On 22 October 1933, the Daily Times reported the murder of Mary Bethea, who had been found shot to death in a ditch on Suggs Street.
In fact, the victim’s name was Mary Huggins. Per her death certificate, she lived on Gay Street; was married; was 29 years old; and was born in Wilson County to Arch Bynum and Pennie Barnes. Annie James, 619 Suggs Street, was informant. Her listed cause of death went so far as to name a suspect: “Murdered. Shot to death. Supposed by James McPhail.”
On 22 December 1934, the Daily Times reported that James McNeil, not McPhail, had convicted of manslaughter in Huggins’ death and sentenced to ten years in state prison.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Mac Daniel, 45; wife Fanny, 36; and children Thomas, 5, Annie, 4, Willie, 3, Jane, 1, and Beatrice, 5 months.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 635 Vance Street, widow Fannie Daniel, 35, and children Thomas, 17, Annie, 15, Willie, 14, James, 13, Beatrice, 9, and Mary, 8.
On 30 November 1936, Tom Daniel, 36, of Wilson, son of Mark and Fannie Daniel, married Mamie Dixon, 31, of Wilson, daughter of Robert and Nilia Hodges, in Wilson.
In 1940, Tom Daniel registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 12 June 1905 in Wilson County; lived at 715 East Vance Street, Wilson; his contact was his mother Fannie Daniel of the same address; and he was unemployed.
Thomas Daniels died at his home at 544 East Nash Street on 7 June 1948. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 June 1903 in Wilson County to James Mal Daniels of Reidsville, N.C., and Fannie McGowan of Kernersville, North Carolina; worked as a common laborer; was married to Lossie Daniels; and was buried in Rest Haven cemetery. Mary Daniels, 715 East Vance Street, was informant.
Rev. and Mrs. Eugene E. Morgan Sr. do not appear in the 1947-48 Wilson city directory, and apparently did not live in the city long. Rev. Morgan briefly served as pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. Eugene E. Morgan Jr. was also an ordained A.M.E. Zion minister, serving longest in Akron, Ohio. In 1949, he was guest speaker at his father’s church.
When an airplane passed over to shoot this 1940 aerial, the landscape of much of the East Wilson into which I was born was undeveloped. My early years were spent mostly east of Carroll Street and once I started school I has essentially free range of the blocks between Carroll, Highway 301, Academy Street to the north, and Atlantic Street to the south. The housing in those blocks, except along the western and southwestern edges and a solid line of shotguns in the 1300 block of Carolina, sprang up post-World War II, when severe housing shortages and pent-up demand pushed East Wilson beyond city limits toward the planned path of a ring road (Ward Boulevard) and a widened and re-routed U.S. 301.
I came home from Mercy Hospital to 706 Ward Boulevard. Before I turned one, we had moved to a little brick rental house at 1401 Carolina Street. There, I gained my grounding in Black Wide-Awake and, on June 26, 1969, celebrated my 5th birthday in the backyard.
My friends then are my friends now. I hugged the neck of the lady at upper right just last month. And my own sweet mother, at upper left, blesses me daily. This birthday hits a little different, but I’m grateful for the journey — and proud that it started here.
Photo from the collection of Beverly A. Henderson.
A road trip from Wilson to Fayetteville ended in the deaths of three people when a train hit their car in Dunn, North Carolina. Tom Mingo, Viola Bullard (or Bullock), and Bessie Manning was transported 70 miles to the Atlantic Coast Line hospital in Rocky Mount (standard practice at the time), but succumbed to their injuries.
Wilson Daily Times, 7 June 1926.
Wilson Daily Times, 8 June 1926.
Mezinge Jamaica, or Tom Mingo — Thomas Mingo is listed in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory as laborer living at 721 Viola.
Viola Bullard or Bulluck
Bessie Manning — Bessie Manning is listed in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory as a factory hand living at 510 Pettigrew Street.
On 18 February 1949, the Daily Times reported that Leroy Hammonds [not Hamilton] had been convicted of Louise Parker‘s murder.
In the 1930 census of Crossroads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Robert Gray, 34; wife Minerva, 34; and children Lossie, 15, Robert, 14, Willie, 11, Louisa ,7, Etta, 6, and Maggie, 1.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Therman Ruffin, 33, lumber mill laborer, and wife Delzell, 27, cook; plus Curtis Parker, 26, lumber mill laborer, and wife Louise, 19.
Curtis Hersey Parker registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 12 March 1912 in Lumber Bridge, North Carolina; lived at 814 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; his contact was wife Louise Sis Parker; and worked for Stephenson Lumber Company on Stemmer Street.
Louise Parker died 1 November 1948 at 804 Oil Mill Alley, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 23 August 1925 in Wilson County to Robert Gray and Minnie Knight and was married to Curtis Parker. Lossie Williams, 625 Cemetery Street, was informant.
