Business

Black businesses, 1913, no. 6: the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Here’s a closer look at the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street, which was dominated by wholesale groceries and small restaurants.

In 1913, before he founded a funeral home, Columbus E. Artis operated a small eatery in a narrow brick building on South Goldsboro Street. Alexander D. Dawson, having closed his fish and oyster stall in the city market, ran a rival eating house across the street. 

Black businesses, 1908, no. 5: 100 block of North Goldsboro Street.

Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the section of the 100 block of North Goldsboro Street opposite the county courthouse. 

Levi H. Jones‘ barbershop stood at the rear of today’s Planter’s Bank building, which was erected in 1920 and now houses county government offices. Within a couple of years, Jones changed locations, opening the Mayflower at 108 East Nash Street, a narrow two-story brick building near First National Bank. First National is now the Wilson County-Nash Street Office Building, and the Mayflower’s site is a parking lot.

Wilson Times, 30 June 1911.

Alexander D. Dawson, a former local Republican Party stalwart, operated a fish and oyster stall in the city market building, which burned down in 1929. 

Wilson city hall, market and fire department, circa 1900.

Postcard courtesy of North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s digitalnc.org.

Store damaged by fire.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 March 1924.

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  • Ed Johnson — Edward Johnson died 15 April 1924 (two weeks after his store burned.) Per his death certificate, he was born 12 February 1869 in Durham County, N.C., to Martin Johnson and Francies Burks of Durham County; was married to Rachel Jane Johnson; was a self-employed grocery merchant; and lived at 406 East Hines Street. His wife Rachel Johnson was the daughter of his landlord Lewis Townsend.
  • Louis Townsend — Lewis W. Townsend and his brother Andrew J. Townsend operated groceries together and separately in the warehouse district southwest of downtown Wilson.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Black businesses, 1908, no. 4: 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the intersection of the 100 block of East Barnes Street and the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

  • Sidney Wheeler
  • J. Thomas Teachey
  • William Hargrove — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith William Hargrove, 32; wife Leuvenia, 30, washing; daughter Bessie, 6, and Lillie, 3; widowed sister Mary Boddie, 25, cooking; and cousin Julious Heat, 20, farm hand.
  • Isaac J. Young‘s blacksmith shop operated in the present-day location of Worrell’s Seafood. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 315 Spring Street, horse shoer Isaac J. Young, 46; wife Laura, 29; and sons Cornelius, 12, and Robert, 9; plus lodger Henry Moy, 5.

Aerial view courtesy of Google Maps.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 4: 400 block of East Nash Street.

Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1913.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Here’s a closer look at one side of the first block east of the railroad.

Though described as a restaurant in 1913, the 1912 city director listed Charles H. Knight‘s barbershop at 414 East Nash Street. In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: barber Charles Knight, 35; wife Elsie, 37; and sons Charles, 8, and Frank, 6; plus boarders Ethel Coleman, 23, and Sarah Jackson, 28, both teachers.

Sarah Gaither operated a small eating house at 418 East Nash as early as 1908, per city directories. In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: day laborer Rufus Gaither, 57; wife Sarah, 56; and children Julius, 22, Mandy, 18, Aaron, 17, and Clarence, 15, sharing a house with Ella Gaston, 30, and her sons Ralph, 10, and Albert, 2. Rufus and Sarah Parks Gaither married 2 February 1873 in Iredell County, N.C., and are listed in the 1880 census of Turnersburg, Iredell County, with their young children. Sarah Gaither died 1912-1915. Rufus Gaither died 23 July 1915 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 August 1853 and was a widower. Bertha Farmer was informant.

John Blount‘s barbershop occupied 422 East Nash. 

The three buildings that now occupy this block were built in the 1920s. However, Google Maps shows a modern barbershop operating in the footprint of Blount’s business.

Black businesses, 1908, no. 2: South Goldsboro Street.

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the west side of the first block of South Goldsboro Street.

Richard Renfrow purchased the furnishings for his barbershop from Noah J. Tate, Walter S. Hines, and Joshua L. Tabron, partners in another barbering business, in 1906. Renfrow was a barber in Wilson as early as 1887, but around 1900 began to move back and forth between Wilson and Norfolk, Virginia.

