For a brief period in November-December 1936, all three of Wilson’s Black schools were closed down. The Stantonsburg Street School (formerly known as Colored Graded and later as Sallie Barbour) shut down for repair of a burst boiler. The Colored High School (later known as Darden) was closed indefinitely due to a serious fire, and Sam Vick Elementary’s grand opening had been delayed by late furniture arrivals.
After years of complaints about deteriorating conditions at the Sallie Barbour School, Wilson’s Board of Education finally constructed a new elementary school for African-American children in southeast Wilson. The opening of Elvie Street School left Sallie Barbour School obsolete, and the city made plans to sell off the property.
The first plat shows a survey of the property as it existed in January 1951 — the frame school building (which dated from the 1890s) with its distinctive five-sided porch , a small frame lunch room off to one side, and a brick toilet building in the rear.
The second plat shows, superimposed over an outline of the buildings, the proposed division of the land — known to this day as “The Schoolyard” — into 28 lots.
The Schoolyard today. About 1955, a developer built a row of double-shotgun houses on the Manchester Street side of the property. The Black Creek Road (formerly Stantonsburg Street) side is now home to a small supermarket and a series of apartment buildings.
Plat Book 5, pages 32 and 34, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County courthouse; photo courtesy of Google Maps.
The Wilson Daily Times printed this photo of Addie Davis Butterfield‘s 1945 first grade class at Samuel H. Vick Elementary. Mrs. Butterfield is top right, and the children include her nephew William Bayard Davis Jr. (front row in white shirt and tie), Rudolph Kersey Bullock (laughing beside Davis), Jessie Gertrude Baldwin Pouncey, Patricia Ann Tabron Bates, Alton Ray Kirk, Robert Eugene Dew, Earline Blount, Callie Joyce Bowens, Sarah Frances Greene, Reuben Hammonds, Luther Mincey and Raymond Bell. The caption attributes the photo to the collection of Diane Davis Myers, Butterfield’s niece.
Darden High School graduated its last class in 1970. Within a few years, though, a robust alumni association formed to keep memories of Wilson’s black high school alive. Today, a middle school on Lipscomb Road carries Darden’s name. Across the street from its campus is a small brick building that houses the Darden Alumni Association’s offices. A banquet room, site of nearly weekly wedding receptions, birthday parties or repasts, occupies most of the space. Off that room, a back hall is lined with class photographs dating to the 1920s, depicting generations of the Wilson children who attended Darden, Sam Vick Elementary, and the Colored Graded School (later Sallie Barbour Elementary.)
The earliest pictures hanging in the hall are unlabeled, though recent visitors were able to identify a few of the children whose solemn faces peer out. Here are three.
The first is marked “Wilson Graded School, 1921-22 Second Grade.”
The second is “Graded School, 2nd Grade, 1934-35, Teacher — Miss Robinson.” In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 Pender Street, brickmason Clinton Best, 40; wife Minnie, 30; children Glenwood, 5, Gladis, 15, and James, 12; and lodgers Mary Reid, 21, and Martha Robinson, 25, a public school teachers.
The third carries no label, but boys seated at center hold a banner emblazoned “Second.” Though it is undated, tentative identification of four of the boys — all born in 1931 or 1932 — yields a date of about 1939. If so, the photo was taken just after Sam Vick School opened.
On the first row, third from left, a Freeman (possibly Daniel E.); third from right, a Brodie (either George or Henry); next to him, Jacobia L. Bullock; and, at the end of the row another Freeman (if not Dan, then Joseph Thomas.)