City of Wilson

Snaps, no. 52: Jessie Ruffin Hill.

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Jessie Beatrice Ruffin Hill (1908-1990).

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1007 East Nash Street, transfer man Garfield Ruffin, 39; wife Thennie, 28; and children Jessie, 12, Emma, 8, Mary, 7, Cora, 5, Naomi, 3, Kernice, 1, and Thennie, 7 months.

On 23 May 1929, William Hill, 21, of Durham, married Jessie Hill, 23, of Durham, daughter of Pres Binn (dead) and Thenie Ruffin of Washington, D.C., in Durham, North Carolina.

In the 1930 census of Durham, Durham County: at 504 Fowler Avenue, rented for $8/month, and shared with another family, factory worker William Hill, 24, wife Jessie, 22, and son William Jr., 2 months.

[In the 1930 census of Washington, D.C.: at 728 – 12th Street, barber James G. Ruffin, 45; wife Parthenia, 36; and children Emma, 19, Mary E., 18, Cora, 16, Naomi, 15, Kernice, 12, Parthenia, 11, James B., 9, Linwood, 7, Izah, 6, Calvin C., 4, and Canlice, 2.]

William Hill registered for the World War II draft in Durham, N.C., in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 8 April 1906 in Roxobel, Bertie County; lived at 704 Pickett Street, Durham; worked for Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Company; and his contact was wife Jessie Beatrice Hill.

Jessie R. Hill died 29 July 1990 in Durham. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 March 1908 in Wilson to Henry G. Ruffin and an unnamed mother; was a widow; and had been a tobacco worker. George Hill of Albany, Georgia, was informant.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user jfount6081.

The business of shoes.

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Shoeshine box, shoe horn, brush and polish. Oliver N. Freeman Round House and Museum, photograph at digitalnc.com.

Until recent decades, most people owned only one or two pairs of shoes, and keeping them clean and in good condition required the regular services of shoemakers, repairmen and bootblacks. Here are some of the many men who plied this trade in Wilson.

  • Henry Adkinson — in the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Adkinson is listed as the proprietor of H. Adkinson & Son, shoemakers and watchmakers, at 524 East Nash. He lived at 640 East Green. Later directories list Adkinson’s business at 521 and 522 East Nash. By 1925, Henry and Mary Adkinson lived at 115 Narroway.
  • Baltimore Shoe Repair Shop — as listed in the 1925 city directory, this business was at 420 East Nash and Cutt Davis and James Mack were its proprietors.
  • Barefoot, Herbert — in the 1925 city directory, Barefoot is listed as a shoe polisher at 512 East Nash, residing at Smith near Pettigrew.
  • Barnes, Douglass — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1013 East Nash Street, owned and valued at $3000, taxi chauffeur Jake Barnes, 56; wife Effie, 32; and children Douglass, 20, shoeshop cobbler, Waylone, 19, taxi chauffeur, Eva, 16, Mattie, 13, and Nellie, 10.
  • Barnes, Redmond, Jr. — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1116 East Nash Street, Mary Barnes, 33, who taught at Healthy Plains Grade School; her widowed mother Jenettie Barnes, 62; brothers Redman, 22, a shoe repairer at Rex Shoe Shop [a white-owned shop downtown], and John, 19, a tobacco factory laborer; brother-in-law Doll Speight, 26, apartment elevator operator; sister Lula, 23, and their daughters Letrice, 2, and Bettie, 8 months.
  • Battle, George — in the 1925 city directory, Battle is listed as a shoe polisher at 513 East Nash, residing at East Green near Pender.
  • Blue Ribbon Electric Repair Shop — in the 1920 city directory, Henry Adkinson was proprietor of this shoe repair shop at 522 East Nash.
  • Brooks, Leslie — Leslie Brooks died 12 October 1918 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1881 in Wilson County to Dave Brooks and Henrietta Peacock; worked as a shoemaker; was single; and was buried in Brooks cemetery. Jno. Williams was informant.
  • Bullard, John — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Bullard is listed as the proprietor of the Hub Shoe Shine Parlor at 503 East Nash. Bullard lived at 703 East Vance.
  • Burnette, William E. — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Burnette is listed as a shoemaker working at 420 East Nash Street and living at 406 Bank[s].
  • Bynum, Curley B. — proprietor of Master Shoe Shine Parlor, 1946.
  • Cox, Elijah — in the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: shoemaker Elijah Cox, 66; wife Patience, 65; and children (or grandchildren) Jerry, 11, Clara, 5, and Patience Cox, 3. Cox claimed $150 real estate.
  • Davis, Cutt — see Baltimore Shoe Shop.
  • Farmer, George, Jr. — in the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Geo jr. (c) shoe shiner h 1200 Queen.
  • Floyd, Ambrose — 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.
  • Fogg, Joseph –– in the 1860 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County, listed as a 50 year-old shoemaker in the household of Edwin Eatmon, bootmaker.
  • Gaddy, John — in the 1930 Wilson city directory, Moses is listed as a shoe repairer at 400 Stantonsburg Street.
  • Haskins, Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 55, drug company salesman; wife Gertrude, 48; and children Mandy, 36; Elizabeth, 33, cook; Estelle, 29, beauty shop cleaner; Robert D. Jr., 29, hotel kitchen worker; Lossie, 24, N.Y.A. stenographer; and Thomas, 20, barbershop shoeblack; plus granddaughter Delores, 15, and lodger Henry Whitehead, 21.
  • Hill, Moses — shoemaker, 1890. See also.

