Best

The obituary of Frances “Frankie” Best.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 June 1941.

——

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook Nannie Best, 34, widow, and daughters Francis, 20, and Eliza, 16, and boarder Lula Garrett, 25. The latter three were house servants.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Nannie Best, 48, cook; her children Francis, 28, cook, Eliza, 24, public school teacher, and son Aaron, 9; and lodgers, Lula, 24, cook, and Nannie Best, 16, private nurse.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 330 South Spring Street: widowed Nannie Best, 61, her daughter Frank, 30, son Aaron, 21, daughter-in-law Estelle, 19, widowed brother Harper Best, 65, and a lodger, nurse Henrietta Colvert, 24.

In the 1922 and 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories, Frankie Best is listed as a domestic living at 320 South Spring.

In the 1930 Wilson city directory, cook Nannie Best, laundress Frankie Best and seamstress Eliza Best are listed as residents of 1009 East Nash Street.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Best Frankie (c) lndrs 1009 E Nash

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Nan Best, 75, widow; daughter Frankie, 55; and grandsons William, 19, and Audrey, 15.

Frankye Best died 23 June 1941 at her home at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 58 years old; was born in Lenoir County, N.C., to Aaron Best and Nannie Best; was single; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Eliza Best was informant.

Dear Santa Claus.

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Wilson Daily Times, 24 December 1940.

——

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: in New Grabneck, Joe Jones, 44, tobacco factory laborer; wife Mary L., 33, county home nurse; and children Marie, 12, and Joseph Jr., 9.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: in New Grabneck, Oliver W. Best, 32, [occupation illegible],and wife Sadie L., 24, public school teacher.

Model 1938 Red Ryder BB gun, today.

The Ellis family’s community of enslaved people.

William and Unity Dixon Ellis and their descendants claimed ownership of many dozens of enslaved African Americans. Undoubtedly, these men and women constituted generations of many families, and I have listed them below (in family groups where known) with their identified owners in parentheses. I have had little success in tracing them forward into freedom, but have inserted that information that I am reasonably sure is accurate.

First, an Ellis family genealogy. William Ellis left a wife, Unity, and eight children at his death in 1812 — William, Gray, Coffield, Dixon, John, Jonathan, Willie and Spicey Ellis. Several were minors — which made for a lengthy estate administration — and Gray and Spicey died within months of their father. Without wills. Spicey died possessed of an unnamed “negro woman and three children,” and her administrator petitioned for their sale, with distribution of the proceeds between her mother and siblings. Widow Unity Dixon died 1817. Dixon Ellis died in 1818, leaving a wife Jemima (who pretty quickly married Hardy F. Barnes) and five children Willie, Unity, Gray, Hickman and Cynthia Ann Ellis. His estate included 17 to 18 unnamed enslaved people. William Ellis (Jr.) died in 1831 and Willie in 1836. Willie left a wife, Queen Esther Sharpe Ellis, and daughter Martha Ann, who later married Jonathan Dew. Esther Ellis then married her husband’s cousin Hickman Ellis, Martha Ann’s guardian. In 1854, Jonathan Dew sued to recover his wife’s assets from Hickman. Coffield Ellis, the last remaining child, died in 1854. Jonathan Ellis died about 1857, and his wife Elizabeth Ward Ellis about 1858. Their heirs were their granddaughters Susan Bynum Bynum, Louisa Bynum Best, Elizabeth Bynum, Sarah Bynum and Virginia Bynum, whose mother Spicy Ellis had married Reuben Bynum. Dixon Ellis’ son Hickman Ellis Sr. died about 1860, leaving children Spicey, Unity and Hickman Ellis Jr.

The Ellis estate files are difficult to decipher, with multiple petitions to divide unnamed groups of slaves, but often no reports filed after the divisions. Conflicts between guardians (often close family members) and minor heirs were common, with intervenors claiming that guardians had held and hired out enslaved people for years without benefit to their underage owners. Inventories of enslaved people occasionally list small children with their mothers, but more often do not. No married couples are identified as such.

Nonetheless, here is what I’ve gleaned. Each person’s name is followed by parentheses containing the names of Ellis family members to whom they are linked in wills or estate records. [Where possible, I have distinguished individuals bearing the same first names. Where not possible, I have listed them as if they are different people, though they not be in fact. It is likely that this multi-generational community of enslaved people passed down names within family lines, but the record is too thin to make absolute identifications.]

