1930s

The obituary of Ira R. McGowan.

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Indianapolis Star, 18 May 1939.

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In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Setta Whitfield, 37, domestic servant; Gross Conner, 18, a white news dealer; Tillman McGown, 35, farm laborer, wife Charity, 36, and children Amy, 17, Lucinda, 15, Aaron, 20, Ira, 5, Delia A., 7, Nathan, 3, and Courtney, 1.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Tilman McGown, 43, wife Charity, 49,  and children Delia A., 18, Ira R., 15, and Nathan, 13.

Ira R. McGowan married Alice A. Stout on 2 December 1894 in Marion County, Indiana.

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Indianapolis Journal, 30 April 1895.

In the 1900 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 928 Camp Street, Ira McGowan, 33, foundry day laborer; wife Alice S., 27; son Benjamin, 4; and two boarders Carrie Stout, 15, and Frank Stout, 13.

In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 928 Camp Street, market house salesman Ira McGowan, 45, born in North Carolina; his Kentucky-born wife Alice, 38; and Indiana-born son Benjamin T., 13.

In the 1920 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 952 Camp Street, Ira McGowan, 54; wife Alice, 60; son Ben, 23; and daughter-in-law Helen, 27.

In the 1930 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 952 Camp Street, owned and valued at $6000, Ira R. McGowan, 61, public market salesman; wife Alice, 57; and cousin Lottie Freeman, 8.

Ira McGowan died 17 May 1939 at his home at 952 Camp, Indianapolis. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 January 1865 in North Carolina to unknown parents; worked as a laborer; and was married to Alice McGowan.

Benjamin McGowan died 20 October 1945 in Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 May 1899 in Indiana to Ira McGowan of North Carolina and Alice Stout of Paris, Kentucky; worked as a custodian at the “Income Tax Division”; and was married to Ruth McGowan.

An accounting.

A financial statement prepared by the state bank commissioner on 1 August 1933 concerning the Commercial Bank, which had closed 23 September 1929. The defendants listed appear to be the bank’s shareholders. (As account holders, they were also victims of the shady business practices that led to the bank’s collapse.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 5 August 1933.

B.C. Griffin, Judge Fleming, Edwin W. Fisher, Mayme B. Ford, Cora Farmer, Stattie Cannon, James H. Ford, Jasper Coley, John F. Battle, Lucrean Barnes, Ethel L. Barber, Sallie M. Barbour, J.W. Black, Columbus E. Artis, S.D. Artis, Georgia Crockett Aiken, Julia Burnette Harrell, Ed Humphrey, Ruth E. Hooker [Coppedge], Amos Johnson, Levi H. Jones, Tempsie Jones, Columbus Mitchell, Laura Wardill McPhail, Raiford J. McPhail, J.O. Plummer [likely John O. Plummer of Warren County, father of E. Courtney Plummer Fitts], William Hines, Eleanor [Elna] J. Farmer Hooker, Louis Thomas, Charles S. Thomas, Turner Stokes, Isaac A. Shade, D.B. Swinson, J.D. Reid, Eleanor P. Reid, Alfred F. Rector (white; listed in the 1930 city directory as a ticket agent for the A.C.L. Rail Road Company), Joe Rogers, Lyda Rountree, Levi H. Peacock, L.T. Lucas (probably white), Green Taylor, E.A. Taylor, Samuel H. Vick, Christine Venters, James Whitfield, Marie Williams.

Thirteenth violation.

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Wilson Daily Times, 21 April 1939.

Like many who operated “cabarets” — Negro or not — Herbert Woodard supplied adult beverages to clients who sought them. Wilson was a dry county, however, and “liquor by the drink” was unlawful.

[Illegal or not, corrupt police “allowed” liquor sales by a handful of bootleggers who were expected to pay for the privilege. Herbert Woodard’s repeated arrests suggest that he was either unwilling to make payoffs or was not among the chosen few.]

 

The obituary of William J. Howell.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 November 1939.

As noted here, William J. Howell was a member of the Red Hot Hose Company, Wilson’s all-black volunteer fire company.

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William Howell, 35, son of J. and R. Howell of Fayetteville, North Carolina, married Susan Minche [Mincey], 40, on 29 October 1903 in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister E.S.W. Simmons performed the ceremony in the presence of J.P. Daniel, Carrie Pettiford and P. Henry Cotton.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Moore Street, William Howell, 40, factory laborer, and wife Susan, 35.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Howell Susan domestic h525 Stemmery and Howell Wm J lab h525 Stemmery

On 8 March 1929, W.J. Howell, 58, married Henrietta King, 50, in Wilson. Baptist minister B.F. Jordan perfromed the ceremony in the presence of Gen. W. Coppedge, Willie Faulkland and Eva M. Hines.

