1310 East Nash Street.

The one hundred-sixth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

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As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “ca. 1930; 1 1/2 stories; James Joyner House; bungalow with gable roof, brick veneer, engaged porch; Joyner was an auto mechanic who owned a shot next door; builder was Nestus Freeman.”

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: James Joyner, 30, garage mechanic, and wife Annie, 28.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: James Joyner, 40, laborer, and wife Annie, 40, tobacco factory stemmer.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Joyner Jas J (Annie) auto repr 1310 E Nash h [ditto]

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Joyner Jas J (Lillian) h 1310 E Nash

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As of the date of this posting, this property is listed for sale online by multiple real estate database companies. The listings provide 21 photos of the interior and exterior of the house, including these, which reveal the attention paid to detail and aesthetics in even working-class homes built in this era.

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Adjoining rooms with corner fireplaces share the two chimneys. The surround is brick and is topped with a shallow wooden mantel. Also, notice the subtle flare of the trim atop the doorframes.

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Bricked-in firebox with former stovepipe attachment point visible. Contrast the fireplace and mantel surround with that above.

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Five-panel doors; two-and-a-quarter-inch oak flooring.

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Oversized four-over-over windows. Same flared edge on trim at the headers.

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Center hall staircase.

 

 

Details of a drowning.

The day after Eugene Fisher drowned while swimming in the lake at Contentnea Park, the Daily Times printed an article suggesting that “Sam Vick,” i.e. Samuel H. Vick Jr., bore some responsibility for the accident.

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Wilson Daily Times, 29 July 1924.

Vick immediately fired back. His grief, he stated sharply, had “been still more aggravated by the misstatement of facts concerning my part in the matter, for the facts were badly twisted and really just the opposite what really happened.” Georgia Aiken also contributed a corrective, milder in tone, but just as firm.

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Wilson Daily Times, 30 July 1924.

And where was Contentnea Park? References in contemporaneous news articles reveal that (1) it was not an African-American-only park — the Kiwanis met there regularly — but rather seems to have had a section reserved for black patrons, “the negro park”; (2) it was privately owned and operated; (3) it was located above the dam on Contentnea Creek; and (4) entrance was gained via a road marked by two stone pillars. A dam spans Contentnea Creek just above U.S. Highway 301 to form what is now known as Wiggins Mill Reservoir, still a popular recreational area. With a hat tip to Janelle Booth Clevinger, here is my best guest at the park’s location:

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  • Eugene Fisher — Connecticut-born Eugene Leonard Fisher was newly arrived to Wilson at the time of his tragic death. His father Edwin W. Fisher was a manager with North Carolina Mutual and moved his wife and remaining children to Wilson between 1926, when Edwin is listed in the 1926 Durham, N.C., city directory, and 1928, when he appears in the Wilson directory. They settled into 624 East Nash Street, the house built for Dr. Frank S. Hargrave next door to Samuel Vick’s family home at 622. The Fishers appear in Wilson in the 1930 census, and Daisy Virginia Fisher (Eugene’s stepmother) died there on 25 April 1935. Per her death certificate, she and her husband were living at 539 East Nash at the time. Eugene Fisher’s younger brother Milton W. Fisher remained in Wilson into the 1940s, and his older brother Edwin D. Fisher lived there the remainder of his life.

Eugene Fisher’s death certificate reveals that he was an insurance agent for North Carolina Mutual. Fisher was living at an unspecified address on Nash Street. His father Edwin, then a Durham resident, was informant.

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Eugene L. Fisher served in the United States Naval Reserve Force during World War I as a mess attendant. The Messman Branch of the Navy, which was restricted to non-white sailors, was responsible for feeding and serving officers. Fisher was assigned to U.S.S. Black Hawk, a destroyer depot ship. After his death, his brother Edwin D. Fisher of 600 East Green Street applied for a military headstone to be shipped to the “Negro Cemetery (Fayetteville Street)” in Durham. [Edwin Fisher, himself a veteran of World War I, signed as “Liaison Officer, [illegible] A.V. of World War, Sumter S.C. chap. #2.” (What does this signify?)]

