City of Wilson

Lane Street Project: a conversation (and a word.)

In conversation with Brittany Daniel about what the Lane Street Project is and what to expect at this weekend’s clean-up kick-off:

And, on the eve of the kick-off, a heartfelt shout-out to my Lane Street Project team, my boots on the ground. In less than a month, they’ve adopted this project as their own and are literally making my dreams for the LSP come true. This multigenerational crew is pouring into the project critical new perspectives and talents, and I’m so grateful to and for Joyah Bulluck, Portia Newman, Craig Barnes Jr., Brittany Daniel, Castonoble Hooks, LaMonique Hamilton, John Woodard, Charles Jones, and Raven Farmer. (Look at all those good “Wilson names” in the bunch!)

He was her only support: George H. Utley’s death notice.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 January 1930.

Turner Utley, 22, of Wilson County, and Mariah Williams, 24, of Wilson County, married 12 September 1901 in Wilson County. J.W. Rogers applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at Rogers’ residence in the presence of Irene Miller, Minnie Rogers and Bettie Davis.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 316 Spring Street, Turner Utley, 37, cook, and wife Maria, 36, cook; and lodger Aaron Utley, 21, factory laborer.

Geo. Utley, laborer; Maria Utley, domestic; and Turner Utley, cook, are listed at 902 Atlanta [Atlantic] in the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory.

Turner H. Utley died 20 July 1928 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 52 years old; was born in Wake County to Ellen Utley; lived at 902 Atlantic Street, Wilson; and was married to Mariah Utley. He was buried in Rountree cemetery. 

George Utley died 14 January 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 24 years old; was a common laborer; lived at 902 Atlantic Street; was born in Wilson County to Turner Utley and Mariah Bailey; and was buried in Rountree cemetery.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 902 Atlantic, paying $18/month, McRuige Utley, 50, tobacco factory stemmer, and lodger John Powell, 14; paying $8/month, Garfield Grantham, 46, brickmason; wife Bessie, 41; and son John, 21, hotel bellboy.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 902 Atlantic, paying $8/month rent, Johnie Tillery, 24, janitor, and wife Annie, 23, tobacco factory employee; paying $4/month, Maria Utley, 57, widow, blind, on relief. 

Mariah Utley died 27 July 1944 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 65 years old; lived at 902 Atlantic Street; was born in Wilson County to Jessie Bailey and Allie Ricks of Nash County, N.C.; was the widow of Turner Utley; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Sarah Hendricks of Rocky Mount was informant.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III. Thank you!

Lane Street Project: Charles S. Thomas.

Charles S. Thomas‘ pale gray, fine-grained grave marker is unique in Odd Fellows cemetery. It faces southwest, and in late afternoon, catching the rays of the setting sun, glows golden. Thomas was a barber and insurance salesman and long-time chorist at Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. Before mid-century, granite headstones were relatively rare in Wilson’s African-American cemeteries. (Marble was the favored high-end material; concrete, the ordinary.) The machine-cut decorative features — including the harp as a nod to Thomas’ musical legacy — suggest that this was a replacement stone, perhaps an upgrade, set well after Thomas’ death.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

 

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — finding grave markers.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

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Q: I found a headstone! What do I do?

A: Congratulations! 

  • First, do no harm. The markers in Odd Fellows and Rountree cemeteries are 75-125 years old. The stone markers are generally marble, which is fragile. The cement markers are brittle. Don’t lean on them. The obelisks may shift from their bases. The headstones may break.
  • Mark the grave marker’s location with a red flag, and notify a Lane Street Project team member.
  • If the stone is upright, leave it as it is.
  • If it has fallen, but the inscription is readable, leave it as it is.
  • If it is buried, remove as much debris as possible by hand, then cut away vines or roots around the stone. Gently dig around the stone with a spade to loosen it from the soil and expose the inscription.
  • Do not move a headstone (or even pieces of broken headstone) from its original location.
  • Clean markers with water and a nylon-bristle brush only. Do not use soap, dishwashing liquid, detergent, or any other cleaning product to clean a grave marker, no matter how safe, gentle, biodegradable or natural the product claims to be. Do not use sponges or dish scrubbers. Brush gently to remove dirt and debris.
  • Take before and after photos!

Gray Pender’s headstone was recovered in December 2020. His daughter Louvenia’s marker was found nearby.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — what to do.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

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Q: So … what’s the plan?

A: Glad you asked.

  • You’ll be assigned to a lane marked at the edge of the overgrowth. Try to work straight back toward the rear of the property, maintaining social distance between you and the next person. 
  • The short-term goal is clear the cemetery of trash and undergrowth — vines, privet, vines, small shrubs … did I say vines? Wisteria and smilax (green with thorns) are probably the worst invaders, with honeysuckle a close third. You can’t go wrong by cutting every vine you see, both at ground level and as high as you can reach.

Wiley Oates’ lovely monument was covered with a cape of honeysuckle vine. If the vines aren’t cut back hard, the obelisk will disappear again come summer.

