City of Wilson

Where we worked, 1922 — Mc.

City directories offer fine-grained looks at a city’s residents at short intervals. The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directory reveals the types of work available to African-Americans during the booming tobacco era. This post is the eleventh in an alphabetical series listing all “colored” directory entries for whom an occupation was listed. The address is the resident’s home, unless a business address is noted.

  • McBrayer Glenn S., attorney, 525 East Nash R3, 906 East Nash
  • McCadden, Preston, proprietor — The Eatmore, and chauffeur — 201 West Nash
  • McCall, James, driver — V.C. Langley & Co., 306 South
  • McClain, James, laborer, 806 East Nash
  • McClain, Julia, domestic, 806 East Nash
  • McClain, Neal, mill hand, 810 South Lodge
  • McCloud, James, laborer, 302 North East
  • McCormick, Blanche, cook, 304 East South
  • McCowan, William, bricklayer, 513 Church
  • McCoy, Bessie, laundress, 404 South Bruton
  • McCoy, Clyde, tobacco worker, 903 Mercer
  • McCoy, Frank, tobacco worker, 409 East Walnut
  • McCoy, George, tobacco worker, 613 Darden Alley
  • McCoy, Russell, driver, 119 West Walnut
  • McCrain, Frank, mill hand, 408 Maury
  • McCray, Emma, domestic, 808 Robinson [Roberson]
  • McCray, Mack, tobacco worker, 808 Robinson
  • McCray, Mary, domestic, 505 Hines
  • McCray, Susie, domestic, 505 Hines
  • McCrimon, Allen, laborer, 1011 Stantonsburg Road
  • McCrimon, Cicero, farmer 1011 Stantonsburg Road
  • McCrimon, Edwin, porter, 1011 Stantonsburg Road
  • McCullers, Clarence, driver, 118 Pender
  • McCullers, Rosa, cook, 118 Pender
  • McCullers, Edward, upholsterer, 622 Darden Alley
  • McCullom, Rosa, laundress, 622 Darden Alley
  • McDonald, John, laborer, 309 East Jones
  • McDougall, Joseph, tobacco worker, 203 Stantonsburg Road
  • McDuffee, Bettie, cook, 901 East Nash
  • McDuffee, Percy, laborer, 901 East Nash
  • McKeithan, Isaac, porter, 910 Robinson [Roberson]
  • McKinley, John, laborer, 517 South Spring
  • McKnight, Henry, tobacco worker, 110 Manchester
  • McLean, Bessie, domestic, 107 North East
  • McLean, Edith, laundress, 503 East Green
  • McLean, Frank, tobacco worker, 204 Manchester
  • McLean, George, laborer, 410 East Hines
  • McLean, Henry, laborer, 303 North East
  • McLean, Lloyd, tobacco worker, 708 Robinson
  • McManon, Joseph, painter, 412 West Walnut
  • McMillan, Aleck, laborer, 500 Warren
  • McMillan, Annie, domestic, 500 Warren
  • McMillan, Dennis, laborer, 511 Stantonsburg Road
  • McMillan, Hosea, presser, 210 East Hines
  • McMillan, Mack, presser, 210 East Hines
  • McMillan, Sister, millworker, 705 South Lodge
  • McNair, Hubert, laborer, 1022 Robinson [Roberson]
  • McNair, Nora, domestic, 1022 Robinson
  • McNeal, Hassie, tobacco worker, 516 Smith
  • McNeal, Lina, domestic, 516 Smith
  • McNeal, Mary, laundress, 306 Elba
  • McNeal, William, tobacco worker, 306 Elba
  • McNeil, Maggie, maid – Wilson Sanatorium, Viola
  • McNeill, Angus, barber – James H, Barnes, home 610 Viola
  • McNeill, Mary, tobacco stemmer, 306 East South
  • McPhail, Bessie, teacher, 208 South Vick
  • McPhail, David, auto mechanic, 208 South Vick
  • McPhail, Mary, domestic, 208 South Vick
  • McPhail, Rayford J., janitor, 208 South Vick
  • McPherson, Ethel, domestic, 627 Wiggins
  • McPherson, Eula, tobacco worker, 503 Stantonsburg Road
  • McRay, Minnie, hairdresser, 807 East Nash

The Colored High School on display.

