Wilson Blade, 20 November 1897.
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.
906 Mercer appears in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson.
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Outlaw Arthur (c; Mary) fishermn h 906 Mercer
In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Oates Henry (c; Minnie) driver Clark Hdw Co Inc h 906 Mercer
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 906 Mercer, rented for $21/month, Henry Oates, 34, hardware store truck driver; wife Minnie L., 26; and children Willie, 9, Albert L., 8, Fredie, 6, and Bubbie, 2.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 906 Mercer, Lettie Smith, 48, widow, works at stemming machine at redrying plant; her children Harvey, 28, gas station attendant, Mary, 15, Herbert, 13, and Elijah and Elisha, 11; and grandson Donald Ray, 8.
The house is listed as vacant in the 1941 city directory, but in the 1947 directory was occupied by tobacco worker Lena Whitley. (Whitley died in 1965 at her home at 918 Mercer. The informant on her death certificate was Eula King, 906 Mercer.)
Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2021.
Wilson Daily Times, 8 January 1926.
- Rev. Owen L.W. Smith
Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.
Many of East Wilson’s streets were laid out on parcels of land owned by African-Americans and still bear the names they chose.
- Smith Street
Originally called Zion Alley, Smith Street was renamed about 1910, almost certainly in honor of Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, whose historic marker is visible behind the street sign.
- Washington Street
When originally platted, this was Booker T. Washington Avenue. Washington, who had personal ties to Samuel H. Vick and O. Nestus Freeman, famously visited Wilson in 1910.
- Atlantic Street
Similarly, today’s Atlantic Street was originally Atlanta Avenue, most likely in honor of Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise speech of 1895.
- Freeman Street
A fuller story of the aftermath of Daniel Smith‘s death in an electrical accident while working in Brooklyn.
Wilson Daily Times, 23 October 1919.
This poorly maintained cemetery is just outside Wilson County in Wayne County, but many of the dozens buried here were Wilson County residents.
This photo taken in December 2019 depicts a recent rough cut, with sedge broom mowed to the ground and weedy trees chopped and stacked in brush piles. The marked graves include those below.
Polly Watson cemetery under a low winter sun.
- Calvin Sutton
Father Calvin Sutton Born 1858 May 2 1922 Gone But Not Forgotten
On 23 December 1875, Calvin Sutton, 21, married Sylvania Simmons, 22, in Wayne County.
In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Calvin Sutton, 25; wife Silvania, 26; children Hattie, 3, and twins Joel B. and Josephin, 1; mother Dolly, 55; brothers Dallow, 18, and Henry, 16; and sister Mary, 12.
In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer Calvin Sutton, 45; wife Silvania, 49; and children George, 18, Walter, 16, Mary, 13, and Roscoe, 10.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Upper Black Creek Road, farmer Calvin Sutton, 54; wife Sylvania, 58; daughter Hattie Taylor, 33; and grandchildren Olivia, 9, Viola, 7, Lillie M., 5, Georgiana, 4, and Mittie, 2; plus adopted grandson Frank McNeal, 16.
Calvin Sutton died 3 May 1922 in Great Swamp township, Wayne County. Per his death certificate, he was 68 years old; was born in Wayne County to Doll Sutton and T. Dollie Ward; and was born in Polly Watson cemetery. George Sutton was informant.
- Sylvania Sutton
Mother Sylvania Sutton Dec 5 1851 Died 1916 Gone But Not Forgotten
In the 1860 census of Indian Springs district, Wayne County: cooper George Simmons, 40; wife Axey J., 38; and children Riley B., 19, Simon, 15, Susan A., 17, Zach, 10, Silvania, 9, Bryant, 7, H.B., 5, and Gen. Washington, 2.
In the 1870 census of Brogden township, Wayne County: farmer Geo. Simmons, 52; wife Annie, 47; and children George, 24, shoemaking shoes, Zachariah, 22, Silavant, 20, Bryant C., 18, Hillary B., 16, and Washington, 12.
Sylvania Sutton died 4 August 1916 in Springhill township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was about 65 years old; was married; her father was George Simmons; and she was buried in Watson graveyard.
- George Washington Sutton and Mary Artis Sutton
On 17 October 1900, George Sutton, 20, of Springhill township, married Mary Jane Artis, 19, of Wayne County, in Springhill township, Wilson County. L.H. Horton, Walter Sutton, and Mary Sutton were witnesses.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Upper Black Creek Road, farmer George W. Sutton, 29; wife Mary J., 26; and children Walter C., 8, Mamie M., 6; William Mc., 4; and Anderson M., 1.
