Posted: Monday, August 6, 2007 9:10 am
By Carrie Crespo, Staff Writer
In a time of segregation, there were many silent role models in Stanly County. One such unsung role model was William Henry Wall, a black man who served as a brick mason and was active in his church and his community.
Described as looking stern with a soft heart, his care for his community, peers and family and his innovated ways of getting things done, proved to be very useful for years to come.
“He was a man of integrity,” Sam Burris, who knew him before he died, said. “ He was a hand shake person – if he shook your hand, it would be done. He was loyal, upstanding and honest.”
Born in Stanly County May 14, 1883 to former slaves Josephus and Delphia Wall, Wall was one of 11 children. Because educational opportunities were almost nonexistent for blacks at the time, Wall stopped attending school after sixth grade.
“You can’t compare what they knew then when you look at a person with a sixth grade education now,” said Patricia Wall Jeffers, his granddaughter. “I’d come and look at his books and his books were very very difficult. In my estimation, he was an educated man just not a college graduate.”
Wall was able to read and write and owned a typewriter.
When he was 18, Wall carried the mail on horseback from Albemarle to Lynchburg, Va. In the early 1900s, he and his brothers owned a general store down the street from where they lived. One of Walls relatives still has the original safe that says Wall Brothers on the side.
But the trade that was passed down through his family, and what he is best known for is brick masonry.
“As brick mason he had special talent – glass brick that you see in brick in textile mills like Wiscassett,” Jeffers said.
The house that Mabel Wall, his daughter-in-law and one of the few remaining relatives in Albemarle, lives was built by Wall along with other houses on Wall Street.
Wall Street is named for his family because early on, Jeffers said, they owned a lot of land in this community including the land of Kingville High, now E.E. Waddell Center, and other land going down the street.
According to historical documents, many of the homes on Wall Street were constructed by Wall or his brothers. Wall’s homes have transitional Colonial Revival features, most notably the porch’s pedimented entrance bay and its battered, two-part molded wood support posts.
Mabel remembers that in the 1950’s Wall taught black soldiers brick masonry in Kingville High School during the evenings. The men also built homes along Wall Street that for family members. Jeffers remembers tagging behind him to go watch.
Even though Wall wasn’t officially trained, he was a contractor for building houses and was responsible for the remodeling of Union Chapel Church in the 50s.
Before he retired, Wall helped install manhole covers with bricks all over town.
He was married to Laura Threadgill Wall on Dec. 23, 1908. They had three sons William H. Wall Jr., Ralph L. Wall and Melvin L. Wall, all deceased. The couple has seven grandchildren all of whom went to high school in Stanly County and went on to higher education.
Laura took in the wash. In order to make her job easier, Wall installed shelving and tub holders in the basement so she could heat the water in the house and not have to do it outside. She was also a member of the church choir and worked diligently until her health failed. She passed away in 1962.
Besides his work in architecture, Wall was very active in the community. According to his obituary, he served as master mason of Stanly Lodge No. 88 of Prince Hall Masons.
He was the first black notary public in the area and was one of the first blacks to have a telephone in the neighborhood. He served as PTA president for Kingville High after all his children were already gone. Before schools were desegregated, Wall was the first resident of South Albemarle community to run for a seat on Albemarle City Council, which he lost.
But Wall was most heavily involved with Union Chapel Church, which had been the family church for generations. Jeffers remembers all of the family being lined up every Sunday and Wall would lead them all on the walk to church.
His obituary read:
“Mr. Wall joined Big Zion A.M.E. Zion Church in 1900 prior to the union of Big Zion and Freemans Chapel. Union Chapel has benefitted tremendously from worthy stewardship of this venerable member for more than 65 years.”
He served as delegate for the church at many conventions. Jeffers remembers going when she was 12 to the Christian Education Conferences that were held every four years.
According to his obituary, he also served as superintendent for church schools for 50 years, trustee for 50 years, class treasurer, class leader, missionary society and excelsior club.
One thing Wall stressed to his community was the necessity for people to own their own homes and to be independent.
He was very proud of all of his grandchildren and their accomplishments.
“He believed in pulling yourself up by own bootstraps and encouraged education,” Jeffers said.
He went with Mabel to take Jeffers to college and was there to see her graduate.
“It was a proud moment for him,” Jeffers said. “I was very happy to have him.”
Jeffers was also thrilled he did lived to see his first greatgrandchild, her daughter.
Wall passed away Feb. 24, 1967 leaving his family and church in his wake.
“I think he lived by example and he gave a helping hand to a lot of people but done in a way not just known,” Jeffers said. “He helped a lot of people in a quiet manner. He wasn’t only one, but back in 50s he was one of many role models.”
This photo was taken around 1910 at the former Big Zion Church, which is now Union Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church, South Albemarle. Standing in front of the church are some of Stanly County’s early black leaders at their favorite meeting place. Left to Right: Calvin Threadgill, Sr., Henry Bruton, William Henry Wall, George Spencer, A. D. Cross, Sandy Burns, Josephus Wall, II, Richard Wall, James Spencer, Jim Hearne and A. B. Brown.