Institutions

Eighteen years of the Round House.

Digging through some files, I found this 2001 program for the dedication of the Freeman Round House in its first iteration as a museum. An insert acknowledged those who had donated generously to the building’s renovation. I — away in Atlanta and only loosely aware of the plans — am not named among them, but my parents are. As I scanned the list, I took note of the dozens of early supporters who passed away before the new, expanded museum opened last fall. I am honored to pick up the mantle and carry it forward to continue the good work they began and to preserve Wilson’s African-American history.


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Flyer in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

A.A.H.C.’s new director.

North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources issued this press release on 21 May 2019. Congratulations to Angela Thorpe, who hails from Pinetops, just east of the Wilson-Edgecombe County line! Her interests and experience speak directly to so much of what Black Wide-Awake is about, and I wish her every success as director of the African American Heritage Commission:

“N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton announces the appointment of Angela Thorpe as the director of the N.C. African American Heritage Commission (AAHC). Thorpe has served as acting director since September 2018.

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“Prior to become acting director, Thorpe served as associate director of the AAHC since 2017. In that role she led the development of a five-year organizational strategic plan, managed organizational partnerships and grants, led collaborative programming efforts with groups and institutions across North Carolina, and oversaw organizational messaging and digital communications strategy.

“She was the first African American historic interpreter at the James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville, N.C. and worked to attract diverse audiences through inclusive programming and leading community engagement initiatives.

“Thorpe’s family home is the small community of Pinetops, N.C., but she calls herself an Air Force brat and has lived in the U.S. and abroad. She returned to her roots after receiving a B.A. in history with a minor in African American Studies from the University of Florida and was awarded the M.A. in history from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. As a graduate student she worked to connect marginalized communities with museums and was involved with the award-winning exhibit, “Warnersville: Our Home; Our Neighborhood, Our Stories,” at the Greensboro Historical Museum.

“Thorpe has written on museum professionals, public history and race for the National Council of Public History. She has also spoken on diversity and inclusion in museums and cultural institutions; community engagement; and African American heritage at conferences and symposia. She was awarded a Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship by the American Alliance of Museums in 2016.

“For additional information call (919) 814-6655. The N.C. African American Heritage Commission is a division of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.”

Vick buys a lot from the Knights of Labor.

In 1891, Samuel H. Vick purchased the lot upon which he built the Orange Hotel from the trustees of Knights of Labor Local 10699, an organization of which he was a member. The Knights of Labor had purchased the lot from William Smith and wife Harriett Smith on 22 December 1887 for $300.

S.H. Vick built a hotel-cum-boarding house at 519 East Nash Street on land he purchased at a discount from the Knights of Labor. The building is shown here on the 1903 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

Here is a transcription of Vick’s deed, which is found in Book 30, Pages 92-93, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson:

This deed made by John H. Clark, John Ratley, Gilbert Stallings, William Goffney, George Harris, Wilson Sharpe and Daniel Vick, trustees of Local Assembly Number 10,699, Knights of Labor (the same being successors to James Bynum, Jack Hilliard, Wilson Sharpe, Charles Barnes, Daniel Vick, Wade Barnes, Samuel Williams, Samuel H. Vick and Reddick Strickland, former trustees of said assembly) the parties of the first part to S.H. Vick the Party of the second part all of the County of Wilson and State of North Carolina. Witnesseth that that [sic] the said parties of the first part by the direction of said assembly in meeting assembled and in consideration of the sum of Two hundred and fifty dollars to them in hand paid by the said party of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have bargained sold and conveyed and do by these presents bargain sell and convey unto him the said S.H. Vick One certain lot or parcel of land, lying and being Situate in the Town of Wilson State aforesaid on Nash Street adjoining the lands of Peter Rountree R.J. Taylor and others and bounded as follows. Beginning at Peter Rountrees corner on Nash Street thence with said Rountrees line to R.J. Taylors line thence nearly northwest to Henry Jones line thence with said Jones line to Nash Street thence with said Street to the beginning Containing One half acre more or less and for a more particular description of said land reference is made to the deed of Jas. E. Clark administrator to William Smith recorded in Book No 16 Page 373, in the Registers office of Wilson County.

