Work Life

Bessie Taylor Jones Bowden Richardson.

Born in Oxford, North Carolina, Bessie Richardson was brought to Wilson as a housekeeper and cook by Mr. and Mrs. Carl Goerch. After about a year, she went to work for opthalmologist Thomas Blackshear and his wife. “She was with the Blackshears so long until she earned the nickname of Bessie ‘Blackshear’ by many patients, friends and neighbors of the Blackshears.”

Richardson also sewed curtains for homeowners on West Nash Street and cooked [catered?] meals for black businessmen, including Dr. George K. Butterfield, Daniel “Mack” McKeithan and Dr. William M. Mitchner.

She cared for two of her brothers, Wilbur and Leo Taylor, during their last illnesses. Wilbur Taylor worked for many years as a cook at the Ship and Shore Restaurant on West Nash.

Bessie Richardson was a devout Catholic and long-time member of Saint Alphonsus Church. She and her husband, Willie “Skeeter” Bowden, had no children.

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  • William R. Bowden, age illegible, of Wilson, married Bessie T. Jones, 34, of Wilson on 15 June 1926. Oscar Reid applied for the license, and J.W. Aiken, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, performed the ceremony at Willie R. Bowden’s home in the presence of Ferdinand Faison, John Sanchas and John Lee Devaughan. Willie Bowden died 5 March 1960 at his home at 203 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 13 November 1901 to Mary Adams; was married to Bessie Bowden; and worked as a laborer. He was buried at William Chapel cemetery, Elm City.

Text adapted from article in and photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).

Papered or painted, cheap and quick.

In the earliest years of his ministry, Rev. Fred M. Davis continued to ply his trade as a wallpaper hanger, sign painter and interior decorator.

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Wilson Advance, 8 February 1894.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Fred M. Davis, 33, paper hanger; wife Diannon, 31; children Eva M., 6, Bertha E., 5, and Fred M., 17 months; plus mother Judith Davis, 50, laundress.

Chief Mincey.

Benjamin Mincey, after Edmund Poole, was the second “chief” of Wilson’s African-American volunteer fire department, the Red Hot Hose Company. This magnificent photograph depicts Mincey in full fireman dress regalia.

Benjamin Mincey (circa 1881-1950).

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In the 1900 census of Wilson town, Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Prince Mensey, 60; wife Susan, 52; children Ben, 19, Emma, 19, and Oscar, 12; and niece Rosetta Mensey, 7.

Ben Mincey, 21, of Wilson, son of P. Mincey, and Mattie Barnes, 20, of Wilson, daughter of M. and Mariah Barnes, were married on 12 January 1904. Berry Williams applied for the license, and Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in his home in the presence of Harry Mercer, W. Aken, and E.M. Davis.

In 1918, Ben Mincey registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 25 December 1879; resided at 411 Wiggins Street; worked as a laborer for the city of Wilson; and his nearest relative was Mattie Mincey.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 411 Wiggins Street, city pipe fitter Benj. Mency, 38; wife Mattie, 37, tobacco factory worker; and children Benjamin J., 11, Mildred, 7, Maddison, 5, and John, 3 months.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 June 1929.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 656 Wiggins Street, valued at $800, town of Wilson plumber Benjamin Mincy, 48; wife Mattie, 49; and children Benjamin Jr., 23, Briggs hotel cook; Madison B., 16; Mildred, 17; and John H., 11; and roomer Andrew P. Sugg, 59.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: City of Wilson plumber Benjamine Mincy, 60; wife Mattie, 60; and sons Benjamine, 31, hotel cook, and Johnnie, 21, daily paper deliveryman; and granddaughter Deloris Woodard, 5.

Benjamin Mincey died 14 July 1950 at his home at 712 Wiggins Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was married; worked as a plumber for the town of Wilson; was born in Greene County to Prince Mincey and Susan Suggs; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Informant was Mattie Mincey.

Photograph of Mincey reprinted from Wilson Daily Times, 29 April 1999. Many thanks to Pamela Mincey Myers, who advises that the original of this portrait of her great-grandfather hung in the living room of her grandparents, Benjamin Madison Mincey and Lala Rook Barnes Mincey at 723 Lincoln Street, Wilson.

“Can’t a man take a nap?”

Not Dead But Sleeping.

Yesterday afternoon it was reported about the city hall that old man Alfred Boyette, the janitor and aho has been in the service of the town over forty years, was dead or dying in the town building. Mr. T.A. Hinnant, the city clerk, several policemen, and the county physicians and other officials hurried to that part of the building where he was lying anxious to do all they could to have him taken home. There was little appearance of life, but when they started pick him up he aroused himself and wanted to know what it all meant. Old man Alfred was simply asleep. “Can’t a man take a little nap,” he said. Everyone likes Alfred and the crowd was glad that he was not dead but sleeping.

— Wilson Times, 6 May 1910.

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On 20 January 1867, Alfred Boyette and Liza Barnes were married in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Alfred Boyette, 26, farm laborer; wife Eliza, 29; and Julius Freeman, 21, carpenter.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Spring Street, Alfred Boyette, 40, working on street; wife Eliza, 45; daughter Sylvia, 9; and boarder Albert Barnes, 22, working at ice house.

