accidental death

Gorham killed in freak accident.

Earnest Gorham was electrocuted while placing a metal pipe in a newly dug well.

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1953.

Earnest Gorham registered for the World War I draft in Taylors township, Wilson County in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 1891; worked as a farmer; and was married.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tenant farmer Ernest Goran, 28; wife Mary, 21; and daughter Rachel, 2 months.

In the 1928 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Gorham Earnest (c; Mary) farmer r New Grabneck

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Earnest Goraham, 40; wife Mary, 36; and daughter Lucile, 10.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: well digger Ernest Golden, 50; wife Mary, 45; and daughter Lucile, 20.

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Mary McPhail Gorham died 1 October 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in 6 August 1897; was a widow; lived at 719 Elvie Street, Wilson; and was the daughter of Ander McPhail and Harriett (last name unknown). Informant was Hubert McPhail, Wilson.

Three drown; three thousand attend funeral.

The day after graduation, Darden High School’s Class of 1942 road-tripped south to Kinston for a picnic at a lake. The day ended in tragedy when three young men drowned trying to save the life of a classmate.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 June 1942.

The Daily Times estimated that three thousand mourners jammed the “Wilson Community Center” [Reid Street Community Center] for joint services for Harvey Ford, Raymond Edwards, and Russell Clay

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 June 1942.

  • Harvey Ford — Per his death certificate, Harvey Gray Ford died 4 June 1942 in Falling Creek township, Lenoir County, North Carolina, “drowned no boat involved.” He was born 8 January 1921 in Wilson, N.C., to Curtis Ford of Dillon, S.C., and Mamie Battle of Wayne County, N.C.; was a student; and was single. Mamie Ford, 910 East Green Street, was informant.
  • Raymond Edwards — Per his death certificate, Raymond Edwards died 4 June 1942 in Falling Creek township, Lenoir County, North Carolina, “drowned no boat involved.” He was born 15 November 1924 in Wilson, N.C., to McKenly Edwards of Greene County and Maggie Thomas of Wayne County, N.C.; was a student; and was single. Maggie Edwards, 609 South Railroad Street, was informant.
  • Russell Clay — Per his death certificate, Russell Clay died 4 June 1942 in Falling Creek township, Lenoir County, North Carolina, “drowned no boat involved.” He was born 8 April 1921 in Jarrett, Virginia, to Larry Clay of Wilson, and Hattie Grice of Wilson; was a student; and was single. He was buried in Newsome cemetery near Lucama. Hattie Clay, 902 Viola Street, was informant.
  • Parthenia Robinson — Anne Parthenia Robinson. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 202 Vick Street, barber Golden Robinson, 30; wife Bertie, 23; and children Parthenia, 5, Gold M., 3, and Glean, 1.
  • E.M. Barnes — Edward M. Barnes was principal of C.H. Darden High School.
  • Rev. F.M. Davis — Fred M. Davis was pastor of Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church.
  • Rev. A.D. Dunstan
  • Charles D. James
  • Eunice Cooke — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Hadley Street, railroad mail clerk Jerry L. Cook, 43; wife Clara, 39, teacher; children Henderson, 20, Edwin D., 18, Clara G., 14, Georgia E., 12, Annie, 8, Jerry L., 6, and Eunice D., 4; sister Georgia E. Wyche, 48, teacher; and nieces Kathaline Wyche, 7, and Reba Whittington, 19.
  • James Mincey — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: fertilizer plant laborer James Mincey, 39; wife Lucinda, 35; grandfather William Ran, 87, widower; and James Mincey Jr., 15.
  • Eleanor Reid — Eleanor P. Reid was principal of Sallie Barbour Elementary School.
  • Annie Cooke
  • M.D. Williams — Malcolm D. Williams was principal of Samuel Vick Elementary School.
  • Rev. W.A. Hillard — in 1942, William Alexander Hilliard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 14 September 1904 in Greenville, Texas; was a minister in the A.M.E. Zion Church serving in Wilson; resided at 119 Pender Street; and his contact was Mrs. Veta Watson, 2449 Woodland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Quincey Ford — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 409 Carroll Street, carpenter Curtis Ford, 52; sons Quincey, 20, and Harvey G., 19, tobacco factory laborers; wife Mayme, 48, teacher; son-in-law Liston Sellers, 22, tobacco factory laborer; daughter Leah, 22, and granddaughter Yvette, 2.
  • Leah Ford — Leah Ford Sellers‘ daughter Yevette Sellers died just three and a half years after her uncle Harvey.
  • Kennie and Maggie Edwards — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 609 South Railroad Street, William Edwards, 52, farm laborer; wife Lillie, 49; son McKinley, 28, wife Maggie, 25; and son Ramond, 6.
  • Hattie Clay — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 902 Viola, hospital cook Hattie Clay, 42, widow, and children Russell, 19, Buelah M., 15, and Arthur, 7; plus mother Mary Grice, 76, widow.
  • Beulah Clay
  • Arthur Clay

