1930s

Visitor to Saint Mark’s.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 August 1934.

Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, 106 South Reid Street. This building replaced an earlier one on the site. Saint Mark’s sanctuary now serves its historic African-American congregation as well as a Latino mission, La Iglesia de la Guadelupana.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2019.

In the neighborhood of Watson’s land.

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Plat book 1, map 254.

This 1937 notice of sale of the property of John A. and Nannie K. Watson contains bits of information about land ownership by African-Americans in Taylors township, a few miles northeast of the town of Wilson.

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Lots 1-4 on the plat map were known as the “Ellis and Woodard tract of Kinchen Watson.” They lay about a half-mile west of the Wilson-Nashville highway (now N.C. Highway 58) and the description of their outer perimeter begins at the corner of “the old Warren Rountree lands and the Hilliard Ellis home tract.” Warren Rountree and Hilliard Ellis were half-brothers. Both were born into slavery, but became prosperous farmers and landowners within a few years after Emancipation. The irregular pentagon of Lot 1 of the tract wrapped around a two-acre rectangle belonging to the Warren Rountree heirs, and Lot 2 excluded “a parcel of land containing one-half acre called the Ellis Chapel lot upon which stands a colored church.”

Detail of lots 1 and 2 of the Ellis & Woodard tracts.

The second tract up for auction, “the Jim Howard tract,” is marked Lot 5 on the plat map at page 251 of Plat Book 1, below.

The third tract, the “Lamm tract,” consisted of Lots 1-4 of the plat map below. These properties were surrounded by tracts belonging to African-American men whose families were connected by blood, intermarriage and historical status as free people of color. James G. “Jim,” Kenyon, Jesse and Allison (not Anderson) Howard were sons of Zealous and Rhoda Eatmon Howard, and William Howard appears to have been a grandson. Charles Brantley‘s daughter Mollie married her cousin Kenyon Howard. John and Kenyon “Kenny” Locust (also spelled Locus and Lucas) were father and son, and John’s mother was Eliza Brantley Locus.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 November 1937.

Plat Book 1, Page 251.

Per Google Maps, the area shown in the first plat today. At (A), Ellis Chapel Free Will Baptist Church; at (B), the approximate location of the Warren Rountree heirs’ two acres; at (C), the Hilliard Ellis cemetery, which is outside the Watson land; at (1) Aviation Place; at (2) Packhouse Road; at (3) N.C. Highway 58; and at (4) Little Swamp, which is a tributary of Toisnot Swamp.

Plat books at Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

 

The collapse of the Vick empire.

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.  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.

On a single day in April 1935, Samuel H. and Annie Washington Vick lost nearly all of their wealth, including their home. The Vicks were heavily in debt and had defaulted on their loans.  Trustee Mechanics and Farmers Bank, an offshoot of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (and one of a handful of black North Carolina banks to survive the Great Depression), offered dozens of their properties for sale. On 4 April 1935, as recorded in Deed Book 221, pages 333-341, Home Development Corporation purchased the following tracts — comprising 109 houses and lots, 4 additional vacant lots, and 2 large parcels — for $35,000:

