We have seen that on a single day in 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression, Samuel and Annie Washington Vick lost nearly all their real property to, in essence, foreclosure. This article in the Baltimore Afro-American, which carries a faint whiff of schadenfreude, reveals some of the financial pressures that lead to the collapse of their economic empire.
“Colored” owners owing property taxes included owner-occupiers, absentee owners, investors, and estates. Samuel H. Vick owed the most by orders of magnitude, a sum reflecting his ownership of more than 100 properties across Wilson and his cashflow struggles after the collapse of Commercial Bank and the onset of the Great Depression.
The five columns at right show delinquent taxes for property in the town of Stantonsburg for years 1928, 1929, 1930 and 1931, and the total owed. As in everyday life, tax notices were segregated by race.
Wm. & Hannah Artis — [This, presumably, is an error. Hannah Forte Artis was the wife of Walter S. Artis, not his brother William M. Artis. (Both were brothers of Cain Artis, June S. Artis, Columbus E. Artis, Josephine Artis Sherrod and Alberta Artis Cooper, and their primary residence was across the county line in the Eureka area of Wayne County.)] In the 1930 census of Eureka township, Wayne County: Walter S. Artis, 56, farmer; wife Hannah E., 47; and children Adam T., 18, and Elmer H., 5.
Sare J. Artis — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Yelverton Street, widow Sarah J. Artis, 65; son-in-law Clinton Artis, 30, a sawmill laborer; daughter Mattie, 26, a washerwoman; and grandchildren Ruby, 5, Clinton Jr., 4, and Hazel Artis, 1.
Adeline Donald — in the 1930 census of Fork township, Wayne County, Adeline Donald, widow, 54, is listed as an inmate of the Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum (Colored). Donald died 1 January 1931 at the state hospital in Wayne County. Per her death certificate, her regular residence was Wilson County.
John E. Ellis
Dallas Finnell — Dallas Fennell died 21 April 1935 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 41 years old and married to Sarah Fennell. Informant was Elijah Ward, Stantonsburg.
Louis Lewis Est.
George Powell Est. — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, valued at $1000, truck farmer George Powell, 60; wife Fannie, 60, washerwoman; and children Bruce, 21, and Fannie, 16, odd jobs laborers. George Powell died 18 August 1930 in Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township. Per his death certificate, he was 60 years; a farmer; married to Fannie Powell; and was born in Nash County to Lawson Powell and Lannie Taylor. Robert L. Powell of Stantonsburg was informant.
Mrs. Tom Tyson — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, valued at $700, Tom Tyson, 50; wife Arneta, 36; and children Ordella, 18, Celesta, 13, Ethel L., 11, Hubert, 9, Larry L., 2, and Clementon, 1; plus mother-in-law Ordella Barnes, 58.
Tom Whitted — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, Tom Whitted, 50; wife Kitsey, 35; and children J.B., 25, Bertie, 20, Ada, 18, Claude, 15, Henry, 14, Irene, 13, Aaron, 11, Minnie, 10, and Emma, 8.
Titus Whitley — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, valued at $600, farm laborer Titus Whitley, 75; wife Ida, 71; grandson Leslie, 10; and lodger Allen Edmondson, 68.
John Whitley — in the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, valued at $600, blacksmith John Whitley, 49; wife Mollie, 25; and children Artillia, 18, Irene, 15, D.H., 13, John W., 10, Mary F., 8, Marjorie, 3, and Clavon, 1 month; plus father-in-law Wiley Locus, 70.
Like Wilson, railroad tracks (marked with an arrow) divided Stantonsburg into black and white sections.
This notice of impending sheriff’s sale for non-payment of property taxes included these African-Americans (and a reference to Washington Suggs):
Charles Barber — Or, Charles Barbour. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: mechanic Charley Barber, 41; sons Luther, 13, James and John, 7, and Hubert, 5; widowed sister Mary Tomlingson, 42, and her children Ella, 9, and Charley, 4; and boarders Turner Utley, 27, John Purkison, 31, and George Garrett, 25.
Josephine Battle — possibly, Josephine Moore Battle. [Note that African-American women were not afforded honorifics in the Times.] Possibly, in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: laborer Paul Battle, 26; wife Josephine, 27; and children Clestia, 3, and Earnest Battle, 6 months, and Tiney, 8, and Jessee Moore, 6. In the 1900 census of Washington, D.C.: on Q Street, laborer Paul Battle, 46; wife Josephine, 40; and children Israel, 24, Austen, 17, and Indimuel, 11. (All were born In North Carolina except Indimuel, born in D.C.)