In the 1920 census of Great Swamp township, Wayne County: farmer George Sutton, 39; wife Mary J., 36; and children Walter, 18, Mamie, 16, McKinley, 14, Anderson, 10, Richard, 6, and Jarvis, 3.
In the 1930 census of Great Swamp township, Wayne County: farmer George Sutton, 49; wife Mary J., 46; and children Mamie, 26, McKenly, 24, Anderson, 21, Richard, 16, Jarvis, 14, Bessie, 8, Chester, 4, and Georgia L., 1.
Mary Jane Sutton died 11 January 1936 in Lucama, Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1884 in Wayne County to Bennie and Doomie Artis; was married to George Sutton; and was buried in Polly Watson cemetery.
On 28 November 1936, George Sutton, 55, of Wilson County, son of Calvin and Sylvania Sutton, married Fannie Morgan, 49, of Great Swamp township, Wayne County, daughter of John and Jane Roundtree, in Wayne County.
In the 1940 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer George Sutton, 58; wife Fannie, 52; children Mamie, 36, Richard, 27, Jarvis, 23, Bessie, 18, Chester, 14, and Georgia, 10; plus father-in-law John Roundtree, 83.
George Washington Sutton died 8 February 1968 in Fremont, Wayne County. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 October 1881; lived on Ward Street, Fremont; was a widower; and was born to Calvin Sutton and Sylvania Simmons. Informant was Mamie Lee Sutton. He was buried in Polly Watson cemetery.
- James Revell
James Revell Born June 1, 1867 Died July 31 1926
James Revell, 22, of Springhill township, son of Sanders and Hannah Revell, married Clarkie Hinnant, 21, of Springhill township, daughter of Em. Boyette and Hannah Hinnant, on 9 May 1890. London Revell applied for the license, and Free Will Baptist minister Nash Hortonperformed the ceremony.
In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer James C. Revell, 30; wife Clarky, 28; and children Nancy, 9, James T., 7, Robert, 5, and Violia, 2.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer James Revel, 40; wife Clorca, 39; and children Nancy, 18, James T., 16, Viola, 11, Lunn, 9, and Jefferson J., 7, and cousin Lessie Barnes, 12.
In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on a branch off the Fremont and Kenly Road, farmer James Revell, 52; wife Clarkie, 50; and children Viola, 20, London, 18, Jefferson, 16, and Manley, 5.
In the 1930 census of Beulah township, Johnston County: farmer James T. Revell, 37; mother Clarkey, 61; sisters Nancy, 39, and Viola, 32; brother Manley, 18; and nephews James L., 5, and William F. Sheard, 1.
James Revell died 16 August 1948 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 September 1909 in Johnston County to James Revell and Clarkie Hinniant; was married to Annie D. Revell; was a truck driver; and was buried in Polly Watson cemetery.
- Dudley E. Smith
Dudley E. Smith Oct. 16 1855 Oct. 15 1947
Douglas Smith married Mittie Speight on 5 February 1885 in Wayne County, North Carolina.
In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: day laborer Dudley Smith, 53; wife Mittie, 32; and children Polly, 13, Moses, 6, and Herbert, 4.
In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: on Main Street, brickyard laborer Dudley Smith, 54; wife Mittie, 33; and children London, 12, David, 7, and Minnie, 4.
In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Dudley Smith, 63; wife Mittie, 48; and children Minnie, 14, and Hastie, 7.
In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Mittie Smith, 51; son Thomas, 19; and father Dudley, 70. [Dudley Smith was Thomas Smith’s father, but Mittie Smith’s husband.]
In the 1940 census of Buck Swamp township, Wayne County: on Pikeville-Nahunta Road, Dudley Edward Smith, 85; wife Mittie, 65; and son Jack, 27; son-in-law Booker T. Sherard, 35, and daughter Minnie, 34; granddaughters Virginia, 15, and Viola Edward, 14; and grandson James Richard Edward, 12.
Dudley Smith died 3 September 1947 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 100 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to unknown parents; was married to Mittie Smith, age 73; was a farmer; and was buried in Polly Watson cemetery. Joe Wells was informant.
- Joseph F. and Pollie S. Wells
Father Mother Wells Joseph F. Sept. 21, 1883 Pollie S. Aug. 6, 1886 June 14, 1964 Thy Will Be Done Oh Heavenly Father
In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: day laborer Jason Wells, 51; wife Arrena, 30; and sons Joseph E., 16, Johnie H., 17, Shelly, 2, and Carlton, 9 months.
