afro-American, 11 June 1938.

William and Ethel Cornwell Hines, “Mrs. M. Darden” (probably Naomi Duncan Darden), and Flossie Howard Barnes traveled to Richmond, Virginia, in 1938 to attend a Governor’s Day program. (I have no information on either the purpose of the program or why North Carolinians would have been interested.)

Snaps, no. 85: Hattie Henderson Ricks.

On the 111th anniversary of her birth, remembering my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks. This photo was snapped circa 1931 in East Wilson. I have not been able to identify the house. The same day, the photographer captured images of her oldest sons, Lucian and Jesse Henderson, her great-aunt Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, and a friend, Sarah Lyles.

Photo in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Fire at the cemetery.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 September 1932.

In this odd series of events, the “negro cemetery” appears to be the old Oakdale cemetery, located west of Stantonsburg Street (now Pender) and by 1932 abandoned.

——

  • Frank Austin — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 318 South Lodge Street, Alas Austin, 65; son George Austin, 45; and grandchildren Pattie B., 20, Earnest, 19, Rose M., 17, Lorrine, 13, Katie B., 12, Virginia, 11, and Leroy Barnes, 10, and Frank Austin, 23. [The Barnes children were surely the children of India Alston Barnes, who was shot to death by their father Tip Barnes in 1921.]

Gordon’s Glory Hair Dressing.

Just when I thought I could not be further surprised about Black Wilson came this glorious ad for Gordon’s Glory Hair Dressing Parlor. 

Wilson Daily Times, 10 August 1920.

Yes, for a while, Wilson had its own entrant in the early 20th-century battle for Black hair care supremacy.

Before Wilson, Oscar Gordon was in Winston-Salem, N.C. It’s not clear when he developed his hair care formula or when he opened his laboratory, but in September 1916, there was this: 

Twin-City Daily Sentinel, 12 September 1916.

Gordon registered for the World War I draft in Winston-Salem in 1917. His card notes that he was born 29 June 1888 in Kittrell Springs, N.C.; lived at 209 Fogle; was single; and worked as a self-employed laborer. Later that year, he placed this modest ad for for his Glory Hair grower.

Winston-Salem Journal, 27 October 1917.

By 1918, Gordon had relocated to Wilson and was placing ads in newspapers across the country touting his “course in hair dressing” (which included a certificate of qualification and a “hair dresser’s outfit” of tools and creams) and various products developed by “O.C. Gordon’s Laboratory” and for order from his manufacturing company at 512 East Nash Street. 

The illustration shows the “Hair Dressers’ Oil Stoves for heating two combs.” Birmingham Reporter, 17 August 1918. 

Gordon placed this testimonial ad close to home:

Gordon’s Glory in its tin box. Wilson Daily Times, 25 June 1919.

Gordon also placed an ad for a “lady bookkeeper”:

Wilson Daily Times, 3 October 1919.

The 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists O.C. Gordon Manufacturing Company, a maker of toilet preparations, at 512 East Nash Street. Oscar C. Gordon, its proprietor, lived at 521 East Nash. 

By late 1920, Gordon had expanded his product line to include face powders (in “good brown,” pink and white) and hair pullers (“unnecessary to wrap rags around the handle” — something like a flat iron?)

Birmingham Reporter, 11 December 1920.

As first seen in 1917 in Winston-Salem advertising, a la Madam C.J. Walker, Gordon occasionally intensified his branding to include a photograph of himself in a tie and high detachable collar — and a magnificent head of flowing hair. 

He has restored hair on thousands of bald heads. Wilson Daily Times, 1 July 1921.

In the 1922 directory, Gordon is listed as a hairdresser at 511 East Nash. His factory is not listed. The 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson shows a hairdresser at 513, and at 511 a presser, which generally meant a clothes presser.  The site is now a parking lot.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C.

Soon after, Oscar Gordon took his talents to New York City, where he set up shop in Harlem at 267 West 144th Street.

“Use Gordon’s Glory Hair Grower for that bald spot and be convinced.” Wilson Daily Times, 21 January 1926.

He was still in business in 1930, advertising face bleach and black hair dye in addition to creams and combs. An ad placed in 1933 in the New York Age shows Gordon weathered the early years of the Great Depression.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 March 1930.

In 1942, Oscar Caroline Gordon registered for the World War II draft in New York City. Per his registration card, he was born 29 June 1888 in Kittrell Springs, N.C.; lived at 147 West 143rd Street, Apartment 1; his contact was Mrs. Brown at the same address; and he was a hairdresser with his own business at that location. 

It’s not entirely clear, but it appears that Oscar C. Gordon died in New York City in 1983.

I’ve found much less about Gordon’s assistants. Madame Bell Malone left no trace in Wilson at all.  Madame Alma Pouncey’s time there is also difficult to trace. An Alma Pouncey, 24, married Will Hemmingway in Wilson in 1915 (well before Gordon’s ad called her by her maiden name). Their marriage license provides no other personal details. Lucin Hemingway was born 31 August 1918 in Tanner Creek district, Norfolk County, Virginia, to Wm. Hemingway, 41, laborer, of South Carolina and Alma Pouncey, 20, laundress, of South Carolina. Alexander Dudley Hemingway was born (and died) 12 August 1919 in Bennettsville, Marlboro County, South Carolina, to William Hemingway of Richmond, Virginia, and Alma Pouncey of Marlboro County. In the 1920 census, Will and Alma Hemmingway and their son Will Jr. were working as farm laborers in Clio, Marlboro County, South Carolina. (Did the Hemingways move to Wilson later that year?) On an unknown date, Alma Holmes applied for a delayed birth certificate in Marlboro County, S.C. Per the application, she was born Alma Pouncey on 17 November 1900 in Bennettsville, S.C., to Lucien Pouncey and Ida Swinney, both now dead, and resided in New York City. Alma P. Holmes died 16 June 1952 in Bennettsville, S.C. Per her death certificate, she was about 52 years old; was born in Marlboro County, S.C., to Lucious Pouncey and Ida Swiney; was the widow of Roudalph Holmes; and worked as a seamstress. Ethel L. Grace was informant.

Memorial Day celebration at Rountree Cemetery.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 May 1932.

On Memorial Day 1932, Henry Ellis Post #17 of the American Legion led a group in a march from post headquarters to Rountree Cemetery [which was probably actually Odd Fellows or Vick Cemetery.] There, they held a program that “includes song services and public speaking at which special tribute will be paid to the soldiers of all wars who sleep in Roundtree’s cemetery.

[Note: Via Lane Street Project, I had hoped to be able to arrange a ceremony with Post #17 for this Memorial Day. Perhaps in 2022.]