Mincey

Ben Mincey’s legacy.

I stumbled upon this history of the East Nash Volunteer Fire Department while searching for information about Frank W. Barnes. First, I’ll highlight the fascinating details of the career of Benjamin Mincey, the early twentieth-century chief of the Red Hot Hose Company. Then, though it happened well after the period of this blog’s focus, I’ll outline the history of inspiring story E.N.V.F.D., which carries on the 130+ year legacy of the Red Hots.

John Mincey, one of the leaders in the [Volunteer Fire Department], gets his firemanship naturally. A teacher at Speight High School, Mincey is the son of the late Ben Mincey, long a champion of the Negro fire organization in Wilson and North Carolina.

“The elder Mincey served several years as captain of the Negro fire company with the Wilson Fire Department.

“His company, considered one of the top Negro fire-fighting companies anywhere, was appropriately dubbed ‘The Red Hot Hose, Reel and Truck Co.’

“During statewide competition, Mincey’s company virtually walked off with first prize in every contest — including reel races, truck races and fire extinguishing.

“An employe of the city fire department for nearly one-half century, Mincey died in August of 1959.

“He was carried to the Rountree Church [actually, Odd Fellows] cemetery aboard a city fire department, and resting above his grave today is a fire hydrant, symbolic of his love for fire-fighting.

“Mincey started to work for the city fire department when there were no trucks and when the reels had to be pulled by the firemen.

“He had a fire alarm hooked up to his house and connected the main station. When it rang, he was off and pedaling his bicycle to the blaze.

“It has been said that Mincey was the fastest bicyclist in the city.

“During his service with the city, Mincey fought nearly every major major fire.

“Mincey was one of the leaders of N.C. Colored Volunteer Firemen’s Association, and worked in every department of the association.

“Before he died, he received an award for saving a family trapped in a home during a serious flood.”

Wilson Daily Times, 7 March 1965.

Now, in a nutshell, the story of E.N.V.F.D.:

In the 1950s, Clarence Hoskins, David Suggs, J.E. Williams, Henry Hagans, and L.H. Coley began meeting in a back room at Frank W. Barnes’ Sanitary Barber Shop to discuss the urgent need for firefighting services east of U.S. Highway 301. As interest grew, the group moved to Brown Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and then Rountree Missionary Baptist Church to accommodate larger gatherings.

The group sold barbecue and chicken dinners to raise money. The fire that destroyed Clarence Hoskins’ home in 1960 and other catastrophic losses spurred them in 1962 to establish a $25 per home assessment to build and equip a fire station.

In 1964, the group received a state charter as a volunteer fire department. They bought two second-hand trucks and sent them to Rocky Mount to be converted into fire engines. The next built their own building with donated labor. By then, they were $7000 in debt.

In 1965, Wilson County approved the department, added it to the county’s rural fire system, and began issuing $100 per month in funds. E.N.V.F.D. continued its weekend plate sales to retire its debt.

East Nash Volunteer Fire Department remains active, with a main facility on N.C. Highway 91 east of Wilson and a sub-station on U.S. 301.

Lane Street Project: Oscar Mincey.

Here’s what I wrote about Oscar Mincey‘s headstone in December 2019, in one of the first Lane Street project posts:

Oscar Mincey, son of Prince and Susan Suggs Mincey, was born about 1887. His small stone is a few feet from his father. It’s almost completely sunken, and his death date is unreadable. I have not found a death certificate for him, which suggests he died before the state required them in 1914. Oscar’s brother Benjamin, the fireman, is presumably buried nearby, but there is no trace of his headstone.

Since then, we’ve found Benjamin Mincey‘s fire hydrant grave marker and freed it from its next of vines. Today, it was time to bring Oscar Mincey’s headstone to light.

Here it was when I first saw it in 2015:

L.S.P. volunteers have cleared away the vegetation. Scratching at the soil reveals a web of wisteria roots clutching the stone. They run as much as a foot beneath the surface and have to be clipped carefully to release their grip.

