Henderson

Cherry Hotel and the color line.

Wayne County native Caswell C. Henderson (1865-1927) migrated to New York City in the 1890s, but returned South to Wilson to visit his sister Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver. Their great-niece Hattie Henderson Ricks recalled the elaborate steps he took to carry out his daily ritual. First, Henderson would leave their house on Elba Street and walk west on Green Street. He crossed the railroad tracks and walked a few more blocks before turning left on a cross street, then left to walk east on Nash Street to the Hotel Cherry. He entered the hotel through its front doors — as any white guest would — bought a newspaper, shot the breeze for a while with other white guests and staff, then exited right to walk back up Nash Street. After a few blocks, he turned right, then right again on Green and crossed the tracks back into the African-American world.

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“Uncle Caswell had been home, he’d been to Wilson.  He come down there visiting Mama …. He passed for white.  He would go and get a paper every morning down there to Cherry Hotel.  Walk down there for the exercise and get that paper.  And they all thought he was white.  He’d go in the hotel there and ask for a paper and come in there and talk to the people.  And he’d leave the hotel and walk the other direction, then walk back down Green Street and come on home.”

Cherry Hotel in an undated postcard issued by the Asheville Post Card Company.

Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

It’s got a little twang to it.

Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. worked as a janitor at Five Points (later Winstead) School and did gardening odd jobs at the home of school superintendent Charles L. Coon. His great-niece Hattie Henderson Ricks, whom he adopted, told this story:

“Papa was up there cutting grass. ‘Go in the house, and ask ‘em for some water, a pitcher.’  Talking ‘bout my daddy wanted some water. And the first time I ever seen a grapefruit was there.  I said I’d never forget that.  ‘Cause I went in that house and asked for some water, and I said ‘Daddy said’ – I called him Papa.  Anyway, ‘he wanted to know if he could have some water.’  And the lady said, ‘Yeah,’ and she got a pitcher and a glass.  And I took it on out there, and then I just sit on the steps.  So Papa stopped and drinked him some water. But I was just standing there while they was fixing the water, and I looked on that table, and all ‘round the table there by the plate they had a salt cellar and half a grapefruit and a cherry sitting in the middle.  And that thing just looked so pretty, looked so good.  And I said, ‘Unh, that’s a big orange!’ I said, ‘Well, next time I go to the store I’m gon get me one, too.’  And sho’ nuff, I asked Papa, when we left – I don’t remember whether it was, it wont that particular time, but we come out and were on our way to Edmundson’s store in Five Points, and he wanted me to go in and get a plug of tobacco. Part of a plug.  And tell Old Man Edmundson to put it on the bill. So he waited, he was out there on a wagon, he had a little horse, and I went in and told Mr. Edmundson Papa wanted a, whatever amount it was, he didn’t get a whole plug, ‘cause I think it was three or four sections to a plug of tobacco, and for him to put it on the bill, and I said, ‘He said I could have a orange.  And put that on the bill.’  And it was boxes sitting up – I’ll never forget it – the boxes sitting up with all the oranges sitting up in there.  And I got the biggest one out of the group.  The one that wasn’t even orange.  I made sure I was gon get me a big orange!  I got that and come on back out there and got on the wagon and coming from Five Points to almost home, I was peeling that thing and peeling it ‘til I got it off, and it was sour, ‘Ugh, that’s a sour orange!’  I never seen a orange that sour. And I said, ‘Now, that didn’t look like, that’s a light-complected … yellow.’ But it was still like a orange, and it was so big.

“From then on I didn’t want no big orange. Now I always get little oranges. Today I don’t buy no big orange.  ‘Cause the little ones is sweeter than the big ones.  But, honey, that was a grapefruit, and that was the first I’d ever known it was a grapefruit.  We ain’t never had no grapefruit.  And so, I told Mama that was a, ugh, sour orange.  And I told her ‘bout what the Coons had on their table when I went up there.  And she said, ‘Well, that was a grapefruit.’  ‘A grapefruit?,’  I said, ‘well, what’s a grapefruit?’  And she said, ‘It’s like a big orange.  But you have to put sugar on it most time.  It’s a little sour.  It’s got a little twang to it.’  She said, ‘But your daddy didn’t never like none, so I don’t care that much about it.’  And I said, ‘A grapefruit?  I got myself a grapefruit.’  I said, ‘The cherries, where they get the cherries?,’ I said. ‘That little red thing where was on there.’  She said, ‘Well, you buy ‘em in bottles from the store.’ But, anyway, it was sour, but I learned the taste, you put a little sugar on it, makes a little bit sweeter.  I swear, Lord, I think about those things that I did when I was little.”

