Lane Street Project: Bessie Yancey McGowan.

Bessie Wife of John McGowan Born 1888 Jan 7 1925 Gone But Not Forgotten

At right, the headstone of Bessie Yancey McCowan looms amid a haphazard pile of more than a dozen grave markers  in Odd Fellows Cemetery. 


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: ditcher Benjamin Yancy, 50; wife Angeline, 39, washing; daughters Lizzie, 19, Bessie, 18, and Gertrude, 16, all cooking; and son Willie, 16, at school.

John McCowan, 21, of Wilson, son of Sam and Anne McCowan, married Bessie Yancey, 21, of Wilson, daughter of Ben and Angline Yancey, on 5 August 1903 at William McCowan‘s residence. Levi Jones applied for the license, and Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Alonzo Taylor, [illegible] Williams, and Fannie Jones

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: brickmason John McCowan, 27; wife Bessie, 26, laundress; daughter Annie, 5; and father Sandy, 91, widower.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Street, brickmason John McGowan, 40; wife Bessie, 35; and daughter Beatriss, 13.

Bessie McCowan died 31 December 1924 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born April 1884 in Goldsboro, N.C., to Benjamin Yancey and Angaline Houston; was married to John McCowan; and lived at 1203 East Nash Street, Wilson. John McCowan was informant.

Black businesses in the industrial and commercial directory.

Among the businesses highlighted in the Wilson, North Carolina, Industrial & Commercial Directory, published in 1912, were these:

PARAGON SHAVING PARLOR — The establishment is located at 213 East Nash street in Briggs Hotel Block, and it can truthfully be said that it is the most popular Tonsorial parlor in the city of Wilson. It is owned and managed by N.J. Tate and W.S. Hines, both of whom are skilled barbers of long experience. Their genial manner and high class work have won for them the liberal share of the best patronage of the city. Their shop is fully equipped with all the latest appurtenances, and a short visit to this establishment will after passing through their hands, convince you of what the modern, up-to-date barber shops can do to put a man in good humor with himself and the rest of mankind. The shop is equipped with five chairs, each in charge of a professional barber. Go there for your next slave.

JAMES HARDY, SUCCESSOR TO HARDY BROS. — Feed and Livery Stables. This business is located on South Goldsboro street between Nash and Barnes streets and the business has been established for the last four years. The proprietor has succeeded in building up a good patronage. He is very prompt in answering calls and his prices for Livery are very reasonable. Telephone Number 9. Hack and Dray work solicited. The proprietor wants your patronage and guarantees the right sort of treatment. He is a colored man and has the good wishes of all.

  • James Hardy — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: livery stable laborer Jim Hardy, 32; wife Lizzie, 31; sons James, 8, and Lovelace, 6; and boarders Lincoln Sellers, 29, widower and brick yard laborer, and [blank] Batts, 37, water works laborer. James P. Hardy died 20 April 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 April 1879 in Greene County to Petter Hardy and Jane Foreman; was married; lived at 508 Vance Street; and was a livery stable employer. Lizzie Hardy was informant. [Who was the other Hardy Brother?]

C.H. DARDEN & SON — This is the only colored firm of undertakers and funeral directors in Wilson, and has been established by the senior member of the firm, C.H. Darden, for some thirty years. His son C.L. Darden has been a member for twelve years years. This place is located at 615 East Nash street, and every branch of the undertaking and Funeral Director business is executed. The equipment includes two Hearses, as well as all other necessary appliances pertaining to the business. They also handle Bicycles and Fire Arms, Victor Talking Machines, Records, Bicycle Sundries, etc. Special attention given to repairs. Their telephone number is 60 and all calls are promptly answered.

OATES & ARTIS — Family groceries. This firm is located at 601 East Nash Street, with telephone connection 456. The business was established in August 1910 and has steadily increased from the beginning. The stock includes all kinds of Groceries, both staple and fancy, Produce, Teas and Coffee, Tobacco and Cigars and the prices are very reasonable. The members of the firm are Wiley Oates, a native of this county, and who has been residing in the City for two years, and Cain Artis, who is also a native of the county, but who has resided in Wilson for twenty-two years. Both are colored men and they are ably attending to the business.

  • Wiley Oates — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vick Street, dredge boat laborer Wiley Oats, 32; wife Nettie, 28; and daughters Dollena, 8, and Dottie Lee, 13 months. Wily Oates died 23 July 1913 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, she was born 26 September 1879 to Adam and Amanda Oates; was a farmer; and was married.
  • Cain Artis

IDEAL PHARMACY — This is the only colored Drug store in Wilson, and it has been established for about seven years. The proprietors, D.C. Yancy, Ph.G., receiving his degree from the Leonard School of Pharmacy, Shaw University Class of 1905-06, has been connected with the store for the past three years and has been sole proprietor for the past year and a half. He reports that the business is constantly growing and he hopes within a very few years to have one of the largest stores in the City. He personally presses over the prescription department and absolute accuracy is his watchword. His motto is “Not how cheap but how pure.” The general stock includes fresh drugs, patent medicines, Tobacco, Sundries, etc, soda fountain in connection. 109 South Goldsboro street, phone 219.

  • D.C. Yancey — D’Arcey C. Yancey. Dr. Frank S. Hargrave was the pharmacy’s original proprietor.


Mrs. Johnson seeks a pension.

In March 1933, Lula Johnson applied to the North Carolina Confederate Pension Board for a widow’s pension.

