fire

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.”

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.

Studaway injured in big Hackney fire.

Hackney Brothers Suffer Another Big Fire Loss – Within Two Months – Paint Shop Burned Yesterday Afternoon With Loss of $50,000 Covered By Insurance. Fire Quick and Hot. Four Workmen Were Injured. Two In Hospital

One of the fastest and hottest fires ever seen in this city occurred yesterday afternoon about five o’clock when the paint shop of Hackney Bros. in this city burned, and four workmen came near losing their lives before they were able to escape from the building. This is the second fire suffered by the Hackney buggy and automobile plant located on Green street and running back to an alley between this property and their store property which fronts on Nash street since Christmas. This was the fifth fire yesterday.

The fire at Christmas caused a loss of around $400,000. That fire burned two building fronting on Green street and stopped at a double wall, leaving the rear ends of the buildings adjoining the alley. The Hackneys moved their garage equipment and were getting ready to replace the old buildings with a modern garage building, with a service and filling station in front and offices on Green street, when this second fire changed their plans and now they are uncertain what to do.

After the first fire they located their paint shop in the building on the north side, here they painted buggy bodies, automobile bodies and cars for customers. In the other building just across the alley they had their workshop for repairing cars.

The front of both buildings were burned in the Christmas fire. The fire yesterday burned the paint shop, but the repair shop across the way was not injured.

The burning of this shop has completely changed the plans of the proprietors and therefore they are uncertain at present as to what they will do.

After the Christmas fire, as explained above, the company decided to erect a factory on their property on Herring avenue located on the Atlantic Coast railroad in the eastern part of the city, and just across the railroad from the Hackney Wagon Company. Here commercial automobile bodies, and buggy bodies will be built. They will not change their plans as to this, but will go ahead with their work here. The fire has for the moment caused them to be undecided as to what they will do with their property fronting on Green street which has been destroyed.

The fire yesterday afternoon was caused by the breaking of an electric light bulb, attached to an extension cord which was being used by Mr. Albert Flowers underneath a car on which he was engaged in cleaning the chassis. He had a bucket of water and gasoline, as is usual in such cases. When the bulb broke fire began to run around the floor on which was water and gasoline. Mr. Flowers got from under the car, and others around the car secured fire extinguishers and began to fight the flames.

Mr. Robert Smith who is in a local hospital, and one most badly burned, except a colored man named Lucien Studaway, who is confined in the Negro hospital, tells the following story of the accident.

“When the bulb broke, and the fire began to run around on the floor, Jim Wallace ran for a fire extinguisher, and Mr. Ben Owens, foreman of the paint shop, also came back there. All of us fought the flames but we did not think it was so bad. I then ran to get a fire extinguisher, and it seemed in a second the whole floor was in a blaze, and I said to Ed Winstead, we can’t put it out, lets get our clothes and get out. I ran to the place where my clothes were hanging, and the smoke blinded me so, I could not get to the door. I was near a window and started to break the glass with my hands. I then noticed there was a nail holding down the window and I pulled this out and escaped.”

Four altogether suffered burns and had a narrow escape. These were Mr. Bob Smith who is burned on the face and hands and arms to his elbows. He is in the hospital. Mr. John Whitehead is burned on the face, and hands, and one eye is closed. He was taken to the hospital at first, but was later taken home. He is able to sit up. Mr. Ed Winstead is burned on the face and back of the head. He is also able to be up. Lucien Sturdaway, Colored, is still in the hospital. His injuries are about as those of Mr. Smith. He is also not seriously burned.

Within a few moments after the alarm sounded the flames and smoke were pouring from the building, a three story structure containing much paint, a barrel of turpentine and linseed oil. Just where the fire started there were two automobiles, customers’ cars, newly covered with a coat of varnish, and these burned like a tinder. There were probably a dozen customers’ cars in the building and these are a total loss. Some of them carried insurance while others did not.

The firemen did heroic work, and deserve special commendation for their efforts. Notwithstanding the terrific heat and the danger from falling walls, they stayed on the roofs of the adjoining buildings and from both engines four streams of water played on the fire, two from the north side and two from the south side. By playing streams on the corners of the building they held these intact, and through the walls in the center on the north side fell in, the corners kept them from falling directly, and thus adjoining buildings were not endangered. The walls came down in sections beginning at the top. About half of the north wall fell in.

At one time it was thought the Municipal building would go, and Mr. Hinnant, city clerk, prepared to remove furniture and valuable papers, but the fine work of the fire department kept the flames confined to its origin in the Hackney building. This is the proud record of our firemen for several years. They have managed to keep the flames confined in the building where it had started. The Times believe that we have the best fire company in the country, and they should be commended by our people.

On account of the number of fires occurring yesterday, there was not sufficient time to wash and prepare the hose. Mr. Murray says he needs a place to wash the hose, and that this would save hundreds of dollars worth of fabric. The alkali in the dirt being very injurious to the fabric. The city fathers should provide a place for this purpose.

Wilson Times, 24 February 1922.

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Site of Hackney Wagon Company, Sanborn insurance map, 1922.

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Location of former Hackney Wagon plant today.

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In the 1900 county, Wilson, Wilson County: carriage painter Wyatt Studaway, 53, wife Jancy, 43, and son Lucian, 23, tobacco factory day laborer.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, Wyatt Studaway, 56, wife Gincy, 48, and children Lucian, 22, Palmar, 4, and Margarett, 1.

Jensy Studaway died 23 January 1915 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was married and was born 20 September 1862 in Greene County to Lewis Bess and an unknown mother. Wyatt Studaway was informant.

Lucian Studaway registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 September 1874, resided at 114 Manchester Street, worked as a painter for Hackney Brothers, and was of medium height and stout build. His next-of-kin was Wyatt Studaway.

Wyatt Studaway died 2 October 1926 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he resided at 112 Manchester Street; was a widower; was engaged as a minister and merchant; was 75 years old; and had been born in Wake County to Isaac and Mary Studaway. Lucian Studaway was informant.

Lucian Studaway outlived his father by less than a year, dying 13 June 1927 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 42 years old, single, lived at 112 Manchester Street, worked as a day laborer, and was the son of Wyatt Studaway of Wake County and Jency Studaway of Wilson. Hattie Mae Vinters was informant.

Studaway executed a will three months before his death. He had been the sole heir of his parents’ property, and he passed all that he owned to his cousin Hattie May Venters, “who had been kind to me and who has visited me in my illness and shown me consideration and been attentive to my health and welfare.” Venters was the daughter of Charles and Sarah Best Thomas.

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North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

A month will pass before the news reaches him.

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Colored American (Washington, D.C.), 2 February 1901.

On 29 November 1892, Owen L.W. Smith, 41, of Wilson County, married Adora E. Oden, 22, of Carteret County in Carteret County. It was Smith’s second marriage.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Owens Smith, 49, minister; wife Adora, 30; son Jesse, 19; daughter Flossie, 4; widowed mother Maria Hicks, 78, a midwife; and boarder Carry Pettiford, a widowed teacher.

Flossie Smith is the child who died of burns. She is referred to as an “only child” in the article above, though Owen and Adora Smith adopted two children, Jesse A. Smith and Carrie Emma, who died as a teenager.

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The grave markers of Owen Smith’s daughter Carrie and mother Maria Hicks in the Masonic cemetery, Wilson.

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Flossie Smith’s mother, Adora Estelle Oden Smith (1870-1906).

Photo of gravemarkers taken by Lisa Y. Henderson in November 2015; photo of Adora Oden Smith courtesy of Wilson County Public Library.