William J. Howell died 8 November 1939 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was born in Cumberland County, North Carolina, to Rachel Barnes; worked as a laborer; lived at 517 Church Street; and was buried at Rountree cemetery.

 

The obituary of Lewis W. Townsend.

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Wilson Daily Times, 18 July 1932.

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In the 1870 census of Oak Hill township, Granville County, North Carolina: Demsy Townsend, 39, blacksmith; wife Leatha, 30; and children Thomas, 18, Lewis, 16, Mary J., 14, Crawford, 13, Andrew, 10, and Alx, 1.

Lewis Townsend married Ritta Thorp on 28 December 1876 in Granville County.

In the 1880 census of Walnut Grove township, Granville County: George Hobgood, 46, farmer, and Louis Townsend, 25, servant, works on farm.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer William Barnett, 21, wife Mollie, 19, father Lewis Townsend, 46, and mother Henrietta Townsend, 44.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 419 Hines Street, tobacco contractor Lewis Townsend, 62; wife Henretta, 60; and children Alzie Townsend, 22, tobacco factory worker, and Geneva Brown, 24; son-in-law George, 26, garage mechanic; and Ester, 1, George Jr., 4, and Martha, 2.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 408 East Hines, owned and valued at $1200, Will Gardner, 42, ice plant laborer; wife Mary, 42, and son Levi, 18; plus Henretta 73, and Lewis Townsend, 80.

Henrietta Townsend died 13 January 1932 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born October 1856 in Granville County to Haywood and Rachel Thorpe, both of Person County; was married to Louis Townsend; and lived at 406 East Hines. Informant was Rachel Dixon, 406 East Hines.

Louis Townsend died 12 July 1932 in Wilson (five months after his wife). Per his death certificate, he was born 29 February 1853 in Person County to Demptsey Townsend and Margaret Thorp; was a widower; had worked as a day laborer for a tobacco manufacturing company; and lived at 408 East Hines. Informant was Racheal Dixson.

Thomas Townsend died 26 February 1959 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 November 1885 in Person County, North Carolina, to Louis Townsend and Henerietta Thorpe; lived at 406 East Hines, Wilson; and worked as a laborer. Informant was Racheal Dixon, 406 East Hines.

Andrew Townsend died 2 January 1960 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 January 1881 in Person County to Lewis Townsend and Henritta Thorpe; was a widower; lived at 525 South Spring Street; and was a laborer. Informant was Minnie Merrill, 525 South Spring.

Liquor and secret panels.

During our conversation in February, Samuel C. Lathan also told me about “Moon” Jones, who held an infamous annual gambling event called the Skin Ball. Luther “Moon” Jones had a spoon in many pots, including bootlegging:

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1939.

  • Luther “Moon” Jones — possibly, in the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jones Luther J (c; Lula) rest 543 E Nash h 712 Hadley. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: renting for $16/month, Lula Herring, 25, seamstress, and boarder Luther Jones, 38, cafe manager. Luther Jones registered for the World War II draft in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1899 in Wilson; resided at 540 East Nash, Wilson; his contact was “(Nellie Jones) Mrs. Myrtie Jones,” 1101 East Nash; and he was an unemployed painter.
  • Biltmore Hotel — at 541 East Nash, previously known as the Hotel Union and Whitley Hotel.

U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

“So you’ll know when it’s your time to go.”

John G. Thomas’ “Wilsonia” column appeared in the Daily Times regularly during the 1930s and ’40s. A raconteur of human-interest stories, Thomas — typically, for the times — was drawn to tales of picaresque negroes living in Wilson’s colored section. In his 8 January 1937 column, Thomas introduced his readers to the sad and curious tale, derived via hearsay, of the “conjuration” of Duncan Hargrove. Just 11 months later, on 11 February 1938, Thomas revisited the story, adding considerable detail to the plight Hargrove, now called “Jake,” and augmenting his  armchair anthropologist’s analysis of rootwork, a deep-rooted African-American spiritual practice. (“You probably won’t believe that in this day and age a simple thing like a hole bored in an oak tree could kill a person by itself. Now would you? But 1938 isn’t such a far cry after all, when it comes to superstition among the negroes of the south. It was several years back when I became interested in such things over here.”)

In a nutshell: Hargrove, who lived on Carolina Street, had a “leaky heart” (valve regurgitation.) After an argument, a friend cursed Hargrove by boring a hole into a tree and pronouncing that Hargrove would live only until the tree’s bark had grown over the hole. After watching the hole with fearful obsessiveness, Hargrove traveled to Georgia and Florida searching for a conjurer to lift the “hand” placed on him. He failed and, as the old folks used to say, after “going down slow,” he died.

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Wilson Daily Times, 9 February 1937.

