Norfleet

707 East Green Street.

The seventy-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.

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As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1913; 1 story; intact L-plan cottage with bracketed porch.”

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on East Green Street, Lucious Norfleet, 35, laborer; wife Mary, 30; and children James, 10, Josephine, 7, Ruth E., 5, and Jesse L., 4; and boarder Wiley Jones, 26, railroad laborer.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 636 East Green, Will Cuvington, 42, factory fireman; wife Mary, 41; stepchildren Josephine, 18, Ruth, 16, Jessie Lee Northfleet, 13; and adopted son James Northfleet, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 East Green, widow Mary Norflet, 40, laundress; daughter Ruth Gillchrist, 20, courthouse maid; and grandchildren Dorthy, 5, Mary L., 3, and Jene Gillchrist, 1.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 East Green, Bank Blow, 56, tobacco factory laborer; wife Mary, 50, laundress; and son James H., 7. [Mary Locus Covington Norfleet married Banks Blow in Wilson on 26 November 1933.]

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Blow Banks (c; Mary; 1) tob wkr h707 E Green

Photograph taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2017.

Shaw v. Telegraph Co., 151 N.C. 638 (1910).

The suit by Gus Shaw against Western Union Telegraph Company reached the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1910. Shaw had charged the company with negligence by failing to deliver a telegram. As detailed on page 2 of the decision, a black woman in Wilson played a small role in the drama.

In a nutshell, on 29 June 1908, Gus Shaw of Durham sent a telegram to his sister, Mrs. Riney Rogers, No. 419 South Street, Wilson, North Carolina, pleading: “Come at once. Ida and I are sick with malarial fever.” Apparently, there were two houses numbered 419 on South Street. One was at the corner of South and Lodge, and the other was “lower down South Street.” The Western Union messenger attempted delivery at the corner house, but “found that it was occupied by a colored woman” Annie Moring. The Rogerses, in fact, had been living at the other house for two years. The messenger sent a service wire back to Durham asking for an address clarification. Shaw confirmed the address as 419, but his response was not conveyed to the Western Union manager in Wilson. The messenger inquired at the post office, which also confirmed Rogers’ address as 419 South. He mailed a postal card to Rogers at that address, but it was delivered to Moring. Nonplussed, Western Union never delivered the telegram to Rogers, and Shaw testified at trial that this “just like to killed me. I didn’t know what was the matter. …” Western Union appealed the lower court’s ruling that it had acted negligently and owed Shaw damages for mental anguish. The Supreme Court denied its appeal, however, and confirmed the judge’s rulings for Shaw.

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The 1908 Sanborn insurance map does not comport with the scenario here. South Street is a short street, running parallel to Nash Street for three and a half blocks from Goldsboro Street across Spring (now Douglas), Lodge and Factory (now Layton) Streets to the railroad. Here is most of the bottom stretch:

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No. 419, a large, one-story dwelling, is at the corner of South and Factory, not South and Lodge. On the odd-numbered side of the street, the corner of South and Lodge is occupied by the black Episcopal Church and R.P. Watson & Company tobacco factory. “Lower down” on South, presumably headed southeast, South Street runs alongside Wilson Cotton Mill and ends abruptly at the railroad. (In the other direction, street numbers descend through the 300s to 211 at South and Goldsboro.)

Neither Annie Moring nor Riney Rogers are found in the 1910 census of Wilson. However, the 1908 edition of Hill’s Wilson city directory provides some information, but perhaps makes the story more murky. Benj. L. Rogers, foreman of Wilson Cotton Mills, is listed at 419 South Street. So, however, are three African-American workmen, Andy Money, Ed Money and Lucian Norfleet. (There is no Moring listed.) The Sanborn map shows four tiny double-shotgun houses, lettered A through H, behind 419 South. It’s possible that the Moneys, Norfleet and Moring lived in these dwellings, but that scenario would not explain the mix-up or meet the layout described in Shaw v. Western Union.