Fire set at Julius Rountree’s house.

Wilson Daily Times, 24 April 1923.


In the 1900 census of Falkland township, Pitt County: farmer Jack Rountree, 49; wife Lucy, 27; and children Julius, 5, Daisy E., 2, and Cora, 2 months; sisters Marcela, 23, Cora, 24, and Ella Bargeron, 26; and boarder Jacob Worthan, 18.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 53; wife Lucy, 35; and children Junius, 15, Delzel, 12, Cora Lee, 10, John H., 7, James, 6, Mable, 4, and Gollie May, 1.

On 14 September 1916, Julius R. Rountree, 21, of Wilson, son of Jack and Lucy Rountree, married Cora Gear, 19, of Wilson, daughter of John Bridgers and Emma Gear, in Wilson.

In 1917, Julius Rountree registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 4 March 1895 in Greenville, N.C.; worked as a mechanic for Samuel Vick; and had a wife and child.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Old Stantonsburg Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 57; wife Lucile, 47; son Julius, 24; daughter-in-law Lida, 23; sons John Henry, 17, and Jesse, 16; and daughters Mabel, 14, and Ola May Rountree, 10, and Cora Farmer, 19.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 223 New Bern Street, owned and valued at $1800, plasterer Junious Rountree, 34; wife Lyda, 32; and sons John, 14, and Joulious, 5.

Julius Roundtree died 1 November 1942 in Durham, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 November 1922 in Wilson to Julius Roundtree of Pitt County and Lydia Boatwright of Mullins, S.C.; was single; lived at 112 Whitted Street, Durham; worked as a plasterer; and was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery.

Julius Rountree died 18 August 1945 at his home at 1001 Lincoln Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 March 1896 in Pitt County to Jack Rountree of Guilford County, N.C., and Lucille Barghan of Pitt County; worked as a plasterer for William Wilkins; and was a World War I veteran. He was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery.

Lydia Rountree died 16 June 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 May 1898 in South Carolina to Collins Boatwright and Dinah Blaine; was a widow; lived at 1201 Lincoln Street, Wilson; and was a retired teacher. She was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery.

John H. Rountree died 19 March 1983 in Hampton, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 May 1915 in North Carolina to Julius Rountree and Cora Gibb; lived in Newport News, Virginia; worked as a plasterer; and was divorced. He was buried at Culpeper National Cemetery, Culpeter, Virginia.

J. Barnes burns down family house.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1945.

  • Johnny Barnes
  • Howard Barrett

In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: widower Howard Barrett, 44; children William A., 16 [a daughter], Ines, 14, Beatrice, 12, and Thelma Lee, 10; and grandson Howard, 5.

In the 1950 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: widower Howard Barrett, 53; daughter Willia Barnes, 26; and grandchildren Howard Barrett, 16, and Barbara, 9, Johnnie F., 6, Joseph, 5, and Judy, 4.

Charges on the docket.

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 6 September 1908.

This rundown of Superior Court cases reveals crazy times in the streets of Wilson. It’s not easy to determine which defendants were African-American, but:

Jack Rountree was charged with setting fire to the house of Jesse Howard (whose honorific “Mr.” was unusual for an African-American at the time.)

Josephine Blount and white madames Cora Duty, Mallie Paul, Rosa Holland, Gladys Moore, Nan Garrett, Fannie Burwell, Willie Bright, and Maud Kelly were charged with “maintaining ‘red light’ houses.” Blount, who operated from Samuel H. Vick‘s Orange Hotel, was already in jail, awaiting trial.

Gladys Moore, seated wearing boater, and Mallie Paul (or, perhaps, Paul and Moore). Arguably, Paul, who operated for decades, was the doyenne of Wilson’s red light district madames. Photo courtesy of Jim Gaddis.

The first of two “squads of blacklegs” charged with gambling — Jesse Taylor, Mid Farmer, Dock Atkinson, Wiley Dupree, John Lancaster, and Bud Bynum — was comprised of Black men.

George Rountree, probably. I have not been able to identify Abner Renfrow.

810 East Green Street, revisited.

Arsonists set fire to two East Wilson houses on 17 August 2022, resulting in the demolition of one. After putting out an early morning blaze at 804 East Vance Street, firefighters were dispatched to 810 East Green, one of an original set of five identical rental houses William Hines built in the mid-1920s. Fire damaged the house extensively, and it had to be torn down.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2022.

Mary Sims jailed for house fires.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 December 1935.

I have no further information about Mary Sims. There were few treatments for mental illness in the 1930s, and even fewer effective ones. Given the danger her alleged actions posed, it is possible that she was sent to the Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum in Goldsboro (later known as Cherry Hospital), the state’s only psychiatric facility for African-Americans. 

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.



Fire bug activities.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 February 1944.

  • Samuel Randolph Foster 

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Vance, Andrew Pierce, 55, nurse at home (usually barber); wife Lossie, 55, in hospital; daughters Alice, 35, and Hester, 27; sons Boise, 29, cafe [cook?], and Binford, 14; daughter Ruby, 19, “cook school;” and grandchildren Randolph, 9, and Montheal Foster, 7, and Mickey Pierce, 1.

Samuel Randolph Foster registered for the World War II draft in Durham, N.C., in 1945. Per his draft card, he was born 19 February 1927 in Wilson; lived at 403 Henry Street, Durham; was a student at Hillside High School; and his contact was Sam Foster, 403 Henry Street. He was 5’7″, weighed 141 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair and a birthmark in the bend of his right arm. [In fact, per his birth record, Foster was born in 1931 in Wilson to Samuel Foster and Hester Pierce, which would make his age consistent with that in the Times article. In other words, Foster was 14 years old when he was inducted into the Army at Fort Bragg in September 1945.]