Wilson Daily Times, 28 April 1944.
Wilson Daily Times, 28 April 1944.
I posted here about the accidental drowning of Samuel H. Vick Jr.‘s friend Eugene Fisher. The Daily Times noted that Fisher’s death was the second at Contentnea Park in a little over a week. Eddie Simms was first:
Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1924.
The day after Eugene Fisher drowned while swimming in the lake at Contentnea Park, the Daily Times printed an article suggesting that “Sam Vick,” i.e. Samuel H. Vick Jr., bore some responsibility for the accident.
Wilson Daily Times, 29 July 1924.
Vick immediately fired back. His grief, he stated sharply, had “been still more aggravated by the misstatement of facts concerning my part in the matter, for the facts were badly twisted and really just the opposite what really happened.” Georgia Aiken also contributed a corrective, milder in tone, but just as firm.
Wilson Daily Times, 30 July 1924.
And where was Contentnea Park? References in contemporaneous news articles reveal that (1) it was not an African-American-only park — the Kiwanis met there regularly — but rather seems to have had a section reserved for black patrons, “the negro park”; (2) it was privately owned and operated; (3) it was located above the dam on Contentnea Creek; and (4) entrance was gained via a road marked by two stone pillars. A dam spans Contentnea Creek just above U.S. Highway 301 to form what is now known as Wiggins Mill Reservoir, still a popular recreational area. With a hat tip to Janelle Booth Clevinger, here is my best guest at the park’s location:
Eugene Fisher’s death certificate reveals that he was an insurance agent for North Carolina Mutual. Fisher was living at an unspecified address on Nash Street. His father Edwin, then a Durham resident, was informant.
Eugene L. Fisher served in the United States Naval Reserve Force during World War I as a mess attendant. The Messman Branch of the Navy, which was restricted to non-white sailors, was responsible for feeding and serving officers. Fisher was assigned to U.S.S. Black Hawk, a destroyer depot ship. After his death, his brother Edwin D. Fisher of 600 East Green Street applied for a military headstone to be shipped to the “Negro Cemetery (Fayetteville Street)” in Durham. [Edwin Fisher, himself a veteran of World War I, signed as “Liaison Officer, [illegible] A.V. of World War, Sumter S.C. chap. #2.” (What does this signify?)]
Aerial images courtesy of Google Maps.
UPDATE, 9 April 2019:
The “stone” pillars I identified above are actually brick. Until a better guess arrives though, I will stick with hypothesis that they mark the entrance to Contentnea Park. Many thanks to Janelle Booth Clevinger for this photo. — LYH
UPDATE, 11 April 2019: Per additional intel, the pillars shown above were erected in the 1960s. Thus, the location of Contentnea Park remains a mystery.
Open just months, the Reid Street Community Center hosted bouts between Wilson County boxers eighty years ago today.
Wilson Daily Times, 30 March 1939.
Wilson Daily Times, 2 May 1911.
I have not identified the location of the baseball park in Grab Neck community.
[Since posting, I’ve learned that the location was likely off present-day Pearson Street, in the vicinity of Wells Elementary School. Thanks, John Hackney!]
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.
Wilson Daily Times, 19 April 1948.
Per an unsourced inventory compiled by Freeman Round House and Museum, the Wilson Chapel Four performed for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration and were the first African-American gospel quartet to sing on WGTM, a Wilson radio station.
The Wilson Chapel Four performed on Sunday at 10:30 A.M. Wilson Daily Times, 17 July 1943.
Presumably, the quartet was affiliated with Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist Church at 513 East Barnes Street. If anyone can identify members of the Wilson Chapel Four, I’d appreciate hearing from you.
Wilson Daily Times, 5 November 1941.
Colored patrons of the “white” Drake Theatre were seated in the balcony only.
“All receipts given to colored hospital,” Wilson Daily Times, 11 April 1930.
This advertisement touts a midnight variety show and movie screening to benefit Mercy Hospital. The institution, in continuous financial straits, had recently been sold at auction to businessman Wade H. Gardner.
Though the ad is not explicit, it seems to be directed at a white audience. James Edward Andrews, Carl S. Hinnant (described in the 1930 federal census of Wilson as an orchestra musician), Sidney Willoughby and Lester Rose were local white men, and a “black face comedy act” would not have had primary appeal to an African-American audience.