Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1920.
In the spring of 1942, seventeen African-American registered nurses reported to the station hospital at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama to provide care for the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Ruth C. Speight, born in Wilson County, reared in Greene County, and educated at Saint Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, was among them.
Undated issue of Pittsburgh Courier, probably early 1942.
Captioned “Nurses Abbie Voorhies (Ross), Ruth Speight, Della Rainey (in cockpit) and Mencie Trotter during their flight orientation, a special part of their important duties at Tuskegee Army Air Field. U.S. Air Force Museum,” this photograph appears in Charlie and Ann Cooper’s Tuskegee’s Heroes (1996).
Pittsburgh Courier, 8 July 1944.
Ruth Speight Russell died 14 December 2016 in Albany, New York, at the age of 98. This simple obituary gives no hint of her extraordinary life.
Wilson Daily Times, 15 November 1929.
Iredell County native Henrietta R. Colvert was a nurse at Mercy Hospital and with North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. Neighbor Alex Fields attempted a burglary at the home she rented at 721 East Green Street.
In the 1910 census of Statesville, Iredell County, North Carolina: at 204 East Front Street, draywagon driver John Colvert, 53; wife Addie, 44; and daughters Lugenia, 20, laundress, Lillie, 18, academy teacher, and Harriet, 17.
Charlotte Observer, 21 July 1915.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 330 South Spring Street: widowed Nannie Best, 61, her daughter Frank, 30, son Aaron, 21, and daughter-in-law Estelle, 19, and a lodger, nurse Henrietta Colvert, 24.
In the 1925, 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., directories, Henrietta Colvert was listed as a nurse living at 721 East Green.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 721 East Green Street, paying $40/month, trained insurance company nurse Henrietta Colvert, 32.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 624 East Green Street, widow Cora Powell, 41, teacher, born Wayne County; George Cooper, 24, of Washington, and wife Margaret, 26, of Hamilton, Ohio; Henrietta Colvert, 38, of Statesville; and Marian Davis, 28, Salisbury. Several occupations are misplaced. George Cooper, not his wife, was a sheet metal worker; Colvert, not Davis, was a nurse; and Davis was a teacher at Darden. [624 East Green was the former Frank S. Hargrave house, which belonged to Colvert’s boss.]
In the 1951 city directory of Charlotte, N.C., Henrietta Colvert is listed as a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital.
Henrietta Rebecca Colvert died 9 July 1980 in Roanoke, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 March 1911 [sic, 1893] in North Carolina; resided at 233 Harrison Avenue, N.W., Roanoke; had worked as a hospital nurse; and was buried in Williams Memorial Park, Roanoke.
Though he redeemed himself well enough to be described as “worthy” in his Daily Times obituary, Alexander Fields was listed in the county stockade in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County.
The Pioneer (1941), yearbook of Saint Agnes Hospital Training School.
Celesta Belle Hardy McClain was born 1 August 1917 in Red Springs, Robeson County, North Carolina, to Cornelius and Carrie Worthy Hardy. She died 14 October 1990.
The Pen (1941), yearbook of Saint Augustine’s College.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Hines Street, auto mechanic John Marshall, 32; wife Annie, 32; and children Glascoe, 12, Louise, 6, Bessie, 3, and Herman, 1.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Hines Street, widow Annie Marshall, 42, cook; and children Louise, 16, Bessie M., 13, Herman, 11, Margrette, 9, and Gretchen G., 1.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook Louise Marshall, 25, and her brother Herman, 20, at 702 East Nash Street.
In 1940, Herman Oliver Marshall registered for the World War II draft:
Lunia Mae Cannady was admitted to the United States Cadet Nurse Corps on 18 September 1945. She received her nursing training at the nursing school affiliated with Kate Bitting Reynolds Memorial Hospital, a facility in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, serving African-Americans.
In the 1940 census of Sand Hill, Moore County, North Carolina: Albert Cannady, 35, public labor; wife Sylvan, 30; and children Lunia, 12, Harold, 9, Albert Jr., 6; Graddick, 4, and Betty Jean, 3 months. The family reported having lived in Morris County, New Jersey, in 1935; Graddick was born in New Jersey. [The Cannadys moved to Wilson between 1940 and 1945, when Lunia graduated from C.H. Darden High School.]
On 12 March 1949, Freeman Farmer, 22, son of Tom and Anne Bynum Farmer, married Lunia Cannady, 21, daughter of Albert and Sylvan Andrews Cannady, on Lepton [Lipscomb] Road in Wilson. Original Free Will Baptist minister George W. Little performed the ceremony in the presence of Jeraline Edwards, E.N.C. San. C.D.; Hattie Henderson, 1109 Queen Street; and Bessie Simmons, 211 Stantonsburg Street. [Each of these women worked at Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium and, presumably, so did Lunia Cannady Farmer.]
Lunia Cannady Amy died 26 May 1992 in Wilson.
Cora Farmer at Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium, circa 1950.
“Me and Cora Farmer worked over at the Sanatorium together. She was the cause of me going over there to get the job. ‘Cause I was living there on Queen Street right from her house, and I seen her going over there with that white dress on all the time. So she seemed to be very friendly, and her daughter, and her husband. And their boys. And so I went over there.” — Hattie Henderson Ricks
Cora Lee Rountree Farmer (1900-1990) was the daughter of Jack and Lucille Bergeron Rountree.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm Jack Roundtree, 53; wife Lucy, 35; and children Junius, 15, Delzel, 12, Cora Lee, 10, John H., 7, Jessie, 6, Mable, 4, and Gallie May, 1.
On 24 December 1917, Paul Farmer, 29, of Wilson, son of Jno. Wash Farmer and Edmonia Farmer, married Cora Rountree, 21, of Wilson, daughter of Jack and Lucile Rountree. G.W. Barnes applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion paster B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Annie Jackson, G.W. Barnes and Jack Rountree.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Old Stantonsburg Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 57; wife Lucile, 47; son Julius, 24, daughter-in-law Lida, 23, sons John Henry, 17, and Jesse, 16, daughters Mabel, 14, and Ola May, 10, and married daughter Cora Farmer, 19. [Her husband Paul was working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1201 Queen Street, fertilizer plant laborer Paul Farmer, 44; wife Cora, 30; and children Pauline, 4, Fredrick, 2, and John W., 1, and lodger Nancy Wilson, 17.
Cora Rountree Farmer died 4 February 1990 in Wilson.
Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; photo from personal collection of Hattie H. Ricks, now in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.
Founded in 1913, the Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home (later known as Mercy Hospital) was one of a handful of early African-American hospitals in North Carolina and the only one in the northeast quadrant of the state. Though it struggled financially throughout its more than 50 years of operation, the hospital provided critical care to thousands who otherwise lacked access to treatment.
A small cadre of black nurses assisted the attendant physicians. One was Henrietta Colvert (1893-1980) shown below at far left. A native of Statesville in North Carolina’s western Piedmont, Henrietta received training at Saint Agnes School of Nursing in Raleigh. How and when she came to Wilson is unknown. However, this photograph suggests that she cared for Mercy’s patients in its earliest days as the man seated in the middle is hospital founder Dr. Frank S. Hargrave, who left Wilson for New Jersey in 1924. The man at right is Dr. William A. Mitchner.
Photograph of staff courtesy of the Freeman Round House Museum, Wilson; photograph of hospital taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2013.