A.N. Darden — Arthur N. Darden, son of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden, was only 23 years old when he penned this opinion letter published in the Cleveland Gazette, an African-American newspaper. His message of “race pride” to Black clergy is summarized in his final paragraph: ” … if the race sticks together in business life the day is nearer than we think when Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hand to God and our race become the chief corner stone that the builders rejected.”
In the fall of 1942, farmers complained that, rather than spending their final weeks toiling to harvest crops, men waiting to be called up for military service were taking “vacations” and carousing instead. Edwin D. Fisher, ex-confirmed cabin steward, U.S. Navy, took pen in hand to suggest a solution. He was willing to join one hundred others to purchase ten acres of land in Wilson County for the establishment of a “federal migratory labor camp.” Fisher had been assured by his neighbor, “Nurse Raison,” that migrant workers were harvest specialists who did not seek “recreation or jaunts into surrounding towns,” being satisfied with the entertainment provided in the camp. Moreover, “sweat worn men, women and youth rest in their cots at night” in such camps. Fisher had seen it with his own eyes.
In the 1910 census of New Haven, Connecticut: at 30 Hazel Street, hardware merchant Edwin W. Fisher, 37; wife Daisy, 32; and children Edwin D., 16, Eugene L., 13, Clarence R., 10, Anna V., 6, Milton W., 3, and Susie A., 1.
Edwin Dortche Fisher registered for the World War I draft in New Haven, Connecticut. Per his registration card, he was born 1 February 1894 in Essex, Connecticut; resided at 26 Charles Street, New Haven; was a student and club car waiter; worked for the N.Y.N.H. & H. R.R., New York; and had a “weak back from injury.”
In the 1920 census of Westport, Fairfield County, Connecticut: William Dorsey, 64, master mason; son-in-law Edwin Fisher, 26, steward on [illegible]; daughter Edith Fisher, 26; and their daughter Mary, 1.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: banker Judge D. Reid, 52, public school principal Elnora Reid, 50, sons Fredrick, 17, and Herbert, 14, and lodger Edwin D. Fisher, 36, a studio photographer. The house was owned free of mortgage and valued at $6000.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 302 Vick, widow Letitia Lovett, 62, born Georgia, dressmaker, and roomer Edwin D. Fisher, 46, “World War veteran.”
On 2 February 1941, Edwin D. Fisher, 47, son of Edwin W. Fisher and Nannie D. Fisher, married Letitia H. Lovett, 57, daughter of Frank and Sarah Jones, at Lovett’s residence. Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Milton W. Fisher, Mrs. Almira Fisher, Mrs. Rosa B. McCuller, and Mrs. Eva L. Brown.
Letitia Lovette Fisher died 1 November 1969 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 January 1876 in Georgia to Franklin Jones and an unknown mother; lived at 301 North Vick; was married Edwin Dortch Fisher; and was a seamstress and teacher.
Edwin Dortche Fisher died 15 November 1973 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 February 1893; lived at 301 North Vick Street; was a widower; and worked in photography. Harry J. Faison was informant.
In 1924, Samuel H. Vick, far removed from political activity, clapped back at a Greensboro, North Carolina, newspaper’s op-ed piece about African-Americans and the state Republican Party.
Wilson Daily Times, 23 September 1924.
Editor Daily Times:
In regard to the editorial appearing [on] the Negro and the Republican party in this state, we wish to state that the “Hog Combine” has no desire to carry North Carolina for the Republican party.
Eating the hog is the thing uppermost in their minds, and they eat so much until they have nightmares.
Control of national Republican patronage is their sole ambition.
The party who wrote the editorial in the Greensboro Daily News is evidently a member of the “Hog Combine.”
If this is not true it is rather strange that he should dictate the policy of the Republican party in North Carolina in regard to the Negro.
The Negro has been politically asleep for the past twenty years, but he is arousing now and will be heard from.
We have no desires or ambitions politically, but we have an interest in our people politically as well as otherwise.
This explains our activity in the matter if the little part we have taken in such things can be called by that name.
Since we were mentioned personally in the editorial, we wish to make this statement: If I have incurred “a legacy of everlasting race rancor and hatred by a temporary (ten years) tenure of a Wilson Post Office” it has never been shown or demonstrated by the people of Wilson. They were my friends then and have shown their friendship ever since. Whatever I may have or possess is due largely to their friendship which this editor calls race rancor and hatred.
In regard to being invited into the party we wish to say that the Anglo-African does not have to be invited into the Republican party. He has no doubt been too loyal. It was the Anglo-Saxon who was invited into the ranks of the party. He came in and took possession and shut the door on the Anglo-African, but the original Republicans are coming back in spite of the “Hog Combine,” believing what is good for the white man is good for the negro with equal intelligence.
