Coley

A public library for black citizens.

Wilson County Public Library’s Local History Room holds a copy of “A History of Public Library Service to Blacks in Wilson, N.C.,” the master’s thesis Doretta Davis Anderson submitted to the University of North Carolina’s School of Library Science in 1976. Here are early excerpts :

“The honor of first suggesting a public library for the black citizens of Wilson, North Carolina belonged to a Mrs. Argie Evans Allen. Mrs. Allen suggested the idea of establishing a library for the black community as a project for her club, the Mary McLeod Bethune Civic Club. Accepting the idea, the club then authorized Mrs. Allen to carry our the project as she saw fit.

“The first actual recorded interest in the establishment of the library appeared in a letter, written by Mrs. Allen to Mrs. Mollie Huston Lee on June 7, 1943. Mrs. Lee, at that time was supervisor of North Carolina’s Negro Public Libraries.  …

“Subsequently, Dr. D.C. Yancey donated a room over his drugstore to the club for the establishment of a library. …

“… Volunteers were solicited to man the library. The first official ‘librarian’ was Evangeline Royal, a local high school student employed to operate the library after school.”

“The following persons were appointed to become members of the library’s first board of trustees: Mrs. W.M. Freeman (Chairman); E. Hilliard (Secretary); James Whitfield (Treasurer); E.F. Battle; William Hines; Dr. D.C. Yancey; and C.W. Foster.

“Considering its relative obscurity, the library was to circulate 108 volumes during its first year of operations and collect $539.40 in donations for operating expenses.

“The following year showed a marked improvement. Aside from acquiring a new librarian, the board of trustees was able to solicit appropriations from the local city and county officials for the financing of the library. … Under the direction of Miss Pauleze Coley (Bryant), the college graduate employed by the library, circulation for the year ending June 30, 1945 totaled 3,172 volumes. …”

Proposed floor plan of Wilson County Negro Library’s location on Pender Street.

  • Argie Evans Allen
  • D.C. Yancey — D’arcey C. Yancey.
  • Evangeline Royal — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 203 Pender Street, widow Ossie M. Royall, 33, an elevator girl at the courthouse; her mother Tossie Jenkins, 53, stemmer at a tobacco factory; daughters LaForest, 16, and Evauline Royall, 14; and a roomer named Ed Hart, 45, a laborer employed by the town of Wilson. Ossie and LaForest were born in Wilson; Evaline in Battleboro [Nash County]; and Tossie and Ed in Nash County.
  • W.M. Freeman — Willie Mae Hendley Freeman.
  • E. Hilliard
  • James Whitfield
  • E.F. Battle
  • William Hines
  • C.W. Foster — Carter W. Foster.
  • Pauleze Coley (Bryant) — Elizabeth Pauleze Coley Bryant.

115 Pender Street East today. The library was housed in the storefront at left until the early 1970s, when it moved to a location on Pender south of Nash Street. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

901 East Green Street.

The one-hundred-seventeenth 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: “ca. 1930; 2 stories; two-bay, side-hall, gable front house.” Like 817 East Green, Walter S. Hines (and his heirs) owned and rented out this house. It was demolished in 2001.

In the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Brooks Maggie (c) cook h 901 E Green

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 East Green, renting for $21/month, widow Maggie Brooks, 45, servant; Eszie M. Brooks, 26, nurse; roomer Roland Sudden, 24, factory laborer; Christene Brooks, 2; and roomers Robert Harvey, 26, glass cutter, and wife Mary, 22, both born in Georgia.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 East Green, rented for $15/month, barber Henry D. Coley, 44; wife Eva J., 39, teacher in public schools; and daughters Elizabeth P., 16, Grace L., 14, and Eva E., 10.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coley David H (c; Eva) barber Walter S Hines h 901 E Green

Eva Janet Coley died 7 October 1941 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 June 1899 in Greene County to Jacob Speight and Ida Ward; was married to David H. Coley; was a teacher; and lived at 901 East Green Street.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019.

Coley receives a degree in library science.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 June 1947.

Elizabeth Pauleze Coley was almost certainly the first, and perhaps the only, African-American native of Wilson to graduate what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. A 1940 graduate of Charles H. Darden High School, she received her first degree from North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University) in 1944.

Coley married Kelly Winslow Bryant of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and eventually migrated to suburban Washington, D.C. Though it’s not clear whether she ever worked in Wilson — the main library on West Nash Street was whites-only in 1947, and the tiny Negro branch remained a fledgling — Elizabeth Pauleze Coley Bryant did become a librarian.

Roundtable (1969), the yearbook of Frank W. Ballou High School, Washington, D.C.

——

Elizabeth P. Coley was born 1 May 1923 in Wilson to David Henry Coley and Eva Jane Speight.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 930 [sic, 931] Carolina Street, barber Henry Coley, 48; wife Eva, 46, teacher; and children James, 16, Eva, 15, and Elizabeth, 13. [The ages of this entire family are off. David H. Coley was in fact about; Eva, about 30; Elizabeth, about 6; and Eva, about 4.]

