Lane Street Project + Seeds of Hope Wilson: ’tis the season!

Seeds of Hope Wilson has been a fantastic friend to Lane Street Project, and we want to return the love. Seeds of Hope occupies a nearly 115 year-old house on Viola Street and tends a teaching garden on adjoining lots. Located across from the current Samuel H. Vick Elementary, down the street from the original Vick school, and around the corner from the Vick house, Seeds of Hope feeds the community body and soul.

As you gear up for the holidays, please remember our neighbors in the heart of historic East Wilson. Unopened, unexpired, non-perishable foods, as well as basic toiletries, are much-needed and greatly appreciated. You can drop donations at the Seeds of Hope House, 906 Viola St East on Tuesday and Saturday mornings between 8 A.M. and 10 A.M. (Or place small quantities of food items directly in their pantry facing Carroll Street.)

Thank you!

Lane Street Project: are there graves on the other side of the road?

Are there graves on the other side of Bishop L.N. Forbes Street?

Here is the evidence we have:

Per an aerial from Wilson County GIS website, here are the four cemetery parcels, plus the parcels across the street from Vick and Odd Fellows. All this land was originally part of a large farm owned by Frank W. and Mattie B. Barnes. Descendants of the Barneses still own the Wright Trust property and the Wilson Farm Properties parcel.

Rountree Missionary Baptist Church owns parcels on both sides of the road, one purchased in 1897 and the other in 1906. Together, they constitute Rountree Cemetery. No headstones currently are visible in the Rountree lot on the northwest side of the street. However, in late winter, profuse drifts of daffodils bloom in this lot, common indicators of old graves.

There is also this:

It is difficult to see here, but this is a rectangular slab of concrete at the edge of the ditch, perhaps six to seven feet long. Its surface is covered with dead plant matter, and fire ants have built nests along its front edge. In my youth, when (then) Lane Street was a dirt road, I saw an exposed vault cover parallel to and at the very edge of the ditch lining the street. This appears to be that vault cover.

The cement slab is visible as a light-colored rectangle in this aerial from Wilson County GOS website. 

But there’s also this:

We know the City placed steel power poles in Rountree and Vick Cemeteries in 1997, and an older set of wooden poles marches down the northwest of the street, as is visible in the upper left corner. There are also a fire hydrant and a manhole cover on the northwest side of the street. In other words, there is a municipal water line running either under Bishop L.N. Forbes Street or in the public right-of-way that occupies the first ten or so feet of Rountree Cemetery, measured from the edge of the street. There are no manholes in B.L.N.F. Street, which suggests the water (and sewer?) lines are in the right-of-way. There would have been no right-of-way observed during the period Rountree was actively receiving burials. Thus, as with Rest Haven, Odd Fellows, and Vick Cemetery, there were likely burials up to the edge of Rountree — on both sides.

This detail from a 1940 aerial depicts the stretch of B.L.N.F. Street that runs past the cemeteries. The patchy light areas below the street are family plots within the graveyards. However, the light areas above the street are ambiguous. They are clearly bare earth, but do they indicate graves? And what is going on across from Vick? A 1959 aerial shows that area completely denuded. There is no evidence, however, that this parcel has left the hands of the Barnes-Harriss-Wright family since the late 1800s, and it seems unlikely that they would have permitted burials on their property.

This detail from a 1985 aerial photograph of a section of the street is similarly ambiguous. The area encircled corresponds with the local of the cement slab above and appears to show several similar light-colored rectangles. There are some small white marks on the Wilson Farm Properties parcel, but are they graves?

The same year this image was taken, a jogger on Lane Street found bones on an unspecified side of road. Public Works director Bill Bartlett stated, “There is a concrete slab over one grave on one side of the road that wasn’t there when we annexed the property in 1972,” adding “The marker says the person was buried in 1950, but the slab has been poured in the past six or seven years.” Is this the slab above?

Bartlett also reported that a woman had called Asa Shreve, a former sanitation employee, and claimed she might have relatives buried under the street.  “Asa was going to look into that for me. It could be that we need to find out who that could be and see if they want to do some digging out there to remove the remains.” I’ve found nothing further about this alarming claim, but notice Bartlett didn’t dismiss the idea outright.

