Work Life

Negro State Bar Association meets in Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 December 1921.


Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Where we worked: Farmers Cotton Oil Company.

Farmers Cotton Oil Company had been in operation only six years when an artist sketched it for the border of T.M. Fowler’s 1908 bird’s-eye map of Wilson. At the time, the tobacco town was also one of the larger cotton markets in eastern North Carolina, and Farmers not only ginned cotton and pressed cotton seed oil, it manufactured fertilizer.

It was also a dangerous place to work. In November 1922, doctors amputated Will Scott’s left hand after it was mangled in machinery at the mill.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 November 1922.

Seven years later, Wade Vick was whirled to death after being caught in a revolving wheel at the compound.

As shown in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, Farmers Cotton Oil Company filled almost the whole block bounded by East Barnes, Grace, Stemmery, and South Railroad Streets. The church at lower right was Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist

  • Will Scott

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The apprenticeship of Cindary Taylor.

On 25 October 1895, a Wilson County Superior Court clerk issued an indenture binding Cindary Taylor, age 10 years and 8 days, described as an orphan, to serve Jackson Hayes until she was 21 years of age.

A year later, however, the same clerk rescinded the indenture after Jackson Hayes came into court asking to be released. His wife had died, leaving him with “seven children of his own” that were apparently all he could handle.

United States Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at

Dr. Elijah L. Reid, the old reliable.

Another ad for veterinarian Elijah L. Reid‘s vaunted wart cure. Reid, who grew up in northwest Wayne County, had settled just across the county line in Moyton, a village adjacent to Stantonsburg.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1897.

Twenty years later, Reid had taken his talents ten miles up the road to Wilson and advertised as “the old reliable Veterinary Surgeon” with an office at his home at Elba and Viola Streets.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 October 1917.

Wilson, N.C., Sanborn fire insurance map, 1913.

Clippings courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Thrown from a wagon.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1915.

  • Andrew Hardy — This appears to be Andrew Hargett

Andrew Harget registered for the World War I draft in 1918 in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 January 1896 in Craven County, N.C.; he lived at 602 Spring, Wilson; his father was born in Beaufort County, N.C.; he worked for Barnes-Graves Grocery Company, Nash Street, Wilson; and his wife was Geneva Harget.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Henrietta Ruffin, champion canner.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 August 1944.

Once again, Henrietta Ruffin was recognized for her canning prowess, here crowned Wilson County champion canner by the Farm Security Administration. Using a pressure cooker obtained via an FSA loan, Ruffin planned to can 800 quarts of fruit, meat, and vegetables in 1944, topping her 550-quart total the year before.

Bailey dies in fall from scaffold.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 June 1932.


John D. Bailey, 24, of Oldfields township, married Genevia Jones, 18, of Oldfields township, on 20 December 1893 at Richard Jones‘ in Oldfields township.

In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer John D. Bailey, 31; wife Jeneva, 23; daughters Rhoda, 4, Pearl, 1, and Mary L., 1 month; and servant Lillie Bagley, 35. 

In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John D. Bailey, 42; wife Jeneva, 33; and children Rhoda, 13, Pearlie, 12, Mary L., 9, Lonnie, 8, Ora, 6, John T., 5, William H., 4, Melton P., 2, and Richard E., 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 516 Church Street, owned and valued at $2000, oil mill laborer John Bailey, 60; wife Jeneva, 52; children Johnny, 16, James, 14, Perry, 21, railroad laborer, and Jerry, 24, railroad laborer; and lodgers Mack Miller, 35, divorced, born in S.C., auto garage mechanic, and Mary P. Williams, 74, widow, private family nurse.

John Bailey died 24 June 1932 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1876 in Nash County to Hill Bailey and Mary Bailey of Nash County, N.C.; was married Geneva Bailey; lived at 516 Church Street, Wilson; and worked as a day laborer for Southern Oil Mill. His cause of death: “hemorrhage of brain at base & of spinal cord” as a result of “scaffold fell on which he was working.”

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.