Maps

Lane Street Project: LiDAR imagery.

LiDAR Imagery Simple.jpg

LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances to the Earth. These light pulses, combined with other data,  generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.

The LiDAR image above reveals the surface characteristics of the ground comprising Vick, Odd Fellows, and Rountree cemeteries.

Vick cemetery is a dispiriting flat, featureless plan — not entirely unexpected given the city’s contracted leveling and grading of the site.

Odd Fellows’ surface is lightly stippled, with a short, artificially straight “scar” near its lower left corner that appears to correspond to the mysterious trapezoid revealed in old aerial photos. The image also captures the berm along the edge of Sandy Creek, which was channeled for reasons that are not apparent given its relative lack of importance as a tributary of Hominy Swamp.

Sandy Creek is the eastern border of Rountree Cemetery, and the unnaturally straight bed of the creek makes its manipulation plain. Rountree Missionary Baptist Church’s 1906 deed to the property refers to this waterway as a “canal.”

The image reveals other interesting landscape features, including the jagged path of an old watercourse, or perhaps a drainage ditch, just below Vick cemetery (now shielded by a line of deciduous trees) and two undulating parallel terraces east of Sandy Creek.

Again, many thanks to Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department.

Lane Street Project: aerial views.

A refresher:

  • The eastern end of Lane Street, in southeast Wilson, is home to three historic African-American cemeteries: Rountree (established about 1906), Odd Fellows (established circa 1900), and Vick (established 1913).
  • Rountree and Odd Fellows are privately owned. Vick is owned by the City of Wilson.
  • All three have been abandoned.
  • Rountree is completely overgrown with mature trees and heavy underbrush.
  • Odd Fellows is also overgrown, except for a narrow strip along the road that the city maintains.
  • In 1996, the city clear-cut Vick cemetery, removed its remaining headstones, graded the entire parcel, and erected a single marker in memory of the dead.

A series of aerial photographs of the cemeteries over time shows in astonishing detail the forgotten features of these cemeteries and the terrible march of neglect across all three. Each photograph has been overlaid with the present-day boundaries of tax parcels. The rectangle at left is Vick, then Odd Fellows and Rountree.

  • 1937

This blurry photograph shows the interconnectedness of the three cemeteries, with narrow dirt paths winding across property lines and no visible boundary markers. The light areas are too large to be individual stones and more likely are family plots of varying sizes. The back edge of Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries — marshy land along Sandy Creek — was wooded.

  • 1948

Though hundreds were buried between 1937 and 1948, Vick is still almost completely open field, with some trees at its western and southern edges and numerous plots visible.  A large cleared trapezoid straddles the Vick and Odd Fellows boundaries — what is this?

Screen Shot 2020-06-27 at 2.40.14 PM.png

  • 1954

Six years later, the change is shocking. Vick has clearly fallen into disuse, its paths allowed to fill with weeds. Rountree and Odd Fellows, too, are overgrown, but their major paths remain clear. The mystery trapezoid, however, is gone.

Screen Shot 2020-06-27 at 2.41.16 PM

  • 1964

Another ten years and all three cemeteries are well on their way to complete abandonment. Only one path is clear, a new passage cut to join an old one in Odd Fellows.

Screen Shot 2020-06-27 at 2.42.11 PM.png

  • Today

A contemporary aerial view of the three cemeteries shows the empty expanse of Vick; its lone city-sponsored monument; the paved path leading from the monument to a small parking lot located at the boundary of Vick and Odd Fellows; the cleared bit of Odd Fellows; and the jungle that is Rountree. There is no trace of the trapezoid.

I am indebted to Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department, for responding to my inquiry re the availability of Wilson County maps, answering a million questions, and providing these remarkable images.

Road map to county schools.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has made available digitally copies of many of its historic maps. The 1936 North Carolina County Road Survey not only maps Wilson County’s roads, it also shows the locations of schools and churches. African-American county schools appear as “other”:

Screen Shot 2020-06-20 at 8.12.30 AM

Some of the schools are easily identified, but for others I have made best guesses.

