Most “deed” books stacked in the search room of the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office contain just deeds, but others, like Volume 72, contain miscellaneous records of sales agreements, leases, contracts, chattel mortgages, and other transactions. These documents offer rare glimpses of the commercial and farming lives of Black Wilsonians.
On 7 October 1904, Richard Renfrow agreed to pay Wootten, Stevens & Company $33.75 in thirty installments for “one Barber chair & covered in Mohair plush, color Red, Oak frame, Nickel plated irons” and “one Mirror 18X40 in Gilt Frame (Bevel Mirror).” Deed Book 72, page 8.
On 22 March 1905, to secure a $50 debt, Arch Atkinson mortgaged to James H. Williamson “one bay mare mule named Puss, also all the crops made on my home place of every description.” Deed Book 72, page 37.
On 24 June 1905, to secure a $209.45 debt, J.W. Rogers mortgaged to The B.A. Stevens Company “one 4-1/2 x 9 No. 4537 Buckeye Pool Table with bed and cushion cloth; 1 set of pool balls; one cue rack; 1 ball rack; 1 dozen cues; 1 brush; 1 bridge; 1 basket; 1 shake bottle; 1 set shake balls; 1 triangle; 1 rail fork bit; one 4-1/2 x 9 No. 4539 Elmwood Pool Table with bed and cushion cloth; 1 set of pool balls; one cue rack; 1 ball rack; 1 dozen cues; 1 brush; 1 bridge; 1 basket; 1 shake bottle; 1 set shake balls; 1 triangle; 1 rail fork bit. Located in his place of business ….” Deed book 72, page 55.
On 5 October 1905, to secure a $50 debt, C.H. Knight mortgaged to The Eugene Berninghaus Company “2 Climax Barber Chairs, oak wood now located on the premises known as C.H. Knight’s Barber Shop in Wilson.” Deed book 72, page 69. [Charles Knight’s barbershop was on East Nash Street just across the railroad tracks from the Atlantic Coast Line passenger station and likely catered to white travelers and drummers.]
Beringhaus “Climax” chair, circa 1890. Auctioned in 2018 by Rich Penn Auctions, Waterloo, Iowa.
On 27 November 1905, Samuel H. Vick agreed to sell R.J. Grantham for $1725 a lot on the south side of Barnes Street known as the former home place of Wiley Corbett, it being the lot Vick bought from J.D. Lee and wife. Deed book 72, page 76. [Wiley Corbett was a grocer, hotelier, whiskey distiller, and barroom. I’m not sure exactly where his house was on Barnes Street, but it was likely one of several two-story dwellings depicted on East Barnes between Spring [Douglas] and Lodge Streets in the 1903 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.]
On 24 November 1905, to secure a $99.45 debt, Richard Renfrow mortgaged to Koken Barber’s Supply Company of Saint Louis, Missouri, the following items from Koken’s 1905 catalog, which were to be placed in Renfrow’s “one story metal covered building, known as Wiggins Building on Nash Street”: “two 142 One Lever barber chairs … upholstered in maroon plush,” “four #333 mirroes 24 x 30 bevel” and four “327 mirroes bevel,” all of oak. Deed book 72, page 83.
On 14 September 1906, F.S. Hargrave sold to F.O. Williston “all of the Drugs, Medicines, Sundries, and fixtures of the Ideal Pharmacy,” as well as accounts payable and receivable, but not the soda fountain, tanks, and other apparatus in the shop. Deed book 72, page 171.
On 1 January 1907, to secure a debt of $150, Raeford Dew mortgaged to Patience Lamm, on whose land in Cross Roads township Dew was engaged in the cultivation of various crops, “one bay mare mule bought of John T. Moore, one iron axle cart, two plows, one turning plow the other cotton plow and all other farming implements,” plus all crops cultivated in 1907. Deed book 72, page 176-177. [Six months later, Dew shot and killed his wife Mittie Dew and her lover, his brother Amos Dew.]
I have repeatedly gushed my admiration for the artistry of gravestone cutterClarence B. Best. In William Chapel church cemetery, I noticed two headstones bearing the distinctive work of another artist, this one unknown. He worked in concrete, incising narrow, upright letters with oversized serifs into the face of each marker. These markers, created during the decade after World War II, also feature highly stylized floral designs.
William Wells July 30_1886 Oct. 25_1946 Gone But Not Forgotten
Carrie Walker Blackston (1897-1972), standing in front of the Parker-Kerbo home at 104 Ash Street.
