fire

Store damaged by fire.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 March 1924.

——

  • Ed Johnson — Edward Johnson died 15 April 1924 (two weeks after his store burned.) Per his death certificate, he was born 12 February 1869 in Durham County, N.C., to Martin Johnson and Francies Burks of Durham County; was married to Rachel Jane Johnson; was a self-employed grocery merchant; and lived at 406 East Hines Street. His wife Rachel Johnson was the daughter of his landlord Lewis Townsend.
  • Louis Townsend — Lewis W. Townsend and his brother Andrew J. Townsend operated groceries together and separately in the warehouse district southwest of downtown Wilson.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Hannibal Lodge building burns.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 October 1997.

For more about the Odd Fellows Hannibal Lodge building, see here and here. Shortly after it erected this building, Lodge #1552 established the Odd Fellows cemetery that now lies abandoned and overgrown on Lane Street.  

Iredell County Chronicles, no. 5.

Margaret Colvert Allen, seated far right, third row, circa 1915.

Greensboro Daily News, 10 March 1916.

Margaret C. Allen, second from right, second row from top. Her sister Launie Mae Colvert Jones, at left, first row of middle section, circa 1916. Both photos, I believe depict students of Statesville’s Colored Free School. The second photo may show the school itself shortly before it burned or may depict one of the other buildings in which the school met before a replacement was built in 1921.

Photos in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

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.”
  • On 9 January 1940, Alice Powell, 11, in Wilson, daughter of James Powell and Lela Wright, “3rd degree burns of entire body, playing in fire.”