Bud King protested when ordered to leave Watson’s Warehouse. K.P. Watson hit him with a barrel stave. King snatched up a brick, but fled when J.S. Farmer intervened. Watson and Farmer shot at King while chasing him, but missed. King went to the police, who charged all three with affray (basically, fighting in public.) A judge split court costs among the three defendants and fined Watson and Farmer five cents. King drew a three-dollar fine, which he could not pay. He went to jail.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: tobacco grader Sam Allen, 50; wife Ellen, 42, “tobacco tying”; and mother Mariar, 70, washer.
On 2 January 1907, Sam Allen, 51, of Wilson, son of Jack Allen and Mariah Clay, married Fannie Sinclair, 23, of Wilson, at the groom’s residence in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister N.D. King performed the ceremony in the presence of Alex Walker, Mahala Harris, and Carrie Pettiford.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: factory laborer Sam Allen, 60; wife Fannie, 20; and lodger Charlie Herring, 50, streets work.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Sam Allen, 63; wife Fannie, 35; daughter Geneva, 27; and son Charlie, 8.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 706 Roberson, owned and valued at $1000, warehouse laborer Sam Allen, 73, and wife Fannie, 37, “agent-srubbery” [sic].
Samuel Allen died 22 December 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 60 years old; was married to Fannie Allen; lived at 706 Roberson; worked as a day laborer at a tobacco warehouse for 30 years; and was born in Oxford, N.C.
Per Keith Barnes’ The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market: A Pictorial History of Tobacco in Wilson, North Carolina, this photograph depicts a tobacco auction at Centre Brick Warehouse in the 1920s. Several African-American farmers or warehouse workers can be seen standing behind the tobacconists who owned and operated the warehouse.
This chapter, offering a wistful comment on the destruction of a vestige of Jim Crow, is excerpted from William B. Clark Jr.’s Some Reflections On and Trivia of Wilson’s Tobacco Auction Warehouses 1890-1980, self-published in 1991:
A LESS THAN OBJECTIVE COMMENTARY?
Whenever local history buffs engage in a discussion involving the BANNER WAREHOUSE’s original segment (built in 1899), surely they concur that this particular construction deserves to be recognized as a Wilson landmark. The presently on-going demolition, therefore, cannot help but elicit at least some cry of protest and disappointment.
Inside the structure’s Kenan and South Tarboro Streets corner area formerly stood a two-unit, public drinking fountain (previously mentioned on page 47), its water cooled by passage through segments of half-inch galvanized pipe arranged in convolution and laid upon the floor of a deep box-like container kept filled with large blocks of ice delivered, when needed, to the warehouse by a local ice company. Vestigial evidence of this archaic fixture is found in the continued, but flaking-off, presence of two words (black in-color-of-paint, capitalized lettering) on the white-washed Kenan Street wall an eye level’s height above the warehouse sales floor; viz., WHITE to the viewer’s right and COLORED on the left … guilt-evoking “artifacts” from a by-gone era of southern culture and history when even water fountains in places so publically wide open — at least during the marketing season — as tobacco auction warehouses were rigidly maintained on a separate-but-equal basis.
Social reformers need not despair; for whatever taboos Civil Rights Legislation has failed to erase inside a commercial building long ago closed to the general public will be vanquished in their entirety once this demolition project has been completed.
If the dismantling of BANNER WAREHOUSE for a moment in brevity causes something of another era to resurface and remind the observer of a prior generation’s quasi-innocent wrongdoing, then the crumbling of these aged walls serves-up a meaning and purpose which reaches far beyond the mere physical activities taking place on this plot of urban soil.
It is more than simply traditions which are being laid to a dusty rest; for “transgressions” are being obliterated in reality even if not expunged from the pages of all our history books; and if nostalgia abounds in the loss of a tobacco auction warehouse long the epitome of this community’s central warehouse district, yet must there rise spontaneously a wholesome candor that applauds the demolition of walls and their lettered, gasping reminders of a “way that was.”
This aerial view of Banner Warehouse, taken perhaps in the 1930s, shows the building’s location at Tarboro and Kenan Streets, at the edge of Wilson’s sprawling central tobacco warehouse district. Photo courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III’s Historic Wilson in Vintage Postcards (2003).