Jerilyn James Lee provided this photo of her maternal grandmother, Carrie Walker Blackston, who worked for decades at Lucille’s Bridal Shop in Wilson. Says Lee, Lucille’s “was the premier bridal shop for eastern North Carolina, and practically every white bride of social standing within a hundred miles bought their debutante and wedding dresses from Lucille’s. My grandmother Carrie was the head seamstress there for decades from the late ’40’s until the early ’70’s, not just for alterations and fittings, but she designed several dresses on her own. She had earned the right as an elder to be called Miss Carrie by young white customers in a time when that was uncommon. Sadly, it was also at a time in history when Black women could work there, but not shop there until the late 1960’s. She was always beautifully dressed herself, and sharp as nails….”
On 18 July 1909, James Blackston, 24, of Johnston County, son of Pleasant A. and Charity Blackston, married Katie [sic] Walker, 21, of Wayne County, daughter of Nelson and Jane Walker, at Nelson Walker’s residence in Brogden township, Wayne County, North Carolina.
In 1918, James William Blackston registered for the World War I draft in Sampson County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 21 March 1885; lived at R.F.D. 1, Duplin County, North Carolina; was farming for himself in Piney Grove township, Sampson County; and his nearest relative was Kattie [sic] Bell Blackston.
In the 1920 census of Brogden township, Wayne County: on Smith Chapel and Faison Road, farmer Jim Blackston, 35; wife Katie [sic], 30; and children Lee, 12, Pleasant N., 10, Wiam, 6, James H., 4, Alfonso, 2, Ila, 1, and Christine, 4 months.
In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, James Blackston, 50; wife Katie B. [sic], 40; and children Pleasant N., 18, William J., 17, James H., 15, Alfonzer, 13, Ila M., 11, Christine, 9, Hilton [Hilda] R., 8, James Jr., 6, A.C., 4, and L.Z., 3.
In 1943, Albert Charles Blackston registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 20 February 1925 in Wilson; lived at 113 Narroway Street; his nearest relative was mother Carrie Walker Blackston, 113 Narroway; and he was unemployed.
In 1945, Louis Zebelon Blackston registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 1 December 1927 in Wilson; lived at 113 Narroway Street; his nearest relative was Carrie Blackston, 113 Narroway; and he worked for Mansfield Paper Company, Wilson.
Carrie Blackston died 9 October 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 April 1897 to Nelson Walker and Jane Kornegay; was widowed; and lived at 406 South Daniel Street. Hilda B. Forbes was informant.
In 1942, Fletcher Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he worked for “J.Y. Buchanan, Blacksmith Alley, back of Old Quinn Store” in “Alley between Clark Fac. & Old Quinn Furn. Sto.” Two years earlier, Williams had reported to a census taker that he was a blacksmith; he was likely one of the last African-Americans to ply that trade in Wilson.
Virginia native James Younger Buchanan arrived in Wilson circa 1910. He practiced horseshoeing at various stables downtown before establishing his own blacksmithing and horseshoeing business with a sideline in welding and general machine repair. Buchanan died in 1949.
Wilson Daily Times, 29 August 1918.
The encircled building on this detail of the 1922 Wilson, N.C., Sanborn fire insurance map is marked BL. SM. and appears to be the location of J.Y. Buchanan’s shop. Today, it would stand directly behind Casita Brewing Company. “Old Quinn Store,” i.e. R.E. Quinn & Company, was at 231-233 South Goldsboro Street, at top left in this image. “Clark Fac.” was W.T. Clark & Company Tobacco Re-Drying Factory, whose location is now a large municipal parking lot.
I’m proud to have contributed to this amazing exhibit celebrating North Carolina’s Black architects and builders. To celebrate the exhibit’s debut and to enable more people to see it during these pandemic times, Preservation North Carolina will be sharing a story every Wednesday highlighting a Black builder (or those, like Black Wide-Awake, who research in this area).
Please follow Preservation North Carolina on Facebook or @presnc on Instagram, or see their website at www.presnc.org. I’m looking forward to #wbtwednesday!!
“… the well-known twin-brother’s Doan and Dock Sims; saw-mill owners and lumber dealers here”?
Given the prominence of business owners among Wilson’s early 20th-century African-American community, I was surprised never to have heard of the Simms brothers or even any Black-owned sawmills in Wilson. What I can readily find in digital records does not shed much light on the brothers’ business operations, but does provide some details of their lives.
