volunteer fireman

Lane Street Project: Chief Ben Mincey’s grave.

Here is a closer look at a photograph published in the Wilson Daily Times in February 1989. Ben Mincey Jr. is shown standing at the grave of his father, Benjamin Mincey, renowned as a chief of the Red Hot Hose Company, an all-Black volunteer fire company. Fittingly, Mincey Sr.’s gravemarker is a fire hydrant.

Tragically, that grave is in Odd Fellows cemetery, and today the hydrant is strangled by wisteria vines. 

Marker of the grave of Benjamin Mincey (ca. 1881-1950).

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.


The colored firemen’s convention.

The Red Hot Hose Company of Wilson hosted the 1904 convention and tournament of North Carolina Volunteer Firemen’s Association (Colored). Southern Railway ran this notice of special round-trip rates for firemen and brass bands making the trip from various points across the state.

Screen Shot 2019-08-04 at 6.22.04 PM.png

The Morning Post (Raleigh, N.C.), 28 July 1904.

The end of the Red Hots?

In 1938, the city of Wilson professionalized its firefighting operations, converting the white volunteer department to semi-paid status. The Daily Times originally reported that the black volunteer organization, the Red Hots, would be abolished, but here clarified that, while they were being retired from active service, they would continue to send representatives to competitions and state conventions and would be called upon in emergencies.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 July 1938.


  • Ben Mincey
  • George Coppedge — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason George Coppedge, 34; wife Mittie, 34; and children George Jr., 4, and Elenora, 2.
  • Aaron Best — William Aaron Best died 21 August 1949 at his home at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 September 1900 in Wilson County to Aaron Best and Nannie Best; was a widower; and had been a laborer at Export Tobacco Company. Audrey Best was informant.
  • Ambrose Floyd — in 1942, Ambrose Floyd registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1901 in Lumberton, North Carolina; resided at 1214 East Nash Street; his contact was Clara Smith; and he was employed by Gary Fulghum, 901 Branch Street, United States Post Office.
  • W.J. Howell
  • Henry Sauls — in 1942, Henry Sauls registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 February 1898 in Black Creek; resided at 21 Carolina Street (mailing address 1114 Carolina Street); his contact was Hattie Davis, 19 Carolina Street; and he worked for W.T. Clark Jr., 1415 West Nash Street, Barnes Street tobacco factory.
  • Louis Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green Street, carpenter Louis Thomas, 53; wife Lillie, 33; and children Louis Jr., 16, Charlie H., 14, and Van Jewel, 12.

The Red Hot Hose Company.


Wilson Mirror, 30 November 1887.


Wilson Advance, 1 December 1887.


Wilson Advance, 14 September 1893.


Wilson Advance, 22 February 1894.

Wilson_Advance_5_10_1894 (1)

Wilson Advance, 10 May 1894.


Wilson Advance, 11 April 1895.

WDT_7_31_1896_Red_HOt (1)

Wilson Daily Times, 31 July 1896.


Wilson Advance, 13 August 1896.

Wilson_Advance_1_19_1899_colored_fire_co (1)

Wilson Advance, 19 January 1899.


Wilson Daily Times, 18 August 1899.


The North Carolinian (Raleigh NC), 28 August 1902.


Wilson Daily Times, 7 March 1911.


Wilson Daily Times, 10 December 1918.


Wilson Daily Times, 19 August 1921.


Edmund Poole (1846-?) was living in Wilson by 1882, when he married Adeline Gay. He worked as a teamster.

Greene County native Benjamin Thomas Mincey (1879-1950) was the son of Prince and Mattie Barnes Mincey. The family moved to Wilson when Ben was young, and he married Mattie Barnes there in 1904. When not fighting fires, he worked as a laborer for the city.