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The house with the grapefruit was at 109 North Rountree Street in Wilson’s College Park neighborhood. Charles L. Coon’s house has been demolished, but was catalogued in Bainbridge and Ohno’s Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey (1980):

“This house was built c.1915 for Wilson’s foremost educator, Charles L. Coon. He served as superintendent of the Wilson Graded School from 1907 until his death in 1927 and was County School superintendent for the last fifteen years of this period. Coon, credited with the creation of a model school system in Wilson, also served on the North Carolina Child Labor Committee, the State Teachers Assembly, the editorial board of the North Carolina Historical Review and was the author of North Carolina Schools and Academies 1790-1840 and Public Schools of Wilson County. His house is sturdy and simple. The tile roof is unusual in a house of this vintage, and it enriches the texture of the facade. The front porch was constructed in typical Bungalow style, with square flared columns supporting the overhanging hipped roof.”

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Hattie H. Ricks, circa 1920, probably a few years after she first tasted grapefruit.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1916).

  • Plug tobacco is made by pressing cured tobacco in a sweet (often molasses-based) syrup. The resulting sheet of pressed tobacco was cut into “plugs.” Edmundson likely carried locally manufactured product.

Adapted from interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Studio shots, nos. 75 and 76: Hattie Henderson Ricks.

Shortly after World War II, Hattie Mae Henderson found work at Wilson Awning & Tent Company’s factory on South Douglas Street.

Hattie Factory 01

As recalled here, handling fabric and sewing the oversized tents was challenging work. The dresses and skirts women commonly wore in the 1940s were not suitable for maneuvering atop the long tables on which the tents were stitched, so Henderson and other female workers donned full-legged dungarees on the factory floor. These photos were taken in unnamed Wilson studios during this period.

Hattie Henderson in trousers

Photograph in the collection of Hattie Henderson Ricks, now in the possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Studio shots, no. 69: Dempsey L. Henderson.

A veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, Dempsey Lee Henderson received a three-star Pacific Theater Ribbon, American Theater Ribbon, Victory Medal, Purple Heart, and one-star Philippine Liberation Ribbon.

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Dempsey L. Henderson was born on or about 31 December 1927 in Wilson to Lena B. McNair and Jesse “Jack” Henderson.

In the 1940 census of Washington, District of Columbia: at 335 Elm Street, Lena Henderson, maid, 30; son Dempsey Henderson, 12; mother Mary McNary, 53; and lodger John Pendleton, 29, transfer merchant truck driver.

In 1943, Henderson registered for the World War II draft in Washington, D.C.

This 1944 muster roll shows that Henderson was aboard the U.S.S. Abner Read, a Fletcher-class destroyer, in September of that year.

Dempsey L. Henderson died 2003, and was buried at Quantico National Cemetery.

Photo of Dempsey Henderson in collection of Lisa Y. Henderson; Draft Registration Cards for District of Columbia, 1940-1947, digitized at www.fold3.com; Muster rolls of U.S. Navy ships, stations, and other naval activities, 1939-1949, digitized at www.fold3.com.

On this Veteran’s Day…

Family lore has it that Lucian Jacob Henderson attempted to join the Army at 15 or 16 as World War II was in full rage.  He was finally able to enlist on 28 October 1944, his 18th birthday. Though his home address was 1109 Queen Street, Wilson, he was working as a deckhand for the Norfolk & Washington Steamboat Company at the time and signed up at a draft office in Washington, D.C.

The following year, Henderson qualified as an infantry rifleman after spending four months in basic and advanced training at the Infantry Replacement Training Center in Fort McClellan, Alabama.

Lucian J. Henderson, probably 1945-46. His shoulder patch bears the insignia of the Sixth United States Army, with whom he served occupation duty in Japan at the end of 1945.

Lucian J. Henderson, at left.

