Mercer vs. Mercer.

In 1911, Dempsey Mercer filed for divorce from his wife Mattie Knight Mercer.

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Wilson Daily Times, 11 October 1911.

In the 1900 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Laura Mercer, 65, and children Dollie, 26, farm laborer, Susan, 22, and Dempsey, 16, farm laborer.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Cooper Farmer, 55; wife Caroline, 55; boarder Lewis Williams, 18, farm laborer; and servant Mattie Knight, 16.

On 23 January 1902, Dempsey Mercer, 20, married Mattie Knight, 20, in Edgecombe County.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Dempsy Mercer, 27; wife Mattie, 20; children Charles, 7, William, 6, Robert, 3, and Walter, 2 months; nieces Lula, 2, and Gertrude Hines, 1 month; and sister Margarett Hines, 19.

Dempsey Mercer died 7 July 1914 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 January 1914 in Wilson County to Dempsey Mercer of Edgecombe County and Mattie Hines of Nash County.

Mary Mercer died 11 February 1915 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born March 1912 to Dempsey Mercer and Maggie Hines.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dempsy Mercer, 40, widower; children Charley, 17, William, 15, Robert, 10, Walter, 9, and Maggie, 8; sister-in-law Maggie Hines, 24, and her children Lula, 8, Silvey, 7, and James, 4. [Dempsey Mercer was divorced rather than widowed.]

On 24 June 1921, Dempsey Mercer, 40, of Wilson County, son of Joe Williams and Louisa Mercer, married Fannie Barnes, 37, of Wilson County, daughter of Luke Holmes and Mary Holmes, at W.A. Pool’s in Black Creek.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Dempsey Mercer, 50; wife Fannie, 40; children Charlie, 27, Lee, 19, Jonah, 16, Jamar, 13, and C[illegible], 10; and lodger Rachel Melton, 30. [The younger children appear to be Fannie’s by an earlier relationship.]

In the 1930 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: Gilmore C. McCoy, 58, tobacco factory stemmer, and wife Mattie, 49, laundress.

Robert Mercer died 9 December 1930 in Gardners township. Per his death certificate, he was 23 years old; was born in Wilson County to Dempsey Mercer and Mattie Knight, both of Edgecombe; was a farmer; and was single.

Charlie Mercer died 9 December 1936 in Gardners township. Per his death certificate, he was born January 1902 in Edgecombe County to Dempsey Mercer and Mattie Knight, both of Edgecombe; was a farmer; and was single. Informant was Mattie McCoy of Rocky Mount.

Dempsey Mercer died 20 April 1949 in Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 September 1883 in Edgecombe County to Joe Mercer and an unknown mother and was married. Informant was Will Mercer of Bailey, N.C.

Mattie Knight McCoy died 31 December 1970 in Rocky Mount, Nash County. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 September 1897; resided in Edgecombe County; was widowed; and was a retired tobacco worker. Mary Bullock, 1205 Atlantic Street, Wilson, was informant.

House on Young’s Line destroyed.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 May 1924.

Young’s Line was north of Grabneck, outside city limits, off what was, by the 1920s, the 1200 block of West Gold Street.


On 18 October 1886, Joseph Knight, 46, of Wilson County, married Chrisa Heath, 45, of Wilson County, in Wilson. Minister Solomon Arrington performed the ceremony in the presence of Mariah Dunston, Wm. Plummer and Cora Davis.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Joseph Knight, 55, and wife Treece, 50.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, farm laborer Joseph Knight, 59, and wife Lucrecia, 57.

Joseph Knight died 27 September 1918 in Wilson township. Per his death certificate, he was 63 years old; born in Edgecombe County to unknown parents; was married to Crecy Knight; and was a farmer. He was buried at K. Watson’s place in Wilson County. C.F. Knight was informant.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Knight Cressey dom W Nash nr Young av

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Knight Theresa (c) lndrs h 610 Young’s line

Trecy Knight died 27 August 1928 at her home in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 70 years old; a widow; lived on Young’s line; and was born in Wilson County to unknown parents.

