In about 1861, the United States Coastal Survey issued a map showing the distribution of enslaved people throughout the South. As Susan Schulten noted in a 9 December 2010 piece called “Visualizing Slavery,” “[t]hough many Americans knew that dependence on slave labor varied throughout the South, these maps uniquely captured the complexity of the institution and struck a chord with a public hungry for information about the rebellion.”
Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States of the United StatesCompiled from the Census of 1860 —Sold for the Benefit of the Sick and Wounded Soldiers of the U. S. Army.
A close-up of eastern North Carolina shows that Wilson County, with a population 37% enslaved, lay at the western edge of the state’s heaviest band of slave-holding counties.
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.
“Winona, a suburb of Wilson, N.C.” Deed book 68, page 457, Wilson County Register of Deeds.
In 1905, Samuel H. Vick filed a plat map for the subdivision of a parcel of land he owned along Mercer Street. Assuming Mercer Street follows its present course (the street was outside city limits until the mid-1920s), this appears to be the stretch west of Hominy Swamp. There’s no Daniels Mill Road in the area though, and the parallel Wells Alley and unnamed street do not match up with modern features. However, if you flip the map upside down to view it per the compass designation at top center, the landscape falls into place. Daniels Mill Road, then, is modern-day Fairview Avenue.
Below, on an inverted Google Maps image, I’ve traced modern Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue in red. In dotted yellow, the probable course of Wells Alley, which seems to track a line of trees that runs along the back edge of the lots facing Mercer, and the short crooked unnamed street that apparently never was cut through.
The cursive note added at upper left of the plat map says: “See Book 72 pp 527 et seq perfecting title to these lots.” At bottom left: “Lots 100 ft in debth [sic] & 50 ft in width except lots 23, 24, 25, 33, 61, 57, 58, 59, 60, & lots 1 and 2.”
A few of the 85 lots are inscribed with surnames, presumably of their purchasers: #46 Bynum, #48 Johnson, #53 Melton. In addition, lots 17, 19, 20 and 22 appear to be inscribed with the initials J.H. The 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists the home of William A. Johnson, an African-American cook, as “Mercer St w of N & S Ry.” Though imprecise, this is broadly describes the street on the map. No Melton or Bynum is similarly listed.
The 1910 census settles the matter. On “Winona Road,” restaurant cook William Johnson, 40; wife Pollie, 35, laundress; and children Mary E., 13, Willie C., 11, Winona, 4, and Henry W., 2, and dozens of African-American neighbors, mostly laborers and servants who owned their homes (subject to mortgage).
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Mercer Street next door to Smith Bennett and wife Mary, restaurant proprietor William Johnson, 39; wife Polly, 38; and children Wyona, 14, Margaret, 8, James, 11, and Millie, 19. Herbert and Ella Bynum owned the house on the other side, and Mollie Melton was up the street, and may have been related to the Bynum and Melton noted on the plat map.
The 1930 census reveals the house number: 910 Mercer Street, valued at the astonishing figure of $18,000. (This may well be a matter of an errant extra zero, as the 1922 Sanborn map shows a small one-story cottage at the location, which would not have commanded that sum.) Will A. Johnson, 60, worked as a cafe cook, and wife Pollie, 55, was a cook. The household included daughter Margrette Futrell, 18; infant grandson Wilbert R. Hawkins, born in Pennsylvania; widowed daughter Mary J. Thomas, 33 (noted as absent); and niece Jannie Winstead, 7.
When Sam Vick’s real estate empire collapsed in 1935, he lost three lots and houses on Mercer Street — 903, 907 and 915 — perhaps the last property he held in Winona subdivision.
Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.
Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the section of the 100 block of North Goldsboro Street opposite the county courthouse.
Levi H. Jones‘ barbershop stood at the rear of today’s Planter’s Bank building, which was erected in 1920 and now houses county government offices. Within a couple of years, Jones changed locations, opening the Mayflower at 108 East Nash Street, a narrow two-story brick building near First National Bank. First National is now the Wilson County-Nash Street Office Building, and the Mayflower’s site is a parking lot.
Wilson Times, 30 June 1911.
Alexander D. Dawson, a former local Republican Party stalwart, operated a fish and oyster stall in the city market building, which burned down in 1929.
Wilson city hall, market and fire department, circa 1900.
Postcard courtesy of North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s digitalnc.org.
This 1923 plat map detailing part of Frank Rountree’s property shows, at left, the block now home to Wilson’s main United States post office and, right, the location of a Family Dollar store.
The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson reveal more detail about Rountree’s property. The houses he owned in this block are marked with asterisks. Most were double-shotgun houses built as rentals for African-American tobacco factory workers.