  • Tract 1 — the house and lot at 310 [North] Pender Street.
  • Tract 2 — the house and lot at 313 [North] Pender Street.
  • Tract 2-A — the houses and lots at 401, 403, 407 and 409 Viola Street.
  • Tract 3 — “off of and south of Plank road [East Nash Street], adjoining the lands of Harry Clark and others.”
  • Tract 4 — a 19-room house on Vance Street. [This is likely the building that housed the Independent School.]
  • Tract 5-A — the house and lot at 714 East Viola Street.
  • Tract 5-B — the “Vick Home Place” at 622 East Green Street. [The Vicks regained title to this house, which remains in family hands today.]
  • Tract 5-C — the houses and an empty lot at 711, 713 and 717 East Green Street.
  • Tract 5-D — the house and lot at 716 East Green Street.
  • Tract 5-E — the house and lot at 703 East Green Street.
  • Tract 5-F — the house and lot at 709 East Green Street.
  • Tract 5-G — the houses and lots at 606, 608, 610, 612 and 614 East Vance Street.
  • Tract 5-H — the houses and lots at 630 and 632 East Vance Street.
  • Tract 5-I — the house and lot at 620 East Vance Street.
  • Tract 5-J — the house and lot at 624 East Vance Street.
  • Tract 5-K — the house and lot at 628 East Vance Street.
  • Tract 5-L — the houses and lots at 617 and 619 East Viola Street.
  • Tract 5-M — the houses and lots at 705 and 707 East Viola Street.
  • Tract 5-N — the house and lot at 623 Darden Alley [now Lane].
  • Tract 6 — the houses and lots at 701 and 703 East Vance Street.
  • Tract 7 — a 5820 square-foot lot on Viola Street.
  • Tract 8 — the house and lot at 508 East Green Street.
  • Tract 9 — the houses and lots at 509 and 511 [East] Green Street.
  • Tract 10 — the houses and lots at 503 and 505 [East] Green Street.
  • Tract 12 — the houses and lots at 529, 531 and 533 East Nash Street.
  • Tract 13 — the houses and lots at 543, 545, 547 and 549 East Nash Street.
  • Tract 25-A — the buildings and lots at 535, 537 and 539 East Nash Street.
  • Tract 25-B — the house and lot at 526 Smith Street.
  • Tract 25-C — the house and lot at 522 Smith Street.
  • Tract 25-D — the house and lot at 516 Smith Street.
  • Tract 25-E — the houses and lots at 523 and 525 Smith Street.
  • Tract 25-F — the houses and lots at 517 and 519 Smith Street.
  • Tract 14 — the house and lot at 518 East Nash Street.
  • Tract 15 — a 53′ by 153′ lot on Church Alley [now Street].
  • Tract 17 — the houses and lots at 402 and 404 Vick’s Alley [now Parker Lane].
  • Tract 18 — the house and lot at 503 South Spring [now Lodge] Street.
  • Tract 19 — a 7200 square-foot lot adjoining Louis Townsend, near Spring Street [now Lodge].
  • Tract 20 — the houses and lots at 406 and 408 Vick’s Alley [now Parker Lane].
  • Tract 21 — the houses and lots at 403, 405, 407 and 409 Vick’s Alley [now Parker Lane].
  • Tract 23 — the houses and lots at 206 and 208 South Manchester Street.
  • Tract 26-A — the houses and lots at 810 and 812 Elvie [formerly, Elliott] Street.
  • Tract 26-B — the house and lot at 1002 Elvie Street.
  • Tract 26-C — the houses and lots at 801 and 803 Elvie Street.
  • Tract 26-D — the house and lot at 811 Elvie Street.
  • Tract 26-E — the house and lot at 908 Elvie Street.
  • Tract 27 — the house and lot at 607 Stantonsburg Street [now Pender Street S.E.]
  • Tract 28 — the house and lot at 600 Stantonsburg Street [now Pender Street S.E.]
  • Tract 29 — the houses and lots at 213, 215 and 217 Stantonsburg Street [now Pender Street S.E.]
  • Tract 31-A — the houses and lots at 903 and 907 Mercer Street.
  • Tract 31-B — the house and lot at 915 Mercer Street.
  • Tract 32 — a lot on Sugg[s] Street.
  • Tract 33 — the house and lot at 700 Suggs Street.
  • Tract 34-A — the house and lot at 309 Hackney Street.
  • Tract 34-B — the houses and lots at 305 and 307 Hackney Street.
  • Tract 35-A — the house and lot at 617 Darden Alley [Lane].
  • Tract 35-B — the house and lot at 623 Darden Alley [Lane].
  • Tract 37 — the houses and lots at 109, 111, 113, 115, 117 and 201 East Street.
  • Tract 38 — the houses and lots at 108 and 110 Ashe Street.
  • Tract 39 — the houses and lots at 114, 116 and 118 East Street.
  • Tract 40 — 40 acres in Wilson township.
  • Tract 42 — the houses and lots at 400, 402 and 404 Hines Street.
  • Tract 43 — the houses and lots at 500 and 502 East Vance Street.
  • Tract 44 — the house and lot at 712 East Vance and the adjoining lot.
  • Tract 45 — the house and lot at 603 Darden Alley [Lane].
  • Tract 46 — the house and lot at 504 [North] Vick Street.
  • Tract 47 — the house and lot at 504 Stantonsburg Street [now Pender Street S.E.]
  • Tract 48 — the house and lot at 515 Stantonsburg Street [now Pender Street S.E.]
  • Tract 49 — the house and lot at 201 Stantonsburg Street [now Pender Street S.E.]
  • Tract 16 — the house and lot at 519 Church Street.

Separate deeds filed the same day showed the transfer of (1) a 50-acre subdivided parcel (minus several dozen lots already sold) from trustee E.R. Merrick to Home Development Corporation for $3500 (Deed Book 221, page 332), and (2) 7 lots on Suggs, Vick, Church and Viola Streets from trustee R.L. McDougald to Home Development Corporation for $6000 (Deed Book 221, page 331). Both transactions involved land the Vicks had borrowed against.

Marked with red asterisks, this roughly six-block area shows the locations of 34 properties held in trust by Merchants and Farmers Bank and sold on 4 April 1935. Many were small shotgun houses built for rental to working-class families. Excerpt from page 32 of the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C. 

The obituary of Hercules Hill Hinnant.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 June 1934.