Now the remix, EP version, with Duncan as “Jake,” the friend as a rootworker in his own right, and the maple as an oak:

Wilson Daily Times, 11 January 1938.

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  • Duncan Hargrove — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vance Street, D. John Hargrove, 28, fireman at machine shop; wife Vina, 25, laundress; children D[illegible], 8, Willie, 6, Jacob, 4, and John Ben, 4; mother Adline, 50, widowed laundress; brother Esaias, 30, machine shop fireman; and niece Melia A. Hargrove, 15, cook.
  • Toussaint L’Ouverture
  • Dr. Devil and Dr. Buzzard — For another story of rootwork in Wilson County, this one also involving Dr. Buzzard and a hole bored in a tree, see here.
  • Note Hardy — Note Hardy died 12 April 1977 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 September 1900 to Charlie Durham and Annie Hardy in Wayne County; was never married; was handicapped; and resided in Goldsboro, Wayne County.
  • Harvey Green
  • John Moore
  • John the Conqueror
  • Adam & Eve
  • mojo — see also here and (another of Thomas’ columns) here.
  • John McGill

Seven fights on tonight’s card.

Open just months, the Reid Street Community Center hosted bouts between Wilson County boxers eighty years ago today.

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Wilson Daily Times, 30 March 1939.

  • Charlie Farris — Charles Patrick Farris (1907-1958), son of Joseph and Rosa Selim Farris.
  • Walter Parker
  • Baby Ray
  • Jimmy Knight
  • Henry Mills
  • Emanuel Hill — in the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Henry Hill, 54, farm laborer; wife Rosa, tobacco factory laborer; daughter Mamie Autry, 28, tobacco factory laborer; sons William, 22, oil mill laborer, Jessie, tobacco factory laborer, Emanuel, 17, “new worker, and Benjamin Hill, 14; daughter Mertina Hill, 12; and grandchildren Deloris, 6, Dorthy, 4, and Timothy Autry, 2. Emanuel Hill registered for the World War II draft in 1942 in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 July 1922 in Wilson; lived at 104 Carroll Street, Wilson; his contact was Mrs. Evelina Carr, 1308 East Nash; and he worked at Norfolk Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia. (He was described as 5’10”, 166 pounds.)
  • James Hardy
  • David Cox — possibly: in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 Pender Street, Leslie H. Cox, 58; wife Mary J., 53; children Nancy, 26, servant, Flossie, 20, servant, Leslie Jr., 18, hotel bellhop, David, 16, “new worker,” and Ardelia, 13; and grandson June Lee Cox, 9. David Cox registered for the World War I draft in Richmond, Virginia. Per his registration card, he was born 17 September 1923 in Wilson; he resided at 1216 West Moore Street, Richmond (later, 269 West 153rd Street #5, New York, New York); his contact was Flossie K. Cox; and he worked for Nagoo Sanyons, 904 North Boulevard. (This David was 5’2″, 202 pounds — could it really be the same man?)
  • Belton McGirt
  • Harvey Ford — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 409 Carroll Street, carpenter Curtis Ford, 52; sons Quincey, 20, and Harvey G., 19, tobacco factory laborers; wife Mayme, 48, teacher; son-in-law Liston Sellers, 22, tobacco factory laborer; daughter Leah, 22, and granddaughter Yvette, 2. Harvey Gray Ford registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in February 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 8 January 1921 in Wilson; lived at 910 East Green Street; was unemployed; and his contact was mother Mamie Ford. (He was listed at 5’9″, 150 pounds.) Harvey Gray Ford died in a drowning accident on 4 June 1942 in Falling Creek, Lenoir County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 January 1921 in Wilson to Curtis Ford of Dillon, S.C., and Mamie Battle of Wayne County, N.C.; was a single student; and resided at 910 East Green, Wilson.
  • Bruce Bynum — in the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Josh Bynum, 43; wife Mamie, 28; and children Robert, 16, Bertie, 6, Belva, 4, Bruce, 2, and Beulah, 5 months. In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Belvar Bynum, 23, farm laborer; brother Bruce, 22, WPA hospital laborer; sister Beulah, 21; and nephew George, 7. Bruce Bynum registered for the World War II draft in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 2 February 1918; resided at Route 2, Walstonburg, Wilson County; his contact was friend Willie Robert Owens; and he worked for Edd Gay. (Bynum was still at fighting weight. His card shows he was 5’8″, 165 pounds.)
  • Bennie Griffin
  • Howard Pepper — probably: Willie Howard Peppers registered for the World War II draft in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 16 February 1914 in Durham, N.C.; lived at 508 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; worked for the Town of Wilson at its city lot; and his contact was wife Mary Edna Peppers. (The card lists him as 5’6″, 150 pounds, but the registrar noted: “believe 5’8″ weight 170.”)