Business

An afternoon with Mr. Lathan.

Samuel Caswell Lathan sat in the front row during my presentation at Wilson County Public Library last week, making me a little nervous. This extraordinary musician, who once played drums for James Brown, was especially interested in the topic — he grew up on the 500 block of East Nash Street in the 1930s and ’40s. I visited with Mr. Lathan the next afternoon, soaking up his memories of the people and businesses of the block, whom he credits for setting him on his path as a drummer. He urged me to continue my documentation of East Wilson and expressed appreciation for and satisfaction with my work thus far.

Mr. Lathan also shared with me some extraordinary photographs of pre-World War II East Nash Street. Here he is as a toddler, circa 1931.

This stunning image depicts Neal’s Barbershop, with three of its barbers, circa 1935. Mr. Lathan is the boy leaning against the window, and Walter Sanders is seated in the chair awaiting a cut. “Billy Jr.” stands to his left in the photo, and an unidentified boy to the right.

African-American photographer John H. Baker took this family portrait of an adolescent Sam Lathan with his mother Christine Barnes Collins, grandmother Jeanette Barnes Plummer, and aunt Irene Plummer Dew in the late 1930s.

And this Baker portrait depicts Mr. Lathan’s beloved late wife, Mary Magdelene Knight Lathan.

Sam Lathan has graciously agreed to meet with me again to further explore his recollection of Black Wilson. I thank him for his interest, his time, and his generosity.

Photos courtesy of Samuel C. Lathan, please do not reproduce without permission.

Master Shoe Shine Parlor.

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Color was a monthly entertainment news magazine targeted to an African-American audience. Wilson Daily Times, 6 April 1946.

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 March 1949.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Gay Street, plumbing shop laborer Cooper Bynum, 47; wife Annie, 33; and children Ruth, 12, house servant, Joe, 9, Curley, 8, Lucy, 5, Phebia, 3, and Floyd, 9 months.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 511 Narroway, widow Annie Bynum, 47, and children Ruth, 23, Joseph, 17, Curley C., 16, Feedy, 14, Lucy, 15, and Lizzie M., 7.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 East Street, rented for $20/month, widow Annie Bynum, 48, cook; children Joseph, 21, grocery store delivery boy, Curley, plumber, 20, Lucy, 19, cook, Feba, 18, cook, and Lizzie, 16; and granddaughter Annie, 4.

Lizzie Bynum died 16 April 1932 of pulmonary tuberculosis. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1909 to Cooper and Emma Woodard Bynum, both born in Edgecombe County; was a student; and the family resided at 208 North East Street. Curley Bynum was informant.

On 25 January 1933, Curley Bynum, 22, son of Cooper and Wen Ann Bynum, married Pearl Emanuel, 20, daughter of M.P. and Pattie Emanuel, in Wilson.

In , Curley Bynum registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was 25 December 1902 in Wilson; resided at 109 North East Street; his contact was Febie Bynum, 109 North East; and he worked as a plumbers helper for Mr. Singletary, Gov. Camp, Holiridge [Holly Ridge], N.C.

Pearl Bynum died 21 November 1949 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1910 in South Carolina to Pertis and Pattie Emanuel; was married; lived at 102 North Pender; and worked as a domestic and clerk. Informant was Curly Bynum.

On 27 June 1955, Curley Bynum, 54, of 511 East Green Street, son of Cooper Bynum and Annie Woodard Bynum, married Martha Dawes, 48, of 508 Smith Street, daughter of Arthur Grooms and Minnie Skeeters Grooms, in Wilson.

Curly Bynum died 9 January 1965 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 December 1901 in Wilson County to Cooper Bynum and Annie Woodard; lived at 810 East Vance Street; and had worked as a laborer.

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In an interview in February 2019, Samuel C. Lathan, who grew up in the 500 block of East Nash Street, recalled that Curley Bynum’s shoeshine parlor had twenty “legs,” i.e. ten stands. In the 1930s, seven or eight boys worked for Bynum, charging 15 cents a shine. The boys turned over their earnings to Pearl Bynum, who issued them a ticket for each shine. On Saturday evening, they cashed out, taking home seven cents for each ticket.

Colored businesses.