Johnson’s application noted that she was 60+ years of age; resided at 608 East Nash Street, Wilson; and her late husband was John Streeter, also known as John Johnson. She did not know when or where Streeter/Johnson enlisted, but claimed he was a member of “Company H, 14 W.S. Colord Heavy Artillery.” The couple had married in 1922, and Streeter/Johnson died in June 1932, three years after he had begun to draw a pension. Arthur N. Darden and Darcey C. Yancey were witnesses to her application, which Yancey stamped as notary public.


Lula Johnson’s application was denied. She was “not eligible” (underscored) for a pension. (To boot, she was “Negro,” underscored four times.) Though the Pension Board did not set forth a reason for denying Johnson’s claim, there is a glaringly obvious one. The 14th Regiment, Colored Heavy Artillery, were United States Army troops, not Confederate. The regiment — comprised of runaway enslaved men and free men of color — was organized in New Bern and Morehead City, North Carolina, in March 1864; primarily served garrison duty in New Bern and other points along the coast; and mustered out in December 1865.


Here is a record of the military service of John Streeter, alias Johnson. He was born in Greene County about 1846 and had enlisted in the Army in New Bern in 1865. Three months later, he was promoted to corporal. John Johnson had served his country honorably, which did not entitle his widow to Confederate benefits.


I did not find any evidence that the Johnsons actually lived in Wilson County. The address Lula Johnson listed as her own was that of C.H. Darden & Sons Funeral Home, the family business at which Arthur Darden worked. Was she (or her husband) related to the Dardens? Census records show John Johnson and his wife Mary in Leflore County, Mississippi, in 1900 and 1910, but Mary Moore Johnson died in Farmville, Pitt County, in 1913.

John Johnson died in Farmville, Pitt County, North Carolina, on 8 June 1932. Per his death certificate, he was about 90 years old; was married to Lula Johnson; had been a preacher; and was born in Greene County to Ned and Manervie Johnson. He was buried in Farmville, and Darden & Sons handled the funeral. (Charles H. Darden was also a Greene County native. )

Act of 1901 Pension Applications, Office of the State Auditor, North Carolina State Archives [online]; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865  [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Maude J. Yancey, M.S., M.P.H.

Maude Josephine Yancey entered Knoxville College in 1938 in the first step toward her long career in health education at North Carolina College [now North Carolina Central University] in Durham, N.C., Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, N.C.


New York Age, 29 April 1944.

Her education included a scholarship to study at University of Michigan.

From July Meeting, 1946, Proceedings of the Board of Regents [of the University of Michigan] (1946).

Excerpt from Maude J. Yancey, “The Establishment of the University Health Service at the University of Michigan,” published in Studies in the History of Higher Education in Michigan, University of Michigan (1950).

American Journal of Public Health (1951).


In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 538 East Nash Street, druggist Darcy C. Yancey, 46, wife Lelia B., 40, and daughter Maude, 9.

The Eagle yearbook, North Carolina College (1952).

Fine tea and program.

Pittsburgh Courier, 8 January 1949.

913 East Green Street.

The fourteenth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East 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 the East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1930; 1 1/2 stories; Darcey Yancey House; bungalow with engaged porch; Yancey was a druggist.”

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Dr. Darcey C. Yancy, proprietor of Ideal Pharmacy, was listed as a boarder at Union Hotel.

Darcey C. Yancey, 28, of Danville, Virginia, son of W.A. and F.S. Yancey, married Lelia Beatrice Ireland, 25, of Guilford County, North Carolina, on 14 September 1910 in Sedalia, North Carolina. One of the witnesses to the ceremony was Charlotte E. Hawkins, later Charlotte Hawkins Brown, who founded what would become Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia in 1902. Lelia Ireland, a graduate of Scotia Seminary, was the first teacher Hawkins Brown hired.

8 24 1917

Wilson Times, 24 August 1917.

Darcy Cecil Yancey registered for the World War I draft in Wilson on 12 September 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 10 February 1883; resided at 547 East Nash Street; worked for himself as a druggist at 546 East Nash; and his nearest relative was Lelia B. Yancey.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: residing at 547 Nash Street, Darcy C. Yancey, 37, manager at drug store, and wife Lelia B., 32.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 538 East Nash Street, druggist Darcy C. Yancey, 46, wife Lelia B., 40, and daughter Maude, 9.

Also in 1930 census of Wilson, the enumerator found four young single women at 913 East Green Street: Minnesota-born Ruth A. Brown, 23, North Carolina-born Annie Wilson, 25, and Lucile Wynn, 22, and Washington, D.C.-born Bessie Davis, 28, all teachers, paying a total of $25/month in rent. The house, in effect, was a teacherage for Wilson Colored High School, which sat right across Carroll Street.

Intersection of Green and Carroll, Sanborn insurance map, 1930.

At some point in the 1930s, the Yanceys purchased 913 East Green and left their rented digs on Nash Street across from the pharmacy. The 1941 Hill’s city directory lists Darcey C. and Lelia B. Yancey’s residence as 913 East Green, and Yancey’s Drug Store at 563 East Nash.

D’arcey Yancey died 12 April 1957 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 February 18983 in Danville, Virginia, to William Alexander Yancey and Florence E. Stewart; resided at 913 East Green Street; and worked as a druggist. Wife Lelia B. Yancey was informant.

Lelia Beatrice Yancey died 4 June 1983 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 May 1889 to unknown parents; was the widow of D’arsey C. Yancey; and was a retired superintendent of elementary schools. She was buried with her husband at Rest Haven cemetery in Wilson.

Photograph taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2017.