Little Yevette Sellers passes.

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Wilson Daily Times, 5 January 1945.

Just a few days into 1945, seven year-old Yevette Coridian Sellers died of acute food poisoning. Her neighbors and schoolmates at Sam Vick Elementary served as pallbearers and flower bearers at her funeral at Saint John A.M.E. Zion. She was buried in Rest Haven cemetery.

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  • Yevette C. Sellers
  • Leah Ford
  • Liston Sellers — Liston Sellers registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 23 October 1916 in Wake County, North Carolina; lived at 910 Green Street, Wilson; his contact was wife Leah Sellers; and he worked for Dick Punch at O’Brien Factory, Wilson.
  • W.A. Hilliard — in 1942, William Alexander Hilliard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 14 September 1904 in Greenville, Texas; was a minister in the A.M.E. Zion Church serving in Wilson; resided at 119 Pender Street; and his contact was Mrs. Veta Watson, 2449 Woodland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri.
  • O.J. Hawkins — Rev. Obra J. Hawkins.
  • Rudolph Farmer — Nelson Rudolph Farmer was born 1933 to Paul Farmer and Cora Rountree Farmer.
  • Chas. Bynum — Charles Bynum.
  • Russell Wingate — Russell Winford Wingate was born in 1928 to Luther C. Wingate and Mamie Daniel Wingate.
  • Reddick Henderson — Rederick Caswell Henderson was born in 1934 to Hattie M. Henderson and Roderick Taylor.
  • Jesse Davis — Jesse Lee Davis was born in 1932 to Clinton Davis and Alliner Sherrod Davis.
  • George Brodie — George Thomas Brodie was born in 1931 to George Brodie and Elma Tabron Brodie.
  • Thomas Peacock — Thomas Levi Peacock was born in 1928 to Levi Peacock and Eloise Reaves Peacock.
  • Cornelius Moye — Carnelius Bryant Moye was born in 1931 to Fred Lee Moye and Esther Battle Moye.
  • Leatrice Speights — Leatrice Speight was born in 1937 to Doll Speight and Lula Mae Barnes Speight.
  • Selma Brown — Selma Lee Brown was born in 1937 to George Brown and Lea Davis Brown.
  • Helen Barnes — Helen Barnes was born in 1934 to Boisey and Flossie Howard Barnes.
  • Vilma Dew — Vilma Dew born to Earnest Dew and Geneva Wynn Dew.
  • Joyce Walker
  • Shirlie Best — Shirley Yvonne Best was born in 1934 to Thelma Best.
  • Clara Cannon — Clara Cannon was born in 1936 in James Cannon and Deborah Patterson Cannon.
  • Evangeline Reid — Edith Evangeline Reid.
  • Fay Bryant — Fay Gwendolyn Bryant was born in 1935 to Willie Bryant and Sarah Thomas Bryant.
  • Jeane Bryant — Jean Willette Bryant was born in 1934 to Willie Bryant and Sarah Thomas Bryant.
  • Joan Bynum — Joan Gregory Bynum was born in 1933 to Graham Bynum and Catherine Whitehead Bynum.
  • Bettie Jean Handy — Bettie Jean Handy was born 1937 to Alexander Handy and Daisy Woodard Handy.
  • Patricia Garner
  • Hattie Margaret Henderson — Hattie Margaret Henderson was born in 1936 to Hattie M. Henderson and Roderick Taylor.

