Lane Street Project: Willie Gay’s headstone found in Odd Fellows cemetery.

Jeff Barefoot had read my blog and was passing through Wilson. Curious about Rountree, Odd Fellows and Vick cemeteries, he stopped by, poked around in the woods a bit, and hit the jackpot — the headstone of Willie Gay! Not only had I missed Gay’s marker on my forays into Odd Fellows, his is the only one I’ve seen for a Spanish-American War veteran in these cemeteries.

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In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Emma Gay, 35; children Charlie, 15, a steam-mill worker, Mary, 11, Etheldred, 8, and Willie, 6; plus a boarder Fannie Thompson, 19, cook.

On 8 January 1894, Willie Gay, 18, and Mary Bunn, 21, were married at the groom’s house in Wilson. Presbyterian minister L.J. Melton performed the ceremony in the presence of W.T. Phillips, L.A. Moore, and C.C. Williams.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: day laborer William Gay, 26, widower, living alone.

On 29 October 1902, Willie Gay, 27, son of Charles Gay and Emma Rountree, married Mary Johnson, 22, daughter of Edmund Johnson and Bertha Johnson, at Henry Johnson‘s. H.S. Phillips applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Cain Artis, Charles S. Thomas, and Robert E. Artis.

On 23 March 1906, William Gay, 33, son of Charles and Emma Gay, married Augustus McNeil, 30, daughter of Peter and Emily Patterson, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of J.E. Farmer, Robert Strickland, and Charlie Farmer.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: railroad laborer Will Gay, 34; wife Susia, 34, cook; children Paul, 17, railroad laborer, Charlie, 10, Emma, 4, and Georgia, 2; brother-in-law Peter Johnson, 20, hotel waiter; nephew Jessie Lewis, 22, boarding house proprietor; and lodger Nathan Jenkins, 30, oil mill laborer.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 717 Stantonsburg Street, railroad brakeman William Gay, 48; wife Gertrude, 43; and roomer Oscar Magotte, 26.

In the 1920 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Gay William grocer 717 Stantonsburg Rd

On 27 December 1922, William Gay, 52, son of Charlie and Emma Gay, married Gertrude Magette, 45, daughter of Jerry and Lucy Magette, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minster A.L.E. Weeks performed the ceremony in the presence of J.A. Parker, 211 East Spruce Street; Mary L. Moore, 314 South Stantonsburg Street; and Annie E. Weeks, 500 Hadley Street.

In the 1940 census of Kecoughtan, Elizabeth City County, Virginia: at the Veterans Administration facility, Willie Gay, 66, born in North Carolina.

Willie Gay died 25 May 1940 at the Veterans Administration hospital in Kecoughtan, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 February 1874 in Wilson, N.C., to Charles Gay and Emma Byrum, both of Greene County, N.C.; was divorced; was a veteran of the Spanish American War; was a railroad worker; and lived at 526 Smith Street, Wilson.

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On 13 June 1940, Howard M. Fitts applied for a military headstone for Willie Gay. The application for an upright marker noted that Gay had served from 23 June 1898 to 8 February 1899 in Company I, 3rd N.C. Infantry; and achieved the rank of corporal. Gay was to be buried in Rountree (actually, Odd Fellows) Cemetery in Wilson.

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Photo of Gay’s marker courtesy of Jeff Barefoot and published at Thank you!


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