By the late 1920s, automobiles were common on Wilson County roads, and “filling stations” and garages began to cluster on roads leading out of town. The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory includes these three owned by African-Americans:
Annie Smith was listed as the proprietor of Smith’s Filling Station, located on East Nash beyond the city limits, in the 1925 city directory. (There was no listing for the business in 1922.) It seems, then, that she sold the gas station to Columbus E. Artis (who otherwise ran an undertaking business) and the garage to Alex Obey[Obery] shortly before 1928.
Similarly, in 1925, the owner of Brown’s Filling Station, at the corner of East Nash and Wainwright, was contractor/stonemason Nestus Freeman, who lived a few houses down Nash Street. It is not clear who “Brown” was, but Albert Speight elected to retain the name when he purchased the business from Freeman.
The second 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 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.
1105-1113 Queen Street, 1930 Sanborn Map of Wilson, North Carolina.
R.C. Henderson: Let’s go back to when I remember when we moved to 1109 Queen Street. When I was about six years old. And we had what they call a shotgun house. Three rooms. Front room, middle room, and a kitchen. And to get to the kitchen, you had to go out on the back porch and come through. Now there were some people who had a door cut in between the middle room and the kitchen, so you wouldn’t have to go out on the back porch. But they said if you cut that door somebody in your family would die. [Laughs.] So we wouldn’t cut the door. All of us slept in the middle room. And we had a laundry heater in the middle. We had to make fires every night. It was what you’d call a space heater. Laundry heater. You put, well, we used coal. Some people were afraid to use coal because it would get so hot it would turn red. And, you know, sparks would fly and sometimes things would catch on fire. And that’s what we used to heat the iron to iron clothes, too. You’d put ‘em on top of that stove. But we had to make fires every morning. Had to get up. And we had linoleum in there, so the floor’d be cold. So when you walk around, you had to walk on your heels. And then, you know, we had that little slop jar up under the big bed. See, that house didn’t have a bathroom. So the bathroom was outside. It sat in between the two houses. That was for 1109 and the one right beside it. It was probably 1107, and that’s where the Davises, Miss Alliner [Alliner Sherrod Davis, daughter of Solomon and Josephine Artis Sherrod], she lived right there at 1107. And then we had the water outside, and it was at her house. So there were two houses that had one toilet and one spigot.
C.C. Powell owned the houses, and I don’t know how much we were paying, but we weren’t paying a whole lot. Behind the outhouse, we had built up like a little shed, like. Used to keep pigeons in there. Everybody had pigeons. The ones that go off – we’d see in the movies the ones that take little messages and all. So everybody would have pigeons. And then we had a little, I guess it was a garden. We had a victory garden in the back. I had to take a hoe and a shovel and dig up the backyard. Turn it over. Then Mama would go out there and make some rows and plant tomatoes and stringbeans and squash and stuff like that, and we used that to eat. And the icebox, it was a little small icebox, and you’d take the ice and put it in the top, and then there was a little hole so when the ice’d melt, it would run down. You’d have to have a little water container underneath. You’d have to empty that everyday. If not, the water would run out on the floor, out on the back porch. And it would always be so clear and just cold. We had to go to the ice house out there on Herring Avenue. And I would ride the bicycle out there to get it.
R.C. Henderson, age about 10, sitting outside a house on Queen Street. (It is likely 1107 as the door on 1109 was on the opposite side of the porch. Otherwise, the houses were identical.)
Hattie Henderson Ricks: That’s there on Queen Street. The endway house. There was grass where was in between the two houses, ours and Ellick Obey. The Joneses, Celie Mae, lived on the same side. Jesse Knight was in the house on this side. On that side there, a fellow that worked out to the hospital, his wife he got married and lived in there. She didn’t stay in there no time, and then somebody else moved in there. Martha Winley’s house was first, then mine was second, then Ellick Obey was next. Then Sis and her mama and the two children was next. Two, three, four houses. They call her Sis. I don’t know what her name is. But she was grown and had two children. And her brother was crippled. She was working, and her mama stayed home and looked after the children. They didn’t have a father there.
Excerpt from 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County, showing households at 1109, 1107, 1105, 1111 and 1113 Queen Street.
1105-1113 Queen Street were demolished in the mid-1980s. A duplex apartment was erected in their place:
Across the street, however, are two remnants of the old 1100 block of Queen Street.
Adapted from interviews of R.C. Henderson and Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; color photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.