barbershop

Mohair barber chairs, pool tables, and a mule named Puss: miscellaneous commercial transactions, no. 1.

Most “deed” books stacked in the search room of the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office contain just deeds, but others, like Volume 72, contain miscellaneous records of sales agreements, leases, contracts, chattel mortgages, and other transactions. These documents offer rare glimpses of the commercial and farming lives of Black Wilsonians.

  • On 7 October 1904, Richard Renfrow agreed to pay Wootten, Stevens & Company $33.75 in thirty installments for “one Barber chair & covered in Mohair plush, color Red, Oak frame, Nickel plated irons” and “one Mirror 18X40 in Gilt Frame (Bevel Mirror).” Deed Book 72, page 8.
  • On 22 March 1905, to secure a $50 debt, Arch Atkinson mortgaged to James H. Williamson “one bay mare mule named Puss, also all the crops made on my home place of every description.” Deed Book 72, page 37.
  • On 24 June 1905, to secure a $209.45 debt, J.W. Rogers mortgaged to The B.A. Stevens Company “one 4-1/2 x 9 No. 4537 Buckeye Pool Table with bed and cushion cloth; 1 set of pool balls; one cue rack; 1 ball rack; 1 dozen cues; 1 brush; 1 bridge; 1 basket; 1 shake bottle; 1 set shake balls; 1 triangle; 1 rail fork bit; one 4-1/2 x 9 No. 4539 Elmwood Pool Table with bed and cushion cloth; 1 set of pool balls; one cue rack; 1 ball rack; 1 dozen cues; 1 brush; 1 bridge; 1 basket; 1 shake bottle; 1 set shake balls; 1 triangle; 1 rail fork bit. Located in his place of business ….” Deed book 72, page 55.

Shake bottles advertised in B.A. Stevens Company’s 1894 catalog.

  • On 5 October 1905, to secure a $50 debt, C.H. Knight mortgaged to The Eugene Berninghaus Company “2 Climax Barber Chairs, oak wood now located on the premises known as C.H. Knight’s Barber Shop in Wilson.” Deed book 72, page 69. [Charles Knight’s barbershop was on East Nash Street just across the railroad tracks from the Atlantic Coast Line passenger station and likely catered  to white travelers and drummers.]

Beringhaus “Climax” chair, circa 1890. Auctioned in 2018 by Rich Penn Auctions, Waterloo, Iowa.

  • On 27 November 1905, Samuel H. Vick agreed to sell R.J. Grantham for $1725 a lot on the south side of Barnes Street known as the former home place of Wiley Corbett, it being the lot Vick bought from J.D. Lee and wife. Deed book 72, page 76. [Wiley Corbett was a grocer, hotelier, whiskey distiller, and barroom. I’m not sure exactly where his house was on Barnes Street, but it was likely one of several two-story dwellings depicted on East Barnes between Spring [Douglas] and Lodge Streets in the 1903 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.]
  • On 24 November 1905, to secure a $99.45 debt, Richard Renfrow mortgaged to Koken Barber’s Supply Company of Saint Louis, Missouri, the following items from Koken’s 1905 catalog, which were to be placed in Renfrow’s “one story metal covered building, known as Wiggins Building on Nash Street”: “two 142 One Lever barber chairs … upholstered in maroon plush,” “four #333 mirroes 24 x 30 bevel” and four “327 mirroes bevel,” all of oak. Deed book 72, page 83.
  • On 14 September 1906, F.S. Hargrave sold to F.O. Williston “all of the Drugs, Medicines, Sundries, and fixtures of the Ideal Pharmacy,” as well as accounts payable and receivable, but not the soda fountain, tanks, and other apparatus in the shop. Deed book 72, page 171.

  • On 1 January 1907, to secure a debt of $150, Raeford Dew mortgaged to Patience Lamm, on whose land in Cross Roads township Dew was engaged in the cultivation of various crops, “one bay mare mule bought of John T. Moore, one iron axle cart, two plows, one turning plow the other cotton plow and all other farming implements,” plus all crops cultivated in 1907. Deed book 72, page 176-177. [Six months later, Dew shot and killed his wife Mittie Dew and her lover, his brother Amos Dew.]

Let us do the work.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 September 1916.

In his early 30s in 1916, William Hines had already begun to branch out into real estate development and other pursuits when this ad for his primary business ran in the Daily Times.

The barbershop at 119 South Tarboro Street, Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C. (1913).

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Clean shaves and everything sanitary.

