Fisher

Details of a drowning.

The day after Eugene Fisher drowned while swimming in the lake at Contentnea Park, the Daily Times printed an article suggesting that “Sam Vick,” i.e. Samuel H. Vick Jr., bore some responsibility for the accident.

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Wilson Daily Times, 29 July 1924.

Vick immediately fired back. His grief, he stated sharply, had “been still more aggravated by the misstatement of facts concerning my part in the matter, for the facts were badly twisted and really just the opposite what really happened.” Georgia Aiken also contributed a corrective, milder in tone, but just as firm.

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Wilson Daily Times, 30 July 1924.

And where was Contentnea Park? References in contemporaneous news articles reveal that (1) it was not an African-American-only park — the Kiwanis met there regularly — but rather seems to have had a section reserved for black patrons, “the negro park”; (2) it was privately owned and operated; (3) it was located above the dam on Contentnea Creek; and (4) entrance was gained via a road marked by two stone pillars. A dam spans Contentnea Creek just above U.S. Highway 301 to form what is now known as Wiggins Mill Reservoir, still a popular recreational area. With a hat tip to Janelle Booth Clevinger, here is my best guest at the park’s location:

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  • Eugene Fisher — Connecticut-born Eugene Leonard Fisher was newly arrived to Wilson at the time of his tragic death. His father Edwin W. Fisher was a manager with North Carolina Mutual and moved his wife and remaining children to Wilson between 1926, when Edwin is listed in the 1926 Durham, N.C., city directory, and 1928, when he appears in the Wilson directory. They settled into 624 East Nash Street, the house built for Dr. Frank S. Hargrave next door to Samuel Vick’s family home at 622. The Fishers appear in Wilson in the 1930 census, and Daisy Virginia Fisher (Eugene’s stepmother) died there on 25 April 1935. Per her death certificate, she and her husband were living at 539 East Nash at the time. Eugene Fisher’s younger brother Milton W. Fisher remained in Wilson into the 1940s, and his older brother Edwin D. Fisher lived there the remainder of his life.

Eugene Fisher’s death certificate reveals that he was an insurance agent for North Carolina Mutual. Fisher was living at an unspecified address on Nash Street. His father Edwin, then a Durham resident, was informant.

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Eugene L. Fisher served in the United States Naval Reserve Force during World War I as a mess attendant. The Messman Branch of the Navy, which was restricted to non-white sailors, was responsible for feeding and serving officers. Fisher was assigned to U.S.S. Black Hawk, a destroyer depot ship. After his death, his brother Edwin D. Fisher of 600 East Green Street applied for a military headstone to be shipped to the “Negro Cemetery (Fayetteville Street)” in Durham. [Edwin Fisher, himself a veteran of World War I, signed as “Liaison Officer, [illegible] A.V. of World War, Sumter S.C. chap. #2.” (What does this signify?)]

Aerial images courtesy of Google Maps.

UPDATE, 9 April 2019:

The “stone” pillars I identified above are actually brick. Until a better guess arrives though, I will stick with hypothesis that they mark the entrance to Contentnea Park. Many thanks to Janelle Booth Clevinger for this photo. — LYH

UPDATE, 11 April 2019: Per additional intel, the pillars shown above were erected in the 1960s. Thus, the location of Contentnea Park remains a mystery.

918 Washington Street.

The ninety-eighth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1930; 1 1/2 stories; bungalow with gable roof; engaged porch; asphalt veneer; built by carpenter Alonzo Coley.”

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barefoot Linwood propr Barefoot Pressing Wks h 918 Washington

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barefoot Lenwood (c; Bertha) tailor h 918 Washington

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barefoot Lenwood (c; Bertha) tailor Service Cleaning Wks h 918 Washington

William Alvis Barefoot died 22 February 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 7 years old; was born in Wilson to Lenwood Barefoot and Bertha Moore, both of Wilson; lived at 918 Washington Avenue; and went to school.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 918 Washington Street, owned and valued at $6000, tailor Lenwood Barfoot, 33; wife Bertha, 32; and sons John L., 8, Stanley B., 5, Noris H., 4, Henry V., 2, and Kertise, 6 months.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Fisher Alonzo (c) porter h 918 Washington

In 1942, Alonza Garfield Fisher Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 3 May 1903 in Lenoir County, North Carolina; resided at 918 Washington, Wilson; his telephone number was 3820-1; his contact was Louis H. Fisher, Kinston, North Carolina; and he worked for the government in Railway Mail Services.