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Wilson Mirror, 14 October 1891.

  • Hines, Shady — in the 1916 directory, Hines is listed as a bootblack at 416 East Nash Street.
  • Holley, Clarence V. — Clarence Holley died 4 May 1964 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 May 1919 in Bertie County to William Holley and Molly Smallwood; operated a shoeshine parlor; and lived at 300 North East Street. Informant was Elma Holley.
  • Johnson, Jake — in the 1922 city directory, listed as proprietor of the Busy Bee Shoe Shine Parlor at 513 East Nash.
  • Johnson, Leander A. — in the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Johnson is listed as a shoemaker working at 512 East Nash Street and living at 606 Robinson [Roberson] Street. In the 1920 city directory, he is a shoemaker at 518 East Nash and lived on East near Nash Street. In the 1922 directory, “Lee” Johnson is listed as working at 517 East Nash and living at 209 South East.
  • Jones, A. Wilson — in the 1880 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Wilson Jones, 22, shoemaker.
  • Jones, Henry — in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Henry Jones, 55; wife Milly, 50; and sons Morris, 19, a bakery worker, and Wilson, 11.
  • Joyner, George H. — listed in the 1920 Wilson city directory as the proprietor of Southern Shoe Repair Shop at 532 East Nash.
  • Leach, Patrick — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Patrick Henry Leach, 61, and wife Lavinea, 56. Leach reported that he was born in Mississippi to North Carolina-born parents.
  • Lupe, Peter
  • Mack, James — See Baltimore Shoe Shop.
  • Merritt, Lee

Wilson Daily Times, 23 December 1921.

  • Moses, Oliver — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Moses is listed as a shoe shiner at 515 East Nash. He lived at 524 East Nash, rear.
  • Moore, John H. — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Moore is listed as a shoemaker working at 420 East Nash Street and living at 406 Bank[s]. In the 1916 city directory, he is working at 513 East Nash and loving at 1007 East Nash. In the 1922 city directory, his business address was 511 East Nash.
  • Moore, Ozzie — In 1944, Ozzie Moore registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 1 September 1926 in Wilson; resided at 1113 Atlantic Street, Wilson; his contact was his father, J.H. Moore; and was employed by J.H. Moore at 517 East Nash Street, Wilson.
  • Moore, Starlon — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Moore is listed as a shoemaker working at 526 East Nash Street and living at 701 South Spring Street.
  • Moore, Wade M. — in the 1947 city directory, Moore Wade M (c; Eliz O; Wade’s Shoe Shop) h 1001 Faison
  • Perry, Ruffin — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Perry is listed as a shoemaker at Stantonsburg Road near Rountree Avenue.
  • Reaves, Mack — in the 1930 Wilson city directory, Reaves is listed as a shoe shiner at 569 East Nash.
  • Rountree, Peter — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Peter Rountree, 76, wife Lucinda, 53, daughter Sarah Bowser, 32, son-in-law Burt L. Bowser, 36, grandsons Russell, 9, Astor B., 3, and Thomas F., 1, stepdaughters (?) Manda L., 18, and Rosa E. Rountree, 14.
  • Simms, Eddie B. — Simms died 17 July 1924. Per his death certificate,he was born 3 August 1904 in Wilson to Ed Mitchell and Frances Simms; was single; lived at 610 Manchester Street; worked as a shoeshiner; and “drowned while in the act of swimming accidentally.” Informant was Millie Simms.
  • Tabron, William — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 700 East Vance Street, rented for $16/month, barber Henry Tabron, 37; wife Mattie B., 39, laundress; and children William, 15, shoe shop laborer, Edmonia, 14, Bill S., 11, Berkly, 9, and Donald, 7.
  • Thompson, Edwin — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Thompson is listed as a shoe shiner at 569 East Nash.
  • Wiley, Bud — in the 1912 city directory, Wiley is listed as a bootblack at 407 East Nash.
  • Word, Fleming — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Word (Ward?) is listed as a shoemaker working at 407 East Nash Street and living at 108 Wiggins.