U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; photographs from the collection of Hattie Henderson Ricks.

Snaps, no. 27: Hattie Mae Henderson.

Hattie Mae Henderson (also known as Hattie Mae Jacobs), Wilson, 1928.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Elmo [Elba] Street, Jessie Jacobs, 60; wife Sara, 42; and daughters [adopted great-nieces] Mamie, 12, and Hattie May, 10.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 303 Elba Street, Sarah Jacobs, 49, and daughter [adopted great-niece] Hattie Jacobs, 19.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1109 Queen Street, Hattie Henderson, 29, and children Lucian, 13, Jesse, 11, Redrick, 5, and Hattie M., 3.

Hattie Mae Henderson Ricks died 15 January 2001 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Photograph in the collection of Hattie Henderson Ricks, now in the possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.

 

Studio shots, no. 42: Jesse Adam Henderson.

Jesse A. Henderson, early 1940s.

Jesse A. Henderson, mid-1940s.

The photograph above of Jesse A. Henderson was taken in the same studio, and probably during the same visit, as that of his good buddy Thomas L. Peacock.

Jesse A. Henderson, mid-1940s.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1109 Queen Street, Hattie Henderson, 29, and children Lucian, 13, Jesse, 11, Redrick, 5, and Hattie M., 3.

Jesse Adam Henderson died 5 August 2005 in Washington, D.C.

Photos from the collection of Hattie Henderson Ricks.

Snaps, no. 21: Alice Henderson Mabin.

alice-henderson-queen-st

Alice Henderson Mabin at 711 East Vance Street with sister Doris Henderson Ward, early 1940s.

“Mrs. Alice “Zeke” Henderson Mabin, 97, daughter of the late Jesse “Jack” and Pauline Artis Henderson, was born in Wilson, North Carolina on January 22, 1920. She entered into eternal rest on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at the Wilson House, an assisted living facility in Wilson. Her funeral will be held 3 p.m. Saturday, August 5, at Stevens Funeral Home. Burial will be 2 p.m. Monday at National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia.

“Alice received her nickname from her older sister, Bessie, whose pet name for the new baby was “Zekie Poo.” Alice was reared in Wilson County, NC where she was educated in the public-school systems. One of her first jobs as was an elevator operator in one of Wilson’s few office buildings. Later, she was an employee at Carnegie Institution for Science in Baltimore, Maryland, where she retired after many years as an operating room technician.

“In the 1950s, Alice relocated to Norfolk, Virginia, where she met and was united in Holy Matrimony to the late Joseph “Joe” Willie Mabin on August 15, 1957. Shortly after, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and bought a home at 3509 Mulberry Street where they spent several happy years until he passed on December 13, 1968.

“Alice was a member of the Church of Christ in Baltimore where she taught Sunday School and was a faithful and dedicated member until her health declined.

“On July 19, 2012, Alice moved back to Wilson to the care of her nephew Louis Hall Jr. and his wife Jean.

“Alice was a beautiful, cheerful, and fun-loving person who was full of life. Her smile was infectious and could light up a room. She made everyone around her happy. No matter whether it was her positive attitude, a funny story or a big smile, she was such a delight to be around. She was a loving wife, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend who lived a long and healthy life. She will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.

“In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by her siblings, brothers Archie, Jesse Jr., and Bobby Henderson, and sisters Bessie Henderson Smith, Joyce Henderson Boyd, and Mildred Henderson Hall.

“Alice leaves to cherish her fond memories a sister, Mrs. Doris Henderson Ward of Wilson, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.”

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In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 318 Pender Street, Jack Henderson, truck driver, 38; wife Pauline, 31, and children Bessie, 12, Alic, 10, Joice, 8, Mildred, 6, and Archy, 4, listed in the household of mother-in-law Alic Artis, 49, private cook, paying $18/month rent.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 309 Pender Street, Alice Artis, 56; daughter Pauline Henderson, 39, household servant; granddaughters Bessie L., 23, hotel elevator girl, Alice, 20, household servant, Joyce, 18, household servant, Mildred, 16, and Doris, 10; and grandson Robert, 4.

43067_162028006070_0681-00310

Rest in Peace, Cousin Zeke.

Photograph in collection of Hattie Henderson Ricks, now in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.