Thank you to Wilsonians of all stripes who found common cause in the reclamation of these sacred spaces.
Thank you to folks who heard the call and drove in from as far away as Virginia to support us.
And thank you to those who were willing in spirit, but not able in body, and sent prayers and signal boosts (and money).
And now I’ll let the photos speak.
Team LSP pulls a sapling from the southwestern edge of Odd Fellows. Beyond the chainlink fence lies Vick cemetery.
The vines, y’all. The vines. But you can now almost see through to the back of the cemetery, and this is surely the clearest it’s been in 30+ years.
Looking from a pile of newly cut brush, the city-cleared section of Odd Fellows cemetery at left and the wooded section at right. Thanks to Lane Street Project volunteers, the wall of underbrush at the edge of the woods has been hacked away, and this part of the cemetery can be freely accessed.
I found the Best family marker last winter, but did not notice the low wall to which it was attached, enclosing the family’s large plot.
Dr. Judy and Rev. Kim, who also came in December, showed up with snacks, drinks, and prayer.
Janelle Clevinger’s second day on the job.
“… on the bosom of thy God.”
The next clean-ups — the Black History Month clean-ups — are February 6 and 20.
This morning, while driving to her home, Dale C. Winstead noticed Lane Street Project volunteers working at Odd Fellows Cemetery. She stopped to ask what was going on, then left and came back. When she returned, she offered this testimony:
Ms. Winstead’s father Elijah Winstead Sr. passed away in 2002. Her grandmother, Annie Jenkins Winstead, passed in 1941. It is almost certain that Annie Winstead was buried in Vick cemetery, and her headstone was among those removed when the city cleared the entire burial ground in 1994-95. Though the markers were to be catalogued and stored, per an unconfirmed report from a former employee, after a few years the city’s Public Works Department decided it needed the space. The department contacted those relatives they could find and asked them to pick the markers within a certain time. Otherwise, they would be destroyed.
Were you or anyone you know contacted circa 1995-2000 and asked about retrieving headstone taken from Rountree cemetery (the name by which most people called all three cemeteries)? If so, please contact Lisa Y. Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
On 14 March 1925, Marion Winstead, 22, of Edgecombe County, son of Jason and Hattie Winstead, married Annie Jenkins, 22, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Lizzie Jenkins, in Wilson County.
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 604 Manchester, fertilizer plant laborer Marion Winstead, 29; wife Annie, 29; and children Elizabeth, 6, Elija, 4, Ollie M., 2, and Jason, 1.
In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 622 Wiggins, farm laborer Marion Winstead, 40; wife Annie, 40; and children Elizabeth, 16; Elijah, 14, Olie, 13, Jaison, 7, Robert, 5, Grace, 4, and Marion, 2.
Annie Winstead died 22 March 1941 at her home on Wiggins Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 16 June 1899 in Edgecombe County to Van and Lizzie Jenkins; was married to Marion Winstead; lived at 622 Wiggins Street; and was buried 24 March 1941 in Rountree cemetery. Dr. B.O. Barnes was the attending physician.
Sincere thanks to Dale C. Winstead for sharing your inspiration for volunteering with Lane Street Project and to Brittany N. Daniel for capturing her words. They have been posted with permission.
And here it is. This narrow rectangle is the most common type remaining in Odd Fellows — white marble foot stones etched with the Odd Fellows’ linked rings and the name of the deceased brother. This marker stands at the grave of “Ed Umphrey,” or, more accurately, James Edward Humphrey.
On 25 May 1894, Edward Humphrys, 20, married Mary Harrison, 21, in Wilson. A.M.E. minister L.B. Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Dennis Sutton, D. Willie Best, and Lillie Harrison.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Edwin Umphrey, 24; wife Mary, 25; and children David, 6, Mattie B., 5, and Mittie L., 2.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 462 Goldsboro Street, lumber mill laborer Ed Humphrey, 35; wife Mary, 36, laundress; and daughters Mattie, 15, and Mittie, 12.
On 8 November 1911, Mattie B. Humphrey, 20, of Wilson, daughter of Ed and Mary Humphrey married Hardy Hinnant, 20, of Wilson, son of James and Louisa Hinnant, at Ed Humphrey’s residence in Wilson. Astor Tabron applied for the license, and Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Ione Holden, Annie Thompson, and Annie Iris.
