Photographs

The Colored High School on display.

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This photograph of Wilson Colored High School was displayed in Philadelphia’s Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926. It was one of several dozen featured in an exhibit staged by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Division of Negro Education. The caption: Cost of Building $65,000.00 — Total Value Colored School Property $96,250.00 — Total Population of the City 14,000 — Total Colored Population of City 6,650.

From Sesquicentennial International Exposition Photographs, Division of Negro Education, Department of Public Instruction, North Carolina State Archives.

507 Church Street.

This heavily modified shotgun house on Church Street is not located in the East Wilson Historic District. Nor was its single block included in the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse District, though it lies just behind East Nash and Pettigrew Streets. Once densely packed with working-class housing, Church Street is now empty. Only three houses stand on the block, none occupied, and 507 is the last house remaining on the north side of the street.

The 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories list Lucy Sherrod at 507 Church. Also in 1930: Hall Lonnie (c; Mamie L) laborer 507 Church

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Church, renting for $16/month, Lonnie Hall, 34, odd jobs laborer, wife Mamie, 34, hotel maid, and daughter Elsie, 2; nieces and nephews Estha, 16, Christine, 13, and lodgers Lucile Sherif [sic], 30, widow, hotel maid, Lucile Sherif, 14, and Jack Sherif, 17, odd jobs laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Church, renting for $12/month, laborer Will Rogers, 28, and wife Sally, 30, odd jobs. Both seemed to be Arkansas natives — he, from Pine Bluff, and she, from Fayetteville.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Rogers William (c; Sallie) yd mn 507 Church

As the Central Business Historic District survey map shows, as recently as 1984, Church Street was filled with houses. 507 is encircled.

Google Maps shot this image of 507 Church in 2012. It appears that, at that time, the house was occupied.

The grave of Rev. Richard J. Young.

The grave marker of Rev. R.J. Young, Masonic cemetery, Wilson.

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In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: P.J. [sic] Young, 57, farmer; wife Mary, 44; and children Bertha, 24, Rosa, 22, Emma, 20, Mary, 17, and Louise, 11.

Richard J. Young died 28 November 1933 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 May 1876 in Sumter, South Carolina, to Richard Young and Emma Scott; was married to Mary Young; resided at Route 3, Wilson; and worked as a farmer.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

Fred Artis brings local history to life.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 June 1992.

On 9 October 1912, Fred Artis, 23, married Mattie Lewis, 18, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Alonzo Phillips, Samuel Mercer and Tobe Beland.

In the 1920 census of Fountain township, Pitt County: Fred Artis, 33; wife Mattie, 23; and children Christine, 5, and Fred, 4.

Mattie Artis died 2 December 1927 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 32 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Frank Lewis and Clarrisa Joyner; married to Fred Artis; and resided at 1013 Stantonsburg Street.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 101 Reid Street, school janitor Fred Artist, 56, widower; children Christine, 16, Fred, 14, and Mildred, 11; and lodger Luddie Brown, 22, private cook.

Fred Artis [Sr.] died 12 May 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 38 years old; was born in Wilson County to Edward Artis and Addie Artis; was married to Annie Artis; lived at 101 Reid Street. Fred Artis Jr. was informant.

In 1940, Fred Artis Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 17 March 1916 in Wilson; resided at 101 North Reid Street; his contact was mother Annie Artis; and he was unemployed.

Betty Ann Artis died 4 December 1960 in Wilson at her home at 501-A Hadley Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 September 1925 in Wilson County to Ben Guest and Fannie Harris; and was married to Fred Artis.

Nona Braswell Artis died 17 September 1996.

Fred Artis Jr. died 18 September 2000 in Wilson.

Wiley Ricks is still barbering.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 October 1980.

Wiley Ricks and young customer.

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In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Millie Ricks, 40, widow, with sons William, 12, and Wiley, 1.

