Land

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!)

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.

——

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.

——

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.

——

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.

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!

906 and 908 Viola Street; 505, 507 and 509 North Carroll Street.

The one hundred twenty-ninth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Seeds of Hope Wilson tends a teaching and community garden at the corner of Viola and Carroll Streets and, in a revamped cottage at 906 Viola, a small community center for the neighborhood surrounding Samuel H. Vick Elementary School. (The garden had not been installed when the photo above was taken.) Community members who work in the garden take home the food they grow after donating a portion to charities such as Hope Station, a local shelter. If you’d like to support Seeds of Hope’s fine work in East Wilson, see here.

Seeds of Hope’s property is a consolidation of five original lots — two on Viola Street and three on North Carroll. Below, a look at some of the families who lived at these addresses in the first half of the twentieth century.

Detail from Plat Book 42, Page 20, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson, showing Seeds of Hope’s consolidated parcel.

  • 906 Viola

As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1910; 1 story; John Dudley house; Queen Anne cottage with hip-roofed, double-pile form and turned porch posts; owner in 1925 was Dudley, a carpenter.” [The house was heavily modified for Seeds of Hope’s use.]

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Dudley Jno H carp h 906 Viola

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Dudley Jno H (c; Della) carp h 906 Viola

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barnes Ned (c; Malina) truck driver h 906 Viola

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 906 Viola, rented for $12/month, Ned Barnes, 31; wife Malline, 46; stepson Johny, 20; and sons Robert, 18, and Jessie B., 14.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 906 Viola, rented for $12/month, Amos Moore, 39; wife Mattie, 29, born in Georgia; children Joseph, 5, Patricia, 3, and Iris V., 8; and sister-in-law Lillie Blue, 33, born in Georgia.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory:  Moore W Amos (c; Mattie; 3) firemn Hotel Cherry h 906 Viola

  • 908 Viola

As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1945; 1 story; gable-end bungalow with metal porch supports.”

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cannon James (c; Debora) drayage 908 Viola

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cannon Jas (c; Deborah) taxi driver h 908 Viola

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 908 Viola, rented for $15/month, James Cannon, 34, taxi cab driver, born in S.C.; wife Deborah, 25, born in S.C.; and children Dorthy, 10, James Jr., 9, Beatrice, 6, William H., 3, and Willie W., 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 908 Viola, rented for $12/month, Polly Evans, 56, widow; children Charlie, 24, Josie, 16, Alphonza, 13, and Eloise, 10; son-in-law James Parker, 30; and daughter Virginia, 25.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Evans Polly (c) h 908 Viola

  • 505 North Carroll

As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1930; 1 story; one-room, gable-roofed house with bungalow type detail; aluminum sided; late example of traditional form.”

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ellis Jno (c; Georgia) soft drinks 1009 Carolina h 505 N Carroll

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ellis John (c; Georgia) lab h 505 Carroll

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 505 Carroll, rented for $10/month, James Tinsley, 30; wife Jensy, 23; and sister-in-law Arrie Williams, 34.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bynum General B (c) lab h 505 N Carroll; Bynum General B Jr (c) lab h 505 N Carroll

  • 507 North Carroll

As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1930; 2 stories; gable front house with two-bay facade and side-hall plan; aluminum sided; built by black developer William Hines.”

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ellis James (c; Matilda) lab h 507 N Carroll

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, the house at this address was vacant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Carroll, rented for $10/month, Wade Boddy, 36; wife Mildred, 32; and children Wade O., 2, and Mildred, newborn; mother-in-law Vicey Jones, 63, widow.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jones Vicie (c) lndrs h 507 N Carroll; Body Wade (c; Mildred; 2) lab 507 N Carroll; Body Wm (c; Susie) lab 507 N Carroll

  • 509 North Carroll

As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1940; 2 stories; gable front house matching #507; also built by William Hines.”

Aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Lane Street Project: Walter M. Foster.

Walter M. Foster‘s headstone in Odd Fellows Cemetery is a beautiful example of Clarence Best‘s early work — the white marble; the incised laurel leaves; the charming irregularity of his fonts.

Foster’s foot marker was carved by a different hand. His membership in the Odd Fellows lodge is signaled by the three linked rings marked F-L-T — friendship, love, truth.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

 

The origins of the linear park.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 January 1983.

In January 1983, the City’s Community Development announced the installation of a 1100 foot long linear park to replace a noisome open drainage ditch running between Vance and Viola Streets. The park was to include a play area, picnic tables, grills, fruit trees, and a paved path. “The city acquired most of the property for the park from the heirs of S.H. Vick, a former community leader who once owned much of east Wilson.”

In this 1940 aerial view of the area, the drainage ditch is visible as a darker gray angling across the interior of the block between Vance and Viola Streets, then angling sharply near Vick Street to join its source, the branch of Toisnot Swamp that flows behind Reid Street Community Center and the former Sam Vick Elementary School, now the offices of OIC. (Another fork of the branch flowed parallel to Elba Street toward Viola.)

And here is the Linear Park now.

Aerial photo from Wilson_CSP_6B_12, U.S.D.A. Photograph Collection, State Archives of North Carolina; current photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Attention, colored people!

Wilson Daily Times, 19 September 1944.

Though earlier in the century many of the largest developers of East Wilson real estate were Black, such as Samuel H. Vick and brothers Walter and William Hines, by World War II realtors and landlords increasingly operated from the other side of the tracks. Here, Cecil B. Lamm appealed to African-American buyers to invest their wartime earnings in narrow lots on Atlantic and Washington Streets.