Mary Sims jailed for house fires.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 December 1935.

I have no further information about Mary Sims. There were few treatments for mental illness in the 1930s, and even fewer effective ones. Given the danger her alleged actions posed, it is possible that she was sent to the Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum in Goldsboro (later known as Cherry Hospital), the state’s only psychiatric facility for African-Americans. 

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.



The obituary of Mary Thorpe of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Indianapolis News, 6 November 1956.


Mary L. Sims married Henry Thorpe on 4 October 1893 in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Journal, 5 October 1893.

In the 1900 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: day laborer Henry Thorpe, 33; wife Mary, 30; and children Eugene, 6, Nellie, 4, and Henry Jr., 1; all born in North Carolina.

In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 2601 Baltimore Avenue, street laborer Henry Thorpe, 43; wife Mary, 40; children Eugene, 16, Nellie, 14, Henry, 10, Elvia, 8, and Robert, 6; and niece Blanch Sims, 15. All the children were described as Indiana-born.

John Henry Thorpe died 6 June 1912 at 2557 Caroline, Indianapolis. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 June 1871 in Indiana to Robert Thorpe and Francis Bunn of North Carolina; was a laborer; and was married to Mary L. Thorpe. [In fact, he was born in Nash County, N.C., and migrated with his family to Putnam County, Indiana, before 1880, and then to Indianapolis.]

John Henry Thorpe died 17 January 1927 at City Hospital, Indianapolis. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 August 1898 in Indianapolis to John Henry Thorpe and Mary Sims, both of North Carolina and worked as a laborer.

In the 1930 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 2557 Caroline, owned and valued at $1800, widow Mary L. Thorpe, 70; son Eugene, 46, private chauffeur; daughter-in-law Anna, 45; and granddaughter Alma L., 13.

In the 1940 census of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana: at 2557 Caroline, widow Mary L. Thorpe, 60; son Eugene, 36; daughter-in-law Anna, 34; and granddaughter Alma L., 3.

Mary Thorpe died 4 November 1945 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her death certificate, as digitized, is largely illegible.

Knight falls from truck and is killed.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 March 1935.

  • Boy Knight — “Boy” was, in fact, named Efird Knight. Per his death certificate, he was 27 years old; was born in Wilson to Eddie Knight and Minerva Ellis; was single; and worked as a common laborer. Minerva Gray of Wilson was informant. He died 15 March 1935, and his cause of death was: “Accidental fell of truck killing him instantly.”
  • Dock Sims

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

515 East Walnut Street.

This large bungalow, heavily modified from its original form, is not located within the East Wilson Historic District. Seated on the north side of East Walnut Street, it is now surrounded by Whitfield Homes, a 1960s-era urban renewal project that obliterated several blocks immediately west of the Seaboard railroad and south of downtown. (Specifically, it is south of the former tobacco warehouse district, from which it is cut off by Hines Street Connector/Carl Renfro Bridge, a 1970s overpass project that wiped out additional streets to bypass Nash Street and link east and west Wilson.) The house is owned by the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith and is part of a compound that includes the church and the delectable Whole Truth Lunchroom.

East Walnut Street (circled), as shown in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map.

The area today, per

West Walnut Street was pulled relatively late into the confines of Wilson’s max segregated residential pattern, and the point at which the street “turned” is easily detected.

The 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists carpenter Cullen Uzzell at 515 East Walnut. He was white. A comparison of the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map and the directory reveals that the 500 blocks of Walnut and its adjacent street, Spruce, were white, with little exception.

The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists John and Mary Winstead at 515 East Walnut. They were white as well.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 515 East Walnut, rented for $9/month, house painter Elisha F. Lane, 43, wife Lena, 43, and daughter Nellie, 13. The 1930 city directory also lists E. Franklin Lane at 515 East Walnut. The street-by-street listing at the back of the directory reveals that East Walnut was solidly “colored” from Goldsboro Street east across Spring [Douglas] and Lodge Streets to #505. The next house, 509 (across a vacant lot, as a Sanborn map shows), is occupied by a white family, and white families fill the street’s remaining blocks to a dead end at Factory Street. [Lane died in Wilson in 1948. Per his death certificate, he had lived at his Nash Street address for 15 years, which means he left Walnut Street in or before 1933.]

During the latter half of the Great Depression, the 500 blocks of East Walnut and East Spruce shifted to an all-African-American neighborhood of renters.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists: Sims Cary (c; Delia; 2) h 515 E Walnut. As the directory reveals, white residents remained only in the last three houses on the street, hard by the railroad.

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1941 city directory.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map showing cluster of African-American-occupied houses east of Lodge Street in an otherwise white area. 515 East Walnut is shown at the bottom edge of the map.

Photograph taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2018.