Happy birthday to a daughter of East Wilson!

My uncles moved North; my father and his sister cast their lots in Wilson. Both had two daughters, born in age-matched pairs. Monica Ellis Barnes was born exactly nine months before I was and was my very first bestie. Here we are, with her little sister, in front of their house on Faison Street. Happy milestone birthday, cousin! May it be filled with laughter and all the love your heart can hold!

Lane Street Project: in memory of Jesse Henderson Jr. (1928-1929).

I’ve spoken of the database I am developing of likely burials in Vick, Odd Fellows, and Rountree Cemeteries. My spreadsheet draws upon death certificates, obituaries, and other sources — most distressingly imprecise. The term “Rountree Cemetery” on these documents may refer to Vick, Odd Fellows, or Rountree. Some documents broadly refer only to burial in Wilson. However, in the absence of official burial records for any of the cemeteries, we make do.

This series honors the men, women, and children who never had grave markers, or whose stones have been lost or stolen or destroyed. Graves believed to be in Vick Cemetery, which the City of Wilson stripped of remaining markers in 1996, will be identified with a Vick Cemetery logo.


Jessie Henderson Jr. died 15 April 1929 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 5 months old; was born in Wilson to Jessie Henderson of Dudley, N.C., and Pauline Artis of Johnston County, N.C.; lived at 318 Pender Street; and was buried Rountrees Cemetery [likely Vick Cemetery] by C.E. Artis.

The obituary of Pauline Artis Henderson.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 June 1950.


In the 1900 census of Ingrams, Johnston County: widower farmer Archie Artis, 78; daughters Bathanie, 32, and Alice E., 22; and granddaughters Victoria, 13, Effie, 10, and Pollie, 1.

On 3 Dec 1914, Solomon Ward applied for a marriage license for Jesse Henderson of Wilson, age 21, son of Jesse Jacobs and Sarah Jacobs, both dead, and Pauline Artis of Wilson, age 18, daughter of Alice Artis.  On the same day, Fred M. Davis, Baptist minister, performed the ceremony at his residence before Mary Barnes, Annie Hines, and Willie Cromartie, all of Wilson.  [Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs, who were very much alive, reared Jesse, who was the son of Sarah’s sister.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 217 Pender Street, Jesse Henderson with wife Pauline, daughter Bessie, and mother-in-law Alice Artis.  Jesse worked as a truck driver for a woodyard. Alice was a cook for a private family.

In the 1928 Wilson city directory: Jack Henderson, a driver, and wife Pauline, were listed at 318 Pender Street.

Jessie Henderson Jr. died 15 April 1929 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 5 months old; was born in Wilson to Jessie Henderson Sr. of Dudley, N.C., and Pauline Artis of Johnson County, N.C.; and lived at 318 Pender Street. Pauline Henderson was informant.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 318 Pender Street, Jack Henderson, 38, wife Pauline, 31, and children Bessie, 12, Alic, 10, Joice, 7, Mildred, 6, and Archy, 4, mother-in-law Alic Artis, 49, paying $18/month rent. Alice worked as a cook for a private family, and Jack as a truck driver.

Archie Henderson died 11 May 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 4 years old; was born in Wilson to Jessie Henderson of Wayne County, N.C., and Pauline Artis of Johnson [sic] County, N.C.; and lived at 318 Pender Street. Alice Artis was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 309 Pender Street, Alice Artis, 56, widow [in fact, she was not married]; Pauline Henderson, 39, widow [in fact, she was separated]; and grandchildren Bessie, 23, Alice, 20, Joyce, 18, Mildred, 16, Doris, 10, and Robert [Bobby], 4.

Conjure doctor Henderson charged with selling poison.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 May 1930.

We first encountered George Henderson (no relation) here, when I wondered what kind of doctor he was, as he was also described as a laborer.

In 1930, Henderson was arrested after allegedly selling poison to George Gay, a young white Greene County man who was charged with killing his wife, Mollie R. Windham Gay.

Gay went to trial less than a month later. Witnesses testified that Gay said he was tired of his wife, that he didn’t like her because she was slow, that he could have her killed for $6.01, that a Negro conjure doctor in Wilson would do it. A “young divorcee” testified Gay had told her he had been to see “his girl” and, when she criticized him for not staying home with his wife, Gay had said she wouldn’t be in his way much longer. His brother-in-law testified that Gay had purchased ingredients for an abortifacient (whiskey, camphor, quinine, and “capsules”) and given them to his wife. And on and on. For his part, Gay testified that his wife was in delicate health after having four pregnancies in six years, with two babies dying, and admitted that he had taken her to Wilson to see Henderson, whom he called a “praying doctor.” (Others described him as a liquor dealer and conjure doctor.) Gay asserted that his wife had asked him if arsenic might relieve her troubles and hinted at committing suicide. Gay said he had never been alone with her in her sick room, and Gay’s sister testified her sister-in-law had said the year before that she would kill herself before she would have another child. 

Henderson was released just before Gay’s trial. Gay was acquitted. 

Efird’s, there on Nash Street.

This ad in a 1934 Wilson Chamber of Commerce brochure depicts a building readily recognizable today in Wilson in its place across Nash Street from Imagination Station. Efird’s was a longtime downtown department store, and my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks spoke of shopping there as a child:

” … then, too, I had a pair of shoes, laced up, way up here, and the children said they was a grown person’s shoes. And Mama made me wear them. But they all teased me ‘bout them shoes, and I told Mama they hurt my feet. And she said, ‘Well, why didn’t you say something ‘bout ‘em? We could have got a larger pair when I bought ‘em.’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know what size I wear.’  I said, ‘You let me try them on, but they didn’t hurt my feet then. But when I kept ‘em on a while, they started stinging,’ and they was too narrow or too short, one. I don’t know which it was now. But anyhow, Mama was gon make me wear ‘em, ’cause you wanted some new shoes, and I bought you some, whether you want to or not.’ I said, ‘I didn’t pick ‘em out, you picked ‘em out. They was on the table, and you had me try ‘em on.’