  • Aaron (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Alley (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Amanda (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Annah (Coffield Ellis)
  • Anthony (William Ellis > Willie Ellis)
  • Amos (Elizabeth Ellis)

Amos was probably the son of Isham/Isom and Patience Ellis, see below.

Amos Ellis and Mary Edmundson registered their 18-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace on 2 July 1866.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: next door to Isom and Patience Ellis, farm laborer Amos P. Ellis, 47; wife Mary 40; and children Adeline, 23, Authur, 19, Learh, 17, Mary, 15, Jane, 11, and Lewis, 10; plus Authur, 65, and Betsey Barnes, 60.

  • Arthur (William Ellis > Unity Dixon Ellis > John Ellis)
  • Beckey (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Beedy (William Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Belfour (William Ellis > Coffield Ellis)
  • Ben (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Blount (Jonathan Ellis > William and Louisa Bynum Best)

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Della Applewhite, 34, domestic servant; Haywood, 19, Sarah, 14, Alice, 2, Anna, 2, and Clara Applewhite, 7; Hyman Bynum, 21; Blount Best, 21; Abraham Bynum, 17; Moses Bynum, 20; and William Pittman, 21 (the last five all farm laborers.)

Blount Best married Sarah Applewhite on 29 July 1872 in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Blunt J. Bess, 32, laborer; wife Sarah, 23; children William L., 9, Nellie J., 6, Joseph H., 4, and Ivory, 8 months; plus sister-in-law Annie Barnes, 11.

On 26 March 1914, Blount Best, 69, of Saratoga, married Hagar Bynum, 56, of Gardners, at Liberty Webb‘s in Saratoga township. Primitive Baptist minister Elder Robert Edwards performed the ceremony in the presence of Isaac Bynum, S.H. Best and John Farmer, and Jesse Artis applied for the license.

Blount Best died 28 March 1928 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 88 years old; was born in Greene County to Friday Best and Marie Best; was married to Haggar Best; and was a farmer for Mrs. Mattie Williams and preacher. Informant was Joe Henry Best. [Was Blount’s mother the Maria below?]

  • Bob (William Ellis > Gray Ellis) and Bob (Jonathan Ellis)

See Robert, below.

  • Bright (Coffield Ellis)

See Robbin, below.

  • Bryant (Coffield Ellis)
  • Byhuel (William Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Calvin (Coffield Ellis)

Calvin Ellis died 18 October 1933 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 80 years old; a widower formerly married to Mary Ellis; a farmer; and was born in Wilson County to Jacob Ellis and Charlotte Ellis. Informant was General Ellis.

  • Caroline (Coffield Ellis > Louisa E. Barnes)
  • Chaney (William Ellis > Spicey Ellis) and Chaney (Coffield Ellis)
  • Chaney and son Isaac (Hickman Ellis)
  • Old Chaney (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Charlotte (Coffield Ellis)

See Calvin, above.

  • Cherry (Coffield Ellis)
  • Clara (Willie Ellis > probably Martha Ellis Dew)
  • Ellen (Coffield Ellis) and Ellen (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Eliza [and two unnamed children] (Hickman Ellis)
  • Elvy (Hickman Ellis)
  • Ephraim (Jonathan Ellis)

Possibly, in the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County: Ephraim Ellis, 37, farmhand.

Possibly, in the 1880 census of Farmville township, Pitt County: Ephram Ellis, 35, farmhand, and wife Rildy, 30.

On 13 August 1885, Ephraim Ellis, 47, married Amanda Crudass, 26, in Wilson County at the courthouse.

On 20 February 1897, Ephraim Ellis, 52, married Mary Edmundson, 25, in Wilson County.

  • Faroby (Coffield Ellis)
  • Frances (Coffield Ellis)
  • Gideon (William Ellis > Dixon Ellis)
  • Gilford (William Ellis > Jonathan Ellis) and Guilford (Elizabeth Ellis > William and Louise E. Best)

Guilford was probably the son of Isham/Isom and Patience Ellis, see below.

Guilford Bynum and Pleasant Bynum registered their cohabitation in Wilson County on 7 April 1866.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Guilford Ellis, 40, farm laborer; wife Pleasance, 29; and children Ned, 16, Cherry, 14, Jesse, 12, Arabella, 11, and Sarah, 4. [Note: per his death certificate (and a marriage license), Ned Ellis was born about 1855 to Gilford Ellis and Becky Riffin (Ruffin).]

In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Guilford Ellis, 55, common laborer; wife Penny, 55; and children Sarah E., 16, Mary E., 10, and Lafayette, 8.

See also Norfleet, below.

  • Gilly (Coffield Ellis > Sally E. Barnes)
  • George (Coffield Ellis)
  • Gray (Hickman Ellis)
  • Green (Coffield Ellis)
  • Hannah (William Ellis > Spicey Ellis) and Hannah (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Hannah (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Jackson Ellis, 45; wife Margaret, 36; and children Hannah, 17, and Hewell, 11; Hannah Ellis, 90; and Lucy, 2, and Mary Simms, 1.

Hannah Ellis, daughter of Jack and Margaret Ellis, married John Artist, son of Arch and Rose Artist, on 29 February 1872.

  • Hardy (Hickman Ellis)
  • Harriet and children Adeline, Lucy and Manerva (Jonathan Ellis > William and Louisa B. Best)
  • Harriet (Elizabeth Ellis) and Harriet (Hickman Ellis)
  • Harry (William Ellis > Coffield Ellis)
  • Hester (William Ellis > Unity Ellis > William Ellis) and Hester (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Hewell (Elizabeth Ellis) and Hewell (Hickman Ellis)

See Hannah, above.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jack Ellis, 55, and son Hewel, 21.

  • Isaac (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Isham (Willie Ellis)
  • Isham (William Ellis > Willie Ellis), wife Patience (Jonathan Ellis) and Jacob (Jonathan Ellis)

Isham Bynum and Pacience Bynum registered their 40-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace on

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Isom Ellis, 67; wife Patience, 62; and son (grandson?) Jacob, 18, farm laborer.

Jacob Ellis, 24, married Milly Forbes, 35, in Wilson County in 28 February 1874.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Jacob Ellis, 27, farm laborer; wife Milly, 33; and sons Thaddus, 5, and Rufus, 2.

  • Jack (William Ellis > John Ellis)
  • Jack (Hickman Ellis) and wife Margaret (Hickman Ellis)

See Hannah and Hewell, above.

Jack Ellis and Margaret Ellis registered their 18-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866.

  • Jane (Coffield Ellis)
  • Jenny (Willie Ellis > probably Martha Ellis Dew)
  • Jesse (Elizabeth Ellis > William and Louisa B. Best)
  • Jim (William Ellis > William Ellis), Jim (Elizabeth Ellis > Joseph and Susan Ellis Bynum), and Jim (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)

See Jim Ellis Dew.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer James Ellis, 48; wife Zana, 38; and children/grandchildren Eliza, 14, James, 5 months, Cora, 13, Macoid, 10, Oscar, 6, and Anna, 1.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: James Ellis, 59, farm laborer; wife Zany, 49; and children/grandchildren Mccoid, 18, Oscar, 17, Anna, 11, James, 10, Johnathan C., 8, and Benjiman S., 5.

  • Job (Jonathan Ellis)
  • John (Hickman Ellis)
  • Jonas (Dixon Ellis) and Jonas (Coffield Ellis)
  • Laurence (Coffield Ellis)
  • Lettice (Elizabeth Ellis) and Lettice (Elizabeth Ellis)

See Norfleet, below.

  • Lewis (Coffield Ellis > Penninah Ellis)

Lewis was probably the son of Isham/Isom and Patience Ellis, see above.

Lewis Bynum and Milly Thompson registered their cohabitation on 20 April 1866.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Lewis Ellis, 36; wife Milly, 35; and children John, 17, Daniel, 10, Adeline, 5, Mary, 3, and Martha, 1.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Ellis, 49; wife Milly, 48; children Daniel, 20, Addie, 16, Mary, 14, Marthey, 12, Cora, 10, and James, 6; nephew Jackson, 9; mother Patience, 70; and Jacob Barnes, 32, farm laborer.

  • Littleton (Coffield Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Littleton Ellis, 30, wife Judah, 21, and children Bryant, 4, and Martha, 3.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis, 45; wife Judah, 30; and children Bryant, 14, Martha, 12, Patsey, 10, Mary, 8, Bud, 6, Thomas, 4, Rose, 2, and James, 1.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Littleton Ellis, 73; wife Judy, 55; and children Lucy, 21, Littleton, 18, Sarah, 16, Maggie, 14, Nettie, 12, and Minnie, 10.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Wiggins Mill Road, farmer Littleton Ellis, 27; his mother Judie, 62; and sisters Lucy, 30, Sarah, 24, Maggie, 23, and Lettie, 21.

