Reid

Attack on Prof. J.D. Reid.

Feelings ran high in the days after school superintendent Charles L. Coon slapped Mary Euell, an African-American teacher who had been hauled to his office by principal J.D. Reid. So high that three men jumped Reid as he left church the following Sunday.

Per the Wilson Daily Times, 16 April 1918:

As a result of the attack on Prof. J.D. Reid, principal of the colored graded school yesterday while he was coming out of the First Baptist church, colored after the morning services three negroes named Frank Hooker, Henry Lucas and Will Jenkins, the first two were arrested yesterday and placed under bonds of $300 each for their appearance Friday morning before his honor and Will Jenkins he ran away yesterday and was not captured until this morning is now in jail. It is alleged that Will Jenkins had a gun and that it was taken away from him by a colored man by the name of John Spell and thus prevented him from using it. Will denies that he had a pistol of his own. He says that one dropped the pistol and that he picked it up, and that he had no intention of using it on Reid. Reid was not hurt in the assault. It seems that some two blows were struck him before the parties were separated.

This is an aftermath of the trouble referred to last week in this paper growing put of the reproof of the teacher by Mr. Coon, who was called into his office in the Fidelity building at the instance of Reid for alleged failure to obey a ruling regarding the opening of school on the day the new daylight law went into effect. The woman teacher says that Mr. Coon slapped her and that when she called on Reid to protect her that Reid told her to behave herself and held the door to keep her from going out.

Following this assault on the woman leading colored men of the Ministerial Union and Business League made representations to the Board of Trustees of the school preferring charges against Reid and asked them to dismiss him from the position at the head stating that he was entirely persona non grata to their people and that he had lost his usefulness among them as an educator.

The school board had before them here Saturday afternoon Prof. Sam Vick, Rev. Weeks, pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist church and Rev. Taylor, pastor of the Presbyterian church, colored of this city, and Dr. Hargrave, a leading colored physician of Wilson. The board heard the matter and agreed to take the charges under advisement.

In the meantime Prof. Reid informed Mayor Killette that he felt on account of threats that he was in danger of his life and asked for protection. This was promptly given, officers having been stationed at the residence of Prof. Reid for the past tow or three nights. The prompt action of the mayor yesterday will probably stop the assaults on Reid, for he is determined to stop this effort to take the law into their own hands.

In the meantime the colored graded schools in this city are not running. Eleven of the fourteen teachers resigned at the beginning of the trouble and two of the others since. The question was asked by members of the board Saturday if it would pay to reorganize the school for the short space of time the remainder of the session and the answer was returned by the colored men present that they did not think it would.

However as to what action the board of trustees will take towards continuing the school the remainder of the session we are not prepared to say.

——

  • J.D. Reid — Reid was forced out of his position as principal, but regained the trust of the community. For a while, anyway. Two years later, Reid was appointed vice-president of the brand-new Commercial Bank, a position he held until the bank failed amid charges of forgery and embezzlement.
  • Frank Hooker — Hooker, a sawyer, was about 46 years old when he clouted Reid.
  • Henry Lucas — Lucas was a brickmason.
  • Will Jenkins — Jenkins was a lumberyard laborer with a history of scapes.
  • John Spell — John S. Spell was a contractor-carpenter.
  • Sam Vick — Samuel H. Vick was Educator, politician, businessman, real estate developer, church leader
  • Rev. Weeks — Alfred L.E. Weeks.
  • Rev. Taylor — Halley B. Taylor.
  • Dr. Hargrave — Frank S. Hargrave.

Lynching going on, and there are men trying to stand in with the white folks.

Charles Stump was the pen name of Kentucky-born journalist Charles Stewart (1869-1925). By 1914, Stewart was working for the Associated Press and the National Baptist Convention and was known as “the press agent of the Negro race.” As Stump, Stewart reported to The Broad Axe, a black Chicago newspaper, his impressions of the areas through which he traveled. His 1918 sojourn through North Carolina coincided with the boycott of Wilson Colored Graded School.

Stump misreported principal J.D. Reid‘s name as A.D. Reed, but spared no words in describing his disdain for Reid’s conduct — “It is a small man who would strike a woman, but they have it down fine in Wilson, N.C., and if it is kept up much longer there will be some going home, but which home I am not prepared to say myself …. I never want to see a white man strike one of our best women in this world, for I would just then send word to the angels to dust my wings for I will be on my way for them, and then send word to the devil to heat the furnace just a little hotter, for I have started some one to take quarters therein.” Mary Euell, on the other hand, received her full due as “a refined, cultured, christian woman” with the “dignity of a queen.”