In the 1920 census of Wishart township, Robeson County, North Carolina: William L. Hammond, 27; wife Lula H., 23; and children Josiah, 7, William E., 5, Luther E., 3, and Grover L., 1. The family was described as Indian.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Luther Hammond, 59 [sic]; wife Lula, 32; and children Joseph, 17, Elwood, 14, Wallace R., 12, Grover, 10, and Hubart, 2.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Luther Hamonds, 41, light plant foreman; wife Lula, 40, tobacco factory laborer; and children Luther Jr., 24, tobacco factory laborer; Leroy, 21, body plant laborer, Hubert, 13, Lillie, 7, and grandson Junior Hamonds, 2.
It took only a few minutes Monday afternoon for ground-penetrating radar operators to detect graves at Vick Cemetery.
The two-man crew from Greensboro-based New South Associates will work at the African American cemetery for two weeks in an effort to pinpoint every burial site.
The 7.84-acre, city-owned graveyard off Bishop L.N. Forbes Street was cleared of all its trees and grave markers in the mid-1990s after an extended period of neglect, but the effort to clean up the cemetery resulted in the destruction of a considerable amount of history for the African American community in Wilson.
“We just finished our first grid of ground-penetrating radar, and immediately we were seeing radar reflections that are indicative of graves,” said assistant geophysics specialist Jordan Cole. “It is hard to tell exactly how many, but it looks fairly densely packed from what I have seen already. We did a grid that was 14 meters by 16 meters, and in each profile, we are seeing evidence for six to 10 graves.”
Wilson historian Lisa Y. Henderson, a former resident of Wilson who now lives in Atlanta, called the city’s use of ground-penetrating radar “a huge step” in many ways.
“First, it is the first affirmative action by the city in several decades to claim its ownership of Vick Cemetery,” Henderson said. “The things that were done at Vick in the past, which were well intended but had pretty devastating consequences, can’t be corrected, but it is vital for us to have a sense of how many people are buried there.”
Right now, people who drive past Vick Cemetery just see a big, empty field.
“If we aren’t able to even tell people how many people are buried there and where they are buried, it is difficult for Vick to regain its place in people’s consciousness as a sacred place,” Henderson said.
In the mid-1990s, she said, a visual survey located about 1,500 graves.
“But given the period of time that Vick was active, which was roughly 1913 when the city acquired it until the 1950s, that’s 40 years, and there would have been at least 100 burials a year, probably more for much of that period,” Henderson said.
She said records are difficult to decipher because Vick Cemetery and the adjacent Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries were collectively called Rountree.
“So it kind of obscures where the actual burials were, but the aerial imagery that we are lucky enough to have from the ‘30s and ‘40s shows that it was an active cemetery, a full cemetery, a place that was an important institution in our community,” Henderson said.
HOW IT WORKS
Cole and archaeologist Chris Triplett of Farmville set up a grid system across the property and began a systematic scan of the whole area.
“GPR works by telling the difference between dense soil and less dense soil,” Cole explained. “Wherever there is a contrast between the density of the soil, the GPR will pick that up. So we will see regular disturbance, but we should also be able to see graves as long as the cut from the grade is still preserved from the disturbance that is higher up.”
The system is able to see close to 3 to 4 meters (9.8 to 13.1 feet) deep.
“It’s the same concept as regular radar that you might use to watch and track air traffic,” Cole said. “It focuses its energy and looks straight down at the ground. It will send out an electromagnetic pulse into the ground. The pulse will hit something, and then the pulse will return back to the antennae and the machine records the time that it takes to leave the machine, hit something, which in this case is a change in density of soil, and return. By telling how quickly that travel time is — it is called travel time — we will know how far away it is from the antennae, which translates into how deep it is below the soil.”
GPR works by collecting a series of parallel lines of data.
“We space them at half a meter between each line,” Cole said. “When we are collecting data in the field, we can only see that individual line that we are collecting at that time in the field. Then when we go and process it with the computer, we can line up every profile side by side and use a computer to interpolate that data and produce a bird’s eye view of the reflections in the ground, and that will show us the graves in the ground and how big they are.
“Once the crew takes the data back to the office to start processing it, they will be able to produce a map that shows wherever there is ground disturbance across the whole area, and we can map the size of those disturbances and mark which ones are graves. Hopefully we can produce a pretty accurate map of where every grave is across the whole zone.”
The city is paying $29,159 for the company to conduct the work.
WHO IS BURIED THERE?
“The way a community treats its dead says something about that community,” Henderson said.
