tobacco company

The obituary of Edgar Williams.

Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 11.14.38 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 21 January 1949.

——

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Williams Edgar (c) lab h 213 Spruce; Williams Jane (c) lab h 213 Spruce

In 1917, Edgar Williams registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 3 January 1896 in Mount Olive, N.C.; lived at 213 Spruce, Wilson; and worked as a laborer for Wilson Country Club.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 213 Spruce, Jane Williams, 46, and son Edgar, 24, both tobacco factory workers.

On 16 December 1920, Edgar Williams, 24, of Wilson County, son of Jane Williams, married Anna McKoy, 22, of Wilson County. Rev. A.L.E. Weeks performed the ceremony in the presence of F.F. Battle and Annie Weeks of Wilson and Almer Pouncey of Bennettsville, South Carolina.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 511 South Mercer Street, rented at $8/hour, Echo Williams, 33, office boy for “Empriel Tobacco Fac.”; wife Anna, 28; and lodger Ora Sanders, 26.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 511 South Mercer Street, rented for $6/month, Edgar Williams, 44, redrying plant office janitor, and wife Anna, 39, redrying plant “hang.”

Edgar Williams died 18 January 1949 at his home at 511 Mercer Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 June 1896 in Wilson to Jane Spells; was a widower; worked as a tobacco factory day laborer; and was buried at Rountree cemetery. Inez Watson, 113 Pender Street, was informant.

Little Richmond?

In 1895, Richmond Maury Tobacco Company of Danville, Virginia, purchased a site at the south corner of South Railroad and Stemmery (then Taylor) Streets and erected a five-story frame building. (The original building burned in 1920 and was replaced by a three-story building in 1922.) Richmond Maury operated a tobacco stemmery here, a facility in which the stem of a cured tobacco leaf was stripped prior to processing for packing and shipping. In 1896, Maury sold the plant to Tobacco Warehousing Trading Company of Virginia, which retained the Richmond Maury name. The stemmery employed scores of African-Americans, and a 9 January 1896 article in the Wilson Advance asserted that three or four hundred people had shown up at a labor call. The factory needed experienced hands, however, and brought in workers from Virginia to fill its needs. This influx of laborers had to be housed, and in June 1896 the Wilson Daily Times reported approvingly on Richmond Maury’s plans for a mill village called “Little Richmond.”

Wilson_Advance_6_11_1896_work_begun_at_Little_Richmond

Wilson Daily Times, 11 June 1896.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 9.17.50 PM

Sanborn map, Wilson, North Carolina, December 1897.

Over the next four months, the company brought in more than one hundred factory hands by train.

WDT_8_14_1896_Little_Richmond_63_hands

Wilson Daily Times, 14 August 1896.

WDT_10_16_1896_50_negroes_Little_Richmond

Wilson Daily Times, 16 October 1896.

The boosterish mood quickly faded, however. Just two weeks after “a car load of 50 negroes” from Lynchburg arrived, the editor of the Times complained that Little Richmond was already a “young hell” well on its way to ruining Wilson’s reputation: “We stand and wonder at each outrage and think, well perhaps this is the climax — but instead it gets worse.” He attributed a swelling crime rate to the influx of African-Americans drawn by Wilson’s tobacco boom and urged immediate intervention.

WDT_10_30_1896_Little_Richmond_hell

Wilson Daily Times, 30 October 1896.

Richmond Maury got the hint. Blaming the problem on “outsiders” raising ruckuses, it hired a personal prosecutor to make sure that all Little Richmond residents charged with crimes felt the heavy hand of justice.

WA_3_11_1897_attempts_to_control_Little_Richmond

Wilson Advance, 11 March 1897.

Here’s Colonel Bruton in action:

WA_3_11_1897_Spencer_Barnes_Little_Richmond

Wilson Advance, 11 March 1897.

Seven months later, the cutting and shooting continued unchecked.

WDT_10_15_1897_Little_Richmond_shooting

Wilson Daily Times, 15 October 1897.

A month later, the Wilson Advance described “the Little Richmond Negroes” as workers bought from Danville, Lynchburg and other old tobacco centers to work in Wilson’s new stemmeries. The paper had no suggestions for dealing with this “source of annoyance.”

WA_11_11_1897_Little_Richmond_id__039_d

Wilson Advance, 11 November 1897.

Thirteen years later, Little Richmond (and Grabneck, a black neighborhood north of downtown) remained a disagreeable locale to many, as indicated by concerns raised over the possible placement of passenger rail station in the neighborhood.

WDT_6_24_1910_Little_Richmond

Wilson Daily Times, 24 June 1910.

So just where was Little Richmond? (Editor’s note: I’d never heard of it.) Though the landscape is much changed, the basic street grid is not, and the section is not hard to find.

Little Richmond

What’s there now? Not much. The houses of Little Richmond were clustered along Railroad and Stemmery Streets and across the tracks on Layton and Wayne Streets. Few remain, and none on Railroad or Stemmery. (The sole set of cottages left on Stemmery date from a later period.) On-line aerial maps show the factory that replaced Richmond Maury, but they are outdated. The buildings were demolished in 2013.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 10.10.00 PM