Neal

An afternoon with Mr. Lathan.

Samuel Caswell Lathan sat in the front row during my presentation at Wilson County Public Library last week, making me a little nervous. This extraordinary musician, who once played drums for James Brown, was especially interested in the topic — he grew up on the 500 block of East Nash Street in the 1930s and ’40s. I visited with Mr. Lathan the next afternoon, soaking up his memories of the people and businesses of the block, whom he credits for setting him on his path as a drummer. He urged me to continue my documentation of East Wilson and expressed appreciation for and satisfaction with my work thus far.

Mr. Lathan also shared with me some extraordinary photographs of pre-World War II East Nash Street. Here he is as a toddler, circa 1931.

This stunning image depicts Neal’s Barbershop, with three of its barbers, circa 1935. Mr. Lathan is the boy leaning against the window, and Walter Sanders is seated in the chair awaiting a cut. “Billy Jr.” stands to his left in the photo, and an unidentified boy to the right.

African-American photographer John H. Baker took this family portrait of an adolescent Sam Lathan with his mother Christine Barnes Collins, grandmother Jeanette Barnes Plummer, and aunt Irene Plummer Dew in the late 1930s.

And this Baker portrait depicts Mr. Lathan’s beloved late wife, Mary Magdelene Knight Lathan.

Sam Lathan has graciously agreed to meet with me again to further explore his recollection of Black Wilson. I thank him for his interest, his time, and his generosity.

Photos courtesy of Samuel C. Lathan, please do not reproduce without permission.

619 East Green Street.

The fifty-first 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. 1913; 2 stories; Charlie Thomas house; triple-A I house with bracketed porch posts; Thomas was a printer.”

Robert C. Bainbridge and Kate Ohno’s Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey, originally published by the City of Wilson in 1980 and updated and republished in 2010 under the auspices of the Wilson County Genealogical Society, provides additional details about the house: “Charlie Thomas House. This handsome turn of the century house, a classic of a type, boasts a central cross gable with a diamond-shaped louver typical of this period of construction. The three bay facade is enriched by the porch which boasts sawnwork brackets and turned columns.”

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month. [Though no address is listed in the census, by the identity of the Thomases’ neighbor, it is reasonably clear that the family was living at what is then 616 East Green and now 619 East Green.]

In the 1912 Wilson, N.C., city directory, all residing at 616 East Green: Thomas Charles pressman P D Gold Publishing Co Inc; Thomas Elton lab; Thomas Lizzie laundress; and Thomas Louis carp.

In the 1916 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Thomas Charles pressman P D Gold Publishing Co Inc h 616 E Green.

In 1917, Clarence C. Dawson, husband of Elizabeth Thomas Dawson (and son of A.D. and Lucy Hill Dawson), registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. He listed his home address as 616 East Green Street and noted that he worked as a cashier for William Hines (who owned a barber shop and was his nearby neighbor.)

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Clarence Dawson, 23, barber; wife Elizabeth, 22; and daughter Eris, 2; widower father-in-law Charley Thomas, 59; brother-in-law Clifton Venters, 24, his wife Hattie, 20; and in-laws Elton, 29, Marie, 15, Sarah, 10, and Beatrice Thomas, 8.

The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., shows that 619 was originally 616B East Green Street. (The house that had been numbered 619 was renumbered 618.)

In the 1928 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Thomas Chas (c) prsmn P D Gold Pub Co h 619 E Green

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 East Green Street, printing office laborer Charlie Thomas, 65; daughter Elizabeth Dawson, 32; son-in-law Clarence Dawson, 31; and grandchildren Eris Dawson, 11, Naomi, 9, Clarence, 7, and Thomas V. Dawson, 3; and daughters Sarah, 19, theatre ticket seller, and Beatrice Thomas, 17.

Lizzie Dawson died 16 Janaury 1937 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 July 1894 in Wilson to Charly Thomas of Nash County and Sarah Best of Wilson, and was married to Clarence Dawson. Informant was Charly Thomas.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 Green Street, Charlie Thomas, 74; daughter Sarah Bryant,29, movie theatre cashier; her husband Willie, 29, bicycle shop repairman; and children Jean, 6, and Fay G., 5; daughter Beatrice Neal, 29; her husband Willie, 28, retail grocery delivery boy; and grandsons Clarence Dawson, 17, and Thomas Dawson, 13.

In 1940, Willie Baby Bryant registered for the World War II draft in Ward 4, Wilson. Per his registration card, he lived at 619 East Green Street; was born 4 August 1910 in Tarboro, North Carolina; his contact was wife Sarah Virginia Bryant of 619 East Green; and he was employed by S.H. Moss of Moss Bicycle Shop. Also, that year Willie Neal registered in Ward 4. Per his registration card, he lived at 619 East Green; was born 2 May 1911, his contact was wife Beatrice Neal of 619 East Green; and he worked for Moss and Co., 134 South Tarboro Street, Wilson.

In 1942, Elton Henry Thomas registered for the World War II draft in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey. Per his registration card, he was born 15 August 1894 in Wilson, North Carolina; resided at 109 Sherman Avenue, Newark; his contact was Charles Thomas, 619 East Green Street, Wilson; and he worked for Julius Rose, 327 Amherst Street, Orange, New Jersey.

Charles Thomas died 22 August 1945 at his home at 619 East Green Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was a widower; was 86 years old; was born in Wilson County to Sarah Thomas; was a retired printer; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Lewis Thomas, 715 East Green Street, was informant.

Photograph of 619 East Green Street published in Bainsbridge and Ohno’s Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey. The small stucco attachment at right housed Beatrice Thomas Neal’s Bea’s Flower Shop. It has been demolished.

Photograph at top by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2017.