Better furniture.

This tag, shown front and back and dated November 1933, was found among personal papers of Hattie Henderson Ricks, who lived in Wilson from 1911 until 1958. Most likely, her adoptive mother (and great-aunt) Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver purchased a mattress, box spring, stove and other items for their home at 303 Elba Street. ($87.50 is about $1650 in 2016 currency.)

Grocery shopping in East Wilson.

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 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.”


  • Per the nomination form for the Wilson Central Business District-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, A&P was located at 561 East Nash Street in a commercial building erected by Camillus L. Darden in the 1920s. It operated until the 1940s.
  • As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Dickerson Grocery, 622 East Nash Street, was a parapet-roofed grocery with one-bay facade and metal veneer. The building was demolished in the 1990s.
  • 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.
  • Samuel H. and Annie Washington Vick lived at 622 East Green Street. Alongside her husband’s many business ventures, Annie Vick sold her neighbors farm-fresh milk.
  • 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.


Jack Henderson.

Like many, Jesse “Jack” Henderson, a Wayne County native, was drawn to Wilson in the booming years after the establishment of the city’s tobacco markets. His uncle and aunt, Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs, had preceded him, and he joined their household on Elba Street in East Wilson.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Jesse Jacob,  53, deliveryman for stable; wife Sarah, 35; daughter Annie Belle, 15; and boarders Jesse Henderson, 17, Herbert Jones, 23, both stable laborers, and Nina Fasin, 32, a housemaid.


Jack Henderson, right, with a friend and dog, around 1910.

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 reared Jesse, who was the son of Sarah’s sister.]

The 1916-17 Wilson city directory lists: Henderson Jack lab h 219 1/2 Pender.

Jessie Henderson registered for the World War I draft on 5 June 1917.  Per his registration card, he was born 1893 in Mount Olive, North Carolina; resided at Pender Street, Wilson; and worked as a transfer driver for Sam Vick, Wilson.  He had a wife and 2 children and was described as tall and slender with brown eyes and black hair.  He signed with an X.

The 1918 Wilson city directory lists: Henderson Jack chauffeur ZF Gill h 217 Pender.

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. Around this time, he posed with his oldest daughters, Bessie (1917-1996) and Alice (1920), for this photograph.


In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 308 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.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco factory laborer Jack Henderson, 47, and lodger Pattie Barnes, 30.

Per her headstone at Rest Haven cemetery, Pauline Artis Henderson died in 1950.

Pattie Barnes Henderson died 13 October 1957 at her home at 900 Robinson [Robeson] Street. Per her death certificate: she was born in 1910 in Wilson to Tip Barnes and an unknown mother and was married to Jack Henderson.

Jack Henderson died 29 April 1970 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 April 1898 to an unknown father and “Lucy (?) Henderson;” had worked as a laborer; and resided at 1214 East Queen Street, Wilson.  He was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.  Informant was Mildred Hall.


Jack Henderson wearing his driving gloves, probably in the 1940s. He worked many years transporting tobacco from Wilson’s markets.

Photographs in personal collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Out past Five Points.

From an interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001) by her granddaughter Lisa Y. Henderson:

“‘Cause I know I used to go with him out to the school. I swept out the Five Points School. Out there for three years to get a bicycle. So I could ride back and forth out there. I hadn’t got the bicycle this morning. But I run all the way from over there from where we lived on Elba Street out there past Five Points going out there Edmundson’s store about a mile up that road where that school, whatever school that is, Five Points School. I went out there three years and swept up that whole building by myself. And when the wind would blow and the door would slam, I’d run and get under the table, the teacher’s desk, and peek out and see. They said the cemetery was there, before the school, and I was scared to death. Papa’d be down there in the front, be a-plowing, and so I’d rather be around him and do anything rather than stay with Mama. She was just the fussy kind. So I’d just rather be round him all the time. I’d follow him everywhere he’d go. On the old wagon. They all called me a tomboy.

