Samuel Caswell Lathan sat in the front row during my presentation at Wilson County Public Library last week, making me a little nervous. This extraordinary musician, who once played drums for James Brown, was especially interested in the topic — he grew up on the 500 block of East Nash Street in the 1930s and ’40s. I visited with Mr. Lathan the next afternoon, soaking up his memories of the people and businesses of the block, whom he credits for setting him on his path as a drummer. He urged me to continue my documentation of East Wilson and expressed appreciation for and satisfaction with my work thus far.
Mr. Lathan also shared with me some extraordinary photographs of pre-World War II East Nash Street. Here he is as a toddler, circa 1931.
This stunning image depicts Neal’s Barbershop, with three of its barbers, circa 1935. Mr. Lathan is the boy leaning against the window, and Walter Sanders is seated in the chair awaiting a cut. “Billy Jr.” stands to his left in the photo, and an unidentified boy to the right.
African-American photographer John H. Baker took this family portrait of an adolescent Sam Lathan with his mother Christine Barnes Collins, grandmother Jeanette Barnes Plummer, and aunt Irene Plummer Dew in the late 1930s.
In 1940, Henderson J. Cooke wrote a regular column about Wilson social doings for Durham’s The Carolina Times. This week, Cooke focused much of his attention on the doings of Rev. Hattie L. Daniels and his own family.
The Carolina Times, 24 March 1940.
Rev. Mrs. Hattie L. Daniels — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Cleveland Daniel, 40, fireman at city plant; wife Hattie, 38, saleswoman at Steward Co.; and father-in-law Mack Owens, 60, farm laborer. All were born in Georgia.
Rev. L.E. Rasbury — on 14 June 1954, L.E. Rasberry, 66, of Kinston, N.C., son of Ed and Sarah Harper Rasberry, married Sudie Ella Young, 56, of Wilson, in Wilson. U.F.W.B. minister H.R. Reaves of Ayden, N.C., performed the ceremony.
Mattille Floyd — on 2 August 1950, Harold E. Gay, 30, son of Albert and Annie Bell Gay, married Matteele Floyd, 26, daughter of Ambroseand Mattie Floyd, in Nashville, Nash County. Ethel M. Coley and Albert Gay [Jr.] were witnesses.
In early 1928, a group of young African-American men — friends and neighbors and almost all barbers or porters at barber shops — founded a social club in East Wilson.
Baltimore Afro-American, 11 February 1928.
WILSON, NORTH CAROLINA
WILSON, N.C. On Tuesday evening, January 31st, the following young men of this city organized a club to be known as the Klondike Club. Bill Bryant, William Brown, Woodie Farmer, Freeman Ennis, John Love, Golden Venters, Oscar Hicks, George E. Brodie, Rufus Speight and George H. DuBose. The meeting was held at the Hotel Whitby and the following officers elected: B. Bryant, president; Freeman Ennis, vice president; Golden Venters, secretary; G.E. Brodie, treasurer; John Love, sergeant-at-arms, and George H. DuBose, journalist. On February 2nd, the club met at the home of the present and the following members initiated, Murphy Richardson, Jerval Barnes and Ossie Edwards. Club motto is, “We are what you should be.”
William Brown — In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Brown Wm (c; Eva L) barber Bonnie Reid h 202 S Vick
Woodie Farmer — William Woody Farmer. In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Woody (c) porter Wm Hines h 706 E Green. On 13 January 1929, Woody Farmer, 22, son of John Wash Farmer and Edmonia [no maiden name], married Savannah Powell, 21, daughter of Wiley Powell, in Wilson. Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the ceremony in the presence of Emma Farmer, Rufus E. Speight and Theodore Speight. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 706 East Green, plasterer John A. Farmer, 60; wife Nona, 61; sons James E., 17, and Woodie, 22, barber; and daughter-in-law Savana, 22, lodge bookkeeper.
Freeman Ennis — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ennis Freeman (c) barber W S Hines h 904 Viola. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 904 Viola, rented for $15/month, Maggie Ennis, 45, and children Freeman, 22, barbershop bootblack, Earl, 12, and Hennie, 10, and roomer Julus Barnes, 27, laborer at Hackney body plant. Freeman Ennis died 5 January 1938 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was 29 years old; single; worked as a bell boy; and was born in Wilson to Samuel Ennis of Smithfield and Maggie Taylor of Wilson. Informant was Earl Ennis, 904 Viola.