Stump’s account contains new details of Reid’s actions and the startling news that Reed’s karmic redress included the public slap of his ten year-old daughter Thelma by white merchant W.D. Ruffin.

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The Broad Axe (Chicago, Ill.), 26 July 1919.

405 North Vick Street.

The one hundred-ninth 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.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1913; 1 story; John R. Reid house; L-plan cottage with front-facing gable in side wing; contributing garage; Reid was a carpenter, and built #s 405-409.” [The owner of this house is misidentified. In fact, though John Right Reid may have built this house, he did not live in it. Rather, his cousin John B. Reid, also a carpenter, owned and inhabited the house from around the time it was constructed until his death in 1943. John R. Reid lived at 109 South 4th Street.]

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Reid John B carp h 405 N Vick

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Vick, owned and valued at $2000, John B. Reid, 54, building carpenter, and wife Norma, 41, laundress.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Vick, owned and valued at $3000, John Reid, 65, born in Smithfield, carpenter for C.C. Powell, and wife Naomi, 50, born in Durham.

John B. Reid died 24 July 1943 at his home at 405 North Reid. Per his death certificate, he was 60 years old; was born in Wayne County to Isaac Reid and Adlaide Bolden; worked as a carpenter; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Naomi Reid was informant.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Reid Naomi (c) h 405 N Reid

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2019.

Lucas delivers retribution.

The facts are little muddled, but the message is clear. James Lucas was sentenced to 30 days of roadwork after assaulting principal J.D. Reid (not C.L. Reed) for failing to defend Mary Euell from Charles L. Coon’s abuse.

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The Union (Wilmington, N.C.) Labor Record, 25 May 1918.

The 1920 census records two African-Americans named James Lucas in Wilson. One was a 16 year-old boy, the other was, at 610 Lodge Street, lumber company laborer James Lucas, 27, with wife Mattie, 30, and children Jack, 13, and Georgia Belle, 11.

Cemeteries, no. 24: the Mercer cemetery.

Armed with a 1937 Leica IIIa 35mm camera, Brian Grawburg has begun a project to document “lost” Wilson County graveyards. Using early 20th topographical maps, WPA cemetery surveys, Google Maps, and tips from the public, Grawburg has battled heat, humidity and nearly impenetrable thickets to create and preserve a record of these forgotten spaces.

This is the first in a series of posts exploring African-American cemeteries that Grawburg has rediscovered.

This cemetery, off Carter Road in Gardners township in eastern Wilson County, contains six marked graves:

  • Willie Reid, 23 September 1920-23 September 1920
  • Sula Reid, 23 September 1920-23 September 1920
  • Jack L. Barnes, 1921-1946
  • Robert Mercer, 1908-1930
  • Charlie Mercer, 1902-1936
  • Gilmore McKoy, 29 August 1873-18 October 1939

Robert and Charlie Mercer were sons of Dempsey and Mattie Knight Mercer. Gilmore McKoy was Mattie Knight Mercer’s second husband. I have not been able to identify the Reids or Jack Barnes.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Dempsy Mercer, 27; wife Mattie, 20; children Charles, 7, William, 6, Robert, 3, and Walter, 2 months; nieces Lula, 2, and Gertrude Hines, 1 month; and sister Margarett Hines, 19.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dempsy Mercer, 40, widower; children Charley, 17, William, 15, Robert, 10, Walter, 9, and Maggie, 8; sister-in-law Maggie Hines, 24, and her children Lula, 8, Silvey, 7, and James, 4. [Dempsey Mercer was separated/divorced rather than widowed.]

On 15 August 1929 in Wilson, Robert Mercer, 22, of Gardners, son of Dempsey Mercer and Fannie [last name no given], married Retha Barnes, 14, of Gardners, daughter of Blannie and Dora Barnes.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Dempsey Mercer, 50; [second] wife Fannie, 40; children Charlie, 27, Lee, 19, Jonah, 16, Jamar, 13, and C[illegible], 10; and lodger Rachel Melton, 30.

Robert Mercer died 9 December 1930 in Gardners township. Per his death certificate, he was 23; single; was a farmer; was born in Wilson County to Dempsey Mercer and Mattie Knight; and was buried in Wilson County. Informant was Dempsey Mercer.

Charlie Mercer died 9 December 1936 in Gardners township. Per his death certificate, he was born in January 1902 in Edgecombe County to Dempsey Mercer and Mattie Knight; was single; worked as a farmer. Mattie McCoy was informant.

Gilbert McKoy died 18 October 1939 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 29 August 1883 in Whiteville, N.C., to Waddie McKoy and Annie Richardson; worked in a China American tobacco factory; was married to Mattie McCoy; and was buried in Wilson County.

