Hurricane Hazel in Wilson, 1954

Wilson County Fair after Hurricane Hazel I

Wilson County Fair after Hurricane Hazel (Raines and Cox Photography)

Destroyed Business-Hurricane Hazel-1954 (courtesy of Keith B

Destroyed Business-Hurricane Hazel-1954 (photo by Keith Barnes)

My grandparents had a beach house in Myrtle Beach in the 1950’s and the story in our family was that when they visited the house after Hazel struck every house around it for blocks was leveled but their house still stood for some inexplicable reason.  I thought about that story and about my own experiences with Hurricane Hugo (it put a giant pine tree through our living room in Gastonia, NC and we didn’t have power or school for two weeks) when I looked at these pictures that I found on a DVD in my desk drawer.  Hazel was still a category 3 hurricane when it reached Wilson; it was still a hurricane when it reached Toronto Canada!  Hazel was a powerful and massively destructive storm that lives on in the Carolinas in stories and photographs.


The path of Hurricane Hazel (image from Wikipedia)

See more images at our Flickr Page

Pilot Mountain in the 1930’s


This is a lovely photo of Pilot Mountain in Surry County from the late 1930s.  And I believe that there is tobacco growing in the foreground.  The photo was in Elder SD Denny’s (pastor at Wilson Primitive Baptist Church) scrapbook (see last post).    The next picture is of DP Denny and Inez Edwards on top of Pilot Mountain.  I’m thinking that DP is SB’s son.


The handsome couple on top of Pilot Mountain

Last Confederate Veteran of Wake County Votes for FDR

confederate_veteran_picIn the library attic I found the scrapbook of S.B. Denny, the former pastor of Wilson Primitive Baptist Church.  The scrapbook covers the late thirties an early forties and is mainly concerned with politics and the impending war.  S.B. Denny also had a thriving grave monuments business (there are clippings and pamphlets about it) and from the articles collected it didn’t look like he was too fond of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  But he did include an article about a man voting for President Roosevelt.  This piece was from the November 7, 1940 edition of the Raleigh News and Observer and it was concerned with the last Confederate Veteran of Wake county.  Ninety-seven year old Robert L. Thompson said that he had always voted independently and not for any one party,  and this time he had  voted for  a third term for FDR saying that “ordinarily, I would opposed breaking the third term tradition, but under the circumstances- well, I just think Franklin Roosevelt was raised for the purpose to be president…we need an experienced man.”

Mr. Thompson was wounded twice in the Civil War and credits his survival to being sick with typhoid and in a Tarboro hospital when his regiment took part in the ill-starred Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg.  Likewise he credits his longevity to drinking buttermilk three times a day and eschewing coffee, “I haven’t had a cup of coffee in 70 years.”  He also drinks homemade muscadine wine occasionally and eats a possum dinner once a year.

The venerable Mr. Thomson had been following the election and the war very intensely.  His granddaughter put up a world map in his room and reads him the News and Observer every day.  But his daughter is glad that the election is over because “Now maybe he’ll get some sleep.”  He had been staying up until midnight every night listening to campaign speeches.

Although the election was over, he was still acutely following the war saying,  “Hitler is getting weaker every day.  You will notice that he is dickering to get more help.”

New Images of Wilson


I love planes!



It says Jones, Esso and Scene 2 on the clapboard

I found some more Photos in a scrapbook from the 1940’s.  The first picture is of a beautiful, unidentified girl holding onto the propeller of an airplane and the other is of a movie or commercial being filmed in a Wilson tobacco warehouse.  If someone has more information about these pictures, please let me know.

Crossing the Tracks an Oral History of East and West Wilson


Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum in East Wilson

I am pleased to announce that the Wilson County Local History and Genealogy room is collaborating with Barton College on an oral history project about East and West Wilson.  The director of Barton College’s Hackney Library, George Loveland, describes the project:

Crossing the Tracks: An Oral History of East and West Wilson is a partnership between the Round House Museum, Barton College’s History Department, and Hackney Library. In the spring of 2013, Barton College students began interviewing Wilson residents about social, cultural, political, and economic relations between residents of East and West Wilson, and how these have changed over the past sixty to seventy years.

Students involved in the project will use our local history resources as references for the written portion of the project.  This week a student perused our Wilson high school yearbook collection for participants in the project (he found some).  I also helped him pin down the date (1969-1970) for the extension of Hines Street into East Wilson.  The extension impacted many houses in the area including houses lived in by project participants.

Check out information about the project and listen to recorded interviews at this link

Franklin County Records part 2

It was brought to my attention that the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources, Kevin Cherry has responded to the uproar surrounding the recent burning of some Franklin County Records, which can be read here.  As with most problems that involve a number of people with different perspectives in how a problem should be resolved, there are some who are not going to be happy with the outcome.  From my patrons’ perspective, the genealogists,  every record could lead to a lost ancestor or new information on a known ancestor and destruction of a record could mean a permanently shut avenue for investigation.  But from an archivists point of view there are established best practices that dictate how documents are to be preserved and which documents are to be preserved.   Determining which documents are to be preserved involves many factors, but in this case it was determined that the ones to be destroyed were duplicates, confidential material with personal and medical information, or drafts.  Likewise, if all the documents that were destroyed fell under those parameters then there shouldn’t be a problem (well much less of a problem, genealogists don’t truck with any record destruction).  I will go along with Kevin Cherry’s response and believe that everything was done according to proper procedure, but the situation was handled in too much of a heavy handed fashion, one that left many of the participants feeling run-over or ignored.

Records Burned in Franklin County, NC

frank 1

Some of the irreplaceable records that were burned by Franklin County. Photo from the Heritage Society of Franklin County

Maybe I am a little late to the game on this story but I was discussing it with a patron last week.  It seems that on December 6, 2013, Franklin County, NC burned a slew of records,  with many of them older than 100 years old. According to the Heritage Society of Franklin County the records included:

Chattel Mortgages from the 1890’s, court dockets from post civil war to prohibition, delayed birth certificate applications with original supporting documents (letters from Grandma, bible records, birth certificates, etc), county receipts on original letterhead from businesses long extinct, poll record books, original school, road and bridge bonds denoting the building of the county, law books still in their original paper wrappings, etc., etc. etc. The list goes on and on.

It seems that these records had been locked away in a basement like King Tut’s tomb untouched for many years.  Some had water damage from leaky boilers and many had mold from an air conditioner, but most were in good condition. Nevertheless, only a few were saved from being burned.

Read a detailed account of the fiasco at the Heritage Society of Franklin County Facebook Page