Where we worked: J.Y. Buchanan, blacksmith.

In 1942, Fletcher Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he worked for “J.Y. Buchanan, Blacksmith Alley, back of Old Quinn Store” in “Alley between Clark Fac. & Old Quinn Furn. Sto.” Two years earlier, Williams had reported to a census taker that he was a blacksmith; he was likely one of the last African-Americans to ply that trade in Wilson.

Virginia native James Younger Buchanan arrived in Wilson circa 1910. He practiced horseshoeing at various stables downtown before establishing his own blacksmithing and horseshoeing business with a sideline in welding and general machine repair. Buchanan died in 1949.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 August 1918.

The encircled building on this detail of the 1922 Wilson, N.C., Sanborn fire insurance map is marked BL. SM. and appears to be the location of J.Y. Buchanan’s shop. Today, it would stand directly behind Casita Brewing Company. “Old Quinn Store,” i.e. R.E. Quinn & Company, was at 231-233 South Goldsboro Street, at top left in this image. “Clark Fac.” was W.T. Clark & Company Tobacco Re-Drying Factory, whose location is now a large municipal parking lot.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 February 1928.

Save your money by seeing us.

Wilson Blade, 20 November 1897.

Ed Smith and Goodsey H. Holden ran this ad in the Blade, a late nineteenth-century African-American newspaper published in Wilson.

For more highlights of the single surviving issue of the Blade, the original of which is housed at Freeman Round House and Museum, see here and here and here and here.

Charlie Battle, “horse shoeing a specialty.”

Wilson Daily Times, 8 May 1896.

Charles Battle was a well-known blacksmith in late 19th century Wilson. 

The 1897 Sanborn fire insurance map shows two blacksmith shops near Frank Daniels’ Cotton Gin. The one at left, most nearly opposite the gin, is likely Battle’s shop.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Bill Hargrove, horse shoer.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 August 1897.


In the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: Jerry Hargrove, 29; wife Sarah, 29; and children Anna, 9, Gordon, 6, William, 4, and Marcus, 1.

In the 1880 census of Cocoa township, Edgecombe County: Gerry Hargrove, 39; wife Sarah, 38; and children Gordon, 15, William, 13, Marcus, 11, Farrar, 8, Matthew, 6, Frank, 6, and Henry, 10 months.

On 30 December 1890, William Hargrove, 23, of Wilson, son of Jerry and Sarah Hargrove, and Louvenia Hines, 21, of Edgecombe, daughter of Joshua Bulluck and Harriet Hines, were married at Joshua Bulluck’s in Township #14, Edgecombe County. Hilliard Reid and Bush Dew of Wilson were witnesses. 

Wilson Mirror, 23 September 1891.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith William Hargrove, 32; wife Leuvenia, 30, washing; daughters Bessie, 6, and Lillie, 3; widowed sister Mary Boddie, 25, cooking; and cousin Julious Heat, 20, farm hand.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hargrove Wm blksmith 206 E Goldsboro h 606 E Green

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 606 Green, blacksmith William Hargrove, 43; wife Louvenia, 40; daughters Bessie, 17, and Willie L., 13; and boarder John Howard, 18. But also, in the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Henry Joyner, 51; wife Annie, 51; and boarder William Hargrove, 40, horse shoer in own shop.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hargrove Wm blksmith h 606 E Green

Per his headstone, William Hargrove died 4 January 1914. Per, Hargrove is buried in the Hines/Bullock cemetery near Pinetops, Edgecombe County.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 606 East Green, Luvenia Hargrove, 40, widow, and daughter Willie, 20, public school teacher.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 605 East Green, Luvenia Hargrove, 60, widow, and daughter Willie, 29, public school teacher.

Luevenia Hargrove died 22 February 1958 in Wilson at her home at 605 East Green. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 February 1869 in Edgecombe County to Joshua Bulluck and Harriet Hines and was buried in Bulluck cemetery, Edgecombe County. Informant was Mrs. Willie Smith, 605 East Green.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

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.

