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.
Page 3, Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1913.
Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century.
Above, the west side of the 400 block of South Spring [now Douglas] Street, showing a heavy concentration of small restaurants and groceries. This stretch bordered the American Tobacco (later Liggett & Meyers) tobacco warehouse to the rear and was a block away from Smith’s warehouse, Watson warehouse, Export Leaf warehouse, a larger American Tobacco warehouse, and the Norfolk & Southern cotton loading platform, and these businesses no doubt targeted the swarms of warehouse workers.
Meet Virginia native Jacob Tuckerhere; Neverson Greenhere and here; and Nannie Besthere.
Agnes Taylor does not appear in Wilson census records, but her full entry in the 1912 city directory shows that she lived at 418 South Spring, just a few lots down from her eating house.
The one hundred twenty-seventh in a series of posts highlighting buildings inEast Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompassed 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: “909-911 [Nash]; ca. 1930; 1; Cain’s Grocery; district’s largest grocery; brick-veneered structure with parapet front.” The correct address for this building is in fact 915 East Nash Street. 909 and 911 are empty lots.
The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of the block shows three contiguous wood-framed commercial buildings, two marked as groceries, in the 900 block of Nash Street. The middle building, at 913, appears to be the precursor of the building above.
In the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directories, 915 East Nash Street is listed as vacant.
As early as July 1936, Gill’s Grocery advertised in the local newspaper:
Wilson Daily Times, 17 July 1936.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Gill’s Grocery (John D Gill) 915-917 E Nash. (On either side, two more groceries, Jesse Verser’s at 913 and Smith’s, owned by Leander and Maggie Smith, at 919-921.)
Gill’s Grocery remained in business at 915 East Nash Street into the 1970s. Cain’s Grocery and other supermarkets succeeded Gill’s into the early 21st century. Most recently, the building has housed a church.
The ninetieth in a series of posts highlighting buildings inEast 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.
The address of this location was originally 315 Stantonsburg Street, then 319 Stantonsburg Street, and finally 319 South Pender Street.
Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1922.
As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1922; 1 story; Harrell’s Grocery; exemplary grocery in district, with parapet front and recessed entry.” In the “Physical Description” section of the for:, “The local grocery is exemplified by “Harrell’s,” a frame structure with a simple parapet front and recessed entry, where a variety of fresh greens are on display.”
Since 1988, the appearance of this “exemplary” building has been much, and unfortunately, altered. The parapet front has been covered with a square facade of siding and, most drastically, the entrance to the store has shifted from the street to the side facing the parking lot. The original entryway is just visible below the store sign.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Dew Geneva (c) beer 315 Stantonsburg h 203 Stantonsburg. (In the 1947 city directory, the address has shifted 319 Stantonsburg.)
In the 1963 city directory, S&D Fish Market (Robt L Crook) 319 Stantonsburg
The store’s ownership continues to turn over regularly. As recently as 2016, Romanian Hero was called Jordan’s.
The eighty-ninth in a series of posts highlighting buildings inEast 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. 1950; 1 story; Corner Grocery; concrete-block grocery with parapet front.” The building was classified as “non-contributing,” i.e. lacking historic value per the terms of the historic register. However, there is evidence of a grocery at the corner of Carolina and Carroll Streets as early as 1928.
In the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, William F. Peacock is listed as the owner of a grocery at 1114 Carolina Street. Peacock, who was white, lived at 706 Academy Street.
Thomas W. Thorne, also white, is listed as owner of the grocery at 1114 Carolina in the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory. The smaller attached building shown above seems to have been added during the previous decade, and Dublin Hargrove is listed as the proprietor of a fish market at 1114 1/2 Carolina.
In the 1947-48 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Winstead Geo (c; Martha) gro 1114 Carolina h 1110. Also, Annie’s Beauty Shop (c; Mrs Annie Aldridge) 1114 1/2 Carolina Street. The store was offered for sale late in 1947.
Wilson Daily Times, 27 November 1947.
Now empty and decaying, this building housed a corner store into the 21st century. This 2015 photograph shows a sign, hand-lettered by Louis S. Thomas, for Gray Boy’s, the last active grocery in the building.
From an interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001) by her granddaughter Lisa Y. Henderson,in which she responds to the question, “Where did y’all shop for groceries?”
“I went down on Nash Street down there to the A&P store when it first come about. Up there in back of Dickerson Grocery. Right up there on Pender Street. By First Baptist Church. That was the first A&P store. And then when they opened up the store up there on Nash Street. We had to go, like, living on Queen Street, we’d go out there to, there was two stores out there. Yeah, one right where the Elks Club is, and then the one down there where was in between there and a lady name Hattie something, she had a beauty parlor on the corner of East Street. East and Nash.
“The one by the Elks Club,” formerly Cain’s Grocery, 911 East Nash Street.
