Travel

“Is Mama dead? Let me know at once.”

In this interview, Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001) spoke of how she received news of the sudden death of her great-aunt, who was also her adoptive mother:

“Mama didn’t know she had a bad heart until two weeks before she died.  She was always sick, sick all the time.  She’d go to the doctor, and the doctor would tell her it was indigestion and for her not to eat no pork and different things she couldn’t eat.  ‘Cause Mama was fat.  She weighed 200.  She wasn’t too short.  She was just broad.  Well, she was five-feet-four, I think.  Something like that.

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Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, circa 1931.

“And so, but she loved pork, and she’d try to eat some anyhow ‘cause we always had a hog, growing up.  All the time.  So after they said she couldn’t, she tried not to eat no pork, much.  Fish and chicken, we eat it all the time.  But she was so tired of chicken until she didn’t know what to do.  And I was, too. But Papa loved all pork, so he’d always get a whole half a shoulder or a ham or something and cook it, and she’d eat some.  But when she went to the doctor, and her pressure was up so high, and he told her, ‘By all means, don’t you eat no pork.  It’s dangerous to eat pork when your pressure is too high.’ And then that’s when she stopped eating pork.

“Well, it didn’t help none, I don’t reckon. She had that little bag.  A little basket.  A little, old basket ‘bout that tall with a handle on it.  She had all kinds of medicine in there to take. She was going up to Mamie’s, and Mr. Silver told her, said, ‘Well, you just take your medicine bag.’  She’d been married to him a good while.  He said, ‘Well, you shouldn’t go up there by yourself. Since I’m down here—’  See, she’d go up and stay with him a little while, and then he’d come back to Wilson and stay a while.  So he said, ‘You just take your little basket there with your medicine in it.’  So, he said, ‘Well, I’ll go with you up there and then I’ll come back on to Enfield.’  So he went with her down there to the station.  He was picking up the bags to go up there, told her to walk on up to the station and wait for the train.  And he got a cab — C.E. Artis. Not C.E. Artis, not undertaker Artis but a Artis that drove a cab. This was another set of Artises.

“So, she went up there to the station in Wilson and got on the train. And she’d done told me to send her insurance and everything to Greensboro, ‘cause she won’t never coming back to Wilson no more.  Because she’d done seen, the Lord showed her if she stayed in Wilson, she wouldn’t live.  If she went ‘way from there, she could get well.  So she was going to Mamie’s.  And when she got off at Selma to change trains –- she’d just got to the station door.  And she collapsed right there.  And by happen they had a wheelchair, a luggage thing or something.  The guy out there, he got to her, and he called the coroner or somebody, but he was some time getting there.  But anyway, they picked her up and sat her in the wheelchair.  They didn’t want her to be out ‘cause everybody was out looking and carrying on, so they just pushed her ‘round there to the baggage room.

“And so when the coroner got there, he said, ‘This woman’s dead.’  So they called Albert Gay, and he was working for Artis then.  Undertaker Artis.  And Jimbo Barnes.  And called them and told them that she was dead.  So, Mr. Silver couldn’t even tell them who to notify.  He had Mamie living in Thelma, North Carolina, on McCullough Street, but didn’t know what the number of the house was. He was so upset.  So they had to call the police for the police to go find Mamie Holt.  On McCullough Street.  And her mother, they said, her mother died.  Well, she did die.  But they said it was, I think, Thelma.  Not Selma, but Thelma.  ‘Well, where is Thelma?  It can’t be my mother. ‘Cause my mother don’t live in no Thelma.  I never heard of that place.  She live in Wilson.’  But, see, it was Selma.  They got it wrong.

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Selma Union Depot today, Selma, North Carolina

“So then Mamie went down to Smitty’s house and had Miss Smitty send a telegram to me.  On the phone.  Charge it to her bill, and she’d pay her: ‘IS MAMA DEAD LET ME KNOW AT ONCE’  She asked me if Mama was dead.  And when I got that telegram, Annie Miriam and all them, a bunch of kids was out there on the porch, and so at that time, Jimbo or one of ‘em come up.  And when I saw them, I knowed something.  I had just got the telegram.  Hadn’t even really got time to read it. And he said, ‘Well, you done got the news.’  And I said, ‘The news?  Well, I got a old, crazy telegram here from my sister, asking me is Mama dead, let her know at once.’  He said, ‘Yeah, we just, we brought her back from Selma.’  I said, ‘What in the – ‘  Well, I went to crying.  And Albert Gay or some of the children was ‘round there, and they was running. Everybody in the whole street almost was out in the yard – the children got the news and gone!  That Mama had dropped dead in Selma.  So I said, well, by getting that telegram, I said, that’s what threw me, honey.  I wasn’t ready for that. I’d been saying I reckon Mamie’ll think Mama was a ghost when she come walking in there tonight. Not knowing she was dead right at the same time.”