Among the businesses highlighted in the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, were these:

PARAGON SHAVING PARLOR — The establishment is located at 213 East Nash street in Briggs Hotel Block, and it can truthfully be said that it is the most popular Tonsorial parlor in the city of Wilson. It is owned and managed by N.J. Tate and W.S. Hines, both of whom are skilled barbers of long experience. Their genial manner and high class work have won for them the liberal share of the best patronage of the city. Their shop is fully equipped with all the latest appurtenances, and a short visit to this establishment will after passing through their hands, convince you of what the modern, up-to-date barber shops can do to put a man in good humor with himself and the rest of mankind. The shop is equipped with five chairs, each in charge of a professional barber. Go there for your next slave.

JAMES HARDY, SUCCESSOR TO HARDY BROS. — Feed and Livery Stables. This business is located on South Goldsboro street between Nash and Barnes streets and the business has been established for the last four years. The proprietor has succeeded in building up a good patronage. He is very prompt in answering calls and his prices for Livery are very reasonable. Telephone Number 9. Hack and Dray work solicited. The proprietor wants your patronage and guarantees the right sort of treatment. He is a colored man and has the good wishes of all.

  • James Hardy — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: livery stable laborer Jim Hardy, 32; wife Lizzie, 31; sons James, 8, and Lovelace, 6; and boarders Lincoln Sellers, 29, widower and brick yard laborer, and [blank] Batts, 37, water works laborer. James P. Hardy died 20 April 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 April 1979 in Greene County to Petter Hardy and Jane Foreman; was married; lived at 508 Vance Street; and was a livery stable employer. Lizzie Hardy was informant. [Who was the other Hardy Brother?]

C.H. DARDEN & SON — This is the only colored firm of undertakers and funeral directors in Wilson, and has been established by the senior member of the firm, C.H. Darden, for some thirty years. His son C.L. Darden has been a member for twelve years years. This place is located at 615 East Nash street, and every branch of the undertaking and Funeral Director business is executed. The equipment includes two Hearses, as well as all other necessary appliances pertaining to the business. They also handle Bicycles and Fire Arms, Victor Talking Machines, Records, Bicycle Sundries, etc. Special attention given to repairs. Their telephone number is 60 and all calls are promptly answered.

OATES & ARTIS — Family groceries. This firm is located at 601 East Nash Street, with telephone connection 456. The business was established in August 1910 and has steadily increased from the beginning. The stock includes all kinds of Groceries, both staple and fancy, Produce, Teas and Coffee, Tobacco and Cigars and the prices are very reasonable. The members of the firm are Wiley Oates, a native of this county, and who has been residing in the City for two years, and Cain Artis, who is also a native of the county, but who has resided in Wilson for twenty-two years. Both are colored men and they are ably attending to the business.

  • Wiley Oates — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vick Street, dredge boat laborer Wiley Oats, 32; wife Nettie, 28; and daughters Dollena, 8, and Dottie Lee, 13 months. Wily Oates died 23 July 1913 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, she was born 26 September 1879 to Adam and Amanda Oates; was a farmer; and was married.
  • Cain Artis

IDEAL PHARMACY — This is the only colored Drug store in Wilson, and it has been established for about seven years. The proprietors, D.C. Yancy, Ph.G., receiving his degree from the Leonard School of Pharmacy, Shaw University Class of 1905-06, has been connected with the store for the past three years and gas been sole proprietor for the past year and a half. He reports that the business is constantly growing and he hopes within a very few years to have one of the largest stores in the City. He personally presses over the prescription department and absolute accuracy is his watchword. His motto is “Not how cheap but how pure.” The general stock includes fresh drugs, patent medicines, Tobacco, Sundries, etc, soda fountain in connection. 109 South Goldsboro street, phone 219.

 

Dr. Rosemond, D.D.S., opens a practice.

In late fall of 1948, Dr. Julian Brown Rosemond, a South Carolina native, announced the opening of dental office at 527 1/2 East Nash Street, above Isaac and Kenneth Shade‘s pharmacy. He later built a small office building at 548 East Nash.

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Wilson Daily Times, 3 November 1948.

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Dr. Rosemond during his World War II service, a few years before arriving in Wilson.

Photo courtesy of Maria Rosemond Logan.

Personal property for sale to the highest bidder.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 September 1928.

Patrons of Oscar Reid‘s cleaning and pressing business may have been surprised to find their garments advertised for auction to satisfy liens against Reid. Edward C. Brewington, the lienholder, was also in the dry cleaning business.