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This photograph of Wilson Colored High School was displayed in Philadelphia’s Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926. It was one of several dozen featured in an exhibit staged by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Division of Negro Education. The caption: Cost of Building $65,000.00 — Total Value Colored School Property $96,250.00 — Total Population of the City 14,000 — Total Colored Population of City 6,650.

From Sesquicentennial International Exposition Photographs, Division of Negro Education, Department of Public Instruction, North Carolina State Archives.

The new decorated Ritz.

9 19 1942.PNG

The Carolina Times, 19 September 1942.

The ad above, touting the “new decorated” Ritz Theatre, ran in The Carolina Times, an African-American newspaper based in Raleigh, North Carolina. The white-owned Ritz, which catered to a “colored” audience, was located at 523 East Nash Street.

This photograph of the Ritz, which hangs in a hallway of the Freeman Round House and Museum, is undated, but contains some clues however. The magnificent movie posters at either side of the entrance promote Lena Horne, Bill Robinson and Cab Calloway in the acclaimed musical Stormy Weather, which was released in 1943.  The sign above the ticket booth reads “GRAND RE-OPENING, Monday May 13th,” but 13 May 1943 was not a Monday. Nor was that date a Monday in 1942, when the reopening ad above ran. The closest years that fit are 1940 and 1946. Thus, either the sign was left hanging for several years, or Stormy Weather was a re-run showing several years after original release. If this photograph were taken by Raines & Cox studio, which seems probable, the 1946 date is more likely.

Stormy Weather film poster in vivid color. I have not been able to find color images of the two magnificent posters in the Ritz’ glass cases.

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Update: Mystery solved. Many thanks to Steve Brown for locating this ad from the 11 May 1946 edition of the Wilson Daily Times, touting the Grand Re-Opening of The State’s Finest Most Modern Colored Theatre!

An invitation to the fair and tournament ball.

From the Freeman Round House and Museum, an invitation and ticket to the Wilson County Industrial Association’s Fair and Tournament Ball at Wilson’s Mamona Opera House in 1887. Marcus W. Blount was an honorary manager for the ball, which accompanied the Association’s first agricultural fair.

507 Church Street.

This heavily modified shotgun house on Church Street is not located in the East Wilson Historic District. Nor was its single block included in the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse District, though it lies just behind East Nash and Pettigrew Streets. Once densely packed with working-class housing, Church Street is now empty. Only three houses stand on the block, none occupied, and 507 is the last house remaining on the north side of the street.

The 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories list Lucy Sherrod at 507 Church. Also in 1930: Hall Lonnie (c; Mamie L) laborer 507 Church

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Church, renting for $16/month, Lonnie Hall, 34, odd jobs laborer, wife Mamie, 34, hotel maid, and daughter Elsie, 2; nieces and nephews Estha, 16, Christine, 13, and lodgers Lucile Sherif [sic], 30, widow, hotel maid, Lucile Sherif, 14, and Jack Sherif, 17, odd jobs laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Church, renting for $12/month, laborer Will Rogers, 28, and wife Sally, 30, odd jobs. Both seemed to be Arkansas natives — he, from Pine Bluff, and she, from Fayetteville.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Rogers William (c; Sallie) yd mn 507 Church

As the Central Business Historic District survey map shows, as recently as 1984, Church Street was filled with houses. 507 is encircled.

Google Maps shot this image of 507 Church in 2012. It appears that, at that time, the house was occupied.

Fred Artis brings local history to life.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 June 1992.

On 9 October 1912, Fred Artis, 23, married Mattie Lewis, 18, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Alonzo Phillips, Samuel Mercer and Tobe Beland.

In the 1920 census of Fountain township, Pitt County: Fred Artis, 33; wife Mattie, 23; and children Christine, 5, and Fred, 4.