For more information about this cemetery, please contact Brian Grawburg at archive@myglnc.com.

If she cooked, he would kill her.

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Twin City Daily Sentinel (Winston-Salem, N.C.), 2 May 1921.

Nolia Reid died 1 May 1921 of “homicide–stab wounds.” Per her death certificate, she was 19 years old and worked as a laundress. Her parents, George Best and Louisa Farmer, were members of the extended family of Bests who settled the Grabneck community on west Nash Street. Her uncle Thomas Farmer was informant.

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Ben Reid apparently did not succumb to his terrible self-inflicted wounds.

Reid and Stanback stand trial.

A detailed newspaper account of the trial of J.D. Reid and Henry S. Stanback, who were charged with embezzlement and other crimes that led to the failure of Wilson’s Commercial Bank.

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 February 1930.

In summary:

Bank examiners closed Commercial Bank on 24 September 1929 after a suspicious fire. J.D. Reid was the bank’s vice-president, and Stanback, the cashier. They were indicted on six counts. One alleged that Reid and Stanback knowingly permitted others to make deposits to the bank, knowing it was insolvent, specifically these deposits: $66.50 by Alfred Robinson; $57.00 by Camillus L. Darden, treasurer of Saint John A.M.E. Zion; $10.00 by Ed Humphrey; $1100.00 by Edwin W. Fisher, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent; $10.00 by John Clark for Saint Mark’s Episcopal; $400.00 by Jarrette J. Langley; $35.00 by C.E. Artis and Company; and $200.00 by Shade’s Pharmacy.

Reid and Stanback were defended by W.A. Finch, Bryce Little, O.G. Rand, Wade Gardner, and Pete Bell, “Plymouth negro lawyer.”

The State first called certified public accountant C.A. Bean, who testified that he had examined the bank’s records and books on behalf of the North Carolina State Banking Department. Bean testified that pages from the bank’s ledger January 1929 until it closed were destroyed by fire, as well as a number of deposit records. Some documents were found strewn on the floor. He believed the bank was insolvent for four months before it closed. Records shows the bank had $565.84 in cash and checks on hand when it closed, against $72,000 owed to depositors and more than $53,000 in outstanding loans. Bean also found duplicate ledger sheets and a number of accounts under various names controlled by Stanback and Reid (including that of the Wilson Colored Hospital.) Further, he found numerous checks drawn but not charged to Stanback’s account, and well as checks  drawn by Stanback from others’ accounts from 1922 to 1928. Bean testified that Stanback told him one of the special accounts was set up for expenses related to operating the bank. Reid had similarly shady accounts. The bankers’ lawyers objected vigorously to the questions put to Bean.

The state next called several bank customers.

Alfred Robinson, secretary-treasurer of the “Grand Lodge of Negro Masons,” testified that he maintained a personal account and the lodge’s account at the bank. He made deposits in his personal account on September 17 and asked for balance statements for both. Stanback gave him the personal account balance, but said he was too busy to give the lodge’s. He put Robinson off again a few days later, then told him the fire had destroyed records before he could get the information. Robinson said Stanback and Reid told him rats and matches had caused the blaze.

The courtroom was packed with spectators — as many as five hundred, most African-American.

Ed Humphrey testified that he had traveled to Roxboro, North Carolina, with Reid to get a two or three thousand dollar check from Lee Clay. He said Reid offered him $25 to deposit $1880 in the bank, but Humphrey refused.

Edwin Fisher testified about deposits he made on behalf of N.C. Mutual and about a “bogus” deposit slip for $150 that Reid had given him to cover an overage at the bank.

Columbus E. Artis testified that his own balance sheets showed a balance of $1176.67, but the bank’s showed him $14 overdrawn. He further stated that once, when he had a balance of $1800, he had written a check for $500. Stanback had returned it to him unpaid, asking him “not to write such big checks as the bank was a little low on funds owing to the demands of farmers.”

Lee Clay, of Roxboro, testified that Reid had convinced him to transfer $2000.00 from a “white man’s bank” to Commercial about September 1.

Plummer A. Richardson testified in his capacity as officer of a Nash County fraternal organization. He testified that Reid and Stanback blamed the tobacco market for cashflow problems, and he had to make several trips to Wilson to get his checks cashed.

