fire

Wilson’s Green Book hotel.

The three-story Hotel Union first appears in Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson in 1908. The wooden building had two storefronts on the ground floor and accommodations above.

The hotel also appears in the 1913 Sanborn map. By 1922, however, the Hotel Union was a boarding house. Its ground floor had been expanded to add another commercial space, and the one-story extension on the back of the building comprised a separate dwelling. There’s no listing for a black-owned hotel or boarding house in the 1922 Wilson city directory, but the 1925 directory shows the Whitley Hotel at 535-537 East Nash. Maggie A. Whitley was proprietor. In the 1928 directory, the address of the Whitley is 541 East Nash. The hotel is visible in a postcard of East Nash Street circulated in the 1920s.

In January 1928, a fire broke out in a second-floor bedroom of the Whitley. Quick action by the fire department prevented extensive damage.

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Wilson Daily Times, 5 January 1928.

The 1941 edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book lists the Wilson Biltmore at 541 East Nash Street, which appears to be a later iteration of Hotel Union/Whitley Hotel. (This observation matches Samuel C. Lathan‘s recollection.) The building burned to the ground in the late 1940s.

Suffer the little children: death by fire.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, violence bore them away in sorrowful numbers. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children. Few children in Wilson County were buried in marked graves. In town, original burials were in Oaklawn or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, and headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time.

By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died during the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

  • On 11 February 1915, Mary Mercer, 2, in Wilson, daughter of Dempsey Mercer and Maggie Hines, was burned to death.
  • On 17 February 1915, Wilbert Hall, 3, in Stantonsburg, son of James and Henrietta Hall, died after his “clothes caught fire and [he] was burned so badly he died within a few hours.”
  • On 11 December 1915, Willie Gray Harrison, 4, in Taylors township, son of Ed Wiggins and Bessie Harrison, died of accidental burns.
  • On 6 June 1916, Lizzie Green, 14, in Oldfields township, daughter of George Parker, married, was accidentally “burned to death — her dress caught fire while cooking in lumber camp, from cracks in stove.”
  • On 18 October 1916, Lucrecia Pace, 4, in Oldfields township, daughter of Dewitt Pace and Fannie Renfrow, died after “burned in clothing caught while playing in fire with no one in house but smaller baby.”
  • On 28 March 1917, Robert Rich, 18 months, in Gardners township, son of Edd Rich and Martha Dickens, died after “burned to death in burning home.”
  • On 10 May 1918, Milton Haskins, 3, in Wilson township, son of John Haskins and Eliza Joyner, died after “burned while in home asleep.”
  • On 26 September 1918, Hattie Bynum, 6, in Saratoga township, daughter of Lynn and Lena Bynum, died after being “burned by fire — clothes caught fire around wash pot.” She was buried at the “Whitehead place.”
  • On 4 March 1920, May Lillie Battle, 7, in Gardners township, daughter of Simon Battle and Mary Hines, died after being burned.
  • On 27 November 1920, Namie Pearl Clark, 5, in Saratoga township, daughter of William Clark and Ella Graves, “died in about 3 hours of burn covering entire body.” She was buried in “Vines cemetery.”
  • On 25 April 1922, Manallis Hooks, 3, in Wilson, son of Barnard Hooks and Sittie Dawson, “burned to death, caught from open fireplace during absence of parents.”
  • On 8 March 1923, Leroy Wanamaker, 6 months, in Saratoga, son of James Wanamaker and Augusta Walker, “burned to death.” He was buried “near Saratoga.”
  • On 12 November 1923, Linda Inman, 4, in Toisnot township, daughter of Lim Inman and Edna McNeal, “burned to death, dress caught from grate.”

Destroyed by fire.

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Wilson Daily Times, 1 April 1931.

In the 1910 census of Lumber Bridge township, Robeson County, North Carolina: Walter Bullard, 39; wife Emma, 38; and children Siilva J., 17, Mollie, 15, John F., 17, Earnest, 11, Wesley, 8, Walter S., 5, and Sudie B., 2.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Walter Bullard, 50; wife Emmy, 42; and children Walter S., 15, Sudie Belle, 10, Olivia, 7, Sarah, 5, and Alice, 4.

On 26 October 1926, Walter Bullard, 21, son of Walter Emma Bullard, married Lucille Powell, 22, daughter of Jno. and Mariah Powell, in Wilson. John P. Battle applied for the license. E.H. Cox, a minister of the U.A. F. Will Baptist Church, performed the ceremony in the presence of Cora Hinnant, Joe Anna Hinnant and Mary Burnett.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bullard Walter B (c; Lucille) lab h 109 N Carroll

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bullard Walter B (c; Lucille) taxi driver h 105 N Carroll

Walter Bullard died 12 July 1946 in the Wilson County Sanitorium. Per his death certificate, he was 41 years old; was born in Robeson County, North Carolina, to Walter Bullard and Amy Clark; was married to Ester Bullard; worked as a bell boy and taxi driver; and lived at 1008 Carolina Street. He was buried at Rountree’s cemetery. Informant was Emma Bullard.

 

House on Young’s Line destroyed.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 May 1924.

Young’s Line was north of Grabneck, outside city limits, off what was, by the 1920s, the 1200 block of West Gold Street.

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On 18 October 1886, Joseph Knight, 46, of Wilson County, married Chrisa Heath, 45, of Wilson County, in Wilson. Minister Solomon Arrington performed the ceremony in the presence of Mariah Dunston, Wm. Plummer and Cora Davis.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Joseph Knight, 55, and wife Treece, 50.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, farm laborer Joseph Knight, 59, and wife Lucrecia, 57.

Joseph Knight died 27 September 1918 in Wilson township. Per his death certificate, he was 63 years old; born in Edgecombe County to unknown parents; was married to Crecy Knight; and was a farmer. He was buried at K. Watson’s place in Wilson County. C.F. Knight was informant.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Knight Cressey dom W Nash nr Young av

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Knight Theresa (c) lndrs h 610 Young’s line

Trecy Knight died 27 August 1928 at her home in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 70 years old; a widow; lived on Young’s line; and was born in Wilson County to unknown parents.

A.V.C. Hunt in good times.

In January 1898, grocer Annie V.C. Hunt bought a sorrel mare from horse dealers Selby & Hare for $110 (which seems a very high price.) The parties registered the note in Wilson County Superior Court.

Disaster struck both parties ten months later when a fire started in Hunt’s store and swept through her Goldsboro Street block, destroying Selby & Hare’s stables. Coincidentally, both businesses rented their premises from Jefferson D. Farrior, and his suspicions about the source of the conflagration led to the murder of Hunt’s husband.

Wilson Advance, 17 November 1898.

Deed Book 46, page 128, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.