Houses

Wiley Simms house, part 2.

We first saw the Wiley Simms house here. Built about 1840 for either his uncle James or Benjamin Simms, the house still stands, empty but in decent shape, on Old Stantonsburg Road.

Exterior modifications include the closure of the right front door and two narrow windows spaced close together in the center bay of the second floor.

The northern elevation, showing one of the large stepped chimneys, now broken.

A glimpse through the left front window into one of the front rooms, showing a large plaster medallion and cornices.

In the same room, the original woodwork of the fireplace surround is intact, if terribly painted. (To say that the house is “empty” is an oversimplification. Rather, it is uninhabited. Otherwise, it appears to be used for storage.)

Paneled wainscoting in the right front room.

Generations of enslaved African-Americans served inside this house and in the Simms family’s surrounding fields.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

Saddlebags.

Saddlebag houses like this one in the Evansdale area were common in the landscape of rural Wilson County as recently as the 1980s. I don’t know who lived in this particular house, but it is typical of those inhabited by tenant farmers, many of whom were African-American.

The basic saddlebag form consists of two rooms side-by-side, each with a front door. This house, however, has four rooms.

The headboard ceiling and walls are likely original, but the door communicating between the two rooms was probably cut through much later.

A view of the back two rooms. The door between these rooms is also likely a later addition.

Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2019.

Edwin Barnes house.

Per Kate Ohno’s Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):

“Edwin Barnes was born in 1816 and received training as a doctor. He married Elizabeth Simms, daughter of James Simms. Dr. Barnes’ practice extended from Stantonsburg too Wilson. Josephus Daniels described Dr. Barnes in the first volume of his autobiography, Tar Heel Editor. ‘He was the leading physician in Wilson, universally beloved. He never had an office. There were no telephones to call him when his services were needed. If he could not be found at home, he was usually at his favorite drugstore — favorite because interesting people gathered there to swap experiences and tell stories … Dr. Barnes never sent a bill to a patient of failed to respond to a professional call from those he know could not pay him. He was the model country-town doctor, responding to any calls, day or night, to distant country homes over bad roads.’ Dr. Barnes’ commodious house is situated in a grove of old trees between Wilson and Stantonsburg. The house was designed in the Greek Revival style and is one of the most outstanding examples of this style in Wilson County. Built circa 1840, the house stands two stories high and boasts two front doors, a common feature of Wilson residential architecture before the Civil War. Molded window and door surrounds with square cornerbacks are used throughout and the full-width shed porch is supported by graceful, flared, fluted columns. On the interior, the house has been minimally altered. The woodwork is original throughout, as is the floor plan. The two front doors lead to two front rooms joined by a connecting door. An enclosed stair with flat panel wainscot leads to the second floor. Both double-panel and eight-panel doors are used in the house and flat panel wainscoting with a molded chair rail enhances the main rooms. The vernacular mantels feature the use of narrow reeded boards.”

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In the 1840 census of District 4, Edgecombe County: Edwin Barnes is listed as the head of a household that included one white male aged 20-29; one white female aged 15-19; one white female under five; and one white female aged 60-69. He also reported 14 slaves — two males under ten; one aged 10-23; one male aged 36-45; one male aged 55-99; one female under ten; four females aged 10-23; one female 24-35; and one female aged 36-54.

In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: farmer Edwin Barnes, 32; wife Elizeth, 24; and children Louisa, 9, and Franklin, 6. Barnes reported $6500 in assets.

In the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County, Edwin Barnes reported owning 32 enslaved people.

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Edwin Barnes, 43; wife Elizabeth, 36; and children Lou, 20, Franklin, 15, Edwin, 9, and Dora, 4. Barnes reported $14,000 in real property and $56,780 in personal property (most in the form of enslaved people.)

In the 1860 slave schedule of Saratoga district, Wilson County, Edwin Barnes reported holding 48 enslaved people (who lived in only five houses). He also reported holding another 15 enslaved people “in trust for four minor heirs.”

Vick has piled up a fortune.

In June 1916, a Laurinburg newspaper reprinted the Wilson Dispatch‘s tally of Samuel H. Vick‘s wealth.

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Laurinburg Exchange, 1 June 1916.

Some minor corrections:

  • Vick was neither born nor bred in Wilson, though he moved to town as a small child. He and his parents were from Nash County, North Carolina.
  • In 1916, 98 town lots represented a sizable minority of all the lots in East Wilson. (Though not all Vick’s property was east of the tracks.) By time his empire collapsed in 1935, he owned much more.
  • It is not clear why Vick — who had living siblings — would be considered the practical owner of his father Daniel Vick‘s estate.
  • Vick’s holdings were in Whitesboro, New Jersey, not North Carolina.

Cash Williams’ property in Little Richmond.

The corner of East Wilson (specifically, Little Richmond neighborhood) shown in this 1946 plat map of D.C. “Cash” Williams‘ property between Maury and Railroad Streets was demolished for the construction of the Carl B. Renfro Bridge in the early 1970s. This collection of duplexes and endway (the local name for shotgun) houses would have housed mostly workers at one of several nearby oil mills and factories.

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The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the duplexes on Maury, Gay, and Railroad Streets were already in place by then.

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Here, via Google Maps, is Williams’ former block now. Railroad Street ends several hundred feet to the west. Taylor Street is gone. Gay Street peters out in a dead-end well short of its former terminus at Railroad. All of the houses have been torn down.

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Plat map 4, page 56, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Map of the J.C. Palmer estate.

The settlement of Joseph C. Palmer‘s estate in 1924 required a survey and subdivision of the property he owned on South Lodge and Banks Streets. A large lot containing Palmer’s Lodge Street home and grocery store, as well as a smaller four-room house, was divided into six lots. Around the corner on Banks, he owned another lot with a ten-room apartment house.

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These blocks were surveyed just two years earlier for an update to the Sanborn fire insurance maps. The Sanborn map’s scale appears to be slightly off, but it’s easy to find Palmer’s grocery at 700 South Lodge and home at 702 South Lodge, as well as the smaller house at 408 East Banks. There was also a narrow house at 410 East Banks that apparently was demolished prior to 1924.

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On the other hand, the ten-room apartment building had not been built yet, and its lot is shown empty.

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The site today. The blocks below South Lodge Street were cleared for a public housing project, Whitfield Homes, in the 1960s.

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Joe Palmer, 20, married Ella Moore, 21, on 4 December 1879 at Saint Timothy’s Church.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Jospeh Palmer, 20, works on farm; wife Ella, 21; daughters Pearl, 9, and Mattie, 6; and mother Mariah Moore, 60, cook. [These were Ella Palmer’s daughters and mother.]

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: South Carolina-born Joseph Palmer, 42, carpenter; wife Estel, 41, confectioner; and son Joseph C., Jr., 9.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, house carpenter Joe Palmer, 50, and wife Ella, 49.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 710 Lodge Street, grocery store salesman Joe Palmer, 60, and wife Ella, 61, a general merchant.

Ella Palmer died 21 September 1921 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 59 years old; lived at 702 Lodge; and born in Hyde County, North Carolina, to Mariah Moore. J.C. Palmer was informant.

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Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1922).

Joseph C. Palmer died 12 December 1923 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was a native of Columbia, South Carolina; lived at 702 South Lodge; was a widower; and worked as a store proprietor. Mrs. Mattie E. Moore was informant.

On 14 January 1924, Camillus L. Darden (with his father Charles H. Darden as surety) applied for and received at Wilson County Superior Court letters of administration to handle J.C. Palmer’s estate, which he valued at $8000.

Plat book 2, page 14, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; aerial view courtesy of Google Maps.

Property of the heirs of Cecelia Norwood (deceased).

In September 1952, L.M. Phelps prepared a survey of the five lots on East Green and Pender Streets owned by the estate of Cecelia Norwood.

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Norwood’s two-story wooden house faced East Green Street on a lot that joined two others to ran all the way back to Darden’s Alley (now Darden Lane). Around the corner and across Pender, she owned two lots that adjoined Calvary Presbyterian Church, which then stood right at the corner of Green and Pender.

In 1957, Calvary Presbyterian Church purchased lots 4 and 5 from Cecilia Norwood’s estate. In 1970-71, the church constructed a new sanctuary on the Norwood property.

 A Google Maps aerial view shows the former location of Norwood’s house and lots.

On 28 February 1895, Celia A. Hill, 22, daughter of H. and H. Hill, married Richard Norwood, 21, son of B. Norwood of Chatham County, in Wilson. Episcopal minister J.W. Perry performed the ceremony at Saint Marks in the presence of John H. Clark, B.R. Winstead and S.A. Smith.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Richard Norward, 36; wife Celia, 34, public school teacher; Robert T., 14, Richard V., 15, Christine, 11, and Henry E., 8; mother Henry E. Hill, 65, depot janitoress; Mack Peacock, 17, doctor’s office servant; and Joe Burnett, 17, hotel servant.

In 1918, Richard Norwood registered for the World War I draft in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Per his registration card, he was born 31 March 1897 in Wilson; resided at 134 Pender Street, Wilson (and also 935 Baltic Avenue, Atlantic City; was employed by John Moore, North Carolina and Atlantic Avenues, Atlantic City; and his nearest relative of Cecilia Norwood, 134 Pender Street.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 134 Pender Street, Heneretta Hill, 70, A.C.L. railroad matron; Celia W. Hill, 40, teacher; Cora A. Hill, 27, teacher; Hazell Hill, 16; Christina Hill, 19; Barlee Hill, 22, laborer; Rosa Hicks, 22; and Archer Martin, 14.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Norwood Cecelia tchr h 205 Pender

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 205 Pender Street, valued at $5000, widowed teacher Cecelia Norwood, 60; granddaughter Cecelia Norwood, 5; grandson Edgear Norwood, 3; Ruth Cobb, 31, public school teacher; Lucie Richards, 50; and lodgers John, 38, carpenter at body plant, and Elizabeth Douglas, 35.

Cecilia Anna Norwood died 27 June 1944 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 February 1879 in Washington, North Carolina to Edward Hill and Henrietta Cherry; resided at 205 Pender, Wilson; was widowed; and was a teacher. Informant was Hazel Covington of Wilson.

Plat map 5, page 78, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

The corner of Wiggins and East Streets.

In 1920, an auction house commissioned the survey of part of a city block in East Wilson owned by E.S. Taylor. The parcel contained seven narrow lots, four of which already held endway (“shotgun”) houses. A three-foot alley spanned the rears of lots 3 through 7 offering access to the row of shared toilets at the back of lots 1 and 2.

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Here is the block in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, turned about 90 degrees to the right.

As noted elsewhere, there is no longer a Wiggins Street in Wilson. It was obliterated as part of the construction of Carl B. Renfro Bridge and the extension of Hines Street (which runs along the old course of Wiggins) to meet East Nash Street.

None of the houses shown in the Sanborn map now exist. And none of the houses shown in the Google Maps aerial view existed in 1922.