To have, and to hold, said lot or parcel of land unto him the said S.H. Vick his heirs and assigns in fee simple together with all the privileges and appurtenances thereunto belonging or appertaining to his and their only use & behoof and the said parties of the first part do for themselves their heirs and successors in office warrant to deed with the said S.H. Vick & his heirs that they will forever warrant and defend the title to said land against the lawful claims of and and all persons whomsoever to him the said S.H. Vick & his heirs. Witness our hands & seals this the 9th day of March 1891

[Signed] John Henry Clark, John (X) Ratley, Gilbert (X) Stallings, William (X) Goffney, George (X) Harris, Wilson (X) Sharpe, Daniel (X) Vick. Witness as to all J.D. Bardin

——

  • John H. Clark
  • John Ratley — John Ratley, 37, married Eliza Mitchell, 31, on 26 August 1872 in Wilson. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, South Carolina-born John Ratley, 88; daughter Martha, 45, servant; and boarder Kernal Jordan, 46, wagon factory laborer. John Rattley died 22 February 1922 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 90 years old; was born in South Carolina to unknown parents; was a widower; resided at 630 Suggs Street; and had been a laborer. Martha Rattley Jordan was informant. [Martha Rattley, as financial secretary, signed Jane Bynum’s Knights of Labor dues card in 1888.]
  • Gilbert Stallings — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Gilbert Stallings, 28; wife Georgeanna, 23; and children Clara, 6, and Mary, 2. Gilbert Stallings died 13 August 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 February 1854 in Franklin County to John Stallings and Hannah Upperman; was married; and was a farmer. Informant was G.W. Stallings.
  • William Goffney
  • George Harris
  • Wilson Sharpe – probably, in the 1880 census of Taylors township, farmer Wilson Sharp, 52; wife Cherry, 45; nephew Jerry Bynum, 6; and James Mitchel, 47, with wife Rosa, 33, and son James G., 11.
  • Daniel Vick
  • James Bynum
  • Jack Hilliard — in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Jack Hilliard, 40, farmer; wife Laura, 25; and children Mattie, 5, John, 3, and Doctor, 1.
  • Charles Barnes
  • Wade Barnes
  • Samuel Williams
  • Samuel H. Vick
  • Reddick Strickland — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Redick Strickland, 54; wife Mary, 51; and children Berry, 23, Joseph, 20, Robert, 18, Spencer, 13, and Lily, 10; and grandfather Solomon Strickland, 102.
  • Peter Rountree

The program.

The Times published the full program of commencement exercises for Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute’s first graduating class. The composition of the school’s board of directors reveals the depth of investment by East Wilson’s elite. (Even veterinarian E.L. Reid, whose brother J.D. Reid lit the match that started the public school boycott conflagration.)

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Wilson Times, 28 May 1919.

  • Harry C. Eldridge and J. Bassett Willard published Arcticania, or Columbia’s Trip to the North Pole, an Operetta in Two Acts, a “juvenile fairy spectable,” in 1916. Eldridge and Elizabeth F. Guptill published Midsummer Eve, a Musical Fairy Play for Children in 1920.
  • S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick, former teacher, former postmaster, real estate developer.
  • W.S. Hines — Walter S. Hines, barber.
  • W.H. Phillips — William H. Phillips, dentist.
  • N.J. Tate — Noah J. Tate, barber.
  • C.L. Darden — Camillus L. Darden, undertaker and business owner.
  • W.A. Mitchner — William A. Mitchner, physician.
  • J.W. Rogers — John W. Rogers, businessman.
  • D.C. Yancy — Darcy C. Yancey, pharmacist.
  • M.H. Wilson — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 126 Pender Street, Virginia-born house contractor Mansfield H. Wilson, 60; son Samuel H., 20; and sister-in-law Lucy Richards, 40.
  • L.A. Moore — Lee A. Moore, merchant and insurance agent.
  • William Hines — barber and real estate developer.
  • E.L. Reid — Elijah L. Reid, veterinarian.
  • A.L.E. Weeks — Alfred L.E. Weeks, Baptist minister.
  • R.R. Forman — Organist, pianist and composer Allie Waling Forman (1855-1937) registered her work under the name Mrs. R.R. Forman.
  • Frederic Boscovitz composed the duet “Bella Napoli” in 1900.
  • Rogenia Barnes — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street,
  • Lillian Wilson
  • Boisey Barnes — Boisey O. Barnes, half-brother of Walter and William Hines.
  • Lester Mitchell
  • Willard Crawford
  • Addie Davis — Addie Davis Butterfield, daughter of Baptist minister Fred M. Davis Sr.
  • Jos. Rosemond Johnson — James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) composed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” as a poem in 1900, and his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) set it to music in 1905. In 1919, the year of the Industrial School graduation, the NAACP dubbed the song the “Negro National Anthem.”
  • R.N. Perry — Robert N. Perry, Episcopal priest.