“And so I went with him. Up there to First Baptist Church, help him dust the seats, and he’d run the sweeper and all that kind of stuff. And when he was over to another school up there, the college. He used to be janitor to the college. And then he had the school out there at Five Points. Winstead School out there at Five Points. That was the last one he was to. Then he died. And I would be the one at all those places. Go cut Professor Coon’s grass, I’d be right with him.

“I went out there – I was in school ‘cause I run all the way from up the school, came by the house, get me a bite to eat and run from there to clean to Five Points School where was out there – white folks. And sweep up that whole building by myself. Papa’s down there in the field, up there by – uh, what is the people be putting them … they had chains on their legs and had the white stripes … convicts. It was a place up there. And I’d go ‘round there and sweep that whole building up by myself. Papa was gon get me a bicycle so I could ride over there. ‘Cause, see, he had the horse and wagon, and so he was already over there, and he had been there by where the pigpen was down by that little stream, that little ditch. And I’d come back on the wagon at night with him. But he was plowing, ‘cross the street over there where he had a acre of cotton. Old Man Price was in a house over on one corner, and the school over here. And Papa was working, plowing that garden where was on the side. Professor Coon let him have whatever he put in it. He would buy all the stuff to go in the ground, if he would just work it. The part there where was to the children’s playground. But they had it barred off, the children didn’t actually go over in that part. So he’d plant that, and then me and Mamie had to get up two o’clock in the morning, go down there and pick up potatoes. Light night. It’d be so bright you could see ‘em. He’d plow it up, turn that ground over, and all them old potatoes down there, we’d put them in baskets, and what we couldn’t see ‘fore it got real daylight, we had to go out there and pick ‘em up when it got day.”

  • Five Points School — now Winstead Elementary School, operating in a newer building on the same land on Downing Street at Ward Boulevard. Five Points School was one of two white graded schools in Wilson in the 1920s.
  • Elba Street — 303 Elba Street, in east Wilson.
  • Papa — Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. (1856-1926) migrated from Dudley, Wayne County, to Wilson circa 1905. He worked first as a hostler for Jefferson D. Farrior, then as a janitor at a church, Five Points School and Atlantic Christian College, and performing odd jobs for the school superintendent.
  • Edmundson’s store — the 1920 city directory of Wilson lists Andrew J. Edmundson, grocer, South Goldsboro at the corner of Mill Road, Five Points.
  • Mama — Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver  (1872-1938) was Hattie Henderson Ricks’ grand-aunt and adoptive mother. Sarah migrated from Dudley to Wilson with her husband Jesse A. Jacobs.
  • First Baptist Church
  • The college — Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College), private liberal arts college founded in 1902.
  • Professor Coon — School superintendent Charles L. Coon.
  • Her school — either the Wilson Colored Graded School or the Independent School. Judging by her description — “I run all the way from up the school” — my guess is the Graded School, as the Independent School was close by her house.
  • Convicts — The state of North Carolina operated a road camp in Wilson County just south of the Wilson city limits, beyond Five Points. The site is now home to the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Highway Division 4. For the history of North Carolina’s prison systems, which included convict camps whose inmates built the state’s roads, see here.
  • Old Man Price — unidentified.
  • Mamie — Mamie Lee Henderson Holt (1907-2000), sister of Hattie Henderson Ricks.
  • Picking potatoes by moonlight

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, copyright 1994. All rights reserved.




To provide a home as long as he shall live.

No. 1192


I, Mary Jane Sutzer, of the Town of Wilson, County of Wilson, State of North Carolina, being of sound mind and disposing memory, but considering the uncertainty of life and its duration, do make, publish and declare this my last will and testament in words and figures as follows, that it to say:

FIRST: That my executor, hereinafter named, shall provide for my body decent and suitable burial in accordance with my estate and the wishes and desires of my family and friends, to pay all of my just debts to whomsoever owing out of the first moneys which may come into its hands belonging to my estate, together with my funeral expenses.