Notices of sheriff’s sale for 918 Washington appeared in the Wilson Daily Times in January and February 1946:

Wilson Daily Times, 5 February 1946.

However, when Alonzo G. Fisher Sr. died 13 August 1948, he was still living at the address. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 March 1883 in Lenoir County to James Fisher and Martha Jones; was the widower of Lanie Fisher; and had worked as a laborer. Alonzo G. Fisher, Jr., 918 Washington, was informant.

Alonza Garfield Fisher Jr. died 15 September 1949 at his home at 918 Washington Street. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 May 1903 in Lenoir County, North Carolina, to Alonza G. Fisher Sr. and Mollie Carr; was married; and worked as a railway mail clerk. Lewis Henry Fisher of Kinston was informant.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

The obituary of Almus A. Lovette.

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Wilson Daily Times, 5 November 1938.

In the 1880 census of Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia: at 518 West Broad, laborer Green Lovett, 28; wife Julia, 30; and children Almus, 5, Mary, 3, and Floyd, 1.

In the 1900 census of Chesapeake District, Elizabeth County, Virginia: at Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute, Almus A. Lovett, 25, student, born in Georgia.

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Third-Year Trade School Students, Catalogue of Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute, Hampton, Virginia 1902-1903.

Lovette appears in Savannah city directories between 1904 and 1913 at various addresses and working as blacksmith, post office carrier, and driver. [Which begs the question of which years he taught in Greensboro.]

On 6 July 1908, Almus A. Lovett and Letitia H. Jones, both 33, were married in Savannah, Georgia.

Almus Ashton Lovette registered for the World War I draft in Wilson on 12 September 1918. Per his registration card, he resided at 415 Stantonsburg Street; was born 8 April 1876; worked as a horseshoer for G.T. Purvis, 212 Tarboro Street; and his nearest relative was Letitia H. Lovette.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Almus Lovett, 42, blacksmith in shop, and wife Letitia, 43, seamstress.

In the 1930 Wilson city directory: Lovett Almus A (c) (Letitia H) horseshoer Stallings & Riley h 301 N. Vick.

Almus Ashton Lovett died 5 November 1938 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 April 1877 in Sylvania, Georgia to Green Lovett; resided at 301 North Vick Street; was married to Letitia Lovett; and worked as a blacksmith at a repair ship. Letitia Lovett was informant.

On 2 February 1941, Letitia H. Lovett, 57, daughter of Frank and Sarah Jones, married Edwin D. Fisher, 47, son of Edwin W. and Nannie D. Fisher, at Lovett’s home. Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the service in the presence of Milton W. Fisher, Mrs. Almina Fisher, Mrs. Rosa E. McCullers, and Mrs. Eva L. Brown.

Letitia Lovette Fisher died 1 November 1969 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 January 1876 in Georgia to Franklin Jones and an unknown mother; had worked as a teacher and seamstress; resided at 301 North Vick; and was married to Edwin D. Fisher, who served as informant.

 

Picture-Taking Barnes.

Said Hattie Henderson Ricks, who lived in East Wilson from 1911 to 1958: “Yep, that’s me standing up there, and [my sister] Mamie sitting in the chair. And that little arm [of the chair] off there, it was Picture-Taking Barnes, they called him then. You were gon have your pictures made, you went to Picture-Taking Barnes.”

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Sisters Mamie and Hattie Henderson, alias Jacobs, circa 1920.

George Washington Barnes‘ one-armed chair is also recognizable in this image of Ricks’ great-aunt, Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver:

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Per Stephen E. Massingill’s Photographers in North Carolina (2004), Barnes was perhaps the first of three African-American photographers operating in Wilson in the early part of the twentieth century. In the 1908 city of directory of Wilson, George W. Barnes’ listing shows that he worked for white photographer O.W. Turner in a studio at 105 West Nash. The others were J. Thomas Artis, active in Wilson by 1921 and also in Wilmington, North Carolina, in the 1920s, and Connecticut native Edwin D. Fisher, active by 1930.

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Wilson City Directory, 1916. (The asterisk * indicates “colored.”)

In The Sweet Hell Inside (2001), Edward Ball prints a letter that 28 year-old Elise Forrest wrote her boyfriend Teddy Harleston after she arrived in New York City in 1918 to begin classes at the Emile Brunel School of Photography. “Dear Ted,” she began. “This morning I went to school. I am the only woman. There is one other colored, a young man from Wilson, N.C., …” … Who?

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1922 Sanborn map of Wilson showing 2nd floor location of Barnes’ East Barnes Street photography studio.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; photographs in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.