Joseph E. Wells, 21, of Cross Roads township, son of Jason Wells, married Polly Smith, 18, of Cross Roads, daughter of Dudley and Mittie Smith, on 31 October 1904 in Lucama. Isaac Rich applied for the license.
In the 1910 census of Lucama, Cross Roads township, Wilson County: on Main Street, Joseph Wells, 25; wife Polly, 20; children Joseph O., 6, and Clyde L., 3; and cousins Lissie, 18, and William A. Deans, 1.
In 1918, Joseph Elijah Wells registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 21 September 1883; lived in Lucama; farmed for W.H. Tomlinson; and his contact was Pollie Wells.
In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Joe Wells, 32; wife Pollie, 28; and Joe Jr., 7, Willie, 5, and Roy, 2.
In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Joseph E. Wells, 47; wife Polly, 41; and son Mack, 20.
In the 1940 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Joe E. Wells, 56; wife Polly, 52; Lessie Best, 28; and farmhand James A. Kent, 10.
Joseph Elijah Wells died 12 October 1866 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 September 1896 in Wilson County to Jason and Lena Wells; was a widower; worked as a farm laborer; lived at 105 South Reid Street, Wilson; and was buried in Polly Watson cemetery. Joseph O. Wells Jr., Buffalo, New York, was informant.
- Cherry Speight
Cherry Speight Born Oct. 24, 1845 Died Nov. 1, 1921 Rest with God
In the 1880 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County, North Carolina: Cherry Speight, 34, and children Manda, 15, Dempsy, 13, Annaky, 10, Nathan, 7, Francis, 5, and Louder, 1.
In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Nathan Speight, 55; wife Cherry, 40; and children Sallie, 14, Charity, 13, and Dread, 6.
In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Nathan Speight, 65; wife Cherry, 63; and children Cherry D., 19, Dred, 17, and Mamy, 3.
Cherry Speight died 1 November 1921 in Cross Roads township, Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was 75 years old; married to Nathan Speight; was born in Greene County to unknown parents; and informant was Frank Hall.
- Junius Banks
Junius Banks July 31, 1884 Jan 24, 1933 I have not forgotten you.
All photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2019.
Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981):
“This house is thought to have been built for Ezekiel Smith between 1845 and 1850. Smith was born in 1812, and the land upon which this house was built probably came from his first wife Ann (surname unknown). According top the 1860 census, Ezekiel was a farmer with $4,000 worth of real property and $15,430 worth of personal property (probably mostly slaves). Smith died in 1866 and according to the division of the land among his heirs, his daughter Penelope, wife of Benjamin W. Taylor, received the house property. The Taylors deed the property to John W. Smith, Ezekiel’s son, in 1869 and the property has remained in the Smith family to this day. The house is handsomely situated in a grove of mature trees on high ground above Contentnea Creek. The main section of the house is two stories high with a one-story rear shed. A shed-roof porch with Doric columns runs the length of the front facade. Typical of many of the Greek Revival houses in Wilson County there are two front doors flanked by nine-over-six windows. Single-shoulder exterior end chimneys are located in the gable ends. A small detached kitchen with an engaged porch has been moved up flush with the rear of the house and is joined by the side porch. On the interior the hall-and-parlor plan and original woodwork have been retained throughout. There are two corresponding smaller rooms in the one-story shed. An enclosed stair ascends from one of the front rooms. The original double vertical-panel Greek Revival style doors are still used on the interior. and simple mid-nineteenth-century mantels are still in place. The window and doors have nicely molded three-part surrounds.”
In the 1860 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County, Ezekiel Smith, 53, and family are listed.
Per the 1860 slave schedule of Black Creek district, Wilson County, Ezekiel Smith reported owning 14 enslaved people — eight men and boys aged 1 to 33, and six women and girls aged 3 to 30.
Pittsburgh Courier, 13 December 1941.
- Mable Smith
- John Dallas McGirt — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Archie McGirt, 52, fertilizer plant laborer; wife Pearl, 47, tobacco factory laborer; son John, 23, fertilizer plant laborer; daughter Lillian Simms, 21, tobacco factory laborer; son Belton [McGirt], 19, delivery boy for grocery store; [grandson] Walter, 5; and son-in-law Allen Simms, 25, cement finisher for contractor. John Dallas McGirt registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 May 1916 in Maxton, N.C.; lived at 1013 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; his contacts as father Archie McGirt, same address; and he worked for Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, Wilson. McGirt died 7 March 1972.
- Ada Barnes
Pittsburgh Courier, 9 October 1943.
- James Smith
- Freddie Smith