  • Nancy Gaston — The suit likely belonged to Mancy Gaston, who, though he lived in Elm City, worked in Wilson as a barber in Walter S. Hines‘ shop.
  • Curle McNeil
  • Jessie Herring — in the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jessie Herring, 34; wife Sarah, 36; and children Daziel, 13, Minnie, 12, Mary E., 11, Amos, 9, Maggie, 7, James L., 3, and Mary E., 1 month.
  • Clarence Young — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Young Clarence (c) hlpr C E Artis h 302 N Vick
  • Noro Jenkins — probably Nora Jenkins. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 610 East Green Street, John Jenkins, 41; wife Nora, 34; and children Howard, 18, John, 16, Robert, 12, Colonial, 8, Calvin, 5, Ida, Charlie, 3, and Rosco, 1.
  • Gertrude Parker — perhaps, in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Parker Gertrude (c) cook 608 Railroad
  • James McClain — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: McClain James (c) deliveryman West End Dairy h 700 S Tarboro
  • Oscar Reid — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Reid Oscar (c; Nora) clnr and presser 567 E Nash h 207 N Vick
  • E.C. Brewington — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: transfer driver Eddie Brewington, 32; wife Mary, 32, laundress; and hospital nurse Alice Tyler, 69. (But in the 1922 Hill’s city directory, he is listed as proprietor of Brewington Pressing Works, 561 East Nash Street.)
  • Glenn McBrayer

 

Wiley Ricks is still barbering.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 October 1980.

Wiley Ricks and young customer.

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In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Millie Ricks, 40, widow, with sons William, 12, and Wiley, 1.

In the 1910 census

On 27 July 1918, Wiley Ricks, 21, of Toisnot, married Fannie Fort, 21, of Toisnot, in Elm City. Presbyterian minister A.E. Sephas performed the ceremony in the presence of John Gaston, Samuel T. Ford and T.H. Nicholson.

Fannie Ford Ricks died 9 March 1924 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 January 1899 in Wilson County to Sam Ford of Halifax County and Mattie Williams of Wilson County and was married to Wiley Ricks.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Wiley Ricks, 30, barber; wife Carrie, 29; and children Miriam, 2, and Maggie, 9 months.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Branch Street, barber Wiley Ricks, 41; wife Cary P., 39; and children Miriam, 12, Maggie R., 10, Lois, 8, and Malinda, 1.

Wylie Ricks died 28 March 1985 in Hollister, Halifax County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 December 1898 in Wilson County to Wiley Sharpe and Millie Sharpe; was a barber; resided in Elm City; and was married to Carrie Parker Ricks.

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A 1947 photo taken outside Wiley Ricks’ barbershop. Courtesy of Thomas Griffin via Wilson Daily Times, 15 January 2002.

Haircut photo courtesy of article re Ricks in History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

How Dew’s Rest Home got financed.

Naomi Elizabeth Morris (1921–1986), who grew up in Wilson, served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 1967 through 1982. She was Chief Judge of that court from 1978 through 1982. In an interview conducted in 1983, Judge Morris recollected her efforts to assist the establishment in the 1950s of Wilson’s first sanctioned nursing home for African-Americans. Though considered progressive for her time and place, Judge Morris’ notions of privilege and segregationist propriety (and that of the interviewer) peek through here.

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PAT DEVINE: One story that I encountered which struck me with interest as something that I’d love to hear you talk more about was, you alluded to one experience you had in helping to do the legal background work for the founding of the first or only home for indigent blacks in Wilson.

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Not indigent blacks. No, this was a nursing home for blacks. The office had had this woman as a client for many years. She ran a restaurant at one time. She was quite an aggressive, hardworking woman, and she came to me and said that the director of public welfare, Mr. Monroe Fordham [Fulghum], had asked her to open a nursing home for blacks. She had at that time taken in two or three aged people in her home to take care of, under the auspices of the welfare department, and Monroe Fordham had asked her if she would open a nursing home for blacks. She told him that she would if she could get the money, so she came to me to get the money. We went many places to borrow money, including from the black insurance company in Durham, and they would not let her have the money. Although she had sufficient property to secure the note, they would not let her have the money, and that made me perfectly furious. I came back to Wilson and called the Branch Bank and told them the situation. I said, “You will be missing a very good opportunity if you don’t let this woman have the money,” so they said they would. They required a lot of her that they might not have required of a white person in the same situation — I don’t know — but this was something new and untried. The man who did the electrical work took her note for the electrical work without any security. We worked it out to the point that she had her financing, and she paid everybody back ahead of time. One way she did it, in the summer when the crops would be coming in and the people would have gotten their crops harvested from the field, she would get permission to go out to that field and get what was left [gleaning], the small potatoes that they didn’t pick up, the beans on the bottom part of the vine. She would go get those, and that’s the way she fed her people and was able to feed them cheaper than a lot of people could run a home. Extremely well run.

