tuberculosis

The passing of Old Joe.

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The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 16 March 1920.

It’s hard to know what to say about this racist tribute other than “wow, Charlie Chaplin came to Wilson?”

Joe Mercer was also known as Joseph Battle. In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Battle, 40; wife Rose, 35; and children Joe, 15, Frank, 13, John H., 10, Amie, 8, Mattie, 6, and Lou T., 8 months. Thomas and Rose reported having been married 5 years, and Rose as the mother of one child (presumably, the baby Lou.) [Marriage records show that Tom Battle married Rose Mercer on 23 May 1896 in Wilson County.]

Joe Mercer, 24, married Ida Colley, 22, on 7 December 1908 in Wilson County.

Joe Mercer registered for the World War I draft in Wilson in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born April 1881; lived at 136 Roberson; worked as a janitor. His nearest relative was Rose Battle, and he was described as “rheumatic & apparently paralytic.”

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 613 Robinson Street, bank janitor Joe Mercer, 39, and wife Ida, 40.

Joe Mercer died 11 March 1920 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 37 years old; was married; lived on Roberson Street; was engaged in butler service; and was born in Black Creek to Thomas Battle and Rosa Battle. F.F. Battle was informant.

20 beds for white patients; as many for Negroes.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 August 1941.

This hospital was not Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium (now Longleaf Neuro-Medical Treatment Center), which was under construction when the above facility opened and admitted its first patients in January 1943. It seems a curious duplication of scarce resources to build two TB hospitals essentially simultaneously in one small city.

By the 1970s, the Wilson County Tuberculosis Hospital building at 1808 South Goldsboro Street housed the offices of the Wilson County Cooperative Extension agency. It now houses the Wilson County Senior Activity Center.

Photo courtesy of Wilson County Senior Activity Center Facebook page.

The Health Department is raising a little negro baby?

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Wilson Daily Times, 26 May 1919.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 462 Goldsboro Street, lumber mill laborerĀ Ed Humphrey, 35; wife Mary, 36, laundress; daughters Mattie, 15, and Mittie, 12.

James Edward Humphrey registered for the World War I draft in Wilson on 12 September 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 14 February 1875; resided at 707 Goldsboro; worked as a cooper for Export Leaf Tobacco Company at Goldsboro and Spruce Streets; and his nearest relative was wife Mary Humphrey. He was described as tall and slender with gray eyes and black hair. He signed the card “Ed Humphrey.”

This is likely the death certificate of the baby’s mother:

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Mary Sharp Williams died on 5 March 1919 in Wilson. She was 28 years old, a native of Edgecombe County, and married to Jerry Williams. The certifying doctor speculated that she had died of tuberculosis and noted “specimen was sent to health department but no report followed.” Apparently, her baby was sent to the health department, too.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 South Goldsboro Street, tobacco factory cooper Edd Humphrey, 46; wife Mary, 47; daughter Cortez, 1; and boarder George Cooper, 31, church minister. [Cortez seems to have been the adopted baby.]

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Goldsboro Street, house carpenter Ed Humphrey, 54; wife Mary, 55; daughter Eddie C., 11; grandchildren Eddie R., 14, James M., 11, Alfred R., 9, Mary E., 7, Sally S., 5, and boarder Millie Faggins, 65.