Economics

Taxi war.

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Wilson Daily Times, 28 November 1938.

Eighty years ago today, Richard Sheridan and Ed Nicholson were fined for trespassing after protesting the exclusion of taxi drivers from Wilson’s bus station.

In a nutshell:

Miley Glover and Dr. Mallory A. Pittman leased a building to various bus companies for use as a bus station. Glover and Pittman also leased “taxi rights” to the building to J.D. Peacock of Goldsboro, who barred any other taxi drivers from seeking fares on the premises. When Sheridan and Nicholson attempted to pick up fares at the station, they were arrested and charged with trespassing. Their lawyer argued that the station owners had created a taxi monopoly in contravention of state law, but the recorder (magistrate) did not agree. Each man was assessed a five-dollar fine.

The 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory reveals two taxicab companies in Wilson. J. Clifford Peacock and George B. Patrick owned Oak Cab Company, based at the bus station. Hugh T. Foster owned Taxi-Cab Service at 508 East Nash. Oak Cab’s arrangement with Glover and Peacock meant that, effectively, black drivers had no access to white patrons arriving in Wilson by bus. It also meant that black riders had to leave the station’s premises to hail a cab.

Per the nomination form for Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse District, the taxi stand and bus station at 307 East Green Street were built for Miley Glover in 1937 and 1938. The bus station was one of Wilson’s few Art Deco buildings. It operated into the 1990s and was demolished after the city built a public transportation hub on Nash Street.

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  • Richard Sheridan — Richard Sheridan, 26, son of Richard and Fannie Sheridan, married Beatrice Bullock, 19, daughter of Alice Bullock, on 1 September 1935 in Wilson. Sheridan registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 20 September 1910 in Maxton, N.C.; resided at 1115 Atlantic Street, Wilson; his contact was mother, Fannie Sheridan, 1115 Atlantic; and he worked for traveling salesman John Whelan.

Photo of bus station and taxi stand courtesy of Dean Jeffrey at Flickr, 2001.

Where we worked: 1922 — G.

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 seventh 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.

  • Gaines, Charles, elevator operator, 203 Stantonsburg Road
  • Gaines, Dora, domestic, 528 Smith
  • Gardner, Alice, maid — Wilson Sanatorium, Sunshine Alley
  • Gardner, George, farmer, Spring Street Alley
  • Gardner, Preston, clerk — Peter Artis, Wiggins Street
  • Gardner, William, tobacco worker, 602 South Lodge
  • Garrity, Mary, teacher, 400 Stantonsburg Road
  • Gaston, Lorenzo, tobacco worker, 118 Manchester
  • Gaston, Mancie, barber — W.S. Hines, Elm City
  • Gaston, Sattena, dressmaker, 118 Manchester
  • Gay, Albert, porter, 623 East Green
  • Gay, Charles, tobacco worker, 625 East Green
  • Gay, Rachel, tobacco worker, 812 Robinson [Roberson]
  • Gay, William, tobacco worker, 713 Stantonsburg Road
  • Gear, Cora, maid, 505 East Nash
  • George, Arthur H., teacher, 401 North Vick
  • Gerald, Edgar, tobacco worker, 108 South Vick
  • Gibbs, James, tobacco worker, 604 Park Avenue
  • Gibbs, Priscilla, domestic, 604 Park Avenue
  • Gilchrist, Harrison, tobacco worker, 904 Mercer
  • Gilliam Cafe, 509 E Nash, Rachel Gilliam proprietor
  • Gilliam, Mary, domestic, 646 Wiggins
  • Gilliam, Matthew S., physician — 516 East Nash, 805 East Nash
  • Gilliam, Rachel, proprietor — Gilliam Cafe, 228 Smith
  • Gillis, Walter, helper, 411 South Goldsboro
  • Glenn, Price, laborer, 800 South Lodge
  • Globe Theatre (moving pictures), 543 East Nash
  • Godwin, Robert, laborer, 903 Robinson
  • Goffney, Clinton F., tobacco worker, 704 Suggs
  • Goffney, Joseph, tobacco worker, 206 Manchester
  • Goolsby, Kirby, helper, 536 East Nash
  • Gordon, Elmer, barber — W.S. Hines, 721 East Green
  • Gordon, Oscar C., hairdresser, 511 East Nash
  • Gorham, Ernest, laborer, 405 East Bank[s]
  • Gorham, George, tobacco worker, 417 South Goldsboro
  • Gowen, Walter, tobacco worker, 203 Stantonsburg Road
  • Graham, Henry, tobacco worker, 414 East Walnut
  • Grant, Mary, trained nurse, 203 Pender
  • Grantham, Dessimore, barber, 309 Forbes
  • Grantham, Garfield, carpenter, 908 Viola
  • Gray, Albert, tobacco worker, 606 South Lodge
  • Gray, Mattie, laundress, 606 South Lodge
  • Gray, Sam, tobacco worker, 105 Manchester
  • Green, Arthur, laborer, 202 Pender
  • Green, Edwin, tobacco worker, 13 Stantonsburg Road
  • Green, James, tobacco worker, 546 East Green
  • Green, Marion, laborer, 314 Pender
  • Green, Mary, domestic, 518 East Nash
  • Green, Minnie, laundress, 135 Narroway
  • Green, Missouri, laundress, 507 Grace
  • Green, Naomi, domestic, 202 Pender
  • Green, Nelson, grocer, 420 South Spring, 502 South Lodge
  • Green, Oscar, tobacco worker, 606 South Lodge
  • Green, Richard, Laborer, 314 Pender
  • Green, Walter, tobacco worker, 314 Pender
  • Green, Wash, laborer, 518 East Nash
  • Greenfield, Clarence, driver, 203 Stantonsburg Road
  • Greenfield, Luvenia, cook, 522 South Lodge
  • Griffin, Boston, tobacco worker, 503 Viola
  • Griffin, Mary, tobacco worker, 705 South Lodge
  • Griffis, Delia, laundress, 310 North East
  • Griffis, Donald, blacksmith, 310 North East
  • Griffis, John H., farmer, 310 North East
  • Grimes, Carrie, tobacco worker, 306 East Walnut
  • Grissom, Hattie, domestic, 201 North Vick
  • Grissom, Lydia, hairdresser, 201 North Vick
  • Gunn, Daniel, tobacco grader, 512 South Lodge, 514 South Lodge