  • Lisle (William > Unity), died 1812-1818
  • Lucy (Willie Ellis > probably Martha Ellis Dew)
  • Mark (Jonathan Ellis > William and Louisa B. Best)
  • Maria (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Mary (Coffield Ellis) and Mary (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Milbry (Hickman Ellis) and daughter Betsey (Hickman Ellis)
  • Mimah and daughters Sary and Clary (William Ellis > Jonathan Ellis)
  • Old Minny [Miney?] (Coffield Ellis)
  • Young Minny [Miney?] (Coffield Ellis)
  • Moll (William Ellis > Willie Ellis)
  • Nancy (Hickman Ellis)
  • Netty [and unnamed child] (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Norfleet (Jonathan Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Norfleet Ellis, 25; wife Charlotte, 22; and children Willie, 2, and Elizabeth, 2 months; Jordan Taylor, 19; and Albert Barnes, 21.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Norfleet Ellis, 33; wife Charlotte, 26; and children Mack, 12, Lizzie, 8, Redmond, 6, Floyd, 2, and Marion, 3 months.

On 26 September 1891, Norfleet Ellis, 52, son of Guilford Ellis and Lettice Ellis, married Eva Rice, 18, daughter of John Rice and Laura Hudson, in Wilson County.

  • Pat (William Ellis > Unity Ellis > John Ellis)
  • Peter (Willie Ellis > probably Martha Ellis Dew) and Peter (Hickman Ellis)
  • Old Peter (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Rachael (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Reuben (Jonathan Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Reuben Ellis, 34, farm laborer; wife Clarkey, 22; and daughter Jane Grant, 1.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Rubin Ellis, 54; wife Clarky, 36; and children Jane, 10, Jonah, 8, Sherard, 7, William, 6, Rubin, 5, George, 4, and Cansy, 4 months.

  • Robbin (Coffield Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Robbin Ellis, 23, farm laborer, and wife Hannah, 24, and children Emma, 5, Mahala, 2, and an infant girl, 1 month, plus Bright Ellis, 20, farm laborer.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Robert Ellis, 34, farmer; wife Hannah, 35; children Emma, 15, Jane, 11, Alice, 8, Winnie, 6, and Cora, 3; and Mandy Barnes, 24, laborer, and William T.C. Barnes, 1.

  • Robert (Coffield Ellis)

Robert was probably the son of Isham/Isom and Patience Ellis, see above.

Robert Bynum and Caroline Barnes registered their cohabitation on 31 March 1866.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 39, farm laborer; wife Caroline, 38; and children Amos, 9, Louisa, 3, and infant boy, 2 weeks.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 50, farmer; wife Caroline, 49; and children Amos, 19, Louisa, 12, William, 10, and Susan, 5.

However, also:

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 34, farmer; wife Hannah, 35; daughters Emma, 15, Jane, 11, Allice, 8, Winnie, 6, and Corah, 3; plus Quandie Barnes, 24, and her son William T.C. Barnes, 1.

And:

Robert Ellis and Anica Ellis registered their 8-year cohabitation in Wilson County in 1866.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 45, farm laborer; wife Anaka, 50; and Mary Bynum, 12.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Robert Ellis, 55, laborer, and wife Anakey, 58.

And:

Robert Ellis, 54, of Saratoga, married Mima Mitchell, 30, of Saratoga, on 4 July 1892 in Saratoga township.

Robert Ellis died 25 January 1934 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 105 years old; was born in Wilson County to unknown parents; was married to Vester Ellis; and had been a farmer. Robert Barnes was informant.

  • Rose (Elizabeth Ellis > Joseph and Susan B. Bynum) and Rose (Hickman Ellis > Spicey Ellis)
  • Sam (William Ellis > Coffield Ellis) and Sam (Elizabeth Ellis)
  • Tempy (Hickman Ellis)
  • Tiller (Jonathan Ellis)
  • Tom (Jonathan Ellis > William and Louisa B. Best)
  • Treasy (William Ellis > Unity Ellis > William Ellis)
  • Turner (Coffield Ellis)

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborers Turner Ellis, 27, and Aaron Bynum, 18.

On 26 July 1878, Turner Ellis, 31, married Jane Williamson, 35, at the residence of justice of the peace Elbert Felton in Wilson County.

  • Willie [or Wiley] (Cynthia Ann Ellis)

Willie/Wiley ran away in 1853 and 1856. Ads noted that his owner was Cynthia A. Ellis, that he was likely hiding near the farms of William Ellis or Jonathan Ellis, where he had relatives, and that he had a wife in Georgetown, South Carolina.

