1400 Carolina Street.

The one hundred-thirteenth 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, this house is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; shotgun with hip-roofed porch and bungalow type posts; includes side hall; built for owner-occupant.” [I am not sure why this house is described as a shotgun, a form that by definition has no interior halls.]

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Patterson Wm (c; Bertha) housemn h 1400 Carolina

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1400 Carolina Street, owned and valued at $1000, butler Willie Patterson, 28; wife Bertha, 26; children Willie, 6, and William, 3; sister-in-law Bessie Langston, 15; and brother-in-law Thomas Langston, 15. [The Pattersons and Langstons appear in the 1940 federal census in Washington, D.C.]

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Delaney George (c; Marie) brklayer h1400 Carolina. Edward, Louis and William Delaney are also listed as residing at 1400 Carolina.



1400 Carolina Street holds great personal significance for me. In early 1965, my parents and I moved into 1401 Carolina Street, a small 1950’s era brick house rented from Henderson Cooke. Kenneth and Nina Darden Speight were living just across the street in 1400. (By then, Marie Delaney and family lived in 1402, a house George Delaney built for his family.) Off and on, until I was about three years old, Mrs. Speight provided daycare for me and my cousin. (She “kept” us, in the parlance of the day.) My earliest memory is being carried to 1400 early on a chilly morning, swaddled in a red blanket. Other memories of my days there come in snatches: a blue cardboard canister of Morton salt on a sunny kitchen table; an old-fashioned steam iron; Mr. Kenny’s aftershave bottles on a dresser; a Maxwell House snuff can; naps in the darkened back bedroom; snapdragons blooming at the edge of the flagstone walkway. Though I haven’t been inside this house in 45 years, I can still walk you through its layout with some precision. Come through the front door into a hallway. To your left, a door into a bedroom/sitting room. Ahead to the right, the bathroom addition visible at the edge of the photo above. Straight ahead, the back bedroom occupied by the Speights’ teenaged grandson, who was often pressed into ferrying me back and forth across the street. At the far end of the front room, a sort of walk-through closet — I recall a bag of wooden blocks kept there on a shelf — led into the only space about which I’m fuzzy. I’ll call it the middle room. It opened into the kitchen which, because its windows faced east, was bright in early morning. Was there a tiny screened porch off the back of the kitchen? I’m not sure, but the backyard — now grass and concrete — was crowded with delicious hog plum trees. At 1400 Carolina Street, Mrs. Speight and Mr. Kenny helped weave the cocoon of security in which I spent my earliest years in East Wilson, and I pay them tribute.

Me in front of 1400 Carolina Street in the spring of 1966.

Photo of house by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

Killed in sawmill.

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Fayetteville Observer, 26 October 1921.

Bob Speight was also known as Bob Hill. A Greene County native, he was 17 years old at his death.

Perhaps due to confusion created by his use of alternate surnames, Robert Hill, alias Speight, has two death certificates. Bob Hill’s document notes that an epileptic seizure contributed to the saw mill accident that killed him. Odie Speight acted as informant and undertaker, and W.B. Wooten signed the certificate at filing.

Robert Speight’s certificate does not mention an underlying medical event. Jessie Speight was informant, and, curiously, C.H. Darden & Son signed as undertaker. There is no registrar’s signature.

First Lieutenant Ruth C. Speight Russell, Tuskegee Army Nurse.

In the spring of 1942, seventeen African-American registered nurses reported to the station hospital at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama to provide care for the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Ruth C. Speight, born in Wilson County, reared in Greene County, and educated at Saint Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, was among them.

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Undated issue of Pittsburgh Courier, probably early 1942.

This bio of Ruth C. Speight appears in the website of the Tuskegee Army Nurses Project:

Captioned “Nurses Abbie Voorhies (Ross), Ruth Speight, Della Rainey (in cockpit) and Mencie Trotter during their flight orientation, a special part of their important duties at Tuskegee Army Air Field. U.S. Air Force Museum,” this photograph appears in Charlie and Ann Cooper’s Tuskegee’s Heroes (1996).

Pittsburgh Courier, 8 July 1944.

Ruth Speight Russell died 14 December 2016 in Albany, New York, at the age of 98. This simple obituary gives no hint of her extraordinary life.


Smith’s and Brown’s filling stations.

By the late 1920s, automobiles were common on Wilson County roads, and “filling stations” and garages began to cluster on roads leading out of town. The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory includes these three owned by African-Americans:

Annie Smith was listed as the proprietor of Smith’s Filling Station, located on East Nash beyond the city limits, in the 1925 city directory. (There was no listing for the business in 1922.) It seems, then, that she sold the gas station to Columbus E. Artis (who otherwise ran an undertaking business) and the garage to Alex Obey [Obery] shortly before 1928.