On 10 December 1914, Mittie Humphrey, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Ed Humphrey, married Edward Grimes, 23, of Nash County, at Ed Humphrey’s residence. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony.
James Edward Humphrey registered for the World War I draft in Wilson on 12 September 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 14 February 1875; resided at 707 Goldsboro; worked as a cooper for Export Leaf Tobacco Company at Goldsboro and Spruce Streets; and his nearest relative was wife Mary Humphrey. He was described as tall and slender with gray eyes and black hair. He signed the card “Ed Humphrey.”
Wilson Daily Times, 12 November 1919.
Wilson Daily Times, 14 November 1919.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 South Goldsboro Street, tobacco factory cooper Edd Humphrey, 46; wife Mary, 47; daughter Cortez, 1; and boarder GeorgeCooper, 31, church minister.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Goldsboro Street, house carpenter Ed Humphrey, 54; wife Mary, 55; daughter Eddie C., 11; grandchildren Eddie R., 14, James M., 11, Alfred R., 9, Mary E., 7, Sally S., 5, and boarder Millie Faggins, 65.
James Edward Humphrey died 18 July 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 February 1875 in Person County, N.C., to Sallie Humphrey; was married to Mary Humphrey; lived at 707 South Goldsboro Street; and worked as a laborer.
Mary Humphrey died 12 April 1950. She was buried in the Masonic cemetery, which is also on Lane Street but about a half-mile from Odd Fellows.
Wilson Daily Times, 13 April 1950.
Mattie Humphrey Hinnant died 9 June 1969 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 December 1894 to Edward Humphrey and Mary [no maiden name listed]; was married to Hardy Hinnant; and lived at 707 South Goldsboro Street. She was buried in the Masonic cemetery. [Per Sanborn maps, 707 South Goldsboro was a one-story L-shaped cottage standing between Banks and Spruce Streets. It has been demolished.]
I’m just gon step out the way and let the folk who were there today testify:
“A HUGE shoutout to everyone who came out today in the cold to support Lane Street Project!!!! We have accomplished so much in so little time! If you couldn’t come out today, please come out Monday 9-11 or 12-2!”
“In case you needed a dose of good news for the weekend, please check out the work Lane Street Project is doing. Today has been a continuum of restoring and rediscovering the rich history of African Americans in the city of Wilson, NC. So many stories are just WAITING to be told! If you are interested in what is happening, join the group today to stay up to date on clean ups, restoration projects, and more! Thanks to the dedicated Lisa Y. Henderson, we ALL have a chance to uncover true black excellence.”
Jane Cooke Hawthorne
“So this is a long story, but I’m standing in the takeout line at Parkers BBQ in Wilson, N.C., so I’ll have time to tell it. Today I participated in the Lane Street Project, which is a new effort to clean, reclaim and repair 3 black cemeteries in Wilson. The first was a city-owned cemetery that was neglected until the city decided that they would raze, yes raze!!!, all the tombstones there and erect one large monument. There are estimated to be approximately 2000 black bodies in this cemetery. No names have been identified and the tombstones were destroyed. Makes me sick to think about.
“We worked instead in the Odd Fellows Cemetery which was once owned by a fraternal organization that disbanded, and this cemetery also fell into neglect. The cemetery is covered in thick wisteria vines and briars but some daffodils and other typical cemetery plantings endure. The headstones are buried under leaves and often broken. We worked to carefully clear these stones of brambles and vines and cleaned them with a soft brush and water. We then flagged them and took photos.
“I was so impressed by the young people that I met who came out to work. Please go out there on Monday if you are from Wilson. They are working again on MLK Day. This effort is being spearheaded by Lisa Y. Henderson, who, among many other wonderful things, writes the blog Black Wide Awake. Her blog is a treasure trove of African American history. In addition, she has started the Facebook page, Lane Street Project, where you can find out all you need to know about this project.
“Why did I go today? 1) I love a great old cemetery, 2) I love being outside, 3) because my history is richer when I know ALL facets of the history of my hometown, and 4) and certainly not least, because black lives matter to me.
“There is much to be done. Help is needed.”
