Rev. and Mrs. Hilliard welcomed to Saint John.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 January 1942.

William A. Hilliard’s World War II draft registration card, filed in Wilson County in 1942. Rev. Hilliard left Wilson in 1948 to assume the pastorate Saint Paul A.M.E. Zion Church.


Bishop William Alexander Hilliard (1904-2008).

“Bishop William Alexander Hilliard, 103, retired bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, died March 13. He was reported to be the oldest living bishop in all of Methodism. The funeral was scheduled for March 22 at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Detroit. Born in 1904 in Greenville, Texas, and educated in Kansas City, Mo., Hilliard received his higher education at Western University and Wayne State University. He was married for 71 years to Edra Mae Hilliard, who died in 1998. Called to the ministry in 1922, Hilliard was ordained a deacon in 1924 and an elder in 1927. He was pastor at more than nine different churches before becoming pastor at St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church in Detroit. He was elected in 1960 as the 67th bishop in the AME Zion Church and retired from the episcopacy in 1980.” [Obituary unattributed, 21 March 2008]

Jet magazine, 20 October 1977.


I didn’t think it was any business of mine what the government did.

Rocky Mount Telegram, 27 January 1939.

In January 1939, a judge sentenced Claud Blake to 30 days’ labor on public roads for defrauding the North Carolina Unemployment Compensation Commission of $1.14. Blake had claimed to be disabled as a result of his World War I service, and, during questioning about it, revealed that he knew a former wife had collected $45 a month in death benefits for three years after she (or someone) filed a false claim. Blake testified that none of it had been any of his business.

Though described as a “Wilson Negro,” Blake was a native of Johnston County native and apparently spent most of his life there. In 1956, however, when he was about 73 years old, he married Mary Joyner, 57, of Elm City, daughter of Dock Powell and Hazel Dawes Powell. Blake died in Raleigh, N.C., in 1961 and is buried in the National Cemetery there.

Cocaine, knock-out drops, and boosted clothes.

We first met Cora Moore when we read of her daring escape from the Wilson city jail. Here’s what put her there to begin with.

It started with the arrest of Mamie Ricks for possession of cocaine and “knock-out drops” after she tried to poison Ada McNeal. When Ricks was arrested at her Railroad Street home, police found “a number of pieces of fine clothing.” Efird’s Department Store quickly identified two silk dresses as goods stolen from them. The remaining items were a mystery, but Joe and Ada McNeal were also charged with larceny.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 November 1923. 

Less than two months later, the police cracked the case.

In short, a New York coat and suit manufacturer shipped goods south via Norfolk Southern freight. About three miles outside Wilson, someone (a co-conspirator?) threw the boxes of clothing off the train. Joe McNeal witnessed “two negroes in a large seven passenger car” stash the clothes at a spot in Grabneck. As the goods were already hot, he tipped off two friends, Cora Moore and Aaron McKeithan, and three retrieved some of them and hid them in a trunk in Moore’s house. When they realized they were under suspicion, they sold as much of the loot as they could.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 January 1924.


Neither Cora Moore, Mamie Ricks, Ada McNeal, Joe McNeal, nor Aaron McKeithan are readily identifiable in Wilson County records. The surnames of the McNeals and McKeithan suggests they came from the Cumberland County, N.C., area, and they may not have remained long in Wilson.

Run over by a reel.

Wilson Advance, 9 January 1896.

John A. Corbett collided with the Red Hots’ hose reel as both dashed to a fire in January 1896. The Red Hots’ reel, which was pulled by hand until the city gave them a horse in 1921, likely looked much like the one below, restored and displayed in the Raleigh Fire Museum. See here for interesting info about the history and operation of hose reels.

Photo courtesy of the Raleigh Fire Museum, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Three deaths announced.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 January 1941.


  • Rev. Walter Thorpe

On 16 November 1921, Walter Thorp, 44, of Wilson, son of Anderson and Lucinda Thorp, married Rebecca Kent, 28, of Wilson, daughter of Elbert and Lissie Kent, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister Bryant P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of W.F Edwards, G.E. Lyles, and S.B. Thomas.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1111 Washington Street, owned and valued at $2000, carpenter Walter Thorpe, 63; wife Rebecca, 46, sewing; and boarder Jane Boyd, 37, county home demonstration agent.

Walter T. Thorpe died 21 January 1941 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 November 1886 in Granville County, N.C., to Anderson Thorpe and Lucy Thorpe; was married to Rebecca Thorpe; lived at 1111 Washington Street; and was a minister.

  • Buddie Hagans — William Lawrence Hagans, Jr.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Larnce Haggan, 49, wife Etha, 44, and children Joe, 21, Augustus, 19, Oscar, 18, Charlie, 16, Annie, 13, Connie, 10, Lena, 8, Mollie, 7, William L., 4, Minnie, 3, and Pattie, 1, and Lawrence’s widowed mother Alice Hagans, 70.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Plank Road, farmer Lawrence Haggans, 60; wife Mary, 56; and children Mollie, 17, Lawrence Jr., 16, Minnie, 14, and Pattie, 12.

On 30 December 1914, Laurence Hagans, 20, of Gardners township, son of Laurence and Mary Hagans, married Mary Thomas, 16, of Gardners township, daughter of Alfred and Lou Thomas, at Alfred Thomas‘.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Lawrence Haggans, 24; wife Mary, 22; daughter D. Ermie, 4; and cousin Jordan Thomas, 13.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farm laborer W.L. Hagans, 46; wife Mary, 41; and daughter Erma Dean, 25.

William F. [sic] Hagans died 19 January 1941 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 47 years old; was born in Wilson County to Larence Hagans and Mary Pender; was married to Mary Hagans; and worked as a farmer.

  • Rev. G.S. Bobbitt

In the 1900 census of Long Acre township, Beaufort County, North Carolina: odd jobs laborer Sidney G. Bobbitt, 38; wife Millie, 33; and children Walter L., 12, Ernest, 10, Viola, 4, and Lillie, 1.

In the 1930 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County, North Carolina: farmer Sidney Bobbitt, 54; wife Millie, 52; children Agnes, 18, and Ellen, 14, ;and granddaughter Anna Lee, 5.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nathaniel Winstead, 27; wife Ellen, 25; and son Nathaniel Jr., 3; plus lodger Sidney Bobbitt, 65.

Giles Stanley Bobbitt died 21 January 1941 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 65 years old; was born in Granville County to Elex Bobbitt; was the widower of Millie Bobbitt; was engaged in preaching; and was buried in Rountree [probably Vick] cemetery. Walter Lee Bobbitt was informant.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.