Land

The Blounts sell a lot.

On 28 March 1905, for $200, Calvin and Effie Blount sold Daniel Blount a one-quarter acre lot and house “on the south side of the Alley running from Cemetery Street towards the Colored Cemetery ….” The deed mentions several features of the landscape — several ditches, a bridge at the intersection of the alley with Cemetery Street, a house occupied by Walter Jones. (The ditches and bridge remind us that this was low-lying, flood-prone land, which was likely a factor in the abandonment of Oakdale Cemetery in favor of Vick Cemetery after 1913.)

Calvin Blount and Daniel Blount were likely either relatives or shared a history of enslavement by Richard H. Blount of Pitt, then Wilson, County. 

Deed book 68, page 363, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Henderson Howard, alias Brantley, mortgages 25 acres.

On 16 January 1904, having borrowed $250, Henderson Howard, who was also known as Henderson Brantley, gave Zealous Howard a mortgage deed for 25 acres in Taylors township, Wilson County. If Henderson failed to repay the loan, Zealous was authorized to sell the property at auction.

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In the 1850 census of Nash County, North Carolina: Betty Brantley, 50, and her children Kimbrel, 25, Henderson, 14, and Guilford B. Brantley, 12, all described as mulatto.

In the 1860 census of Bailey township, Nash County, North Carolina: Henderson Howard, 21, farm laborer, in the household of farmer Thomas B. Deans, 25. 

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Henderson Howard, 40; wife Mollie, 25; and children Charley, 8, Richard, 6, Bettie, 5, and Hellan, 1.

In the 1900 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: widow Henderson Howard, 59, farmer; children Charley, 26, and Bettie, 21; and servant Linda Boon, 44. 

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Howards Path, Henderson Brantley, 70, widower; daughter Bettie, 23; and cousin Dock Howard, 38.

On 9 April 1915, Hence Brantley executed a will in Wilson County. Under its terms, his daughter Bettie was to receive 22 1/2 acres, including the home place; son Charley Brantley was to receive an adjoining 22 1/2 acres; and daughter Molie Hourd [Mollie Howard] was to receive his remaining land. His money was to be split evenly among the children. Brantley named his “trusty friend” Grover T. Lamm executor, and Lamm and Dock Howard were witnesses.

Henderson Brantley died 2 December 1916 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 80 years old; was a widower; was a retired farmer; and was born in Nash County to Bettie Brantley. Informant was Charles Brantley.

Deed book, page 576-577, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

911 Mercer Street.

This house is not within the bounds of East Wilson Historic District. However, the blocks of Mercer Street southwest of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad lines have been an African-American residential area since the early twentieth century.

As a result of infill building, this house appears to have been numbered 111, then 909, then 909 1/2, then 911 Mercer. Now heavily modified from its original appearance, 911 Mercer Street was held by the family of John H. and Cornelia Barnes Tillery for nearly 90 years.

On 27 December 1915, John Tillery paid Samuel H. and Annie M. Vick $300 for Lot No. 22 Mercer Street, as shown on the plat map of Winona suburb.

Deed book 102, page 567, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 111 Mercer, owned free and clear, John Tillery, 47, office janitor; wife Cornelia, 35; and children Ernest, 13, Ashley, 8, Jessie, 12, Raymond, 6, Adelia, 4, and Lanford, 1.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) lab h Mercer nr N S R R

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) lab h 909 Mercer

Detail of Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., page 33, 1922.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) emp city h 909 Mercer. Also, Tillery Ernest (c) farmer h 909 Mercer

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c; Cornelia) farmer h 909 Mercer. Also, Tillery Ernest (c) farmer h 909 Mercer, and Tillery Raymond (c) lab 909 Mercer

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 909 Mercer, owned and valued at $1500, John Tillery, 51, farmer; wife Conielia, 45; and children Jessie, 20, family cook, Ashley L., 18, truck farm helper, Raymond, 16, truck farm helper, Adelia, 14, house maid, Johny L., 11, Elnora, 7, and Clyde, 5. 

