street

The streets of East Wilson, part 2.

Many of East Wilson’s streets were laid out on parcels of land owned by African-Americans and still bear the names they chose.

  • Suggs and Moore Streets

G. Washington Suggs — and later his children, especially Daniel C. Suggs — owned large parcels of land south of present-day Hines Street as early as 1870. Suggs Street is named for the family. Moore Street is likely named for Serena Suggs Moore or her husband Edward Moore. Edward Moore was an early principal of Wilson Academy, the private school that educated African-American children in the decades after Emancipation.

  • Blount Street

Calvin Blount owned land adjacent to Washington Suggs and purchased his property even earlier than Suggs did.

  • Cemetery Street

In 1870, Washington Suggs purchased a lot adjacent to “the grave yard lot” and the African church, south of downtown between the railroad and what is now Pender Street. In the 1890s, the town of Wilson formally established a public cemetery for African-Americans in this area and called it Oakdale. The cemetery was active until the 1920s, though decreasingly so after Vick Cemetery was established in 1913 further from the center of town. In 1941, Wilson disinterred the graves at Oakdale and reburied them in Rest Haven Cemetery. Per Wilson’s Cemetery Commission, no records exist of the names of those whose remains were moved.

The streets of East Wilson, part 1.

Many of East Wilson’s streets were laid out on parcels of land owned by African-Americans and still bear the names they chose.

  • Vick Street

Samuel H. Vick built his Queen Anne mansion on Green Street, but developed the neighborhood around it. He named several streets for his daughters, others for family friends and his personal hero, Booker T. Washington.

  • Elba Street

Vick named this three-block street after his eldest daughter Elba Louise Vick, born in 1893.

  • Viola and Reid Streets

Viola Street was named for Viola Leroy Vick, who was born in 1894 and died as a toddler. Reid Street was named for either (or both) veterinarian Elijah L. Vick or J.D. Reid, school principal and banker.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

The Singletary subdivision.

This undated plat map shows lots 2 and 3 of the subdivision of the “Singletary Land,” laid out in 14 blocks divided into 176 roughly 50′ wide lots.

The streetscape is easily recognizable to the modern viewer. There have been some moderate changes in the layout — Freeman Street no longer intersects Nash (which is a street now, not a road) and nor does Wainwright.  The original course of Wainwright, which is a street now, not an avenue, essentially lies under present-day Hines Street. Bardin Street is Rountree Street, and Mewbern morphed into New Bern Street.

Plat book 1, pages 482-483, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse; aerial image courtesy of Google Maps.

Lost neighborhoods, no. 2.

“The Atlantic Coastline Railroad tracks separated a black and a white world almost. And then there was Hines Street that wasn’t a connector in those days, but just a street. And there was Daniel Hill, where colored people lived. Then there were six houses between Lee and Gold Streets close to the city lot where black people lived. And Mercer Street in Five Points was all black. There were two ice companies near the railroad tracks and one area was called ‘Happy Hills’ where a few blacks lived. ‘Green Hill’ near the other ice company was a white neighborhood. Except for the above-mentioned, I don’t know of one black family that lived beyond the tracks. But I’m not saying there might not have been a few isolated cases. But Daniel Hill was where 99 percent of the black population lived anywhere on the west side of Wilson.” — Roy Taylor, My City, My Home (1991).

The 1930 edition of Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory reflects the full flower of segregated Wilson, with street after street east of the railroad occupied entirely by African-American households in patterns still easily recognized today. However, here and there clusters of houses appear at unfamiliar locations, either because the streets themselves have disappeared or because we have lost collective memory of these blocks as black neighborhoods.

Here are a few more:

  • Banks Alley

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I’ve been unable to locate this street.

  • West Lee Street

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An earlier post explored the small African-American settlement that coalesced around Lee and Pine Streets by the turn of the twentieth century. By 1930, this community had contracted to three small duplexes on Lee Street and half-a-dozen around the corner on Pine.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 202 Lee Street, paying $16/month rent, Willie Walter, 21, odd jobs laborer; wife Lulu, 15, servant; and roomer Novella Townsend, 25, laundress. Also [in the other half of the duplex], paying $16/month, cook Mamie Nord, 47, and her son Rufus J., 21, odd jobs laborer. At 204 Lee Street, paying $16/month: laundress Lizzie Larry, 49; Maude Lofty, 100; Lizzie’s daughter Anabel Larry, 28, and her sons John H., 12, and M.C., 13. Also, paying $16/month, Jasper Thigpen, 47, transfer truck driver; wife Dora, 33; and daughter Allie, 16.