Similarly, in 1925, the owner of Brown’s Filling Station, at the corner of East Nash and Wainwright, was contractor/stonemason Nestus Freeman, who lived a few houses down Nash Street. It is not clear who “Brown” was, but Albert Speight elected to retain the name when he purchased the business from Freeman.

700 East Green Street.

The forty-second 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 East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1908. 1 story. Hargrave-Sanders house; L-plan cottage with traces of original Victorian millwork in the cutaway front-facing bay; possibly first occupied by Dr. [Frank S.] Hargrave; later occupant was Dr. Otto Sanders, minister of Primitive Baptist Church [sic; Sanders was a Presbyterian minister].”

This house was occupied until just a few months ago by a Sanders descendant, who was forced out by a fire.

The 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson shows the original house number — 629.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: medical doctor Frank Hargrave, 32; wife Bessie, 23; and boarder Lena Harris, 26, insurance bookkeeper.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 629 Green Street, renting, widow Rebeca Speight, 40; daughters Eva, 23, school teacher, Bessie, 13, Addie, 11, Rubie, 9, and Ineese, 7; and roomer Hossie Arrington, 21, wagon factory laborer.

In the 1930 edition of Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists 700 East Green as vacant, and it does not appear in the 1930 census.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 700 East Green, renting for $20/month, Rev. O.E. Sanders, 48, wife Annie, 30, teacher; and sons Charles, 6, and Otto, 14.

Annie G. Sanders died 17 September 1964 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 March 1907 in Moore County, North Carolina, to Sidney D. Goins and Rosa McCray; was married to Rev. O.E. Sanders; was a teacher; and resided at 700 East Green Street.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2017.

Killed in sawmill.

Fayville Obs 10 26 1921

Fayetteville Observer, 26 October 1921.

Probably, in the 1920 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Moyetown Road, tenant farmer Elijah Ward, 34; his sister Florance, 26; farm laborer Hillery Wootten, 26, servant; farm laborer Robert Speight, 35, servant; his brother James Ward, 19, and sister Sarah Ward, 16.

Oh, Lordy.

Wilson County, State of North Carolina.

Pearsonal appeared before me this the 5 day of Nov 1904 Sheriff W.D.P. Sharp who maketh oath that Geo Williford is dead that he hath reason to believe to doth believe that he came to his death by unlawful means.  /s/ W.D.P. Sharp

Sworn to and subscribed before me a Justice of the Peace of Wilson County on the day and date above mentions.  /s/ T.E. Keel J.P.


Mattie Speight, being sworn says: Well yesterday while it was raining I went home and shortly after I got home Albert Battle came in we all were sitting down by the fire and laufing and talking and I came up town and when I went I went back Geo. Williford came up and knocked at the door and when he knocked at the door the front door was shut but my room door was open and I went out. I heard the pistol fire and I went around the house to see what the matter I found Geo Williford on the ground between the door steps and the walling I run after the police I never heard him Geo Williford say any thing except Oh Lordy.  /s/ Mattie Speight

Chas Richerson being duly sworn says: I came up town when I came back to the corner house I heard some one say they were fighting down there and I run p there and ask what was the matter this Albert Battle run by me I heard Geo Williford say O Lord and he turned over. I suppose I was coming from up town when the shooting took place Elvy was setting by the fire when I got there. I smelt powder. Chas. (X) Richerson

Mattie Speight reexamine says: after I went back from up town Albert Battle, Elvy Sutton & another woman were the only ones in the house when I got back from up town. When I got around the house from the garden Albert Battle was on the poarch.

Dennis Brooks being sworn says: I don’t know any thing about the killing about 2 1/2 years ago Geo Williford was in my bar raising sand one Monday morning I ask him what was the matter Albert Battle was there and Geo said he was going to kill a man that morning if any one bothered him Albert told him to come on an have a drink and George told him he had money enough to buy his drinks Albert took me back in the pool room and said that Geo was mad with him and I ask him what about and he said Elvy. Albert said he better not run on him.   /s/ Dennis Brooks

Minnie Hodges being sworn says: I don’t know any thing about except Albert Battle & Elvy Sutton & I were in the house when Geo Williford came there & knocked and asked for Elvy and I opened the door and let him come in and he run to the bed where Elvy was she was sleep then he runned towards Albert he Albert had gone out in the passage and Albert said get back off of me and George kept coming towards Albert and Albert shot him once then Geo went back towards the bed and I run out the front door and run up the street and when I came back Geo was out dores and had fell between steps and walling.  /s/ Minnie Hodges

Elvy Sutton being sworn says: I was asleep and when I waked up Geo was dead Albert called me to get up. George went after Albert with a knife last summer and tried to kill him I have heard George say he was goin to kill Albert if he ever caught him with me.  Elvy X Sutton


State of N.C. Wilson Co.