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John H (c; Cornelia) lab 909 1/2 Mercer. Also listed at 909 1/2 Mercer: Adelia, cook; Ashley L., laborer; Jessie, cook; and Raymond Tillery, laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 911 Mercer, owned and valued at $1200, John H. Tillery, 66, “hires out and plows”; wife Cornelia, 56, redrying plant stemmer; children Nelora, 17, and Clyde Tillery, 15, “cleans up yards,” and Jessie Williams, 30, cleans and cooks in private home; and granddaughters Alice Rosabelle, 4, and Barbara Anna, 2.

In 1940, Clyde Tillery registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 16 October 1926 in Wilson; lived at 911 Mercer Street; his contact was father John Tillery; and he was unemployed.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery Cornelia (c; 2) h 911 Mercer

Wilson Daily Times, 23 November 1945. 

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c; 2) h 911 Mercer

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 911 Mercer, John H. Tillery, 68; wife Cornelia, 62, plows gardens at private homes; daughter Jesse B. Williams, 41; and granddaughter Magnolia Williams, 7.

John Tillery died 8 October 1960 at Barnes Rest Home, 626 East Vance Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 December 1883 in Halifax County, N.C., to Benjamin and Cherry Tillery; was married to Carnelia B. Tillery; and worked as a city employee. Ashley Tillery, Williamston, N.C., was informant.

Cornelia Barnes Tillery died 6 June 1964 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 80 years old; was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Aaron Barnes and Pennina [maiden name unknown]; was widowed; and lived at 911 Mercer Street. Ashley Tillery was informant.

In March 1973, Wilson City Council ordered the demolition of the dwelling at 911 Mercer Street. May 1983, the Wilson building inspector’s office issued Ashley Tiller a permit to demolish a single family dwelling at 911 Mercer. However, when Clyde Tillery died in May 1997, his obituary noted his address as 911 Mercer. 

In October 2004, 911 Mercer Street was listed for foreclosure sale. Details of the notice reveal that the Tillery heirs had mortgaged the property to a real estate company in 1986 and had defaulted on the loan.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2022.

Calvin Blount’s first land purchase.

In his 1909 will, Calvin Blount left to his “sons Wright Blount and Tillman Blount, whom I have not heard from in many years” a one-acre lot “on the edge of the Town of Wilson, State and County aforesaid, adjoining the lands of G.W. Sugg, Cater Sugg, and the Colored Cemetery….”

Blount had purchased that small lot in January 1867, less than a year after he was emancipated. He paid Richard Hines Blount, who was likely his former owner and a blood relative, $50 for the parcel, which was located just south and west of present-day Hines and Pender Streets.

Deed book 2, page 182, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. 

 

Lane Street Project: the environment.

I understand that poking around in cemeteries is not for everyone. Might I interest you, then, in a creek cleanup?

This is Sandy Creek. Yesterday, just past Rountree Cemetery, I shepherded a snapping turtle from the middle of street to the curb, then watched it tip itself headlong into this filth. Like the other waterways of East Wilson — branches of Hominy Swamp and Toisnot Swamp — the pollution in Sandy Creek is atrocious. That any animal, much less one as large and ancient as a dinner-plate-sized turtle, is able to survive in this soup is a miracle, but does life need to be so hard? 

Lane Street Project: with the naked eye.

It’s my first visit to Wilson since George E. Freeney Jr. sent me the astonishing aerial photos of drought-browned Vick Cemetery giving up its secrets. I was curious — how visible were the graves at ground-level?

The answer: not very, but knowing where to look helps. Here — rest in peace — two graves lying a few dozen yards east of the central monument.

I’m on tenterhooks awaiting the results of the GPR study, and hope it will be available in time for Lane Street Project’s third season.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2022.

Lane Street Project: December 1994 aerial.

This aerial view of Lane Street (now Bishop L.N. Forbes Street), date-stamped 27 December 1994, offers surprises.

First, the bare expanse of Vick Cemetery, outlined in solid yellow. The city first cleared the cemetery with bush hogs in 1991. In late 1994, the period during which the photo was taken, city council was engaged in debate that led to reclearing, grading, and the complete removal of Vick’s headstones in the spring of 1995.

