Intersection of Nash and Pender.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, North Carolina.

  1. Colored Baptist Church — Formerly home to First Missionary Baptist Church, by 1922 this wood-framed building housed Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist Church.
  2. Wilson County Gin Company — A cotton gin. The main building later housed Faulkner Neon Company.
  3. 546 East Nash Street — In the 1922-23 Wilson city directory, this house is listed as the residence of several apparently unrelated people, including tobacco workers James Baker and James Green, helper Robert Hines, and laundress Easter Ruffin.
  4. 548 East Nash Street — J. Wesley Rogers, a porter at Oettinger’s department store, lived at this address. By the 1930s, this house had been demolished, and a fish market stood in its place.
  5. Law office at 550 East Nash Street — The 1922-23 Wilson city directory shows African-American attorney Glenn S. McBrayer‘s business address as 525 East Nash. Oddly, the advertising novelties concern of white businessman Troy T. Liverman and the office of African-American physician Michael E. DuBissette are listed at 550.
  6. Watch shop at 552 East Nash Street — Robert T. Alston ran a jewelry and watch repair shop at this location.
  7. Grocery at 556 East Nash Street — The 1922-23 city directory carries no listing for 556 East Nash, but at 558 there is the white-owned grocer Baxter & Company.
  8. Pender Street — In 1922, Pender Street ended (or began) at Nash Street. The dog-legged continuation across Nash was then called Stantonsburg Street. Much later, the course of Pender was shifted via an angle to meet Stantonsburg Street, and Stantonsburg was renamed Pender.

Finch’s Mill Road (or, Erasure, no. 2).

Wilson Advance, 16 February 1899.


Wrote Bainbridge and Ohno in Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey (1980):

“Finch’s Mill Road was developed in the 1920’s on the former site of a shantytown.”

The “shantytown,” of course, was an African-American community. Until the 1920s, Finch’s Mill, like nearby Grabneck, was a black westside neighborhood.

“A natural extension of Residence Park, lying between that neighborhood and the main road to Raleigh (Rt. 264), Finch’s Mill Road, as it name suggests, once led to Finch’s Mill, outside of Wilson. A major change in the roadway in the 1920’s and then again in the 1970’s has changed this neighborhood. In the 1920’s Finch’s Mill Road became a less traveled way and it linked the older residential neighborhoods to the fashionable neighborhood which was to grow in the 1930;s along the Raleigh Road axis beyond Recreation Park. Finch’s Mill Road sill branches this gap between the old and the new neighborhoods. The character of the neighborhood is mainly residential, although the Recreation Park creates a large public open space. A few houses were built here in the 1920’s, but the bulk of the growth of the neighborhood took place after 1930, although few houses are being constructed in the 1970’s.”

Here is Finch’s Mill Road as depicted in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, branching west off the northern end of Kenan Street and heading out toward Nash County. It is lined with tiny duplexes, likely no more than one or two rooms per side. (Finch’s Mill Road is now Sunset Road. South Bynum roughly follows the course of today’s Raleigh Road; the little spur is Cozart Road; and Sunset Drive is now Sunset Crescent.)

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, 29 households appear on Finch Mill Road, every single one of them African-American.

Excerpt from 1910 census of E.D. 114, Wilson township, Wilson County.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 October 1918.

In 1920,  the census taker recorded 23 households on Finch’s Mill, mostly African-American, but with a sizable white minority. All were farmers, and none of the black heads of household owned their land. Soon, however, there would be no farmers of any kind at the end of the road nearest town.

In the mid 1920s, a large swath of the neighborhood, now known as Westover, was subdivided into “high-class residential” lots on Kenan and Bynum Streets, Sunset Road and Sunset Crescent, and offered for sale at auction:

Wilson Mirror, 16 December 1924.

Wilson Mirror, 17 December 1924.

By 1930, the old neighborhood was gone. Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory for that year lists only four occupied households on “Finch’s Road” and only one by an African-American family, the Reeds at #630. It’s not entirely clear what thoroughfare was considered Finch’s at that point, as the section of Finch’s Mill off Kenan Street had been rechristened Sunset Road and was home to Wilson’s white elite. The 1930 census lists cotton merchant Willie T. Lamm in a $25,000 house on “Westover.” Next door, in what may have been the last of the little duplexes shown on the 1922 Sanborn map, this household: Louisiana-born farmer Zion Read, 56, his North Carolina-born wife Lara, 25, and children Zoreana, 8, Hesicae, 12, William, 4, and Walter E., 0, in one half, and farm helper Jack Dixon, 25, wife Hattie, 24, their children John H., 3, and Susie M., 0, and a roomer Fes Scarboro, 45, in the other. Each family paid $6/month rent. Nearby, wholesale distributor John J. Lane was listed in a $15,000 house at 1015 Sunset Drive.

This Google Maps image shows today’s short stretch of Sunset Road, formerly Finch’s Mill Road, between Kenan Street and its dead-end at Recreation Park Community Center. The old road would have skirted the swimming pool and continued west across Hominy Swamp toward Finch’s Mill, five miles away near what is now the intersection of Raleigh Road/U.S. 264 and Interstate 95.


  • Windsor Darden — in the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Winsor Dardin, 45; wife Mattie, 35; and children George, 22, Jesse, 16, Willie, 14, Winsor, 12, Charlie, 10, Olivia, 7, Annie M., Leroy, 3, and Mattie, 9 months.
  • Luther, Henry and Lottie Harris

Wilson Daily Times, 15 November 1910.


