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James P “Jim” Aiken

  • Birth 1 Mar 1861 Brevard, Transylvania County, North Carolina, USA
  • Death 25 Aug 1909 Brevard, Transylvania County, North Carolina, USA
  • Burial Pisgah Forest, Transylvania County, North Carolina, USA
  • Memorial ID 104110166

AGE: Years

- Mary Magdaline Smith Aiken (who later married George Parton)
- Dafney Bailey Keyth (May 1, 1884)

- Ida, Janie and Betty.
- Loretta Mary Aiken aka (Moms) Jackie Mabley

CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH: Only black fireman in Brevard, NC. While serving as Acting Chief, he responded to a fire and died accidentally. See following link for details:
PROVIDED BY: mikey "at" legeros "dot" com

Slavery in Fairview, Final in Series, December 8, 2010 By Bruce Whitaker
People tend to talk about the bad all the time. I believe in looking at the good. One former slave who thrived after the end of slavery was JAMES P. AIKEN in Transylvania County, NC. Jim Aiken was born near Brevard on March 1, 1861. He was the son of JANE AIKEN HALL who died at 104. Jim Aiken started in business selling apple cider and homemade gin gerbread. After about five years in business he built a store building on Main Street in Brevard. It was built big enough to house a café, barber shop and mercantile store. He opened a bakery and a dray service (horse and wagon transportation business). He transported the mail to and from the railroad station and the post office. He also sold caskets. Brevard and Transylvania County did not have a large enough Black population to support any of Aiken's businesses. The overwhelming majority of Jim's customers were White and all of his stores were in White downtown Brevard. Jim Aiken was the Nobel Grand of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellow and was a Mason. He was the only Black member of the Brevard Fire Department. Jim Aiken was serving as acting Fire Chief of the department on August 25, 1909. A fire broke out on that date. Jim was driving the town's two wheeled steam fire wagon to the fire...
PROVIDED BY:mikey "at" legeros "dot" com
Jim Aiken was so popular that none of the Black churches were big enough for his funeral. The white First Baptist Church of Brevard offered its building for Aiken's funeral. So many people of all races attended that the crowd overflowed the church and filled the nearby streets. All the stores and government buildings in Brevard closed for Jim Aiken's funeral. Jim Aiken's wife was MARY SMITH AIKEN. Upon his death, Aiken not only left her all his businesses but six houses as well. Aiken's wife also got their large two-story house on Oak Lawn Avenue. [Note: Some websites claim she remarried George Parton; others state she was killed tragically as a pedestrian a couple of years after her first husband.]
James P. Aiken had several children. One was a daughter named Loretta Mary Aiken. She was born in Brevard March 19, 1897. Loretta Aiken was brought up in what was considered at that time to be a well-to-do home. She was about 12 and a half years old when her father was killed. Even though her mother was left fairly well off, Loretta was dissatisfied with her life in Brevard. Her grandmother Jane Aiken Hall encouraged her to go North in search of a new life. Loretta Aiken got into show business. She began singing and dancing in Vaudeville. Her family was embarrassed by Loretta's career choice. The Aiken's were prominent and fairly well off members of Brevard society. Loretta's brother wrote her and told her to stop using the Aiken name. Loretta changed her name to Jackie Moms Mabley. Moms Mabley became one of the most famous Black comedians in America. She performed for almost 30 years at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in New York City. She appeared on Broadway, movies, TV and at Carnegie Hall. When I was a kid she was on Merv Griffin's show at least twice a month, as well as Mike Douglas, Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson and many other shows. She had an estate in ultra rich Scarsdale in Westchester County, NY. She rode around in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce. Moms played a toothless, bawdy, young man chasing, old woman. By taking out her teeth, Moms made herself look both much older and funny. Moms Mabley had her father Jim Aiken's business sense and his ability to make money. She made out like she had been raised in unbelievable poverty when interviewed on Merv Griffin and other talk shows. But entertainers often make up a background that better suits their public image rather than the truth. Jim Aiken and his daughter Moms climbed to the top regardless of anything life had put in their way.
"All these years separate cemeteries existed for African Americans. Cathey's Creek and Cooper's were the oldest Negro cemeteries, both dating back to 1862. The early history of African Americans evolved around the church, school and personalities associated with these. At the turn of the century business undertakings emerged, none as important as those created by James P. "Jim" Aiken. <----
A grocery store established by Jeffries F. W. "Jip" Mills operated on Mills Avenue for almost 40 years. Brevard streets still echo the bell ringing on Jim Aiken's fire truck, women bustling around the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center, the sonorous choirs of Bethel and Bethel "A" Baptist churches, the lilting voice and laughter of Loretta M. Aiken better known as Jackie "Moms Mabley" and the dedicated voice of the "steel-willed angel" Selena Hall Robinson."
Fallen Firefighter Honored (ABC13 News)
Friday, May 3 2013
A long overdue honor is coming for a mountain firefighter who was killed in the line of duty more than 100 years ago. Jim Aiken was a former slave who went on to become the only black firefighter with the Brevard Fire Department. He was serving as active Chief in 1909 and responding to a fire call....
PROVIDED BY: mikey "at" legeros "dot" com
His name was added to the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Raleigh. Chief Craig Budzinski says the recognition brings a sense of pride to those who carry on Aiken's work today. Three members of the Brevard Fire Department left Friday for the memorial service in Raleigh. The chief says there will be a local presentation in Aiken's honor during the May 20th city council meeting.
PROVIDED BY: Amy Caddell (#46939056)

Family Members






  • Added: 24 Jan 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 104110166
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for James P “Jim” Aiken (1 Mar 1861–25 Aug 1909), Find A Grave Memorial no. 104110166, citing New French Broad Baptist Church Cemetery, Pisgah Forest, Transylvania County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by PATTY McFERREN-BLANTON & JR BLANTON (contributor 47369283) .