It is certain that graves lie on both sides of the road in the halves of Rountree Cemetery. Whatever the photos above may or may not show, more than one person has stated with certainty that they recall (or were told) that a family member’s grave was located on land across from Vick Cemetery as well.

Lane Street Project: monthly Vick Cemetery update, 9 November 2023.

Black Wide-Awake and Lane Street Project are inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Monthly Vick Cemetery update
Time: Nov 9, 2023 06:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 865 8946 3902

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Lane Street Project: Statesville’s Green Street Cemetery report.

Iredell County Public Library has released its final report on Green Street Cemetery, and I stand up and applaud. This is what respect and reclamation look like!

The entire report is too long to reproduce in this post, but here’s a link, and here are the first few pages. I am a member of the Green Street Cemetery descendant community; my maternal grandmother was from Statesville. I’m grateful for the many individuals and organizations that have worked to honor this sacred space and to create a successful model for other cities across North Carolina.



Cemeteries, no. 34: Sharpsburg Cemetery.

I found Sharpsburg Cemetery. And wow. Though it was active into the late 1990s, it has nearly completely reverted to woodland, with dozens and dozens of headstones standing above the forest floor, many in nearly pristine condition. Unlike wisteria-choked Rountree and Odd Fellows, however, these woods are easily traversed, though covered in naturalized English ivy.

The cemetery is on the Nash County side of Sharpsburg, down a gated track. It appears from county records to be privately owned. Its families lived in Nash, Edgecombe, and Wilson Counties, and I took photos with an eye for representation rather than Wilson residency. I’ll probably make a return visit when I’ve been able to study its known burials.

The gate threw me for a minute. But only a minute.

The open area at the front of the cemetery. The oldest part of the cemetery appears to be an area to the south deep inside the treeline.

Headstones, saplings, and grapevines. There was some trash at the site, but nothing to indicate it has ever been a dumpsite like Odd Fellows and Rountree. This clearly was a generally well-tended cemetery until perhaps 20 to 25 years ago.

  • Maggie Armstrong

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Ernest Taylor, 49; wife Lela, 47; and children Lawrence, 18, Billie, 16, Carrie, 14, Addie, 12, Lee, 11, Lela, 8, Mary, 7, Thomas, 6, Maggie, 4, Nellie, 3, and Robert, 2; and brother Fred, 20.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Ernest Taylor, 49; wife Lalar, 47; and children Tomie, 16, Maggie, 15, Mollie, 13, Robert, 11, Ona, 9, Blanche, 8, Roscar, 6, James, 5, and Daisy, 1.

On 30 December 1932, Richard Armstrong, 21, of Jarratt, Virginia, son of Gus Armstrong and William Ann Turner, and Maggie Taylor, 21, of Sharpsburg, N.C., daughter of Ernest Taylor and Lala Anderson, were married in Greensville County, Virginia.

In the 1940 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Richard Armstrong, 28; wife Maggie, 25; and children Earnest M., 6, Lawrence W., 5, Ivy Lee, 3, and Grady Earl, 1; widowed mother William Ann Armstrong, 68; and niece Mary Jeane McQueen, 15. Maggie and Mary Jeane had been Wilson County residents in 1935.

Maggie Armstrong died 11 February 1942 in Wilson, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 April 1915 in Wilson County to Ernest Taylor and Lala Anderson; was married to Richard Armstrong; was engaged in farming; and resided in Sharpsburg, Edgecombe County. She was buried in Nash County by S.E. Hemby, Fountain, N.C.

  • Ernest and Lalar Taylor, “Death is but life. Weep not.”

Ernest and Lalar Taylor were buried under a classic Clarence Best-carved double headstone.


In the 1900 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Robert Anderson, 60; wife Margaret, 58; and children Lanie V., 21, Francis, 19, Lala, 17, Charlie, 15, and Lee E., 14, and grandson Luther, 8 months.