In the 1910 census

On 27 July 1918, Wiley Ricks, 21, of Toisnot, married Fannie Fort, 21, of Toisnot, in Elm City. Presbyterian minister A.E. Sephas performed the ceremony in the presence of John Gaston, Samuel T. Ford and T.H. Nicholson.

Fannie Ford Ricks died 9 March 1924 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 January 1899 in Wilson County to Sam Ford of Halifax County and Mattie Williams of Wilson County and was married to Wiley Ricks.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Wiley Ricks, 30, barber; wife Carrie, 29; and children Miriam, 2, and Maggie, 9 months.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Branch Street, barber Wiley Ricks, 41; wife Cary P., 39; and children Miriam, 12, Maggie R., 10, Lois, 8, and Malinda, 1.

Wylie Ricks died 28 March 1985 in Hollister, Halifax County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 December 1898 in Wilson County to Wiley Sharpe and Millie Sharpe; was a barber; resided in Elm City; and was married to Carrie Parker Ricks.

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A 1947 photo taken outside Wiley Ricks’ barbershop. Courtesy of Thomas Griffin via Wilson Daily Times, 15 January 2002.

Haircut photo courtesy of article re Ricks in History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

Finding the Newsomes’ resting place.

Searching for Wilson County’s Lost Cemeteries: Project pinpoints gravesites before nature reclaims them.

By Drew C. Wilson, Wilson Times, 29 June 2018.

Brian Grawburg stops his pickup truck at the end of a farm path between an old hedgerow and a field off Radford Road.

“There it is,” Grawburg says, pointing to the underbrush where two flat marble headstones have come into view.

The 72-year-old retiree is on a search for hidden and overgrown cemeteries in Wilson County.

Grawburg erects a ladder in the bed of his truck, climbs up and points his camera at the graves. He makes a couple of pictures with a 1937 Leica rangefinder and climbs down to note the cemetery’s location with a modern GPS tracker.

These are the gravestones of Amos and Martha Newsome, husband and wife, who called Wilson County home in the late 1800s. A neighbor across the road had told Grawburg about the graveyard’s existence, and this was his second visit to the spot. Upon closer inspection, Grawburg notes the presence of another grave a few feet deeper into the woods.

Hidden behind a shield of Virginia creeper, smilax and scuppernong grape vines is a marble obelisk not quite waist-high. The face of the monument is clean and the inscription is clear.

Edna Newsom, 1846 to 1913, Kind angels watch her sleeping dust.”

“It’s a very nice stone,” Grawburg comments. “That one we’re going to have to carefully look at.”

Despite the difference in the last name spelling, Grawburg wonders if Edna might be Amos’ mother, but he’s not sure.

“Martha died in 1902, and he’s 1919,” Grawburg said. “That is certainly where we will have to get more information.”

Grawburg says he can’t wait to tell Joan Howell that he has found another headstone.

MAKING A LIST

Joan Howell has compiled four books on Wilson County cemeteries. The first one was completed in 1993, and she is currently working on her fifth. All were projects supported by the Wilson County Genealogical Society with information supplied by the group’s members.

It is Howell’s work and old Work Progress Administration surveys from the 1930s that offer hints as to where Grawburg may find the forgotten cemeteries.

The Wilson resident will sometimes wear boots to protect his shins from snakes and ticks and take along clippers to cut back “vines from hell” as he calls them.

Grawburg is building a photographic record of deceased Wilson County residents.

He’s not interested in the cemeteries that are neatly kept. Those are the ones that are already well-known.

Grawburg is interested in finding the ones that have been overgrown and rest in little patches of woods in farm fields, at the edges of subdivisions, anywhere that Mother Nature has waged a battle to reclaim the plots.

“It doesn’t take long,” Grawburg said.

A cemetery can go from being well-maintained to overgrown in a matter of a few years.

“This is top priority because they are becoming nonexistent,” Howell said.

An example is the B. Ellis cemetery in a small plot hidden by trees and overgrowth that is unseen by passing traffic off Forest Hills Road in Wilson.