Lane Street Project: Smith Bennett.

Smith Bennett’s grave marker in Odd Fellows cemetery.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith Smith Bennett, 47, widower; daughter Addie, 20; boarder Robert Wilkerson, 36, cooper, born in Virginia; and lodgers Archie Williams, 34, carpenter, and Samuel Wooten, 18, farm laborer.

Smith Bennett, 48, of Wilson, son of Hardy and Riny Bennett, married Mariah Ray, 36, of Wilson, on 7 March 1901. Hilliard Ellis Jr. applied for the license, and Free Will Baptist minister David Crockett Best performed the ceremony at Smith Bennett’s in the town of Wilson in the presence of Robert W. Wilkerson, Hilliard Ellis Jr., and Dawson Williams.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bennett Smith lab h 310 S Spring

Wilson Daily Times, 15 November 1910.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bennett Smith fireman h 314 S Spring

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Mercer Street, Smith Bennett, 68, and wife Mary, 47, laundress.

Smith Bennett died 29 April 1920 at Saint Agnes Hospital, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was 68 years old; was married; was born to Hardy Bennett and Marina Robbins, both of Edgecombe County; was a resident of Wilson; was a farmer; and was buried in Wilson. He died of “shock following operation for removal of hypertrophied prostate.”

Smith Bennett in 1894. Detail from a photo of employees of Wainwright Foundry.

Employees of Wainwright Foundry.

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On 18 May 1985, the Wilson Daily Times printed this remarkable photograph with the caption: “The employees of Wainwright Foundry, located on the north side of Pine Street between Broad and Kenan streets, posed for this photograph in 1894. From left are Jack Williamson, Frank Perry, George Rowland, Ad Holland, proprietor George H. Wainwright, William D. Thomas, Parker Battle and Smith Bennett. (Photo contributed by Hugh B. Johnston, restoration by Claude Anthony).”

Hat tip to Jim Skinner.

Simpson took his stock.

In 1867, blacksmith Harry Simpson asked two white neighbors to write a letter on his behalf to the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The letter is fascinating in many ways: (1) the glimpse at the independence afforded a skilled enslaved man; (2) his willingness to confront his former master’s father over a matter of equity; (3) the willingness of his neighbors vouch for his integrity and to assist him against a well-known white man.


Wilson County N.C.

To the Freedmen’s Bureau in Goldsboro N.C.

Harry Simpson (colerd) the bearer formerly a slave of J.T. Simpson’s, was a black-smith & worked through the county from shop to shop. Said Harry lived off to himself & for some reason his owner put a portion of his stock in the care of Harry who provided for them & used them as his own & in the early part of the late war said J.T. Simpson died, having no family his property then was his fathers who let it remain with said Harry untill about the first of February 1867. Then Benjamin Simpson the father of the said J.T. Simpson took possession of it, and his pourk. We have known Harry for several years & have no just reason to doubt his character. We state the above to you by his request which are facts.

April 18th 1867  S.D. Boykin, S.J. Winborn


For Capt. Hannibal D. Norton’s response to Simpson, which seems to miss the mark somewhat, see here.

  • Harry Simpson — Simpson does not appear in post-Civil War records of Wilson or Nash Counties.
  • J.T. Simpson — John T. Simpson (1831-1863), enlisted in Company A, 55th N.C. Infantry in 1862, died in a camp on the Blackwater River, Virginia, on 27 May 1863.
  • Benjamin Simpson — Benjamin Simpson (1804-1875), resident of Oldfields township, farmer and blacksmith.
  • S.D. Boykin — Stephen Davis Boykin (1833-1910), resident of Oldfields township, farmer, justice of the peace.
  • S.J. Winborn — Samuel Jackson Winborn (1840-1901), resident of Oldfields township, farmer and wagoner.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters received, Jan 1867-1868,