Starting in the northern part of the county, which covers parts of Taylor, Toisnot, Wilson, and Gardners townships:

Screen Shot 2020-06-20 at 8.15.48 AM

  1. Turner School
  2. Page School
  3. Wilbanks School
  4. Pender School
  5. Mitchell School
  6. William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church

The southeast sector, covering parts of Wilson, Saratoga, Stantonsburg, and Black Creek townships. Holdens and Saratoga Schools do not appear:

Screen Shot 2020-06-20 at 8.14.44 AM

  1. London’s Primitive Baptist Church
  2. Bynum School
  3. Lane School
  4. Evansdale School
  5. Brooks School
  6. Minshew School
  7. Stantonsburg School
  8. Healthy Plains School
  9. Yelverton School

The southwest sector, covering parts of Wilson, Spring Hill, Cross Roads, and Black Creek townships:

Screen Shot 2020-06-20 at 8.19.02 AM

  1. Rocky Branch Christian Church; Rocky Branch School
  2. Williamson School
  3. Calvin Level School
  4. Kirby School
  5. Powell School
  6. probably Ruffin or Ferrell School

The northwest sector, covering parts of Wilson, Taylors, and Old Fields townships. Barnes, Sims, Howard, and Jones Hill Schools do not appear to be marked:

  1. Lofton School
  2. New Vester Missionary Baptist Church; New Vester School
  3. Farmer School

New Vester School.

The first in a series of posts highlighting the schools that educated African-American children outside the town of Wilson in the first half of the twentieth century. The posts will be updated; additional information, including photographs, is welcome.

New Vester School

New Vester School was built in the early 1920s with money from the community and the Julius Rosenwald Fund.

Location: Demolished. The school was on the north side of New Vester Missionary Baptist Church, now the site of the church’s front parking lot. As set forth in Mortgage Book 622, Page 410, the metes and bounds were: “Beginning at the Northwest corner of New Vester Missionary Baptist Church lot, a point in the middle of the road, thence with the middle of the road North 3 degrees 15′ East 67 feet to the center of the road to Wilson, thence with the middle of said road North 77 degrees 30′ East 351 feet; cornering; thence South 350.2 feet to the New Vester Church Cemetery line; cornering; thence with said cemetery line 253.5 feet to the New Vester Missionary Baptist Church corner; cornering; runs thence North 6 degrees 30′ East 210 feet; cornering; runs thence West 105 feet to the point of beginning; and being known as New Vester Colored School lot. …”

Screen Shot 2020-05-30 at 8.47.32 PM

Descriptions: per The Report on Schools in Wilson County, North Carolina 1925-26, “This is a building of the two-teacher type provided with cloak rooms and industrial room. The windows in this building are too close to the floor and there is no lattice between the brick piers. There was but little equipment in the New Vester school and modern desks should be supplied. A further criticism of this building is that the piers under the center girders were very crude. Good piers should be provided as early as possible for if the building once sags it will be almost impossible to ever get it in good condition again.”

Rosenwald two-teacher community school plan.

Known faculty: principal Cora Sherrod Wilson; teachers Lucille Clement, Hazel Marie Davis.

Notes: New Vester closed at the end of the 1950-’51 school year, and its children, of all grades, were sent to the new Springfield High School. The Wilson County Board of Education offered this school and lot at public auction on 19 November 1951 with eighteen other “colored” schools.

Aerial view per Google Maps.

Rev. Smith complains of a drainage ditch.

Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 3.40.14 PM

Wilson Daily Times, 10 May 1910.

The 1908 Wilson, N.C., Sanborn fire insurance map shows Wilson’s electric light station on Railroad Street between Nash and Church Streets, across the Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road from the train station. (Today, this is approximately the location of the parking lot of Green Grocery, formerly known as M&W.)

The drainage ditch of which Rev. Owen L.W. Smith complained is not shown. Presumably, it drained away from the railroad and toward the African-American neighborhood southeast of Pettigrew Street.

