Civic Life

Roadwork.

Henry Stott was overseer of “the new road” running from “the old conty line road to the Tarborough road near Alsey Boykins.” Stott had summoned men to fulfill two days of road building and maintenance duty on May 21 and 22, 1857. However, Wiley Deans and Jack, an enslaved man belonging to Deans, failed to show either day, and Stott complained to justice of the peace Josee Peele. Peele issued a warrant ordering Deans to appear before him or another justice of the peace to pay a four-dollar fine (a dollar a day for each man for two days’ work) if convicted.

A note on the back of the warrant indicates that justice of the peace L.S. Boykin found against Stott, and “The plantiff craves an appeal to the next county court to be held in the town of Wilson on the forth Monday of October next.”

Road Records-1857, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Registrars and judges of election.

In August and September 1896, the Chairman of the Republican State Executive Committee submitted lists of  Registrars and Judges of Election for elections to be held in November 1896.

Wilson County was divided into 14 precincts — four in Wilson, two in Toisnot township, and one each in Taylors, Old Fields, Springhill, Cross Roads, Black Creek, Stantonsburg, Saratoga and Gardners townships. Braswell R. Winstead was appointed Judge of Election for Wilson Precinct No. 1 and Toisnot Precinct No. 1 and Elijah L. Reid was appointed Judge of Election for Stantonsburg Precinct. William H. Vick was appointed Registrar for Wilson No. 2; Alexander D. Dawson for Wilson No. 3; and Jeremiah Scarboro for Wilson No. 4. Jessie Howard was appointed Taylors registrar and Gray Newsome, Cross Roads.

Election Records 1896, Officials’ Bonds and Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.

The colored firemen’s convention.

The Red Hot Hose Company of Wilson hosted the 1904 convention and tournament of North Carolina Volunteer Firemen’s Association (Colored). Southern Railway ran this notice of special round-trip rates for firemen and brass bands making the trip from various points across the state.

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The Morning Post (Raleigh, N.C.), 28 July 1904.

Dr. Price speaks upon the rebuilding of the race.

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Greensboro North State, 27 May 1886.

One hundred thirty-three years ago, a Greensboro newspaper ran an article from the Wilson Mirror covering the visit to Wilson of “justly celebrated negro orator” Joseph C. Price. Price, a founder and first president of Livingstone College (in 1886 still known as Zion Wesley Institute), had taught in Wilson for four years at the start of his career. Regarded as one of great orators of his day — grudging recognition in this article notwithstanding — Price’s early death cut short a trajectory that might have vied with Booker T. Washington’s to lead African-Americans.

Samuel H. Vick read an essay to open the program. The writer of the article noted that his speech as “well-written” and “couched in good English,” as well it should have been given that the 23 year-old had a degree from Lincoln University and was principal of the colored graded school.

Daniel C. Suggs, like Vick a former pupil of Price, then gave a tribute recognized by an educated white listener as “most excellent.” Suggs, too, had a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln and was a year away from receiving a master’s.

Randall James’ many hats.

In the early 1940s, Randall Roland James Jr., grandson of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden, supplemented his duties as an undertaker in the family business with gigs as a federal censustaker and registrar for Local Draft Board 1. (James’ uncle, Arthur N. Darden, had been appointed an enumerator for the 1920 census.)

John G. Thomas’ quasi-gossip column, “Wilsonia,” noted the appointment of Robert E. Vick and James:

Wilson Daily Times, 2 April 1940.

Reverse side of the registration card of Luther Jones, Wilson, N.C., signed by James as registrar on 16 February 1942.

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In the 1920 census of Newark, Essex County, New Jersey: at 188 McWhorter Street, Randall James, 30, born in Texas; wife Elizabeth, 31, born in North Carolina; and sons Charles, 5, born in Alabama, and Randall, 3, born in North Carolina.

In 1940, Randall Roland James registered for the World War II in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 10 June 1916 In Wilson; resided at 111 Pender Street; his contact was wife Ruth Vashti James; and he worked for C.H. Darden & Sons, 608 East Nash.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 111 Pender Street, Elizabeth James, 45, nursery school cook; son Randle James, 23, assistant undertaker at Darden Funeral, his wife Ruth, 22, and their daughter Dianne, 1; son Charles, 26, undertaker at Darden Funeral; cousin Eugene Tennessee, 22, field agent for Darden Funeral; and brother Arthur Darden, 40, [occupation illegible.]

Randall R. James Jr. died 9 June 1981 in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Randall R. James Jr., Wilson Daily Times, 15 August 1952.

U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The passing of Old Joe.

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The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 16 March 1920.

It’s hard to know what to say about this racist tribute other than “wow, Charlie Chaplin came to Wilson?”

Joe Mercer was also known as Joseph Battle. In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Battle, 40; wife Rose, 35; and children Joe, 15, Frank, 13, John H., 10, Amie, 8, Mattie, 6, and Lou T., 8 months. Thomas and Rose reported having been married 5 years, and Rose as the mother of one child (presumably, the baby Lou.) [Marriage records show that Tom Battle married Rose Mercer on 23 May 1896 in Wilson County.]

Joe Mercer, 24, married Ida Colley, 22, on 7 December 1908 in Wilson County.

Joe Mercer registered for the World War I draft in Wilson in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born April 1881; lived at 136 Roberson; worked as a janitor. His nearest relative was Rose Battle, and he was described as “rheumatic & apparently paralytic.”

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 613 Robinson Street, bank janitor Joe Mercer, 39, and wife Ida, 40.

Joe Mercer died 11 March 1920 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 37 years old; was married; lived on Roberson Street; was engaged in butler service; and was born in Black Creek to Thomas Battle and Rosa Battle. F.F. Battle was informant.

The United Service Mission: to improve health and aid the poor.

In the summer of 1946, Rev. James M. Stallings led a public meeting of the newly formed United Service Mission at Reid Street Community Center.

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Wilson Daily Times, 13 June 1946.

Per the Biennial Report of the Secretary of State of North Carolina 1946-1948, United Service Mission Assistance incorporated in Wilson on 11 October 1947 as a non-stock corporation.  As the article below noted, the organization’s purpose was to “operate a board of health for the protection and improvement of the health of its members and the community” and “to aid the poor and the suffering and assist in the finding of employment for its members.”

Wilson Daily Times, 20 December 1947.

  • Fred M. Davis
  • James M. Stallings — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: W.P.A. project laborer James Stallings, 23; wife Kattie, 22; and step-son William, 1. Also in 1940, James Mayo Stallings registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 27 May 1917 in Duplin County, North Carolina; was married to Katie May Stallings; resided at 709 Suggs Street; and was unemployed. James M. Stallings died 18 March 1999 in Scotland Neck, North Carolina.

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.