Aerial images courtesy of Google Maps.

UPDATE, 9 April 2019:

The “stone” pillars I identified above are actually brick. Until a better guess arrives though, I will stick with hypothesis that they mark the entrance to Contentnea Park. Many thanks to Janelle Booth Clevinger for this photo. — LYH

UPDATE, 11 April 2019: Per additional intel, the pillars shown above were erected in the 1960s. Thus, the location of Contentnea Park remains a mystery.

The last will and testament of Rosa Hussey.

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  • Rosa Hussey — Rosa Hussey died 13 June 1947 at her home at 707 East Nash Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 July 1904 in Wilson to Willie Hussey and Florence Hooks, both of Mount Olive, North Carolina; she was single; and she worked as a tobacco factory laborer. Informant was Francis Wynn Lane of Mount Olive. She was buried at Rountree cemetery.
  • Mary Francis Lane
  • Thad Dennis Lane
  • Francis Lane

Images of estate documents available at North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Crossing the tracks.

Shot from the caboose of a departing train, this image captures the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad crossing at East Nash Street. The photograph is undated, but appears to have been taken in the 1940s. It is part of the Atlantic Coast Line album of the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library, a collection housed at Saint Louis Mercantile Library and digitized on Flickr.

To the right lay East Wilson, the largest of the town’s African-American communities and the locus of its black business district.

To the left is Wilson’s passenger rail station, built in 1924. (The building was restored to its original condition in the late 1990s and now serves as an Amtrak station.)

A closer look at the people walking west toward downtown:

And those headed east, perhaps towards home:

For the same shot today, minus side rails and telegraph poles and pedestrians, see here.

Liquor and secret panels.

During our conversation in February, Samuel C. Lathan also told me about “Moon” Jones, who held an infamous annual gambling event called the Skin Ball. Luther “Moon” Jones had a spoon in many pots, including bootlegging:

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1939.

  • Luther “Moon” Jones — possibly, in the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jones Luther J (c; Lula) rest 543 E Nash h 712 Hadley. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: renting for $16/month, Lula Herring, 25, seamstress, and boarder Luther Jones, 38, cafe manager. Luther Jones registered for the World War II draft in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1899 in Wilson; resided at 540 East Nash, Wilson; his contact was “(Nellie Jones) Mrs. Myrtie Jones,” 1101 East Nash; and he was an unemployed painter.
  • Biltmore Hotel — at 541 East Nash, previously known as the Hotel Union and Whitley Hotel.

U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Vick buys a lot from the Knights of Labor.

In 1891, Samuel H. Vick purchased the lot upon which he built the Orange Hotel from the trustees of Knights of Labor Local 10699, an organization of which he was a member. The Knights of Labor had purchased the lot from William Smith and wife Harriett Smith on 22 December 1887 for $300.

S.H. Vick built a hotel-cum-boarding house at 519 East Nash Street on land he purchased at a discount from the Knights of Labor. The building is shown here on the 1903 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

Here is a transcription of Vick’s deed, which is found in Book 30, Pages 92-93, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson:

This deed made by John H. Clark, John Ratley, Gilbert Stallings, William Goffney, George Harris, Wilson Sharpe and Daniel Vick, trustees of Local Assembly Number 10,699, Knights of Labor (the same being successors to James Bynum, Jack Hilliard, Wilson Sharpe, Charles Barnes, Daniel Vick, Wade Barnes, Samuel Williams, Samuel H. Vick and Reddick Strickland, former trustees of said assembly) the parties of the first part to S.H. Vick the Party of the second part all of the County of Wilson and State of North Carolina. Witnesseth that that [sic] the said parties of the first part by the direction of said assembly in meeting assembled and in consideration of the sum of Two hundred and fifty dollars to them in hand paid by the said party of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have bargained sold and conveyed and do by these presents bargain sell and convey unto him the said S.H. Vick One certain lot or parcel of land, lying and being Situate in the Town of Wilson State aforesaid on Nash Street adjoining the lands of Peter Rountree R.J. Taylor and others and bounded as follows. Beginning at Peter Rountrees corner on Nash Street thence with said Rountrees line to R.J. Taylors line thence nearly northwest to Henry Jones line thence with said Jones line to Nash Street thence with said Street to the beginning Containing One half acre more or less and for a more particular description of said land reference is made to the deed of Jas. E. Clark administrator to William Smith recorded in Book No 16 Page 373, in the Registers office of Wilson County.

