David Morris will never get well.

In June 1911, two articles in the Wilson Daily Times mentioned the plight of David Morris, an African-American painter stricken with tuberculosis. Morris, his wife, and four children were newcomers to Wilson with no apparent relatives in the area, and he was receiving both public and private charity. As a “chronic case,” Morris was “a continuous drain” on resources, and there was discussion of having him moved to the County Home.

The Morrises intrigue me. David Morris was born in Henderson, North Carolina, but met and married Canadian Lillian Hinson in Boston, Massachusetts. Somehow they made their way to Wilson by 1908, where Morris soon fell too ill to work. His death circa late 1911 devastated the family; two children eventually were sent to an orphanage. [More about them soon.] Lillian Hinson remarried in 1919, but died just two years later. Her youngest child, Mabel, was only 6 years old.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 June 1911.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 June 1911.


Elizabeth Sophia Morris was born 22 October 1898 at 2 Wirth Place, Boston, Massachusetts, to David Hinson, painter, of Henderson, N.C., and Lillian Hinson, of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Massachusetts Marriage Records, 1840-1915,

On 23 May 1899, David A. Morris, 24, painter, of Henderson, North Carolina, son of George H. Morris and Lizzie Barnes, 26 1/2 Kendall Street, Boston, married Lillian Hinson, 20, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, daughter of Richard Hinson and Sofia Dornton, seamstress, 2 Wirth Place, in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris David A (c) painter 636 Viola

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Green Street, painter David Morris, 34; wife Lillian, 30; and children Pearle E., 12, Charles, 9, Lillian, 7, and David, 7 months.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Lillian (c) laundress h 122 Smith

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Lillian (c) laundress h 114 N Pettigrew; Morris Pearl (c) dom h 114 N Pettigrew

On 16 August 1919, William Johnson, 26, of Wilson, son of Robert and Ella Johnson, married Lillian Morris, 36, of Wilson, daughter of Richard and Sophia Hinson, in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 108 Smith, William Johnson, 25, born in South Carolina; wife Lillian, 32, born in England; and [his] stepchildren Charles, 17, Lillie, 15, and Mabel, 6.

Lillian Johnson died 6 March 1921 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 38 years old; was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia; was married to William Johnson; and lived on Smith Street.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Pearl (c) cook h 215 Stantonsburg rd

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Lillian (c) elev opr Court House h 22 Ashe

Pearl Morris died 16 October 1936 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to David Morris of Henderson, N.C., and Lillian Hinson of Boston; was single; and lived at 1123 East Nash Street. Mable Phillips was informant.

Where was the Tubercular Home?

When Dr. Frank S. Hargrave and Samuel H. Vick envisioned the healthcare facility they would found to treat African-American patients in Wilson, it had two parts — a hospital and a “tubercular home,” i.e. sanatorium, outside town limits.

Wilson Hospital opened on East Green Street in 1913. Later that year, Sam Vick sold a forty-acre parcel south of downtown to The Wilson Tubercular Home, Inc., for $5000.   Vick had bought the parcel in 1902 from S.W. and Jean S. Venable.

Deed book 97, page 313, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Despite reports that a building on the site was near completion, the Tubercular Home apparently never opened. 

With the help of Wilson County’s GIS Coordinator Will Corbett, I have identified the rough location of “high sandy knoll self-drained and one-third of which is covered with native pines” upon which a sanatorium and patient cottages were to be built., Pinpointing the area will require additional research in the Register of Deeds office.

Wilson County Gin Company.

A cotton gin in operation is a deafeningly noisy, dusty, and dangerous spectacle. And yet, for two decades, Wilson County Gin Company’s gin roared into action every fall within feet of two Baptist churches, Darden and Sons funeral home, a row of stores, and duplex housing near the corner of East Barnes and Stantonsburg (now Pender) Streets. 

Detail from 1930 Sanborn fire insurance map.

The gin was built in 1919 and competed with another across Barnes Street in the enormous Farmers Cotton Oil Mill complex. (That gin was older and, in successive buildings, operated into the 1960s.) Wilson County Gin operated into the 1930s;  Faulkner Neon took over the site in 1945. At the right angle, a “ghost sign” can be seen above Faulkner Neon’s lettering: WILSON COUNTY GIN.

Nomination form, Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District; Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2023.

The death of Robert Smith, prominent farmer.

Mercy Hospital provided critical healthcare not only to African-Americans in Wilson County, but those in surrounding counties as well.

Robert B. Smith, a prominent Black farmer near Walstonburg, Greene County, came to Wilson for treatment of his kidney disease. He died at Mercy on 21 September 1935.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 October 1935.

Rev. Rufus A. Horton performed Smith’s funeral service. Lula Smith of 630 Suggs Street was informant for the death certificate.

Reid writes of “splendid progress” made on hospital and home for tuberculosis patients.

J.D. Reid, principal of the Colored Graded School, was also secretary/treasurer of Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home (later known as Mercy Hospital) and its chief fundraiser. The institution was meant to encompass two sites — an intown hospital and a “tubercular home” on a farm just outside of Wilson. More about the latter in a future post.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 December 1913.

The greatest event of its kind among Afro-Americans.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 November 1913.

[The land was surely purchased from Dr. Frank S. Hargrave, not W.S., and I intend to figure out exactly where it was.]

[Update, 20 February 2023: actually, per deed, Samuel H. Vick sold the hospital the acreage for $5000 in November 1913. He had purchased it several years earlier.]


The Negro and tuberculosis.

The Daily Times lauded the efforts of African-Americans to raise money to build a hospital and sanatorium, noting the potential benefit to white people, too. “When … it is considered that colored servants, nursemaids, laundresses, gardeners and cooks do the bulk of the menial tasks for the whites of the South, the danger of so large a floating population of ignorant, dangerous consumptives is intensified.”

Wilson Daily Times, 10 December 1912.

Darden band performs at mass X-ray survey.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 November 1950.

“Hundreds of Wilson county residents yesterday turned out for the opening of the mass x-ray survey which will last until December 23. Part of the crown which attended the opening in front of the county court house can be seen in the top photo. The Charles L. Coon High school band also is shown in the above picture. Colored citizens staged their own opening program at Nash and Pender streets. The Darden High school band can be seen in the bottom photo getting the mass x-ray started in that section of town. …”