PAT DEVINE: Is it still there?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Oh, yes, it’s still there. About five years after she borrowed the money, the Branch Bank called me and asked me if she would be interested in adding onto her home, that they would be glad to let her have the money. I always wanted to write the insurance company in Durham and say something to them, but I didn’t.

PAT DEVINE: That’s hard to understand.

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: It is hard. It was very difficult for me to understand, because they always talk about looking after their own and the fact that white people don’t do things they ought to for them.

PAT DEVINE: What is this woman’s name?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Geneva Dew.

PAT DEVINE: Is she alive?

JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS: Oh, yes, she’s alive and doing well. I hear from her at least twice a year. She attended my swearing-in ceremony and the party that was given afterward. I’m very fond of her. She’s a very fine person.

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Nina Aldridge Faison Hardy at Dew’s Rest Home, circa mid 1960s.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer William Winn, 59; wife Jennie, 48; and children Charley, 21, John, 19, Dorch, 13, Pink, 10, and Jeneva, 8.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Willie Winn, 62; wife Jennie, 60; children Roy, 23, and Pink, 20; and lodger Lula Ward, 45.

On 27 July 1935, Ernest Dew, 26, of Wilson County, son of Frank Dew, married Geneva Dew, 23, of Wilson County, daughter of Willie and Jennie Wynn, in Nashville, Nash County.

Willie Wynn Jr. died 11 February 1940. Per his death certificate, he died 11 February 1940 in Wilson; had been married to Jennie Wynn, but was a widower; resided at 1102 Atlantic Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer; was the son of Willie Wynn and Annie Williams. Geneva Dew, 1102 East Atlantic Street, was informant, and he was buried in Elm City.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Dew Geneva (c) beer 315 Stantonsburg h 203 Stantonsburg. (In the 1947 city directory, the address has shifted 319 Stantonsburg.) The 1950 city directory also shows Dew as owner of a beer establishment.

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Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1960).

Earnest Dew died 15 March 1969 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 May 1910 to Frank Dew and Cora Braswell; was married to Geneva Wynn; resided at 501 Spaulding Street, Wilson; and was a rest home operator.

Geneva Wynn Dew died 6 November 1984 in Wilson.

Dew’s celebrates a move to new quarters. Wilson Daily Times, 20 June 1964. 

Excerpt from oral history interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; photo of N. Hardy in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson. Many thanks to Bob Martin for the correction of Monroe Fulghum’s surname.

Snaps, no. 48: Hilliard S. “Dock” Cotton.

Per the caption in “Black History Month,” Wilson Daily Times, 22 February 2008, page 6c, “Hilliard S. ‘Dock’ Cotton was operator of Cotton’s Grocery at the corner of Carroll and Carolina Streets. He was an African-American entrepreneur during the 1950s and 1960s.”

The grocery at Carroll and Carolina Streets is on the southwest corner — 1114 Carolina Street.

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In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Henry Cotten, 44; wife Lula, 37; and children Hilliard, 15, and Ardelia, 14; all farm laborers.

In 1940, Hilliard Sander Cotton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 17 August 1914 in Black Creek, N.C.; lived at 27 Carolina Street; worked for Wilson Veneer Company; and was married to Phoebe Cotton.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Dock (c; Phoebe, 5) fireman h 1222 Carolina

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Dock (c: Phoebe) lab h 1222 Carolina; (also) Cotton Hilliard S (c) lab Wilson Veneer h 27 Carolina

In the 1960 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Hilliard S (Phoebe B) clipper opr Wilson Veneer h 1303 Carolina; (also) Cottons Grocery Store (Hilliard S Cotton) groceries candy soft drinks wine kerosene 1114 Carolina; (also) Cotton Phoebe B Mrs cash Cottons Gro Store h 1303 Carolina

Hilliard (Dock) Cotton died 23 April 1963 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 August 1914 in Wilson County to William H. Cotton and Clara Cotton; was married to Phoebe Cotten; lived at 1216 Carolina Street; worked as a clipper operator/laborer; was buried in Jones Hill cemetery.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 April 1965.

Rev. Phoebe Ann Britton Cotton died 15 December 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 February 1916 in South Carolina to Waitis Barnwell Britton and Emma Britton; was a widow; resided at 1303 Carolina Street; and was a minister. John Cotton of Augusta, Georgia, was informant. She was buried in Jones Hill cemetery.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 September 1955.