The obituary of Bessie McNair Best.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 August 1949.


In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 213 Ashe Street, renting for $8/month, tobacco factory laborer Virginia McNair, 40; daughter Bessie Ward, 24, a cook; and grandchildren Grace, 8, Mary N., 5, and Willie C., 7.

Bessie McNair Best died 29 July 1949 in Norfolk, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was born 23 August 1915 in Wilson, N.C., to William McCullum and Virginia Ward; was the widow of James Best; and was taken to Wilson for burial by C.E. Artis Funeral Home.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

1205 Queen Street.

The sixty-eighth 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 was 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.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District:  “ca. 1922; 1 story; bungalow with clipped-gable roof; aluminum sided.”


In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Farmer Richard (c; Bessie) lab h 1205 Queen

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1205 Queen, rented for $12/month, divorced laundress Bessie Farmer, 27; and children Richard Jr., 10, Kary, 8, and Albert, 4; and brother James Farmer, age illegible.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: owned and valued at $1600, widowed cook Allie McNair, 40; son Linwood, 20, odd jobs at municipal building; and daughter Madeline, 18, nurse. Allie was born in Pitt County, and her children in Washington County. [The McNairs apparently moved to Wilson after the death of Luther McNair in Plymouth, Washington County, on 23 May 1930.]

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: McNair Allie (c) cook h 1205 Queen

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2018.

Virginia Dare McNair.

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Virginia McNair (1900-1983).

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 213 Ashe Street, renting for $8/month, tobacco factory laborer Virginia McNair, 40; daughter Bessie Ward, 24, a cook; and grandchildren Grace, 8, Mary N., 5, and Willie C., 7.

In 1941, Lonnie Robbins registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he resided at 509 Church Street, Wilson; was born September 1910 in Black Creek, N.C.; his contact person was Virginia McNair, 213 Ashe Street, Wilson (no relation); and he worked for National Bank of Wilson, 100 block East Nash Street.

Hill’s Wilson City Directory (1941).

Virginia McNair died 1 December 1983 in Wilson, Per her death certificate, she was born 1900 in Scotland County, N.C.; her parents’ names were unknown; she had worked as a domestic laborer; and lived at 203 Moss Street, Apartment A, Wilson.

Many thanks to Castonoble Hooks for sharing these photographs.

Struggling and sinking.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on the 22nd day of April 1872 I, H.W. Peel one of the Coroners of said County, attended by a Jury of good and lawful men, viz J.W. Crowell, John L. Baley, Elijah Williams, M.G. Trubuthan, J.W. Fryar, W.D. Farmer, B.J. Cogins. R.S. Wells. Jas. W. Taylor, Henry Dixon, W.H. Cobb, William A. Farmer by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly sworn and impaneled at Farmer Mill Pond in the County aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of Joseph Perry, col and after inquiring into the facts & circumstances of the death of deceased from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured the Jury find as follow that is to say that the deceased came to his death by accidental drowning.  /s/ J.W Crowell, Foreman, L. Baley, W.A. Farmer, Wm. D, Farmer, Henry Dixon Jnr., Elijah Williams, B.J. Coggins, M.G. Trevathan, W.H. Cobb, J.W. Friar, R.S. Wells, J.W. Taylor.


James G. Cobb being duly sworned says that on Sunday April 21 1872 himself, Ralph Faison & Bynum Arrington Crisp McNair together with Joseph Perry Deceased were at Mill Pond of W.D. Farmer in County of Wilson state of North Carolina & Proposing to go in Washing or bathing. There upon said Cobb & Ralph Faison proceeded to swim a distance of seventy five yds or thereabout & parties consisting of the other witnesses Bynum Arrington Crisp McNair & Jos Perry deceased were left on & near the shore, upon being called by Bynum Arrington he the said Cobb looked back & saw Joseph Perry deceased appearantly struggling & sinking under twice after he the said Cobb saw him. Further stating that aid Perry threatened to swim as far as any of the party & that he saw no person or persons interfere with deceased in any way by which he could have been encouraged to go beyond his depth in water. The other witnesses above being duly sworn testified to the facts as above and all agree in the matter that Joe Perry was alone & no person interfered with him while in the water.  /s/ James (X) G. Cobb, Ralph (X) Faison, Bynum (X) Arrington, Crisp (X) McNair.


  • Joseph Perry – probably, in the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Kinchen Locust, 8, and Joseph Perry, 6, in the household of Henry Dixon, 76, a white farmer. Kinchen was black; Joseph, mulatto. Also, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Joseph Perry, 15, farm laborer, living in the household of Eveline Evans, 52. Eveline and her children are described as white; Joseph, as mulatto.
  • Ralph Faison
  • Bynum Arrington – in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Haywood Arrington, 45; wife Louisa, 35; and children Bynum, 16, Ervin, 11, and Anthoney, 8.
  • Crisp McNair
  • James G. Cobb — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County, James G. Cobb, 12, the son of Gray and Martha Cobb. (Though he was still a minor, Cobb, who was white, was the only witness who actually gave testimony.)

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.