Dennis Batts — In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, farmer Dennis Batts, 46, widower; and children John H., 22, William A., 20, Mary J., 17, Patience, 15, Haywood, 13, Hattie, 11, Samuel, 9, Gorman, 6, and Rosa, 3.
Smith Bennett — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widowed brickmason Smith Bennett, 47, and daughter Addie, 20, with boarder Robert Wilkerson, 36; and lodgers Archie Williams, 34, and Samuel Wooten, 18.
F.K. Bird — Franklin K. Bird. In the 1900 census of Raleigh, Wake County: at 575 Blount Street, preacher Frank Bird, 42, wife Agnes, 36, and children Oscar S., 17, a laborer, Mamie, 15, a student, and Fred, 12.
Mark Blount — Marcus W. Blount. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: the widower Mark Blount, 38, a cook, and his children Coneva, 10, Dotsey, 9, and Theodore W., 6, were lodgers in the household of George Faggin, just a few households away from Samuel Vick.
John Boykin — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: house mover John Boykin, 50; wife Dicy, 44, cooking; and children Sallie, 19, cooking, James, 18, day laborer, Dotia, 14, Susia, 14, Lillie, 10, and Eliza, 7.
Julia Bryant — Julia Suggs Bryant. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Harry Bryant, 34; wife Julia, 34; and sons Leonard, 10, and Leroy, 4. [Julia S. Bryant was the daughter of Washington and Esther Suggs.]
M.D. Cannon — Mack D. Cannon. Mack D. Cannon died 15 December 1938 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he resided at 210 Pender; was married to Bettie Cannon; was employed as a barber; was born in Oxford, North Carolina, to Henry Cannon and Mary Dinger; and was buried in Wilson. Marie Mathews was informant.
Julius Freeman — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: 56 year-old carpenter Julius Freeman, wife Eliza, 46, and children Elizabeth, 19, Nestus, 17, Junius, 11, Ernest, 9, Tom, 6, Daniel, 4, and Ruth, 4 months.
Walter Kersey — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith John Kersey, 61; wife Julia, 53; and son Walter, 21; plus boarder William Joyner, who worked in the blacksmith shop. In the 1910 census of Center township, Marion County, Indiana: widower Walter Kersey, 40, a blacksmith, was a boarder in a household at 914 Weikel Street.
Sam McGowan — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, hotel porter Saml. McGown, 57; wife Ann, 42; and children Bettie, 18, and Margaret, 16, both nurses, Saml., 12, Minnie, 3, and Lanie, 1.
Charlie Parker — in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: carpenter Charles Parker, 32; wife Maggie, 23; and children John, 6, Charles, 3, and Henry, 1 month, plus lodger Florence Hooks, 18.
Phillis Phillips — On 18 May 1893, Hood S. Phillips, 22, of the town of Wilson, son of H.C. and E.E. Phillips, married Phillis Gay, 24, of the town of Wilson, daughter of Wiley and Catharine Gay. Rev. H.C. Phillips performed the ceremony at the A.M.E. Zion church. Witnesses were Annie Mincy, Annie Thorn and Alex Warren.
John W. Rogers — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John W. Rodgers, 30; wife Mary E., 22; sister Minnie, 17; and boarder Sallie Barber, 35, described as “widowed.”
George Short — perhaps, in the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer George Short, 39; wife Martha, 35; and children Lizzie, 8, Minnie, 5, and Dorah, 2, and boarder Basha Joyner, 47, farm laborer.
S.A. Smith — Simeon A. Smith. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: school teacher Simeon A. Smith, born 1849; his wife Minnie E., born 1865, also a teacher; and their son [sic] Georgie, 3, all natives of North Carolina.
G.H. Towe — Granville H. Towe. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: schoolteacher Granville Tower, 40, wife Rosa, 40, and children Ophelia, 21, Addie, 18, Stella, 15, Ambrose, 14, Granville, 12, Powhatan, 9, Marry, 7, and Sinclair, 7.
A taxpayer is insolvent when his or her total liabilities exceed his or her total assets. Not surprisingly, less than twenty years into freedom, African-American farmers struggled disproportionately to meet their tax obligations.
Wilson Advance, 5 September 1884.
