The 500 block, 1930.

Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1930.

As a supplement to this post, here is an excerpt of the 1930 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson detailing town’s Black business district. Though the northeast side of the 500 block of East Nash Street was almost completely commercial, the southwest side was largely residential. Segregation was in full effect at the time, but several white merchants operated businesses catering to African-American clientele, and one, Jesse Verser, lived on the block (around the corner from his Stantonsburg Street grocery.)

Detail of the Sanborn map showing several tenant houses on the west end of Smith Street, the tightly packed commercial buildings on Nash, Verser’s home at 504, and the sole freestanding two-story house on the north side of Nash at 529. Notice, behind 509, a garage (marked A) and toilets (marked WC). There were also garages behind 511 (with nearby gasoline tank) and 513-515. Several of the businesses were owned by native whites or Lebanese immigrants, and there was even a Chinese laundry.

Nash Street

  • 500 — Gatlin Amos J & Co (Amos J Gatlin, Jas P Gatlin) gros 500 E Nash
  • 501 — Maynard’s Market (Geo W Maynard) gros 501 E Nash and 401 Stantonsburg
  • 502 — vacant
  • 503 — Barnes Rachel G (c) restr 503 E Nash r 1118 E Nash
  • 504 — Verser Jesse W (Frances) gro 100 Stantonsburg h 504 E Nash; Verser Bettie (wid Jesse W) h 504 E Nash
  • 505 — Barnes John (c; Rachel) barber 505 E Nash h 1118 do [ditto]
  • 506 — Wah Jung Laundry (Yee G Wah) 506 E Nash
  • 507 — Ziady Jos gro 507 E Nash h 107 E Pettigrew
  • 508 — Service Barber Shop (c) (Ernest A Artis) 508 E Nash
  • 509 — vacant
  • 509 1/2 — Stokes Thos (c; Babe) fish 509 1/2 E Nash h 615 W Wiggins
  • 510 — vacant
  • 511 — Lupe Peter (c) shoe shiner 511 E Nash h do
  • 512 — Braswell Ezekiel (c; Mary E) restr 512 E Nash h 1118 1/2 do
  • 513 — vacant
  • 514 — Lesley Samuel G (c; Lillian) tailor 514 E Nash h 802 Robeson
  • 515 — vacant
  • 517 — Moore John H (c; Armincie) shoe repr 517 E Nash h 1113 Atlantic
  • 519 — Phillips Chas (Minnie A) bicycle repr 519 E Nash h 410 Herring
  • 521 — Smith Preston (c; Minnie) clothes presser and clnr 521 E Nash h 314 Stantonsburg 
  • 523 — Wooten W L Co, H Paul Yelverton pres, Jesse W Thomas v-pres, Wm L Wooten sec-treas, furn 523 E Nash
  • 525 — Thomas Chas S (c; S Blanche) barber 525 E Nash h 719 E Nash
  • 527 — Phillips Wm H (c; Rena) dentist 527 E Nash h do; Shade’s Pharmacy (c) (Isaac A Shade) 527 E Nash
  • 529 — Coppedge Sarah (c) factory hd h 529 E Nash

Smith Street

  • 506 — Johnson Wm (c; Lula) lab h 506 Smith; Johnson Wm J (c) lab 506 Smith
  • 508 — vacant
  • 510 — Reaves Robert (c; Daisie) lab 510 Smith
  • 514 — Lee Addie (c) factory hd h 514 Smith 

The transition from commercial to residential on the south side of the street. 526 is the Hotel Orange, a boarding house run by Mattie B. Coleman.