  • Violet (Jonathan Ellis)

 

The estates of Jonathan and Elizabeth Ward Ellis.

Jonathan Ellis, son of William and Unity Ellis, died intestate in Wilson County about 1857, and his wife Elizabeth Ward Ellis about 1858. Their heirs were their granddaughters Susan Bynum Bynum, Louisa Bynum Best, Elizabeth Bynum, Sarah Bynum and Virginia Bynum, whose mother Spicy Ellis had married Reuben Bynum.

In the 1859 Fall Term of Wilson County Superior Court, the clerk issued an order directing William Barnes Jr., Washington Barnes and Edwin Barnes to divide Jonathan Ellis’ enslaved people Ruben, Jacob, Ephraim, Tom, Hannah, Hester, Adeline, Bob, Lamm, Blount, Lucy, Gilford, Norfleet, Isaac, Patience, Maria, Violet, Job, Mark, Harriet, Tiller and Alley into one-fourth shares. Son-in-law Joseph J. Bynum was administrator of Ellis’ estate, and his foot-dragging led to a petition for division by his sisters-in-law. (It is not clear to me why Susan Bynum was not entitled to a share.) The commissioners reported allotting to William and Louisa Best enslaved people Blount, Mark, Tom and Harriet and her three children Adeline, Lucy and Manervy, valued at $4100. The remaining men, women and children were held as “common stock” for minors Elizabeth, Sarah and Virginia Bynum.

Meanwhile, also during the 1859 Fall Term of Wilson County Superior Court, the clerk issued an order directing the same men to divide Elizabeth Ellis’ enslaved people Guilford, Amos, Beckey, Jim, Jesse, Ben, “2 Lettuces,” Ellen, Rose, Rachael, Hewell, Isham, Sam, Amanda and Harriet into one-fifth shares.

005277100_01232.jpg

The Barneses filed a report on the division as directed. They allotted Jim and Rose, valued at $1900, to Susan and her husband Joseph Bynum; Jesse, Lettice, Lettice and Gilford, valued at $2050, to Louisa and her husband William Best; and the remainder were held in common for minor heirs Betsey, Sally and Virginia.

005277100_01247.jpg

Elizabeth Ellis Estate Records, Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

 

 

If she cooked, he would kill her.

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Twin City Daily Sentinel (Winston-Salem, N.C.), 2 May 1921.

Nolia Reid died 1 May 1921 of “homicide–stab wounds.” Per her death certificate, she was 19 years old and worked as a laundress. Her parents, George Best and Louisa Farmer, were members of the extended family of Bests who settled the Grabneck community on west Nash Street. Her uncle Thomas Farmer was informant.

S123_121-1225

Ben Reid apparently did not succumb to his terrible self-inflicted wounds.

The land formerly owned by Orrin Best.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 October 1928.

Here’s the plat of Orren and Hancy Best‘s former Grab Neck property mentioned in the notice of sale, with lots 12 and 13 clearly marked:

Here is the current landscape, showing that five houses sit on the 11 platted lots facing Cone between West Nash and West Vance.

Lots 12 and 13 (and a sliver of 11) are now 111 Cone Street North, a four-bedroom Colonial Revival cottage built circa 1928.

Photos courtesy of Google Maps.

The demise of Grabneck, pt. 2.

The sentiment prevailing in 1924, as expressed in the Wilson Daily Times, bears repeating:

“The history of this Grab Neck property is interesting. Four years ago there were in this locality a number of small houses, that stood in the way of the progress of the city, and Mr. Roscoe Briggs put up the money in order to remove this obstacle.”

The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson’s West Nash Street corridor makes this obstacle plain:

At the end of the 19th century and through World War II, Wilson’s tobacco barons and other wealthy businessmen and professionals lined blocks of Nash west of downtown with fine homes in a variety of architectural styles. By 1920, several blocks away, just beyond city limits, developers laid out West End Park in a tidy grid of new streets, including West End, Kincaid and Clyde Avenues. Between these neighborhoods, like a foot wedged in a door, was a large uncharted expanse whose few tiny clapboard houses clustered in the 1100 block of Nash. Who owned this land?

By and large, one family — the children and grandchildren of Daniel and Jane Best.

