Lane Street Project: the re-abandonment of Odd Fellows Cemetery.

For twenty-five years, the City of Wilson’s Public Works Department has mowed the empty field that marks Vick Cemetery and a small strip of land at the front of Odd Fellows Cemetery.

In December 2020, Lane Street Project volunteers began to remove 40+ years of overgrowth from Odd Fellows Cemetery, clipping vines, cutting down small trees, hauling out debris, and reclaiming dozens of headstones. Except to pick up bulk debris from the roadside after clean-up days, the City has offered no assistance with this project. Most elected officials — including the councilperson in whose district the cemetery sits — have been utterly silent about the work being done to honor and restore dignity to generations of Wilson’s African-American dead.

LSP went is on summer hiatus at Odd Fellows. We’ll be back in late fall, when temperatures cool and foliage goes dormant. The City, however, is apparently on permanent hiatus. Despite having maintained part of Odd Fellows since the mid-1990s, it stopped cold this year, seemingly in response to LSP’s efforts to clear the remainder of the property. Despite requests made in June, July, and August, Public Works has not mowed this cemetery once in 2021, and it looks worse now than it has in decades.

Odd Fellows Cemetery overrun with sedge and dog fennel this morning. Wisteria is galloping in from the edges, too.

A newly discarded stone slab. (Monument companies, check yourselves.)

Charles S. Thomas’ headstone, nearly swallowed up. 

The City has continued to mow Vick this summer, so the decision not to mow Odd Fellows is deliberate. I will continue to press for the City to resume maintenance at Odd Fellows and for explanations if they do not intend to do so. If you live in Wilson, your outreach to city council, the mayor, the city manager, and/or the director of Public Works to demand answers and action is much appreciated.

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