Rountree’s properties on the other side of Hines are again marked with asterisks below. The houses fronting the north side of Hines Street had white occupants, but the double-shotguns behind them on Sunshine Alley and along South Goldsboro had Black tenants. (West of the tracks, especially on the southern perimeter of downtown, segregation patterns were checkerboard, blocks by block.) See more about short-lived Sunshine Alley here.
Plat Book 1, page 268, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1922.
Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.
Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the intersection of the 100 block of East Barnes Street and the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.
William Hargrove — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith William Hargrove, 32; wife Leuvenia, 30, washing; daughter Bessie, 6, and Lillie, 3; widowed sister Mary Boddie, 25, cooking; and cousin Julious Heat, 20, farm hand.
Isaac J. Young‘s blacksmith shop operated in the present-day location of Worrell’s Seafood. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 315 Spring Street, horse shoer Isaac J. Young, 46; wife Laura, 29; and sons Cornelius, 12, and Robert, 9; plus lodger Henry Moy, 5.
A three-page Wilson Times insert published about 1914 highlighting the town’s “progressive colored citizens” featured City Bakery, then located at 540 East Nash Street, “under Odd Fellows Hall,” with R.B. Bullock as proprietor.
The bakery had a predecessor though, as shown in the 1912 city directory:
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1912).
Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1913.
This detail from the 1913 Sanborn map shows the location of the oven in the back of the small brick “bake house.” In 1914, City Bakery boasted that its premises were “sanitary in ever particular.” Such a claim must have been difficult to make when it sat within feet of multiple rail lines.
Richard Bulluck — Bulluck is listed in the 1912 directory living at 412 South Lodge Street.
Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Here’s a closer look at one side of the first block east of the railroad.
Though described as a restaurant in 1913, the 1912 city director listed Charles H. Knight‘s barbershop at 414 East Nash Street. In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: barber Charles Knight, 35; wife Elsie, 37; and sons Charles, 8, and Frank, 6; plus boarders Ethel Coleman, 23, and Sarah Jackson, 28, both teachers.
Sarah Gaither operated a small eating house at 418 East Nash as early as 1908, per city directories. In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: day laborer Rufus Gaither, 57; wife Sarah, 56; and children Julius, 22, Mandy, 18, Aaron, 17, and Clarence, 15, sharing a house with Ella Gaston, 30, and her sons Ralph, 10, and Albert, 2. Rufus and Sarah Parks Gaither married 2 February 1873 in Iredell County, N.C., and are listed in the 1880 census of Turnersburg, Iredell County, with their young children. Sarah Gaither died 1912-1915. Rufus Gaither died 23 July 1915 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 August 1853 and was a widower. Bertha Farmer was informant.
Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the west side of the first block of South Goldsboro Street.
Hardy & Holland’s livery stable was wedged, improbably, between a wholesale grocery and a garage with a second floor print shop. Per the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, “This business is located on South Goldsboro street between Nash and Barnes streets and the business has been established for the last four years. The proprietor [James Hardy] has succeeded in building up a good patronage. He is very prompt in answering calls and his prices for Livery are very reasonable. Telephone Number 9. Hack and Dray work solicited. The proprietor wants your patronage and guarantees the right sort of treatment. He is a colored man and has the good wishes of all.” Hardy’s business partner was Thomas Holland, a Wake County native.
Henry C. Holden‘s barbershop occupied the basement level of the Branch Bank building at the corner of East Nash and South Goldsboro Streets.
This screenshot from Google Streetview shows the wrought-iron rail around the former exterior entrance to the barbershop below the Branch Bank building.
Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century.
This block of East Nash Street fronts the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad’s passenger station. In 1913, it contained four storefronts, all housing Black-owned businesses, and a large house. Just a few years later, all were demolished to make way for the Terminal Inn, the two-story, multi-bay building that for decades was anchored by Terminal Drug Store and Star Credit Department Store and still stands today.
Moses Brandon operated an eating house next to the Atlantic Coast Line tracks. His death is reported here.
The business at 407 was labeled “cobbler.” The city directory listed Bud Wiley, bootblack, as proprietor.
John G. Corbin‘s pool room rounded out the storefronts. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: street laborer Brazell Winstead, 48; dressmaker Ada, 22; sister-in-law Martha Corben, 31, laborer; and brother-in-law John, 34, farmer. [Braswell Winstead was, in fact, a college-educated teacher turned barber who had been an assistant to postmaster Samuel Vick. It seems unlikely that Martha Corbin was a laborer or John a farmer.]
The house at 401 East Nash was occupied by white millhand J. Frank Johnson.