Where we worked: Farmers Cotton Oil Company.

Farmers Cotton Oil Company had been in operation only six years when an artist sketched it for the border of T.M. Fowler’s 1908 bird’s-eye map of Wilson. At the time, the tobacco town was also one of the larger cotton markets in eastern North Carolina, and Farmers not only ginned cotton and pressed cotton seed oil, it manufactured fertilizer.

It was also a dangerous place to work. In November 1922, doctors amputated Will Scott’s left hand after it was mangled in machinery at the mill.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 November 1922.

Seven years later, Wade Vick was whirled to death after being caught in a revolving wheel at the compound.

As shown in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, Farmers Cotton Oil Company filled almost the whole block bounded by East Barnes, Grace, Stemmery, and South Railroad Streets. The church at lower right was Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist

  • Will Scott

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Charged with stealing cotton.

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Wilson Advance, 19 January 1888.


  • Jordan Taylor — possibly, the Jordan Taylor Sr. here or father of J.G. Taylor here or here.
  • Henry Williams — possibly, in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: day laborer Henry Williams, 28; wife Alis, 28; and children Edwin, 8, and Mattie, 6.
  • Charlie Gay — perhaps, in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Emma Gay, 35; children Charlie, 15, a steam-mill worker, Mary, 11, Etheldred, 8, and Willie, 6; plus a boarder Fannie Thompson, 19, cook.
  • Daniel Barron

He supposes it’s a boll weevil.

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Wilson Daily Times, 24 December 1919.

By 1922, there was no longer any question that boll weevils could thrive in North Carolina. The rapacious insect was not eradicated in the state until 1987.

  • Jim Summerlin — in the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jim Summerlin, 59, farmer, born in Alabama; wife Rosa, 57, born in Alabama; and son Lucius, 14, born in North Carolina; plus, lodger Olvin Horne, 17, farm laborer.