Nash Street

  • 516 — vacant
  • 518 — no listing
  • 520 — Dixon Lenora G (c) billiards 520 E Nash h 611 do
  • 522 — Atkinson Henry (c) shoe repr
  • 524 — Gilliam Matthew S (c; Annie L) phys 524 E Nash h 805 do
  • 524 — Howard Mary (c) lndrs h 524 E Nash
  • 526 — Coleman Mattie B (c) h 526 E Nash
  • 528 — Bowser Sarah L (c) smstrs h 528 E Nash
  • 530 — Stokes Turner (c) carp h 530 E Nash

Mid-block, two multi-story buildings dominated — the Whitley Hotel and the Odd Fellows lodge hall. The Odd Fellows building featured commercial space at street-level and the Globe Theatre above. 

Nash Street

  • 531 — Swindell Deborah (c) hair drsr 531 E Nash h 630 Suggs
  • 533 — Taylor Bertha (c) dom h 533 E Nash
  • 535 — Najim Geo candy mfr 535 E Nash h 107 S Pettigrew 
  • 537 — Lucas William T (Sallie) gro 537 E Nash h 216 N Railroad
  • 539 — no listing
  • 541 — Whitley Hotel (c) (Maggie A Whitley) 541 E Nash; Marshall Lodge IBPOE
  • 543 — Jones Luther J (c; Lula) restr 543 E Nash h 712 Hadley
  • 545 — Ford Cleaners (Herbert H and Alf J Ford jr) 545 E Nash
  • 547 — Am Legion, Henry Ellis Post (c); IOOF, Hannibal Lodge, No 552 (c) 
  • 549 — Fahad Kattar billiards 549 E Nash h 313 N Pine
  • 551 — Rutherford Geo (c; Maggie B) restr 551 E Nash h 1200 Queen

Smith Street

  • 516 — Britt Mamie (c) factory hd h 516 Smith 
  • 518 — Ray Neil (c; Annie) junk 518 Smith h do
  • 526 — Gay Wm (c) lab h 526 Smith

In the eastern third of the block, the south side of the street was almost entirely residential. Ideal Pharmacy and First Baptist Church dominated the north side.

Nash Street

The final stretch of the south side of the 500 block, all commercial.

Nash Street

  • 550 — vacant
  • 552 — Alston Robt T (c) watch repr 552 E Nash h [ditto]
  • 554 — Baxter & Co (Herman C Baxter, Jas F Downing) gros 554 E Nash

Stantonsburg Street [now Pender]

  • 100 — Verser Jesse W (Frances) gro 100 Stantonsburg h 504 E Nash

I confess surprise that, as late as 1930, the entire 100 block of South Pettigrew was an all-white residential street.

South Pettigrew Street

  • 107 — Ziady Jos gro 507 E Nash h 107 S Pettigrew
  • 109 — Hawley Geneva Mrs h 109 S Pettigrew
  • 111 — vacant
  • 113 — Nordan J Herman (Kath) lab h 113 Pettigrew
  • 115 — vacant
  • 117 — Hinnant Geo W (Mary A) projectionist Lincoln Theatre h 117 S Pettigrew; Robinson Sarah E (wid John R) h 117 S Pettigrew
  • 119 — Brown Edgar (Mamie) woodwkr Hackney Bros Body Co h 119 S Pettigrew
  • 121 — Bradberry Cora O hlpr 121 S Pettigrew; Bradberry Geo F pntr Hackney Bros Body Co h 121 S Pettigrew; Bradberry Luther farmer h 121 S Pettigrew

An introduction to Sharpsburg.

Per county GIS mapping data, there are two property owners remaining in Wilson County whose named include the word “Colored.” The first I know well — Elm City Colored Cemetery Commission. The second pulled me up short — Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church.

Though I have driven through it on U.S. Highway 301 hundreds of times, I know little about Sharpsburg, other than that its town limits straddle three counties — Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe. Because I’m not familiar with the locations of these boundaries, I have not looked closely at Sharpsburg as a source of material for Black Wide-Awake.

I pulled up the GIS map for Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist and was immediately struck by two things.

