social life

The colored painters meet.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1936.

Who were “the colored painters of Wilson” during this period?

I’ve been able to identify James Ashley Whitfield, David Dupree, Butler E. Jones, Alexander Obery, and Samuel Swinney as painters active in the 1930s. (Commercial painter Ramon Martinez was in Wilson by 1940, but probably had not yet arrived in 1936.)

4-H Club honors.

Wilson Daily Times, 28 August 1939.

  • C.L. Spellman, county agent — Cecil L. Spellman.
  • Cleo Jones — in the 1940 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer James L. Wood, 23, and wife Cleo C., 18; mother Flonnie Hall, 41; half-brother Lewis, 13, and Lizzie, 8.
  • Edith Joyner
  • Charles Ruffin — in the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Charles Ruffin, 39; wife Henrietta, 38; and children Bertha, 19, Charles, 17, James R., 16, Juanita, 12, Gladys Lee, 10, Christine, 8, Bruce, 7, Bertie Mae, 4, and and Curtis, 10 months. 
  • Levi Simmons — David Levi Simmons.
  • Aaron Clay — in the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Joe Clay, 47; wife Ezzie, 44; children Moses W., 19, Eva E., 9, Aron D., 18, and [Aaron’s wife] Gertrude, 17; brother John, 39; and granddaughter Ann D., newborn. All but Gertrude and the baby had lived in Sussex County, Virginia, five years before.
  • June Langston — in 1942, June Boney Langston Jr. registered for the World War II in Wayne County, N.C. Per his registration card, he was born 1 July 1922 in Wayne County; lived at “Fremont (Blackcrek) Wilson NC”; and his contact and employer was Jennie Langston, Fremont, Wayne, N.C. 
  • Mary Armstrong
  • Verdie Locus
  • Beatrice Jones
  • Joseph Simmons — in the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Junius Simmons, 44; wife Clara, 39; and children Levi, 21, Joseph, 20, Frank, 15, Julia, 10, Lettie, 5, Thomas, 1, and Edward, 9.

Peaceful Valley Lodge 272, Knights of Pythias.

Recently, Brooke Bissette Farmer of Wilson’s fantastic Imagination Station reached out to me with a remarkable set of photos. A man (whom, it turns out, I’ve known since our childhoods) came into the museum to ask about an artifact he found while clearing out a house on Viola Street in the 1990s.

Though rusty and missing its top plate, the instrument is clearly identifiable as the seal embosser for Peaceful Valley Lodge 272, Wilson’s African-American Knights of Pythias lodge.

Peaceful Valley, like most of North Carolina’s Knights of Pythias lodges, is defunct. Lodge 272’s founding date is not clear, but it definitely was established well after Wilson’s Black Masons and Odd Fellows.

Pleasant Valley Lodge 272 was active into the 1980s. Frank W. BarnesHoward English and Emanuel Spells were among its last leaders.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 July 1974.

Countywide picnic.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 June 1941.

Picnics organized by Wilson County’s Black 4-H and Home Demonstration clubs were annual social highlights. In 1941, a hundred and fifty families traveled to Yelverton School at the far eastern edge of the county for fun and frolic in such contests as milk-sucking, cracker-eating, nail-driving, bag-racing, and horseshoe-pitching.

Former members return to chorus.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 August 1947.


During the summer, college students returned to sing with their former choristers in Hartford Bess‘ Handel’s Chorus.

  • Mary Gilchrist — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Viola, Canon Gilchrist, 38; wife Ruth, 32; and children Dorothea, 15, Mary L., 12, Gene, 11, Bella M., 5, and Janey V., 2.
  • Katie Chestnut
  • Virginia Ward — probably, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Preston Ward, 38, widower; sister Annie, 26; and children James P., 20, Alonza, 18, Johnny Lee, 17, Rosa, 14, Virginia, 12, Sylvester, 10, Ruby, 8, Doris, 6, and Golden, 2.
  • Ann Johnson

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Craps game ends in deadly shooting.

In early March 1924, Tom Hagin allegedly shot Otto King to death over a cheating allegation during a game of craps. The Daily Times could not help but engage in casual racism in reporting the tragedy, referring to the dice game as “African golf.”

Wilson Daily Times, 4 March 1924.


In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Shandy King, 51; wife Nancy, 49; and children Jack, 21, Marcellus, 19, Shandey, 16, Mahala, 14, Columbus, 12, Otto, 7, and Harriett, 6. 

In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jim Bass, 19, and lodgers James Allen, 21, and Otto King, 19, all farm laborers.

In 1918, Otto King registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 22 March 1891 in Wilson; lived at Route 4, Wilson; worked in farming for Charley Walston; and was single.

Otto King’s World War I service record.

On 11 January 1919, Otto King, 26, of Saratoga township, son of Shandy King, and Roberta Taylor, 16, of Gardners township, daughter of Moses Fent and Rena Taylor, were married in Saratoga township, Wilson County.

In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Plank Road Highway, farmer Otto King, 28, and wife Roberta, 17. 

“Shot through neck & lungs Homicide”

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.