To have, and to hold, said lot or parcel of land unto him the said S.H. Vick his heirs and assigns in fee simple together with all the privileges and appurtenances thereunto belonging or appertaining to his and their only use & behoof and the said parties of the first part do for themselves their heirs and successors in office warrant to deed with the said S.H. Vick & his heirs that they will forever warrant and defend the title to said land against the lawful claims of and and all persons whomsoever to him the said S.H. Vick & his heirs. Witness our hands & seals this the 9th day of March 1891

[Signed] John Henry Clark, John (X) Ratley, Gilbert (X) Stallings, William (X) Goffney, George (X) Harris, Wilson (X) Sharpe, Daniel (X) Vick. Witness as to all J.D. Bardin

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  • John H. Clark
  • John Ratley — John Ratley, 37, married Eliza Mitchell, 31, on 26 August 1872 in Wilson. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, South Carolina-born John Ratley, 88; daughter Martha, 45, servant; and boarder Kernal Jordan, 46, wagon factory laborer. John Rattley died 22 February 1922 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 90 years old; was born in South Carolina to unknown parents; was a widower; resided at 630 Suggs Street; and had been a laborer. Martha Rattley Jordan was informant. [Martha Rattley, as financial secretary, signed Jane Bynum’s Knights of Labor dues card in 1888.]
  • Gilbert Stallings — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Gilbert Stallings, 28; wife Georgeanna, 23; and children Clara, 6, and Mary, 2. Gilbert Stallings died 13 August 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 February 1854 in Franklin County to John Stallings and Hannah Upperman; was married; and was a farmer. Informant was G.W. Stallings.
  • William Goffney
  • George Harris
  • Wilson Sharpe – probably, in the 1880 census of Taylors township, farmer Wilson Sharp, 52; wife Cherry, 45; nephew Jerry Bynum, 6; and James Mitchel, 47, with wife Rosa, 33, and son James G., 11.
  • Daniel Vick
  • James Bynum
  • Jack Hilliard — in the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Jack Hilliard, 40, farmer; wife Laura, 25; and children Mattie, 5, John, 3, and Doctor, 1.
  • Charles Barnes
  • Wade Barnes
  • Samuel Williams
  • Samuel H. Vick
  • Reddick Strickland — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Redick Strickland, 54; wife Mary, 51; and children Berry, 23, Joseph, 20, Robert, 18, Spencer, 13, and Lily, 10; and grandfather Solomon Strickland, 102.
  • Peter Rountree

1110 Hines Street.

The one hundred-fifth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “ca. 1930; 1 1/2 stories; bungalow with gabled roof and dormer; shingled gables; fine example of the side-gable bungalow in E. Wilson.” The house was originally 1110 Wainwright Avenue. County property tax records show that the house was built in 1940.

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In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pridgen Jas H (c; Meta) gro 1218 E Nash h 1110 Wainwright Av

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harrison Eli W (c; Rosa) Jones Constn Co h 1110 Wainwright Av

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2018.

Shaw secures a debt.

To secure debt of $54.55 and an additional loan of $100, Spencer S. Shaw agreed in the event of default to convey to Hawley & Revell an iron gray mule, a Hackney top buggy, five hogs, a one-horse wagon, and several farm tools.