One, the Wilson County sector of Sharpsburg is cleanly bounded by SE Railroad Street on the west and Main Street on the north. Two, this is the historically Black section of town — the church is there, it is “across the tracks,” and its street names include Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

And then there’s this grainy Google Maps image of the church itself:

Per county tax records, trustees bought the lot at the corner of Railroad and Lincoln Streets in 1915 and built Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church in 1920. Another grainy photograph linked to the tax record and date-stamped 2016 shows a large sign mounted on the church tower that reads “Bellamy Chapel P.B. Church.” Bellamy Chapel appears to be defunct as well. 

I’ve added Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church to my follow-up list. Stay tuned.


The Old Harper Place.

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In 1918, Atlantic Coast Realty Company prepared this plat cutting new streets and subdividing the “Old Harper Place” into more than 70 lots. The proposal was ambitious, but did not get off the ground immediately. In fact, it never really came together at all.

The streets are readily recognizable today. They are not, however, lined with houses.

Neither Best, Bennett, Oliver nor Lipscomb Streets appear in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, which was the first to include a street-by-street residential listing. Harper Street is there, however, and the directory lists five blocks. The 700 block had fifteen households, but the others were sparser, indicating larger parcels or empty lots. All the households except three are marked “colored.” W.J. Walston appears to have occupied the entire 400 block and possibly the 500 block. On the other side of the street, J.T. Strickland was the sole household listed in the 600 block.

1928 city directory.

However, the 1930 city directory notes that Harper Street was now Lipscomb Road. Unusual for the time, the street had become more integrated. White households replaced black at 238 and 300 Lipscomb. John A. Owens now lived at 400, but the 600 block on both sides of the street contained additional white households.

1930 city directory.

By time the 1941 city directory issued, Harper Street was back, but in a new place. This Harper Street is the one shown in the plat map. Or at least the two blocks of it between Best Street and Herring Avenue. This street was entirely inhabited by white families.

1941 city directory.

The description of Lipscomb Road in the 1941 directory is perplexing. On a modern map, it seems to correspond in part to modern Gold Street, which runs from Herring just past the end of Railroad Street to Reid Street. The inexplicable part is “intersecting 700 Herring av.” 700 Herring Avenue is at the corner of Herring and modern Ward Boulevard. In order to intersect with Herring, Lipscomb/Gold would have to turn back 135 degrees.

Is this 1941 Lipscomb Road? Gold Street is highlighted in solid yellow. The dotted yellow line shows the possible course of Lipscomb as described in the 1941 directory. The blue arrows show modern Lipscomb Road. (Ward Boulevard did not exist in 1941.)

In any case, this area continued to show unusual integration for mid-twentieth century Wilson. Though the majority of households were African-American, several were occupied by white families.

In 1959, per “Survivors Deeded Lucas Property,” Wilson Daily Times, 18 March 1959, George Lucas’ two daughters inherited 71 of the lots shown on the plat on Best, Benton and Harper streets. Eventually, they sold much of the land to the city for a housing project.

Plat Book 1, page 58, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; aerial view per

County schools, no. 14: Saratoga School.

The fourteenth 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.

Saratoga School

Saratoga School is listed as a Rosenwald school in Survey File Materials Received from Volunteer Surveyors of Rosenwald Schools Since September 2002.” This school was consolidated with other small schools in 1951, and its students then attended Speight High School.

Location: Per a sale advertised in the Wilson Daily Times for several weeks in the fall of 1951, “SARATOGA COLORED SCHOOL in Saratoga township, containing two acres, more or less, and more particularly described as follows: BEGINNING at a stake in the Saratoga-Stantonsburg Road, thence Northwest 140 yards to a stake, thence Southwest 70 yards parallel with said road thence Southeast 140 yards and parallel with the first line in the said Saratoga-Stantonsburg Road, thence with the said road 70 yards to the beginning. Being the identical land described in a deed recorded in Book 157, at page 70, Wilson County Registry.”

The school has been demolished.

Description: This school is described in The Public Schools of Wilson County, North Carolina: Ten Years 1913-14 to 1923-24 as a one-room building on two acres.

