Work Life

He fell from the trestle and drowned.

The body of Ed Howell, who stoked the firebox and tended the boiler on an Atlantic Coast Line passenger train, was not recovered until eleven days after he fell into Contentnea Creek south of Wilson. The strap of his overalls snagged on a tree limb or root, holding him under several feet of water. The coroner noted that the eighty-five dollars Howell had on his person was missing, but opined that it might have fallen from his pocket as he fell. (Or was he robbed and murdered?)

Wilson Daily Times, 6 February 1935.

Per his death certificate, Howell died 25 January 1935. He was a native of Pitt County, but a resident of Rocky Mount, N.C., 18 miles north of Wilson. Cause of death was described as: “accidental drowning stepping off cab steps while train on tressel over Contentna Creek near Wilson NC Train #83.”

New Year Greetings!

Janitors at National Bank of Wilson, 113 East Nash Street, placed ads sending New Years greetings and thanking their customers for Christmas gifts.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 December 1933.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 January 1935.

[Sidenote: This building, which now houses county offices, was the tallest building in Wilson until the construction of Branch Banking & Trust’s twin towers at Nash and Pine Streets. The towers were demolished 19 December 2020, and the old National Bank building thus reclaims its title.]

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  • David Graham — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 712 East Green Street, rented for $12/month, tobacco factory laborer David Graham, 40; wife Goldie, 46; daughters Cora, 17, and Marie, 15; and grandson Cleo, 3.
  • Jesse McPhail 
  • Hardy Anderson — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 302 Stantonsburg Street, rented at $12/month, Hardy Anderson, 45, National Bank janitor; wife Sarah H., 34; and roomer Robert Good, 32, fertilizer laborer.
  • Calvin Carr — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 419 Stantonsburg Street, rented at $15/month, bank janitor Calvin Carr, 27; wife Lena, 23, private family cook; and sister-in-law Ina Blount, 25.
  • James T. Speight — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 209 Finch Street, owned and valued at $1000, Lula Speight, 34, drink stand proprietor, widow, and son James T., 19, bank porter; also, paying $8/month rent, William Hodge, 25, oil mill laborer; wife Sarah, 23; and children Eva R., 6, and William Jr., 1.
  • Ashley Tillery — in the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 909 Mercer Street, owned and valued at $1500, farmer John Tillery, 51; wife Conielia, 45; and children Jessie, 20, cook, Ashley L., 18, truck farm helper, Raymond, 16, truck farm helper, Adelia, 14, housemaid, Johny L., 11, Elnora, 7, and Clyde, 5.
  • Walter Jackson — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 515 Church Street, owned and valued at $2000, James McCowan, 76, brickmason, and wife Louise, 63; Jenealia Murphy, 33, private cook, and son Elbert, 18, bank elevator boy, paying $12/month rent; and Rosa Jackson, 36, laundress, and children Annie, 19, cook, Walter, 16, bank elevator boy, and Lucil, 3, also paying $12.

Wood stoves.

Castonoble Hooks shared this memory of winters in Wilson. Though he was born just after the close of the period covered in Black Wide-Awake, his recollection would have rung true for generations before him.

“I remember the wood stove this time of year. Wilson streets were covered with clouds of smoke — each house contributed its own stream of exhaust! Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s Wilson, you “learned” the wood stove. The first chore I remember as a child was to carry out cold ashes, the residue of burned wood. I was maybe five years old. Later that year, I could clean the stove of hot or cold ashes. The next year I was cutting wood, stacking wood, starting a fire in morning and banking the stove at night! At the age of ten, I was working for woodmen, Mr. Turner Jenkins and Mr. Columbus Ham, who rode around our hood delivering wood and coal. Almost every house had at least one stove! Wood heat is so warming and completely satisfying. Many a cold day was, the wood stove stood tall!”

  • Turner Jenkins — 

In the 1920 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Gray Jenkins, 46; wife Mary Jane, 35; children Joseph, 17, William, 15, Lucinda, 12, Mada, 11, Mark, 9, Turner, 7, Rosa, 5, Rachel, 4, and (adopted) Lester, 7; servant Frank Braswell, 18.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Turner Williamson, 30; wife Mary, 21; children Mary B., 5, Sarah P., 4, and Paul, 2; sister-in-law Lucinda Jenkins, 23, and brother-in-law Turner Jenkins, 17, farm laborer.

Turner Jenkins, 21, of Gardners township, son of Gray and Mary Jane Jenkins, married Lossie Applewhite, 21, of Gardners township, daughter of Tom and Diana Applewhite, on 15 November 1933 in Wilson. Gray Jenkins, Stantonsburg; Lonnie Applewhite, Wilson, and B.E. Howard, Wilson, were witnesses.

