Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the west side of the first block of South Goldsboro Street.
Hardy & Holland’s livery stable was wedged, improbably, between a wholesale grocery and a garage with a second floor print shop. Per the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, “This business is located on South Goldsboro street between Nash and Barnes streets and the business has been established for the last four years. The proprietor [James Hardy] has succeeded in building up a good patronage. He is very prompt in answering calls and his prices for Livery are very reasonable. Telephone Number 9. Hack and Dray work solicited. The proprietor wants your patronage and guarantees the right sort of treatment. He is a colored man and has the good wishes of all.” Hardy’s business partner was Thomas Holland, a Wake County native.
Henry C. Holden‘s barbershop occupied the basement level of the Branch Bank building at the corner of East Nash and South Goldsboro Streets.
This screenshot from Google Streetview shows the wrought-iron rail around the former exterior entrance to the barbershop below the Branch Bank building.
Page 4, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C. (1908).
Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the intersection of South Goldsboro and East Nash Streets.
Moses Brandon operated an eating house at 127 South Goldsboro Street. (Within a few years, he moved to 411 East Nash Street.)
John H. Aiken andBraswell R. Winstead ran livery stables at 125 and 129 South Goldsboro. The map does not make clear how the space was divided between the two. Aiken was a long-time stablekeeper, but Winstead is a surprise. He was a teacher, then an assistant postmaster to Samuel H. Vick, then a barber.
Short W. Barnes was a carpenter by trade, and his ownership of a South Goldsboro Street barbershop is a surprise.
Annie Best‘s eating house at 121 South Goldsboro was just a few blocks from her home at 313 South Spring.
A barber pole is visible curbside in this postcard depicting New Briggs Hotel circa 1900. Tate & Hines occupied the first storefront on the left.
In the interior of the block, circled in red, a narrow freestanding rectangle of a building labeled “servants.” There were few white servants in Wilson in this era, so the reference is surely to African-American workers, but whose servants? What kind of servants? And what did they do in this space?
While director of the University of North Carolina Press, W. T. Couch also worked as a part-time official of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, serving as assistant and associate director for North Carolina (1936-1937) and as director for the southern region (1938-1939). The Federal Writers’ Project Papers are housed at U.N.C.’s Southern Historical Collection and include Couch’s correspondence and life histories of about 1,200 individuals collected by F.W.P. members. At least two African-American residents of Wilson, Georgia Crockett Aiken and William Batts, were memorialized in this way.
The first page is a key to the pseudonyms used in the transcript.
Georgia Aiken is mistakenly described as white. She lived at 120 Pender Street in Wilson. When her interview began, she was in her kitchen directing the work of two children who were cleaning the house. She was born in 1872 into a family of ten children, all of whom were dead except her. [The family had lived in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and Georgia’s brothers included Alexander and James Crockett.]
Georgia Aiken grew up near a school and, because both her parents were wage-earners, was able to attend through the ninth grade. She obtained a teaching certificate and started teaching in 1889 a one-room school “out in the country.” She made $25 a month for teaching seven grades and reminisced on the hardships — and reward — of serving the children of the community.
In 1908, Georgia Aiken arrived in Wilson. She started high school coursework [where? the Colored High School did not open until 1924] and received a big raise when she completed it. She taught for 48 years, all told.
She dated John Aiken for two years before they married. Aiken owned a prosperous livery stable, and the couple saved their money to build a house. When they bought the Pender Street lot, a widow lived with her children in a small house there. [A 1905 plat map shows John Aiken already owned a lot on Pender Street. Was it a different one?] John Aiken died before the house was completed [in 1914] and Georgia Aiken took over the business.
Though worried about finances, Georgia Aiken went ahead with plans to build. The livery business did well until “automobiles came in.” She sold the business at a loss and turned her attention to teaching and caring for her house.
The writer described Aiken’s kitchen in deep detail.
Her “cook stove … finished in blue porcelain” was probably much like this one, found in an on-line ad:
Aiken continued, speaking of training her helper, her standards for housekeeping and food preparation, and her preference for paying cash.
And then: “I might as well say that I voted in the last city elections and have voted ever since woman’s suffrage has come in, and I expect to as long as I can get to the polls. I would like to see some women run for some of the town offices. I think they’re just as capable as the men who set themselves up so high and mighty. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if women didn’t get more and more of the high positions in the near future. …”
And: churches and government are run by rings, and “if you don’t stand in well with these, you don’t stand a chance.”
“I believe the women do more in church work than men.”
Georgia Aiken took in boarders at her home on Pender Street and always tried to make her “guests feel at home.” “When times are good and business is stirring” — likely, she meant during tobacco market season — “I always have my house full.” In slow times, though, it was hard to meet expenses. Taxes were due and though she knew she would make the money to pay them in the fall, she hated to incur fees.
Aiken paid her helper in board and clothes only, though she wished she could pay wages. If she stayed long enough, Aiken would consider leaving her some interest in the property after her death, though her niece in New York might object. She lamented a long delay in repainting the exterior of the house, but had plans to do so.