Wilson township: Frank Allen, James Armstrong, Windsor Brian, Johnson Blew, Patterson Brewer, Jerome Barden, Jack Battle, Joseph Best, Frank Edwards, Reddick Edwards, Luke Fleming, Thomas Gay, Willey Gay, James Horn, Simon Jordan, Richard Johnson, Burton Locus, James H. Lawrence, Wright Lamm, William Melton, Dock Owens, Mack Proctor, Albert Renfrew, Abram Smith, Harry Spicer, Vines Thompson, Robert Vick, Shade Woodard, James Williams, Henry Waters, Gray Washington, and George Washington.
Toisnot township: Austin Barnes, Amos Bynum, Dallis Bowser, Burd Bunting, Joseph Battle, Alfred Batts, Richard Bryant, George Bynum, Hyman Bunn, Tom Butler, John Brown, Jack Bullock, William Collins, John Cox, Amos Dew, Grey Dodson, Alfred Drake, Daniel Davis, John Ellis, Titus Farmer, Esseck Farmer, Esseck Farmer Jr., William Hill Jr., Charley Hardy, W.T. Jones, Haywood Joyner, Ben Jones, Henry Rice, Warren Staton, Isaac Taylor, Charles Taymor, Hardy Winstead, William Wells, Haywood Winstead, Isaac Winstead.
Gardners township: Red Barnes, Ben Barnes, Blount Bennett, Prim Boddie, John Brown, Jack Boyett, Grey Braswell, Joseph Davis, Aaron Edwards, Holloway Ethridge, Handy Gulley, William Hussy, Alex Harrison, Frank Johnson, Peter Williams, Ruffin Walker.
Saratoga township: James E. Barnes, Grey Davis, William Edwards, Sand Mitchell, Calvin Tate.
Stantonsburg township: Henry Applewhite, Saml. Jones, John Perry.
Black Creek township: Robt. Anderson, Telfair Baker, Jackson Barnes, Raiford Daniel Jr., James Edmonson, John Hubbard, David Heath, George Mercer, Ben Rountree, W.R. Williams Jr.
Cross Roads township: William Dew, W.R. Riggs.
Spring Hill township: Henderson Deans, Cain Hocutt.
Old Fields township: Kinchen Flowers, Isham Gay, David Jones, James Locus Sr.
Taylors township: Esau Freeman, Macajah Lucas, Isham Latham, Deat Locus, Alex Parker, Joseph Royal, Joseph Taylor, Nathan Jones.
Willie Austin — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Austin William, farmer, h[ome] Mercer nr Mill rd
Ed. Barnes — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Barnes Edward, painter, h 711 e Spring
Burt Bowser — Burt Bowser married Sarah Rountree, daughter of Peter and Lucinda Rountree, on 4 December 1888 in Wilson. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Peter Rountree, 76, wife Lucinda, 53, daughter Sarah Bowser, 32, son-in-law Burt L. Bowser, 36, grandsons Russell, 9, Astor B., 3, and Thomas F., 1, stepdaughters (?) Manda L., 18, and Rosa E. Rountree, 14. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: poolroom conductor Best Bowser, 48, wife Sarah, 40, a seamstress, sons Russell, 19, Astor B., 13, and Thomas F., 11, plus sister-in-law Rosa Rountree, 21, a teacher, and James Rountree, 14, a servant in a milliner’s store. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook in cafe Bert L. Brown [sic], 56, wife Sarah M., 48, sons Astor B., 25, and Thomas, 23, and daughter-in-law Georgia B., 20, plus mother-in-law Lucinda Rountree, 78. Burt Landers Bowser died 12 July 1920 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 August 1861 in Halifax County, North Carolina, to Samuel and Isabella Bowser; was married to Sarah Bowser; and was a self-employed cook.
Oscar Best — Oscar Best is listed in the 1908 Wilson city directory as a grocer living at Nash near Bynum. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: carpenter Orange Best, 67, wife Hansey, 61, children Oscar, 37, a widowed grocer, Roberta, 22, Bethena, 19, Robert, 17, and granddaughter Sarah, 8.
Wright Barnes — Wright Barnes, son of Harry Taylor and Nelly Barnes, married Jane Strickland, daughter of Reddick and Mary Strickland, on 12 January 1868 in Wilson County. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Finches Mill Road, farmer Wright Barnes, 61, wife Jane, 58, children Mary A., 17, George, 15, and Jane, 14, and granddaughter Fannie, 13.
