International Order of Odd Fellows

Anatomy of a photograph: East Nash Street.

This rare postcard depicts an equally rare image of East Wilson’s early business district in the 500 block of East Nash Street. Close examination of the photograph reveals fascinating details, many of which help date the image. The photographer set up his camera near the curb (a surprising feature!) on the south side of the street. First Missionary Baptist Church, built in 1913, would have been across from and slightly behind him. On the far horizon looms the brick bulk of the Hotel Cherry, built in 1917.

At least ten people — all of whom appear to be male — were captured in the image, including these seven standing or walking along the right side of the street:

These commercial buildings supply clues to the location of the photo. The three-story building, constructed in 1894, is Odd Fellows Hall, home to Hannibal Lodge #1552. Its ground floor contained an ever-changing array of store fronts, and a sign for Maynard’s Market/Fish & Oysters is visible here. As early as 1914, Samuel Vick‘s Globe vaudeville and moving picture theatre was housed on the second floor. The sign hanging from the corner of the building pointed the way to the theatre’s side entrance.

The three-story frame building beside the Odd Fellows Hall was the Hotel Union, managed by Mary Jane Sutzer Taylor Henderson. Here lies a clue to the photograph’s date. In the 1908 and 1913 Sanborn fire insurance maps, there is an empty lot between the Union and the hall.

1908.

1913.

However, by 1922, a one-story wooden structure, housing a barber shop and sharing a wall with the hotel/boarding house, appears in the gap. See below. (Note also that the theatre’s exterior staircase is gone, traded for enclosed access.) This building, with its shallow gable-end roof, is visible in the postcard image.

1922.

The Model T Fords (and a single mule and wagon) also help date the photo to the early 1920s.

There is an artificial quality about the neatly trimmed hedges and suspiciously uniform trees ranged along the left side of the street. Though this portion of the image may have been hand-drawn, that side of the 500 block was in fact lined with private homes.

Families living in this block included the Mitchells, (#540), the Sutzers (#536), and the Yanceys (#538).

This stretch of East Nash Street today, courtesy of Google Maps. The commercial buildings on the right side of the street, including the historic Odd Fellows Hall, were demolished in the 1990s.

Postcard image courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III, Historic Wilson in Vintage Postcards (2003).

An important move; or what to do about shiftless negroes.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1919.

A gathering of men at the Colored Odd Fellows Hall. The topic at hand? How to “make the negro more efficient and helpful, more energetic, more responsible and in any every way a better citizen.” The means? A temporary organization headed by Camillus L. Darden and Dr. William H. Phillips. R. McCants Andrews, Howard ’15, newly graduated from Harvard Law School and soon to be counsel for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, was the principal speaker, holding the audience spellbound as he “discussed the shiftless ones, those who desire to get off on Saturday it matters not how badly he is needed, or how it will break up the oorganization, he talked about those who roam around with no settled abiding place, and of the crap shooter and general loafer and vagrant.” The Negro is a great imitator, he intimated, and “if the white man could get him to imitate work he would go to that and stick to it.” And the South was the place for him to do it.

The white businessmen in the audience chimed in. F.M. Miller, superintendent of Farmer’s Cotton Oil Company. There were “great possibilities in the development of the Negro,” he opined, “if they were handled in the right way an taught to understand the responsibilities of life.” He then supplied “some personal reminiscences to prove this.” Publisher John D. Gold answered the call for a remark. He confessed that he had long wondered if there a way “to make the shiftless colored man who shot craps and loafed ” much of the week “a better man and citizen.” The organization, he thought, would be useful in reaching these unreliable folk when they were young. After all, “he believed in his colored folks.”

“Dr. Sam Vick” stepped forward. If he was struggling to contain a reaction to the guests’ words, his own comments offer no hint. Instead — according to the Times reporter, at least — he echoed the general sentiments. “The colored man should be taught the value of a dollar, how it came and what it would bring” and should be “systematically trained” to eliminate his troubles. Episcopal priest Rev. Robert Perry, Dr. Frank S. Hargrave, Dr. William Mitchner and others offered their own hear-hears.

The funeral of Odd Fellow Lassiter.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 July 1946.

——

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Green Lassiter, 55; wife Mary Ann, 42;and children Henry, 19, Sally Ann, 17, Hardy, 15, John Green, 10, Dempsey S., 5, and Mary C., 2.

In the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Liza Dawson, 40, and boarder Dempsey Lassiter, 26, sawmill engineer.

In the 1908 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lassiter Dempsey lab h 623 e Vance

In 1918, Dempsey Lassiter registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he lived at 103 East Street; was born 28 October 1874; was a blacksmith for Hackney Wagon Company; and his nearest relative was Mary Jane Lassiter.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on East Street, wagon factory laborer Dempsey Lassiter, 35, and wife Mary, 25.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 106 East Street, owned and valued at $1250, Demsey Lassiter, 55, wife Mary J., 44; nephew Charles Bynum, 16; and nieces Katie Powell, 10, and Willie M. Leonard, 6.

In 1940, Charles Lee Powell registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he resided at 114 South East Street; was born 10 June 1918 in Nash County, North Carolina; his contact was his uncle, Dempsey Lassiter, 110 South East Street;  and he worked for G.S. Tucker & Company, South Goldsboro Street.

Isaac T. Lassiter was born in 1940 to Dempsey Lassiter and Mary Jane Bynum.

Dempsey Lassiter died 16 July 1946 at his home at 106 South East Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he he was married; was 68 years old; was born in Wilson County to Green Lassiter and Mary Powell; was a farmer; and his informant was Mary J. Lassiter. He was buried in Rountree cemetery.

  • Walter Hardy — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: W.P.A. laborer Walter Hardy, 55; wife Mary, 48, tobacco factory stemmer; and children William, 26, tobacco factory floor hand, Robert, 19, Mary Elizabeth, 17, and Roy, 14.
  • S.C. Sherrod — Solomon Conton Sherrod was a native of Wayne County. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 802 Viola Street, Solomon Shearard, 60; wife Josephine, 52; and children Flora, 15, Beulah, 13, Elmer, 11, and Solomon, 21; plus “son’s wife” Mildred, 18, and grandson Ernest E., 8 months.
  • Ben Mincey, Sr.
  • Fred M. Davis
  • Charlie Jones — In the 1940 census of Wilson, WIlson County: at 412 Viola, owned and valued at $2000; Charles Jones, 61, janitor at Vick School; wife Gertrude, 59, a tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ruth Plater, 35, divorced, teacher; grandsons Torrey S., 12, and Charles S. Plater, 11; son-in-law Ruel Bullock, 35; daughter Louise, 30; grandsons Jacobia, 7, Robert, 6, Harold, 4, and Rudolph, 7 months; and granddaughter Barbara Jones, 6.
  • Hannibal Lodge No. 1552, Grand United Odd Fellows