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 East Green, rented for $15/month, barber Henry D. Coley, 44; wife Eva J., 39, teacher in public schools; and daughters Elizabeth P., 16, Grace L., 14, and Eva E., 10.

In the 1948 Rocky Mount, North Carolina, city directory: Bryant Kelly W (c; Pauleze; Wright’s Chick Shack) r 522 Raleigh rd

 

The 200 block of East Street and the 900 blocks of Carolina and Washington Streets.

In February 1920, Atlantic Coast Realty Company surveyed an irregularly shaped parcel of land between East and Vick Streets in Wilson. The land, commonly known as the Sallie Lipscomb property, belonged to J.H. Griffin and others, who planned to carve out 45 lots for sale to home builders.

[Note: Sarah A. Barnes (1842-1927), daughter of Edwin T. and Theresa Simms Barnes, married Virginia-born Oswald Lipscomb in 1869. Per documents in Lipscomb’s estate file, Lipscomb and his brother-in-law John T. Barnes entered into a partnership to form Lipscomb & Company (also known as Lipscomb & Barnes), a contracting, carpentry and woodworking business that operated from a shop at Pine and Lee Streets. The business operated profitably until “opposition in business, a general falling off of the trade, the contraction in prices and one or more contracts for building houses in which the firm lost money” caused Lipscomb to give up the trade and “retire to his wife’s farm near the town of Wilson.” It is reasonable to assume that the Sallie Lipscomb property platted here was (part of) that farm. (Lipscomb & Barnes continued to struggle, and Barnes piled on more debt to keep the firm afloat. Lipscomb died in 1891, and Barnes in 1894. Soon after, Edwin T. Barnes, administrator of John T. Barnes’ estate, sued to make sure their brother-in-law’s estate claimed no portion of the business.)]

Plat book 1, page 184, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County.

The plat map shows neighboring landowners as “Vick” (almost certainly Samuel H. Vick), Dorsey Williams, Robert Rice and “Howard.” Development did not commence immediately, as the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map below shows empty space along the 200 block of East Street and between the 900 blocks of Washington and Carolina Streets. The six houses on Washington and one on Carolina lie beyond the borders of the Sallie Lipscomb property. Sam Vick’s house is at top left on Green Street, and the strip of land he owned at the edge of the map seems to have been behind houses in the 700 block of Green. Dorsey Williams’ house was at 304 (formerly 147) East Street.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of WIlson, N.C.

On 12 February 1924, barber David H. Coley and wife Eva Speight Coley, a teacher, purchased Number 44, one of the larger lots in the subdivision, and built a house on it. On 1 October 1929, they executed a deed of trust with realtor D.S. Boykin to secure a loan from Carolina Building and Loan Association. Exactly four weeks later, the stock market collapsed, and it is not hard to imagine that the Coleys’ fortunes fell with the country’s. They defaulted on their loan, and in February 1932, Boykin advertised the impending sale.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 February 1932.

Here is the approximate location of the Sallie Lipscomb property as shown on Google Maps today. The Coleys’ house at 931 Carolina Street was long ago demolished; it is not listed in the East Wilson historic district inventory.

 

923 Washington Street.

The one hundredth 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; Alonzo Coley house; bungalow with unusual hip and side-gable roof configuration and shed dormer; aluminum-sided; Coley was a carpenter.”

Alonza Coley also built the houses at 914 and 918 Washington Street. Per the “Statement of Significance” section of the East Wilson nomination form: “A colleague of [O. Nestus] Freeman‘s, Alonzo Coley constructed bungalows for black clients, as well as worked in a barber shop. He advertised himself as a “licensed architect” after completing a drafting course at the local black high school.”

In 1917, Alonzo Coley registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his draft registration card, he was born 8 September 1890 in Pikeville, Wayne County; resided at 105 East Street; worked as a carpenter for Barney Reid “in the Town of Wilson;” and was single.

Alonzo Coley, 26, of Wilson, son of Christopher and Sarah E. Coley of Wayne County, married Pauline McQueen, 23, of Wilson, daughter of Anthony and Jenny McQueen of Roland, North Carolina, on 14 March 1918. Presbyterian minister H.B. Taylor performed the ceremony in the presence of Maud Battle, Laura Coley and Lula Lewis.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Washington Street, house carpenter Lonzo Coley, 29; wife Paulean, 26; daughter Elma, 6 months; sister Edith, 16; and boarder Bula Thompson, 17.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 923 Washington Street, owned and valued at $2000, building carpenter Lonie Coley, 35; wife Pauline, 34; and children Elmer, 10, Mary E., 8, Richard L., 7, Robert J., 4, and Pauline, 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 923 Washington Street, owned and valued at $800, carpenter Alonzo Coley, 50; wife Pauline, 46, cleaner at post office; mother Sarah, 71; and children Elma, 20, beauty parlor operator, Maratta, 18, Robert J., 14, and Pauline, 12.

Alonzo Coley died 2 November 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 September 1890 to Christopher and Sarah Coley; lived at 923 Washington Street; and was a laborer. Informant was Pauline Coley.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2019.