“There are 35 people in there, and you don’t know there is a single one in there,” Grawburg said. “That cemetery is right there.”

Grawburg said with 16 cemeteries Howell recently found and added to the list, there are about 260 known cemeteries in Wilson County.

There are estimates that there could be another couple of hundred cemeteries that are not documented in the county.

‘IT’S EXCITING’

At age 85 and after two hip replacements, Howell still puts on her “snake boots” and heads into the woods to search.

“It’s exciting,” Howell said. “I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. Some people don’t know where their grandmothers and their grandfathers are. I just love doing this. I lament the fact that I am not as able as I once was.”

Grawburg and Howell will often meet in the genealogical room of the Wilson County Public Library to share notes. On Thursday, Howell spread out a United States Geological Survey topographical map with handwritten notations marking cemeteries that had been located.

“I don’t put anything on the map until I find the cemetery, and then I give it a name,” Howell said.

Howell said locating gravestones is vital to filling in Wilson County’s history.

“Death certificates didn’t begin to be recorded until 1913, and then they were spotty. So this is a means of recording people who might not have been noted elsewhere,” Howell said. “It is a way of preserving history and family information.”

Grawburg and Howell said there have been rare instances where farmers have driven implements over cemeteries, knocking over gravestones, and have even taken them away from the actual graves.

“That is distressing to me,” Grawburg said.

It is also a violation of state law, he added.

When Grawburg finds a grave, he wonders who the person was, how he ended up there and what he died from, particularly the children who are interred.

“Did they have scarlet fever? Did they have measles? I think about that,” Grawburg said. “Why did they die? Why so young?”

Grawburg traveled to upstate New York to locate his own relatives.

“I think about my reaction when I found my great-great-great-great-grandfather and you say, ‘Geez, I’m standing on the grave where we’re related.’ There is just something cool about that,” Grawburg said. “Not everybody sees that, but it is kind of neat to say that there’s a connection.”

Grawburg hopes that living Wilson County residents might have the same experience after their ancestors’ graves have been located.

He said there is the joy of saving somebody’s heritage regardless of the fact that he is not a relative.

“I don’t know Amos Newsome,” Grawburg said. “I don’t know anything about him. I don’t know any of his family. I have no connection to him whatsoever. None. Well, somebody does.”

Both Grawburg and Howell said tips from the public about the locations of lost cemeteries are valuable in the search.

“If they would show me where the cemeteries are, that would be helpful,” Howell said. “This is such a large project and I don’t know when we will ever get through with it.”

People interested in the project may contact Grawburg by email at archive@myglnc.com.

——

Benjamin Newsome and Edna Newsome registered their 16-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866.

In the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Newsom, 50; wife Edna, 31; and children Amos, 10, Gray, 18, Pennina, 16, Mary, 13, Louisa, 9, Larry, 7, and Joseph, 5.

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Benjamin Newsome, 53; wife Edna, 40; and children Oliver, 21, Amos, 19, Gray, 18, Penelope, 6, and Mary, 2.

On 23 December 1883, Amos Newsom, 23, married Martha Ann Barnes, 22, in Wilson County.

After Benjamin Newsome’s death in 1893, Edna Newsome applied for letters of administration for his estate. A Report of Commissioners valued his personal estate (excluding land) at $400. At his death, he had owned a safe; a bureau and its contents; four beds, [bed]steads and contents; another bed and bedstead; two trunks; a sewing machine; a table; a clock; eight chairs; a stove and contents; two more tables and contents; a lard stand; another safe and contents; a saw; three trays; two jugs; a jar; two pots; a tub; two buckets; one lot of corn (about 15 barrels); two stacks of fodder; two mules; one wagon and gear; one cart; farm tools; a barrel of syrup; two wheels; a loom; four bushels of pears; two bushels of wheat; nine hogs; 150 bushels of potatoes; 150 bushels of cotton seed; seven geese; 25 chickens; 500 pounds of tobacco; and 1200 pounds of seed cotton.