Oon 8 January 1902, Ernest Taylor, 22, son of Caroline Taylor, married Lila Anderson, 19, daughter of Bob and Margaret Anderson, in Toisnot township, Wilson County.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Earnest Taylor, 29; wife Lalar, 25; children Lawrence, 8, Lula, 7, Billie, 6, Carry, 4, Eddie B., 3, Lee E., 2, and May B., 2 months; and sister Hattie, 17.

Lalar Taylor died 12 March 1942 in Rocky Mount, Nash County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was born 21 June 1883 in Nash County to Robert Anderson and Margaret Rice; and was buried in Sharpsburg Cemetery by S.E. Hemby, Fountain, N.C.

Earnest Taylor died 4 December 1961 in Rocky Mount, Nash County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 May 1880 in Wilson County to Caroline [maiden name unknown] and worked as a farmer.

  • Turner Joyner

For reasons that are not apparent to me, Simon E. Hemby was the undertaker of choice for many families in Sharpsburg Cemetery in the 1930s and ’40s. Hemby’s business (which is still in operation as Hemby-Willoughby) was in Fountain, Pitt County — some 21, two-lane miles away from Sharpsburg. Amazingly the temporary metal marker Hemby placed at Turner Joyner’s grave in 1938 is still legible.

In the 1880 census of Rocky Mount township, Nash County:  farmer Jason Joyner, 40; wife Milbry, 44; and sons Hawood, 16, Nevison, 13, and Turner, 12.

On 18 December 1889, Turner Joyner, 22, married Martha Pittman, 19, at Evelina Pittman’s in Nash County.

In the 1900 census of Sharpsburg town, Rocky Mount township, Nash County: day laborer Turner Joyner, 30; wife Martha A., 26; and children William S.T., 8, Ella, 6, Billie, 3, and Minnie S., 1.

In 1918, Bill Joyner registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 9 December 1896 in Sharpsburg; was a cropper for Dr. Barnes “near cor. limits of Sharpsburg”; and his nearest relatives were father Turner Joyner and wife Emma Joyner.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Turner Joyner, 52; wife Martha, 48; and children S.T., 27, Mary, 25, Maggie, 18, Annie, 15, Mamie, 13, Eva, 10, and Grady, 2.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Turner Joyner, 61; wife Martha, 56; daughter Annie C. Clark, 26, and children J.C., 7, James, 5, and S.T., 4.

Turner Joyner died 10 August 1938 in Sharpsburg, Township #14, Edgecombe County. Per his death certificate, he was born 20 September 1873 in Nash County to Jason Joyner and Milba Joyner; was the widower of Martha Joyner; and was buried in Sharpsburg by S.E. Hemby.

  • Harry Williams, “He Is Gone, But Not Forgotten”

You know I love a headstone artist, and Sharpsburg Cemetery contains many examples of the grave markers produced by this unknown person. He (almost surely) worked in concrete, stamping letters and numbers with a die or punch and incising elaborate floral designs with wedge-shaped elements. My guess is that this was a Nash or Edgecombe County artist, as I have not encountered this type of headstone in Wilson County cemeteries.


In the 1910 census of Township #14, Edgecombe County: farmer Harry Williams, 51; wife Mollie, 39; and children Mandonie, 17, Mack, 16, Starka, 13, Turner, 11, Harry Jr., 9, Paul, 7, and Silas, 3.

On 11 February 1920, Harry Williams, 21, of Toisnot township, Wilson County, son of Harry and Mollie Williams, married Mamie Justice, 21, of Toisnot township, daughter of Preston and Carrie Justice, in Elm City, Wilson County.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer Harry Williams, 22, and wife Mamie, 19.

Harry Williams died 1 July 1928 in Sharpsburg, Township #14, Edgecombe County. Per his death certificate, he was 30 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Harry Williams and Mollie Lawrence; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Sharpsburg cemetery. Mondon Williams was informant.

  • Lillie Bell Williams

Lillie Bell Williams died 7 April 1929 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 23 October 1928 in Wilson County to Paul Williams and Gladys Howard and was buried in Nash County.

