In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 411 Wiggins Street, city pipe fitter Benj. Mency, 38; wife Mattie, 37, tobacco factory worker; and children Benjamin J., 11, Mildred, 7, Maddison, 5, and John, 3 months.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 656 Wiggins Street, valued at $800, town of Wilson plumber Benjamin Mincy, 48; wife Mattie, 49; and children Benjamin Jr., 23, Briggs Hotel cook; Madison B., 16; Mildred, 17; and John H., 11; and roomer Andrew P. Sugg, 59.
On 13 October 1935, Madison Mincey, 25, of Wilson, married Lalla Rook Barnes, 25, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Charles T. Jones performed the ceremony in the presence of Frank Davis, Frank Barnes, and Anna Barnes.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hospital orderly Madison Mincey, 25; wife Lalla Rook, 22; and children Elizabeth E. and Robert E., 3; Johnny M., 1; and Luther, 5 months.
In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 803 East Green Street, Elois Parker, 29, widow; her sons William T., 11, Jessie, 6, and Ralph, 3; brother-in-law Madison Mincey, 36 collect garbage at city garbage department; nieces and nephews Elizabeth, 13, Luther, 10, Mildred, 9, Madison, 8, and Fredrick Mincey, 6; mother Mary Barnes, 71, widow; and cousin Hallie Ward, 27, private servant.
In the 1900 census of Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia: at 718 Stonewall Street, Laura Coley, 42, widow, laundress, born in N.C.; daughter Mary May, 21, laundress, born in N.C.; and boarder Abram Smith, 78, widower, day laborer.
Mary Lively died 28 March 1919 in Glennville, Tatnall County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was of unknown age; was born in Wilson, N.C. to Hayward Barnes and “Parker”; and the infomant was Laura Coley.
In the 1920 census of Brunswick, Glynne County, Georgia: at 912 Lee Street, Laura Coley, 48, laundress; nieces Mabel, 4, and Alice Anderson, 2; and lodgers Isah, 24, and Liza Boston, 21.
Laura Coley died 29 December 1930 in Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was 62 years old; was a widow; lived in 914 Stonewall Street; was born North Carolina to an unknown father and Riley Winston of North Carolina; worked as a laundress; and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Answer Anderson was informant.
Tom Pridgen died 29 December 1935 in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was 60 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to John Pridgen and Margaret [maiden name not known]; was single; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Laurel Grove cemetery, Savannah.
In the 1870 census of Turkey township, Sampson County, North Carolina: Annie(?) Carter, 18, farm laborer; Dennis Carroll, 16, works on farm; and Richard Chesnutt, 15, works on farm.
In the 1880 census of Turkey township, Sampson County, North Carolina: farm laborer Dennis Carroll, 25; wife Margeonna, 19; and children Osker, 4, and Walter, 2.
In the 1910 census of Montgomery County, Georgia: turpentine laborer Dennis Carroll, 52; wife Margie, 50; and daughter Lila, 24.
In the 1920 census of Montgomery County, Georgia: laborer Dennis Carroll, 50; wife Margie, 58; son Walter, 45 (sic); and Easter, 19.
Dennis Carrol died 16 November 1935 in Ailey, Montgomery County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1860 in Wilson, N.C.; was married; and was a farmer.
Helen Flemming died 26 July 1924 in Waycross, Ware County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1898 in Wilson, N.C., to Jim Hines; was married; lived at 1122 Teabur; and was buried in Redhill Cemetery. W.M. Flemming was informant.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm worker Dallas Taylor, 30, and wife Louisa, 37.
In the 1910 census of Mullis district, Dodge County, Georgia: odd jobs laborer Paul Taylor, 24; wife Mealie, 18; and daughter Lugene, 1.
In 1918, Paul Taylor registered for the World War I draft in Dodge County, Georgia. Per his registration card, he was born 24 June 1880; worked in drawing for E.A. Mullis; and his nearest kin was Amelia Taylor. He signed his card in a firm, fine hand.
In the 1920 census of Chester, Dodge County, Georgia: railroad section laborer Paul Taylor, 39; wife Melia, 25; and children Enijen(?), 10, Orlando, 8, and Morris, 4.
In the 1930 census of Mullis district, Dodge County, Georgia: farmer Paul Taylor, 49, born in N.C.; wife Amelia, 38; children Lou G., 20, Orlando, 18, Morris, 15, and Odessa, 6; and mother-in-law Sallie Dantley, 90, widow.
Paul Taylor died 14 December 1933 in Chester, Dodge County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 September 1883 in Wilson, N.C., to Dallis Taylor and Louisa Taylor; was married; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Burch Cemetery, Chester. Amelia Taylor was informant.
I had some questions about the American Legion’s circus, and I still do. However, this article shows that it was an annual event, and the white Post sponsored one, too. In 1933, the circus featured a basketball game between Wilson and Greenville’s Black high schools and a dance featuring the “reorganized” Carolina Stompers.
Industrial work was especially dangerous in the early twentieth century. In November 1936, Tom Bunch Simms caught his hand in a machine at work, tearing off the end of his thumb. Simms underwent surgery, but the wound became seriously infected, and Simms died of septicemia two weeks after his injury.
“Wound of hands & thumb Prurient infection”
I have not found anything further about Simms’ injury.