The Bests and their small houses were standing in the way of Wilson’s westward progress, and Briggs bought them out. On 27 March 1920, he did business with four sets of Bests:

  • from Clinton and Minnie Best [who preferred the spelling “Bess”] for $4250, Briggs bought three lots in Grabneck adjoining other Bests, Leah Holloway, U.H. Cozart, Tobe Barnes and Henry Barnes. (Deed book 125, page 62)
  • from Orren and Hancy Best, for $5000, Briggs bought “all of the land owned by Orren Best in Grabneck,” two lots on Nash Road adjoining Jeff Holloway and Frank and Noah Best (Deed book 125, page 64)
  • from Frank and Mamie Best, in exchange for a house to be built in Griffin Hill by John H. Griffin, Briggs purchased one lot.  (Deed book 125, page 65)
  • from Noah Best, for $8250, Briggs bought four lots. (Deed book 125, page 65)

These sales set the stage for the auction described in the Times article, but there were still some holdouts. The red arrow on the Sanborn map indicates this one-story dwelling at 1105 Nash:

It was the home of Wilson and Ada Best. In October 1925, they finally relented, accepting $4000 from H.W. and Margaret Abbitt for their 66 by 200-foot lot on Nash Street.

The Abbitts quickly tore down the Bests’ little frame house, and in 1926 erected an impressive Colonial Revival residence. The 1930 Sanborn fire insurance map shows how quickly developers moved into the area vacated by the Bests.  On the northeast side of West Nash Street, a sinuous extension of Vance Street was cut through, and houses sprang up along West Cone and West Gold.

On the southeast side, all of the Bests’ houses were razed to make room for the muscular brick showplaces of white Wilson’s elite.

Grabneck was gone.

The Abbitt house, 1105 West Nash Street.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2018.

The graveyard artistry of Clarence Best, pt. 3.

I’ve written here of Clarence B. Best, the marble cutter whose custom gravestones can be found in cemeteries across Wilson County and beyond. Here’s more, all in Rest Haven cemetery.

  • Joseph Earl Mercer, died 1969. Apparently, a young man who loved cars.
  • Clifton L. Howard, died 1969. Best made gravestones affordable by offering customers damaged or repurposed markers such as this one, which appears to be the top portion of a larger piece.
  • Ruby M. Ellis Opie, died 1965, and Charles E. Ellis, died 1964. THEY WAS AN AFFECTIONATE SON & DAUGHTER.
  • Charlie H. Thomas, 1965. Modeled after the white marble markers provided by the military to veterans.
  • Johnnie G. Baker, died 1962. GOD LOVES LITTLE CHILDREN.
  • Rev. Nebraska H. Dickerson, died 1969. To his oft-used dogwood and cross motifs, Best added an open book.
  • Dora M. Hoskins, died 1963. Past Matron, Order of Eastern Star. DIEING IS BUT GOING HOME.
  • William Earl Artis, died 1961. Inclusion of his mother Cora Dawes’ name is unusual as is the near-italicization of the date lines.
  • James Powell, died 1939. DEAR FATHER. GOD FINGER TOUCHED HIM AND HE SLEPT.

The end of the Red Hots?

In 1938, the city of Wilson professionalized its firefighting operations, converting the white volunteer department to semi-paid status. The Daily Times originally reported that the black volunteer organization, the Red Hots, would be abolished, but here clarified that, while they were being retired from active service, they would continue to send representatives to competitions and state conventions and would be called upon in emergencies.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 July 1938.

——

  • Ben Mincey
  • George Coppedge — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason George Coppedge, 34; wife Mittie, 34; and children George Jr., 4, and Elenora, 2.
  • Aaron Best — William Aaron Best died 21 August 1949 at his home at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 September 1900 in Wilson County to Aaron Best and Nannie Best; was a widower; and had been a laborer at Export Tobacco Company. Audrey Best was informant.
  • Ambrose Floyd — in 1942, Ambrose Floyd registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1901 in Lumberton, North Carolina; resided at 1214 East Nash Street; his contact was Clara Smith; and he was employed by Gary Fulghum, 901 Branch Street, United States Post Office.
  • W.J. Howell
  • Henry Sauls — in 1942, Henry Sauls registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 February 1898 in Black Creek; resided at 21 Carolina Street (mailing address 1114 Carolina Street); his contact was Hattie Davis, 19 Carolina Street; and he worked for W.T. Clark Jr., 1415 West Nash Street, Barnes Street tobacco factory.
  • Louis Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green Street, carpenter Louis Thomas, 53; wife Lillie, 33; and children Louis Jr., 16, Charlie H., 14, and Van Jewel, 12.