1930s

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

  • 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.”)

Stop hoarding! (An early Great Depression appeal.)

Buy Now! Buy At Home! Stop Hoarding!

Presented below are a representative number of live Wilson County Merchants and professional men. The energies of the individuals composing these firms are not only devoted to the upbuilding of their own interests, but also to make Wilson County a bigger, better and more prosperous place in which to live. Consult this page often, when the services or merchandise of these people are needed, buy with them or consult them, they want and will appreciate your business.

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Wilson Daily Times, 28 March 1932.

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.