Nearly all grave markers from the last 40 years or so are machine-cut, their lettering precise and even and utterly predictable. In Wilson County’s African-American cemeteries, however, even a casual perusal of older markers reveals artisanal work, almost always anonymous. Though there are many hand-cut styles, one repeatedly snags the eye with its distinctive font — squared letters with flared serifs and, especially, 9’s with long, pointed tails. These carvings are the work of marble cutterClarence Benjamin Best, who chiseled stars, crosses, flowers, lambs, and Masonic emblems, as well as grammatically idiosyncratic epitaphs, into slabs of stone for more than 50 years. I have found his work in rural Wilson County cemeteries and as far afield as Wayne, Edgecombe, and Greene Counties, butRest Haven Cemeteryis the ground zero of his oeuvre.
Best got his start as a marble cutter at Wilson Marble Mantle & Tile Company on North Railroad Street. By the early 1920s, he was designing and cutting headstones for African-American clients as a side gig. Operating from a backyard workshop, Best worked at every price point, often repurposing scrap stone or headstone seconds to create custom monuments that collectively testify to his skill and endless creativity. He opened his own business in 1946, advertising FINE CEMETERY MEMORIALS, and worked another 30 years.
As a tribute to this unsung vernacular artist, I’ve set out to photograph every monument I can attribute to Clarence B. Best and will feature his stand-out pieces in a dedicated Instagram account. Stay tuned.
Behold the Lamb of God. Clarence B. Best’s work is well-represented in Saint Delight Cemetery, near Walstonburg, Greene County, North Carolina.
On 23 January 1902, James A. Armstrong married Lucinda Lee in Ware County, Georgia.
In 1918, James Edmon Armstrong registered for the World War I draft in Pierce County, Georgia. Per his registration card, he was 17 April 1880; lived on Route 2, Alma, Pierce County; farmed for A.C. Sweat; and his nearest relative was Lusendy Armstrong.
In the 1920 census of Sweats township, Pierce County, Georgia: farm laborer James Armstrong, 39, born in North Carolina; wife Lucinda, 36; and children Richmond, 19, Luster, 15, Maimie, 13, Prissillar, 11, Lola, 9, Aaron, 7, Lucinda, 5, Edmund, 4, Amos, 2, and Calonia, 9 months.
In the 1930 census of Louisville township, Bacon County, Georgia: farmer James Armstrong, 50, born in North Carolina; wife Lusenda, 44; and children Aaron, 20, Edwin, 16, Amos, 12, Carolonia, 10, Mary O., 8, John, 6, Bernice, 3, and Jasper, 2.
James Armstrong died 1 February 1935 in Alma, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was 53 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Charles Armstrong and Mary Larence; was married; and worked as a farmer. Lester Armstrong was informant.
James C. Clark
James C. Clark died 3 July 1933 in Waycross, Ware County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1871 in Wilson, N.C., to unknown parents; was married; lived at 821 Pittman, Waycross; and was buried in Redhill Cemetery, Waycross. Informant was Ammie Clark.
In the 1910 census of Milan, Telfair County, Georgia: turpentine laborer Hector Daniels, 56, and wife Mary, 45.
In the 1930 census of Milan, Telfair County, Georgia: Henry G. Daniels, 75, and wife Mary, 67. Both were North Carolina-born farm laborers.
Mary Daniels died 11 May 1933 in Milan, Telfair County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 May 1857 in Wilson County, N.C., to Isaac and Cheney Joiner; was married; and was buried at Camp Six, Milan. Rex Daniels was informant.
In the 1880 census of Elizabethtown, Bladen County, North Carolina: laborer Troy McMillan, 26; wife Alice, 25; and children Mag J., 4, Mary A., 3, and Attie, 8 months; plus brother Clifton McMillan, 22.
In the 1900 census of Wooten township, Coffee County, Georgia: day laborer John Williams, 21; wife Maggie, 23; and children Lola, 3, and Mary, 1.
In the 1910 census of Dickens Mill township, Ben Hill County, Georgia: farmer John Williams, 35; wife Maggie, 31; children Neil, 16, Mary, 13, Lola, 11, and Esau, 2; plus boarder Clarance Harris, 39.
Maggie Mumford died 4 December 1932 in Douglas, Coffee County, Georgia. Per her death certificate, she was 56 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Troy McMillian; was married; and was buried in the city cemetery in Broxton, Georgia.
William Jones died 29 January 1927 in Odum, Wayne County, Georgia. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 July 1867 in Wilson, N.C.; was married to Lody Jones; worked as a common laborer; and was buried in Pine Grove cemetery.
This photograph of the Wilson Bus Center and the Oak Filling Station (built around the truck of its namesake tree) was probably taken not long after they opened in 1938. An African-American man is pumping gas at the rear of a vehicle. Another African-American man stands near its front fender.
Acclaimed African-American painted John W. Hardrick painted this life-size portrait of Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward circa 1932. The painting was stolen from the Ward family’s Indianapolis, Indiana, home in the mid-1950s, and his descendants seek its return.
I cannot say enough in praise of Wilson County Public Library and its incredible cadre of dedicated librarians. WCPL offers an incredible array of services and steadfastly walks the walk of inclusion, holding space for the stories of all of us.