——

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: garden laborer Joe Hill, 71, and wife Annie, 68, housemaid; daughter Elizabeth Hinnant, 23, laundress; son-in-law Frank, 37, store drayman; grandson Hercules, 1 month; daughter Estell Hill, 20, cook; son-in-law(?) Lela Hill, 16, laundress; son-in-law Edgar Barnes, 20, odd jobs laborer, and daughter Mary, 19, laundress.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Mercer Street, widow Louise Hinyard, 58; son Frank, 34, hardware store truck driver; daughter-in-law Elizabeth, 31, tobacco factory worker; and grandson Hercules, 10.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 306 Pender Street, rented for $20/month, widow Anna Hill, 75, private maid; grandson Herkie Lee Hill, 19, drugstore deliveryman; lodgers Willie Bryant, 18, bicycle shop laborer, and Elixandora Sharp, 21, barbershop bootblack; roomer John Sharp, 13; and granddaughter Rosa Simmons, 17, laundress.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hinnant Hercules (c; porter) 306 N Pender

Per his death certificate, Hercules Hinnant died 17 June 1934 in Wilson. He was born 21 August 1910 to Frank Hinnant and Elizabeth Hill; resided at 306 Pender; was single; and worked as a laborer.

  • Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church
  • Rev. I. Albert Moore
  • Rev. B.F. Jordan — Benjamin F. Jordan.
  • Rev. Eddie Cox
  • Rountree cemetery
  • Wilson Drug Company — per the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Wilson Drug Company was at 114 South Tarboro Street.
  • Miller Drug Company — the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Miller’s Drug Store was at 200 East Nash.
  • Samuel Robinson
  • Willie Bryant — see above.
  • Mack Sharpe — probably, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Katie Sharpe, 37; and children Harvey, 21, Willard, 19, Ernest, 17, Samson and Gladys T., 15, Nellie, 13, Alexander, 11, Kathryn, 9, Mack, 6, and John, 4.
  • Freeman Ennis — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 904 Viola, rented for $15/month, Maggie Ennis, 45, sons Freeman, 22, barbershop bootblack, and Ennis, 12, daughter Hennie, 10; and roomer Julus Barnes, 27, Hackney body plant laborer.
  • Samuel Farmer
  • Willie Neale — probably, in the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Highway 91, Jaushue Neal, 45; wife Pearcy, 39; and children Willie, 18, Louise, 16, Mattie, 13, Essie M., 12, and Charlie, 11.

 

Reid and Stanback stand trial.

A detailed newspaper account of the trial of J.D. Reid and Henry S. Stanback, who were charged with embezzlement and other crimes that led to the failure of Wilson’s Commercial Bank.

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 February 1930.

In summary:

Bank examiners closed Commercial Bank on 24 September 1929 after a suspicious fire. J.D. Reid was the bank’s vice-president, and Stanback, the cashier. They were indicted on six counts. One alleged that Reid and Stanback knowingly permitted others to make deposits to the bank, knowing it was insolvent, specifically these deposits: $66.50 by Alfred Robinson; $57.00 by Camillus L. Darden, treasurer of Saint John A.M.E. Zion; $10.00 by Ed Humphrey; $1100.00 by Edwin W. Fisher, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent; $10.00 by John Clark for Saint Mark’s Episcopal; $400.00 by Jarrette J. Langley; $35.00 by C.E. Artis and Company; and $200.00 by Shade’s Pharmacy.

Reid and Stanback were defended by W.A. Finch, Bryce Little, O.G. Rand, Wade Gardner, and Pete Bell, “Plymouth negro lawyer.”

The State first called certified public accountant C.A. Bean, who testified that he had examined the bank’s records and books on behalf of the North Carolina State Banking Department. Bean testified that pages from the bank’s ledger January 1929 until it closed were destroyed by fire, as well as a number of deposit records. Some documents were found strewn on the floor. He believed the bank was insolvent for four months before it closed. Records shows the bank had $565.84 in cash and checks on hand when it closed, against $72,000 owed to depositors and more than $53,000 in outstanding loans. Bean also found duplicate ledger sheets and a number of accounts under various names controlled by Stanback and Reid (including that of the Wilson Colored Hospital.) Further, he found numerous checks drawn but not charged to Stanback’s account, and well as checks  drawn by Stanback from others’ accounts from 1922 to 1928. Bean testified that Stanback told him one of the special accounts was set up for expenses related to operating the bank. Reid had similarly shady accounts. The bankers’ lawyers objected vigorously to the questions put to Bean.

The state next called several bank customers.

Alfred Robinson, secretary-treasurer of the “Grand Lodge of Negro Masons,” testified that he maintained a personal account and the lodge’s account at the bank. He made deposits in his personal account on September 17 and asked for balance statements for both. Stanback gave him the personal account balance, but said he was too busy to give the lodge’s. He put Robinson off again a few days later, then told him the fire had destroyed records before he could get the information. Robinson said Stanback and Reid told him rats and matches had caused the blaze.