On 18 November 1897, Alfred Boyette, 55, son of Hady Hinnant, married Mrs. Mary Armstrong, 37, daughter of Raford Dew, at the home of Raford Dew in Wilson township. Missionary Baptist minister M. Strickland performed the ceremony in the presence of Bush Dew, Moses Dew and Henry Melton.

In the 1900 census of “genater” Alfred Boyett, 59; wife Mary, 32; and children Alfred, 1, Etna, 9, and Willie, 13.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Alfred Boyette, 75, laborer for court; wife Mary, 40; and children Millian, 21, and Willie, 18, both factory laborers, Edna, 11, and Gincy, 9.

On 7 March 1911, in a synopsis of news of the monthly city aldermen’s meeting, the Wilson Times noted that on motion Mayor Briggs was powered to “look into the condition and needs of Alfred Boyette, city employee, who is in bad health.”  Boyette apparently died shortly after.

They unlawfully hired their time of their master.

An enslaver could, and often did, rent the services of an enslaved person to others for specific tasks or under long-term leases. Under North Carolina law, however, enslavers were prohibited from allowing their slaves to rent their own time. That is, to come to their own terms and arrangements for working for others for wages that they either kept for themselves or split with their masters. Slaves who hired their own time created their own wealth, a dangerous circumstance. There was a wide gulf between law and reality, however.

Dennis, a man over whom white Wilson County carpenter John Farmer claimed ownership, was indicted on misdemeanor charges of hiring his time at July term, 1859, of the Wilson County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.  Five years later, at July 1864, jurors indicted Farmer himself for allowing the entrepreneurial activities of enslaved women named Mary, Lucy and Silvia.

The jurors for the State on their oath present, that Dennis, a Slave the property of John Farmer (Carpt) at and in the County of Wilson on the first day of January 1859 and on divers other days and times as well before as afterwards up to the taking of this inquisition by the permission of the said John Farmer his master, unlawfully did go at large, the said Salve having then and there unlawfully hired his own time of his said master, contrary to the form of the Stature in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State.

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John Farmer may have been the John W. Farmer of Wilson township, Wilson County, who is listed in the 1860 slave schedule as the owner of ten enslaved men and women.

Court Cases Involving Slaves, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Struck on the head by an iron cog wheel.

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Wilson Daily News, 20 September 1900.

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On 30 November 1892, Thos. Day, 24, parents living, but not listed, of the town of Wilson, married Julia Battle, 19, daughter of Lewis Battle, of the town of Wilson. Presbyterian minister L.J. Melton performed the ceremony at Lewis Battle’s house. J.J. Wilson and J.W. Rogers were witnesses.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco stemmer Thomas Day, 33; wife Julia, 27, laundry woman; and boarders James Parham, 25, teamster, and John H. Gregory, 19, and Donald Parker, 17, both tobacco stemmers.

Dr. Phillips arrives.

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New York Age, 28 September 1916.

In the 1900 census of Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina: cook Frank Phillips, 47; wife Margarett, 45; and children Mary, 25, Jeanett, 21, Dealian, [illegible], Frank, [illegible], Willie, 8, Bessie, 15, and Susie, 6.

In 1917, William Haywood Phillips registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 23 December 1891 in Raleigh, North Carolina; lived at 530 1/2 Nash Street, Wilson; was single; and worked as a dentist.

On 30 November 1917, William H. Phillips, 25, married Jewell Jennifer, 18, in Washington, D.C.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 332 South Spring, widow Ella Battle, 52, and her children Grace [Glace], 27, teacher Roberta, 29, tobacco worker John, 25, and Olga Battle, 11, shared their home with boarders Georgia Burks, 25, a Georgia-born teacher, and chauffeur Theodore Speight, 17; and roomers William Phillips, 35, a dentist, and his wife Jewel, 23.

On 6 May 1930, William Haywood Phillips, 36, divorced, son of Frank and Margarett Haywood Phillips, married Rena Manor Carter, 34, widow, daughter of Robert and Mary D. Carter, in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the 1930 census of Tarboro, Edgecombe County: renting at 115 Andrew Street, dentist William H. Phillips, 37, and wife Rena C., 33.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Green Street, dentist William H. Phillips, 47, and wife Rena C., 45.

William Haywood Phillips died 26 October 1957 at his home at 405 Green Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 December 1892 in Raleigh; was married to Rena J. Phillips; and worked as a dentist.

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Caldwell, A.B., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).

Robbed the watchman.

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Wilson Daily Times, 2 September 1921.

In 1917, Jake Armstrong registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 11 May 1890 in Wilson; lived at 210 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer for Farmers Cotton Oil Company; and had a dependent mother and sister.

On 8 September 1919, Jake Armstrong, 23, of Wilson, married Della Jones, 22, of Wilson. B.P. Coward performed the ceremony at the A.M.E. Zion church in the presence of Rose McCullers, Berta Faulkland and Lucy A. Richards.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Broad Street, oil mill laborer Jake Armstrong, 23; wife Della, 21; and children Kathryn, 6, and Charlie, 1.