Lula Simms Deans was born in Nash County in 1871, most likely in Jackson township, which borders Wilson County west of Elm City. Her parents, Wiley and Rachel Simms, had been enslaved in Wilson County and registered their two-year cohabitation there in 1866. Lula was about 23 years old when she gave birth to Doan E. and Dolphus F. Simms in either Wilson or Nash County. She was not married, but one source lists their father as John Taylor. When the twins were about 14 years old, Lula Simms married Wiley Deans of Wilson County.
Doan and Dolphus, known as Dock, were earning their own money as early as 1910, and soon after set out on the separate paths that would eventually lead to their lumber business.
Doan Simms was in Franklin County, North Carolina, by 1912. He fathered a son that year, whom he named after his twin brother, and married the boy’s mother in 1917, the year little Dolphus died. The same year, when he registered for the World War II draft, he described his job as a millhand for John K. Barrow, a sawmill and lumber manufacturer near Zebulon in southeast Wake County. By 1930, Doan and his family were living near Whitakers in extreme northern Nash County, and Doan was described in the census as a sawmill foreman. Ten years later, he and his family were living just over the Wilson County line in Wayne County.
Dock Simms remained in Jackson township (or nearby Zebulon) for decades before relocating to the Edgecombe County side of the Whitakers area during the Depression. In 1930, the census described his occupation as lumber mill manager and in 1940, a sawmill logger.
By 1940 (and perhaps ten years earlier), the Simms brothers had established their lumber business(es), but I have not been able to determine where it was located and even what it was called. I’ll continue to search, and any clues are appreciated.
In the 1870 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Willie Simms, 32; wife Racheal, 23; and daughters Mahala, 1, and Anna, 7.
In the 1900 census of Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.: farmer Rachael Simms, 52, widow; daughter Lula, 27, farm laborer; and grandchildren Loyd, 7, Doan and Dolphus, 6, and Maud, 2 months.
On 13 April 1908, Wiley Deans, 22, of Nash County, son of Pete and Catsey Ann Deans, married Lula Simms, 34, of Nash County, daughter of Wiley and Rachel Simms, both deceased. Free Will Baptist minister C[rockett] Best performed the ceremony at his residence in Wilson.
In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Wiley Deans, 27; wife Lula, 36; stepsons Loyd, 18, Doane and Dolphus, 16, and Theodore R., 5; brother-in-law Hubbert Simms, 19; and niece Mary Simms, 12.
In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: on Wilson and Stanhope Road, farmer Wiley Deans, 36; wife Lula, 45; children Thedo, 15, and Van, 9; and brother-in-law James Sims, 43.
Lula Deans died 18 September 1946 near Whitakers, Edgecombe County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 November 1871 in Nash County to Wiley Simms and Rachel Simms, both of Wilson County; was a widow; and was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson. D.F. Simms, Whitakers, was informant.
Doan E. Simms
Also in the 1910 census of Jackson township, Nash County: Doc and Doanie Simms, 17, odd jobs laborers in the household of N. Harriss Perry, a white 35 year-old farmer.
Dolphus Simms died 21 June 1917 in Harris township, Franklin County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 2 June 1912 in Franklin County to Don Simms of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Roxana Davis of Dinwiddie County, Virginia.
In 1917, Doan Sims registered for the World War I draft in Franklin County, N.C. Per his registration card, he was born 6 March 1896 in Wilson County; lived in Louisburg, N.C.; and worked as a millhand for J.K. Barrow.
On 9 September 1917, Doane Sims, 28, of Louisburg, Franklin County, married Anna Morgan, 26, of Louisburg, daughter of Wyatt Morgan and Rebecca Morgan, in Zebulon, Wake County. [Presumably, “Anna” was Roxanna.]
U.S. Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty, 1917-18, www.ancestry.com.
In the 1920 census of Little River township, Wake County, N.C.: Doan Sims, 26, sawmill sawer; wife Roxanna, 27, born in Virginia; daughter Mary, 9, born in Virginia; and boarder Nelson York, 27, sawmill cutter, born in South Carolina. [Mary Beatrice Simms was born 3 September 1910 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. She died 16 September 2003 and is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Wilson.]
On 5 May 1927, Mary B. Simms, 18, of Zebulon, daughter of Doan and Annie Simms, married Rubert Weaver, 22, of Zebulon, son of Gus and Ida Weaver, in Raleigh, N.C.
In the 1930 census of North Whitakers township, Nash County, N.C.: sawmill foreman Doan Sims, 36, and wife Roxanna, 31. Sharing their household: Rubert Weaver, 25; wife Mary B., 19; and their daughters Doris, 2, and Ruby V., 11 months. [A number of saw mill laborers were listed in the vicinity, including Nelson York, the Simms’ Wake County boarder.]
