Newspapers

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: “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.

Pvt. Ford killed in Christmas Eve car accident.

Wilson Daily Times, 28 December 1944.

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In the 1930 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farm laborer Rosco Ford, 48; wife Mary J., 37; and children Roxy L., 19, Iola, 17, Beatrice, 16, David, 14, Gestine, 13, John D., 11, Rosetta, 8, Virginia, 7, Horris C., 6, Ester J., 4, Mary L., 3, and Henry C., newborn.

In the 1940 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Roscoe Ford, 55; wife Mary, 48; children Beatrice, 25, David Lee, 24, J.D., 21, Rose Esther, 19, Virgina, 17, Harries, 15, Esther, 14, Mary, 13, Henry Clay, 10, and Willie Clinton, 9; and grandchildren John Beregs, 4, and and Odain McKennon, 1.

Horace Clee Ford registered for the World War II draft in June 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 28 January 1924 in Wilson County; lived on Route 1, Elm City; his contact was Roscoe G. Ford; and he worked for Walter Pridgen, Elm City.

Horace C. Ford died 24 December 1944 in rural Wilson township, Wilson County “3 mi N of Wilson.” Per his death certificate, he was born 24 January 1924 in Wilson County to Roscoe Ford and Mary Jane Simms; was single; was a soldier in the U.S. Army; and was buried in William Chapel cemetery.

Dawes suffocates in tobacco barn.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 August 1946.

Here’s another example of the value of newspaper accounts in providing broader context to the clipped conclusions set forth in death certificates. Per the coroner’s conclusion, the certificate said only “found dead, no sign foul play.”

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In the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Ed Dawes, 38; wife Cora, 27; and children Jesse, 14, Lena, 12, Della, 10, Lonny, 2, and Ned, 1 month.

In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on the Plank Road, farmer Edward Dawes, 52; his second wife Cora F., 33; and children Lena, 18, Mary D., 17, Lonnie, 11, Ned, 8, Isaih, 7, Charlie, 6, Estelle, 3, and Cora F., 9 months.

In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Ed Daws, 62; wife Cofranza, 41; and children Lonie, 21, Mary D., 25, Ned, 18, Izel, 17, Charlie, 14, Estella V., 12, Cora, 9, David L., 7, Mathew, 5, Claudy, 3, and [granddaughter?] Dolly May Edwards, 1.

Ned Dawes, 27, son of Ed and Cora F. Dawes, married Martha Goones, 40, daughter of Arthur and Minnie Goones, in Pitt County, N.C., on 21 December 1925.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm operator Ned Dawes, 41, and Martha, 30. 

Ned Dawes registered for the World War II draft in 1942 in Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 December 1898 in Wilson County; lived at Route 1, Elm City, care of R.H. Hinton; his contact was R.H. Hinton; and he worked for Earl Gardner, Saratoga, N.C.

Parker drowns while fishing.

Wilson Daily Times, 27 June 1930.

Matthew Parker’s death certificate told a less nuanced story of his death with a slightly judgey undertone: “Drowned Supposed accidental getting in water over his head and could not swim.”

——

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Roxy Parker, 24, and children Joseph, 14, Minnie, 13, Elenn, 12, Armena, 11, Mathew, 10, and Defatie, 2.

Matthew Parker registered for the World War I draft in 1918 in Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 March 1899; lived on Harper Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer for W.T. Clark; and his nearest relative was Roxy Parker.

On 9 October 1918, Matthew Parker, 18, married Emma Knight, 17, in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lipscomb Road, William H. Knight, 32, truck driver; wife Minnie, 24; brothers-in-law Cephus, 29, Menus, 22, and Matthew Parker, 18, all farm laborers; and lodgers Mary, 25, cook, Lebis, 10, and Lovie Saunders, 8. Next door: widow Roxie Parker, 50, and daughter Ellen, 21.

Roxie Parker died 2 October 1925 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 6 May 1919 in Wilson to Matthew Parker and Emma Knight. She died of diphtheria

[Matthew Parker’s older brother Cephus Parker came to his own tragic end in 1944.]

Lane Street Project: Volunteers recover Wilson’s lost history — Group scours neglected cemeteries for missing graves.

Lane Street Project is preparing the announcement of its 2021 kick-off clean-up of Odd Fellows and Rountree cemeteries on January 16 and 18 to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and National Day of Service. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, here’s an article by Drew C. Wilson that ran 16 December 2020 in the Wilson Times. 

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About 45 minutes into an effort to clear vines and overgrowth from African American graves, volunteers fulfilled one of their major objectives Tuesday, locating Samuel H. Vick’s resting place. 

The prominent Wilsonian is Vick Elementary School’s namesake. 