Second, the relative openness of Odd Fellows, whose approximate boundaries are outlined in dotted orange. The dark smudges closest to the street are pines that apparently were removed when Vick was cleared. The rear two-thirds of the parcel is overgrown with what appear to be bare deciduous trees. These trees, primarily poplars, hickory, and sycamore, remain today. The pines now cluster near the tree line on the southwestern half of the lot.

Rountree Cemetery, outlined in broken red, shows mostly a dark canopy of pine trees except along the edge of Sandy Creek.

Many thanks to Matthew Langston for the link to the 1994 aerial, NCDOT Historical Aerial Imagery Index, arcgis.com.

Town taxes, 1929: the colored delinquent list.

Even delinquent tax lists were segregated.

“Colored” owners owing property taxes included owner-occupiers, absentee owners,  investors, and estates. Samuel H. Vick owed the most by orders of magnitude, a sum reflecting his ownership of more than 100 properties across Wilson and his cashflow struggles after the collapse of Commercial Bank and the onset of the Great Depression.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 July 1930.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Lane Street Project: a database of burials.

The northwest edge of Vick Cemetery, from above. Photo courtesy of George E. Freeney Jr.

Before he left for Alabama, George E. Freeney Jr. sent more drone photos of Vick Cemetery. These images spurred me to begin an arduous task I’ve been putting off for a year — trying to figure out who is buried in Vick Cemetery.

As noted before, the City of Wilson has no records of burials or plots sold in Vick. The survey of surviving gravestones that was supposed to have been made when the cemetery was cleared either was never created or has been lost.

The task is further complicated by naming practices. Vick Cemetery was not called Vick Cemetery during its active period. It was “the colored cemetery” or, most confusingly, was lumped with Rountree and Odd Fellows Cemeteries as “Rountree.” Death certificates, though official records, were shockingly imprecise, with most before World War II listing the place of burial simply as “Wilson, N.C.” From 1913 to about World War II, most of these burials would have been in Vick, as it was the city’s public Black cemetery, but we can only make informed guesses.

The database I’ve created draws primarily from grave markers, death certificates, and newspaper obituaries. I am deliberately omitting Rest Haven burials, but the database will necessarily include burials in other Black cemeteries operating in Wilson in the late 1890s and early 1900s, such Oakdale/Oakland/Oaklawn, Rountree, Odd Fellows, and the Masonic cemeteries. If the location of a burial can be firmly identified as one of those cemeteries, my spreadsheet will note it.

For now, data for each burial includes name; whether a gravestone has been found; birth and death dates; confirmed location of grave; death certificate found; place of death; name of undertaker; place of burial as noted on death cert; place of burial as noted in obituary; and notes.

Here’s a peek:

From time to time, I’ll provide updates on the status of the spreadsheet, highlighting anomalies and interesting finds.

Lane Street Project: a second look.

On a hunch, I went back to look at Google Maps’ aerial view of Vick Cemetery.

As I suspected it might show, the evidence of Vick’s graves was always there. We just weren’t ready to receive it.

A few notes about this annotated image:

  • The faint green specks marking the presence of graves are most visible in the western half of Vick, and the lower third of the eastern half. The recent ground-penetrating radar survey of the cemetery will yield better information about the distribution of burials across the site.
  • Odd Fellows Cemetery was once indistinguishable from Vick on the ground. The forest you see here, the one Lane Street Project has been hacking at for two seasons, hides the same orderly rows of graves as those you see in Vick.
  • I’ve circled the three utility poles marching down one side of the cemetery. A base of a forty-foot utility pole is buried six feet deep. The same as a grave.
  • No bodies were disinterred to make way for the central monument, the parking lot, or the path linking them. They’re lying atop graves.
  • The western third of Vick, at left, is its highest ground at about 130 feet above sea level. The ground drops steadily as one moves east to about 115 feet at Vick’s border with Odd Fellows. After a hard rain, sheets of water stand in the flat. (The “hill” at the front of Odd Fellows is about 124 feet above sea level, and the marshy ground at the back of that cemetery is about 110.)