  • Jacob C. Bellamy

This appears to be the headstone of the Jacob Bellamy who was born 1891 to James H. and Cherry Bellamy and lived in Edgecombe County. It is a lovely little marble stone in an older area of the cemetery that is overgrown with English ivy.

  • Eskimo Parker

The delightfully named Eskimo Parker, a Nash County native, is one of several veterans whose grave markers are visible in Sharpsburg Cemetery.

Lane Street Project: Resting in Resilience — Preserving African American Burial Grounds Amidst Challenges

From the website of Charleston, South Carolina’s International African American Museum:

“The preservation of African American cemeteries and burial grounds is an important and multifaceted issue that highlights both historical and contemporary challenges. These sacred sites often serve as tangible representations of African American history, providing insight into the experiences and contributions of this community throughout various periods.

“However, many of these cemeteries face significant threats to their preservation, including neglect, vandalism, and insufficient resources for maintenance and protection.

“Join in on this discussion surrounding the preservation of African American cemeteries and burial grounds involves addressing systemic inequalities, raising awareness about their historical significance, and implementing proactive measures to ensure their long-term preservation and recognition within the broader cultural landscape.”

Wyatt Lynch’s land today.

We saw the division of Wyatt Lynch‘s land in a post in which I estimated the farm’s location on Old Stantonsburg Road. I was right about the general location, but have recently found its exact site between the road and Hominy Swamp and across from Wedgewood Golf Club. Amazingly, it remains in the hands of Lynch’s descendants!

The parcels that make up the property are marked with white asterisks below. The southernmost, a small sliver of land fronting on Old Stantonsburg is the site of Dixon Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, named for the family of Harriet Lynch Dixon, which likely donated the land to the church.

Numerous death certificates attest to a family cemetery on this land, but this aerial does not immediately identify its location. Does anyone know where the Lynch/Dixon/Anderson/Rhoades cemetery is?

Aerial photo courtesy of Wilson County GIS website.

Lane Street Project: District 1 candidates speak on Vick Cemetery.

Three candidates are challenging Gillettia Morgan for Wilson’s District 1 city council seat.

We examined Morgan’s views on Vick Cemetery here. As reported by the Wilson Times on , at a recent candidate forum held at Wilson County Public Library, when asked about the issue,

Per Ricardo Dew:

In a feature published October 2, Dew spoke in greater depth:

Re Kahmahl “Melo” Simmons:

In a feature published October 9, Simmons spoke in greater depth:

Kaden LeBray was not present at the forum. However, in a feature published October 5, LeBray said:

Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2023.

I heard someone say not long enough ago that they heard Vick Cemetery was established on the site of a Native burial ground. There’s absolutely no evidence of that, and the sad truth of the place needs no embellishment. However, there is no question that Vick, like all of Wilson, lies on land that the Skarù:ręˀ, or Tuscarora, settled long before the arrival of colonizers.

Today we celebrate the indigenous people of this land and honor those who were among our ancestors.

Lane Street Project: Rocky Mount’s Unity Cemetery.

Let’s circle on back around to Rocky Mount.

This “Unity Cemetery Update,” which can be found at the city-hosted website,, issued from the City Manager’s office. It offers a model for progressive, responsive governance.

There’s a brief history and significance of the cemetery.

On the next page, which is oddly titled, we learn that Rocky Mount does not own Unity Cemetery. It is a private cemetery that may (or may not) be regarded under the law as abandoned. They estimate that it holds one thousand plots per each of its 18 acres. At present, descendants are responsible for maintenance of plots. (Thus, Unity is more like Odd Fellows and Rountree than Vick, which has always been a publicly owned space.)

The next slide details the City of Rocky Mount’s previous work to restore Unity.

Then, highlights of anticipated steps needed to clarify past and establish future ownership of the cemetery.

And a multi-part recommendation for actions to be carried out over the next several years. When the City of Wilson gets to point of creating a plan for Vick Cemetery — and I am speaking this into existence — Unity’s model could offer ideas worth exploring or emulating.

Obviously, Unity is in a very different position than Vick, which needs no title searches, hand thinning, or road repair, but I am awestruck by the difference generous funding could make for Wilson’s historic African-American cemetery.