Vines cut, I dug carefully at each edge, scooping out dirt by hand to keep the hole small. At last, Oscar’s death date appears — January 15, 1905.

Finally, a simple clean-up with water and a nylon brush.

Oscar Mincey was about 17 when he died.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson town, Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Prince Mensey, 60; wife Susan, 52; children Ben, 19, Emma, 19, and Oscar, 12; and niece Rosetta Mensey, 7.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2021.

Lane Street Project: Chief Ben Mincey’s grave.

Here is a closer look at a photograph published in the Wilson Daily Times in February 1989. Ben Mincey Jr. is shown standing at the grave of his father, Benjamin Mincey, renowned as a chief of the Red Hot Hose Company, an all-Black volunteer fire company. Fittingly, Mincey Sr.’s gravemarker is a fire hydrant.

Tragically, that grave is in Odd Fellows cemetery, and today the hydrant is strangled by wisteria vines. 

Marker of the grave of Benjamin Mincey (ca. 1881-1950).

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

 

The obituary of Susan Mincey.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 June 1928.

  • Susan Mincey, wife of B.J. [sic] Mincy — In the 1880 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County: farmer Prince Minshew, 52; wife Susan, 35; and children Frank, 12, Henry, 11, and John, 3. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Prince Mensey, 60; wife Susan, 52; children Ben, 19, Emma, 19, and Oscar, 12; and niece Rosetta Mensey, 7. [Prince, Ben and Oscar Mincey are buried in Odd Fellows cemetery; Susan Mincey probably was, too.]
  • Rev. E.D. Cox — probably Eddie H. Cox, a Free Will Baptist minister.
  • Revs. Davis, Kennedy, Coward, Hargrove and Bynum — Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis; probably John E. Kennedy or L.V. Kennedy, both A.M.E. Zion; Bryant P. Coward, also A.M.E. Zion. 
  • Tom King
  • Dock Royal — Dockery Royal. In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Royal Dock (c; Ossie M) lab Hackney Bros Body Co r 321 Hackney
  • Walter Foster
  • Tobe Belma — Tobe Bellamy.
  • Gus Mercer — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Mercer Gus (c; Daisy) h 715 Harper
  • Hardy Tate
  • Boldon Tyson — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 408 Youngs Allie, Bolden Tyson, 65, light plant janitor; wife Mary, 49, laundress; daughter Christana, 14; and sister-in-law Jimie Ellis, 39.
  • Margie Jones — Jones Margie (c) dom r 805 Robeson
  • Annie Mae Neal
  • Henrietta King

The end of the Red Hots?

In 1938, the city of Wilson professionalized its firefighting operations, converting the white volunteer department to semi-paid status. The Daily Times originally reported that the black volunteer organization, the Red Hots, would be abolished, but here clarified that, while they were being retired from active service, they would continue to send representatives to competitions and state conventions and would be called upon in emergencies.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 July 1938.

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  • Ben Mincey
  • George Coppedge — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason George Coppedge, 34; wife Mittie, 34; and children George Jr., 4, and Elenora, 2.
  • Aaron Best — William Aaron Best died 21 August 1949 at his home at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 September 1900 in Wilson County to Aaron Best and Nannie Best; was a widower; and had been a laborer at Export Tobacco Company. Audrey Best was informant.
  • Ambrose Floyd — in 1942, Ambrose Floyd registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1901 in Lumberton, North Carolina; resided at 1214 East Nash Street; his contact was Clara Smith; and he was employed by Gary Fulghum, 901 Branch Street, United States Post Office.
  • W.J. Howell
  • Henry Sauls — in 1942, Henry Sauls registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 February 1898 in Black Creek; resided at 21 Carolina Street (mailing address 1114 Carolina Street); his contact was Hattie Davis, 19 Carolina Street; and he worked for W.T. Clark Jr., 1415 West Nash Street, Barnes Street tobacco factory.
  • Louis Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green Street, carpenter Louis Thomas, 53; wife Lillie, 33; and children Louis Jr., 16, Charlie H., 14, and Van Jewel, 12.

