Coleman

1204 Carolina Street.

The one hundred-seventy-third in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; shotgun with engaged porch.”

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coleman James W (c; Annie) cook h 1204 Carolina St. The house was described as vacant in the 1930 city directory.

James Walter Coleman died 1 April 1930 in Wilson of an “unavoidable auto accident.” Per his death certificate, he was born 7 January 1900 in Nash County, North Carolina, to John Coleman; was married to Johnnie Ann Coleman; worked as a waiter at the Imperial Hotel; and lived at 1204 Carolina Street.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1204 Carolina Street, Oscar Ratcliff, 26, mortar mixer for Wilkins & Wilkins, and wife Nellie, 30, tobacco factory stemmer.

In the 1941 and 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Ratcliff Oscar (c; Nellie) lab h 1204 Carolina

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1204 Carolina Street, Oscar Ratcliff, 49, plumbing and heating laborer, and wife Nellie, 43, worked in diet kitchen at tuberculosis sanitorium.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2022.

Coleman knocked off truck and killed.

James Walter Coleman was knocked off a truck running board and into the road, where he was fatally struck by another vehicle. In the darkness, neither Coleman’s family nor occupants of the other vehicle involved immediately understood what had happened. The terrible details came together during a coroner’s inquest. The Colemans’ truck had been badly overloaded, with furniture protruding out over the center line. With his family crammed inside the cab, Coleman was riding on the truck’s running board when an oncoming truck loaded with cabbage slammed into the furniture, pitching Coleman onto the ground and under the wheels of the cabbage truck or the vehicle just behind it.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 April 1930.

In the 1900 census of Bailey township, Nash County, N.C.: John Colman, 28; wife Fanny, 32; and children Adna, 4, Bessie, 4, and James W., 11 months.

In the 1910 census of Dry Wells township, Nash County: farmer John Coleman, 41; wife Fanny, 43; and children Adner, 15, Bessie, 13, James W., 11, Dessie, 9, William, 7, Theodore, 5, Sallie E., 3, and Lincey, 1 month.

In 1918, James Walter Coleman registered for the World War I draft in Nash County. Per his draft registration card, he was born 7 June 1899; lived at Route 1, Middlesex, Nash County; and worked as a farmer for John Coleman, Route 1, Middlesex.

In the 1920 census of Beulah township, Johnston County, N.C., James Coleman, 20, is listed as a fired man/farm laborer.

On 24 August 1921, James W. Coleman, 23, married Johnnie Ann Keys, 19, in Johnston County.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coleman, James W lab h 1206 Carolina St

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coleman James W (c; Annie) cook h 1204 Carolina St

James Walter Coleman died 1 April 1928. His death certificate gives little hint of the horrific manner of his death.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

 

 

The murder of Maggie Wooten Coleman.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 December 1922.

The “ginger cake colored” woman was Maggie Coleman.

“Struck with stick on forehead and a gash under chin by party unknown (murdered). Sudden Death.”

Per a 26 December Daily Times article, “About noon Jim came into this office and said that his wife had not returned from a trip to Wilson on Thursday where she came to buy her Christmas. He was told that a body of a negro woman had been found and went to the undertaking establishment where he identified the body as that of his wife. It is believed that Jim wanted to get rid of her and took her to the woods and killed her, and then pretended he knew nothing about it.”

Maggie Coleman was buried on Christmas Eve, and her husband James Coleman was arrested for her murder.

The Independent (Elizabeth City, N.C.), 29 December 1922.

On 18 January 1923, the Daily Times reported on the inquest over Coleman’s murder. Jim Coleman did not testify on his own behalf. Maggie Coleman had been found about about two miles north of Wilson near the Atlantic Coast Line railroad. She and her husband lived west of the city “up Nash road.”

June Ross testified that two weeks before Maggie’s death, during a visit to Jim’s store, he had witnessed the two arguing. “Jim told her to shut up and reached up after a pistol.” Ross left. Albert Staples testified that he had seen the Colemans in Wilson on Thursday, but did not know if they had come together. Maggie had been at High’s store and Jim at “the old Mose Rountrees Corner.”

An unnamed witness said he had seen Jim chase Maggie with a knife and said “if she said anything about the other woman he would cut her head off.” “They lived bad together witnesses said.”

