This house is not within the bounds of East Wilson Historic District. However, the blocks of Mercer Street southwest of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad lines have been an African-American residential area since the early twentieth century.
906 Mercer appears in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wilson.
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Outlaw Arthur (c; Mary) fishermn h 906 Mercer
In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Oates Henry (c; Minnie) driver Clark Hdw Co Inc h 906 Mercer
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 906 Mercer, rented for $21/month, Henry Oates, 34, hardware store truck driver; wife Minnie L., 26; and children Willie, 9, Albert L., 8, Fredie, 6, and Bubbie, 2.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 906 Mercer, Lettie Smith, 48, widow, works at stemming machine at redrying plant; her children Harvey, 28, gas station attendant, Mary, 15, Herbert, 13, and Elijah and Elisha, 11; and grandson Donald Ray, 8.
The house is listed as vacant in the 1941 city directory, but in the 1947 directory was occupied by tobacco worker Lena Whitley. (Whitley died in 1965 at her home at 918 Mercer. The informant on her death certificate was Eula King, 906 Mercer.)
The forty-first in a series of posts highlighting buildings inEast Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1940; 2 stories; popular hip-roofed cubic house with bungalow type porch posts; probably built as tenement, which is currently is.”
In the 1930 Wilson, N.C., city directory Ida Whitley, a domestic, and Vernona Whitley, a tobacco worker, are listed at 118 Pender.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 118 Pender Street, widow Ida Whitley, 46, laundress; her children Virginia, 18, and John E. Whitley, 9; and Roland Thompson, 30, a meat market laborer, and wife Mildred, 29.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C. city directory, Frank Woodard is listed at 118 Pender Street.
In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Counsel Whitley, 27; wife Annis, 24; and children Alice Ida, 4, Matha J., 2, and Rosa Ella, 6 months.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Concil Whitley, 42; wife Annis, 37; and children Ida, 14, Jane M., 12, Rosetta, 10, Isaca, 8, Dortha, 6, Council Jr., 4, and Mina, 2, plus widower brother William Haskins, 34.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Council Whitley, 50; wife Annis, 44; and children Ida, 24, Jane, 23, Rosetta, 20, Hezekiah, 18, Dorothy, 16, Council Jr., 14, Mimy, 13, Mandy L., 9, Mary M., 6, and Ruth L., 3, plus widowed mother Mimy Whitley, 70, and lodger John H. Dean, 20.
Rosetta Ellis died 29 March 1949 in Spring Hill township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 October 1910 in Wilson to Council Whitley and Anis Batts; was married; and worked in farming. She was buried in Bethel cemetery. Informant was Eddie Ellis.
“The first cafe owned by a black in Stantonsburg was opened in 1947 and was owned by June Scott Artis and his wife, Ethel. They were assisted in the business by their son Edgar Artis. The white frame building was located at the corner of Macon and Greenwood Avenues. The inside was highlighted by the pot belly stove that was located in the middle of the floor. Soft drinks, hot dogs (5¢), peanuts and other snacks were sold. 1965 marked the closing of the business.
“James and Mary Ham owned the first black beauty shop in Stantonsburg and it was located on North Main Street. Hettie M. Forbes was the first licensed black beautician to operate in Stantonsburg. The shop operated from 1946 to 1956.
“In 1940 Toney Woodard opened the first black-owned grocery store in Stantonsburg. The business operated until Mr. Woodard’s death in 1959.
“Oscar Ellis, Jr., opened a combination barber shop, pool room and cafe on Greenwood Avenue in 1960. The business is still in partial operation with the cafe being operated by Annie Mae Barnes and the barber shop operated by RanThompson.
“The first black-ownwed and operated business in Stantonsburg was probably the blacksmith shop that was owned by John Whitley. The business was opened in 1918 and operated until 1950. It was located in the building owned by William and Walter Artis, which was situated on the south side of Yelverton Street about twenty yards from the railroad track.”
Stantonsburg Historical Society, A History of Stantonsburg (1981).
June Scott and Ethel Becton Artis
In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: Adam Artice, 68, a widowed farmer, with children Louetta, 18, Robert, 16, Columbus, 14, Josephfene, 13, Jun S., 10, Lillie B., 9, Henry B., 6, Annie, 3, Walter, 26, and William Artis, 24.
In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Columbus Artis, 24, grocery storekeeper, with brothers June Scott, 20, and Henry J., 16, box factory laborers,plus two lodgers, John Newsome, 30, and Eliza Diggs, 24 (who were relatives of their brother William’s wife Etta Diggs Artis.) [Clearly, there was an African-American grocer in Stantonsburg well before 1940.]
J.S. Artis married Ethel Becton on 29 January 1912 in Wayne County.
