Food

Follow-up: Where was the Silver Boot Grill?

In a recent post, I asked if anyone knew the location of Ola and Georgia Dupree‘s Silver Boot Grill, and reader D.C. came through.

Ads described the restaurant’s address only as Highway 301-A South, which once cut through East Wilson following the path of what is now Pender Street. D.C. forwarded me this detail from a 1945 plat with two lots highlighted. 301-A Highway shows a center median that I suspect was aspirational. At top center is a proposed new highway — today’s four lane U.S. 301/Ward Boulevard. The street cutting downward at top right is Black Creek Road and, off it at an angle, is what was then Stantonsburg Road. 

Detail from Subdivision of the Farrior-Fleming Farm Near Wilson, N.C., Plat Book 4, Page 19, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

A little searching on the Wilson County Register of Deeds website revealed that Ola and Georgia Anna Dupree bought lots 40 and 43 from Annie V. Farrior on 26 January 1945. Five years later, to secure a $3500 loan, the Duprees mortgaged both lots, as well as two electric refrigerators (a Jordan Drink Box Model 40-6 and a Hussman Reach-In Refrigerator); a gas cooking stove; a Marston Steam Table Model #90; all tables, chairs, and counters; and all other stock and equipment “used in the operation of their restaurant business now known as Silver Boot Grill.”

Lots 40 and 43 of the Farrior-Fleming tract are now 915 Pender Street South and are the site of a defunct used tire dealership. I am pretty sure that this side building at Rolling Tires started life as the Silver Boot. Painted brick appears to have been applied over the original cladding, and the stepped side walls were leveled off to support a fairly recent gabled roof.

June 2022.

Thanks, D.C.!

The penny milk program.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 February 1943.

My father, Rederick C. Henderson, who attended Vick Elementary School from 1940 to 1944, recalled the half-pint milk program: “… they’d give you a little thing of milk [that] cost a penny. You shake it up. Shake it up. It’d be in a bottle. And then that much butter would come to the top. That’s what we used to get.” 

Interview with R.C. Henderson by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2001, all rights reserved. Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

513 East Green Street.

The one hundred-fifty-second in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Perhaps the oldest commercial structure in the District, the facade of the grocery’s parapet is spitting bricks out onto the sidewalk.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1908; 1 story; Mercer’s Grocery; brick, parapet-front grocery; one of the major groceries in the district.”

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513 East Green Street was originally numbered 518. Like all of the large grocery stores in East Wilson, none of its owners were African-American. 

Jesse J. Amerson is the first known owner, commuting from his home on West Green  Street nine blocks to the store.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1908).

Four years later, the city directory showed Samuel D. Moody as the owner. Moody lived at 301 Pender, just beyond the Vance Street boundary between Black and white sections of Pender. 

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1912).

Moody sold wood from a lot on the Green Street side of the grocery. Detail from Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1913. 

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1916).

Circa 1921, Larry Giles Boyette and Bernon S. Holdford took over the grocery and operated it together for most of the decade.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1922).

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1925).

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1928).

The 1930 city directory shows that Boyette operated the store solo and had renamed it with his middle name, Giles. 

 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1930).

However, this 1932 ad reverts to Boyette & Holford. [What curious exhortations — “Stop Hoarding!” “Put Your Slacker Dollars to Work.”]

Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1932.

In the summer of 1940, Giles advertised Onslow County pork products. (I have not been able to determine if there was something special about ham and bacon from the Jacksonville area.) As we’ll see below, this iteration of Giles likely had a different owner than the earlier. 

Wilson Daily Times, 20 August 1940.

In 1947, W.R. Lang and A.R. Lafferty filed a notice of dissolution of their partnership, which had operated Giles Grocery at 513 East Green.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 August 1947.

Per the 1950 city directory, the store continued to operate under the name Giles Grocery. In the 1957 directory, it was named Jim Mercer’s Grocery and remained known as Mercer’s for the next three decades.

In the mid-1980s, Harrell’s Grocery added 513 East Green to its small stable of corner groceries.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 January 1986.

However, the store was once again known as Mercer’s in the late 1980s and remained so until at least 2001.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2022.

The colored firemen issue an invitation to feast.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 December 1925.

The Red Hot fire company issued an invitation to Wilson’s leaders to celebrate the New Year. Those who received offers to partake in a barbecue supper included City Fire Department Chief A.L. Lancaster; Herring’s Drug Store proprietor Needham B. Herring and pharmacist Doane Herring; R.J. Grantham, vice-president of Wilson Trust Company and superintendent of the City Water, Light & Gas Department; Roscoe Briggs, president of Citizens Bank, W.W. Simms Company, and Wilson Cotton Mill Company, and vice-president of Wilson Home & Loan Association; R.C. Welfare, president of Welfare Auto Company; clerk of City Police Theo Hinnant; clerk of City Police Court Glaucus Hinnant; Wilson Daily Times editor John D. Gold; and Silas R. Lucas, mayor and City Police Court judge.

Curiously, the invitation noted that “the colored fireman have been 28 years in service helping protect the property of the people of Wilson.” However, as contemporary news articles attest, Black volunteer firefighters were working in Wilson as early as 1887 and were known as the Red Hots as early as 1896.