Dallas Vail testified that he knew nothing about the killing, but “My wife’s mother bought a pair of shoes, and Jim’s wife wanted them and said Jim would pay for them. Saw Jim who said he would pay for shoes if his wife picked cotton smart. I went later after the money, and Jim said he bought several pair of shoes for her and she had run through them. He said she don’t need any shoes. She has a good pair on now, and the best thing for me to do is to get the shoes and give back to you. He gave me back the shoes. That was Saturday morning when the woman was found dead. I asked when she left home. He replied Thursday. I asked him why he had not looked for her. He said he thought she might have gone to see a relative. He said he and Bill Thorne looked for her. She did not return and they did not go hunting. He said he sent his wife to Mr. Sauls in Grab Neck and Mr. Sauls said he let her have $2.00.” 

Wilson Best testified that about December 1, on Warren Street in Wilson, Jim Coleman told him his wife tried to poison him, and he had been staying by himself for three months and had been eating can goods. “He offered me $100.00 to kill her.”

Hattie Vail (the shoe seller) testified that the report “about the woman Henrietta Knight who lived near them and Jim was bad.” 

Paul Barnes testified that he lived up Nash road about a mile from Jim Coleman and knew Coleman’s [mule] team. He said he encountered a mule and wagon headed toward Wilson on Nash road on Friday night between Lamm’s store and Etheridge. A person standing up in the wagon turned his head to the side and Barnes could not see his face, but believed him to be Coleman. The person was wearing a man’s coat and seemed to be a colored person. 

Tom Coleman testified that there had been much trouble over the past two months between Jim and Maggie Coleman over Henrietta Knight. Jim threatened to kill Maggie before she could testify against Knight [presumably in an adultery action.] Tom was at Henrietta’s house one night in December and asked for a Pepsi-Cola. Maggie also asked for one, and Jim cursed at her. Tom paid for the drink. Jim threatened to hit Maggie with the bottle, and Tom stayed his hand. Jim was Tom’s nephew, and Maggie was Tom’s wife’s half-sister. 

Prosecutor Oliver Rand read a statement by Elam Ross, who testified that he was at his father’s house near Barnes crossing and saw a man and woman going north toward Elm City. The woman was wearing a red sweater. “She went down the embankment and the man followed. Both disappeared in the woods.” Ross stated he went to the jail and identified Coleman as the man he had seen going into the woods.

Jim Baker testified that he lived near Coleman about five years. He saw Jim Thursday night on a wagon coming to Wilson about eleven at night, but did not pay attention. He heard on Saturday that Jim’s wife was dead. 

Jim Coleman was tried and convicted of Maggie Coleman’s murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Three years later, Roy Armstrong was arrested and charged with the same crime. Armstrong had been a suspect at the time of Coleman’s murder, but had escaped prosecution by leaving town. According to “the evidence,” Roy Armstrong and Maggie Coleman argued over ten dollars she found, and he killed her with a blow to the head. Armstrong went to Coleman’s husband, who said “I don’t care,” and demanded twenty dollars for his escape. Coleman, though he had always protested his own innocence, apparently did not implicate Armstrong until Armstrong was arrested. 

Wilson Daily Times, 7 November 1925.

Despite this development, little changed. Nearly a year later, Armstrong was still in jail awaiting prosecution, and I have found no record that he was ever tried. 

In February and March 1930, Jim Coleman’s attorneys published a series of notices that he intended to apply for a pardon for his wife’s murder, having served a little more than seven years.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 March 1930.  

The application apparently was turned down. However, Coleman walked free three years later when the governor of North Carolina paroled him for risking his life to prevent a boiler explosion at the prison camp saw mill. (Note the article states Coleman had served 18 years of a 20-year sentence. In fact, he served no more than ten years. 

Charlotte Observer, 18 April 1930.

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  • Maggie Coleman and James Coleman

In the 1900 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Benjaman Wooten, 51; wife Clara, 55; and children Elizabeth, 19, Joseph, 15, Maggie, 11, Eddie, 5, and Willie, 11 months.

In the 1900 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: James Coleman, 15, was a servant in the household of white farmer John F. Flowers, 29.