 

A big occasion in the history of the race in this city.

I was astonished to realize that this article memorializes the first commencement exercises at the Independent School — here called by its full and official name, the Wilson  Normal and Industrial Institute. As chronicled here and here and here, a coalition of African-American parents and religious and civic leaders founded the Independent School (also known as the Industrial School) in the wake of an assault on a black teacher by the white school superintendent.

I have not been able to identify Judge William Harrison of Chicago, who delivered to the new school’s graduates a remarkably unprogressive message that seemingly flew in the face of the stand for civil rights the community had resolutely made just a year earlier. The Times reporter made no mention of the school’s genesis, preferring to focus at length on Harrison’s message of admiration for the white man’s guidance and fine example.

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Wilson Daily Times, 31 May 1919.

  • Judge William Harrison
  • Prof. S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick furnished a building on Vance Street to house the new school.
  • Rev. A.L.E. Weeks — Alfred L.E. Weeks was a member of the Colored Ministerial Union committee appointed to address the community’s concerns to the school board.
  • Joseph S. Jackson — Joseph S. Jackson Jr.
  • Boisy Barnes — Boisey O. Barnes.
  • Lester Mitchell — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Annie Mitchell, 70, her children Sallie, 46, Eddie, 44, Albert, 42, Eva, 36, and Floyd, 34, plus niece Sevreane, 18, and nephew Lester, 15.
  • Willard Crawford — probably, Daniel Willard Crawford who died 16 October 1964 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 January 1900 in Wilson County to Daniel Crawford and Annie Whitted; was never married; and worked as a carpenter. Walter H. Whitted was informant.
  • Addie Davis — Addie Davis Butterfield.
  • Rev. R.N. Perry — Episcopal priest Robert N. Perry was also on the Ministerial Union’s committee.
  • Lillian Wilson — perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: livery stable groom William Wilson, 51; wife Sarah, 48, and daughters Elen, 23, and Lillian, 21, both tobacco factory workers.

Reid and Stanback stand trial.

A detailed newspaper account of the trial of J.D. Reid and Henry S. Stanback, who were charged with embezzlement and other crimes that led to the failure of Wilson’s Commercial Bank.

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 February 1930.

In summary:

Bank examiners closed Commercial Bank on 24 September 1929 after a suspicious fire. J.D. Reid was the bank’s vice-president, and Stanback, the cashier. They were indicted on six counts. One alleged that Reid and Stanback knowingly permitted others to make deposits to the bank, knowing it was insolvent, specifically these deposits: $66.50 by Alfred Robinson; $57.00 by Camillus L. Darden, treasurer of Saint John A.M.E. Zion; $10.00 by Ed Humphrey; $1100.00 by Edwin W. Fisher, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent; $10.00 by John Clark for Saint Mark’s Episcopal; $400.00 by Jarrette J. Langley; $35.00 by C.E. Artis and Company; and $200.00 by Shade’s Pharmacy.

Reid and Stanback were defended by W.A. Finch, Bryce Little, O.G. Rand, Wade Gardner, and Pete Bell, “Plymouth negro lawyer.”