  • North Pine Street

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Pine Street, paying $10/month rent, Adele Matthews, 42, laundress, and Sarah McMullen, 23, laundress. Also [in the other half of the duplex], paying $10/month, odd jobs laborer David Sanders, 35, and wife Carry, 44, laundress. At 407 Pine Street, paying $12/month: servant Ella Pulley, 30. Also, paying $12/month, Egarber Barnes, 24, jail attendant, and wife Nanny, 25, laundress. At 409 Pine Street, paying $12/month, practical nurse Lizzie Bullock, 70; and children Ernest, 43, house painter, Obert, 33, hotel cook, and Gertrude, 35, laundress. Also, paying $12/month, truck gardener Charlie Moye, 29, and Edward Williams, 53, farm laborer. At 411 Pine Street, paying $10/month, greenhouse gardener Windsor Ellis, 41; wife Rachel, 34; and children dry goods store janitor Douglas, 20, John H., 10, and Elaine, 5; and lodger Fred Moye, 26, café cook.

  • South Street

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In 1930, the east and west ends of South Street were largely home to commercial and industrial outfits. The middle block, however, the 300s, housed in uncomfortably close quarters a stone cuttery, a couple of black families, the black Episcopal church, and a notorious whorehouse.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 304 East South Street, high school janitor Joseph Battle, 80; wife Gertrude, 42; and daughter Clara, 22; and five boarders, Earnest Heath, 24, cook; James Pettiford, 36, barber; Robert McNeal, 23, servant; Essie M. Anderson, 18, servant; and Viola McLean, 24, “sick.” At 306 East South: tobacco factory laborer William Barnes, 28; wife Loretta H., 23; and brother Charles Barnes, 22, servant. At 309 East South, widow Mattie H. Paul, no occupation.

Karl Fleming wrote of “veteran madams” Mallie Paul and Betty Powell, who operated Wilson’s “two twenty-dollar whorehouses,” “sexual emporia [that] had operated for at least thirty years [by the late 1940’s] … situated in similar two-story wood houses near each other just behind the tobacco warehouse district.” Though Fleming curled his lip, Roy Taylor fairly gushed about Paul: “One sight that got my attention, along with everyone else’s in the area when it occurred, was the march of Mallie Paul and her girls from their home on South Street, to women’s stores downtown to purchase clothing, cosmetics, and other necessities. And those women were beautiful! … There would be 10 or 12 of them walking leisurely toward the hotel from Douglas Street, then turning on Nash. …”

Most of Wilson’s tobacco warehouses succumbed to arson in the final decade and a half of the last century, and the 300 block of South Street is entirely industrial.

  • Taylor Street and Taylor’s Avenue

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.59 PMNeither exists today.

  • Wiggins Street

This entire street is gone, cleared for the extension of Hines Street over the railroad tracks (via Carl B. Renfro Bridge) to connect with Nash Street a few blocks west of highway 301 as roughly shown below.

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1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson.

Lost neighborhoods, no. 1.

The 1930 edition of Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory reflects the full flower of segregated Wilson, with street after street east of the railroad occupied entirely by African-American households in patterns still easily recognized today. However, here and there clusters of houses appear at unfamiliar locations, either because the streets themselves have disappeared or because we have lost collective memory of these blocks as black neighborhoods.

Here are a few:

  • New Grabneck

Was Grabneck the same as New Grabneck? I’m not sure of the location of either. [Update, 3/13/2018 — No. See here and here.]

  • Pecan Road

Pecan Rd 1930

There is no Pecan Road in Wilson, though there is a Pecan Court off Kincaid Avenue in the approximate neighborhood of Pecan Road.

  • Oil Mill Alley

Oil Mill Alley, oft-cited in Daily Times‘ crime beat columns, lay in the shadow of the fertilizer plant at the edge of the large cotton oil mill complex on Stemmery Street. It no longer exists.

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  •   Parkers Alley

Parkers Alley, then known as Vicks Alley, is clearly shown in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson as a small lane bordered by five small single-family dwellings and two duplexes.

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To my amazement, Parkers Alley, now Parker Lane, still runs southeast from South Douglas Street, as shown in this Google Maps screenshot:

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  • Young’s Alley

Young’s Alley is gone, likely lost to the urban renewal projects that reshaped Daniel Hill in the 1960s. On the 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson, it is labeled Townsend Alley.

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Today, West Spruce no longer intersects South Bruton, and the former Young’s Alley — designated as a red diagonal below — cuts through the middle of a large block bounded by South Bruton, West Hines, Warren and Walnut Streets.

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