Lane Street Project: Aaron Washington?

This broken concrete headstone is lying atop the square marble base of a grave marker that has gone completely missing. The legible part of the broken stone reads: DIED APR 2 192 and MAY THE RESURRECTION FIND THEE ON THE BOSOM OF THY GOD.

A search of Wilson County death certificates filed in the 1920s reveals this possible identification of the deceased. Aaron Washington died 2 April 1923 in Wilson. (The bottom curve of the last digit in the year, above, is consistent with a 3.) Per his death certificate, he was born 21 February 1866 in Freemont [Fremont, Wayne County], N.C., to Gray Washington and Julie Sharp; was married to Stella Washington; worked as a drayman; and lived on Waynewright [Wainwright] Street.

Aaron Washington’s mother Julia Sharpe Washington and son Alexander Washington died in 1913 and 1918, respectively. If the marker above is in fact Aaron’s, it is likely that his family members were buried near him.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, January 2021.

They will tell the true story when they get home.

Northern Neck (Va.) News, 20 February 1880.

Who were the anonymous informants who “would rather live one year in North Carolina than to live to be as old as giants” in Indiana?

Not Joseph Ellis, whose testimony before Congress about Black migration from North Carolina to Indiana  declared that he was “well pleased with [his] situation.” On the other hand, Green Ruffin, who testified on 16 February 1880, was adamant that he never going back to Indiana if he could get home. Peter Dew and Julia Daniels shared similar sentiments in letters to the editor of the Wilson Advance.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 6: the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Here’s a closer look at the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street, which was dominated by wholesale groceries and small restaurants.

In 1913, before he founded a funeral home, Columbus E. Artis operated a small eatery in a narrow brick building on South Goldsboro Street. Alexander D. Dawson, having closed his fish and oyster stall in the city market, ran a rival eating house across the street. 

Lane Street Project: Bessie Yancey McGowan.

Bessie Wife of John McGowan Born 1888 Jan 7 1925 Gone But Not Forgotten

At right, the headstone of Bessie Yancey McCowan looms amid a haphazard pile of more than a dozen grave markers  in Odd Fellows Cemetery. 


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: ditcher Benjamin Yancy, 50; wife Angeline, 39, washing; daughters Lizzie, 19, Bessie, 18, and Gertrude, 16, all cooking; and son Willie, 16, at school.

John McCowan, 21, of Wilson, son of Sam and Anne McCowan, married Bessie Yancey, 21, of Wilson, daughter of Ben and Angline Yancey, on 5 August 1903 at William McCowan‘s residence. Levi Jones applied for the license, and Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Alonzo Taylor, [illegible] Williams, and Fannie Jones

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: brickmason John McCowan, 27; wife Bessie, 26, laundress; daughter Annie, 5; and father Sandy, 91, widower.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Street, brickmason John McGowan, 40; wife Bessie, 35; and daughter Beatriss, 13.

Bessie McCowan died 31 December 1924 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born April 1884 in Goldsboro, N.C., to Benjamin Yancey and Angaline Houston; was married to John McCowan; and lived at 1203 East Nash Street, Wilson. John McCowan was informant.

Lane Street Project: April aerial.

Odd Fellows Cemetery from above, two days ago. I can’t stop marveling.

The dotted yellow line is the approximate boundary with Rountree Cemetery (12). Vick Cemetery is (13).

The dotted white line marks the approximate edge of the woods in 2020, then a nearly impenetrable wall of vegetation. Over the last three months, dozens of Lane Street Project volunteers have worked tirelessly to open up the cemetery’s interior, exposing to sunlight patches hidden for decades. Blooming wisteria can be seen at upper left, but the front and right sides of the cemetery are clear of this scourge.

The remaining numbers mark identified family plots (and a gate):

  1. the Dawson family.
  2. the Noah Tate family.
  3. the Oates-Farrior plot.
  4. the Jackson family.
  5. the Barnes-Hines family.
  6. the Hardy Tate family.
  7. the Vick family.
  8. the Foster family.
  9. the Mincey family.
  10. the Charlie Thomas family.
  11. former gate at entrance to access road; and 14. the Best family.