Levi Jones clearly believed in the benefits of advertising to set himself apart from the crowded barbershop market in early 20th-century Wilson. This notice touted his business at 108 East Nash Street, opposite Lumina Theatre. (Wilson changed its street numbering system about 1921; Jones’ shop was located at what is now a parking lot at the corner of Tarboro and West Nash Streets.)

Wilson Daily Times, 6 July 1914.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Black businesses, 1908, no. 5: 100 block of North Goldsboro Street.

Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the section of the 100 block of North Goldsboro Street opposite the county courthouse. 

Levi H. Jones‘ barbershop stood at the rear of today’s Planter’s Bank building, which was erected in 1920 and now houses county government offices. Within a couple of years, Jones changed locations, opening the Mayflower at 108 East Nash Street, a narrow two-story brick building near First National Bank. First National is now the Wilson County-Nash Street Office Building, and the Mayflower’s site is a parking lot.

Wilson Times, 30 June 1911.

Alexander D. Dawson, a former local Republican Party stalwart, operated a fish and oyster stall in the city market building, which burned down in 1929. 

Wilson city hall, market and fire department, circa 1900.

Postcard courtesy of North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s digitalnc.org.

Black businesses, 1908, no. 4: 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the intersection of the 100 block of East Barnes Street and the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

  • Sidney Wheeler
  • J. Thomas Teachey
  • William Hargrove — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith William Hargrove, 32; wife Leuvenia, 30, washing; daughter Bessie, 6, and Lillie, 3; widowed sister Mary Boddie, 25, cooking; and cousin Julious Heat, 20, farm hand.
  • Isaac J. Young‘s blacksmith shop operated in the present-day location of Worrell’s Seafood. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 315 Spring Street, horse shoer Isaac J. Young, 46; wife Laura, 29; and sons Cornelius, 12, and Robert, 9; plus lodger Henry Moy, 5.

Aerial view courtesy of Google Maps.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 4: 400 block of East Nash Street.

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

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Here’s a closer look at one side of the first block east of the railroad.

Though described as a restaurant in 1913, the 1912 city director listed Charles H. Knight‘s barbershop at 414 East Nash Street. In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: barber Charles Knight, 35; wife Elsie, 37; and sons Charles, 8, and Frank, 6; plus boarders Ethel Coleman, 23, and Sarah Jackson, 28, both teachers.

Sarah Gaither operated a small eating house at 418 East Nash as early as 1908, per city directories. In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: day laborer Rufus Gaither, 57; wife Sarah, 56; and children Julius, 22, Mandy, 18, Aaron, 17, and Clarence, 15, sharing a house with Ella Gaston, 30, and her sons Ralph, 10, and Albert, 2. Rufus and Sarah Parks Gaither married 2 February 1873 in Iredell County, N.C., and are listed in the 1880 census of Turnersburg, Iredell County, with their young children. Sarah Gaither died 1912-1915. Rufus Gaither died 23 July 1915 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 August 1853 and was a widower. Bertha Farmer was informant.

John Blount‘s barbershop occupied 422 East Nash. 

The three buildings that now occupy this block were built in the 1920s. However, Google Maps shows a modern barbershop operating in the footprint of Blount’s business.

Black businesses, 1908, no. 2: South Goldsboro Street.

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the west side of the first block of South Goldsboro Street.

Richard Renfrow purchased the furnishings for his barbershop from Noah J. Tate, Walter S. Hines, and Joshua L. Tabron, partners in another barbering business, in 1906. Renfrow was a barber in Wilson as early as 1887, but around 1900 began to move back and forth between Wilson and Norfolk, Virginia.

Hardy & Holland’s livery stable was wedged, improbably, between a wholesale grocery and a garage with a second floor print shop. Per the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, “This business is located on South Goldsboro street between Nash and Barnes streets and the business has been established for the last four years. The proprietor [James Hardy] has succeeded in building up a good patronage. He is very prompt in answering calls and his prices for Livery are very reasonable. Telephone Number 9. Hack and Dray work solicited. The proprietor wants your patronage and guarantees the right sort of treatment. He is a colored man and has the good wishes of all.” Hardy’s business partner was Thomas Holland, a Wake County native.

Henry C. Holden‘s barbershop occupied the basement level of the Branch Bank building at the corner of East Nash and South Goldsboro Streets. 

This screenshot from Google Streetview shows the wrought-iron rail around the former exterior entrance to the barbershop below the Branch Bank building.