Hugh T. Ransom Sr. and John A. Gaston were briefly partners in a Nash Street barbershop that catered to a white clientele. Barbershops often offered shoeshine services. Wilson Advance, 30 January 1890.

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Shoe shops at 515, 519, 521 and 529 East Nash Street, as shown on the 1922 Sanborn insurance map of Wilson. City directories for the same year show cobblers at 511 and 513 East Nash Street as well.

Studio shots, nos. 108, 109 and 110: the Evans family.

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Roscoe M. Evans (1913-1993), during his Wilson years.

Roscoe Michael Evans was born 11 March 1913 in Wilson to Erastus Marion Evans of Johnston County, North Carolina, and Mamie Britt Coles Evans of Sampson County, North Carolina. His parents were married in Wilson on 25 December 1911 by Baptist minister Fred M. Davis in the presence of James Crockett and Effie Pittman of Wilson and Jery Evans of Fremont, N.C., and Joe Evans applied for the license.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory Erastus M. Evans, laborer, is listed at 635 East Vance Street, as was John Evans.

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Erastus M. Evans (1891-1945).

In 1917, Erastus Marion Evans registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 1 June 1891 in Johnston County; lived on East Nash Street; worked as an electric lineman for the Town of Wilson; and supported a wife and child.

On 22 January 1918, the “Infant of Mamie Rastus Evans,” a boy, died in Wilson at age four days, probably of “la grippe” [influenza.] Per his death certificate, he was buried in Wilson County by C.H. Darden & Sons.

On 1 August 1919, a stillborn male infant was born to Rastus M. Evans and Mamie Cole. Per his death certificate, he was born in Wilson by C.H. Darden & Sons.

In the 1930 census of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland: Rastus Evans, 39, ship stevedore, described as a widower, headed a household of roomers at 807 Franklin Street. However, at 1502 Pennsylvania Avenue, also described as a widow, was Mamie E. Ivans, 34, lunch room manager; her son Roscoe, 17; brother Owen Pope, 30; and sister-in-law Leonie, 24. [Widowhood was a euphemism for divorce.]

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Mamie Britt Cole Evans (1892-1979), probably in her early Baltimore days.

Erastus M. Evans died 4 April 1945, Mamie C. Evans died June 1979, and Roscoe M. Evans died 25 February 1993, all in Baltimore.

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Photographs of the Evans family courtesy of Ancestry.com user TheresaSandra.

A pardon.

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Wilson Advance, 5 May 1882.

  • Simon Dildy
  • Charles Gay — in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Gay, 35, wife Emma, 25, children Charles, 5, and Mary, 1, and two farm laborers Rich’d Harper, 20, and Haywood Watson, 17. Though the article above states that Gay was murdered in 1875, Emma Gay was appointed administratrix of his estate in early 1874. Gay had been a shopkeeper, and his wife took over his “old stand.”

Young lions.

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Photograph printed in Wilson Daily Times, 2 July 1976, owner unknown.

  • Dr. William A. Mitchner
  • Camillus L. Darden
  • Mr. Nelson — Note that Patrick M. Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches in Wilson, North Carolina 1856-1995 does not list a Rev. Nelson among the priests that have served at Saint Mark’s. (Mitchner and Darden were members of Saint John A.M.E. Zion; Freeman, of Calvary Presbyterian.) Census records for 1900 and 1910 do not list any African-American male Nelsons in Wilson.
  • Oliver Nestus Freeman

303 North Vick Street.

The one hundred-eighth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1930; 1 story; James Moore house; bungalow with high hip roof and distinctive wraparound porch; aluminum sided; Moore was a barber.”

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Small James barber W S Hines h303 N Vick and Small Maggie cook h303 N Vick [Is this James “Moore” above?]

