Civic Life

Men’s Civic Club, no. 2.

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This photo, titled “An Early Picture of the Men’s Civic Club,” is in the collection of Wilson’s Freeman Round House Museum. The Civic Club was founded in 1939 to address “the problems and needs (civic, educational and recreational) of the Negroes of greater Wilson — city and county.” The photo probably dates from around 1950. I can only partially name the men depicted. Standing are an unidentified man; Episcopalian priest Rev. Robert J. Johnson; Baptist minister Rev. Fred M. Davis; and an unidentified man. Seated are Camillus L. Darden; an unidentified man; Presbyterian minister Rev. Obra J. Hawkins; and Charles Darden James.

If you can help identify any of these men, please contact me. Thank you.

Birds of a feather?

As shown in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory, other than the Masons, all of the city’s white-only benevolent and fraternal organizations met at the Odd Fellows’ Hall at 208 1/2 South Goldsboro Street — including the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The building at 206-208 Goldsboro Street S.W. is still standing. Per the nomination report for the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, when constructed in 1916, the Tomlinson Building “had two storefronts with a central door leading to the lodge on the second story.” The first floor was originally occupied by the Tomlinson Company, then a series of automobile dealers, then Southern Auto Company, and now a wrought-iron design workshop. Fraternal organizations occupied the second floor into the 1930s.

The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan operated 1915 to 1944, the Klan’s so-called second era, when the group fashioned itself — and was clearly accepted as — as a fraternal organization. As across the country, the rise of the civil rights movement in the 1950s ushered in another wave of KKK activity in Wilson County.

The end of the Red Hots?

In 1938, the city of Wilson professionalized its firefighting operations, converting the white volunteer department to semi-paid status. The Daily Times originally reported that the black volunteer organization, the Red Hots, would be abolished, but here clarified that, while they were being retired from active service, they would continue to send representatives to competitions and state conventions and would be called upon in emergencies.  

Wilson Daily Times, 14 July 1938.

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  • Ben Mincey
  • George Coppedge — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason George Coppedge, 34; wife Mittie, 34; and children George Jr., 4, and Elenora, 2.
  • Aaron Best — William Aaron Best died 21 August 1949 at his home at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 September 1900 in Wilson County to Aaron Best and Nannie Best; was a widower; and had been a laborer at Export Tobacco Company. Audrey Best was informant.
  • Ambrose Floyd — 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.
  • W.J. Howell
  • Henry Sauls — in 1942, Henry Sauls registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 February 1898 in Black Creek; resided at 21 Carolina Street (mailing address 1114 Carolina Street); his contact was Hattie Davis, 19 Carolina Street; and he worked for W.T. Clark Jr., 1415 West Nash Street, Barnes Street tobacco factory.
  • Louis Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green Street, carpenter Louis Thomas, 53; wife Lillie, 33; and children Louis Jr., 16, Charlie H., 14, and Van Jewel, 12.

Contributions to Mercy, part 2.

On 30 January 1947, the Wilson Daily Times published a lengthy list of contributors to the fundraising drive of the Mercy Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. The list, reproduced here in five parts, included many of black Wilson’s leading individuals, businesses and institutions.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 January 1947.

All annotations, some edited for clarity, are entries in Hill’s Wilson City Directory 1947-48.

Contributions to Mercy, part 1.

On 30 January 1947, the Wilson Daily Times published a lengthy list of contributors to the fundraising drive of the Mercy Hospital Women’s Auxiliary. The list, reproduced here in five parts, included many of black Wilson’s leading individuals, businesses and institutions.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 January 1947.

  • Dr. Badie T. Clark — Clark Badie T (Margt S) phys Carolina General Hosp home 607 Raleigh Rd
  • B.O. Barnes — Barnes Boisey O (c; Flossie H) physician 525 1/2 E Nash h 613 E Green
  • Doris Parks — Parks Doris L (c) case war County Bd of Charities & Public Welfare h 604 Green
  • William Hines — Hines Wm M (c; Ethel L) barber h 615 E Green
  • Anna J. JohnsonJohnson Robt Rev (c; Anna) pastor St Marks Episcopal Church h 1111 Washington
  • Norma Darden — Norma Duncan Darden. Darden Norma E Mrs (c) v-pres Darden Mutual Burial Assn h 108 Pender
  • Ethel L. Hines — Ethel L. Cornwell Hines.

All annotations, some edited for clarity, are entries in Hill’s Wilson City Directory 1947-48.

An important move; or what to do about shiftless negroes.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1919.

A gathering of men at the Colored Odd Fellows Hall. The topic at hand? How to “make the negro more efficient and helpful, more energetic, more responsible and in any every way a better citizen.” The means? A temporary organization headed by Camillus L. Darden and Dr. William H. Phillips. R. McCants Andrews, Howard ’15, newly graduated from Harvard Law School and soon to be counsel for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, was the principal speaker, holding the audience spellbound as he “discussed the shiftless ones, those who desire to get off on Saturday it matters not how badly he is needed, or how it will break up the oorganization, he talked about those who roam around with no settled abiding place, and of the crap shooter and general loafer and vagrant.” The Negro is a great imitator, he intimated, and “if the white man could get him to imitate work he would go to that and stick to it.” And the South was the place for him to do it.