Gen. Wash. Coppedge — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Coppedge General, bricklayer, h 133 e Nash
J.G. Coppedge — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Coppedge James G Rev, pastor Second Baptist Church, h 113 Manchester. James G. Coppedge died 16 July 1913 in Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born in 1861 to Washington Coppedge and an unnamed mother; he resided on Manchester Street; and he worked as a butler. G.W. Coppedge was informant.
Wiley Farmer — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Farmer Wiley, laborer, h Harper’s ln
Chas. Hayswood — on 28 July 1901, Charlie Hayswood, 28, married Bettie Brinkley, 28, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony. Witnesses were Willie Barnes, Jane Branch and Sarah Alston. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, Charles Hayswood, 36, factory fireman, and wife Bettie, 33, cook.
G. Wash. Joyner — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Joyner Washington, painter, h 616 Viola
Levi Jones — Levi Hunter Jones. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Levi Jones, 32, barber, with sister Nancy, 24, brothers Butler, 28, house carpenter, and Harvey, 12, and mother, Susan Jones, 50.
Chas. Knight — on 26 December 1898, Charles Knight, 21, of Wilson County, married Elsie McCullows, 21, of Wilson County. Baptist minister W.T.H. Woodard performed the ceremony in the presence of Annie Jackson, Lizzie McCullers, and Florence Whitfield. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: barber Charles Knight, 35, wife Elsie, 37, and sons Charles, 8, and Frank, 6, plus boarders Ethel Coleman, 23, and Sarah Jackson, 28, both school teachers. Charles Henry Knight registered for the World War I in September 1918. Per his registration card: he was born 12 February 1875; resided at 115 Pender Street; was a self-employed barber at 533 East Nash Street; his nearest relative was Elsie Knight; was tall and of medium build; and “has rheumatism very badly cannot walk well.” He signed his card with a shaky “C.H. Knight.”
Ed. McCullom — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: McCollum Edward, furniture repair, h 118 Manchester
Amos Pender — perhaps, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Amos Pender, 60, and wife Annie, 59.
Ben. Parker or Parks — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Parks Benj., laborer, h 623 e Nash
J. Wesley Rodgers — per the city directory, in 1922, John Wesley Rogers lived at 548 East Nash Street and worked as a porter at Oettinger’s department store. His wife, a native of Johnston County, was Mary Elizabeth Thomas Rogers (1878-1950). Rogers was born in Durham County in 1870 and died in Wilson in 1951.
Isaac Thompson — on 3 June 1891, Isaac Thompson, 21, married Lizzie Davis, 23, at the Baptist church in Wilson. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony before John Jeffreys, Samuel Williams and Wm. Baker. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 326 Spring Street, whitewasher Isaac Thompson, 40, wife Lizzie, 43, and children James, 19, Annie, 18, Edwin, 11, Ernest, 9, Herbert, 8, Rowland, 5, and Windford, 7 months.
Allen Williams — in the 1908 Wilson city directory: Williams Allen, laborer, h Vance cor Vick
Alex Warren — Alexander Warren. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 367 Spring Street, ice factory blocker Alex Warren, 34, wife Ada, 36, and son John, 19, the latter two, factory workers. Alexander Warren died 4 January 1948 in Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born about 1879 in Wilson County to Pompie and Della Warren; had worked as a laborer; resided at 403 E. Walnut Street; and was buried at Rountree cemetery. His neighbor John Parks of 405 E. Walnut was informant.
Junius Williams — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Winona Road, sawmill laborer Junius Williams, 33, and wife Mollie, 36, tobacco factory laborer. Junius Williams died 28 December 1941 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 August 1877 in Franklin County to Pompie Williams and Dora Stones of Franklin County; was married to Mollie Williams; worked as a cooper man at Watson Tobacco Company; lived at 1009 Atlantic Street; and was buried at Rountree cemetery.
C. Mack Wells — in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: wheelwrightMack Wells, 40; wife Cherry, 38; and children Bertha, 11, Willie, 9, Clifton, 5, Lillie, 4, and Mary, 2.
S.H. Vick — Samuel H. Vick. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Samuel Vick, 47, dealer in real estate, wife Annie, 38, and children Elma, 16, Daniel L., 13, Samuel W., 10, George, 7, Anna, 5, and Robert, 2.
Most of the delinquent taxpayers named in this notice were African-American. Late payment notwithstanding, the list gives an idea of the widespread property ownership among that group in the early 1900s, and clearly indicates Samuel H. Vick’s wealth. His back taxes totaled more than ten times the next highest sum.