SECOND: I give and devise to my son, Rev. R. Buxton Taylor of Wilson, N.C., my residence lot, no. 536 located on Nash Street, and my adjoining lot and house for and during the term of his natural life and no longer, and at the termination and expiration of the life estate of my said son, I give and devise the said two lots and houses to the children of the said Rev. R. Buxton Taylor, my son, then living at his said death, and to the issue of such child or children as may have died prior to his death, share and share alike therein; it is my will and I do so devise that said real estate and no part thereof shall be sold by any or all of said children until the youngest child of my said son shall arrive at full age, my object being to provide a home for him so long as he shall live and also for his children after his death until the youngest one shall arrive at full lawful age.

THIRD: I give to my Sister’s two daughters, Estella Brunston and Prudie Vest such of my personal clothing and bed clothing as they may select and choose, also that they may have their choice of my furniture.

FOURTH: All the rest and residue of my property of any kind and nature, real or personal, I give to my son, the Rev. R. Buxton Taylor, requesting and directing him to give some of my personal effects to my step-daughter Mattie Barnes and something therefrom also to Lillie Taylor in my memory.

FIFTH: I hereby constitute and appoint The Branch Banking & Trust Company of Wilson, N.C., to be executor of this my last will and testament, and to execute the same according to its true meaning and every part and clause hereof, hereby expressly revoking and declaring null and void all other wills and testaments by me at any time made heretofore.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I the said Mary Jane Sutzer, has hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal, this the 30th day of April, A.D. 1927.     Mary Jane (X) Sutzer

Signed, sealed, declared and published by the said Mary Jane Sutzer, to be her Last Will and testament, in our presence, and we at her request and in her presence have hereunto set our hands as witnesses thereto.  /s/ S.S. Lawrence, Troy M. Myatt


Mary Jane Sutzer died 5 November 1929 in a kerosene lamp explosion at her home at 536 East Nash Street. Her death certificate reports that she was born in Sampson County to William and Mary Bass. Her age is not listed.

I have not found Mary Jane Bass in the 1870 census or her first marriage license.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: railroad worker Jordan Taylor, 35, wife Jane, 22, and children James Grant, 7, Manora Ann, 4, General Washington, 3, and Lilly Green Taylor, 1. Son Russell Buxton Taylor was born in 1881.

On 27 May 1897, the widowed Mary Jane Taylor married Sandy Henderson. Both were 40 years old. Missionary Baptist Minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the John’s A.M.E. Zion church, and the official witnesses were S.A. Smith, Charles H. Darden and Wyatt Studaway. (“Step-daughter Mattie  Barnes,” above, was Sandy’s daughter Mattie Henderson, who married Fate Barnes in Wilson on 14 January 1909. Per Mattie’s death certificate, Sandy Henderson was a native of Henderson County, North Carolina.)

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hack driver San[illegible] Henderson, 54, wife Mary J., 40, a restaurant keeper, and children Buxton, 19, a hotel waiter, Leonidas F., 13, a tobacco stemmer, Charles J.A.W., 9, and Mattie M.G., 7, all Hendersons. (Buxton and Leonidas were in fact Taylors and were Sandy’s step-sons.)

I have not found Mary Jane Bass Taylor Henderson Sutzer in the 1910 or 1920 censuses nor have I found her marriage license to Mr. Sutzer, though she does appear in city directories throughout the 1920s.

In History of Wilson County, North Carolina and Its Families (published in 1985 by the Wilson County 130th Anniversary Committee), Rev. R.B. Taylor’s daughter Beatrice T. Barnes wrote:

“Mary Jane Sutzer, my grandmother, always believed in striving to own the roof over her head. Buxton, my father, was born in Wilson, North Carolina in the area where Manchester Street is now. Cousin John Clark‘s parents were also co-owners of this land. Cousin John was the first black mail carrier in Wilson. … Later Grandma Jane purchased two lots from Alfred Robinson on East Nash Street. The deeds to Jordan Taylor and Mary Jane were written on a sort of parchment paper in 1898. There were eight children in the Taylor family: Leonidus, a barber; Sarah; General; Russell Buxton; Ida; and Charlie Henderson by a second marriage to Sandy Henderson.”

As only R.B. Taylor and his offspring were legatees under her will, either (1) Mary Jane Sutzer disinherited her other children or (2) all the other children predeceased her and left no heirs.

1109 Queen Street.

The second 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 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.