On 31 January 1900, Edna Newsome, 55, of Cross Roads, married Ishmael Wilder, 60, of Springhill township, at Newsome’s residence. W.H. Horton, “minister of the Christian denom.,” performed the ceremony in the presence of Grant Farmer, W.T. Barnes, and L.H. Newsome.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Ishmael Wilder, 63; wife Edney, 55; and daughter Clara, 26.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Joseph L. Newsom, 34; wife Virginia L., 34; mother Edna, 65; and sister Mary E., 42.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Amos Newsom, 55; [second] wife Frances, 30; and children Lena, 21, Mamie, 17, Mattie, 14, Linettie, 5, Clevland, 2, Willie, 20, and Albert, 18.

Amos Newsom died 8 June 1919 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1859 in Wilson County to Benjamin and Edna Newsom of Wilson County; was married to Francis Newsom; owned his farm; and was buried in the “country.” Informant was Larry Newsome.

Image of estate document available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Rest in peace, Willia B. Jones Turner.

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Willia Bea Jones Turner

7 August 1923 – 27 December 2018

“’If I can help somebody … then my living has not been in vain’ personifies the life and legacy Willia Turner.

“Willia, of Wilson, was born Aug. 7, 1923. She was the fourth child of Wesley and Martha Jones. She graduated from Darden High School, North Carolina A&T State University with a bachelor of science degree, and Queens College in New York City with a master of science degree. In the 1940s she moved to New York City where she met and married the love of her life, Wilber Turner. She worked for the New York Urban League, was one of the first fashion models of the historic African American Grace del Marco Modeling Agency, was a claims examiner for New York State Department of Unemployment and was both a teacher and guidance counselor in the New York City Department of Education, retiring in 1986. After retiring, she and Wilber relocated to Wilson in 1987. While in Wilson, she filled her days with volunteer work at the board of elections and Wilson County OIC. She was an active member of Jackson Chapel Church, Wilson Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., Darden Alumni, North Carolina A&T Alumni and more.

“She was preceded in death by her husband, Marion Wilberforce Turner “Wilber” in 2013. Since 2012, she has been lovingly cared for by her granddaughter, Shaunna.

“Her life will be celebrated at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4, at the Darden Alumni Center, 1600 Lipscomb Road, Wilson.

“The family requests, in lieu of flowers, please send a donation in Willia J. Turner’s memory to the Darden Alumni or Wilson Chapter of North Carolina A&T Alumni.” — Wilson Times, 3 January 2019.

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Photographs courtesy of Shaunna M. Stevens.

Snaps, no. 48: Hilliard S. “Dock” Cotton.

Per the caption in “Black History Month,” Wilson Daily Times, 22 February 2008, page 6c, “Hilliard S. ‘Dock’ Cotton was operator of Cotton’s Grocery at the corner of Carroll and Carolina Streets. He was an African-American entrepreneur during the 1950s and 1960s.”

The grocery at Carroll and Carolina Streets is on the southwest corner — 1114 Carolina Street.

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In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Henry Cotten, 44; wife Lula, 37; and children Hilliard, 15, and Ardelia, 14; all farm laborers.

In 1940, Hilliard Sander Cotton registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 17 August 1914 in Black Creek, N.C.; lived at 27 Carolina Street; worked for Wilson Veneer Company; and was married to Phoebe Cotton.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Dock (c; Phoebe, 5) fireman h 1222 Carolina

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Dock (c: Phoebe) lab h 1222 Carolina; (also) Cotton Hilliard S (c) lab Wilson Veneer h 27 Carolina

In the 1960 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cotton Hilliard S (Phoebe B) clipper opr Wilson Veneer h 1303 Carolina; (also) Cottons Grocery Store (Hilliard S Cotton) groceries candy soft drinks wine kerosene 1114 Carolina; (also) Cotton Phoebe B Mrs cash Cottons Gro Store h 1303 Carolina

Hilliard (Dock) Cotton died 23 April 1963 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 August 1914 in Wilson County to William H. Cotton and Clara Cotton; was married to Phoebe Cotten; lived at 1216 Carolina Street; worked as a clipper operator/laborer; was buried in Jones Hill cemetery.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 April 1965.