  • Watch out — vines can snap back and pop you pretty hard. 
  • Also, watch your feet. Vines can trip you, and you’ll want to avoid stepping into sunken graves, animal burrows, or other holes in the ground.
  • Please don’t try to cut down any trees.
  • Please haul out any trash you find, but do not move grave markers. Here’s what to do instead. Markers may look like chunks of concrete or rocks, so to be on the safe side, don’t move any of either. 

An entry into Odd Fellows opened by volunteers in December 2020. 

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — preliminary info.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

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Q: I’m coming to the Clean-Up Kick-Off! What do I need to know?

A: First, Lane Street Project appreciates you!

Here are a few things to know before you arrive:

  • Masks and social distancing will be enforced at the Clean-Up Kick-Off. For real. Be safe!
  • Wear comfortable protective clothing – gloves, boots, long-sleeved outer garments.
  • Cleaning up abandoned cemeteries carries risks of injury, and you will be required to sign a waiver before you begin working.
  • At the beginning of each clean-up session, Lane Street Project volunteers will explain the history of the cemeteries and go over guidelines. 
  • To facilitate social distancing, you’ll be assigned a clean-up lane. 
  • Please bag all trash and cuttings and dispose of them in the bins provided. 
  • Here’s what to bring — and what not.
  • Here’s what to do if you find a headstone or other grave marker.
  • The atmosphere will be joyous and celebratory, but these are cemeteries — please be respectful.

Odd Fellows cemetery on a sunny December morning. Della Hines Barnes’ marble headstone inspired Lane Street Project’s logo.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

Georgia Burke cheered on Broadway.

Jet magazine, 10 April 1952.

Though a native of Georgia, Georgia Burke spent at least ten years in Wilson, teaching third and fourth grade (and coaching basketball and tennis) to the children of the Colored Graded School and the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. She was one of the eleven teachers who walked off the job in support of Mary C. Euell in 1918 and, in 1921, was involved in another incident in which “a race riot was narrowly averted.” Burke auditioned for a Broadway on a lark in 1928, got the role, and never returned to teaching.

Lane Street Project: “City responsible for old cemetery”


Wilson Daily Times, 17 February 1990.

This op-ed piece ran in the Wilson Daily Times in February 1990, shortly after the city acknowledged its ownership of Vick cemetery.

A few notable passages:

  • “Although as many as 2,000 people may be buried there, only 30-some graves are marked …”  (Two thousand seems like a low estimate of the number of burials in Vick, and absolutely more than 30 graves were marked. In 1995, Wilson’s city manager was quoted estimating that there were approximately 200 marked graves and 75-100 “intact, legible” headstones.)
  • “Those persons buried beneath this littered and unkempt ground deserve the respect and dignity we would accord any deceased.”
  • “Insofar as possible, the Vick cemetery and the individual graves must be restored. The city can do no less for its deceased citizens.”
  • “Mobilizing volunteers in the community can get the cleanup off to a low-cost start. Civic clubs, Boy Scouts, church groups and other organizations could take pride in helping restore a piece of Wilson history.”
  • “Identifying and marking each grave may be impossible, but every identification that is historically and humanly possible is the duty of the city.”

Another four years passed before Wilson made serious effort to meet the challenge outlined in the Daily Times. Vick cemetery is no longer a dumping ground, but it still “bears little resemblance to a cemetery.” The graves were not restored, or even identified. Rather, they were pulled from the ground, stacked in storage for a few years, then discarded. No known record exists of the thousands of burials in Vick cemetery.

Seeds of Hope sends follow-up.

In response to the post about the historic residents of the land now occupied by Seeds of Hope Wilson, Priscilla Moreno sent these before-and-after images of their corner of Viola and Carroll Streets. At the top, Samuel H. Vick Elementary School is just visible across Carroll Street. Its parking lot was once the site of C.H. Darden High School.  (The original Vick Elementary on Reid Street now houses OIC.) The white house with red roof is 505 Carroll Street, which has been demolished.  At bottom, some of Seeds of Hope’s bounty!

Men ordered to report, no. 5.

On 27 April 1918, the Wilson County Draft Board inducted these 26 African-American men into military service and ordered them sent to Camp Grant, Illinois, for basic training.