The writer described the house’s rooms and furnishings, mentioning their wear and age. Aiken indicated her preference for “clean decent folks” as tenants. She had two baths in the house and hot water from the stove for both. She could not afford to install steam heat when the house was being built and rued the dustiness of coal.
“Helping anyone in need is being nice to anyone, and the one that helps me most during the few years that I’ve left in this life is the one I hope to remember with the most of what I leave when I’m called to the life to come.”
Georgia Crockett Aikens died 17 August 1939 in Wilson, apparently just a few months after giving this interview. Per her death certificate, she was 67 years old, born in Wayne County to William Crockett and Rachel Powell, resided at 120 Pender Street in Wilson, and was married to John Aikens.
“Federal Writers’ Project Papers, 1936-1940, Collection No. 03709.” The Southern Historical Collection, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Among the businesses highlighted in the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, were these:
PARAGON SHAVING PARLOR — The establishment is located at 213 East Nash street in Briggs Hotel Block, and it can truthfully be said that it is the most popular Tonsorial parlor in the city of Wilson. It is owned and managed by N.J. Tate and W.S. Hines, both of whom are skilled barbers of long experience. Their genial manner and high class work have won for them the liberal share of the best patronage of the city. Their shop is fully equipped with all the latest appurtenances, and a short visit to this establishment will after passing through their hands, convince you of what the modern, up-to-date barber shops can do to put a man in good humor with himself and the rest of mankind. The shop is equipped with five chairs, each in charge of a professional barber. Go there for your next slave.
JAMES HARDY, SUCCESSOR TO HARDY BROS. — Feed and Livery Stables. This business is located on South Goldsboro street between Nash and Barnes streets and the business has been established for the last four years. The proprietor has succeeded in building up a good patronage. He is very prompt in answering calls and his prices for Livery are very reasonable. Telephone Number 9. Hack and Dray work solicited. The proprietor wants your patronage and guarantees the right sort of treatment. He is a colored man and has the good wishes of all.
James Hardy — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: livery stable laborer Jim Hardy, 32; wife Lizzie, 31; sons James, 8, and Lovelace, 6; and boarders Lincoln Sellers, 29, widower and brick yard laborer, and [blank] Batts, 37, water works laborer. James P. Hardy died 20 April 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 April 1879 in Greene County to Petter Hardy and Jane Foreman; was married; lived at 508 Vance Street; and was a livery stable employer. Lizzie Hardy was informant. [Who was the other Hardy Brother?]
C.H. DARDEN & SON — This is the only colored firm of undertakers and funeral directors in Wilson, and has been established by the senior member of the firm, C.H. Darden, for some thirty years. His son C.L. Darden has been a member for twelve years years. This place is located at 615 East Nash street, and every branch of the undertaking and Funeral Director business is executed. The equipment includes two Hearses, as well as all other necessary appliances pertaining to the business. They also handle Bicycles and Fire Arms, Victor Talking Machines, Records, Bicycle Sundries, etc. Special attention given to repairs. Their telephone number is 60 and all calls are promptly answered.
OATES & ARTIS — Family groceries. This firm is located at 601 East Nash Street, with telephone connection 456. The business was established in August 1910 and has steadily increased from the beginning. The stock includes all kinds of Groceries, both staple and fancy, Produce, Teas and Coffee, Tobacco and Cigars and the prices are very reasonable. The members of the firm are Wiley Oates, a native of this county, and who has been residing in the City for two years, and Cain Artis, who is also a native of the county, but who has resided in Wilson for twenty-two years. Both are colored men and they are ably attending to the business.
Wiley Oates — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vick Street, dredge boat laborer Wiley Oats, 32; wife Nettie, 28; and daughters Dollena, 8, and Dottie Lee, 13 months. Wily Oates died 23 July 1913 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, she was born 26 September 1879 to Adam and Amanda Oates; was a farmer; and was married.
IDEAL PHARMACY — This is the only colored Drug store in Wilson, and it has been established for about seven years. The proprietors, D.C. Yancy, Ph.G., receiving his degree from the Leonard School of Pharmacy, Shaw University Class of 1905-06, has been connected with the store for the past three years and has been sole proprietor for the past year and a half. He reports that the business is constantly growing and he hopes within a very few years to have one of the largest stores in the City. He personally presses over the prescription department and absolute accuracy is his watchword. His motto is “Not how cheap but how pure.” The general stock includes fresh drugs, patent medicines, Tobacco, Sundries, etc, soda fountain in connection. 109 South Goldsboro street, phone 219.
D.C. Yancey — D’Arcey C. Yancey. Dr. Frank S. Hargrave was the pharmacy’s original proprietor.
John F. Collins — I have found no record of John Collins living in Wilson. Possibly, in the 1910 census of Washington, D.C.: at 2010 Third Street, N.W., John F. Collins, 32, lawyer in general practice, born in North Carolina; wife Alice E., 29; and son John F., Jr., 2. Collins in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 censuses of Washington employed as a mail carrier with wife Alice and sons John and William K. Collins.