The white businessmen in the audience chimed in. F.M. Miller, superintendent of Farmer’s Cotton Oil Company. There were “great possibilities in the development of the Negro,” he opined, “if they were handled in the right way an taught to understand the responsibilities of life.” He then supplied “some personal reminiscences to prove this.” Publisher John D. Gold answered the call for a remark. He confessed that he had long wondered if there a way “to make the shiftless colored man who shot craps and loafed ” much of the week “a better man and citizen.” The organization, he thought, would be useful in reaching these unreliable folk when they were young. After all, “he believed in his colored folks.”

“Dr. Sam Vick” stepped forward. If he was struggling to contain a reaction to the guests’ words, his own comments offer no hint. Instead — according to the Times reporter, at least — he echoed the general sentiments. “The colored man should be taught the value of a dollar, how it came and what it would bring” and should be “systematically trained” to eliminate his troubles. Episcopal priest Rev. Robert Perry, Dr. Frank S. Hargrave, Dr. William Mitchner and others offered their own hear-hears.

On the agenda.

This 1925 Daily Times article detailed the business of a single February city aldermen’s meeting. First on the agenda, the Wilson Colored Hospital. The article listed the white members of the hospital’s board of trustees first, then noted its African-American members — S.H. Vick, J.D. Reid and “Permillus” [Camillus] Darden. After some discussion, the “the Board” decided to reinstate the city’s $75/month appropriation to the hospital, which had been discontinued the previous September.

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The trustees stated that the hospital was “a necessity among the colored people of the city, and that many of them would be without treatment but for the institution.” Alderman Daniel asked if the trustees had personal knowledge that “the affairs of the institution were properly administered.” Dr. C.A. Woodard responded that “no institution of this kind made any money, and that they understood the disadvantages under which those connected with it were laboring.” Hospital management agreed to file monthly reports to the city.  Trustee F.N. Bridgers invited the city to appoint a member to the board, and J.D. Reid noted that alderman Graham Woodard had been asked. Woodard acknowledged the invitation, but cited a busy schedule.

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Hospital business satisfactorily concluded, Vick broached another subject — street lights. Would “the city extend its Whiteway below the railroad to the Baptist church, at the corner of Nash and Pender Streets”? A lighted north side and dark south did not present a good look to voyagers passing through on trains. The aldermen referred the matter to the Water and Light Commission. The Business Men’s League and the J.C. Price Literary Society endorsed the project, Vick added. (Joseph C. Price “taught here fifty years ago and afterwards founded Livingstone College.”) Mayor Lucas raised another point: lighting would help the police do their job. One had been killed and another nearly so in “pistol duels in that section of the city.”

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Vick raised item number three — the colored cemetery. Would the city place an awning and also fix the roads so people could get in and out? Mr. Grantham of the cemetery commission responded defensively: “it was difficult to get the cemetery into a correct shape, and lay it out. The graves had been placed everywhere, and without regard to lines or streets.” Also, “there was some of the land that was worthless for the purpose, as it was a bottom. He spoke of land in the old cemetery which if the graves were removed would be worth considerable money.” Anyway, he agreed to “go over the property and work out some plan to get it in shape.”

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No further colored business.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1925.

  • Why had the city discontinued its $75/month allocation in the first place?
  • What did the J.C. Price Literary Society do? When was it founded? Who were its members?
  • When did streetlights finally cross the tracks?
  • For what purpose was an awning needed in the cemetery?
  • “Fix the roads“? What roads led to the cemetery?
  • Were there still burials in Oakdale as late as 1925? Was the question more of access to existing graves than for new ones?

 

Chief Mincey.

Benjamin Mincey, after Edmund Poole, was the second “chief” of Wilson’s African-American volunteer fire department, the Red Hot Hose Company. This magnificent photograph depicts Mincey in full fireman dress regalia.

Benjamin Mincey (circa 1881-1950).

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In the 1900 census of Wilson town, Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Prince Mensey, 60; wife Susan, 52; children Ben, 19, Emma, 19, and Oscar, 12; and niece Rosetta Mensey, 7.

Ben Mincey, 21, of Wilson, son of P. Mincey, and Mattie Barnes, 20, of Wilson, daughter of M. and Mariah Barnes, were married on 12 January 1904. Berry Williams applied for the license, and Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in his home in the presence of Harry Mercer, W. Aken, and E.M. Davis.

In 1918, Ben Mincey registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 25 December 1879; resided at 411 Wiggins Street; worked as a laborer for the city of Wilson; and his nearest relative was Mattie Mincey.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 411 Wiggins Street, city pipe fitter Benj. Mency, 38; wife Mattie, 37, tobacco factory worker; and children Benjamin J., 11, Mildred, 7, Maddison, 5, and John, 3 months.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 June 1929.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 656 Wiggins Street, valued at $800, town of Wilson plumber Benjamin Mincy, 48; wife Mattie, 49; and children Benjamin Jr., 23, Briggs hotel cook; Madison B., 16; Mildred, 17; and John H., 11; and roomer Andrew P. Sugg, 59.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: City of Wilson plumber Benjamine Mincy, 60; wife Mattie, 60; and sons Benjamine, 31, hotel cook, and Johnnie, 21, daily paper deliveryman; and granddaughter Deloris Woodard, 5.

Benjamin Mincey died 14 July 1950 at his home at 712 Wiggins Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was married; worked as a plumber for the town of Wilson; was born in Greene County to Prince Mincey and Susan Suggs; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Informant was Mattie Mincey.

Photograph of Mincey reprinted from Wilson Daily Times, 29 April 1999. Many thanks to Pamela Mincey Myers, who advises that the original of this portrait of her great-grandfather hung in the living room of her grandparents, Benjamin Madison Mincey and Lala Rook Barnes Mincey at 723 Lincoln Street, Wilson.