Samuel H. Vick

911 Mercer Street.

This house is not within the bounds of East Wilson Historic District. However, the blocks of Mercer Street southwest of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad lines have been an African-American residential area since the early twentieth century.

As a result of infill building, this house appears to have been numbered 111, then 909, then 909 1/2, then 911 Mercer. Now heavily modified from its original appearance, 911 Mercer Street was held by the family of John H. and Cornelia Barnes Tillery for nearly 90 years.

On 27 December 1915, John Tillery paid Samuel H. and Annie M. Vick $300 for Lot No. 22 Mercer Street, as shown on the plat map of Winona suburb.

Deed book 102, page 567, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 111 Mercer, owned free and clear, John Tillery, 47, office janitor; wife Cornelia, 35; and children Ernest, 13, Ashley, 8, Jessie, 12, Raymond, 6, Adelia, 4, and Lanford, 1.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) lab h Mercer nr N S R R

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) lab h 909 Mercer

Detail of Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., page 33, 1922.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) emp city h 909 Mercer. Also, Tillery Ernest (c) farmer h 909 Mercer

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c; Cornelia) farmer h 909 Mercer. Also, Tillery Ernest (c) farmer h 909 Mercer, and Tillery Raymond (c) lab 909 Mercer

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 909 Mercer, owned and valued at $1500, John Tillery, 51, farmer; wife Conielia, 45; and children Jessie, 20, family cook, Ashley L., 18, truck farm helper, Raymond, 16, truck farm helper, Adelia, 14, house maid, Johny L., 11, Elnora, 7, and Clyde, 5. 

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John H (c; Cornelia) lab 909 1/2 Mercer. Also listed at 909 1/2 Mercer: Adelia, cook; Ashley L., laborer; Jessie, cook; and Raymond Tillery, laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 911 Mercer, owned and valued at $1200, John H. Tillery, 66, “hires out and plows”; wife Cornelia, 56, redrying plant stemmer; children Nelora, 17, and Clyde Tillery, 15, “cleans up yards,” and Jessie Williams, 30, cleans and cooks in private home; and granddaughters Alice Rosabelle, 4, and Barbara Anna, 2.

In 1940, Clyde Tillery registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 16 October 1926 in Wilson; lived at 911 Mercer Street; his contact was father John Tillery; and he was unemployed.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery Cornelia (c; 2) h 911 Mercer

Wilson Daily Times, 23 November 1945. 

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c; 2) h 911 Mercer

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 911 Mercer, John H. Tillery, 68; wife Cornelia, 62, plows gardens at private homes; daughter Jesse B. Williams, 41; and granddaughter Magnolia Williams, 7.

John Tillery died 8 October 1960 at Barnes Rest Home, 626 East Vance Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 December 1883 in Halifax County, N.C., to Benjamin and Cherry Tillery; was married to Carnelia B. Tillery; and worked as a city employee. Ashley Tillery, Williamston, N.C., was informant.

Cornelia Barnes Tillery died 6 June 1964 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 80 years old; was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Aaron Barnes and Pennina [maiden name unknown]; was widowed; and lived at 911 Mercer Street. Ashley Tillery was informant.

In March 1973, Wilson City Council ordered the demolition of the dwelling at 911 Mercer Street. May 1983, the Wilson building inspector’s office issued Ashley Tiller a permit to demolish a single family dwelling at 911 Mercer. However, when Clyde Tillery died in May 1997, his obituary noted his address as 911 Mercer. 

In October 2004, 911 Mercer Street was listed for foreclosure sale. Details of the notice reveal that the Tillery heirs had mortgaged the property to a real estate company in 1986 and had defaulted on the loan.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2022.

George H. White: Searching for Freedom.

George H. White: Searching for Freedom airs on PBS NC June 16, 2022, at 9:30 PM. Samuel H. Vick was a political ally and close friend of White, and Vick’s legacy can only be understood in the context of White’s impact on late 19th century North Carolina politics. “Explore the enduring legacy of one of the most significant African American leaders of the Reconstruction Era. Born in 1852 in Eastern North Carolina to a family of turpentine farmers, White rose through the ranks of state politics to serve in the 55th US Congress from 1887 to 1901 as its sole Black voice.”

See a trailer here.

Sam and Annie Vick and the development of East Green Street, pt. 1.

