Women

The death of Mattie Merritt.

Wilson Daily Times, [16?] January 1923.

——

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Fannie Meritt, 53, widow, washing; daughter Martha, 35, washing; boarder Tom Deanes, 31, preacher; and lodgers William Kiterrel, 34, tobacco stemmer, and Willey Williams, 37, day laborer.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Merritt Martha A (c) laundress h 121 N Railroad

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laundress Fannie Merritt, 58, widow, and daughter Marthy, 40.

Fannie Merritt died 21 April 1915 in Wilson, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 67 years old; was born in N.C. to Bailum Bess and Millie Jones; and was a widow. Mattie Merritt was informant.

Mattie Merritt died 16 January 1923 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 60 years old; was born in Duplin County, N.C., to John Middleton and Fannie Best; was single; worked as a laundress; and lived on Smith Street. Cause of death: “Heart trouble stated to us. Found dead in her room had not been sick. No doctor in attendance.” Richard Best of Warsaw, N.C., was informant.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Snaps, no. 87: Iora Blanche Wilkins Jones Baines Lucas.

Iora Wilkins Jones Baines Lucas.

In the 1900 census of Old Field township, Wilson County: Francis Kates, 37, widow, farmer, and children Ora, 16, Jane, 14, Willie, 10, and Earnest, 6.

Iora Lucas, 15, of Old Fields township, daughter of Buck Wilkins and Frances Kates, married James E. Jones, 28, of Old Fields, son of Burt Jones and Susan Jones, on 2 June 1901 at Frances Kates’ in Old Fields. Thomas A. Jones was a witness.

On 19 February 1906, Frank Baines, 26, of Old Fields, son of Simon and D. Baines, married Iora Jones, 21, of Nash County, daughter of Frances Cates, at Frank Baines’ residence. Thomas A. Jones, John R. Jones, and Dorsey Powell were informants.

In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Franklin Baines, 28; wife Ora, 24; and children James V., 8, Elroy, 4, Cornelia, 2, and Mary A. Baines, 7 months.

In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: widowed farmer Ora Bains, 33, and children Elroy, 12, Cornelia, 11, Mary E., 10, Rosevelt, 7, Donnie, 5, Armensie, 3, and Josephine, 2.

In the 1930 census of Jackson township, Nash County: widow Ora Lucas, 45, and children Donnie, 16, Armensie, 14, Josephine, 12, Junius, 8, and Monzora, 6. [The latter two by her third husband, June Lucas.]

Iora Lucas migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user Jerry Smith.

Lane Street Project: Rosa Oates Barnes.

Rosa Oats Barnes‘ broken headstone lies in Odd Fellows cemetery a short distance from her parents and sister Ella Oates.

Rosa Wife of Matthew Barnes

——

On 25 August 1919, Matthew Barnes, 21, of Wilson, son of Nat and Emma Barnes, married Rosa Oats, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Charles Oats.  A.M.E. Zion minister  B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of John Norfleet, J.L. Moore, and James Whitley.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, tobacco factory worker Emma Barnes, 48, widow; son Matthew, 23, auto garage laborer; and daughter-in-law Rosa, 18, tobacco factory worker.

Rosa Oates died 18 November 1922 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 18 years old [actually, about 21]; was born in Wilson County to Charles Oats and Emma Williams; was divorced from Matthew Barnes; lived on Ash Street; and worked as a factory worker at Flemmings. Charlie Oats was informant.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2021.

Lula Malone is struck by a train.

Per the first account in the Daily Times, Lula Malone (not “Lizzie”) was struck by a train, but not seriously injured, sustaining only “cuts about the head and arms.”

Wilson Daily Times, 21 June 1922.

Three days later, however, the paper reported a very different story. How could a crushed skull have been missed?

Wilson Daily Times, 24 June 1922.