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  • William Dorsey Shaw registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 21 August 1894 in Wake County, N.C.; resided 209 Hackney Street, Wilson; was a hostler for the Town of Wilson; and was married. He was tall and stout, with brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • William H. Billbry registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 8 January 1892 in Tarboro, N.C.; resided on Goldsboro Street, Wilson (crossed through and “New Bern, N.C.” entered); was a laborer for M. Popkin, Wilson; and had a wife and one child under twelve. He was tall and slender, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • Jessie Oliver registered for the draft on [5 June 1917.] Per his registration card, he was born in 24 December 1890 in Waynesboro, Georgia; resided in Black Creek, Wilson County; was a laborer for M.B. Aycock, Black Creek; and was single. He was of medium height and medium height, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Wade Brooks registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 1895 in Black Creek, Wilson; resided in Wilson; was a self-employed farmer in Black Creek; and was single. He was of medium height and slender, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • McKinley Justice registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 15 March 1896 in Edgecombe County, N.C.; resided on Route 1, Elm City; was a farmer for Frank Williams, Wilson; and was single. He was of medium height and slender, with brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Winsor Darden registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in September 1895 in Wilson County; resided in Wilson; was a self-employed farmer in Wilson County; and was single. He was of medium height and stout, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • Walter Applewhite registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 8 February 1896 in Saratoga, N.C.; resided near Walstonburg, Wilson; was a laborer at a sawmill for R.R. Shackleford; and was single. He was of medium height and weight, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • Nathan Dunnican registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 1892 in Wilson, N.C.; resided in Wilson County, N.C.; was a farmer for S.J. Watson, Route 2, Wilson; and was single. He was short and slender, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Albert Howard registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born about 1896 in Wilson County, N.C.; resided in Wilson, N.C.; was a self-employed farmer; and was single. He was short and of medium build, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X. [See Albert Howard in uniform here.]
  • Junius Lucas registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 18 July 1890 in Nash County, N.C.; resided in Wilson, N.C.; was a self-employed farmer; and was single. He was tall and of medium build, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • Roy Evans registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 17 September 1895 in Nash County, N.C.; resided at 404 East Green Street, Wilson; was a butler for Jonus Oettinger, Wilson; was single; and had an injured back. He was tall and slender, with brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Fred Woodard registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 1893 in Black Creek, N.C.; resided in Stantonsburg, N.C.; was a farmer forFred Washington; and was single. He was of medium height and slender, with brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • Matthew Whitehurst registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born October 1889 in Martin County, N.C.; resided on Route 1, Elm City, N.C.; was a farmer for George A. Barnes near Elm City; and was single. He was tall and of medium build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Edd Taylor registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born August 1896 in Elm City, N.C.; resided in Elm City, N.C.; was a farmer for Miles Pierce, Elm City; and was single. He was of medium height and build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • Orlando Williams registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in August 1891 in Wilson County, N.C.; resided on Route 6, Wilson, N.C.; was a farmer for Sallie Graves, Stantonsburg; and was single. He was of medium height and build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Jim Woodard registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 8 April 1890 in Wilson County, N.C.; resided in Elm City, N.C.; was a farmer; and was single. He was short and of medium build with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • Sam Bunn registered for the draft on 27 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born July 1895 in Elm City, N.C.; resided in Elm City, N.C.; was a farm laborer for father Amos Bunn; and was single. He was of medium height and weight, with dark blue eyes and black hair, that was slightly balding. He signed his card with an X.
  • James Thomas Revell registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 9 July 1893 in Wilson County, N.C.; resided on Route 4, Kenly, N.C.; was a self-employed farmer on Route 1, Lucama; and was single. He was tall and slender, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • Charlie Jones registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 20 August 1893 in Wilson County, N.C.; resided in Wilson County, N.C.; was a farmer for J.S Jones, Sims, N.C.; and was single. He was medium height, with dark eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Larry Clay registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 15 May 1895 in Oxford, N.C.; resided in Black Creek, N.C.; was a farm laborer for John Clay, Black Creek; and was single. He was tall and of medium build, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Two African-American men named William Thomas registered for the draft on 5 June 1917 in Wilson County. One was born about 1896 in Wilson County, N.C.; resided in Elm City, N.C.; was a farmer for E.R. Brinkley, Toisnot township; and was single. He was of medium height and build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card “Will Thomas.” The second was born in 1895 in Augusta, Georgia; resided in Neverson, N.C.; worked as a laborer at a rock quarry for Harris Granite Company; and had a wife and two children. He was tall and of medium build and had black eyes and hair. He signed his name with an X.
  • Robert Lee Mitchell registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 17 April 1896 in Elm City, N.C.; resided in Elm City, N.C.; was a farmer for J.G. Mitchell, Toisnot township; and was single. He was tall and slender, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.
  • James Johnson registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 10 June 1895 in Kenly, N.C.; resided in Wilson, N.C.; was a self-employed farmer in Black Creek township; and was single. He was tall and slender, with black eyes and black hair. He signed his card with his full name.
  • Several African-American men named Frank Barnes registered for the draft on 5 June 1917. The man inducted here was most likely one of two. The first was born 2 April 1895 in Wilson County, N.C.; resided in Wilson County, N.C.; was a farmhand for Drew Barnes, Wilson; and was single. He was of medium height and build, with dark eyes and dark hair. He signed his card with his full name. The second was born 25 August 1892 in Wilson County, N.C.; resided at 618 Lodge Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer at Farmers Oil Mill; and was single. He was of medium height and build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He signed his card with an X.