Lane Street Project: a call to action.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Since the late 1990’s, the City of Wilson’s Public Works Department has mowed and sprayed the front section of Odd Fellows Cemetery, known to the City as “Rountree-Vick,” when it maintains Vick Cemetery. In December 2020, Lane Street Project began to clear the back three-quarters of this long-abandoned historic African-American burial ground. Volunteers of every age, color, and creed gathered twice monthly through the spring to hack vines and haul trash from this sacred space. 

When I visited Odd Fellows in June 2021, I was surprised to find the grass uncut and the ditch sprouting hundreds of sweetgum saplings. On June 23, I forwarded the first two photos below to a city official, requesting that the City perform its regular maintenance. He said he’d see to it. 

On July 23, when a LSP member advised me that the grass remained uncut, I repeated my request to the official. No response.

Today, to my shock, I got a glimpse of three-foot weeds sprouting near the Foster family’s headstones. (Thanks, MG, for the video from which I grabbed this still.) Wisteria once again threatens to engulf Nettie Foster‘s marker, but that’s a perennial problem. On the other hand, I have not seen weeds like this in Odd Fellows in more than 20 years. 

Odd Fellows Cemetery, 7 August 2021.

Now that volunteers have rallied to save a cemetery allowed to disappear into the woods over the decades, has the City completely washed its hands of its care? 

I need your help.

Please call or email the mayor and your councilperson to request that the City immediately resume regular mowing and maintenance of this section of “Rountree-Vick” cemetery. (Their contact information is here.) And please ride by the cemetery regularly to check on its condition. The job facing Lane Street Project’s volunteers is daunting enough without the City backsliding from its duties and responsibilities. Help hold it accountable.

Thank you.

3 comments

  1. To Mr. Mayor and members of the Wilson City Council

    THANK YOU in advance for your willingness to make a final decision regarding the request that the City immediately resume regular mowing and maintenance of the “Rountree-Vick” Cemetery.

    I am a 1970 graduate of Fike High School and still have family living in Wilson.

    More importantly, however, my involvement in the LANE STREET PROJECT over the last 9 months (as I have commuted back to Wilson to volunteer with dozens of others) has afforded me the opportunity to become acquainted with a publication of the Wilson County Genealogical Society entitled, Wilson County , North Carolina Cemeteries- Volume V: The two city owned African American Cemeteries (Rest Haven and Rountree / Vick).

    I cried when I was able to locate the written names of my Great Grandmother, Catherine Clark (1875-1944), in this book and the name of my dear sister, Mary Joyce Wellington, who was born and lived for just 6 days (August 5, 1949-August 11, 1949) .

    I called my mother, a lifelong citizen of Wilson, who is 93 years old , and told her I found the names of her grandmother and her daughter in a book . I have been determined since then to find their graves in Rountree Vick Cemetery in which they are buried according to the cited book above.

    However, the recent pictures I saw posted of the overgrowth since our tedious work all winter long was devastating.

    What do I tell my mother?

    Aren’t cities supposed to help preserve the heritage of a city? Isn’t Rountree / Vick Cemeteries “city owned” just as Maplewood?

    On behalf of the legacy of my family and countless other fellow citizens , THANK YOU for your utmost consideration to bring this upkeep issue- which has persisted now for several years – to an honorable and decent conclusion during your tenure on the council.

    1. Thank you so much, Dr. Judy. To be completely transparent, the City owns Vick, but does not own the front section of Odd Fellows (which they call Rountree-Vick.) Nonetheless, since the desecration of Vick in the mid-1990s, the City has mowed the sections on both sides of the little parking lot. It cannot be a coincidence that they stopped when LSP started its efforts in the rest of Odd Fellows.

  2. Interesting because the City is quick to warn/fine landlords when any private properties have overgrowth/obnoxious weeds, as they should. However, we expect the same from them and in this case, it’s disappointing to see there is a lack of action still (!) on their part. There is no excuse for this sacred ground to continue to escape their attention/priority. Shame on Wilson, we are better than this.

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