In the spring of 1947, Economy Homes, Inc., a Winston-Salem developer, filed a plat map for a subdivision to be laid out two miles southeast of town along Black Creek Road. Lincoln Heights consisted of 116 lots of various sizes to be offered to African-American buyers.
Plat Book 4, Page 71, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.
Post-war housing in Wilson was scarce, and lots in the new development sold immediately. Just ten days after the plat map was recorded, the Wilson Daily Times listed lot sales to Samuel T. Dowdy and wife, Julia Farmer Johnson, James T. Horton, Ernest McKinnon, I.V. Dringle, Oscar Eatman and Israel Thomas. Dowdy, who was white, was a speculator and later ran ads selling houses and lots on terms.
Wilson Daily Times, 31 July 1947.
The smaller lots filled with single-family homes, but the long, narrow lots at the right side of the plat eventually — apparently, in the early 1970s — became the site of Lincoln Trailer Park.
Today, nearly all of it is scrub pine and weedy fields. Lincoln Heights had no height at all, and eventually the repeated ravages of its low lands by the overflowing Hominy Swamp canal won the day.
Here is an aerial view of Lincoln Heights, courtesy of Google Maps. The “Williams Street” of the plat became Wills, and “Charles” became Charleston. Elizabeth Street was never cut through, but Purdie curved around to intersect Old Black Creek Road, cradling several smaller streets that were once lined with house trailers. By the mid-1970s, the Daily Times was regularly running stories of boat rescues and electricity shut-offs in Lincoln Trailer Park during hard rains, and complaints about the clogged and under-dredged canal in the aftermath. Catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 devastated Lincoln Heights. As the century turned, the city of Wilson, using federal funding, began to condemn houses and buy out landowners. Though Lincoln Heights is marked on a 2018 digital building map, only a handful of houses along upper Wills Street remain occupied.
An abandoned house at the dead-end of Wills Street.
Purdie Street is now fenced off at Old Black Creek Road.
Hominy Swamp Canal seems innocuous — at least in terms of volume flow. Otherwise, it is filthy.
In 2002, the city erected signs showing the Hurricane Floyd high-water mark. The sign is perhaps 100 yards from the course of Hominy Swamp and shows a flood depth of about four feet.
Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.