June Scott registered for the World War I draft in Wayne County. He reported that he had been born 23 November 1889 near Eureka, Wayne County and resided on RFD 1, Fremont. He farmed for himself near Eureka and was described as being tall and slender with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his name “June Cott Artis” on 5 June 1917.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg & Wilson Road, farm manager June S. Artis, 30, wife Ethel, 26, and children James, 7, Edgar, 7, Manda Bell, 3, and farm laborer Edgar Exum.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer June S. Artis, 40, wife Ethel P., 34, and children James B., 17, Edgar J., 15, Amanda B., 14, and Gladys L. Artis, 5.
In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer June S. Artis, 50, wife Ethel, 46, and children James Brodie, 25, Edger, 23, and Gladys, 16.
June Scott Artis died 2 June 1973 in Stantonsburg of chronic myocarditis, secondary to chronic nephritis. His death certificate reports that he was married to Ethel Becton and was born 23 November 1895 to Adam Artis and Mandy Aldridge. He was buried 7 June 1973 at Artis Cemetery in Wayne County.
Ethel Becton Artis died 14 October 1994, days after her 102nd birthday.
James and Mary Frances Hamm, Hettie Hamm Forbes
In the 1910 census of Shine township, Greene County: farmer William Ham, 38; wife Jennie, 34; and children Jacob E., 13, Lucy J., 11, Pearl A., 10, William H., 7, Manor, 6, Lindsey, 4, and James L., 1; and mother-in-law Lucy Best, 70.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: farmer William H. Ham, 54; wife Janie, 51; and children Manor, 23, Linsey, 21, James L., 19, Hettie B., 17, and Mary E., 4.
Frank Toney Woodard
In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Isaac Woodard, 32; wife Arner, 26; and children Fannie, 12, Nellie, 10, James, 9, Frank, 6, Isaac, 3, and Sis, 1.
In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Tony Woodard, 25, wife Eliza, 24; son Marcelous, 5; and mother-in-law Easter Davis, 64.
On 12 September 1918, Toney Woodard registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 1 February 1874; resided on R.F.D. 1, Stantonsburg, Greene County; works a tenant farmer; and his nearest relative was Eliza Woodard.
In the 1920 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: on Stantonsburg Road, farmer Tonie Woodard, 45; wife Eliza, 42; sons Johnie, 14, and Frank, 7.
In the 1930 census of Eureka, Nahunta township, Wayne County: Tony Woodard, 60; wife Liza, 45; and sons Johnnie, 21, and Frank, 18.
In the 1940 census of Bull Head township, Greene County: farmer Toney Woodard, 65, and wife Liza, 60.
Toney Woodard, 75, married Hattie Belle Lane, 41, both of Stantonsburg, on 13 October 1954 in Wilson County. Witnesses were James Ham, Mary F. Ham, and James Isler.
Tony Woodard died 17 May 1959 in Stantonsburg, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 February 1879 in Wilson County to Isaac and Arner Woodard; worked as a merchant; and was married to Nettie Woodard. Mr. Heattie Woodard was informant.
Oscar Mathew Ellis Jr.
Per A History of Stantonsburg, Oscar M. Ellis Jr. was born on the J.L. Yelverton farm on 2 May 1913. A truck driver and farmer, Ellis was active in Bethel A.M.E. Zion, the Masonic Lodge, the Elk’s Club, Future Farmers of America, 4-H, the local school board, the county Farm Bureau, and the Agricultural Conservation and Stabilization Service. He worked to “upgrade the black section of town” and as a volunteer with the Stantonsburg Fire Department.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg and Black Creek Road, tenant farmer Oscar Ellis, 34; wife Mammie, 29; and children Oscar M., 6, William H., 4, Estell, 3, A.J., 1, and Charlie, 4 months; plus John, 16, and Mathew Robinson, 14.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: Oscar Ellis, 39; wife Mamie, 39; and children Oscar Jr., 16, William, 14, Estelle, 12, Ejay, 11, Colen, 10, James, 9, Bessie M., 8, Hubert L., 6, Leroy, 2, and Dorothy, 1 month.
On 12 January 1934, Oscar Ellis, 20, of Black Creek, son of Oscar and Mamie Ellis, married Lucille Barnes, 19, of Stantonsburg, daughter of Andrew and Stella Barnes, in Wilson. C.E. [Columbus E.] Artis and Stella Barnes applied for the license.
In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, laborer Oscar Ellis, 26, and wife Lucille, 25.
Oscar M. Ellis Jr. died 5 December 1984.
Annie Mae Barnes
On 26 December 1910, John Whitley, 30, of Wilson County, son of Titus and Ida Whitley, married Mollie Locust, 18, of Wayne County, daughter of Wiley and Amy Locust, near Eureka, Nahunta township, Wayne County.
In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Delaware Street, tenant farmer John Whitley, 37; wife Mollie, 23; and children Artillie, 8, Irene, 5, Madison D., 3, and John W., 7 months.