Wrote Robert C. Bainbridge and Kate Ohno in Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey (1980):

“Residence Park was Wilson’s first subdivision. This land, formerly used as farmland, on the western edge of Wilson was purchased by a group of developers from Norfolk, Virginia. The first lot was sold to Selby Hurt Anderson in 1906. The architectural fabric of the area is predominately representative of the Bungalow style, although many houses were built in the Colonial Revival style as well. This area flourished in the 1910’s and 1920’s but few houses date after 1930. Residence Park is the most cohesive residential neighborhood in town.”

Farmland? No doubt there were farms in the area. However, Residence Park’s development and expansion came at the immediate expense of the black community of Grabneck, which, anchored by the Best family, had taken root along a stretch of West Nash Street in the late 1800s. By the mid-1920s, all traces of the Bests and their neighbors had disappeared under Residence Park’s lovely bungalows, and within a few decades few remembered that black people had ever lived on that side of town.  Here, encapsulated, is the raison d’etre of Black Wide-Awake — to combat the erasure of African-American people and spaces of historic Wilson.

Detail of Bainbridge and Ohno’s map of Residence Park, which lies atop the old Grabneck neighborhood. #322, the H.W. Abbitt home, was built on land purchased from Wilson and Ada Best.

For more about Grabneck, see here and here and here and here.

Sanctified church.

The 1913 edition of Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson shows a small building on East Jones Street, near South Lodge, labeled Sanctified Church (Negro).

The 1912 city directory reveals this to be Holy Apostolic, one of four African-American Holiness churches large and permanent enough to be mentioned.

The 1913 Sanborn map shows the church next door to 313 East Jones, but by 1922, per Sanborn, the address had been renumbered 414.  The lot is now vacant and is adjacent to a rambling sheet metal warehouse at 410-A once occupied by Mello Buttercup Ice Cream Company.

These streets, 1904.

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The United States Geological Survey’s 1904 topographic map of Wilson Quadrangle offers clear detail of Wilson just after the turn of the 20th century.

East Wilson’s streets are clearly recognizable to anyone who knows them today:

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A few observations:

  • The long diagonal at top right is now Ward Boulevard and, once it crosses U.S. Highway 301, Lipscomb Road.
  • Crowell, Vance, Viola and Green Streets terminated at the town limits, just west of present-day Vick Street. Elba is the tiny street between Green and Viola.
  • Church Street runs parallel and south of Green.
  • Though Manchester appears to continue north across Nash Street, it in fact doglegged slightly to become Ashe Street.
  • The street I’ve identified as East may have been Narroway.
  • Once it crossed city limits headed east, Nash Street became the Plank Road. It is now known as Martin Luther King Parkway east of U.S. Highway 301.
  • Pender Street became Stantonsburg Street when it crossed Nash. Now, just past Cemetery Street, the street is Black Creek Road. Another road branches off to join Lane Street. Just south of what is now Lincoln Street, the road branches again. The eastern branch (below the number 133) is now Stantonsburg Road.
  • The map shows a couple of houses on the north side of Lane Street, located on land that is now part of Rest Haven cemetery. The map also shows a tee intersection at elevation 131. One may still turn left toward Rountree cemetery on the continuation of Lane Street, but there is no road to the right.
  • The waterway in the top right corner is Toisnot Swamp. The smaller waterways south of Toisnot are branches of Hominy Swamp.

On the other side of town, Grabneck is also clearly visible at upper left:



A GIS map of East Wilson reveals a curiously continuous lot line running from Nash Street (east of Ashe) to Reid Street (just south of Green). The diagonal, which I have paralleled below with a thicker line for great visibility, does not appear to mark an old city limit or plat line, though it would seem to predate East Wilson’s grid. How did it come to be?

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Map by Wilson County GIS/Mapping Office, a division of Wilson County Planning Department, available here.

Plans for future growth.

This map was produced just past the period of focus of Black Wide-Awake, but I post it for the crystal-clear view it gives of mid-century Wilson’s residential segregation patterns.  It appeared in the 14 April 1951 issue of the Wilson Daily Times under the heading “Map Shows Zoning Plans for Future Growth of the City of Wilson.”

Here’s the key:

The dot-and-dash of proposed zone RA 5 Residential not coincidentally was coterminous with the East Wilson and Daniel Hill neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were black, and the “plans for future growth” intended to keep them that way.

Rountree Place.

Though undated, this plat likely was surveyed in the first decade of the 20th century. The grid is readily recognizable today, though the names of several interior streets have changed (or never received the planned names in the first place) and Wiggins Street was lost to the Hines Street Connector project in the early 1970s. Robeson, Manchester and Nash Streets follow the same paths today. East is largely the same, thought lost its tip at what is now Hines Street. Of the numbered streets, only Fourth remains. Second is the doglegged continuation of Vick Street, as Third is of Reid. Fifth Street was once renamed to continue Carroll, but now, running behind the Freeman Round House Museum, is Bill Myers Avenue.

The designation of the block between Manchester, Nash, East and Robeson as “Little Richmond” is puzzling, as that neighborhood is described as having been near the railroad tracks and the Richmond Maury stemmery. Maybe not though, as this notice clears makes reference to the lot marked above:

Wilson Daily Times, 1922.

Plat Book 78, pages 34-35, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson; image of modern grid courtesy of

A closer look at the 1872 map of Wilson.

In a post about the 1872 E.B. Mayo map of Wilson, I erroneously stated that Lemon Taborn‘s barber shop was the only African-American landmark depicted. A close look at a clearer image of the map revealed two others.

Tilman McGowan‘s house was on Vance Street northwest of Pine Street. McGowan was the long-time jail keeper in Wilson. His house and the lot on which it was situated were sold at auction after McGowan’s death.

On Tarboro Street, west of Barnes, there is a reference to “Jack Williams Black Smith Shop,” which is likely to have been the workshop of blacksmith Jack Williamson.