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In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Spencer Shaw, 40, wife Tabitha, 41, and children George A., 17, James R., 11, Hattie, 9, Joeseph G., 6, Seth T., 5, and Albert S., 2.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson and Raleigh Branch Road, Spencer Shaw, 51, wife Bitha, 49, and children James R., 21, Joseph T., 16, Seth T.,14, Albert S., 11, Merlin S., 9, Willie H., 7, and Alice M., 5.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Shaw Avenue on Springhill Road, farmer Spencer S. Shaw, 60; wife Bitha, 60; and children Albert, 22, Marlie, 19, Willie, 16, and Alice, 14.

Wilson Daily Times, 12 January 1920.

In the 1930 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Buckhorn Road, farmer Spencer S. Shaw, 70; wife Bitha J., 70; sons William H., 26, and Seth T., 34; daughter-in-law Georgeanna, 24; and grandchildren Alice M., 4, Seth T. Jr., 2, and Franklin S., 6 months.

Book 72, Page 292, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson.

“So you’ll know when it’s your time to go.”

John G. Thomas’ “Wilsonia” column appeared in the Daily Times regularly during the 1930s and ’40s. A raconteur of human-interest stories, Thomas — typically, for the times — was drawn to tales of picaresque negroes living in Wilson’s colored section. In his 8 January 1937 column, Thomas introduced his readers to the sad and curious tale, derived via hearsay, of the “conjuration” of Duncan Hargrove. Just 11 months later, on 11 February 1938, Thomas revisited the story, adding considerable detail to the plight Hargrove, now called “Jake,” and augmenting his  armchair anthropologist’s analysis of rootwork, a deep-rooted African-American spiritual practice. (“You probably won’t believe that in this day and age a simple thing like a hole bored in an oak tree could kill a person by itself. Now would you? But 1938 isn’t such a far cry after all, when it comes to superstition among the negroes of the south. It was several years back when I became interested in such things over here.”)

In a nutshell: Hargrove, who lived on Carolina Street, had a “leaky heart” (valve regurgitation.) After an argument, a friend cursed Hargrove by boring a hole into a tree and pronouncing that Hargrove would live only until the tree’s bark had grown over the hole. After watching the hole with fearful obsessiveness, Hargrove traveled to Georgia and Florida searching for a conjurer to lift the “hand” placed on him. He failed and, as the old folks used to say, after “going down slow,” he died.

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Wilson Daily Times, 9 February 1937.

Now the remix, EP version, with Duncan as “Jake,” the friend as a rootworker in his own right, and the maple as an oak:

Wilson Daily Times, 11 January 1938.

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  • Duncan Hargrove — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vance Street, D. John Hargrove, 28, fireman at machine shop; wife Vina, 25, laundress; children D[illegible], 8, Willie, 6, Jacob, 4, and John Ben, 4; mother Adline, 50, widowed laundress; brother Esaias, 30, machine shop fireman; and niece Melia A. Hargrove, 15, cook.
  • Toussaint L’Ouverture
  • Dr. Devil and Dr. Buzzard — For another story of rootwork in Wilson County, this one also involving Dr. Buzzard and a hole bored in a tree, see here.
  • Note Hardy — Note Hardy died 12 April 1977 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 September 1900 to Charlie Durham and Annie Hardy in Wayne County; was never married; was handicapped; and resided in Goldsboro, Wayne County.
  • Harvey Green
  • John Moore
  • John the Conqueror
  • Adam & Eve
  • mojo — see also here and (another of Thomas’ columns) here.
  • John McGill

The twin Gastons.

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Wilson Advance, 21 April 1892.

The Gaston twins were John A. Gaston and George A. Gaston. George established perhaps the leading barber shop in Elm City, seven miles north of Wilson. Though John was sometimes referred to as “Twin Gaston,” this ad, with Gastons plural, suggests that the brothers were in business together in Wilson at least briefly.

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In the 1870 census of Kinston, Lenoir County, North Carolina: brickmason George Gaston, 53, wife Matilda, 30, and 13 year-old sons George and John, both farm laborers.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason George Gaston, 60, wife Matilda, 44, and son John, 23, a farm laborer. John’s twin George Gaston, 23, barber, is listed by himself in the 1880 census of Town of Toisnot, Wilson County.