Known faculty: teachers Alice Mitchell, Naomi Jones, Mary E. Diggs, Corine l. Francis, Katie J. Woodard, Mary J. Lassiter.

Another look at the location of Oakdale, the “colored cemetery.”

As noted here, I have long been intrigued by the disappearance (in space and memory) of Wilson’s first African-American cemetery, sometimes called Oaklawn or Oakland or Oakdale. The precise location of the first city-owned black cemetery is a mystery, though most people believe (and as I conjectured here) it was above Cemetery Street where Whitfield Homes are now situated.

No official records related to the cemetery survive, and no plat map delineates its complete boundaries. However, I’ve found one reference to the “colored cemetery” on a 1923 plat map of “The D.C. Sugg Property Located on Stantonsburg Road and Lincoln Avenue.”  Using a 1937 aerial photograph of the area (the graves in the cemetery were disinterred in the early 1940s), plus the plat, I’ve come up with a revised location estimate.

Here’s the plat map, with modern street names noted and the area marked “Colored Cemetery” emphasized:

1-215 copy

Plat Book 1, page 215 (annotated), Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Wilson disinterred the (known) graves at Oakdale in 1941. Accordingly, I searched the 1937 aerial photograph of this area, below. The street at left is Railroad Street. Manchester Street is at far right, and parallel to it was then Stantonsburg Street. (North of Cemetery, it is now Pender Street. The lower section is now Black Creek Road.)The red-dashed lines mark current streets, including Pender, New, Nora, and Blount. The blue-dashed line is Nora St. as it appears on the 1923 plat map above. The green marks the borders of the colored cemetery above. (I have added a northern border though none is shown on the plat map.)

If my mark-up is correct, the cemetery (or, at least, its southern extension) was south of Cemetery Street near the site now occupied by Daniels Learning Center (the former Elvie Street School.)

I ran the mark-up by Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department, for an opinion on my conjecture. He agreed and returned this graphic:

Bingo. The blue-shaded area is the “colored cemetery” overlaid on a current map of the neighborhood. This image reveals that the cemetery covered what is now a row of houses fronting on New Street, as well nearly the entirety of the lawn and semi-circular driveway in front of Daniels/Elvie school.

Was this cemetery marked on Sanborn fire insurance maps? It is not on the 1922 map, the last one for which I have access.

The maps corresponding to the sections marked 25 and 29 show houses along Railroad, Suggs and Stantonsburg Streets, and a few along the north side of East Contentnea (now Cemetery) Street. However, south of East Contentnea, the space is blank but for subsection numbers 225 and 256, and no corresponding maps were made. Though it is not marked, Oakdale cemetery was located in this space.

With the information above, I revisited a plat map the city filed in 1942. I initially had difficulty interpreting “The Town of Wilson Property on Cemetery Street,” but I now see it is oriented south to north. Turn it upside down, and the outline of the old colored cemetery clearly emerges. As I suspected, the city had owned the section between present-day New and Cemetery Streets as well as the inverted L below New, and it is likely that there were also burials in this space.

Plat book 3, page 150, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Photos of the Colored Graded and Independent Schools.

Circa 1992, the C.H. Darden High School Alumni Association published a pamphlet featuring a short memoir of the school’s long-time principal Edward M. Barnes (1905-2002). Among other things, Mr. Barnes spoke of the school boycott that led to the opening of Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. Accompanying the text are these remarkable images.

First, another group photograph of the Colored Graded School’s teachers. Eleven teachers walked off the job to protest the superintendent’s assault on Mary C. Euell. Presumably, these are the eleven.

“The Staff of Wilson Graded School c. 1918. Ms. Uzell, the teacher whom the Superintendent slapped. Back Row: 3rd from right.” [The teacher’s name, in fact, was Euell.]

Second, a group photograph of students standing in front of the familiar bay windows and entry door of the Colored Graded School on Stantonsburg Street. The school’s highest grade level was eighth, and this may have been a group of graduating students.

