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The courageous action of black workers on the site saved the lives of 52 of the 94 mules. Their action was never mentioned again. The huge amount of water poured on the fire and the activities of firemen in the area had made the streets impassable, thus hindering the removal of the mule carcasses, so the order was given to bury the mules immediately on the site. So where are the 42 mules buried? The Powell Paving “camp” or plant, was at the intersection of Haled and Lomond Streets, a stone’s throw from the present North Carolina School of the Arts campus.


At the time of this tragedy, Winston-Salem was paving more streets and sidewalks than any other city in the South. The 1920 census showed the Twin City as the most populous in North Carolina, with about 47,000 inhabitants. But by 1926, the population had exploded to over 71,000.

The Powel Paving Company was based in Columbia, South Carolina and worked on paving projects throughout the southeast. Because of the volume of work in Winston-Salem, they had established offices in the Wachovia Bank & Trust Building and the president of the company, H.Walker Powell, a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and his wife Lillian had moved to Winston-Salem. The local general manager was Henry “Harry” Gassaway.


Horses and mules were a common sight on the streets of Winston-Salem well into the 1940s.

Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection