The twentieth in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.
There were two African-American schools called Barnes in early 20th-century Wilson. One was on present-day Airport Road. The other appears to have been in the vicinity of Barnes Church on Old Stantonsburg Road. (Neither church nor school is still standing.)
“On March 3, 1919, the Wilson County Board of Education agreed, as recorded in its minutes, to expend $100.00 for an acre of land for the school. They also agreed to sell the school’s apparent predecessor to the Colored Masonic Lodge of Stantonsburg for $900.00 (a surprisingly large sum of money), provided that that the ‘colored people of the district’ would raise $600.00 for erecting a new schoolhouse. If these conditions were met, they would appropriate $250.00 for the new building. On October 6 a Charles Knight appeared before the board and requested again that a new building be erected for the Barnes Colored School. The board told him that this was ‘now impossible’ and asked that he look for a house to be temporarily acquired for the winter. On December 1, however, the board reversed course once more and authorize the erection of a two-room Barnes schoolhouse.” In a footnote to this paragraph: “It seems unlikely that the Barnes schoolhouse discussed in the board minutes is the same as the one that the Rosenwald Fund supported during the 1921-1922 budget year [i.e. the Airport Road school]. [School superintendent Charles L.] Coon notes that a five-room school, valued with its land at $9300, was erected in 1920 in the city of Wilson, but the county board references the sale of any [sic] earlier building in the town of Stantonsburg. Further, the school that the fund supported was a three-teacher type that cost $6000, with $700 in Fund support, $1000 in public funds, and a whopping $4300 contribution from the black community [citations omitted].”
Location: A 1936 state road map of Wilson County shows Barnes School on what is now Old Stantonsburg Road, just north of the town of Stantonsburg.
Lane Street Project’s public work kicked into gear in December 2020 with the discovery of Samuel H. Vick‘s long-lost grave marker. We carefully unearthed and cleaned it, and several volunteers have worked extra-diligently to uproot the layers of wisteria runners that encase it. However, wisteria fights hard, and this is what it looked like this morning.
Charles Eric Jones‘ care, storage, and transport of Lane Street Project’s tool collection has been critical to the success of Season One. So, too, his commitment to show up early and stay late for every workday. His words today:
“Good afternoon from the Lane Street Project. This is the last joint clean-up before the summer. I have truly enjoyed working out here giving back to the ancestors,
who were the builders of East Wilson and who my elementary school was named after. I could not leave without freeing [Sam Vick’s] headstone and cutting the grass to help it look better. Thanks to all the good people I have met during this project, and I look forward to doing more. I pray that the Creator continues to Bless you and your family. Yours in Peace. CJ”
I owe everything to women and men like Charles Jones, without whom these cemetery clean-ups would have remained fervent, but unrealized, dreams. Lane Street Project is too big for one person, or a dozen, or even a hundred. We need you — your time, your energy, your ideas, your support. See you for Season Two, rested and ready to reclaim this sacred space!
Heartfelt thanks to the faithful and upright Portia Newman; Brittany Daniel; Joyah Bulluck; LaMonique Hamilton; Castonoble Hooks; Raven Farmer; Craig Barnes Jr.; Charles Jones; Dr. Judy Rashid; Rev. Kim Reives; Mayor Carlton Stevens; Briggs Sherwood; Julia Newton; Mike Witting and Alliance Forestry, Inc.; Drew Wilson; Will Corbett; Greg Boseman; the Wilson Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; Barbara Hansen; Councilman Derrick Creech; Joseph Story; Tyrone Speight; Laurie McBriarty-Sisk; Brandon and Kayla Nelson; Vicki Cowan; Brian and Erin Hollaway Palmer and Melissa Pocock of Friends of East End; Adam Rosenblatt of Friends of Geer Cemetery; Perry Morrison; Charlie Farris; and each and every LSP volunteer, donor, and supporter this Season One.
I stumbled upon this history of the East Nash Volunteer Fire Department while searching for information about Frank W. Barnes. First, I’ll highlight the fascinating details of the career of Benjamin Mincey, the early twentieth-century chief of the Red Hot Hose Company. Then, though it happened well after the period of this blog’s focus, I’ll outline the history of inspiring story E.N.V.F.D., which carries on the 130+ year legacy of the Red Hots.
“John Mincey, one of the leaders in the [Volunteer Fire Department], gets his firemanship naturally. A teacher at Speight High School, Mincey is the son of the late Ben Mincey, long a champion of the Negro fire organization in Wilson and North Carolina.
“The elder Mincey served several years as captain of the Negro fire company with the Wilson Fire Department.
“His company, considered one of the top Negro fire-fighting companies anywhere, was appropriately dubbed ‘The Red Hot Hose, Reel and Truck Co.’
“During statewide competition, Mincey’s company virtually walked off with first prize in every contest — including reel races, truck races and fire extinguishing.
“An employe of the city fire department for nearly one-half century, Mincey died in August of 1959.
“He was carried to the Rountree Church [actually, Odd Fellows] cemetery aboard a city fire department, and resting above his grave today is a fire hydrant, symbolic of his love for fire-fighting.
“Mincey started to work for the city fire department when there were no trucks and when the reels had to be pulled by the firemen.
“He had a fire alarm hooked up to his house and connected the main station. When it rang, he was off and pedaling his bicycle to the blaze.
“It has been said that Mincey was the fastest bicyclist in the city.
“During his service with the city, Mincey fought nearly every major major fire.
“Mincey was one of the leaders of N.C. Colored Volunteer Firemen’s Association, and worked in every department of the association.
“Before he died, he received an award for saving a family trapped in a home during a serious flood.”
Wilson Daily Times, 7 March 1965.
Now, in a nutshell, the story of E.N.V.F.D.:
In the 1950s, Clarence Hoskins, David Suggs, J.E. Williams, Henry Hagans, and L.H. Coley began meeting in a back room at Frank W. Barnes’ Sanitary Barber Shop to discuss the urgent need for firefighting services east of U.S. Highway 301. As interest grew, the group moved to Brown Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and then Rountree Missionary Baptist Church to accommodate larger gatherings.
The group sold barbecue and chicken dinners to raise money. The fire that destroyed Clarence Hoskins’ home in 1960 and other catastrophic losses spurred them in 1962 to establish a $25 per home assessment to build and equip a fire station.
In 1964, the group received a state charter as a volunteer fire department. They bought two second-hand trucks and sent them to Rocky Mount to be converted into fire engines. The next built their own building with donated labor. By then, they were $7000 in debt.
In 1965, Wilson County approved the department, added it to the county’s rural fire system, and began issuing $100 per month in funds. E.N.V.F.D. continued its weekend plate sales to retire its debt.
Deed book 121, page 381, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
On 20 February 1920, Gary Armstrong and wife Henrietta borrowed $3282.60 from the Endowment Department of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. In exchange, the Armstrongs gave a mortgage on four parcels measuring 34, 112, 55, and 42 acres. If the Armstrongs defaulted on the loan, the Endowment Department would sell the land to satisfy the debt. This mortgage deed was cancelled 3 January 1924, after the debt was paid in full. Deed book 141, page 59.
On 29 October 1923, James Rountree, William Thorne, James Bass, Warren Rountree, Phebe Rountree, and Emma Daniel, trustees of Saint Pauls Disciples Church (Colored), sold to Barnes Chapel Lodge #78, Knights of King Solomon, a one-eighth acre parcel on the north side of the old County Line Road and east side of the public road from Wilson to Nashville, N.C., to be used for lodge purposes only and never for “a place of public amusement or in any manner that will be in derogation of the peace and dignity of the church” next door. [Saint Paul’s is an active church on Lake Wilson Road, just east of N.C. Highway 58, the “public road” referred to. I am not clear if the church not to be disturbed is Saint Paul or some other church.] Deed book 146, page 271.
On 1 December 1923, J.L. Newsom, Nathan Bass, and James H. Newsom sold W.K. Knight, Willie Newton, Elias Barnes, C.L. Battle, Charlie Newton, L.W. Williams, and Walter Thompson, trustees of First Baptist Church (Colored) of Lucama, for $125 a one-quarter acre parcel adjacent to the Wilson County Public School (Colored)’s lot on the extension of Main Street near the town of Lucama. Deed book 146, page 397.
As this Google Maps image shows, First Baptist Church still stands just outside Lucama. Its parcel is considerably larger than a quarter-acre and may include the land on which Lucama Colored School formerly sat.
The Wilson Normal & Industrial Institute was one of four sites commemorated by historical markers placed by Wilson County Historical Association in 2020. For more about the incident that led to school’s establishment, see here.
The Odd Fellows were not the only African-American fraternal order that found toeholds in Wilson County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An examination of deed books and other records yields these — some familiar, others much less so:
Prince Hall Masons, Rocky Blue Lodge #56, chartered before 1910.
Prince Hall Masons, Pride of Wilson Lodge #484, chartered before 1947.
Knights of King Solomon, Victoria #1, chartered in 1918. Per the Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner of the State of North Carolina (1925), the home office of the Knights of King Solomon was in Wilson, the organization had been chartered in 1918, its president was William Pierce, and its secretary was C.F. Rich.
Wilson Daily Times, 30 December 1918.
Knights of King Solomon, Saint Luke Lodge #53, chartered before 1921.
Knights of King Solomon, Richardson Lodge #10, chartered before 1921.
Knights of King Solomon, Pride of Wilson Lodge #32, chartered before 1921.
Knights of King Solomon, Mount Zion Lodge #9, chartered before 1921.
Knights of King Solomon, Barnes Chapel Lodge #78, chartered before 1923.
Knights of King Solomon, Love Union Lodge #209, chartered before 1929.
Knights of Labor, Pine Level Assembly #10811, chartered before 1889.
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Marshall Lodge #297, chartered in 1921.
Royal Fraternal Organization, organized in 1910. Per the Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner of the State of North Carolina (1925), the home office of the Royal Fraternal Organization was in Wilson, the organization had been chartered in 1910, its president was J.W. Parker, and its secretary was Cora C. Lucas.
Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the resignation of 11 African-American teachers in Wilson, North Carolina, in rebuke of their “high-handed” black principal and the white school superintendent who slapped one of them. In their wake, black parents pulled their children out of the public school en masse and established a private alternative in a building owned by a prominent black businessman. Financed with 25¢-a-week tuition payments and elaborate student musical performances, the Independent School operated for nearly ten years. The school boycott, sparked by African-American women standing at the very intersection of perceived powerless in the Jim Crow South, was an astonishing act of prolonged resistance that unified Wilson’s black toilers and strivers.
The school boycott is largely forgotten in Wilson, and its heroes go unsung. In their honor, today, and every April 9, I publish links to these Black Wide-Awake posts chronicling the walk-out and its aftermath. Please read and share and speak the names of Mary C. Euell and the revolutionary teachers of the Colored Graded School.
It is impossible to list every African-American cemetery in the United States. Or even every abandoned African-American cemetery. Here, however, is the start of a running list of abandoned or abused African-American cemeteries whose particular circumstances have garnered media (or my) attention, and the organizations attempting to reclaim them. It takes its inspiration from the Adams-McEachin African American Burial Grounds Network Act, which proposes a voluntary national database of historic African-American burial grounds. This legislation would also establish a National Park Service program, in coordination with state, local, private, and non-profit groups, to educate the public and provide technical assistance for community members and public and private organizations to research, survey, identify, record, and preserve burial sites and cemeteries within the Network.
Rountree, Odd Fellows and Vick Cemeteries, Lane Street Project, Wilson
Helen Adele Barnes — Helen Barnes, Ruth Hart, Barbara Jones, Evangeline Reid and Marjorie Taylor were classmates and members of the brand new Girl Scout Troop 11. They were all about 12 years old in 1946.