Other early deeds filed by African-Americans in Wilson include Peter Rountree's purchase in 1869 of 1/3 acres on the south side of the Greenville Plank Road; Washington Suggs' purchase in 1870 of a large lot near what is now Black Creek Road; Spencer and Catherine Gay's purchase in 1871 of a lot in the same area; and Jerry Washington's purchase of 10 acres in 1873 between Stantonsburg Road and the Wilmington and & Weldon Railroad. A pattern was beginning to emerge for African-American land ownership, as white owners relinquished their property to the east of the railroad and south of Nash Street.
Image: Nash Street Looking East, c. 1910, Courtesy of Wilson County Public Library
Influence of Skilled Tradesmen
Middle-class African-Americans, often skilled tradesmen, increasingly bought lots east of the railroad, including a young Samuel Vick, newly graduated from college in Pennsylvania. His father Daniel Vick had bought land along the Plank Road in the early 1880s.
Julius Freeman and family also lived east of the town center along the Plank Road. Other families bought houses along Pender and Green streets as well-to-do whites on the east side of the railroad began to sell off their property in earnest, shifting their residences to the other side of downtown.
In addition to these settlements, African-Americans also staked out toeholds around Lee and Pine streets, South and Lodge Streets, and in the Grabneck Settlement, on West Nash Street.
Image: Julius Freeman, rear, with a class of brick masonry students at Charles H. Darden High School. Julius Freeman, brother of Oliver Freeman, was the first to teach brick masonry at Darden.
Housing For Laborers
The tobacco industry exploded onto Wilson's economic landscape in the late 1890s and early 1900s. From the beginning, its warehouses, stemmeries, and redrying plants employed mostly African-American laborers. African-American women made up a sizeable percentage of seasonal workers who found employment in Wilson's tobacco factories.
The demand for housing similarly exploded, and African-American neighborhoods began to sprout up all along the outskirts of the city's burgeoning warehouse district. Black and white developers began building rental housing for workers in the form of one and two-room shanties.
Image: Women feeding tobacco bundles into a redrying machine at the James I. Miller Tobacco Company plant on Tarboro Street. Photo courtesy of the archives of the James I. Miller Tobacco Company, reprinted in Keith Barnes’ The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market: A Pictorial History of Tobacco in Wilson, North Carolina (2007).
In March 1913, the Indianapolis Recorder, a nationally focused African-American newspaper, ran a front-page feature on William Hines, a "native of [Wilson] and a forceful character for the intellectual, moral, spiritual, social and economic development of young North Carolinians. Citing Samuel Vick and Biddle University as Hines' influences, the article detailed his entry into the real estate business after establishing a successful barber shop. In just five years, Hines had accumulated 11 houses and "a number of very desirable lots." Hines' real estate investments eventually made him one of the largest builder-owners of rental property in East Wilson.
Image: "Constructed as workman's housing in the late 1920s, these houses were occupied by a driver, a porter, and a cook, among others." As each is described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District: "ca. 1925; 2 stories; William Hines tenant house; two-bay, side-hall dwelling with hip roof; built by Hines for tenants." Wilson, North Carolina: Historic Buildings Survey.
Samuel H. Vick
In 1925, Samuel H. Vick hired a surveyor to lay out several hundred lots on a large tract to be called Vicksburg Manor. Nearly one hundred years later, though several original street names failed to stick, the footprint of of Vicksburg Manor remains largely the same - other than U.S. Highway 301 slashing diagonally across it.
Educator, politician, businessman, real estate developer, church leader - Samuel H. Vick was the most accomplished resident of East Wilson in his lifetime.
Right: A.B. Caldwell, ed., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).
Oliver Nestus Freeman with group building Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Wilson, NC.
The Book and Garden Club
As active in politics as it is, the Men's Civic Club describes itself as "a social organization of men with civic interests." It is still active today.
Walter Hines Barbershop, 208 East Nash Street, circa early 1940s. Image courtesy of Lisa Henderson. Learn more about this image on Black Wide-Awake.
London's Primitive Baptist Church
In the first years of freedom, new black churches sprung up across Wilson County. London Woodard established London's Primitive Baptist Church just north of the town of Wilson in 1866. The church is the oldest documented African-American congregation in Wilson County. Read more about London Woodard on Black Wide-Awake.
Saint John A.M.E. Zion
African Methodist Episcopal Zion missionaries established St. John AME Zion in 1868. It quickly gained prominence and attracted up-and-coming church leaders, including Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, future U.S. counsel to Liberia.
St. John AME Zion erected the grand red-brick building to the left, which still stands today, in 1915.
Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church
In 1872 Rev. Andrew J. Jackson organized the First Missionary Baptist Church. Led for many years by Rev. Fred M. Davis, First Baptist later merged with Jackson Chapel to form East Wilson's largest African-American Baptist congregation.
The cornerstone for Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church was laid by educator and civil rights leader Booker T. Washington during a visit to Wilson in 1910.