Entertainment

The Wilson Chapel Four.

The Wilson Chapel Four, of which there were five, were the first African-American gospel group to perform on local radio station WGTM.

WGTM regularly published its schedule in the Daily Times. Here, the Wilson Chapel Four were slotted in at 8:30 Sunday night.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 August 1941.

Photo courtesy of the Freeman Round House and African-American Museum.

 

There was about 1200 colored people.

The Freedmen’s Bureau also lent aid to impoverished white people. M.A. Gay’s letter to Major Compton began with a breezy description of the African-American Fourth of July celebration in Joyners Depot [Elm City] and ended in a plea for food assistance.

Joyners Depot Wilson Co NC

Mag Comton  Kinde Sir

I again seat my self to drop you a few lines which I hope will soon reach your hand. we had a nice time on the fourth I note there was a bout 12 hundred Col people assembled at this place and formed a prosession and marched up and down the streets with music in front they had a butifull dinner. I was much pleased with what you sent to me. I again am oblige to beg you I am nearly out of meat but I have some corn I have been sick nearly all the time and have not been able to help my self to any thing you will pleas send it to Mr Joseph Conte as before I would be glad if you could arrang it so as to send me my rashons every month Mr Conte will make it all right how and his wife are particular friends of mine yours with respets, you will pleas write to me     M.A. Gay

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  • M.A. Gay — probably, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Mary Gay, 34, seamstress, and son Edwin, 3.
  • Joseph Conte — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Joseph Conte, 52, “g & gd march retl” [grocery and dry goods merchant retail]; wife Mary, 28; and Joseph Totten, 29, clerk in store. The Contes were born in Italy; Totten, in Maine.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner) > Roll 17, Letters Received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org 

All invited to the farm family picnic.

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Wilson Daily Times, 21 June 1947.

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  • C.W. Foster — Carter W. Foster.
  • Helen T. Wade — In the 1947 North Carolina Manual, published by the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office, Helen T. Wade is listed as the colored home demonstration agent for Wilson County. Wade married Charles E. Branford in 1950.
  • Frederick Douglass High School was Elm City’s African-American high school from 1939 until the end of segregation in Wilson County schools in 1969.

Fundraiser for Darden’s band.

Prior to serving as principal of Adams and B.O. Barnes Elementary Schools, Carl W. Hines was a mathematics and band teacher at Darden High School. In 1939, via a notice in the local paper, he invited the public to the newly opened Reid Street Community Center to a bingo fundraiser for Darden’s new band.

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Wilson Daily Times, 20 April 1939.

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In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 40, wife Sara, 37, Elizabeth, 11, Walter Jr., 10, and Carl, 5.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Walter Hines, 50, wife Sarah, 48, and children Elizabeth, 21, Walter, 20, Carl W., 16, and Clifton R., 7.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter S. Hines, 60; wife Sarah E., 58; son Carl W., 24, teacher; son’s wife Ruth, 23, teacher; and son Ray W., 17.

In 1940, Carl Wendell Hines registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 7 April 1914 in Wilson; resided at 409 North Reid Street; his contact was wife Ruth Johnson Hines; and he worked for the Wilson, N.C., Board of Education at Darden High School.

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Wilson Daily Times, 13 December 1960.

 

 

The first drowning at Contentnea Park.

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:

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1924.

  • Eddie Simms — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, tobacco factory worker Frances Simms, 34, and children Milton, 22, Eddie, 18, Raymond, 10, Maggie, 8, Ava, 5, Richard, 2, and Bay, 3 months. Eddie B. Simms died 17 July 1924. Per his death certificate,he was born 3 August 1904 in Wilson to Ed Mitchell and Frances Simms; was single; lived at 610 Manchester Street; worked as a shoeshiner; and “drowned while in the act of swimming accidentally.” Informant was Millie Simms.

Details of a drowning.

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.

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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.

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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:

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  • Eugene Fisher — Connecticut-born Eugene Leonard Fisher was newly arrived to Wilson at the time of his tragic death. His father Edwin W. Fisher was a manager with North Carolina Mutual and moved his wife and remaining children to Wilson between 1926, when Edwin is listed in the 1926 Durham, N.C., city directory, and 1928, when he appears in the Wilson directory. They settled into 624 East Nash Street, the house built for Dr. Frank S. Hargrave next door to Samuel Vick’s family home at 622. The Fishers appear in Wilson in the 1930 census, and Daisy Virginia Fisher (Eugene’s stepmother) died there on 25 April 1935. Per her death certificate, she and her husband were living at 539 East Nash at the time. Eugene Fisher’s younger brother Milton W. Fisher remained in Wilson into the 1940s, and his older brother Edwin D. Fisher lived there the remainder of his life.

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.

40050_2421406260_0363-00775

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.