Lane Street Project: cemetery records request update, no. 3: the background.

Yesterday I sent a letter to the mayor of Wilson, the city manager, and all seven council members setting forth my concerns and requests regarding the status of Vick, Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries.

In a nutshell, I requested:

  • the survey PLT prepared of Vick cemetery or confirmation that it was never done or no longer exists
  • the whereabouts of gravemarkers removed from Vick or confirmation of their destruction
  • a plat map showing the boundaries of Vick cemetery
  • a statement of the city’s position on the ownership of Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries

I have already had some fruitful responses, and I look forward to the action of promises fulfilled. (And broad-based support for same.) City government is not the only stakeholder here though, and the hot lights of factual inquiry may illuminate a need for sustained community volunteerism.

In the meantime, I am sharing some Wilson Daily Times articles from the first period of public interest in these cemeteries, which began in 1989 and culminated in 1996 with the erection of the monument at Vick cemetery.

On 23 February 1990, Carl W. Hines Sr. hit the nail on the head with his letter to the editor lamenting Sam Vick‘s lost grave and noting “[m]uch of the apathy surrounding the cemetery is a result of: 1. Public unawareness, 2. Uncertainty about ownership, 3. Condemnation, 4. Removal of gravestones, 5. Removal of many remains to Rest Haven and, of course, the dumping of trash in the area.” Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

On 11 January 1991, the paper published a photo of city workers clearing Vick cemetery with a bush hog. This apparently was the first official attention paid to a Vick clean-up.

On 13 September 1991, various city officials weighed on the status (and challenges) of clean-up efforts:

Screen Shot 2019-12-30 at 9.31.50 PM.png

On 6 January 1993, this:

Finally:

On 19 May 1996, the Times announced that the end was near, that Vick would soon be “a proper cemetery.” A plan to mark each grave had been abandoned during the project, and Deputy City Manager Charles Pittman III mentioned that a survey  done instead had located more than 1000 graves. Facing these numbers, the city determined that a single monument would be “wiser” and less costly to maintain to boot. Pittman also noted that 30-40 “relatively intact” tombstones were being collected for storage by the city.

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