Coverage continued the next day under this headline:

Again, hundreds of dismayed African-Americans crowded the courtroom to hear witnesses pile on evidence against Stanback and Reid. Isaac A. Shade, an eight-year customer, testified that Stanback had explained discrepancies with his pharmacy’s checks as mere mistakes. Shade was later recalled and examined about the Commercial Realty Company, which he claimed to known little about. John H. Clark testified that, upon hearing rumors that the bank would close, he tried to cash out his account, and Stanback had told him that the bank was not open for business. John Melton had $860.00 to his credit when the bank closed. Nestus Freeman testified that he had $3100.00 in the bank when it closed.

H.D. Beverly, “colored superintendent” of a lodge called “Brothers and Sisters of Love and Charity,” testified that  Reid came to his home in Ahoskie, North Carolina, to solicit him to deposit his and the lodge’s money in the bank. Among other things, he said Reid instructed him to allow Stanback to fill out his savings account book to avoid messing up Stanback’s books. He heard the bank was about to fail, but Reid assured him it was not. Andrew Tate also testified.

Marland Jones of Durham testified at length. Jones opened an account after Stanback “kept after him” to do so.  “One morning he went after his money, and it was after the time for the bank to open. Reid came with a sack of money and witness asked what was the matter and if the bank was broke, and Reid said ‘Who said so.’ I wanted to draw out $172.00, and Stanback said that he was short on cash, and I said if you have trouble paying me $172.00, I want all of it.” Jones thought he got the money from Durham, as a Western Union boy came in the office with the money shortly after.

Bertie County depositor N.H. Cherry testified that he had opened an account at Reid’s request and had done so with $500. He later wrote Stanback two letters demanding return of his money. Reid showed up at Cherry’s in person, threatening to “jack up” Stanback for failing to respond and promising to pay Cherry $25 if he kept his money in the bank. Cherry never saw the $25 or his $500 either.

Oscar McCall and Ellen Tate testified about the bank’s shady practices, and Mr. Bean was recalled to testify about irregularities in Hattie Tate‘s account. The State rested, and the defense followed suit, calling no witnesses.

The case went to jury the next day. After just over an hour, they returned two guilty verdicts on the count of receiving deposits knowing that the bank was insolvent. Reid and Stanback were sentenced to five years hard labor, and the remaining charges were deferred to a later date. After abruptly withdrawing their appeals, Reid and Stanback entered state prison by the first of March.

 

Personal property for sale to the highest bidder.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 September 1928.

Patrons of Oscar Reid‘s cleaning and pressing business may have been surprised to find their garments advertised for auction to satisfy liens against Reid. Edward C. Brewington, the lienholder, was also in the dry cleaning business.

  • Nancy Gaston — The suit likely belonged to Mancy Gaston, who, though he lived in Elm City, worked in Wilson as a barber in Walter S. Hines‘ shop.
  • Curle McNeil
  • Jessie Herring — in the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jessie Herring, 34; wife Sarah, 36; and children Daziel, 13, Minnie, 12, Mary E., 11, Amos, 9, Maggie, 7, James L., 3, and Mary E., 1 month.
  • Clarence Young — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Young Clarence (c) hlpr C E Artis h 302 N Vick
  • Noro Jenkins — probably Nora Jenkins. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 610 East Green Street, John Jenkins, 41; wife Nora, 34; and children Howard, 18, John, 16, Robert, 12, Colonial, 8, Calvin, 5, Ida, Charlie, 3, and Rosco, 1.
  • Gertrude Parker — perhaps, in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Parker Gertrude (c) cook 608 Railroad
  • James McClain — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: McClain James (c) deliveryman West End Dairy h 700 S Tarboro
  • Oscar Reid — in the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Reid Oscar (c; Nora) clnr and presser 567 E Nash h 207 N Vick
  • E.C. Brewington — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: transfer driver Eddie Brewington, 32; wife Mary, 32, laundress; and hospital nurse Alice Tyler, 69. (But in the 1922 Hill’s city directory, he is listed as proprietor of Brewington Pressing Works, 561 East Nash Street.)
  • Glenn McBrayer

 

203 North Vick Street.

The ninety-fifth 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, this house is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; bungalow with gable roof and prominent gabled porch; aluminum-sided; builder said to be John Reid.”

In the 1925, 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories, nurse Hattie Grissom is listed at 203 North Vick.

Hattie Grissom Henry died 21 November 1930 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in Wilson County to Preston Thorne of Edgecombe County and Eddia Adams of Greene County; resided at 203 North Vick; was a widow; and had worked in nursing. Lydia Coley was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco factory stemmer Emma Artist, 60, widow, born in Robeson County, and daughter Virginia, 24, Wilson County teacher.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Artis Emma (c) tob wkr h 203 N Vick; Artis Virginia (c) tchr h 203 N Vick

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2018.