Lula Malone died 21 June 1922. Her death certificate states “June 1st,” but other dates in the document, including her dates of treatment, are consistent with a death on the 21st. She was 52 years old; married to Leroy Malone; a cook for “Mrs. Daniels”; and was born in Statesville, N.C., to John Griffin. Cause of death: “‘Shock’ (possible internal injury)” with “struck by RR engine” contributing.

Apparently, then Malone’s skull was not crushed. The official cause of death is more consistent with the initial news account. 

Clippings courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Health Department ratings.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 July 1922.

The (county?) health department rated five “colored” cafes during a monthly inspection in July 1922.

Tate’s Cafe, as drawn in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson.

  • Central Cafe — per the 1922 city directory, this eatery was located at 415 East Nash Street and had a Greek (or Greek-American) proprietor, Mike Vekrakos.

Central Cafe, as drawn in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson.

  • Gilliams Cafe — per the 1922 city directory, this cafe was located at 509 East Nash Street, and Rachel Gilliam was proprietor. Gilliam lived at 228 Smith Street, the narrow lane running parallel to Nash.
  • Carolina Cafe
  • Barnes Cafe

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

For (white) women who care.

This entry in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson city directory is what first caught my eye:

Odessa Beatrice Reid was the daughter of Ietta R. M. Reid and noted veterinarian Elijah L. Reid. Why did she occupy a space at the rear of 109 1/2 West Nash Street? Lawrence Brett & Company were civil engineers; John D. Wells was a tobacconist. Odessa B. Reid, it turns out, was a hairdresser who catered to white women and located her business accordingly.

Reid announced her opening in October 1918, having graduated from a course in the Elizabeth Kink System (about which I can find absolutely nothing). Her beauty parlor was on the second floor of the Carolina Building on Goldsboro Street. (This location is not clear. The building most commonly known as “the Carolina” was at 105 North Tarboro Street, just beyond Nash Street. Interestingly, it had been the site of Lemon Taborn‘s 19th-century barbershop.) Reid kept an 11-hour day and made her client pool clear.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 October 1918.

Nine years later, Madame Reid announced a move to the space over the World Theatre in the Wells Building, today the site of a dance studio.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 October 1927.

She didn’t stay long. A year later, she was in the Tarboro Street Carolina Building in room 12, second floor. She asked that her clients call her home for appointments between 5 and 10 P.M. “on account of the illness of my mother.”

Wilson Daily Times, 2 October 1928.

——

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Eliza [sic] Reid, 38, veterinary surgeon; wife Ietta, 36; and daughter Beatrice, 13.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 650 Viola Street, Eligha Reid, 50, doctor [sic] in general practice; wife Ietta, 44; and daughter Odess, 22, beauty parlor manager.

On 26 September 1923, Heathen Sorrell, 25, of Rocky Mount, N.C, son of Lizzie Sorrell, married Odessa B. Reid, 26, of Wilson, daughter of E.L. and Ietta R.M. Reid. Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the ceremony in the presence of Levi Jones, Norma E. Duncan, and Ethel L. Hines. (The marriage ended quickly.)

For several weeks in December 1924, the Wilson Daily Times published a Notice of Summons and Warrant of Attachment in Odessa Reid Sorrell vs. Leslie Boise Pender, a case in which Reid Sorrell was seeking a $370.00 judgment. I have no further information about the lawsuit.

On 23 February 1925, Alfred G. Spicer, 24, of Washington, D.C., son of Addie Spicer, married Odessa B. Reid, 27, of Wilson, daughter of E.L. and Ietta Reid, in Wilson. M.E. DuBissette, M.D., applied for the license, and Primitive Baptist Elder Tom Dickens performed the ceremony at Dr. E.L. Reid’s residence in the presence of DuBissette, Reid, and A.T. Spicer of Rocky Mount.

In the 1930 census: at 309 Elba, doctor of veterinary surgery Eliria L. Reed, 67; daughter Odessa B. Spicer, 28, a beauty parlor operator; and wife Ietta Reid, 57. The house was valued at $5000.