“But when I was a little girl, the only place you could get milk was from the Vicks. It was a quarter. That was the only place we had to get the milk, if you got any. Unless you used canned milk. She had a back porch. Closed-in back porch. Screened in. Anyway, glass in it all around, there on the back porch, and tables out there. One of them things you churn, what I mean, a great, old big urn out there where the milk get too old, and then she’d have buttermilk. And she had a ‘frigerator sitting out there, where she’d taken the shelves out, look like where she’d made a big thing to put it in there. But she would get fresh milk everyday. The cows was somewhere out there, I don’t know where, I didn’t see ‘em in the yard. They wont nowhere up there. But somebody was working for them would go out and get the milk and bring it in these cans where you have, where got the churn in the top of it. And she would put them out there on the porch. Miz Annie [Vick] seemed to be pretty clean, and the house was clean. Didn’t nobody get sick.
“And there was a store down, right down the hill from the house. There was a store right down there. Old Man Bell, a white guy, had a store down there. And that’s where, we could go down there and get flour and everything, like meal and stuff, like, you know, just stock, but it was a small place.
Old Man Bell’s store down the hill from the house at 303 Elba Street, 1922 Sanborn insurance map.
“They had a store right there on Green Street up there, on Green Street. That brick store right cross, like leaving Elba Street, and it’s on the right-hand side, going up. Well, that was open, doing pretty good. A white person built the building, and then he stocked it, and we went up there to buy stuff.
Former Boyette & Holford’s Grocery and Mercer’s Grocery, 513 East Green Street.
“And sometimes Old Man Langley, up there, the colored fellow on Viola Street. We went up there sometimes…. But they were mostly white. ‘Cause there wont no, black folks didn’t have no stores.
“The stores would do their own butchering. They’d have pork chops, they’d cut the whole thing. They had a nice size freezer.
“But the stores didn’t stay in place too long. And you had to get another one, go to another place. So we just followed ‘em until the A&P opened up there on Nash Street. That’s when you had to carry all the stuff. Mama’d have a bag, I’d have a bag. Bring ‘em from down there, and then she’d send us sometime to the store during the week. So we wouldn’t have so much to bring. ‘Cause they wouldn’t deliver. The A&P store won’t. But down the bottom, you were right there [near neighborhood corner stores.] But you had to pay so much more for it. So Papa, ‘fore he died, he had a place, say go down there and tell Old Man Bell to send me a plug of tobacco. And I’d go down there and tell him, and he’d let him have it. And put it on the bill. And I asked if I could get something. And he’d say, ‘Yeah,’ and he’d put it on the bill.”
As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Cain’s Grocery, a brick-veneered structure with parapet front built about 1930, was the district’s largest grocery. It now houses a church.
Marshall Lodge #297 of the International Protective Order of Elks occupied a lodge hall at the corner of Nash and Vick Streets erected in 1921. In 1954, it was replaced by a two-story cinder block building that was in use until about 1980.
I have not been able to identify “Old Man Bell,” though Gus A. Bell operated a grocery at Pine and Lee Streets in the 1920s, per city directories. The 1922 Wilson city directory lists Zadock D. Mumfort as the operator of a grocery at 317 Elba Street.
As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Mercer’s Grocery, a brick, parapet-fronted building built about 1908, was one of the major groceries in the neighborhood. The building still stands at the corner of Green and Pender Streets and was active as a grocery into the 1990s.
“Old Man Langley” — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 Viola Street, Jarette J. Langley, 51, grocery store merchant; wife Mary, 49; and children Ivary, 21, Esmond, 19, Ruttena, 16, Alcesta, 14, and Eunice, 8.
Oral interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; photographs taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2017.
In the 1870 census of Wilmington, New Hanover County: brickmason Benjamin Moore, 36; wife Isabella, 42; laundress Polly Swann, 21; Henrietta, 15, Satyra, 5, Benjamin, 2, and Philip, 2 months; Harriet Quince, 23; and Alice Watson, 19.
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: South Carolina-born farm worker Joseph Palmer, 20, wife Ella, 21, children Pearl, 9, and Mattie, 6, and mother Mariah Moore, 45.
On 2 December 1895, Benjamin Moore, 26, of Wilmington, son of Benjamin Moore of Wilmington, and Mattie Elizabeth Palmer, 22, of Wilmington, daughter of Joseph and Ella Palmer of Wilmington obtained a license to marry in New Hanover County.
The retirement experiment in shopkeeping. Before 1900, Benjamin and Mattie returned to Wilmington, and Benjamin rejoined the ranks of Pullman porters.
In the 1900 census of Wilmington, New Hanover: Bengamin J.W. Moore, 30, “R.R. porter,” and wife Mattie, 26. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: South Carolina-born carpenter Joseph C. Palmer, 42, wife Estel, 41, a confectioner, and grandson Joseph C. Palmer Jr., 9.