The State first called certified public accountant C.A. Bean, who testified that he had examined the bank’s records and books on behalf of the North Carolina State Banking Department. Bean testified that pages from the bank’s ledger January 1929 until it closed were destroyed by fire, as well as a number of deposit records. Some documents were found strewn on the floor. He believed the bank was insolvent for four months before it closed. Records shows the bank had $565.84 in cash and checks on hand when it closed, against $72,000 owed to depositors and more than $53,000 in outstanding loans. Bean also found duplicate ledger sheets and a number of accounts under various names controlled by Stanback and Reid (including that of the Wilson Colored Hospital.) Further, he found numerous checks drawn but not charged to Stanback’s account, and well as checks  drawn by Stanback from others’ accounts from 1922 to 1928. Bean testified that Stanback told him one of the special accounts was set up for expenses related to operating the bank. Reid had similarly shady accounts. The bankers’ lawyers objected vigorously to the questions put to Bean.

The state next called several bank customers.

Alfred Robinson, secretary-treasurer of the “Grand Lodge of Negro Masons,” testified that he maintained a personal account and the lodge’s account at the bank. He made deposits in his personal account on September 17 and asked for balance statements for both. Stanback gave him the personal account balance, but said he was too busy to give the lodge’s. He put Robinson off again a few days later, then told him the fire had destroyed records before he could get the information. Robinson said Stanback and Reid told him rats and matches had caused the blaze.

The courtroom was packed with spectators — as many as five hundred, most African-American.

Ed Humphrey testified that he had traveled to Roxboro, North Carolina, with Reid to get a two or three thousand dollar check from Lee Clay. He said Reid offered him $25 to deposit $1880 in the bank, but Humphrey refused.

Edwin Fisher testified about deposits he made on behalf of N.C. Mutual and about a “bogus” deposit slip for $150 that Reid had given him to cover an overage at the bank.

Columbus E. Artis testified that his own balance sheets showed a balance of $1176.67, but the bank’s showed him $14 overdrawn. He further stated that once, when he had a balance of $1800, he had written a check for $500. Stanback had returned it to him unpaid, asking him “not to write such big checks as the bank was a little low on funds owing to the demands of farmers.”

Lee Clay, of Roxboro, testified that Reid had convinced him to transfer $2000.00 from a “white man’s bank” to Commercial about September 1.

Plummer A. Richardson testified in his capacity as officer of a Nash County fraternal organization. He testified that Reid and Stanback blamed the tobacco market for cashflow problems, and he had to make several trips to Wilson to get his checks cashed.

Coverage continued the next day under this headline:

Again, hundreds of dismayed African-Americans crowded the courtroom to hear witnesses pile on evidence against Stanback and Reid. Isaac A. Shade, an eight-year customer, testified that Stanback had explained discrepancies with his pharmacy’s checks as mere mistakes. Shade was later recalled and examined about the Commercial Realty Company, which he claimed to known little about. John H. Clark testified that, upon hearing rumors that the bank would close, he tried to cash out his account, and Stanback had told him that the bank was not open for business. John Melton had $860.00 to his credit when the bank closed. Nestus Freeman testified that he had $3100.00 in the bank when it closed.

H.D. Beverly, “colored superintendent” of a lodge called “Brothers and Sisters of Love and Charity,” testified that  Reid came to his home in Ahoskie, North Carolina, to solicit him to deposit his and the lodge’s money in the bank. Among other things, he said Reid instructed him to allow Stanback to fill out his savings account book to avoid messing up Stanback’s books. He heard the bank was about to fail, but Reid assured him it was not. Andrew Tate also testified.

Marland Jones of Durham testified at length. Jones opened an account after Stanback “kept after him” to do so.  “One morning he went after his money, and it was after the time for the bank to open. Reid came with a sack of money and witness asked what was the matter and if the bank was broke, and Reid said ‘Who said so.’ I wanted to draw out $172.00, and Stanback said that he was short on cash, and I said if you have trouble paying me $172.00, I want all of it.” Jones thought he got the money from Durham, as a Western Union boy came in the office with the money shortly after.

Bertie County depositor N.H. Cherry testified that he had opened an account at Reid’s request and had done so with $500. He later wrote Stanback two letters demanding return of his money. Reid showed up at Cherry’s in person, threatening to “jack up” Stanback for failing to respond and promising to pay Cherry $25 if he kept his money in the bank. Cherry never saw the $25 or his $500 either.