On 31 December 1931, in Arlington County, Virginia, Alfred G. Spicer, 31, of South Washington, Virginia, was awarded a divorce from Odessa B. Spicer, 309 North Elba Street, Wilson, on the grounds of desertion.

Odessa Reid Sorrell Spicer, perhaps during her beauty salon years.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 505 East Green, rented for $20/month, veterinarian Elijah L. Reid, 78; wife Ietta R., 65; and daughter Odessa B., 30, a graduate nurse. [When and where did Odessa Reid train as a nurse?]

Dr. Elijah L. Reid died 8 November 1948 at home at 811 Viola Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 January 1881 in Wayne County, N.C., to Wash Reid; was married to Ietta Reid; and worked as “doctor (veterinarian).” Odessa Reid, 811 Viola, was informant.

Ietta R.M. Reid died 14 February 1961 at home at 816 Elvie Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate; she was born 12 August 1867 in Edgecombe County to Jairett Staton; was a widow; and was a retired teacher. Odessa Reid, 816 Elvie, was informant.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com user Joyce Rucker-Barnes.

Nothing compares to the loss.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 March 1923.

Incredibly, Augusta Walker dropped by the Daily Times office a few days after her infant son Leroy Wanamaker was burned to death in a house fire. She wanted to explain the circumstances of the tragedy.

Per his death certificate, Leroy was six months old; was born in Wilson County to James Wanamaker of South Carolina and Augusta Walker of Durham, N.C.; and died in Saratoga township, Wilson County.

No other trace of Augusta Walker is readily found in Wilson County records. She may have only recently arrived when she gave birth in Wilson County and may have had no family with which to leave her son while she worked. 

Family ties, no. 1: a shoebox full of food.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as in the Great Migration north. This post is the first in a series of excerpts from interviews with Hattie Henderson Ricks, their adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, born in 1872, was the eighth of nine children. By time she moved to Wilson, only her brothers James Lucian Henderson, born 1859, and Caswell C. Henderson, born 1865, were living. (Hattie was her sister Loudie Henderson’s grandchild.) Caswell had migrated to New York City by about 1890, but Lucian remained in Dudley to farm. He and his wife, Susan McCollum Henderson, had only one child, who died in early adulthood without a spouse or children.

Susie Henderson had long been sickly and, by the late 1920s, Lucian Henderson’s health had begun to fail. Jesse Jacobs’ nephew, John Wesley Carter, lived nearby. He had developed a close relation with the Hendersons, but could not be expected to assume complete responsibility for their care.

The family turned to the Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road for a solution:

“Mama Sarah [would] fix dinner and send it down to Dudley on the train. The man that run the whatchacallit — engine?  Up there, where stokes the fire or whatever is on the train. He would take it.  But she would tell what day she was gon send it. And so somebody’d be up there to the train station to get it.  And the train, ‘cause a lot of time the train didn’t stop in Dudley. But anyway, the man, the conductor, he would pull the thing, whatever, for the train to stop long enough for him to drop off this package.  … Somebody she’d have be out there when the train come through, and then the porter on the train — Mama knew him —  and so then Johnnie and them or somebody be out there to take the package. It’d be a shoebox full of food, already cooked and ready to eat. So that’s the way they helped Uncle Lucian and A’nt Susie, like that. Until they died, and so that was the end of trying to feed them and take care of them.”

Look closely at this snippet of a 1936 map of the Atlantic Coast Line’s routes. Wilson is just above the center point. Lucian and Susie Henderson’s care packages traveled south through Goldsboro to the whistle stop at Dudley’s platform, nine miles below and just above Mount Olive.

Adapted from interviews of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, 1996 and 1998. All rights reserved. 

The murder of Cora Lee Carr.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 April 1924.

The victim, in fact, was named Cora Lee Carr. I have not found more about her terrible death.

——

Cora Lee Carr died 21 April 1924 in Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was about 24 years old; was married to Earnest Carr; and was born in Norfolk, Virginia. Willie Williams was informant. Cause of death: “Crushed scull with axe Homicide Instant death.”

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.