Be it remembered that on this the 5th day of Nov. 1904, I, Albert Anderson, Coroner of Wilson County attended by a Jury of good & lawful men viz: Sanford Christman, R.J. Grantham, E.F. Killette, W.W. Tomlinson, Frank Winstead, J.D. Barnes, by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly swored and empanelled at the Mayor’s office in the county of fore said did hold an inquest over the dead body of George Williford and after examination in the facts & circumstances of the death of the deceased from a view of the corps and all the testomonal to be procured the said Jury find as follow that is to say that George Williford came to his death from a pistol shot wound inflicted by Albert Battle.          /s/ Sanford Christman, E.F. Killette, R.J. Grantham, W.W. Tomlinson, Frank Winstead, J.D. Barnes

Inquest had and signed and sealed in the presence of Albert Anderson, Coroner of Wilson Co. N.C.


  • George Williford
  • Mattie Speight — possibly the Mattie Speight, 24, who married Elbert Sanders, in Toisnot township on 28 February 1906. Their marriage license shows that Primitive Baptist minister William B. Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Pennina Bottoms of Edgecombe County and Jesse L. Williams and Annie Williams of Wilson County.
  • Albert Battle
  • Charles Richardson
  • Elvy Sutton — presumably, on 3 September 1900, Elvy Sutton, 23, daughter of Isham and Exie Sutton, married Robert Allen, 40, at Primitive Baptist minister P.D. Gold’s office in Wilson. [If so, what happened to Allen between 1900 and 1904?]
  • Dennis Brooks — on 10 January 1898, Dennis Brooks, 31, son of Henry Brooks, married Mary Helms, 24, at Brooks’ residence in Wilson. H.H. Bingham, an A.M.E. Zion minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Lizzie B. Helms, Nannie Bennet, and Rosa Bennett. On the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Georgia-born merchant Dennis Brooks, 35, wife Mary, 27, and daughter Aleordine[?], 8.
  • Minnie Hodges

No. 2738.

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When Aaron Bess opened an account at the Freedmen’s Bank in New Bern, he reported that he had been born and raised in Greene County, resided at the Widow Bess’ in Greene County, and farmed for Heywood Bess. He and Evelina Bess had been married 26 years and had eleven children: Orpheus, Harper, Jane, Mary (deceased), Argent, Cherry, Alice, Nancy, Samuel Lincoln, Hattie and Hope. His parents were Abel Edwards (deceased) and Argent Edwards, who lived in Wilson County, and his siblings were Richard, Margaret, Harriet, Gracie and Justina.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster Cally Speight, wife Margaret, 26, and Ann Speight, 13, a domestic servant. Sharing their household were Abel Edwards, 84, Argen, 72, Jssie(?), 24, a hotel chambermaid, Gracy, 23, a domestic servant, and Ann P. Edwards, 5.

In the 1880 census of Moseley Hall, Lenoir County: laborer Aaron Best, 62, wife Eveline, 48, children Nancy, 18, Harriet, 12, Hopewell, 9, and Mariah, 4, and grandchildren Eugenia, 8, and Frances Joyner, 3.

Freedmen’s Bank Records, 1865-1871 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com

Five daughters, four days.

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Rocky Mount Herald, 1 March 1935.


In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Frank Speight, 50, wife Jeanetta, 30, children Freman, 17, Kenny, 16, Bessie, 14, Polena, 8, Curly, 9, Jennie, 5, and Rozetta, 2, plus nieces Hannah, 5, Ada, 2, and Sadie, 3 months.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga, township, Wilson County: Frank Speight, 58, wife Virginia, 45, and children (grandchildren? nieces/nephews?) Fremond, 25, Cullin, 19, Kennie, 23, Bessie, 22, Paulina, 18, Margerie, 14, Rosa, 12, Sadie, 10, Raymond, 5, Mamie, 5, Flora, 7, May B., 2, Maggie, 21, Hannah, 12, Fannie, 13, Jesse, 18, Adel, 7, and Elizabeth, 6, plus boarder Walter Bymon [Bynum], 45.