Rev. Phoebe Ann Britton Cotton died 15 December 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 February 1916 in South Carolina to Waitis Barnwell Britton and Emma Britton; was a widow; resided at 1303 Carolina Street; and was a minister. John Cotton of Augusta, Georgia, was informant. She was buried in Jones Hill cemetery.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 September 1955.

 

 

1209 East Nash Street.

The ninety-sixth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “1927; 1 story; William Wells house; bungalow with gable roof and engaged porch; built by Nestus Freeman; Wells was an auto mechanic.”

The house lies within the boundaries of the first phase of the Freeman Place housing redevelopment project and is the sole remaining pre-World War II house between Carroll Street and U.S. Highway 301.

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In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wells Mazie tchr h 1209 E Nash; (also) Wells Wm auto repr RFD No 4 h 1209 E Nash;

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wells Wm (c; Mazie H) prop Wells Garage h 1209 E Nash

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1207 [sic] East Nash, owned and valued at $1500, auto mechanic at garage William Wells, 34; wife Mazie, 32, public school teacher; son George, 7; brother-in-law George Cooper, 46, tobacco factory laborer; and sister Aldreta Cooper, 26, cook.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wells Wm (c; Mazie H) (Wells’ Garage) h 1209 E Nash; (also) Wells’ Garage (c; Wm Wells) 1401 E Nash

Charles Rudolph Bridgers died 15 January 1937 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 7 months, 5 days old and was born in Wilson to Jessie Bridgers and Margaret Kittrell.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: renting for $8/month, Jessie Bridgers, 32, truck driver for furniture company; wife Margaret, 27; and children Elizabeth, 6, and Jessie Jr., 5.

In 1940, Jessie James Bridgers registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 6 July 1905 in Halifax, N.C.; his contact was wife Margarette Bridgers; and he worked for J.W. Thomas and V.C. Martin at Thomas Yelverton in Wilson.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bridgers Jesse (c; Margt; 4) furn repr h 1209 E Nash

Wilson Daily Times, 19 January 1946.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Currie David (c; Rematha) lndry wrkr h 1209 E Nash

In a 3 September 1993 Wilson Daily Times article, “City OKs Owner Occupancy-Based Redevelopment”:

“City Council unanimously approved the Redevelopment Demonstration Project Area plan Thursday night despite concerns expressed by some property owners.

“The city proposes to redevelop the two-acre area bounded  by Nash, Carroll, Atlantic and Wainwright streets through housing acquisition, demolition and new construction activities. The redevelopment plan calls for construction of 12 new single-family homes for owner occupancy.

“The sole existing house to be spared demolition — and the only owner-occupied unit — is at 1209 E. Nash St. Charity Speight and her husband own that property.

“‘I was very concerned that no one came to talk to us,’ Mrs. Speight told council. ‘I feel we should have some input too.’ She said the house was rehabilitated two years ago. Even with those improvements, the house will not meet the standards of the new houses to be constructed on the rest of the block. Mrs. Speight said she and her husband are still paying off the rehabilitation loan and cannot afford to put more money into home improvements.”

A notice of conveyance published in the Times a year later made clear the exclusion of the Speights’ home from the city’s redevelopment project:

Wilson Daily Times, 29 October 1994.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2018.

Melia azedarach.

Chainyball trees, as they are locally called, are small, multi-trunked trees that produce copious yellow drupes in fall. These fruit persist well into winter and create a noisome sludge when they fall and rot. Though now widely regarded as an invasive species and a “trash tree,” the chinaberry tree, Melia azedarach, was once as common in East Wilson landscapes as the still-popular crepe myrtle.

Fruit, close-up.

“Chainy balls” in late December.

Chinaberry tree in front of a South Lodge Street house.