Oscar McCall and Ellen Tate testified about the bank’s shady practices, and Mr. Bean was recalled to testify about irregularities in Hattie Tate‘s account. The State rested, and the defense followed suit, calling no witnesses.

The case went to jury the next day. After just over an hour, they returned two guilty verdicts on the count of receiving deposits knowing that the bank was insolvent. Reid and Stanback were sentenced to five years hard labor, and the remaining charges were deferred to a later date. After abruptly withdrawing their appeals, Reid and Stanback entered state prison by the first of March.

 

An invitation to the fair and tournament ball.

From the Freeman Round House and Museum, an invitation and ticket to the Wilson County Industrial Association’s Fair and Tournament Ball at Wilson’s Mamona Opera House in 1887. Marcus W. Blount was an honorary manager for the ball, which accompanied the Association’s first agricultural fair.

The Round House reborn.

Wilson cut the ribbon on the Oliver N. Freeman Round House and Museum of African-American History Sunday. I was blessed with the opportunity to draft most of the text accompanying the permanent exhibit and to curate much of the content. I’m so happy and so proud and so honored and so humbled. Preserving and presenting the history of the community that raised me is my ministry.

… “Oh? I’m on the program?”

I was too geeked about the museum to think straight enough to rehearse something, so I just let my heart speak. I said that I was born at all-black Mercy Hospital just before it closed. I was born on the cusp of segregation and integration — Wilson as it was and as it would be. Though I have not lived in Wilson for more than 30 years, something powerful that I had absorbed on Carolina Street, where I spent my first decade, or Queen Street, where my father grew up, or Elba Street, where my grandmother grew up, had stayed with me. I began to curate Black Wide Awake in 2015 as a way to preserve and present the stories of the people and places of home. Since then, I’ve gained as much I’ve given, including the singular honor of contributing to and creating for the Round House museum. I’m honored and deeply grateful, I said.

Photo by Janelle Booth Clevinger.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield, Jr., friend and neighbor, son of East Wilson, took the mic and gave tribute to the real MVP, William E. “Bill” Myers, whose tenacious vision over nearly two decades bent larger Wilson toward doing right by the historical and cultural legacy of our side of the tracks. Mr. Myers was feeling a little under the weather and could not be present, but surely felt the waves of love and appreciation rolling toward him from Nash Street.

George K. Butterfield, Jr., United Stated House of Representatives. (And The Monitors? Well, get to know them.)

With that, Michael E. Myers, Board chairman Ken Jones, and the Freeman family cut the ribbon, and the community stepped into the full flower of the renovated Round House and Museum.

East Wilson bona fides: in the museum’s foyer, W. and C., two of Bill Myers’ grandsons. Both are descendants of Judith Davis, Rev. Fred M. Davis, William B. Davis and Parker Battle. In addition, W. is descended from “Picture-Taking” George W. Barnes and Benjamin Mincey.

The Round House itself is now largely dedicated to the life and accomplishments of Oliver N. Freeman.

Before the crowd arrives.

A little interactive oral history.

The medical history of East Wilson.

 

Two members of the Round House board of directors — Jean Wynn Jones, Darden Class of ’52 and one of the first Girl Scouts in Troop 11, and Inez Dickerson Bell, Darden Class of ’44.

Please support the Freeman Round House and African-American Museum. Admission is free, but donations are vital to this small institution’s mission and are much appreciated. 

http://www.theroundhousemuseum.com

1202 Nash Street East, Wilson, North Carolina

Financial report.

As a publicly funded institution, Mercy Hospital was required to disclose its revenues and expenditures. In December 1935, the Times published secretary-treasurer William Hines‘ account of the previous month’s financial operations.

As is unsurprising for any institution during the depth of the Great Depression, Mercy Hospital was operating in the red. It began the month with just over $702 in the bank and ended with $367. Only $678 came through the door. At $300, payroll comprised more than a quarter of the month’s expenditures, which also included major payments for groceries, laundry service, utilities and supplies.  Mercy owed $3000 to a local bank and hundreds more to vendors (and employees.) Fewer than 1 in 12 of its patients had paid full-rate, nearly half paid nothing at all, and the hospital carried more than $3000 in unpaid patient bills on its books.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 December 1935.