During our conversation in February, Samuel C. Lathan told me that Peter Lupe was the only black person “allowed” to sell beer on the 500 block of East Nash. This piece, floating somewhere between news and society column, supports Mr. Lathan’s observation.
Thomas’ first bit of “triviata” — Attorney George Tomlinson appeared at an alderman meeting on behalf of Willie Prince to complain that the police were showing favoritism toward Lupe while harassing Prince and others and that Prince’s on-premise wine license had been revoked, but Lupe remained free to pour. City tax collector Richard R. Smiley step up to resolve part of Prince’s complaint by revoking Lupe’s license on the spot.
The second item — One Saturday night, exactly five minutes after a “negro woman” was booked on a liquor charge, Lupe bonded her out.
The third — The police arrested James Patrick on a vagrancy charge and found his pockets full of “good luck negro charms.” (Again, “jo-mo.” Was this actually a local variant on “mojo”?) Patrick explained that, in exchange for rent, he had promised to get his landlady’s boyfriend to come back. [Sidenote: Vagrancy laws essentially criminalized joblessness and were wielded to harass poor people, especially those of color. After a number of constitutional challenges, in the 1960s most vagrancy laws were replaced by statutes prohibiting more specific behavior, such as public intoxication or disorderly conduct.]
A regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen of the Town of Wilson was held in the office of C.A. Young this Monday evening, January 2, 1888.
Liquor License was granted to the following parties:
Wiley Corbett at Bates Stand
Hawkins & Bridgers on Tarboro Street
Edwin Rose on Fulcher’s Block
Emma Gay at her old stand
No other business appearing the Board adjourned. C.A. Young, Secretary
In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Gay, 35, wife Emma, 25, children Charles, 5, and Mary, 1, and two farm laborers Rich’d Harper, 20, and Haywood Watson, 17.
Charles Gay died in late 1873 or early 1874. Emma was appointed administratrix of his estate, which consisted of personal possessions, cash, accounts receivable, and liquor and groceries from the store he operated. Emma carried on his business; this was her “old stand.”
In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Emma Gay, 35; children Charlie, 15, a steam-mill worker, Mary, 11, Etheldred, 8, and Willie, 6; plus a boarder Fannie Thompson, 19, cook.
In early 1885, pursuant to a judgment against her, Emma Gay lost the half-acre lot upon which she and her family lived.
Emma Gay Rountree’s will entered probate in Wilson County Superior Court in June 1917:
Last Will and Testament of Emma Rountree of Wilson, North Carolina.
Know all men by these presents that, I, Emma Rountree of Wilson, Wilson County, state of North Carolina, being of sound mind and disposing memory, do hereby make and publish this, my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time heretofore made.
(1) I give, devise, and bequeath to my children Mary Strickland, William Gay, Dred Gay, and the estate of my late son Chas Gay all of my property both real and personal with the exception of one dining room table, and one organ. The organ is hereby bequeathed to my beloved granddaughter Emma Gay.
(2) I give, devise and bequeath to Lizzie Whitfield, one dining room table, the same now in use in my dining room.
(3) I give, devise, and bequeath to my children Mary Strickland, William Gay, Dred Gay, and Lizzie Whitfield all money that may be left after paying all debts and expenses of my funeral. The same to be divided equally among them.
(4) I, hereby appoint Rev. H.B. Taylor the executor of this my last will and testament and recommend to the proper authorities that he be appointed guardian for Dred Gay and Mary Strickland, whose mental abilities incapacitates them to manage an estate. Emma (X) Rountree
Signed by said Testatrix, Emma Rountree, as for her last will and testament, in the presence of us, who at her request, in her presence and in the presence of each other, have subscribed our names as attesting witnesses. Louis Thomas, W.H. Kittrell, S.H. Vick
This Board of Aldermen entry appears Minutes of City Council, Wilson, North Carolina, May 1, 1885-June 16, 1892, transcribed in a bound volume shelved at Wilson County Public Library, Wilson; North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.