Hart Island Project.

I knew, of course, that New York City has a potter’s field. That knowledge, however, did not blunt the impact of drone footage of laborers burying in long trenches the plain wooden coffins of coronavirus victims. The pine boxes, startlingly pale against the dark slash of subsoil, stacked edge to edge, two deep.

More than one million New Yorkers have been buried on Hart Island since the late 1860s. In early April 2020, as hundreds, then thousands, died a day from Covid-19, the city began to bury unclaimed bodies, at least temporarily, on the island.

Hart Island Project, a nonprofit group that has pushed for more public access and awareness regarding the island, published the drone video. The Project has created database (with map) of burials on Hart Island since 1980 and Traveling Cloud Museum, an interactive storytelling platform that provides information about each person, including “a clock that measures the period of time they have been buried in anonymity until someone adds a story, image, epitaph, sound or video.

Hart Island Project’s work and website are powerful models for what might be done to restore to memory the dead of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick Cemeteries.

For more regarding initial efforts to identify Hart Island’s dead, please see “Finding Names for Hart Island’s Forgotten,” a story by Cara Buckley published 24 March 2008 in the New York Times:

“For her part, Ms. [Melinda] Hunt believes that Hart Island should allow public visits, at least once a year, though Stephen Morello, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, said security would be a concern because inmates work there. Ms. Hunt also said the need was urgent for Hart Island’s burial records to be available in a centralized database, an expense that Mr. Morello said the Correction Department did not have the resources to cover. Thousands of records, handwritten in ledgers, were lost in a fire in the 1970s. Ms. Hunt said she would be applying to a state arts foundation for money to post the records online, and to collect the stories behind them.

‘People have the right to know where their family members are buried in the city,’ she said. ‘I’m trying to show a hidden part of American culture that I think is important, that I think is overlooked. These are public records. They belong to the people of New York.’”

Hat tip to Renee Lapyerolerie.

The Wiggins land.

This plat map of the block bounded by Grace, Gay, Moore and Wiggins Streets was drawn from a survey made 22 October 1914 and proposed a subdivision into twenty lots.

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 7.20.14 PM.png

Eight years later, there were only five houses on the block.

Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, N.C. (1922).

Here is the block today. Hines Street subsumed Wiggins Street in the late 1960s as part of a road improvement project that connected Raleigh Road and U.S Highway 301. The red-roofed endway house facing Grace Street may be the house shown on the Sanborn map above.

Plat book 1, page 14, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson; aerial view courtesy of Google Maps.

Tuskegee Place.

Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 8.43.47 PM.png

In the late 1940s, the Wilson Cemetery Trustees made plans to sell off some of its land adjacent to Rest Haven cemetery. This June 1949 plat map shows the proposed subdivision of a parcel southwest of Lane Street.

The street layout mostly came to fruition, though Merrick Street never crossed the highway, Tuskegee did not extend past Lane, and the short stretch labeled “Barbour Street” is just a sharp turn on Lane.

Aerial view courtesy of Bing.com.

What happened to Wiggins Street?

Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 2.59.32 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 19 September 1968.

Several posts have referenced the disappearance of Wiggins Street, which once ran from the Atlantic Coast Line railroad to Stantonsburg (now Pender) Street, broke for a block, then resumed at Manchester to merge with Wainwright Avenue at Reid Street.

Wiggins Street per the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C.

The planned route shown in the Daily Times in September 1968 was approved, and Wiggins disappeared under an extension of Hines Street from South Lodge through what was then Factory Street, over the railroad, and on to a merger with East Nash Street.

Property of Judge Fleming heirs.

Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 9.10.37 PM.png

As detailed here, Judge Fleming and his son Johnnie died in an automobile accident in 1934. This plat map of Fleming’s Gardners township property was drawn in December 1947. Fleming’s youngest child had reached the age of majority, and the land likely was divided to be distributed among his heirs.

Plat book 4, page 82, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.