Fatal fall from truck.

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Wilson Daily Times, 3 January 1941.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Frank Ward, 26; wife Lizzie, 23; son Columbus, 11 months; and niece Geneva, 8.

On 7 September 1913, Frank Ward, 31, son of Frank and Rhoda Ward, married Minnie Harriss, 21, daughter of Arch and Rose Harriss. Holy Church minister E.E. Hicks performed the ceremony at Willie Ward’s residence in the presence of Willie Ward, Willie Ellis and Johney Rhodes.

In 1918, Frank Ward registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born in March 1884, worked on Henry Love’s farm, and his nearest relative was Minnie Ward.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Frank Ward, 40, farmer; wife Minnie, 28; and children Zeus, 10, Lucile, 8, Minnie Belle, 5, Frank, 5, Floyd, 4, Mary, 2, Columbus, 10, and Albert, 8.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Frank Ward, 44, farmer; wife Minnie, 35; and children Albert, 20, Lucile, 19, Frank, 14, Floyd, 13, Mary, 12, Hazel, 9, David, 6, Estell, 4, Rosa, 3, and James, 1, and grandson William, 11 months.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Frank Ward, 52, City of Wilson laborer; wife Minnie, 48; and children David, 16, farm laborer, Estell, 13, and James, 9.

In 1940, Columbus Ward registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 15 October 1909 in Wilson County; he lived at 808 Sugg Street; his contact was father Frank Ward; and he worked for C. Woodard.

Frank Ward died 1 January 1941 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 September 1884 in Wilson County to Frank Ward and Rosa Ward; worked as a laborer for the  city of Wilson; and he lived at 808 Suggs Street. He was buried in Rest Haven cemetery. Minnie Ward was informant. Ward’s cause of death was “fractured skull/falling from truck.” (Ward was declared dead at Woodard-Herring Hospital, which ordinarily treated whites only.)

The first drowning at Contentnea Park.

I posted here about the accidental drowning of Samuel H. Vick Jr.‘s friend Eugene Fisher. The Daily Times noted that Fisher’s death was the second at Contentnea Park in a little over a week. Eddie Simms was first:

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1924.

  • Eddie Simms — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, tobacco factory worker Frances Simms, 34, and children Milton, 22, Eddie, 18, Raymond, 10, Maggie, 8, Ava, 5, Richard, 2, and Bay, 3 months. Eddie B. Simms died 17 July 1924. Per his death certificate,he was born 3 August 1904 in Wilson to Ed Mitchell and Frances Simms; was single; lived at 610 Manchester Street; worked as a shoeshiner; and “drowned while in the act of swimming accidentally.” Informant was Millie Simms.

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.

Killed in sawmill.

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Fayetteville Observer, 26 October 1921.

Bob Speight was also known as Bob Hill. A Greene County native, he was 17 years old at his death.

Perhaps due to confusion created by his use of alternate surnames, Robert Hill, alias Speight, has two death certificates. Bob Hill’s document notes that an epileptic seizure contributed to the saw mill accident that killed him. Odie Speight acted as informant and undertaker, and W.B. Wooten signed the certificate at filing.

Robert Speight’s certificate does not mention an underlying medical event. Jessie Speight was informant, and, curiously, C.H. Darden & Son signed as undertaker. There is no registrar’s signature.