In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Delaware Line, blacksmith John Whitley, 49; wife Mollie, 25; and children Artillia, 18, Irene, 15, D.H., 13, John W., 10, Mary F., 8, Marjorie, 3, and Clavon, 1 month; and father-in-law Wiley Locus, 70.
In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County: on Delaware Street, odd jobs worker John Whitley, 59; wife Molly, 39; and children Artelia, 22, Irene, 20, Maddison D.H., 19; John Wiley, 17; Mary Frances, 14; and Marjorie, 12. Artelia and Irene were teachers.
[William and Walter Artis, who owned the building in which John Whitley operated a smithy, were brothers of June Scott Artis and Columbus E. Artis. They lived a few miles west of Stantonsburg, across the county line near Eureka, Wayne County.]
Stantonsburg’s black community is centered on a few blocks on the eastern side of the railroad tracks bisecting the town.
The Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions hereby Certify that at October Term A.D. 1865 the Court apprenticed to Mrs Elizabeth Whitley seven children to wit – Drury age 10 years, George 16 years, Easter 14 years Turner 18 yrs Sophia 14 yrs Robert 12 yrs Adelade 16 years of age &c
Given under my hand and seal of office at office the 6th day of April A.D. 1867
B.F. Briggs, Clerk
Stantonsburg N.C. April 6th/67
[illegible] H.G. Norton
Yours of the 2 Int to hand contents noticed you stated that Dick Whitley (col) complains that I keep his sisters children without his consent & refuses to let the same return to him. I have not got the children nor have not had nothing to doe with them at all. My wife had the children bound to her at the time they were bound. We did not know whire Dick Whitley was and think that he had not been in the county for Several months, the children has in the neighbourhood, two uncles & grand mother & none of them has not complained at all in reguard to the children. Dick has not made any application for the children, nor does nothing for the support of his old helpless Mother, We are willing to doe any thing that is legal or right: in regard to them we send now a copy of the indentures, if you desire that I should come down inform me
Very Respectfully /s/ Gray Whitley
Stantonsburg NC, Apr 22nd, 1867
Maj. N.D. Norton
Yours of April 20th is to hand regarding five children who are at present working with my wife. In reply I would State that your letter of April 2nd came duly to hand makeing inquiries about said children, and I wrote to you at one, acknowledgeing the receipt of said letter, but failed to address it to you officially in the envelope and suppose from this cause you have not received it. The children alluded to, are as you have been informed, orphans, having lost both parents. Their mother during her lifetime and while a slave belonged to my wife, and after the close of the war, they having no protector, my wife made application to the county court of Wilson and had them bound to her. In my former reply to your letter of April 2nd I give you a correct statement concerning the children and enclosed also the certificate of the county court clerk of Wilson to the effect that the said children had been bound to my wife, I regret that the letter and certificate have not reached you. If you desire it, I will obtain and forward to you another certificate from the clerk of the county; the children have been brought up by my wife from infancy and have living near them two uncles and two aunts, who seem to be willing that I should retain them, and theas I imagine should have some voice in the matter. They have never raised any objections to my keeping the children, and the children seem to be willing to remain with me. I think that as a majority of the living relatives of the children are willing that they should stay with my wife she having raised them and the children seems to be well contented thus far and I really think that we should be allowed to keep them. Dick has not been seen in this vicinity for 12 months which he has living near us an Old Mother almost helpless he does nothing for her nor seems to care nothing for her so I think if he had the children but little assistance they would get from [illegible] Hopeing to hear from you soon and also hope that the above explanation may be satisfactory I am
Yours truly, Gray Whitley
Farmer Gray Whitley, 55, and wife Bettie appear in the 1870 federal census of Stantonsburg, Wilson County. No black children are listed in their household, nor are any elsewhere with the names listed above.
Mabel E. Roundtree — In the 1920 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: on Old Stantonsburg Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 57, wife Lucile, 47, and children Julius, 24, Julius’ wife Leda, 23, John Henry, 17, Jessie, 16, Mabel, 14, and Ola MayRountree, 10, and Cora Farmer, 19.
New York Age, 12 July 1919.
Mrs. Levy Arrington — In the 1930 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 Reid Street, carpenter Levi Arrington, 38, wife Rosa, 40, daughter Zelma, 16, and lodger Nelly Sharp, 20, a cook. Rosa Arrington died 11 June 1964 in Wilson. Her death certificate reports that she was born in Nash County on 2 May 1887 to Amie Salvage.
Gilda A. Whitley
Mrs. Georgianna Artis — Nathan Artis married George Anna Fort on 8 January 1929 in Wayne County. In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: laborer Nathan Artis, 39, wife Georgiana, 37, and children Bertha Lee, 17, Virginia, 14, and Minnie Louise, 7. Georgianna O. Artis died 14 October 1949 in Stantonsburg. Her death certificate reports that she was born 16 June 1903 in Wayne County to James Ford [Forte] and Mary Coley.