Turner Jenkins registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 17 April 1912 in Edgecombe County; lived at 911 Carolina Street, Wilson; his contact was wife Lossie Applewhite Jenkins; and he worked for Independent Ice Company.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Turner Jenkins, 29; wife Lossie, 29; daughter Annie M., 12; sister [in-law] Minnie Applewhite, 19; and [her?] son Roy William Applewhite, 11 months. 

Turner Jenkins died 11 January 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 April 1912 in Edgecombe County to Gray Jenkins and Mary Jane Bridgers; was married to Lossie Jenkins; lived at 128 Narroway Street; and worked as a laborer.

  • Columbus Ham

Caleb Columbus Hamm Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 16 August 1920 in Greene County; lived at 913 East Nash Street, Wilson; his contact was Annie Hodges, 110 Ashe Street, Wilson; and he worked for Stephenson Lumber Company.

Thank you for sharing, Castonoble Hooks!

Memories of Samuel and Catherine Clark.

The recent post about the 500 block of Nash Street sparked memories from Cora Ruth Greene Wellington Dawson, who earlier shared her recollections of attending the Sallie Barbour School.

In the 1930s, Mrs. Dawson’s grandparents Samuel and Catherine Frison McFadden Clark lived on Smith Street, which ran parallel to Nash for one block. They were members of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church and owned a horse and buggy. Catherine Clark was a cook at Woodard-Herring Hospital on West Green Street and also cooked for Camillus L. and Norma D. Darden at their Pender Street home.

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In 1918, Sam Smith registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 18 April 1874; lived at 118 Smith Street; worked as a laborer for Imperial Tobacco Company; and his nearest relative was wife Katherine Clark.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 607 Viola, rented for $16/month, hospital cook Catherine Clark, 42; husband Sam, 52; grandchildren Martha Clark, 15, and Willie McGill, 6; and roomers Talmage Smith, 21, and Roy Maze, 26, both orchestra musicians.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Clark Samuel (c; Cath) h 607 Viola

Samuel Clark died 21 January 1935 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 53 years old; was born in Macon, Georgia; was a laborer; was married to Katherine Clark; and lived at 513 Smith Street.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: boarding house keeper Floyd Mitchell, 56, and lodgers Rosa Taylor, 39, laborer; Catherine Clark, 51, cook, Willie Cook, 14, and David Cook, 9; Alice Cutts, 34; Irvin Cutts, 39; George K. Cutts, 9, and Charles Cutts, 7.

Catherine Frison Clark died 9 November 1944 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 20 February 1875 in Charleston, South Carolina, to David Frison and Easter [last name unknown]; she was a widow; and she lived at 401 Grace Street. She was buried in Rountree cemetery, and Lottie Cohen, 401 Grace, was informant.

Thanks to Judy Wellington Rashid for sharing.

Want ads, 1927.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 August 1927.

From at least 1925 until at least the mid-1940s, 1011 East Nash Street was the address of Butler and Myrtle Brodie Jones.

From the early 1920s until the early 1940s, Matilda Roberts lived at 802 East Vance. Available records do not show that Roberts worked as a practical nurse.

The mysterious deaths of Miles and Annie Pearson.

An anonymous letter arrived at the sheriff’s office on 13 January 1922. Miles Pearson had killed his wife, it said, and fled the scene, leaving her lying the yard. The sheriff and several deputies rushed to the scene to find Annie Pearson‘s body, shot through the heart and mutilated by hungry animals. 

“Pistol shot wound through the heart. Murdered by husband”

The Daily Times reported on 14 January that the Pearsons were sharecroppers who had been on this farm, owned by Lithuanian Jewish brothers-in-law Morris Barker and Morris Popkin, just weeks. Their animals were found tied up and famished. 

… and then Miles Pearson was found in the woods, shot in the back.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 January 1922.

A Black man named Jim McCullen and two white men, prowling about the farm, found Pearson’s body stretched out behind a log with a shotgun nearby. Suddenly, it seems, everyone recalled a man and woman who’d been living with the Pearsons and were nowhere to be found. A week earlier, some said, they had briefly borrowed a horse and buggy from George Barnes, but had not been seen since.

“Pistol shot wound Murdered by unknown parties No Doctor in Attendance”

Were the Pearson murders ever solved?

Booker T. Washington speaks of Miss Williamson.

Booker T. Washington mentioned Mahala J. Williamson in this letter to Warren Logan, treasurer of Tuskegee Institute. Williamson, a Hampton Institute graduate, served in several positions at Tuskegee, including head of the laundry department, principal of the night school, and librarian.

Williamson, born in 1864, was the daughter of Patrick and Spicey Williamson. See here a letter Williamson wrote about her work at Tuskegee.

Excerpt from Harlan, Louis R., Booker T. Washington Papers, Volume 2: 1860-89 (1972).