Wilmington Messenger, 5 April 1902.
In the 1910 census of Wilmington, New Hanover County: at 1113 Market Street, railroad cook Benjamin J.W. Moore, 39, and wife Mattie, 35. (B.J.W. reported to the census taker having been married twice. The 19 April 1894 issue of the Wilmington Messenger recorded his grant of divorce from Laura Moore.) In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, house carpenter Joe Palmer, 50, and wife Ella, 49.
In the 1920 census of Wilmington, New Hanover County: Ben Moore, 49, private car porter A.C.L. [Atlantic Coast Line], and wife Mattie, 40. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 710 Lodge Street, grocery store salesman Joe Palmer, 60, and wife Ella, 61, a general merchant.
Her mother Ella Palmer died 21 September 1921 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 59 years old and born in Hyde County, North Carolina, to Mariah Moore. Within 15 months, Mattie Palmer Moore lost her closest remaining relatives.
Her husband Benjamin J.W. Moore died 28 March 1922 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 November 1870 in Wilmington to Benjamin Moore and an unknown mother, worked as a cook for A.C.L., and lived at 1113 Market Street. He was buried at Pine Forest cemetery. M.E. Moore was informant.
Wilmington Messenger, 14 April 1922.
Her father Joseph C. Palmer died 12 December 1923 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was a native of Columbia, South Carolina, a widower, and a store proprietor. Mrs. Mattie E. Moore was informant.
On 14 January 1924, Camillus L. Darden (with his father Charles H. Darden as surety) applied for and received at Wilson County Superior Court letters of administration to handle J.C. Palmer’s estate, which he valued at $8000. Curiously, he asserted that Palmer had no heirs.
In fact, both Mattie Palmer Moore and her son Joseph Clifton Palmer were alive. Joseph died 21 May 1928 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 36 years old, married to Viola Palmer, lived at 614 East Green, and was the son of James Artis and Mattie Palmer. His mother Mattie Moore was informant.
Mattie Palmer Moore, it appears, died 20 May 1952 in Wilson.
North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com
A regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen of the Town of Wilson was held in the office of C.A. Young this Monday evening, January 2, 1888.
Liquor License was granted to the following parties:
Wiley Corbett at Bates Stand
Hawkins & Bridgers on Tarboro Street
Edwin Rose on Fulcher’s Block
Emma Gay at her old stand
No other business appearing the Board adjourned. C.A. Young, Secretary
In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Gay, 35, wife Emma, 25, children Charles, 5, and Mary, 1, and two farm laborers Rich’d Harper, 20, and Haywood Watson, 17.
Charles Gay died in late 1873 or early 1874. Emma was appointed administratrix of his estate, which consisted of personal possessions, cash, accounts receivable, and liquor and groceries from the store he operated. Emma carried on his business; this was her “old stand.”
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Emma Gay, 35; children Charlie, 15, a steam-mill worker, Mary, 11, Etheldred, 8, and Willie, 6; plus a boarder Fannie Thompson, 19, cook.
In early 1885, pursuant to a judgment against her, Emma Gay lost the half-acre lot upon which she and her family lived.
Emma Gay Rountree’s will entered probate in Wilson County Superior Court in June 1917:
Last Will and Testament of Emma Rountree of Wilson, North Carolina.
Know all men by these presents that, I, Emma Rountree of Wilson, Wilson County, state of North Carolina, being of sound mind and disposing memory, do hereby make and publish this, my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time heretofore made.
(1) I give, devise, and bequeath to my children Mary Strickland, William Gay, Dred Gay, and the estate of my late son Chas Gay all of my property both real and personal with the exception of one dining room table, and one organ. The organ is hereby bequeathed to my beloved granddaughter Emma Gay.
(2) I give, devise and bequeath to Lizzie Whitfield, one dining room table, the same now in use in my dining room.
(3) I give, devise, and bequeath to my children Mary Strickland, William Gay, Dred Gay, and Lizzie Whitfield all money that may be left after paying all debts and expenses of my funeral. The same to be divided equally among them.
(4) I, hereby appoint Rev. H.B. Taylor the executor of this my last will and testament and recommend to the proper authorities that he be appointed guardian for Dred Gay and Mary Strickland, whose mental abilities incapacitates them to manage an estate. Emma (X) Rountree
Signed by said Testatrix, Emma Rountree, as for her last will and testament, in the presence of us, who at her request, in her presence and in the presence of each other, have subscribed our names as attesting witnesses. Louis Thomas, W.H. Kittrell, S.H. Vick
This Board of Aldermen entry appears Minutes of City Council, Wilson, North Carolina, May 1, 1885-June 16, 1892, transcribed in a bound volume shelved at Wilson County Public Library, Wilson; North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.