Jim Coleman, 22, of Taylor township, son of Gray and Harriet Coleman, married Maggie Wootten, 18, of Wilson township, daughter of Ben and Clara Wootten, at Ben Wooten’s in Wilson township. Free Will Baptist minister Daniel Blount performed the ceremony in the presence of Ben Wooten, Eddie Coleman, and Spisey Barnes

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: sawmill laborer James Coleman, 25; wife Maggie, 21; and children Bettie, 3, and Grady, 3 months.

In 1918, Jim Coleman registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his draft registration card, he was born 1 October 1880; lived at Route 3, Wilson; was a farmer [“owns home”]; and his nearest relative was wife Maggie Coleman.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Jim Coleman, 35; wife Maggie, 34; and children Grady, 11, Sanders, 7, Claydee and Collie, 6, and Leroy, 2.

Perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Tom Wilson, 56; wife Leanna, 50; and children Sarah, 17, Ester, 15, Thomas, 14, Georgia, 11, Nancy, 9, Gola, 7, and Margie, 3; plus sister Nanie, 16.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Finch Mill Road, farmer June Ross, 40; wife Nancy, 38; and children Sylvina, 14, Nancy Ann, 11, Charles Willie, 8, John Ed, 5, and Marse Robert, 1.

  • Dallas and Hattie Vail

On 8 February 1914, Dallas Vails, 34, of Wayne County, son of Ned and Rachel Vails, married Hattie Barnes, 23, of Wayne County, daughter of Perry and Louisa Barnes, at Turner Swamp church. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Thomas Ayres of Lucama, Geo. Robbin of Spring Hope, and C.H. Hagans of Sharpsburg.

In the 1900 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer James Joyner, 27; wife Mahalia, 26; and boarders Auston Daws, 28, farm laborer, and Roy Armstrong, 3.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Wilbanks and Elm City Road, farmer Guston Armstrong, 73; wife Pricilla, 66; and grandchildren John C. Geer, 14, Roy Armstrong, 12, Frank Armstrong, 11, and Paulina Armstrong, 5. 

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer Roy Armstrong, 23; wife Mary, 22; children Daisey, 3, and Mary, 2; and boarder Gerin(?) Bullock, 21.

Property of Alphonzo Coleman.

In 1952, L.M. Phelps mapped the subdivided property of Alphonzo Coleman located near Wilson’s municipal airport.

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In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Squier Coleman, 47, wife Nancy, 36, and children Gray, 18, Mary, 16, Afonzo, 9, Margret, 4, and Thomas, 2, plus Cassa Jordan, 70, Riley Jordan, 7, and Thomas Jordan, 25.

Alphonso Coleman, 21, married Annis Barnes, 18, on 18 September 1878 in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Alfonso Coleman, 21; wife Annise, 18; and sons Isaac, 1, and Henry D., 2 months.

In the 1900 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Alfonse Coleman, 42; wife Annis, 36; and children Jestus, 17, Minnie, 12, James, 11, Amous, 8, Richard, 3, Floyd, 4 months, Bessa, 9, and Ella, 5.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: on County Line Road, farmer Alfonso Coleman, 63; wife Annie, 56; and children Minnie, 25, Amos, 22, Floyd, 20, Ella, 17, and John R., 16.

On 1 April 1929, Alfonza Coleman died in Taylors township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1909 in Wilson County to Alfonzo Coleman and Annie Johnson; was married to Annis Coleman; was a farmer; and was buried in the Coleman cemetery.

On 15 June 1935, Amos Coleman died in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1896 in Wilson County to Alfonzo Coleman and Annie Barnes; was single; was a farmer; and was buried in the Coleman graveyard.

On 6 July 1936, John W. Coleman died in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 73 years old; was born in Wilson County to Squire Coleman and Nancy Johnson; was married to Annis Coleman; was a farmer; and was buried in the farmer cemetery. Squire J. Coleman was informant.

On 27 August 1956, Square [Squire] Justuce Coleman died in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 4 December 1881 in Wilson County to Alfonza Coleman and Annie Barnes; was divorced; was a farmer; and was buried in the Coleman cemetery.

On 11 October 1960, Minnie Coleman died in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, he was born in 1 January 1901 in Wilson County to Alfonza Coleman and Annie Jordan; was never married; and was buried in the Coleman cemetery.

Plat map 1, page 66, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

The Singing Engineers.

