Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Photographs, Vocation

Saint Agnes Hospital.


This only looks like a Civil War ruin. In reality, Saint Agnes Hospital closed in the early 1960’s, after Raleigh’s Wake Medical Center integrated. Saint Agnes trained generations of African-American nurses, including my great-great-aunt, Henrietta Colvert.

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From the Annual Catalogue of St. Augustine’s School, Raleigh, N.C., A Normal School and Collegiate Institute For Colored Students of Both Sexes, Thirty-Third Session, 1911-12.

Maternal Kin, Paternal Kin, Vocation

Where we worked: healers and helpers.

Margaret Balkcum Henderson, Dudley NC – midwife, 1870s?-1900s?

Louvicey Artis Aldridge, Dudley NC – midwife, 1890s?-1920s?

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, Dudley NC – midwife, 1890s.

Joseph H. Ward, Indianapolis IN – doctor, 1897-1950s.

Vera L. Baker Holt, Goldsboro NC — registered nurse, 1900s.

Diana A. Adams Artis, Wilson NC — wife of Columbus E. Artis, registered nurse, 1910s-1950.

Henrietta Colvert, Wilson NC, Asheboro NC, Roanoke VA – registered nurse, 1910s-1960s?

J. Thomas Aldrich [Aldridge], Saint Louis MO – doctor, circa 1930-1968.

Worth A. Williams, Charlotte NC — dentist, 1920s-1960s

Nita Allen Meyers Wilkerson, Washington DC — registered nurse, 1930s-1970s.

J. Maxwell Allen, Lynchburg VA, Charles City VA — dentist, 1930s-1959.

Leon M. Braswell, Lynchburg VA — doctor, 1930s-1950s.

Henry C. Best, Wilson NC – husband of Annie Artis Best; hospital orderly, circa 1930.

Irvin L. McCaine Sr., Asheville NC, Oakland CA, Mount Vernon NY — husband of Mable Williams McCaine; dentist, circa 1940-circa 1980.

John W. Stockton, Statesville NC — orderly, Davis Hospital, 1940s-?

Hattie Henderson Ricks, Wilson NC –- nurse’s aide, 1940s-1958.

Leroy T. Barnes, Queens NY, Los Angeles CA — husband of Jeanne Davis Barnes and Wanda Davis Moseley Barnes, radiologist, 1940s-1987.

Jarvis E. Sherrod, Wilson NC – hospital orderly, 1940s-1950s.

Frederick R. Randall, New York NY — physician, 1940s-ca. 2000.

R. Stewart Randall, Washington DC — physician, 1940s-1992.

The fourteenth in an occasional series exploring the ways in which my kinfolk made their livings in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Photographs, Vocation

Mercy me.

ImageThe hospital was on East Green Street, right around the corner from Jackson Chapel and Saint John AMEZ and Calvary Presbyterian. That last Sunday in June, two days after her first delivery, my mother lay perspiring in an iron bed, smiling uncomfortably as she accepted congratulations from church ladies making their post-service rounds. (The first reports went out: the Hendersons had a jowly yellow girl with a slick cap of black hair, a “Chink” baby, as one later indelicately put it.) She was desperate to be discharged, but had to wait for an all-clear from the pediatrician. It was not as if he were right down the ward. Dr. Pope was white, and as his black patients were forbidden to come to him, making his rounds meant driving across the tracks to them, laid up in sweltering Mercy Hospital. He arrived Sunday evening, turned me this way and that, pronounced himself satisfied, and granted us a release for the next morning. A few months later, when federal law mandated that Wilson’s new hospital open as an integrated facility, Mercy closed.

Founded in 1913 as the Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home, Mercy was one of a handful early African-American hospitals in North Carolina and the only one in the northeast quadrant of the state. Though it struggled financially throughout its 50 years of operation, the hospital provided critical care to thousands who otherwise lacked access to treatment. A small cadre of black nurses assisted the attendant physician. One was Henrietta Colvert, shown below at far left, my great-grandfather’s sister. Henrietta was born in 1893 in Statesville, Iredell County, and received training at Saint Agnes School of Nursing in Raleigh. How she came to Wilson is unknown. This photograph suggests that she cared for Mercy’s patients in its earliest days. (The man seated in the middle is Dr. Frank S. Hargrave, a founder of the hospital, and he left for New Jersey in the early 1920s.)  My father’s mother recalled that Henrietta also worked as a visiting nurse for Metropolitan Insurance Company in the 1930s and attended her children for two weeks after they were born.  My great-great-aunt was still at Mercy in the 1940s, but had left Wilson by time my mother married my father and moved there in 1961, and my family had long lost contact with her when she died in 1980 in Roanoke, Virginia.


Photograph of Mercy Hospital taken in June 2013 by Lisa Y. Henderson. Photo of Mercy’s staff courtesy of the Freeman Round House Museum, Wilson NC.