Wilson Daily Times, 14 March 1955.
Benjamin Mincey died in 1950. In the settlement of his estate, a commissioner advertised a lot on Wiggins Street that Mincey had purchased 17 February 1905. At the time of purchase, the lot bordered property owned by Charles Darden, Daniel Vick, Gilbert Stallings, and James T. Wiggins. It may have been the lot at 712 Wiggins upon which Mincey built the house he lived in when he died. Wiggins Street was obliterated with the construction of Carl B. Renfro Bridge and the extension of Hines Street in the early 1970s.
The only pre-Lane Street Project pictures of Vick, Odd Fellows, and Rountree Cemeteries discovered to date are aerial images and newspaper photographs. I reached out to Drew C. Wilson of the Wilson Times to find out if the paper’s photo archives held originals of the prints published in the 18 February 1989 article about Benjamin Mincey‘s efforts to keep Odd Fellows clear. I stopped by the Times‘ newsroom yesterday, where Olivia Neeley and Lisa Boykin Batts were already sorting through files. Drew Wilson split a stack of negatives with me, the ancestors smiled, and within minutes, I’d found the images.
Me with one of two negative strips and Olivia Neeley with an original print of the 1989 article. Photo by Drew C. Wilson.
The writer/photographer used almost all his shots in his article. I initially had trouble pinpointing Mr. Mincey’s location in the image below, then I recognized Della and Dave Barnes‘ headstones just left of the center of the image. The stone nearest him is Charles S. Thomas‘ granite marker. The trees in this area threw me, as all have since been removed. (What’s that pile of stones by the tree? There’s a similar pile, smaller, near a different tree now.) A number of the small, white marble footstones so common in Odd Fellows are visible, but many appear to have been moved now from their original locations. There seems to be something large and square to the left and behind the Barnes headstones, but it’s not clear what it is.
The approximate view this morning, with the Thomas marker at (A) and the Barneses at (B).
Below, Mr. Mincey stands near a sign: NO TRESPASSING CEMETERY PROP. UP TO $200.00 FINE FOR DUMPING TRASH. VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED BY ORDER of THE CITY OF WILSON CEMETERY COMMISSION. It’s not clear exactly where this was. Vick Cemetery? The Cemetery Commission now disclaims responsibility for any cemeteries other than Rest Haven and Maplewood, and the City’s Public Works Department mows and otherwise looks after Vick and a strip of Odd Fellows.
To the left and behind Mr. Mincey, Lucinda White‘s headstone, unbroken. To his right, back among young pines, Henry Tart‘s obelisk, which still leans back at about the same angle. Wisteria had not yet become the scourge in these woods that it is now.
Today, with (A) White and (B) Tart markers.
Below, Mr. Mincey and an unnamed assistant stand at the fire hydrant marking the grave of Mr. Mincey’s father, Benjamin Mincey. There appears to be a wooden sign draped with plastic sheeting in front of hydrant, and piles of trash and tree stumps are visible in the middle distance. I’d thought the large white headstone at center was Walter Foster‘s, but its outline and location don’t match up. The small white monument with a knob on top behind and to the left of the large marker made be that of Louvenia Pender, found back in December with its finial broken off.
Six months ago, this image would have been impossible to reproduce. Today, though the wisteria has begun to rebound from being cut back during the winter, the hydrant is visible at (A) with effort. The white stone behind Mr. Mincey appears to have been in the Vick plot, and may be the double headstone of Daniel and Fannie Vick. The dark wedge near its upper left corner appears to correspond with the divot in the Vicks’ stone caused by a gunshot.
This shot appears to have been taken from Lane Street and shows a gatepost similar to the ones that bracketed (until recently) another entrance into the cemetery perhaps 50 yards to the northeast. This entrance below is approximately at the current entrance to the cemetery parking lot.
Finally, a bonus image, show later in 1989, perhaps to commemorate a milestone in Mr. Mincey’s service with East Nash Volunteer Fire Department.
Madison Benjamin Mincey (1913-2001), the real MVP of Odd Fellows Cemetery.
Many thanks to Drew Wilson, Olivia Neeley, and Lisa Batts for their generosity of time, resources, and spirit in the search for these photographs!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.