“Billy Rowe’s Note Book” was a regular music column published in the Pittsburgh Courier. In late summer 1943, Edgar T. Rouseau filled in for the vacationing Rowe. Rouseau, with the American Allied Forces “somewhere in the Mediterranean,” shined a spotlight on “sepia bands” whose members were soldiers, including that of the famous Singing Engineers of the all-black 41st Engineer Regiment.

 

Pittsburgh Courier, 11 September 1943.

William Coleman, of Wilson, N.C., plays the alto sax. He is an experienced player who was formerly with Snookum Russell’s Min[illegible], the Frank H. Young Shows and the Carolina Stompers.”

In memory of William H. Coleman.

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Wilson Daily Times, 17 April 2009.

In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Henry Coleman, 38, farmer; wife Mary J., 28; and children Stella, 13, Willie, 8, Josiah, 7, William, 5, Mattie J., 4, and Sallie, 2.

In the 1920 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: on Old Wilson and Raleigh Road, farmer Henry Coleman, 50; wife Mary Jane, 40; and children Stella, 22, Willie, 19, Joesire, 17, William H., 16, Mattie J., 13, Sallie, 12, Bell, 10, Stephen, 8, Wiley, 7, and Eva, 1.

On   27 February 1929, William Henry Coleman, 24, of Old Fields township, son of Henry Coleman and Mary Joyner, married Cornelia Jones, 24, of Old Fields, daughter of George and Martha Jones, in the presence of W.M. Morris of Wilson, and Dave Powell and George Jones of Sims.

In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer William H. Coleman, 25, and wife Conelia, 25.

William Henry Coleman registered for the World War II draft in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 15 December 1904 in Wilson County; his contact was father Henry Coleman; he lived at R.F.D. 2, Wilson; and he worked for WD. Boyette.

Cornelia Coleman died 19 June 1975 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 March 1905 to George Jones and Martha Jones; was married to William H. Coleman; was engaged in farming; and was buried in Coleman Memorial Cemetery.

Mattie B. Coleman of the Orange Hotel.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1985.

Per the Nomination Form for recognition as a National Historic District for “Wilson Central Business District – Tobacco Warehouse Historic District,” “According to the Sanborn maps, by 1913 the Orange Hotel was known as the Lynn Haven Hotel and by 1922 it was a dwelling. Vick lost the building during the Depression and the Mechanics and Farmers Bank held title until 1944. The present owner, Mrs. Mattie B. Coleman, purchased the property in 1950 and continues to live here and rent furnished rooms.”

Orange Hotel, July 2020.

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On 5 September 1920, Henry Coleman, 32, of Wilson, married Mattie B. Williams, 18, of Wilson, at her home in Wilson. Disciples of Christ minister Walter Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Jim Barkidale, Fillies Barkdale and A.L. Spates, all of Sampson County, North Carolina.

In the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Coleman Mattie B (c) h 526 E Nash

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 526 East Nash Street, paying $12/month in rent, widow Carrie Shaw, 48; and children Robert, 21, dry cleaning plant laborer, Cornie, 20, laundress, Louise, 18, private nurse, Jovester, 17, Aline, 15, and Nettie R., 12. Also paying $12/month, Dave Harris, 32, guano plant laborer; wife Bessie S., 27, laundress; and children Timothy, 12, Roy, 10, Ardria M., 8, Roland, 5, Odessa, 3, and Herman, 1. Also paying $12/month, boarding house keeper Mattie B. Coleman, 25; tobacco factory stemmer Enemicha Kent, 20; tobacco factory stemmer Carrie M. Shine, 22, and Callonia Shine, 15; wholesale grocery delivery boy Mitchel Hamon, 24, and wife Ella, 17; restaurant dishwasher James Nelson, 21; laundry ironer Irene Rountree, 27; and cook Maggie Downing, 26.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 526 East Nash Street, rented for $20/month, Mattie B. Williams, 36, rents room-lodging house; Herbert Wiggins, 25, filling station helper; Ernest Davis, 28, veneer factory fireman, and wife Dolly, 29, both of South Carolina; George Rountree, 33; and Sadie Collins, 31, of New York, cafe proprietor.

Mattie Bea Coleman died 10 November 1986 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 March 1904 in Wilson County to Thomas Williams and Sylvester [maiden name unknown]; resided at 526 East Nash; was a widow; and was a hotel owner. Informant was widow Hattie Margaret Williams of Baltimore, Maryland.