“I have read one should never put new wine in old skins because it may burst. Working today with people with energy and purpose has me now bursting at the seams. I am filled with new energy. Our ancestors are honored by our efforts. I am so impressed by what we can do when we put our minds to it. God blessed us with the right minds and bodies for the job. Thank you, men — our muscle proved true, but our queens held the day. Mind and muscle both you displayed. Your organization, coordination, and logistics skills on full display. You were today’s MVP. See you all Monday. I must also comment on the white sisters and brothers who came from out of town as well as those from Wilson, remarkable people one and all. It warms my heart what they did — reminds me of our shared humanity. May God bless you and keep you safe.”
“Out in these forgotten woods are the graves of hundreds of people, many of them lost in time. Today we went out to the woods to clear some vines and let some light in. If you want to help heal the visible fractures in our society, you have to try to find and understand the history of forgotten people. Anyone can help shine the light of truth into the darkest of situations. And if you want to help with the Lane Street Project, we will be out there again January 18th from 12-2pm.”
Day 2 of the clean-up is Monday, January 18, on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday National Day of Service. Wilson County Democratic Party and the Democratic Women of Wilson County are joining Lane Street Project to co-host the event. Sessions are 9:00-11:00 AM and noon-2:00 PM and, again, masks and social distancing are required.
This lovely little headstone was discovered in Odd Fellows cemetery this very morning by volunteers at Lane Street Project’s Clean-Up Kick-Off!
Lula Dew Wooten’s grandparents and several generations of descendants are buried in the Dew cemetery on Weaver Road, northeast of Wilson. Lula’s grave in Odd Fellows cemetery suggests that she was buried in a plot purchased for her and her husband, Simeon Wooten. Wooten died in 1950, and his death certificate lists his burial location as “Rountree.” As we know, Rountree was the name broadly applied to Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemetery.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Jeff Dew, 38; wife Jane, 32, farm laborer; children Bessie, 12, Lesse, 9, Lula, 8, Nettie, 6, James E., 3, Lizzie, 2, and Jesse, 1 month.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, Jeff Dew, 46, farmer; wife Jane, 43, farm laborer; children Bessie, 21, Lessie, 19, Lula, 17, Nettie, 16, Eddie, 13, Lizzie, 12, Jessie, 9, Joseph, 8, Margaret, 6, and Jonah, 3. Jane and all but the youngest two children worked as farm laborers.
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Rocky Mount Road via Town Creek, Jefferson Dew, 57, farmer; wife Jane, 55; children Lula, 26, Nettie, 24, Eddie, 22, Jesse, 20, Joe, 17, Margaret, 16, and Jonie, 14.
On 11 July 1920, Sim Wooten, 38, of Wilson, son of John and Claudia Wooten, married Lula Dew, 26, of Wilson, daughter of Jeff and Jane Dew, at Jeff Dew’s residence. Daniel A. Crawford applied for the license, and Primitive Baptist minister C.H. Hagans performed the ceremony in the presence of Moses Dew, J.C. Lassiter, and John P. Battle.
Lulu Jane Wooten died 7 November 1927 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 May 1892 in Wilson County to Jefferson Dew and Jane Weaver; was married to Simeon Wooten; lived at 510 South Lodge, Wilson; and was a dressmaker.
World War II interrupted high school for many veterans, and they returned to earn their diplomas at war’s end. The Veterans Accelerated Club took this photo standing on the front steps of Darden High School.
The Trojan (1948), the yearbook of C.H. Darden High School.
The veteran-students’ instructors were John E. Dixon, Cora M. Washington, Mamie E. Whitehead, and Frissell W. Jones. The veteran-students: Walter Roberts, Paul L. Stevens, Henry Tune Jr., Ernest Edwards, Robert L. Murphy, Jesse B. Barnes, Jimmy L. Woodard, George W. Hines, Bennie Atkinson, Carlton Baker, Leo M. Bowens, Wilbert Currie, Frank Durham, Nelson T. Farmer, Nathaniel Ferguson, Henry Green, Jimmie Hines, Cle Arthur Jones, Nevalon Mitchell, Jesse Reynolds, Willie Townsend, Leon Williams, and Daniel Wright.
Ada Battle Atkinson (ca.1885-1971) and, perhaps, a grandchild.
On 27 January 1909, Mark Atkinson, 30, of Gardners township, son of Henry and Joannah Atkinson, married Ada Battle, 24, of Edgecombe County, in Gardners township, Wilson County.