The day after Eugene Fisher drowned while swimming in the lake at Contentnea Park, the Daily Times printed an article suggesting that “Sam Vick,” i.e. Samuel H. Vick Jr., bore some responsibility for the accident.
Wilson Daily Times, 29 July 1924.
Vick immediately fired back. His grief, he stated sharply, had “been still more aggravated by the misstatement of facts concerning my part in the matter, for the facts were badly twisted and really just the opposite what really happened.” Georgia Aiken also contributed a corrective, milder in tone, but just as firm.
Wilson Daily Times, 30 July 1924.
And where was Contentnea Park? References in contemporaneous news articles reveal that (1) it was not an African-American-only park — the Kiwanis met there regularly — but rather seems to have had a section reserved for black patrons, “the negro park”; (2) it was privately owned and operated; (3) it was located above the dam on Contentnea Creek; and (4) entrance was gained via a road marked by two stone pillars. A dam spans Contentnea Creek just above U.S. Highway 301 to form what is now known as Wiggins Mill Reservoir, still a popular recreational area. With a hat tip to Janelle Booth Clevinger, here is my best guest at the park’s location:
Eugene Fisher — Connecticut-born Eugene Leonard Fisher was newly arrived to Wilson at the time of his tragic death. His father Edwin W. Fisher was a manager with North Carolina Mutual and moved his wife and remaining children to Wilson between 1926, when Edwin is listed in the 1926 Durham, N.C., city directory, and 1928, when he appears in the Wilson directory. They settled into 624 East Nash Street, the house built for Dr. Frank S. Hargrave next door to Samuel Vick’s family home at 622. The Fishers appear in Wilson in the 1930 census, and Daisy Virginia Fisher (Eugene’s stepmother) died there on 25 April 1935. Per her death certificate, she and her husband were living at 539 East Nash at the time. Eugene Fisher’s younger brother Milton W. Fisher remained in Wilson into the 1940s, and his older brother Edwin D. Fisher lived there the remainder of his life.
Eugene Fisher’s death certificate reveals that he was an insurance agent for North Carolina Mutual. Fisher was living at an unspecified address on Nash Street. His father Edwin, then a Durham resident, was informant.
Eugene L. Fisher served in the United States Naval Reserve Force during World War I as a mess attendant. The Messman Branch of the Navy, which was restricted to non-white sailors, was responsible for feeding and serving officers. Fisher was assigned to U.S.S. Black Hawk, a destroyer depot ship. After his death, his brother Edwin D. Fisher of 600 East Green Street applied for a military headstone to be shipped to the “Negro Cemetery (Fayetteville Street)” in Durham. [Edwin Fisher, himself a veteran of World War I, signed as “Liaison Officer, [illegible] A.V. of World War, Sumter S.C. chap. #2.” (What does this signify?)]
The “stone” pillars I identified above are actually brick. Until a better guess arrives though, I will stick with hypothesis that they mark the entrance to Contentnea Park. Many thanks to Janelle Booth Clevinger for this photo. — LYH
UPDATE, 11 April 2019: Per additional intel, the pillars shown above were erected in the 1960s. Thus, the location of Contentnea Park remains a mystery.
One hundred nineteen years ago today, the Wilson Times ran a letter sent from Monrovia, Liberia, by Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, U.S. consul to that West African country. Largely a sycophantic roll call of Wilson’s elected officials, halfway through Smith suddenly jabs. Praising a hospital director, he commented that all had “the appearance that better things are coming, notwithstanding the ‘Jim Crow Car’ law, the election franchise act, and the constitutional amendment. But I believe you will let me vote.” He then drops a few lines describing Liberia’s system of suffrage. It’s not universal, but. Touché.
In the 1908 Wilson city directory: Joyner Washington, painter, h 616 Viola.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wagon factory laborer Willie Paulkin, 26, wife Pearl, 22, son Atric, 2, and brother Sam, 24, a wagon factory laborer; also house painter Wash Joyner, 35, wife Sarah, 32, a laundress, and son Alexander, 13.
In the 1912 Wilson city directory: Joyner Washington, barber, h 616 Viola.
In 1918, George Washington Joyner registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 15 April 1875; resided at 616 Viola Street; was a self-employed barber at 213 Goldsboro Street; and his nearest relative was Sarah Jane Joyner.
Two men named John W. Pitts lived in East Wilson in the early part of the 20th century. They do not seem to have been related and are not easily distinguished from one another. The letter writer above, however, appears to be the older man.
On 12 September 1918, John William Pitts registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. He reported that he was born 26 December 1878; resided at 619 Railroad Street; was a minister; and his next-of-kin was Louiser Pitts.