David Morris will never get well.

In June 1911, two articles in the Wilson Daily Times mentioned the plight of David Morris, an African-American painter stricken with tuberculosis. Morris, his wife, and four children were newcomers to Wilson with no apparent relatives in the area, and he was receiving both public and private charity. As a “chronic case,” Morris was “a continuous drain” on resources, and there was discussion of having him moved to the County Home.

The Morrises intrigue me. David Morris was born in Henderson, North Carolina, but met and married Canadian Lillian Hinson in Boston, Massachusetts. Somehow they made their way to Wilson by 1908, where Morris soon fell too ill to work. His death circa late 1911 devastated the family; two children eventually were sent to an orphanage. [More about them soon.] Lillian Hinson remarried in 1919, but died just two years later. Her youngest child, Mabel, was only 6 years old.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 June 1911.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 June 1911.


Elizabeth Sophia Morris was born 22 October 1898 at 2 Wirth Place, Boston, Massachusetts, to David Hinson, painter, of Henderson, N.C., and Lillian Hinson, of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Massachusetts Marriage Records, 1840-1915,

On 23 May 1899, David A. Morris, 24, painter, of Henderson, North Carolina, son of George H. Morris and Lizzie Barnes, 26 1/2 Kendall Street, Boston, married Lillian Hinson, 20, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, daughter of Richard Hinson and Sofia Dornton, seamstress, 2 Wirth Place, in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris David A (c) painter 636 Viola

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Green Street, painter David Morris, 34; wife Lillian, 30; and children Pearle E., 12, Charles, 9, Lillian, 7, and David, 7 months.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Lillian (c) laundress h 122 Smith

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Lillian (c) laundress h 114 N Pettigrew; Morris Pearl (c) dom h 114 N Pettigrew

On 16 August 1919, William Johnson, 26, of Wilson, son of Robert and Ella Johnson, married Lillian Morris, 36, of Wilson, daughter of Richard and Sophia Hinson, in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 108 Smith, William Johnson, 25, born in South Carolina; wife Lillian, 32, born in England; and [his] stepchildren Charles, 17, Lillie, 15, and Mabel, 6.

Lillian Johnson died 6 March 1921 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 38 years old; was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia; was married to William Johnson; and lived on Smith Street.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Pearl (c) cook h 215 Stantonsburg rd

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Morris Lillian (c) elev opr Court House h 22 Ashe

Pearl Morris died 16 October 1936 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to David Morris of Henderson, N.C., and Lillian Hinson of Boston; was single; and lived at 1123 East Nash Street. Mable Phillips was informant.

The greatest event of its kind among Afro-Americans.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 November 1913.

[The land was surely purchased from Dr. Frank S. Hargrave, not W.S., and I intend to figure out exactly where it was.]

[Update, 20 February 2023: actually, per deed, Samuel H. Vick sold the hospital the acreage for $5000 in November 1913. He had purchased it several years earlier.]


The death of young Mary Jane Tate.

“Pulmonary T.B. on way home from sanatorium.”

Sixteen year-old Mary Jane Tate succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis in Fayetteville, North Carolina, while traveling home to Wilson. She had likely been confined to the recently opened African-American wing of the state tuberculosis sanitorium near Quewhiffle, Hoke County, North Carolina, west of Fayetteville. 

Though her gravestone has not yet been found, she is likely buried in the Noah Tate family plot in Odd Fellows cemetery.

Someone to take care of her.

Like hundreds of others, Annie Mae Lewis likely came to Wilson during the Depression to seek work in the tobacco factories. She fell sick though, far from her family, and died in the winter of 1934.

Registrar Kate C. Daniels’ note on Lewis’ death certificate: “This girl came here from S.C. & the welfare dept got this woman at 313 Manchester St to take care of her.”


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?


Wilson Daily Times, 26 May 1919.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 462 Goldsboro Street, lumber mill laborer 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:


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.