“The grown-up person shoes.” 

“The store was Efird’s, Efird’s, or whatever it is, there on Nash Street. They had a store, one of them where they had a little section for shoes in the back part, and they had a little seat there where you go to try on shoes. It was a white store, and they’d make you put on stockings – they had socks down there for you to put on, to put the shoes on. And you couldn’t put your ‘dirty’ feet in ‘em, and you see some people, look like everybody else done took the shoe off their feet. You can’t get the shoe on if you don’t have the sock on. That’s the way they’d sell it. Like that.

“For clothes, most of the time, they go by the age and the heighth, and they put it up to you, and they measure it like that and those kind of things. You didn’t try it on.”

Adapted from interviews of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, 1994-1998, all rights reserved; detail of photo of Hattie H. Ricks and Mamie Henderson Jacobs in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Studio shot, no. 197: the Henderson-Taylor family.

This is not, strictly speaking, a studio shot, but it was taken by a studio photographer, Ray J. Dancy. Dancy made a house call to photograph Roderick Taylor Sr., Hattie Henderson, and their children in the front room of the Hendersons’ home at 1109 Queen Street, ca. 1944.

Cheers to the Class of 1952!

My father loved some Darden High School and Darden High School Alumni Association and kept a stack of these in his trunk for whomever he encountered that might have wanted one. It’s a list of every known graduate of Darden from 1924 until it closed its doors as a high school in 1970. 

I didn’t attend Darden, but I grew up in the glow of its glory. Memorial Day weekend is synonymous with Darden Alumni Reunion. My father was a founder and an early president of the Association, and his class celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Jean Wynn Jones lovingly spoke on their behalf at his funeral, and several of his classmates helped carry flowers from the church.  

 As I continue to celebrate and honor my father’s legacy, I raise a toast to the Class of 1952! 

Class of 1952 Darden High School

Coaching legend Henderson dies at 87.

By Paul Durham, Wilson Times.

“Rederick Caswell Henderson, the Wilson native who built a basketball powerhouse at Rocky Mount Senior High, died Friday at the age of 87.

“Reggie Henderson, as he was known, was a 1952 graduate of Darden High in Wilson and a U.S. Air Force veteran. He played basketball at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, where he met the love of his life, Beverly Ann Allen. [Actually, they met in Wildwood, New Jersey.]

“Aside from his time in the Air Force and in college, Henderson lived in Wilson his entire life while coaching at the main out-of-town rival school. Like his neighbor and friend Harvey Reid Jr., the coach at Douglass, Elm City and Fike high schools in compiling the most wins in NCHSAA history, Henderson built his own legend at Rocky Mount Senior High. He led the Gryphons to NCHSAA 4-A championships in 1978 and 1982 and his 1981 team lost by three points in the state 4-A final. The star of the 1978 Gryphons was Buck Williams, who was one of the top recruits in the nation as a senior. Williams played at Maryland before starting his long NBA career as the league’s Rookie of the Year in 1982.

“Henderson’s first coaching and teaching job was at Spaulding High in Spring Hope before spending time at both Wilson and Parker junior highs in Rocky Mount, where he coached future North Carolina legend and 1979 NBA Rookie of the Year Phil Ford.

“Henderson stepped away from coaching in 1983 to spend more time with his family. The Hendersons’ oldest daughter, Lisa, was in college at the University of North Carolina and Henderson said he realized that he had missed out on some of her high school years and didn’t want to do the same for youngest daughter, Karla.

“He returned to coaching in 1988 but retired for good after the 1992-93 school year.

“As much as Henderson was known for his successful basketball teams and star players, the quiet, yet intense, coach was better known for setting high standards off the court for his players and creating a family environment.

“‘Coach was a father to a lot of us,’ former point guard Reggie Barrett said in a 2018 interview with the Times. ‘For those who might not have had a father in the home, he was a father. You could go to him to talk about personal stuff. … If you didn’t have lunch money, he would help you out.’

“Henderson was the recipient of many coaching honors during his illustrious career but one of the biggest came last November when he was inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame. He was the first inductee in 17 years of the hall’s existence who was not a native of Nash or Edgecombe counties.”

Rest in peace, Rederick C. Henderson.

I know East Wilson because my father knew East Wilson. He was born in a house on Elba Street, was raised on Queen and Reid Streets, and was educated at Samuel H. Vick Elementary and Charles H. Darden High School. He played basketball at the Community Center, spent whole Saturdays watching movies at the Ritz Theatre, and knocked on the back door of Hines Barbershop to get spending money from his father. Long before Black Wide-Awake, my father introduced me to so many of the people and places that have made their way into this blog’s 4000 posts. Even as his final illness progressed, he loved to ride through the streets of East Wilson, pointing and narrating, peeling back layers of time to expose the pentimenti of our shared birthplace.

My father transitioned Friday night, surrounded by the four women who loved him most — his wife of 61 years, his two daughters, and his granddaughter. We are heartbroken, but blessed that we could comfort and care for him as he has done for us always. I honor his life and legacy here. Rest in power, Daddy.