Chief Mincey.

Benjamin Mincey, after Edmund Poole, was the second “chief” of Wilson’s African-American volunteer fire department, the Red Hot Hose Company. This magnificent photograph depicts Mincey in full fireman dress regalia.

Benjamin Mincey (circa 1881-1950).

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In the 1900 census of Wilson town, Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Prince Mensey, 60; wife Susan, 52; children Ben, 19, Emma, 19, and Oscar, 12; and niece Rosetta Mensey, 7.

Ben Mincey, 21, of Wilson, son of P. Mincey, and Mattie Barnes, 20, of Wilson, daughter of M. and Mariah Barnes, were married on 12 January 1904. Berry Williams applied for the license, and Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in his home in the presence of Harry Mercer, W. Aken, and E.M. Davis.

In 1918, Ben Mincey registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 25 December 1879; resided at 411 Wiggins Street; worked as a laborer for the city of Wilson; and his nearest relative was Mattie Mincey.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 411 Wiggins Street, city pipe fitter Benj. Mency, 38; wife Mattie, 37, tobacco factory worker; and children Benjamin J., 11, Mildred, 7, Maddison, 5, and John, 3 months.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 June 1929.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 656 Wiggins Street, valued at $800, town of Wilson plumber Benjamin Mincy, 48; wife Mattie, 49; and children Benjamin Jr., 23, Briggs hotel cook; Madison B., 16; Mildred, 17; and John H., 11; and roomer Andrew P. Sugg, 59.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: City of Wilson plumber Benjamine Mincy, 60; wife Mattie, 60; and sons Benjamine, 31, hotel cook, and Johnnie, 21, daily paper deliveryman; and granddaughter Deloris Woodard, 5.

Benjamin Mincey died 14 July 1950 at his home at 712 Wiggins Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was married; worked as a plumber for the town of Wilson; was born in Greene County to Prince Mincey and Susan Suggs; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Informant was Mattie Mincey.

Photograph of Mincey reprinted from Wilson Daily Times, 29 April 1999. Many thanks to Pamela Mincey Myers, who advises that the original of this portrait of her great-grandfather hung in the living room of her grandparents, Benjamin Madison Mincey and Lala Rook Barnes Mincey at 723 Lincoln Street, Wilson.

The Red Hot Hose Company.

Wilson_Mirror_11_30_1887_Ed_Pool

Wilson Mirror, 30 November 1887.

Wilson_Advance_12_1_1887_Ed_Pool_appreciation

Wilson Advance, 1 December 1887.

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Wilson Advance, 14 September 1893.

Wilson_Advance_2_22_1894

Wilson Advance, 22 February 1894.

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Wilson Advance, 10 May 1894.

Wilson_Adv_4_11_1895_WFCo

Wilson Advance, 11 April 1895.

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Wilson Daily Times, 31 July 1896.

Wilson_Advance_13_Aug_1896_Red_Hot

Wilson Advance, 13 August 1896.

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Wilson Advance, 19 January 1899.

WDT_8_18_1899_CFCo

Wilson Daily Times, 18 August 1899.

Raleigh_N_Carolinian_8_28_1902_Red_Hot_Hose

The North Carolinian (Raleigh NC), 28 August 1902.

 WDT_3_7_1911_Colored_fire_co

Wilson Daily Times, 7 March 1911.

WDT_12_10_1918_Ben_Mincey_fireman

Wilson Daily Times, 10 December 1918.

WDT_8_19_1921_COlored_firemen

Wilson Daily Times, 19 August 1921.

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Edmund Poole (1846-?) was living in Wilson by 1882, when he married Adeline Gay. He worked as a teamster.

Greene County native Benjamin Mincey (1879-1950) was the son of Prince and Susan Mincey. The family moved to Wilson when Ben was young, and he married Mattie Barnes there in 1904. When not fighting fires, he worked as a laborer for the city.