—–

  • Mamie — Mamie Henderson Holt, sister of Hattie Henderson Ricks.
  • Mr. Silver — Rev. Joseph Silver Sr. helped establish the Holiness denomination in eastern North Carolina, founding Plumbline United Holy Church in Halifax County in 1893. Rev. Silver married Sarah Henderson Jacobs, herself an evangelist, in Wilson on 31 August 1933. The couple alternated between his home in Enfield and hers in Wilson.

  • C.E. Artis — Columbus E. Artis.
  • Jimbo Barnes — probably James “Jimbo” Watson Jr., whose 30 November 1974 obituary in the Wilson Daily Times noted that he was a former Artis Funeral Home employee.
  • Albert Gay — Albert S. Gay Jr., son of Albert and Annie Bell Jacobs Gay and grandson of Sarah Silver’s first husband Jesse A. Jacobs.
  • Annie Miriam — Annie Marian Gay, daughter of Albert and Annie Bell Jacobs Gay.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; photo of Sarah H.J. Silver in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson; photo of Rev. Silver courtesy of Ancestry.com user lexxee52.

John A. Woodard, seaman.

John A. Woodard applied for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate in December 1917. American seamen carried the document as proof of citizenship in foreign ports. Per his application, Woodard was born 15 April 1867 in Wilson, North Carolina; resided at 512 Canal Street, New York City; had been a seaman since 1906; and had last worked as a waiter on the S.S. Montgomery en route from New York to Savannah, Georgia. He was 5’9 3/4″, 179 pounds, with colored complexion, brown eyes, and black hair and a slight scar under his right eye.

“The Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah, generally known as the Savannah Line, was founded in 1872 to assume the operation of the Empire Line of steamships from William R. Garrison to operate passenger and cargo steamships between Savannah and New York. The newly founded company took over six steamers from the Empire Line to start the service. The company was to provide a major travel link over the next 70 years moving passengers, agricultural products, principally cotton and fruit from Georgia and Alabama to New York and Boston. … Two new passenger ships built by Newport News in 1910, the CITY OF ST. LOUIS and the CITY OF MONTGOMERY, were delivered to the company.”

U.S. Applications for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; original document at Application for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940, Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, 1774-1982, Record Group 41, National Archives, Washington, D.C; 

Andrew Cotton, seaman.

Andrew Cotton applied for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate in May 1936. American seamen carried the document as proof of citizenship in foreign ports. Per his application, Cotton was born 19 June 1904 in Sharpsburg, North Carolina; resided at 207 West 137th Street, New York City; and had last worked on the S.S. Evangeline as a waiter. He was 5’8″ with dark brown skin, brown eyes and black hair and had no identifying marks.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Levy Edwards Road, Isaac Cotton, 44; wife Flonnie, 34; and children Coloneous, 18, Lucy, 16, Sidney, 13, Mary, 11, Isaac E., 8, Andrew, 6, Levy, 4, and Clarence, 1.

Passenger lists from 1938 to 1954 show Cotton shipping out of ports on both sides of the Atlantic, including New York, New York; Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; Saint Georges and Hamilton, Bermuda; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Hamburg, Germany; Gourock, Scotland; Southampton, England; Cobh, Ireland; and Genoa, Italy.

U.S. Applications for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; original document at Application for Seaman’s Protection Certificates, 1916-1940, Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, 1774-1982, Record Group 41, National Archives, Washington, D.C; New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Studio shots, no. 62: Rev. Obra Jeffrey Hawkins.

Rev. Obra J. Hawkins was pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church from 1942 to 1962.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 May 1947.

Obra Jeffrey Hawkins died 7 May 1982 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 August 1905 in Panola County, Texas to Andrew Hawkins and Lela Simmons; was married; was a minister; and resided at 1310 Marlowe Street, Wilson. Informant was Inez Fisher.