Hardy & Holland’s livery stable was wedged, improbably, between a wholesale grocery and a garage with a second floor print shop. Per the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, “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 [James Hardy] 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.” Hardy’s business partner was Thomas Holland, a Wake County native.

Henry C. Holden‘s barbershop occupied the basement level of the Branch Bank building at the corner of East Nash and South Goldsboro Streets. 

This screenshot from Google Streetview shows the wrought-iron rail around the former exterior entrance to the barbershop below the Branch Bank building.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 3: East Nash at South Lodge Street.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century.

This block of East Nash Street fronts the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad’s passenger station. In 1913, it contained four storefronts, all housing Black-owned businesses, and a large house. Just a few years later, all were demolished to make way for the Terminal Inn, the two-story, multi-bay building that for decades was anchored by Terminal Drug Store and Star Credit Department Store and still stands today.

Moses Brandon operated an eating house next to the Atlantic Coast Line tracks. His death is reported here.

Austin Neal‘s barber shop was next door at 409 East Nash. The business later moved to the 500 block of Nash Street.

The business at 407 was labeled “cobbler.” The city directory listed Bud Wiley, bootblack, as proprietor.

John G. Corbin‘s pool room rounded out the storefronts. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: street laborer Brazell Winstead, 48; dressmaker Ada, 22; sister-in-law Martha Corben, 31, laborer; and brother-in-law John, 34, farmer. [Braswell Winstead was, in fact, a college-educated teacher turned barber who had been an assistant to postmaster Samuel Vick. It seems unlikely that Martha Corbin was a laborer or John a farmer.]

The house at 401 East Nash was occupied by white millhand J. Frank Johnson.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 2: South Spring, now Douglas, Street.

Page 3, Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1913.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century.

Above, the west side of the 400 block of South Spring [now Douglas] Street, showing a heavy concentration of small restaurants and groceries. This stretch bordered the American Tobacco (later Liggett & Meyers) tobacco warehouse to the rear and was a block away from Smith’s warehouse, Watson warehouse, Export Leaf warehouse, a larger American Tobacco warehouse, and the Norfolk & Southern cotton loading platform, and these businesses no doubt targeted the swarms of warehouse workers. 

Meet Virginia native Jacob Tucker here; Neverson Green here and here; and Nannie Best here

Agnes Taylor does not appear in Wilson census records, but her full entry in the 1912 city directory shows that she lived at 418 South Spring, just a few lots down from her eating house.

All these buildings have been demolished. 

Black businesses, 1908, no. 1: South Goldsboro and East Nash Streets.

Page 4, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C. (1908).

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the intersection of South Goldsboro and East Nash Streets.

Moses Brandon operated an eating house at 127 South Goldsboro Street. (Within a few years, he moved to 411 East Nash Street.)

John H. Aiken and Braswell R. Winstead ran livery stables at 125 and 129 South Goldsboro. The map does not make clear how the space was divided between the two. Aiken was a long-time stablekeeper, but Winstead is a surprise. He was a teacher, then an assistant postmaster to Samuel H. Vick, then a barber.

Short W. Barnes was a carpenter by trade, and his ownership of a South Goldsboro Street barbershop is a surprise.

Annie Best‘s eating house at 121 South Goldsboro was just a few blocks from her home at 313 South Spring. 

Physician Frank S. Hargrave founded Ideal Pharmacy and brought in D’Arcey C. Yancey to staff it. Yancey took over as sole proprietor around 1910. 

Wilson Times, 11 November 1910.

Tate & Hines Barbershop, a partnership of Noah J. Tate and Walter S. Hines, operated in a storefront underneath the New Briggs Hotel at 213 East Nash Street. (The hotel’s footprint is now the site of the new Wilson Arts Center.) The business began as Paragon Shaving Parlor in 1903 with a third partner, Joshua Tabron. See here a note for Tate & Hines’ purchase of a new cash register in 1910.

A barber pole is visible curbside in this postcard depicting New Briggs Hotel circa 1900. Tate & Hines occupied the first storefront on the left.

In the interior of the block, circled in red, a narrow freestanding rectangle of a building labeled “servants.” There were few white servants in Wilson in this era, so the reference is surely to African-American workers, but whose servants? What kind of servants? And what did they do in this space?

Postcard image courtesy of Penny Postcard Archives, a USGenWeb Archives site.