Shannon McKinnon, ShanSound Entertainment, answered my call for a quick turn-around on drone images of Odd Fellows and Rountree cemeteries. His prompt, professional service warrants a recommendation. 

Lane Street Project: April clean-up schedule.

Finally — a warm community clean-up day!

Please come out to Odd Fellows Cemetery on April 10 and 24 and join your neighbors in the clean-up of three historic African-American cemeteries. All are welcome!

This month, we really need your help:

  • Pruning shrubs and limbing up hollies around the Vick Cemetery monument
  • Cutting wisteria stumps in Odd Fellows Cemetery close to the ground for later defoliation treatment
  • Clearing underbrush and removing trash
  • Recording GPS coordinates for each grave marker (email me at if you’re interested in this task)

Please protect yourself on-site — masks required, boots and gloves strongly encouraged. 

As always, THANK YOU!

Lane Street Project: Gus Hilliard.

This grave marker, which appears to be a foot stone, stands in Odd Fellows Cemetery. Research reveals only one Augustus “Gus” Hilliard in early 20th-century Wilson County.

But he died in 1971.

And is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery.

Why, then, is his marker in Odd Fellows?


In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Black Creek Road, dredge boat laborer Dock Hilliard, 31; wife Mary Ella, 29; and children Agustus, 8, Isic, 7, Mattie F., 6, Eddie, 3, and Mary, 4 months.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Moyton and Wilson Road, Dock Hillard, 46; wife Mary, 28; and children Gustus, 17, Mattie, 14, Eddie, 12, Mellar, 11, Isabella, 10, Channie, 8, Tommie, 4, and Willie, 3 months.

On 17 January 1925, Augustus Hilliard, 23, of Stantonsburg, son of Dock and Mary E. Hilliard, married Nancy McCoy, 21, of Stantonsburg, daughter of Will and Leesie McCoy.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Gustie Hillard, 29; wife Nancy, 23; and children Henry, 5, and Daissey L., 2.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Old Wilson Road, farm laborer Gus Hilliard, 39; wife Nancy, 40; and children Henry, 14, Daisy Lee, 12, Eddie, 9, Isaac, 6, Nathaniel, 3, and Johnnie A., 9 months.

In 1942, Gus Hilliard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 31 March 1901 in Wilson County; lived at “Box 87 – Rt. #3 – Wilson – Stantonsburg – Wilson”; his contact was Thurman Phillips; and he worked for Ashley Horton, Greensboro, N.C.

In 1943, Henry Hilliard registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 25 November 1925 in Wilson County; lived at Route 3, Box 87, Wilson; his contact was Gus Hilliard; and he worked at J.A. Wharton Farm, Wilson.

Augustus Hilliard died 22 February 1971 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 3March 1904 to Doc Hilliard and Mary Ella Ellis; was married to Nancy McCoy; was a farmer; and was buried in Rest Haven. Informant was Daisy Peoples, Wilson.

Odd Fellows photo taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, January 2021; Rest Haven Cemetery image courtesy of

Her chicken came home to roost.

Culpeper (Va.) Exponent, 30 March 1922.

Lila Thompson and Annie Graham were close neighbors on Ashe Street. Within 30 months of their dispute, both were dead of tuberculosis.


  • Liler Thompson — In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Thompson Lila (c) tobwkr h 124 Ashe. Lila Thompson died 14 October 1924 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 24 years old; was born in Sampson County to Henrietta Clark; was married to Walter Thompson; lived at 1005 Washington Street; and was buried in Rountree cemetery.
  • Annie Graham — In the 1920 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Burley Graham, 16; mother Annie, 30, widow; sister Margrette, 14; and cousin Walter Bryant, 19; all born in South Carolina. Annie Graham died 27 July 1924 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 40 years old; was born in Lake City, South Carolina, to Daniel and Martha Martin; was the widow of James Graham; lived at 130 Ash Street; and worked as a maid for the Briggs Hotel. Burley Graham was informant. (Annie Graham’s daughter, also named Annie Graham, aged three months, died five days earlier. Per her death certificate, her parents were James Hall and Annie Graham. Mary Graham was informant.)