restaurant

In memoriam: Libby McDonald McPhatter, restaurateur.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 November 1997.

Near the end of the Great Depression, Libby McPhatter opened a cafe in the 500 block of East Nash Street that served barbecue dinners for three decades.

——

In the 1910 census of Lumber Bridge township, Robeson County, North Carolina: farm laborer Archie G. McDonald, 28; wife Lucy J., 35; and children Suda, 14, Augusta, 8, Hetta, 6, Sandy, 5, Libby, 4, and Pibel, 1.

In the 1920 census of Lumber Bridge township, Robeson County: farmer A.G. McDonald,  42; wife Elam, 42; and children Samuel, 15, Libie, 14, Manilie, 8, William, 7, and Susie R., 3.

On 11 April 1926, Nathaniel McPhatter of Robeson County, son of Fred and Maggie McPhatter, married Libby S. McDonald, 20, of Robeson County, daughter of A.G. and Ella McDonald, in Lumber Bridge township, Robeson County.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: McPhatter Nathan (c; Libbie) truck driver h 113 Pender

James Arthur McPhatter died 23 March 1932 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 September 1931 in Wilson to Nathaniel McPhatter and Libbie McDonald, both of Robeson County, and he lived at 113 Pender Street.

In 1940, Elmond Henry McKeithan registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 5 July 1914 in Cumberland County, North Carolina; resided at 539 East Nash Street, Wilson; his contact was cousin Libby McPhatter, 539 East Nash; and he worked for Woodard-Herring Hospital, Green and Douglas Streets, Wilson.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: McPhatter Libby (c; Libby’s Cafe) h 539 E Nash. Also: McPhatter Nathaniel (c; Libby) driver h 539 E Nash.

In 1942, Nathaniel Green McPhatter registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 7 November 1902 in Robeson County, North Carolina; resided at 539 East Nash Street, Wilson; his contact was Pinkey Townsed, Red Springs, N.C.; and he was unemployed.

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 539 East Nash (“over Libby’s Cafe”), restaurant proprietor Lillie McPhatter, 44, widow; Louise C. McPhatter, 8; and roomers Doll Brown Jr., 30; Mabel Brown, 45; J.C. White, 38, tobacco factory laborer; Wilbert Signal, 35, construction company building helper; Alfonso Hodge, 40, restaurant cook; and Ozy Allen, 50, restaurant cook. [In fact, McPhatter was separated. She and Nathaniel McPhatter did not divorce until 1953.]

Wilson Daily Times, 12 May 1981.

Follow-up: Where was the Silver Boot Grill?

In a recent post, I asked if anyone knew the location of Ola and Georgia Dupree‘s Silver Boot Grill, and reader D.C. came through.

Ads described the restaurant’s address only as Highway 301-A South, which once cut through East Wilson following the path of what is now Pender Street. D.C. forwarded me this detail from a 1945 plat with two lots highlighted. 301-A Highway shows a center median that I suspect was aspirational. At top center is a proposed new highway — today’s four lane U.S. 301/Ward Boulevard. The street cutting downward at top right is Black Creek Road and, off it at an angle, is what was then Stantonsburg Road. 

Detail from Subdivision of the Farrior-Fleming Farm Near Wilson, N.C., Plat Book 4, Page 19, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

A little searching on the Wilson County Register of Deeds website revealed that Ola and Georgia Anna Dupree bought lots 40 and 43 from Annie V. Farrior on 26 January 1945. Five years later, to secure a $3500 loan, the Duprees mortgaged both lots, as well as two electric refrigerators (a Jordan Drink Box Model 40-6 and a Hussman Reach-In Refrigerator); a gas cooking stove; a Marston Steam Table Model #90; all tables, chairs, and counters; and all other stock and equipment “used in the operation of their restaurant business now known as Silver Boot Grill.”

Lots 40 and 43 of the Farrior-Fleming tract are now 915 Pender Street South and are the site of a defunct used tire dealership. I am pretty sure that this side building at Rolling Tires started life as the Silver Boot. Painted brick appears to have been applied over the original cladding, and the stepped side walls were leveled off to support a fairly recent gabled roof.

June 2022.

Thanks, D.C.!

Old Cabin Lunch.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 August 1925. 

In 1925, 1401 East Nash Street was just beyond eastern city limits. I have not been able to find anything else about Old Cabin Lunch.  I’m not at all sure it was a Black-owned business, though it was located in an African-American residential area. Three years later, the address was the location of William Wells‘ auto repair garage.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1928). 

Black businesses, 1913, no. 6: the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Here’s a closer look at the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street, which was dominated by wholesale groceries and small restaurants.

In 1913, before he founded a funeral home, Columbus E. Artis operated a small eatery in a narrow brick building on South Goldsboro Street. Alexander D. Dawson, having closed his fish and oyster stall in the city market, ran a rival eating house across the street. 

Black businesses, 1908, no. 4: 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

Detail, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1908.

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the intersection of the 100 block of East Barnes Street and the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

  • Sidney Wheeler
  • J. Thomas Teachey
  • William Hargrove — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith William Hargrove, 32; wife Leuvenia, 30, washing; daughter Bessie, 6, and Lillie, 3; widowed sister Mary Boddie, 25, cooking; and cousin Julious Heat, 20, farm hand.
  • Isaac J. Young‘s blacksmith shop operated in the present-day location of Worrell’s Seafood. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 315 Spring Street, horse shoer Isaac J. Young, 46; wife Laura, 29; and sons Cornelius, 12, and Robert, 9; plus lodger Henry Moy, 5.

Aerial view courtesy of Google Maps.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 4: 400 block of East Nash Street.

Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C., 1913.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Here’s a closer look at one side of the first block east of the railroad.

Though described as a restaurant in 1913, the 1912 city director listed Charles H. Knight‘s barbershop at 414 East Nash Street. In the 1910 census of Wilson township, 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 teachers.

Sarah Gaither operated a small eating house at 418 East Nash as early as 1908, per city directories. In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: day laborer Rufus Gaither, 57; wife Sarah, 56; and children Julius, 22, Mandy, 18, Aaron, 17, and Clarence, 15, sharing a house with Ella Gaston, 30, and her sons Ralph, 10, and Albert, 2. Rufus and Sarah Parks Gaither married 2 February 1873 in Iredell County, N.C., and are listed in the 1880 census of Turnersburg, Iredell County, with their young children. Sarah Gaither died 1912-1915. Rufus Gaither died 23 July 1915 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 24 August 1853 and was a widower. Bertha Farmer was informant.

John Blount‘s barbershop occupied 422 East Nash. 

The three buildings that now occupy this block were built in the 1920s. However, Google Maps shows a modern barbershop operating in the footprint of Blount’s business.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 3: East Nash at South Lodge Street.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century.

This block of East Nash Street fronts the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad’s passenger station. In 1913, it contained four storefronts, all housing Black-owned businesses, and a large house. Just a few years later, all were demolished to make way for the Terminal Inn, the two-story, multi-bay building that for decades was anchored by Terminal Drug Store and Star Credit Department Store and still stands today.

Moses Brandon operated an eating house next to the Atlantic Coast Line tracks. His death is reported here.

Austin Neal‘s barber shop was next door at 409 East Nash. The business later moved to the 500 block of Nash Street.

The business at 407 was labeled “cobbler.” The city directory listed Bud Wiley, bootblack, as proprietor.

John G. Corbin‘s pool room rounded out the storefronts. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: street laborer Brazell Winstead, 48; dressmaker Ada, 22; sister-in-law Martha Corben, 31, laborer; and brother-in-law John, 34, farmer. [Braswell Winstead was, in fact, a college-educated teacher turned barber who had been an assistant to postmaster Samuel Vick. It seems unlikely that Martha Corbin was a laborer or John a farmer.]

The house at 401 East Nash was occupied by white millhand J. Frank Johnson.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 2: South Spring (now Douglas) Street.

Page 3, Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1913.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century.

Above, the west side of the 400 block of South Spring [now Douglas] Street, showing a heavy concentration of small restaurants and groceries. This stretch bordered the American Tobacco (later Liggett & Meyers) tobacco warehouse to the rear and was a block away from Smith’s warehouse, Watson warehouse, Export Leaf warehouse, a larger American Tobacco warehouse, and the Norfolk & Southern cotton loading platform, and these businesses no doubt targeted the swarms of warehouse workers. 

Meet Virginia native Jacob Tucker here; Neverson Green here and here; and Nannie Best here

Agnes Taylor does not appear in Wilson census records, but her full entry in the 1912 city directory shows that she lived at 418 South Spring, just a few lots down from her eating house.

All these buildings have been demolished. 

Black businesses, 1908, no. 1: South Goldsboro and East Nash Streets.

Page 4, Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C. (1908).

Cross-referencing the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1908 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Above, the intersection of South Goldsboro and East Nash Streets.

Moses Brandon operated an eating house at 127 South Goldsboro Street. (Within a few years, he moved to 411 East Nash Street.)

John H. Aiken and Braswell R. Winstead ran livery stables at 125 and 129 South Goldsboro. The map does not make clear how the space was divided between the two. Aiken was a long-time stablekeeper, but Winstead is a surprise. He was a teacher, then an assistant postmaster to Samuel H. Vick, then a barber.

Short W. Barnes was a carpenter by trade, and his ownership of a South Goldsboro Street barbershop is a surprise.

Annie Best‘s eating house at 121 South Goldsboro was just a few blocks from her home at 313 South Spring. 

Physician Frank S. Hargrave founded Ideal Pharmacy and brought in D’Arcey C. Yancey to staff it. Yancey took over as sole proprietor around 1910. 

Wilson Times, 11 November 1910.

Tate & Hines Barbershop, a partnership of Noah J. Tate and Walter S. Hines, operated in a storefront underneath the New Briggs Hotel at 213 East Nash Street. (The hotel’s footprint is now the site of the new Wilson Arts Center.) The business began as Paragon Shaving Parlor in 1903 with a third partner, Joshua Tabron. See here a note for Tate & Hines’ purchase of a new cash register in 1910.

A barber pole is visible curbside in this postcard depicting New Briggs Hotel circa 1900. Tate & Hines occupied the first storefront on the left.

In the interior of the block, circled in red, a narrow freestanding rectangle of a building labeled “servants.” There were few white servants in Wilson in this era, so the reference is surely to African-American workers, but whose servants? What kind of servants? And what did they do in this space?

Postcard image courtesy of Penny Postcard Archives, a USGenWeb Archives site.