As we saw here, Samuel and Annie Washington Vick owned scores of rental properties in east and south Wilson. Sam Vick also subdivided tracts of land to sell to developers and individuals wishing to build homes, such as here and here.

Perhaps the pinnacle of the Vicks’ real estate achievement was the establishment of early twentieth-century Black Wilson’s premier residential street, the 600 and 700 blocks of East Green. The Vicks were not the first buyers on the block, but over the course of a decade or so, sold lot after lot to their middle-class friends and relatives.

Deed Book 50, page 73, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

  • On 1 August 1893, for $100, the Vicks sold Charles Thomas a one-quarter acre lot on Green Street next to John Blount. The deed was registered 16 June 1894 in Deed Book 36, page 219. [There were two Charles Thomases on East Green Street in the early 1900s; this one was a long-time pressman for P.D. Gold Publishing Company. His house still stands at 619 East Green Street. John Blount sold his Green Street property (perhaps to Samuel Vick, who in turn sold it to Walter S. Hines, I need to check) and built around the corner at what is now 305 North Pender Street.]
  • On 1 August 1893, for $100, the Vicks sold F.M. Davis a lot next to Charles Thomas. The deed was registered 28 March 1896 in Deed Book 41, page 433. [Baptist minister Fred M. Davis’ house was at 621 East Green Street.]
  • On 1 January 1894, for $100, the Vicks sold Wright Barnes, Spencer Strickland, and Jackson Barnes, the trustees of the Primitive Baptist Church, Colored, a lot at the corner of Ella [Elba] Street and “the eastern extension of Green Street.” The deed was registered 16 June 1894 in Deed Book 36, page 219. [The former Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church was at 627 East Green Street.]
  • On 1 June 1894, for $100, the Vicks sold David Barnes a lot on Green Street adjoining Della Hines and Charles Powell. The deed was registered 19 December 1899 in Deed Book 53, page 362. [Della Hines purchased her lot on 1 January 1894 from George D. Green, recorded at Deed Book 35, page 437. Della Hines and David Barnes married 15 April 1894 at “the bride’s home,” which presumably was the house she built at 615 East Green. This house was demolished circa 1910, and she sold the lot in 1915 to her son William Hines. David and Della Hines Barnes built an imposing house at 613 East Green Street.]
  • On 4 September 1895, for $100, the Vicks sold Neverson Green a 10,500 square-foot lot on Green Street next to Alice Jeffreys. The deed was registered the same day in Deed Book 39, page 127. [By 1910, carpenter-turned-grocery merchant Neverson Green and his family lived at 502 South Lodge Street, nearer his Spring Street store. I have not identified Alice Jeffreys or the exact location of this lot.]
  • On 3 January 1898, for $180, the Vicks sold Sarah Clark a lot on Green Street bordering Jonah Williams and Millie Bryant. The deed was registered 9 January 1899 in Deed Book 50, page 474. [Though Sarah Hill Clark and her husband Rhoden Clark, natives of Scotland Neck, Halifax County, North Carolina, were married at the time, Sarah Clark bought this lot in her name only. Rhoden Clark died 1900-1910. The house was at what is now 606 East Green Street. Millie Bryant’s house was at 608 East Green Street.]
  • On 26 March 1898, for $100, the Vicks sold Samuel Gay a lot on Green Street adjoining the lands of F.M. Davis and Samuel Vick. The deed was registered 11 August 1898 in Deed Book 50, page 73. (See image above.) [This is the lot at what is now 623 East Green Street. Samuel Gay built a one-story house here that his son Albert Gay Sr. expanded to the two-story house that still stands. Another son, Charles Gay, built a house circa 1913 at 625 East Green.]
  • On 12 December 1898, for $100, the Vicks sold J.M. Artis a lot on Green Street adjoining Robert Breeze. The deed was registered 21 February 1899 in Deed Book 51, page 117. [I have not identified J.M. Artis or Robert Breeze or the location of this lot with certainty.]

Vick presents a notice to the Republican convention.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 June 1920.

The Republican Party’s 1920 convention in Chicago nominated Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge for president and vice-president. Samuel H. Vick, long active in Republican politics and well-known from the battles over his appointment as Wilson’s postmaster, formerly registered his protest against North Carolina’s exclusion of African-Americans from its deliberations.