Notes:

  • Peter Artis was a confectioner with a shop at 502 East Green.
  • Dessimore Grantham’s Forbes Street? I have never heard of it, and it’s not listed in the directory’s Guide to Streets.

Thousandaires.

For the first time in 1940, the federal census recorded income. As reported in column 32, “Amount of money wages or salary received (including commissions),” these 27 men and women had the highest incomes among African-Americans in the city:

  • Joseph Cowan, $2355, medical doctor
  • Jasper McClain, $2200, bricklayer
  • Edward M. Barnes, $1720, principal — high school
  • Alex A. Morisey, $1600, newspaper reporter
  • Rufus Hilliard, $1300, power plant fireman — City of Wilson
  • Benjamin Mincey, $1280, plumber — City of Wilson
  • Luther Hamonds, $1274, fireman — light plant
  • Richard Foster, $1200, minister — Saint John Methodist
  • Aaron Pittman, $1200, brickmason
  • James Speight, $1200, janitor — post office
  • M.D. Williams, $1200, teacher — public school
  • Jeff Russell, $1190, bricklayer
  • James Sellers, $1170, brickmason
  • Cecil Spellman, $1140, farm demonstration — County of Wilson
  • Jesse Holden, $1100, brickmason
  • Flora Bethel, $1088, school teacher — Darden High School
  • Ruth Coppedge, $1078, school teacher — county school
  • Florence Whitley, $1078, school teacher — city graded school
  • Chester McNeal, $1066, porter — railroad station
  • Ike Collins, $1040, cook — cafe
  • Branch Hines, $1040, W.P.A. laborer
  • Roderick Taylor, $1040, barber
  • Fred Wingate, $1029, fireman — oil mill
  • Ned Brown, $1000, odd jobs laborer
  • Alberta Daniels, $1000, school teacher — private school
  • Tom Little, $1000, cement finisher — building contractor
  • Willie Reid, $1000, barber — own shop

Notes:

  • Only four women earned a thousand or more dollars a year, all of them teachers. (At what “private school” did Alberta Daniels teach?)
  • Dr. Joseph F. Cowan reported the highest salary of any African-American in town. However, other doctors and dentists in East Wilson, including Boisey O. Barnes, George K. Butterfield Sr., and William A. Mitchner, reported no wages or salary at all, perhaps because their income derived not from self-paid salaries, but from practice or business profits or investments.)
  • The (presumably) wealthiest businessmen and real estate developers in East Wilson, such as Samuel H. VickWilliam Hines, Walter Hines, Camillus L. Darden and O. Nestus Freeman, also reported no income to the census enumerator.
  • Brickmasonry was far and away the most remunerative skilled construction trade.
  • Factory firemen, who stoked the enormous boilers that powered plants, were also relatively well-paid.