The Bull (1936), yearbook of Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Photograph of Rev. Hawkins courtesy of Adventures in Faith: The Church at Prayer, Study and Service, a booklet commemorating the 100th anniversary of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Wilson.

The Green Book.

The Negro Motorist Green Book (later titled The Negro Travelers’ Green Book and called the Green Book) was an annual guidebook for African-American travelers. New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green published the volume during the Jim Crow era, from 1936 to 1966, when hotels, restaurants and other businesses openly discriminated against black motorists. To counter the inconveniences and dangers and inconveniences they faced along the road, Green created a guide to services and places relatively friendly to African-Americans.

Only a few of the many Wilson businesses catering to black clientele were listed in the Green Book. The 1941 edition of the guide is excerpted below.

Victor H. Green, The Negro Motorist Green-Book (1941).

  • Biltmore, East Washington Street — The 1941 Wilson city directory does not list a hotel on East Washington, nor am I aware of any hotel at any time on Washington.
  • The Wilson Biltmore, 539 East Nash Street — The 1941 Wilson city directory lists Libby McPhatter‘s cafe at 539 East Nash. However, per the nomination form for Wilson’s Central Business District Historic District, McPhatter’s cafe was at 541, in a one of two buildings erected after the three-story Hotel Union, burned in the late 1940s.
  • M. Jones, 1209 East Queen Street — The 1941 Wilson city directory does not list an M. Jones at 1209 East Queen Street, nor an M. Jones who is a taxi driver.
  • The 1948 Green Book lists the same three businesses in Wilson. Odd.

Copy of Green Book courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Clerk comes to the city.

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New York Age, 13 September 1917.

In the 1900 census of Asheville, Buncombe County: at 174 Haywood Street, Isacc Shade, 24, laborer; wife Emma, 29; and children John, 7 months; and mother Alice Shade, 40.

In the 1910 census of Asheville, Buncombe County: on Jordan Street, Isacc Shade, 34, physician at drugstore; wife Emma, 22; son John, 10, Alice, 8, and Kenneth, 3; and widowed roomer Ollie Burgin, 41.

Isaac Shade moved his family to Wilson shortly before World War I, and he opened a pharmacy on Nash Street.

John Albert Shade registered for the World War I draft in Wilson in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1900; resided at 530 East Nash Street, Wilson; worked as a clerk at Shade’s Pharmacy, 530 East Nash; and had blue eyes and black hair and no apparent disqualifications.

On 27 September 1922, John A. Shade, 22, and Ruby Percell, 20, both of Wilson County, were married by Presbyterian minister A.H. George in the presence of W.H. Phillips, Henry N. Cherry and Will Farmer.

In the 1925 New York State census, in Brooklyn: at 718 Cleveland, John Shade, 24; wife Ruby, 21; and daughter Emma, 1. John worked as an attendant at Grand Central Station.

In the 1940 census of Bronx County, New York: North Carolina-born hotel elevator operator John Shade, 40; South Carolina-born wife Rubie, 35, bedding operator; and daughters Emma, 16, and Grace, 13.

John A. Shade died 8 October 1969 and is buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.

Per Social Security records available at Ancestry.com, Emma Evangeline Shade was born in New York on 4 February 1924 to John A. Shade and Ruby I. Purcell. Emma S. Galiber died 19 June 1995.

Voyage to Havana.

On 20 August 1937, Camillus and Norma Duncan Darden boarded the S.S. Cuba at Havana, Cuba, for a one-day return to the United States arriving in Tampa, Florida, on the 21st. The Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company operated the Cuba.

U.S. Citizen Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Tampa, Florida, digitized at Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

A wreck on the first day at sea.

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The Colonies and India (London, England), 9 April 1898.

Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, his wife Adora Oden Smith, and their daughter Flossie took passage on the African Steamship Company steamer Dahomey, which sailed from Liverpool to his assignment as ambassador in Monrovia, Liberia, on 6 April 1898. Hours after leaving port, the ship struck rocks near Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales. Passengers and crew were safely evacuated, but the ship remained stranded for 14 days before it could be floated off and returned to Liverpool. The incident was investigated, and a magistrate held: “The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the stranding of and material damage to the said vessel were due to the improper navigation of the master, Mr. James G. Cawthorne, whose certificate, No. 34,575, the Court suspends for a period of six months from the date hereof.”