Golden Venters — Golden T. Venters married Ethel P. Lane in Philadelphia in 1925. In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Venters Golden T (c; Ethel) porter Wm Hines h 902 Viola
Oscar Hicks — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hicks H O (c) barber Levi’s Barber Shop h 812 E Green
George E. Brodie — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Brodie Geo (c) student h 903 E Green. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 311 Pender, Lawrence Hardy, 39, pantry(?) servant at college; brother James Hardy, 39, presser at cleaning works; and George Brodie, 33, barber.
Rufus Speight — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Speight Rufus (c) porter Wm Hines h 624 Viola. In 1940, Rufus Edward Speight registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he lived at 624 East Viola; was born 4 October 1907 in Whitaker, North Carolina; his contact was brother Theodore Speight; and he worked for Bill Hines at 130 South Goldsboro Street.
George H. DuBose
Murphy Richardson — On 8 June 1927, Murphy Richardson, 20, and Laura Martin, 22, both of Nash County were married in Wilson County by minister Charles T. Jones in the presence of Levi Jones, W.H. Phillips and Laura Graves. In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Richardson Murphy (c) barber Levi’s Barber Shop h 116 Pender
Jerval Barnes — probably, Jerrell Randolph Barnes, who died 14 December 1929 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 May 1909; was single; worked as a common laborer; and was born to Ned Barnes and Louisa Gay. Informant was Alice Bryant, Wilson.
Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Hilliard — Rufus Hilliard, 35, of Wilson, son of A.H. Hilliard and Penina V. [Wimly?], married Lela M. Washington, 29, daughter of William Washington and Martha (last name not listed) on 30 December 1932 in Wilson. Baptist minister B.F. Jordan performed the ceremony in the presence of J.S. Spell, E. D.[illegible] Fisherand Nancy Wilkins. Rufus Wimberly Hilliard died 5 December 1976. Lela Washington Hilliard died 26 July 1985.
Mr. and Mrs. Levi Peacock Jr. — Levi H. Peacock, 22, of Wilson, son of Leviand Hannah Peacock, married Elouise Reavis, 20, of Wilson, daughter of Joseph and Etta Reavis, on 4 October 1922 in Wilson. W.A. Mitchner applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the ceremony in the presence of John D. Henry, Henrietta Foster and John H. Parris.
Ruth E. Hooker —Ruth Hooker Coppedge died 26 May 1945 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 41 years old; resided at 200 South Vick Street, Wilson; was married to George Coppedge; was born in Wilson to Frank Richard Hooker of Greene County and Eleanor Farmer of Wilson County; and was a school teacher.
Allie M. Hines — Within days of the Hilliards’ soiree, on 27 January 1934, Willis E. Prince, 47, son of Turner Prince and Sarah (last name not given) married Alma Mae Hines, 29, daughter of Amos and Sarah Hines, in Wilson. C.E. Artis applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion minister I. Albert Moore performed the ceremony in the presence of M.W. Hines,C.L. Darden and A.M. Dupree. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Willis Prince, 54, carpenter contractor, and wife Allie, age not listed.
Willis Prince — Willis Ephriam Prince died 2 October 1960 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 January 1889 in Edgecombe County to Turner Prince and Sarah (last name not listed); worked as a merchant; was married; and resided at 205 Stantonsburg Street. Allie Mae Prince was informant.
“The dream of establishing a graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in Wilson, NC had its origin in the mind of Soror Norma Darden during the late ‘30’s. As years passed, she decided to organize a chapter in Wilson. However, this was very difficult since she had to have at least seven members for the establishment of a chapter. After many years of searching for eligible ladies, her task was completed. On February 18, 1940, Gamma Beta Omega became a reality.”
The first members were Sorors Norma Darden, Dolores Hines, Rosa L. Williams, VeraG. Shade, Peggy Cooper, Marian Davis, and Odelle Barnes (a founder and charter member of Alpha Chi Chapter at North Carolina Central University, formerly North Carolina College, in 1932). Soror Darden served as the first basileus. In 1941 the first members to be initiated into the chapter were Sorors Mae Lord, Cora Washington, and Marian H. Miller.