John Artis’ crop lien.

On 2 February 1907, A.P. Branch agreed to advance John Artis, colored, forty to fifty dollars in supplies “to enable me to make a crop” on the land on which he lived in Black Creek township rented from and owned by Nathan Bass. Artis agreed to raise twelve acres in cotton, nine acre in corn and four acres in tobacco and gave Branch a lien on his crop as well as a seven year-old black mare mule named Rody, a buggy and harness, an iron axle cart, and all his farming implements.

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In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer John Artis; wife Lucy, 40; children Nora, 10, John E., 15, Eliza, 13, Katie, 11, and Robert, 7; and nephew Luther, 23.

Deed book 72, page 191, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

The Dardens secure their son’s start.

In March 1905, Charles H. and Diana Darden conveyed to their son Camillus L. Darden a one-quarter interest (with a life interest retained) in a lot on the south side of Nash Street “whereon is located the new shop and hall” in order to encourage his interest in a bicycle repair business. The elder Dardens also leased to C.L. Darden one-half of the first and second floors in the shop building. The lease was to continue year after year for five dollars per year as long as C.L. pursued his business. If C.L. ever wished to sell his interest in the property, his parents had right of first refusal to purchase it for $250.

Deed book 72, page 49, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Civil servants.

This massive volume, dense with charts and tables and lists, illuminates the fierce struggle over political appointment/patronage jobs in the late 19th century and the intense sense of envy and entitlement that shaped attitudes toward award of such jobs to African-Americans. Essentially, this book lists all military officers and federal government employees on the payroll in 1891.

Here is Alfred Robinson, railway postal clerk on the Rocky Mount, N.C., to Norfolk, Virginia, line, earning $1000 per year.

And here is Samuel H.Vick, postmaster of Wilson, pulling down a $1500 annual salary.

Measured in 2016 dollars, the relative economic status value of a $1000/year salary is $239,000. A $1500/year salary is valued at $358,000. (Economic status value measures the relative “prestige value” of an amount of income or wealth measured between two periods using the income index of the per capita gross domestic product.) This kind of wealth awarded to African-Americans set blood boiling.

“Official Register of the United States, Containing a List of the Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service,” Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census, digitized by Oregon State Library, Salem, Oregon; available online at http://www.ancestry.com.

Parker reports progress.

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New York Age, 14 December 1911.

Henry Clay Parker, born 1875, was native of Stony Creek township, Nash County, North Carolina. The real estate firm Nail and Parker, founded in 1907, was instrumental in the development of Harlem as America’s most storied African-American neighborhood.

“In Wilson, N.C., a short car ride from Rocky Mount, one colored family has the transportation privileges and the concern uses automobiles and carriages which it owns,” Parker reported. Presumably, this is a reference to Charles H. Darden and family.

They unlawfully hired their time of their master.

An enslaver could, and often did, rent the services of an enslaved person to others for specific tasks or under long-term leases. Under North Carolina law, however, enslavers were prohibited from allowing their slaves to rent their own time. That is, to come to their own terms and arrangements for working for others for wages that they either kept for themselves or split with their masters. Slaves who hired their own time created their own wealth, a dangerous circumstance. There was a wide gulf between law and reality, however.

Dennis, a man over whom white Wilson County carpenter John Farmer claimed ownership, was indicted on misdemeanor charges of hiring his time at July term, 1859, of the Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.  Five years later, at July 1864, jurors indicted Farmer himself for allowing the entrepreneurial activities of enslaved women named Mary, Lucy and Silvia.

The jurors for the State on their oath present, that Dennis, a Slave the property of John Farmer (Carpt) at and in the County of Wilson on the first day of January 1859 and on divers other days and times as well before as afterwards up to the taking of this inquisition by the permission of the said John Farmer his master, unlawfully did go at large, the said Salve having then and there unlawfully hired his own time of his said master, contrary to the form of the Stature in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State.

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John Farmer may have been the John W. Farmer of Wilson township, Wilson County, who is listed in the 1860 slave schedule as the owner of ten enslaved men and women.

Court Cases Involving Slaves, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.