In the 1940 census of Great Swamp township, Wayne County, N.C.: farm manager Don Simms, 46; wife Roxanna, 48; grandchildren Doris, 12, Ruby, 10, Anna, 9, and Myrtle, 4; and Jimmie Joyner, 25, laborer.
In 1940, Jefferson Albert Howard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 June 1918 in Wilson County; lived at New Grabneck (Gen Del), Wilson; his contact was Doane E. Simms, R.F.D. Lucama, who was his employer and landlord. The card noted that Howard had a “severe burn scar on left arm & foot.”
In 1940, Jimmy Joyner registered for the World War II draft in Wayne County. Per his registration card, he was born 20 September 1912 in Bailey, Nash County; lived at R.F.D. 1, Lucama, Wayne County (updated: 53 K Street N.E., Washington, D.C.); and his contact was friend Don Simms.
Doan E. Simms died 22 December 1962 at Carolina General Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1896 in Nash County to Lula Deans; was married to Roxanna Simms; lived at 200 Pender Street, Wilson; was a World War I veteran; and was a retired businessman.
Simms was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery under a large headstone engraved D.E. and D.F. Simms Family.
Dolphus F. “Dock” Simms
On 30 August 1919, Adolphus Simms, 35, of Nash County married Bessie Lucas, 18, of Nash County at the Wilson County Courthouse.
In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Dolphus Simms, 25, and wife Bessie L., 17.
On 1 October 1923, Dock Simms, 28, of Zebulon, N.C., married Mary Lou Fennell, 22, of Wallace, N.C., in Burgaw, Pender County, N.C.
In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: lumber mill manager F. Dock Simms, 36; wife L. Mary, 39; and lodgers, D. John Fennell, 25, lumber mill laborer, and wife Mary, 25.
In the 1940 census of Upper Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: sawmill logger Dock Simms, 46; wife Mary L., 39; and daughter Evelyn, 4. Per the census, the family lived in Wilson County in 1935.
Dock F. Simms died 30 March 1953 in Whitakers, Edgecombe County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 March 1894 in Wilson County to John Taylor and Lula Simms; was a sawmill operator; and was married to Mary Lou Simms.
Simms was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery under a large headstone engraved D.E. and D.F. Simms Family. His widow, Mary Lou F. Simms of Whitakers applied for a military headstone, which was to be shipped to D.E. Simms, 200 Pender Street, Wilson.
In January 1932, William Hines announced the merger of his barber shop with Willie C. Reid‘s Wilson Barber Shop. The new business would occupy the space Reid had held at 130 South Goldsboro Street. (The address is the southernmost storefront of the Hackney Building at 124-130 South Goldsboro and is adjacent to today’s Eyes on Main Street gallery.)
Wilson Daily Times, 16 January 1932.
Hines’ former location at 113 South Tarboro was to close at the end of the month, and he announced an immediate reduction in service prices. (A Boncilla massage, by the way, involved a mud mask with Boncilla-brand “clasmic clay” and was touted to resolve wrinkles, lines, blackheads, enlarged pores, and oily skin.
Wilson Daily Times, 18 January 1932.
Willie C. Reid
In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Jesse Reid, 59; wife Sallie, 53; and children Emmar J., 27, Barnes, 24, Willie, 22, Browdy, 19, Lonely, 17, Effie, 13, and Earle, 10.
In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Jesse Reid, 59; wife Sallie, 53; and children Emmar J., 27, Barnes, 24, Willie, 22, Browdy, 19, Lonely, 17, Effie, 13, and Earle, 10.
In 1917, Willie C. Reid registered for the World War I draft in Duplin County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 28 April 1886 in Fremont, N.C.; lived in Warsaw, N.C.; and worked as a barber for John A. Gaston, Warsaw, N.C. [Gaston was a Wilson County native.]
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 407 Vick Street, widow Sallie Reid, 64; sons Willie, 30, barber, Boydie, 20, tailor, and Lonely, 25, tailor, daughter-in-law Mary, 24, schoolteacher, granddaughter Hilter, 3 months, and daughters Effie, 23, and widow Emma E., 35.
On 27 October 1920, Willie Columbus Reid, 31, of Wilson, son of Jesse and Sallie Reid, married Mary E. Galley, 25, of Wilmington, daughter of James J. and Lena E. Galley, at Saint Stephen’s A.M.E. Church in Wilmington, N.C.