“Our only public school was emptied of all the students” “The Colored Graded School”

Third, and most astonishingly, a photograph of the two-story building that housed Wilson Normal and Industrial School, also known as the Independent School, its lawn and balconies brimming with students and, it appears, parents.

“The Independent School was housed in one of Mr. Sam Vick’s houses on E. Vance Street.”

I am trying to track down the originals of these photographs to share with you. As I have testified repeatedly, the school boycott and creation of the W.N.I.A. were the most revolutionary collective strikes against white supremacy (and, to use a thoroughly modern term: misogynoir) in the history of Wilson County.

In the meantime, here’s W.N.I.A. on East Vance Street in the 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson. The shotgun (endway) house at 602 is clearly visible above.

The school building was still standing in 1964, as shown in this close-up of an aerial image of part of Wilson.

However, by time the city was next photographed in 1971, the Independent School building had been demolished.

This apartment building occupies the site today.

Aerial photos courtesy of Wilson County Technology Services Department; photo of 604-606 East Vance Street by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2020.

Lane Street Project: LiDAR imagery.

LiDAR Imagery Simple.jpg

LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances to the Earth. These light pulses, combined with other data,  generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.

The LiDAR image above reveals the surface characteristics of the ground comprising Vick, Odd Fellows, and Rountree cemeteries.

Vick cemetery is a dispiriting flat, featureless plan — not entirely unexpected given the city’s contracted leveling and grading of the site.

Odd Fellows’ surface is lightly stippled, with a short, artificially straight “scar” near its lower left corner that appears to correspond to the mysterious trapezoid revealed in old aerial photos. The image also captures the berm along the edge of Sandy Creek, which was channeled for reasons that are not apparent given its relative lack of importance as a tributary of Hominy Swamp.

Sandy Creek is the eastern border of Rountree Cemetery, and the unnaturally straight bed of the creek makes its manipulation plain. Rountree Missionary Baptist Church’s 1906 deed to the property refers to this waterway as a “canal.”

The image reveals other interesting landscape features, including the jagged path of an old watercourse, or perhaps a drainage ditch, just below Vick cemetery (now shielded by a line of deciduous trees) and two undulating parallel terraces east of Sandy Creek.

Again, many thanks to Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department.

Lane Street Project: aerial views.

A refresher:

  • The eastern end of Lane Street, in southeast Wilson, is home to three historic African-American cemeteries: Rountree (established about 1906), Odd Fellows (established circa 1900), and Vick (established 1913).
  • Rountree and Odd Fellows are privately owned. Vick is owned by the City of Wilson.
  • All three have been abandoned.
  • Rountree is completely overgrown with mature trees and heavy underbrush.
  • Odd Fellows is also overgrown, except for a narrow strip along the road that the city maintains.
  • In 1996, the city clear-cut Vick cemetery, removed its remaining headstones, graded the entire parcel, and erected a single marker in memory of the dead.

A series of aerial photographs of the cemeteries over time shows in astonishing detail the forgotten features of these cemeteries and the terrible march of neglect across all three. Each photograph has been overlaid with the present-day boundaries of tax parcels. The rectangle at left is Vick, then Odd Fellows and Rountree.

  • 1937

This blurry photograph shows the interconnectedness of the three cemeteries, with narrow dirt paths winding across property lines and no visible boundary markers. The light areas are too large to be individual stones and more likely are family plots of varying sizes. The back edge of Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries — marshy land along Sandy Creek — was wooded.

  • 1948

Though hundreds were buried between 1937 and 1948, Vick is still almost completely open field, with some trees at its western and southern edges and numerous plots visible.  A large cleared trapezoid straddles the Vick and Odd Fellows boundaries — what is this?

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  • 1954

Six years later, the change is shocking. Vick has clearly fallen into disuse, its paths allowed to fill with weeds. Rountree and Odd Fellows, too, are overgrown, but their major paths remain clear. The mystery trapezoid, however, is gone.