Mattie Artis died 2 December 1927 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 32 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Frank Lewis and Clarrisa Joyner; married to Fred Artis; and resided at 1013 Stantonsburg Street.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 101 Reid Street, school janitor Fred Artist, 56, widower; children Christine, 16, Fred, 14, and Mildred, 11; and lodger Luddie Brown, 22, private cook.

Fred Artis [Sr.] died 12 May 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 38 years old; was born in Wilson County to Edward Artis and Addie Artis; was married to Annie Artis; lived at 101 Reid Street. Fred Artis Jr. was informant.

In 1940, Fred Artis Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 17 March 1916 in Wilson; resided at 101 North Reid Street; his contact was mother Annie Artis; and he was unemployed.

Betty Ann Artis died 4 December 1960 in Wilson at her home at 501-A Hadley Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 September 1925 in Wilson County to Ben Guest and Fannie Harris; and was married to Fred Artis.

Nona Braswell Artis died 17 September 1996.

Fred Artis Jr. died 18 September 2000 in Wilson.

Ambrose Floyd buys a piano.

On 18 December 1934 (during the depths of the Great Depression), Ambrose Floyd purchased a Gulbransen piano and bench from the R.C. Bristow & Company of Petersburg, Virginia. Floyd paid $345 for instrument, to be remitted in eight-dollar installments. Delivery was to be made to his address at 1214 East Washington Street, Wilson.

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In the 1910 census of Back Swamp, Robeson County: Troy Floyd, 48; wife Cary, 36; and children Clara, 15, Harvey, 11, Ambrose, 9, Winford, 7, Hayden, 5, and Ada, 3.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 622 [West] Nash, general store merchant Paul L. Woodard, 50; wife Ida F., 43; servant/laborer Ambrus Floyd, 19; and servant/cook Elinor(?) Moses, 34.

On 19 February 1921, Ambrose Floyd, 21, of Wilson County, son of Troy and Cattie Floyd of Wilson County, married Mattie Moye, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of Delia Moye of Wilson County, in Wilson. Hardy Tate applied for the marriage license, and A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Rosa E. McCullers, Clarence McCullers and Beatrice Wood.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1011 Washington Street, rented at $17/month, taxi chauffeur Ambrose Floyd, 28; wife Mattie, 29; and children William A., 9, James, 8, Mateel, 6, Earnsteen, 5, and Hattie M., 1; plus Hattie McLoran, 29, cook.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1214 Washington Street, owned and valued at $1800, shoe shop and taxi owner Ambrose Floyd, 39; wife Mattie, 39, cleaner; and children Mattelene, 17, James, 18, Ernest, 15, and Hattie, 12.

In 1942, Ambrose Floyd registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1901 in Lumberton, North Carolina; resided at 1214 East Nash Street; his contact was Clara Smith; and he was employed by Gary Fulghum, 901 Branch Street, United States Post Office.

Also in 1942, Neal Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 October in Littleton, North Carolina; resided at 913 Atlantic Street; his contact was Ambrose Floyd, 1214 Washington Street; and he “drives a truck for Ambrose Floyd.”

Mattie Moye Floyd died 11 January 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 22 June 1900 to Boston Moye and Delia Malone; was married to Ambrose Floyd; and resided at 1214 Washington Street.

Ambrose Floyd died 23 October 1981.

Book 213, pages 18-19, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

The Singletary subdivision.

This undated plat map shows lots 2 and 3 of the subdivision of the “Singletary Land,” laid out in 14 blocks divided into 176 roughly 50′ wide lots.

The streetscape is easily recognizable to the modern viewer. There have been some moderate changes in the layout — Freeman Street no longer intersects Nash (which is a street now, not a road) and nor does Wainwright.  The original course of Wainwright, which is a street now, not an avenue, essentially lies under present-day Hines Street. Bardin Street is Rountree Street, and Mewbern morphed into New Bern Street.

Plat book 1, pages 482-483, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse; aerial image courtesy of Google Maps.

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.