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1105-1113 Queen Street, 1930 Sanborn Map of Wilson, North Carolina.

R.C. Henderson: Let’s go back to when I remember when we moved to 1109 Queen Street. When I was about six years old. And we had what they call a shotgun house. Three rooms. Front room, middle room, and a kitchen. And to get to the kitchen, you had to go out on the back porch and come through. Now there were some people who had a door cut in between the middle room and the kitchen, so you wouldn’t have to go out on the back porch. But they said if you cut that door somebody in your family would die. [Laughs.] So we wouldn’t cut the door. All of us slept in the middle room. And we had a laundry heater in the middle. We had to make fires every night. It was what you’d call a space heater. Laundry heater. You put, well, we used coal. Some people were afraid to use coal because it would get so hot it would turn red. And, you know, sparks would fly and sometimes things would catch on fire. And that’s what we used to heat the iron to iron clothes, too. You’d put ‘em on top of that stove. But we had to make fires every morning. Had to get up. And we had linoleum in there, so the floor’d be cold. So when you walk around, you had to walk on your heels. And then, you know, we had that little slop jar up under the big bed. See, that house didn’t have a bathroom. So the bathroom was outside. It sat in between the two houses. That was for 1109 and the one right beside it. It was probably 1107, and that’s where the Davises, Miss Alliner [Alliner Sherrod Davis, daughter of Solomon and Josephine Artis Sherrod], she lived right there at 1107. And then we had the water outside, and it was at her house. So there were two houses that had one toilet and one spigot. 

C.C. Powell owned the houses, and I don’t know how much we were paying, but we weren’t paying a whole lot. Behind the outhouse, we had built up like a little shed, like. Used to keep pigeons in there. Everybody had pigeons. The ones that go off – we’d see in the movies the ones that take little messages and all. So everybody would have pigeons. And then we had a little, I guess it was a garden. We had a victory garden in the back. I had to take a hoe and a shovel and dig up the backyard. Turn it over. Then Mama would go out there and make some rows and plant tomatoes and stringbeans and squash and stuff like that, and we used that to eat. And the icebox, it was a little small icebox, and you’d take the ice and put it in the top, and then there was a little hole so when the ice’d melt, it would run down. You’d have to have a little water container underneath. You’d have to empty that everyday. If not, the water would run out on the floor, out on the back porch. And it would always be so clear and just cold. We had to go to the ice house out there on Herring Avenue. And I would ride the bicycle out there to get it.

Young Rederick 01

R.C. Henderson, age about 10, sitting outside a house on Queen Street. (It is likely 1107 as the door on 1109 was on the opposite side of the porch. Otherwise, the houses were identical.)

1109 Queen

Early 1980s.

Hattie Henderson Ricks: That’s there on Queen Street. The endway house. There was grass where was in between the two houses, ours and Ellick Obey. The Joneses, Celie Mae, lived on the same side. Jesse Knight was in the house on this side. On that side there, a fellow that worked out to the hospital, his wife he got married and lived in there. She didn’t stay in there no time, and then somebody else moved in there. Martha Winley’s house was first, then mine was second, then Ellick Obey was next. Then Sis and her mama and the two children was next. Two, three, four houses. They call her Sis. I don’t know what her name is. But she was grown and had two children. And her brother was crippled. She was working, and her mama stayed home and looked after the children. They didn’t have a father there.

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Excerpt from 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, showing households at 1109, 1107, 1105, 1111 and 1113 Queen Street.

1105-1113 Queen Street were demolished in the mid-1980s. A duplex apartment was erected in their place:


Across the street, however, are two remnants of the old 1100 block of Queen Street.



Adapted from interviews of R.C. Henderson and Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; color photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

Class portrait, Stantonsburg Street School.

Classroom 001

Colored Graded or Stantonsburg Street School (later known as the Sallie Barbour School), circa 1933. Annie Marian Gay is second from left on the top row. First on the row below her is Lucian J. Henderson. The boy at far right on the third row from the bottom is a Diggs. The teacher is believed to be Elizabeth Courtney Plummer Fitts. Please contact me if you can positively identify any more of these children.