The courtroom was packed with spectators — as many as five hundred, most African-American.

Ed Humphrey testified that he had traveled to Roxboro, North Carolina, with Reid to get a two or three thousand dollar check from Lee Clay. He said Reid offered him $25 to deposit $1880 in the bank, but Humphrey refused.

Edwin Fisher testified about deposits he made on behalf of N.C. Mutual and about a “bogus” deposit slip for $150 that Reid had given him to cover an overage at the bank.

Columbus E. Artis testified that his own balance sheets showed a balance of $1176.67, but the bank’s showed him $14 overdrawn. He further stated that once, when he had a balance of $1800, he had written a check for $500. Stanback had returned it to him unpaid, asking him “not to write such big checks as the bank was a little low on funds owing to the demands of farmers.”

Lee Clay, of Roxboro, testified that Reid had convinced him to transfer $2000.00 from a “white man’s bank” to Commercial about September 1.

Plummer A. Richardson testified in his capacity as officer of a Nash County fraternal organization. He testified that Reid and Stanback blamed the tobacco market for cashflow problems, and he had to make several trips to Wilson to get his checks cashed.

Coverage continued the next day under this headline:

Again, hundreds of dismayed African-Americans crowded the courtroom to hear witnesses pile on evidence against Stanback and Reid. Isaac A. Shade, an eight-year customer, testified that Stanback had explained discrepancies with his pharmacy’s checks as mere mistakes. Shade was later recalled and examined about the Commercial Realty Company, which he claimed to known little about. John H. Clark testified that, upon hearing rumors that the bank would close, he tried to cash out his account, and Stanback had told him that the bank was not open for business. John Melton had $860.00 to his credit when the bank closed. Nestus Freeman testified that he had $3100.00 in the bank when it closed.

H.D. Beverly, “colored superintendent” of a lodge called “Brothers and Sisters of Love and Charity,” testified that  Reid came to his home in Ahoskie, North Carolina, to solicit him to deposit his and the lodge’s money in the bank. Among other things, he said Reid instructed him to allow Stanback to fill out his savings account book to avoid messing up Stanback’s books. He heard the bank was about to fail, but Reid assured him it was not. Andrew Tate also testified.

Marland Jones of Durham testified at length. Jones opened an account after Stanback “kept after him” to do so.  “One morning he went after his money, and it was after the time for the bank to open. Reid came with a sack of money and witness asked what was the matter and if the bank was broke, and Reid said ‘Who said so.’ I wanted to draw out $172.00, and Stanback said that he was short on cash, and I said if you have trouble paying me $172.00, I want all of it.” Jones thought he got the money from Durham, as a Western Union boy came in the office with the money shortly after.

Bertie County depositor N.H. Cherry testified that he had opened an account at Reid’s request and had done so with $500. He later wrote Stanback two letters demanding return of his money. Reid showed up at Cherry’s in person, threatening to “jack up” Stanback for failing to respond and promising to pay Cherry $25 if he kept his money in the bank. Cherry never saw the $25 or his $500 either.

Oscar McCall and Ellen Tate testified about the bank’s shady practices, and Mr. Bean was recalled to testify about irregularities in Hattie Tate‘s account. The State rested, and the defense followed suit, calling no witnesses.

The case went to jury the next day. After just over an hour, they returned two guilty verdicts on the count of receiving deposits knowing that the bank was insolvent. Reid and Stanback were sentenced to five years hard labor, and the remaining charges were deferred to a later date. After abruptly withdrawing their appeals, Reid and Stanback entered state prison by the first of March.

 

Benefit for Mercy Hospital.

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“All receipts given to colored hospital,” Wilson Daily Times, 11 April 1930.

This advertisement touts a midnight variety show and movie screening to benefit Mercy Hospital. The institution, in continuous financial straits, had recently been sold at auction to businessman Wade H. Gardner.

Though the ad is not explicit, it seems to be directed at a white audience. James Edward Andrews, Carl S. Hinnant (described in the 1930 federal census of Wilson as an orchestra musician), Sidney Willoughby and Lester Rose were local white men, and a “black face comedy act” would not have had primary appeal to an African-American audience.

 

The obituary of Handy Earle.

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 January 1935.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Road, Albert Earl, 55; wife Katie, 43; and children Benjamin E., 13, James L., 8, and Handy, 4; and brother Alfred, 55.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Earl Handy, lab h 27 Carolina

Handy Earles died 21 January 1935 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, he was born 28 December 1906 in Wilson to Albert Earles and Cattie Battle, both of Edgecombe County; resided at 809 East Nash Street; and worked as an orderly at Moore-Herring Hospital. Mamie Taylor was informant.