“He was born enslaved in Nash County and came to Wilson at an early age,” said Lisa Henderson, a historian and organizer of the Lane Street Project to locate missing graves in Wilson’s Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries. “He was an educator, was a businessman, was one of the founders of Calvary Presbyterian Church, was postmaster of Wilson, very politically involved and arguably, in the first half of the 20th century, was the most prominent African American citizen of Wilson.”

It was Vick who famously brought Booker T. Washington to Wilson on Nov. 3, 1910.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Henderson said. “It’s really what the Lane Street project is all about. It’s not only raising awareness of the condition of these cemeteries, but also bringing back graves that have been lost for 50, 60, 70 years.”

Armed with loppers, pruners and picks, volunteers chopped and cut their way through inches-thick, decades-old vines.

“This grave that we just found is a Pender,” Henderson said as grime was smoothed away from the tannin-stained face of Gray Pender’s marble marker.

“Honestly, that is a Wilson family name. This person may have relatives right here in Wilson right now,” Henderson said. “It is indescribable to me. It’s really what it’s about.”

Henderson said she hopes individuals and groups will get involved in recovering this lost history.

“Pick a Saturday, come out here with some loppers, some hand pruners and just knock back some weeds,” Henderson said. “Hopefully, maybe by spring we will be able to see that there is a cemetery again, and that will help us decide what the best course is going forward. Obviously, I would ask anybody who comes out here to be respectful. This is hallowed ground, even if it is abandoned. But other than that, this belongs to everybody.”

Henderson said more than 1,500 graves are in the 11 acres of cemetery land at the east Wilson site.

“There are three cemeteries. We are now standing in Rountree Cemetery.  East of Rountree is Odd Fellows and beyond that is a big open field that’s actually a cemetery, that’s Vick. African Americans were buried in these three cemeteries,” Henderson said.

Henderson said African American history is Wilson’s history.

“It is all of our history. It is something that we all can be proud of. It is something that contributed to the city as a whole and the same with these cemeteries,” Henderson said.

Castonoble Hooks, one of the volunteers, said he had mixed emotions about the effort.

“First of all, I am honored to be restoring honor to people who have been overlooked for so long, understanding as I do the sacrifices these people made,” Hooks said. “I am appalled by the fact that they have been allowed to come to this point of desecration and to be allowed to stay that way for so long. I am delighted to discovered the ones we are discovering, but then when I looked across the field at the thousands of slaves and regular citizens whose tombstones and markers and indicators were removed under and agreement to be placed back and a promise never kept, that saddens me tremendously. I am going to do whatever I can in my lifetime to restore some dignity to these people’s names and memories.”

Hooks was referring to the nearby Vick Cemetery.

Henderson said the city of Wilson basically desecrated the graveyard. 

“They leveled it. They removed all the tombstones, put them somewhere and have now lost them. We have no idea, no record of who was buried in that cemetery,” Henderson said. “Obviously, there are two streams of responsibility. There is the responsibility of our own community for stepping into the breach and doing something about this. There is also the responsibility of the city of Wilson, which denied its ownership of that cemetery of Vick for decades and then, when they stepped in to do something, they destroyed it and made it impossible for people to find out who was there.”

Henderson said it’s not clear what path forward the project will take.

“All we are out here to do today is to try to make it easier for people to get in here,” Henderson said. “There is long-term goal and there is a role for the city of Wilson to play in terms of making this situation right. There is a role for all of the owners of these cemeteries to play, a role for all of us.”

For native Wilson families, Henderson said there’s likely a connection to the people buried here. 

“If you are here and you have roots in Wilson, you’ve got somebody in these cemeteries,” Henderson said. “You’ve got lots of somebodies in these cemeteries. I can’t stand and wait for the city to do something when we can do something. It just takes a little bit of effort and commitment and a decision to honor who’s here to get some amazing things done, so we will be out here Thursday.”

Volunteers plan to meet from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday to continue clearing around any graves they locate.

Charlie Farris, chairman of the Wilson Cemetery Commission, said he’s heartened that the group cares for Wilson’s departed. 

“I’m glad that there are people wanting to locate the graves of people buried 70 or 80 years ago, and I wish the city of Wilson would come out with its equipment and clear this whole area,” Farris said. “There are graves 100 feet deep inside that haven’t been seen in years. I am just thrilled that there are concerned citizens that can come out and help clean it. These are cemeteries within the city, and something needs to be done.”

For more information, visit Henderson’s website, “Black Wide-Awake,” at  https://afamwilsonnc.com. The site details a broad range of African American history in Wilson. 

Photo by Drew C. Wilson, courtesy of Wilson Times.

The obituary of Samuel H. Vick, postmaster, educator, banker, real estate dealer, theatre owner and businessman.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 July 1946.

Samuel H. Vick‘s grave marker was unearthed last month by Lane Street Project volunteers. Though “Rountree” was already the name used collectively for the three cemeteries at the east end of Lane Street, Vick was in fact buried in Odd Fellows.