Just before Christmas 1940, with the assistance of the National Youth Administration, the City of Wilson opened a nursery school at Reid Street Community Center, staffed by four unnamed “negro college graduates.” At the same time, the City organized a formal recreation program at the Center. (Sidenote: a program I benefitted from thirty years later when I learned to swim at Reid Street.)
Among the many ventures to which Oliver Nestus Freeman turned his hand was the establishment of a recreation area for African-Americans. The exact location of the park is surprisingly hazy, given that it contained a pond large enough to swim and boat in. This article about the 1933 drowning of Lawrence Haskins is the only written reference to Freeman’s Pond that I’ve found. The “fair grounds,” which had hosted horse racing, bicycle racing and baseball since the late 1800s, was beyond city limits in a wooded area just beyond present-day Dick’s Hot Dog Stand and Wells Elementary School.
Wilson Daily Times, 29 July 1933.
This photo of Connie Freeman and friends in small rowboats on Freeman’s Pond is reproduced at the Freeman Round House and Museum.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Warren Street, Robert Haskins, 37, bottling company laborer; wife Gertrude, 28; and children Mandy, 14, Elizabeth, 12, Estelle, 10, Robert, 7, Lossie, 5, Lawrence, 4, and Thomas, 1.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: insurance agent Robert Haskins, 44; wife Gertrude, 39; and children Mandy, 22, Elizabeth, 20, Estell, 18, Robert, 17, Lossie, 14, Larence, 12, and Tommie, 11.
Laurence Edward Haskins died 29 June 1933 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 September 1917 in Wilson to Robert Haskins and Gertrude Farmer; he was a school boy; and he lived at 1300 Atlantic Street. Cause of death was “accidental drowning while in [sic] bathing in Contentnea Creek.” [This does not comport with the conjectured location for Freeman’s Pond above.]