H.T. Bowers, known for his sinful life, gets saved.

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Wilson Daily Times, 3 February 1922.

Alfred L.E. Weeks was pastor of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, then located on Hadley Street.

Though he may have been “chief among the gamblers,” H.T. Bowers [not Bowser] did not leave much record in Wilson. He and Bertha Knight were married 30 January 1922 by Rev. Weeks. Per their marriage license, Bowers, 33, was the son of H.T. and Manda Bowers of Wilson County, and Knight, 31, was the daughter of Mahala Knight of Wilson County. The ceremony took place in the presence of F.F. Battle, Mack Bullock and David C. Weeks.

Bowers repented just in time, as he died of typhoid fever on 23 January 1923, a week shy of a year after his marriage. Per his death certificate, he was about 40 years old; was born in Texas; lived at 306 South Street; and was married to Bertha Bowers. Daisy McClain, 306 South, was the informant.

The obituary of Charlie F. Knight.

Wilson Daily Times, 5 March 1963.


On 12 February 1905, Charlie Knight, 30, son of Louis and H. Knight, married Annie Pool, 15, daughter of Dempsy and Gracie Pool. Missionary Baptist minister Jeremiah Scarboro performed the ceremony “on the Old Bass Plantation” in the presence of Mack Simms, Jonah Lipscomb, and Willie (or Millie) Ellis.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on County Line Road, farmer Charlie Knight, 31; wife Annie, 27; son William Poole, 7; and sister-in-law Mahala Poole, 15. Charlie had been married twice.

Charley Frank Knight registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 31 October 1872; resided at Route 3, Wilson; worked as a farm laborer on J.C. Eagles’ farm; and his nearest relative was wife Annie Knight. He signed his full name: Charlie Frank Knight.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Charlie Knight, 40; wife Annie, 33; son William, 16; widowed laborers Mattie, 40, and Anna Knight, 60; and nieces and nephews Aulander, 16, Charlie, 13, Cleora, 11, Sarah, 9, Mary, 3, and Mary Knight, 3.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Charlie Knight, 65; wife Annie, 50; and sons Stephen, 12, and David, 11.

Charlie Frank Knight died 3 March 1963. Per his death certificate, he was born October 1885 in Edgecombe County to Louis Knight and Mahalie [last name unknown]; was a laborer; and was buried in Rest Haven cemetery. Informant was Annie Knight.


Fake news (and other stories.)

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Wilson Advance, 14 October 1887.

Wilson Advance, 8 July 1897.


On 21 November 1895, Richard Renfrow, 35, son of Julia Gay, married Victoria Knight, 28, daughter of Harriet Knight. Baptist minister W.T.H. Woodward performed the service, and Levi Jones, H.T. Ransom and Maggie Ransom witnessed.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Richard Renfrow, 38; wife Victora, 35; her widowed mother Harriet Knight, 61; and Harriet’s grandchildren Hattie, 16, Andrew, 17, barber, and Alis, 12.

In the 1901 Hill’s Directory of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Berkley, Virginia: Renfrow Richard barber 311 Queen.

In the 1908 Hill’s Directory of Wilson, N.C.: Renfrow Richard barber 544 E Nash.

In the 1914 Hill’s Directory of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia: Renfrow Richard barber 417 E Bute.

On 26 December 1916, Richard Renfrow, 50, married Matilda Taylor, 50, in Wilson. Hood Phillips applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister A.L.E. Weeks performed the ceremony in the presence of Boston Griffin, J.E. Farmer and Henry Lucas.

Matilda Renfrow died 2 June 1918 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 50 years old; was married; and worked as a cook. Informant was Richard Renfrow, 900 Queen Street, Norfolk.

In the 1923 Hill’s Directory of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia: Renfrow Richard barber 628 E Charlotte.


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.

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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.