914 Washington Street.

The ninety-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 house is: “circa 1930; 1 1/2 story; bungalow with clipped-gable roof and dormer; built by carpenter Alonzo Coley.”

It’s likely that this well-kept bungalow was built some years prior to 1930, as the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory shows: Jeffries David (c; Ethel) gro 912 1/2 Washington h do [ditto]

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 914 Washington, valued at $2000, grocery store proprietor David Jeffreys, 58; wife Ethel, 57, cook; and lodger Kattie Brown, 24, cook.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 914 Washington, valued at $3000, retail grocery owner David Jeffreys, 67, born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and wife Ethel, 64, born in Cumberland County, N.C.

David O. Jeffreys died 22 October 1949 at his home at 914 Washington Street. Per his death certificate, he was married to Ethel Jeffreys; was born 8 November 1879 in Chase City, Virginia; and had worked as a cement finisher.

Ethel Jeffreys died 7 December 1958 at her home at 914 Washington. Per her death certificate, she was born 22 August 1876 in Cumberland County, N.C., to John Bell and Pearcey Williams; was a widow. Informant was Clyde McLean of the home.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

 

Studio shots, no. 16: James and Roxie Coley.

james-roxie-coley

James and Roxie Jones Coley.

In the 1900 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: widow Harriet Jones, 32, and daughters Viola, 11, Nancy, 6, and Roxie, 3.

In the 1900 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Benjamin Coley, 38, wife Tempy, 35, and sons James, 16, and Eddie, 13.

On 2 January 1910, Jas. Coley, 21, of Old Fields, son of Ben and Tempie Coley, married Roxie Hinnant, age not given, of Old Fields, daughter of Gillis and Harriet Hinnant, in the presence of William Boykins, Williamson Jones, and Freddie Jones.

In the 1910 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: widow Harret Kerny, daughters Dazle, 12, and Lillian Kerny, 11, grandson George Kerny, 6, son-in-law James Coley, 21, ad daughter Roxie Coley, 16.

In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer James Coley, 34; wife Roxie A., 26; and children Harriett, 9, Martha, 7, Nancy, 4, and James E., 2. Next door: Ben Coley, 60, wife Tempie, 60, and granddaughter Maggie, 13, with servant George Kerney, 17.

In the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer James Coley, 42; wife Roxie, 34; and children George, 19, Willie, 17, Ben, 4, and Beulia, 1.

In the 1940 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer James Coley, 54; wife Roxie, 43; children Harrit, 17, Martha, 16, Nancy, 14, James E., 13, George L., 11, Willie, 8, Bennie, 14, and Beulah, 11; Carrie Marie, 4, and Lou, 1; niece Rematha Coley, 8, and nephews, L.V., 7, Johnny Lee, 6, and William Arthur Coley, 4.

Roxie Coley died 27 February 1960 at her home at 207 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate: she was born 25 December 1900 in Wilson County to Douglas Jones and Harriette Jones; was married to James Coley; her usual residence was in Sims, Wilson County; and she was buried in Jones Hill cemetery.

Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com user tmuzaina.

Studio shots, no. 13 & 14: Rufus and Sara Sherard Coley.

This beautiful matching set of photographic portraits depicts Rufus and Sara Sherard Coley.

rufus-coley

sarah-s-coley

On 28 November 1912, Rufus Coley, 29, of Wayne County, son of Dennis and Sarah Coley, married Sarah Sherard, 28, daughter of Swinson and Laura Sherard, in Fork township, Wayne County.

In the 1916 Wilson city directory, Rufus Coley is listed as a carpenter living on Atlantic Street between North Vick and Reid Streets.

Rufus Coley registered for the World War I draft on 12 September 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 6 September 1883; resided at R.F.D.#4, Wilson; was engaged in farming for John R. Raines; and his nearest relative was Sarah E. Coley.

Rufus Coley died 5 April 1925 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born about 1886 in Wayne County to Dennis Coley and Sarah Hill; was married to Sara Coley; worked as a bank manager at First National Bank; and was buried in Wayne County. Levi Coley of Goldsboro, North Carolina, was informant. [Bank manager? First National Bank? Was this a later iteration of Commercial Bank?]

Rufus Coley died intestate, and his wife Sara E. Coley applied in Wilson County Superior Court for letters of administration on 8 June 1925. She estimated his estate as a house and lot valued at about $1200.00 and personal property worth an additional $550.00, and named as heirs herself and children Elaine and James F. Coley. William Hines joined her in pledging bond.

007639926_00337

Just over a year later, on 18 July 1926, Sarah E. Coley died in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 25 March 1883 in Wayne County to Swinson Sherrood and Laura Hooks, both of Wayne. She was the widow of Rufus Coley and resided at 1012 East Atlantic Street, Wilson. John Sherrood was informant.

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Sara E. S. Coley and children Elaine (born 1916) and James Frederick Coley (born 1921).

Photographs courtesy of Ancestry.com user lambie04.