In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Reid William (c) barber The Mayflower h 304 N Vick
In the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Reid Wm C (c; Mary) barber 130 S Goldsboro h 304 N Vick
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 304 Vick, rented for $14/month, Willie C. Reid, 54, native of Fremont, N.C.; wife Mary E., 46, county school teacher and native of Wilmington, N.C.; and children William M., 16, and Helen E., 18.
Willie Columbus Reid died 26 January 1969 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 April 1886 to Jessie Reid and Sallie [maiden name not known]; was married to Mary E. Reid; lived at 1106 Atlantic Street; and had worked as a barber.
In the 1870 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: farm laborer Jason Parker, 35; wife Annis, 24; and children Moses, 8, Harriet, 5, Jerry, 4, and Sophy, 1.
In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: farmer Jason Parker, 43; wife Annis, 39; and children Moses, 17, Harriet, 15, Jere, 13, Sophia, 10, Mathew, 9, Cintha, 7, Susan, 5, and Abel, 2.
On 5 March 1892, Moses Parker, 29, married Henrietta Woodard, 27, at Isaac Farmer‘s residence in Wilson County. Free Will Baptist minister Crockett Best performed the ceremony in the presence of Jordan Braswell, Jno. W. Williford, and J.G. Barnes.
On 17 June 1897, Moses Parker, 33, married Sallie Reid, 27, at William Taylor’s residence in Wilson County. Jason Parker was a witness.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Mosses Parker, 40; wife Sarah, 30; and daughters Jennie, 14, and Mary, 12. (Next door, Moses’ brother Abel Parker, 21, farmer, wife Sarah, 20, son Jerry, 6 months, and boarder Thomas Horn, 60, widower, farm laborer.)
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 415 Goldsboro Street, widower Moses Parker, 45, house carpenter; daughters Mary, 21, and Nera, 23, private family cook; and granddaughter Lee Parker, 4.
On 7 September 1911, Moses Parker, 47, of Wilson, married Charity Holland, 50, of Wilson, in Wilson township. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony at Charity Holland’s residence in the presence of John Battle, George W. Wood, and John H. Akins.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 417 Goldsboro Street, general public drayman Moses Parker, 59, and wife Charity, 64.
Wilson Daily Times, 22 June 1921.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1004 East Nash Street, owned and valued at $1700, grocery store proprietor Moses Parker, 63; wife Charity, 60; and roomer Elizabeth Simms, 17.
Moses Parker died 23 September 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 73 years old; was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Jason Parker and Annis Parker; was married to Charity Parker; lived at 1004 East Nash Street; and worked as a carpenter.
This beautifully crisp photo depicts a gathering of Prince Hall Masons in front of Saint John A.M.E. Zion‘s distinctive Gothic arches during the church’s construction. Dated 1914-1915, I do not know who took the photograph (though it seems to have passed through the hands of Wilton M. Bethel), the specific occasion for the photograph, or whether it features only members of Mount Hebron Lodge No. 42, whose lodge was just across Smith Street. I do know that it is fantastic in every detail.
Though my focus is on the men assembled at center, the edges of the image are rich with detail as well — the boy in a newsboy cap perched on the scaffolding; the boys peering over the heads of the suited men; the few girls clustered at right, with a woman in a magnificent hat just behind them; another woman at extreme left, visible only as an eye under the wide brim of her hat.
Of the 36 men depicted, as of now, I have only been able to identify only eleven certain and a few possibles. Do you recognize any others?
And a question to any Prince Hall Masons, do the medallions, swords, aprons, or other regalia disclose anything public about the wearer’s status or office within the lodge?
[Sidenote: There is something incredibly moving about seeing these men in the early part of what arguably was Black Wilson’s Golden Age in the 1910s and ’20s. Though the photograph was staged, their expressions (other than Sam Vick, who was obviously accustomed to formal portrait-posing) are almost candid. They are a mix of old heads, born in the final days of slavery, and a new generation of young lions. I was surprised by my instant recognition of Charles and Camillus Darden and William Hines. It took me longer to realize my own grandfather stood at far left. My identification of Arthur N. Darden is based in part on his close resemblance to his mother, Dinah Scarborough Darden. Most of the others I was able to name only after reviewing other photos of men I know to have been Masons. Leonard Barnes, astonishingly, I recognized because of his close resemblance to his grandson, who was my childhood playmate.]
Many thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for the copy of this photograph. And a special shout-out to Stanley Horton, Past Worshipful Master, Foundation Lodge #592, Prince Hall Affiliated, for his help in identifying offices and emblems.
[Updates: Rev. Halley B. Taylor and the Jones brothers added 3 September 2020.]