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: owned and valued at $2000, barber James Small, 45; wife Maggie, 43; children James Jr., 9, and Kathryne, 7; and sister-in-law Dora Hawkins, 25, laundress.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: owned and valued at $1500, teacher (at “Sally B. School”) Margaret Hines, 37, widow, and roomers Separist Artist, [no age], barber at Artist Barber, and his wife Grace Artist, [no age], beauty parlor operator, and Annie Dupree, 38, high school teacher.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hines Margt W (c) tchr Sallie Barbour Sch h303 N Vick

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hines Margt W (c; widow Ashley) tchr Sallie Barbour Sch h303 N Vick

Photo taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

Co-workers sale.

In late 1927, Oettinger’s (“The Dependable Store”) held a “co-worker’s sale,” in which employees received commissions on the sales of items they vouched for. A full page ad set out the names of dozens of employees, from corsetiere to bookkeeper to wrapper girl, touting store goods. Miss Eula Cram, for example, of the Millinery Department stood to gain from the sale of “a table of new hats.” Mr. G.H. Sullivan, the Floor Manager, noted that “Children’s jersey and silk dresses are most attractively reduced.” In the sixth and last column of the page, at the bottom, without honorifics, appear three final names. These were Oettinger’s African American employees.

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Wilson Daily Times, 29 November 1927.

Midwives and granny women.

Forty-three Wilson County midwives (41 black) met with state health officials to receive training. Wilson Daily Times, 17 June 1921.

Well into the 20th century, most babies in Wilson County were delivered by midwives, whose ranks were overwhelmingly comprised of African-American women. Here is a running list of them:

  • Rachel Armstrong Allen
  • Phereby Barnes Artis
  • Violet Barnes Barnes — in the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Benjamen Barnes, 52; wife Vilet, 54, midwife; and Elvy, 10, Ailcey, 7, and Spicey, 6.
  • Nannie Best — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Best Nannie midwife, h 332 S Lodge
  • Nancy Staton Boykin
  • Sarah Dawes Bunn
  • Charlotte Bynum — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bynum Charlotte, midwife 553 E Nash
  • Bertha Cade — in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cade Bertha midwife, h 412 E Walnut
  • Lucy Sorsby Dail — Lucy Dail died 15 March 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 63 years old; was born in Nash County to Nelson Salisbury and Carolina Cooper; was the widow of Jos. Dail; lived at 519 South Spring; and had been a midwife. Mary Proctor was informant.
  • Viney Drake
  • Mary Fuller
  • Mariah Battle Gaston
  • Maria Hicks — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Owens Smith, 49, minister; wife Adora, 30; son Jesse, 19; daughter Flossie, 4; widowed mother Maria Hicks, 78, a midwife; and boarder Carry Pettiford, a widowed teacher.
  • Fortune Hilliard
  • Nannie Kirby — Per death certificate, Kirby attended the stillbirth of Joseph Kent, son of Charlie and Victory Kent, on 6 October 1930 in Springhill township.
  • Anna Johnson — Per death certificate, Johnson attended the premature birth of Olive Frances Hannah, daughter of Lemore Hannah and Almeda Morgan, who was born 21 November 1930 and died 28 December 1930 in Wilson.

  • Olive Lindsey — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, Richard Lindsey, 51, mechanic; Olive, 42, midwife; and sons Richard, 14, Henry, 11, and Austin, 23, a drayman.
  • Mary Miller — in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Miller Mary, midwife h 405 N Pine
  • Charlotte Minor — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Minor Charlotte midwife, h 121 Manchester
  • Susan Mitchell — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Susiana Mitchel, 65, a “grannie,” and son Edd, 33, a barber. [A “granny-woman” was a midwife.]
  • Etta Plummer — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Plummer Etta midwife, h 1104 Wainwright Av
  • Bettie Pree — listed as midwife on the death certificate of the infant of James H. and Lillie Taylor, who was stillborn on 24 December 1917.
  • Cherry Rogers — in the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Watson Stanton, 65, wife Rosa, 53, children Richard, 15, Adeline, 13, Feribee, 8, and Louisa, 21; midwife Cherry Rogers, 80; and Hardy Barnes, 20.
  • Isabella Samuel — in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Samuel Isabella midwife, 509 Church [residence ditto]
  • Caroline Williamson Vick
  • Mittie Wood — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wood Mittie midwife, h 701 Railroad
  • Eliza Woodard — in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Woodard Eliza midwife, h 1109 Woodard Av

1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, page 65.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 October 1921.

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.