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  • 1964

Another ten years and all three cemeteries are well on their way to complete abandonment. Only one path is clear, a new passage cut to join an old one in Odd Fellows.

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  • Today

A contemporary aerial view of the three cemeteries shows the empty expanse of Vick; its lone city-sponsored monument; the paved path leading from the monument to a small parking lot located at the boundary of Vick and Odd Fellows; the cleared bit of Odd Fellows; and the jungle that is Rountree. There is no trace of the trapezoid.

I am indebted to Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department, for responding to my inquiry re the availability of Wilson County maps, answering a million questions, and providing these remarkable images.

Road map to county schools.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has made available digitally copies of many of its historic maps. The 1936 North Carolina County Road Survey not only maps Wilson County’s roads, it also shows the locations of schools and churches. African-American county schools appear as “other”:

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Some of the schools are easily identified, but for others I have made best guesses.

Starting in the northern part of the county, which covers parts of Taylor, Toisnot, Wilson, and Gardners townships:

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  1. Turner School
  2. Page School
  3. Wilbanks School
  4. Pender School
  5. Mitchell School
  6. William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church

The southeast sector, covering parts of Wilson, Saratoga, Stantonsburg, and Black Creek townships. Holdens and Saratoga Schools do not appear:

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  1. London’s Primitive Baptist Church
  2. Bynum School
  3. Lane School
  4. Evansdale School
  5. Brooks School
  6. Minshew School
  7. Stantonsburg School
  8. Healthy Plains School
  9. Yelverton School

The southwest sector, covering parts of Wilson, Spring Hill, Cross Roads, and Black Creek townships:

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  1. Rocky Branch Christian Church; Rocky Branch School
  2. Williamson School
  3. Calvin Level School
  4. Kirby School
  5. Powell School
  6. probably Ruffin or Ferrell School

The northwest sector, covering parts of Wilson, Taylors, and Old Fields townships. Barnes, Sims, Howard, and Jones Hill Schools do not appear to be marked:

  1. Lofton School
  2. New Vester Missionary Baptist Church; New Vester School
  3. Farmer School

County schools, no. 1: New Vester School.

The first 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.

New Vester School

New Vester School was built in the early 1920s with money from the community and the Julius Rosenwald Fund.

Location: Demolished. The school was on the north side of New Vester Missionary Baptist Church, now the site of the church’s front parking lot. As set forth in Mortgage Book 622, Page 410, the metes and bounds were: “Beginning at the Northwest corner of New Vester Missionary Baptist Church lot, a point in the middle of the road, thence with the middle of the road North 3 degrees 15′ East 67 feet to the center of the road to Wilson, thence with the middle of said road North 77 degrees 30′ East 351 feet; cornering; thence South 350.2 feet to the New Vester Church Cemetery line; cornering; thence with said cemetery line 253.5 feet to the New Vester Missionary Baptist Church corner; cornering; runs thence North 6 degrees 30′ East 210 feet; cornering; runs thence West 105 feet to the point of beginning; and being known as New Vester Colored School lot. …”

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Descriptions: per The Report on Schools in Wilson County, North Carolina 1925-26, “This is a building of the two-teacher type provided with cloak rooms and industrial room. The windows in this building are too close to the floor and there is no lattice between the brick piers. There was but little equipment in the New Vester school and modern desks should be supplied. A further criticism of this building is that the piers under the center girders were very crude. Good piers should be provided as early as possible for if the building once sags it will be almost impossible to ever get it in good condition again.”

Rosenwald two-teacher community school plan.

Known faculty: principal Cora Sherrod Wilson; teachers Lucille Clement, Hazel Marie Davis.

Notes: New Vester closed at the end of the 1950-’51 school year, and its children, of all grades, were sent to the new Springfield High School. The Wilson County Board of Education offered this school and lot at public auction on 19 November 1951 with eighteen other “colored” schools.

Aerial view per Google Maps.