“I think it’s past time that Wilson demonstrates is commitment to all of its citizens, past and present, and honors the lives of the folks that are buried in Vick, probably most of whom were working-class people, tobacco factory workers, agricultural laborers and domestic workers,” she said. “They are the people who built east Wilson. They are the people who worked in the homes and the businesses downtown and in west Wilson and eased the lives of what might have been called the city’s leading citizens, so in that way they played a role too in the development of what we now know as Wilson.”
Henderson said she is excited about the project.
“I am looking so forward to seeing the report that results from it,” she said. “I have seen some reports for ground-penetrating radar, but on a much smaller scale. So it will really be exciting to see what evidence is left.”
Henderson has provided the company with documents to compare to its findings.
“We appreciate the opportunity to assist the city in mapping the landscape of the Vick Cemetery so that all who lie there can be recognized and remembered,” she said.
Castonoble Hooks, a member of the Wilson Cemetery Commission, said he is delighted that the project has started.
“It is not too late for them to begin to rectify the wrongs that they have done,” Hooks said. “Omitting these people for so very long, I hope that this is a sea change as far as the direction that the city has in public cemeteries and its treatment toward Blacks.”
For more photos and to support local media, please visit this article at Wilson Times online.
In the spring of 1949, five month-old William Earl Isam died in his crib after a large rat bit his face.
Wilson Daily Times, 27 April 1949.
The county coroner was incensed. Not only had the boy died in horrific circumstances, but he had not been seen by a doctor beforehand, and his adoptive father Henry Gervin had buried his body before receiving a death certificate.
Wilson Daily Times, 30 April 1949.
William Isam finally received a death certificate six days after he died. Per the record, he was born 3 November 1948 to Annie Bell Isam. The document bristles with details of the boy’s death. The “Register of Deeds gave burial permit without death certificate.” The cause of death was “Probably blood stream infection from rat bite. Bitten in its crib about midnight. Died 9 hours later Coroner not notified. Heard about 24 hours after burial.”
Three days later, the Daily Times followed up with a report on little William’s neighbors’ concerns. What they thought about the boy’s death went unmentioned, but their indignation that Rock Ridge’s reputation had been smeared is clear.
In the 1900 census of Bullhead township, Greene County: John Sutton, 26; wife Mittie, 26; and son John C., 10 months.
In the 1910 census of Bullhead township, Greene County: on Snow Hill and Wilson Road, farmer John Sutton, 34; wife Peniza, 26; and children Sanker, 5, Jennie, 4, Effie, 3, Authur, 2, John, 11, and Kerby, 10.
In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer John Sutton, 47; wife Peniza, 35; and children Kirby, 19, Sanka, 15, Jenetta, 13, Effie, 11, Oscar, 10, Walter, 8, Primas, 7, Augustus, 5, Jessie, 3, Mary, 2, and Hady, 2 months.
In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer John Sutton, 53; wife Panisco, 44; and children Effie, 21, Arthur, 20, Water, 19, Primas, 17, Gustas, 14, Jesse, 12, May, 11, Haddie, 9, Jay B., 7, Bessie, 6, and Rena, 4.
Peniza V. Sutton died 18 July 1931 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 47 years old; was born in Greene County to Jessie Woodard and Pennie Woodard; was married to John Sutton; was engaged in farming; and lived in Stantonsburg, N.C.
On 13 January 1934, John Sutton, 55, of Wilson, son of P. and Jane Sutton, married Lizzie Sugg, 39, of Greene County, daughter of Lundon and Alla Jane Barnes, in Snow Hill, Greene County.
In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer John Sutton, 60; wife Lizzie, 45; children Hadie, 30, J.B., 17, Bessie, 16, and Rena, 14; stepchildren Addie, 18, Willie, 16, and Eugene Suggs, 14; stepdaughter Fannie Edwards, 25, widow, and her children Shirley L., 3, and Julie L., 8 months.
In 1940, Arthur Sutton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 10 February 1909 in Greene County; he lived on Route 1, Stantonsburg, Wilson County; his contact was father John Sutton, Walstonburg, Greene County; and he was self-employed.
John Sutton died 30 March 1941 in Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 63 years old; was born in Greene County, North Carolina, to Primus Sutton and Jane Sutton; was married to Lizzie Sutton; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Greene County.
John Clarence Sutton died 16 November 1953 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 July 1900 in Greene County to John Sutton and Mittie Edmundson; was married to Jane Sutton; worked as a laborer; and lived at 211 South Vick Street, Wilson.
Kirby Sutton died 7 March 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 February 1900 in Greene County, N.C., to John Sutton and Mittie Edwards; lived at 108 South Carroll Street; worked as a grocery merchant; and was married to Annie Sutton.
Arthur Sutton died 30 August 1971 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 9 April 1909 to John Sutton and [first name unknown] Woodard; resided in Elm City; and was a retired farmer. Rosa Sutton was informant.