In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mark Atkinson, 32; wife Ada, 26; and children Silvester, 6, Masy, 4, Emma, 2, and Henry, 4 months. Mark reported having been married twice.
In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mark Atkinson, 40; wife Ada, 35; and children Sylvester, 15, Henry, 10, Mark, 9, Joanna, 7, Bettie, 5, R. George, 3, and Frank, 1.
In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Mark Atkinson, 52; wife Ada, 45; and children Sylvester, 25, Henry, 20, Mark, 18, Joanna, 16, Bettie, 15, George, 13, Frank, 11, Fannie, 10, Ophelia, 7, and Willie, 4, and nephew John H., 21.
In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: widow Ada Atkinson, 55; children Betty, 25, George, 23, Frank, 21, Della, 21, Ophelia, 16, Willie, 14, and Geraldene, 9; grandchildren Cleo Atkinson, 9, Curtis Edwards, 8, and Thomas, 4, Minnie, 3, and Grey Atkinson, 2.
In 1940, George Rufus Adkinson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 15 November 1917 in Wilson; his contact was mother Ada Rebecca Adkinson; he resided on Route 2, Macclesfield, Edgecombe County; and he worked for Grady Skinner, Macclesfield.
In 1940, Frank Atkinson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 18 October 1918 in Wilson; his contact was mother Ada Atkinson; he resided on Route 1, Macclesfield, Wilson County; and he worked for G.R. Skinner, Macclesfield.
In 1944, Willie Mack Roy Atkinson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 5 March 1926 in Wilson County; his contact was mother Ada Atkinson; he resided on Route 1, Elm City; and he worked for Pattie Thorne, Elm City.
On 31 December 1945, George Atkinson, 29, single, of Wilson, born in Wilson County, son of Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle, married Laura Hines McCray, 24, widowed, of Wilson, born in Edgecombe County, daughter of David Hines and Maggie Station, in Emporia, Virginia.
Henry Atkinson died 21 January 1964 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 December 1910 in Wilson County to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; was married to Minnie Atkinson; lived at 116 Pender Street, Wilson; was a laborer; and was buried in Well Cemetery, Wilson County.
George Rufus Atkinson died 24 November 1968 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 November 1917 to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; was married to Laura Atkinson; and had worked as a laborer.
Ada Battle Atkinson died 17 December 1971 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born24 December 1889 to Joe Ellis and Bettie Battle; was a widow; had been a farmer; lived at 120 Narroway Street; and informant was Willie Atkinson. She was buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson.
Fannie Atkinson Wiggins died 18 July 1973 in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County. Per her death certificate, she was born 13 September 1920 in Edgecombe County to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; lived in Rocky Mount; and was a widow. Her daughter Frances Louise Wiggins was informant.
Sylvester Atkinson died 29 December 1985 in Emporia, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 July 1905 in North Carolina to Mark Atkinson and Ada Battle; was married to Annie Atkinson; and was a retired millworker.
I wrote in October about Richmond’s Friends of East End, the all-volunteer non-profit which, until recently, was working to reclaim historic East End Cemetery and transform it into “a public site of memory, contemplation, and beauty that honors Richmond’s black community and history.”
F.O.E.E. has turned its attention to neglected corners of Woodland Cemetery, another historic Black cemetery in Richmond, and dedicated yesterday’s find — the gravestone of Wilson County native Cornelia Reddick — to Lane Street Project!
Cornelia Reddick Died Aug. 23, 1928 Heliotrope Lodge 12 I.O. King David
In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Bass, 41.
On 16 January 1880, Charles Bass, 51, married Rhoda A. Jordan, 23, at C. Bass’ [probably Charles Bass] residence. Justice of the Peace David G.W. Ward performed the ceremony.
In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Charles Bass, 51; wife Rhoda, 23; and an unnamed four month-old infant daughter. [This child was Cornelia Bass Reddick.]
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Bass, 71, widower, and son James, 10.
Cornelia Bass’ life has proved exceptionally difficult to track. We know, however, that sometime prior to 1928, she married equally elusive tobacco worker Henry Reddick. They appear together in the 1928 Richmond, Virginia, city directory: Reddick Henry (c; Cornelia) lab 506-A E Clay
Cornelia Reddick died 23 August 1928 at her home in Richmond, Virginia. Per her death certificate, she was 51 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Charles and Roda Bass; was married to Henry Reddick; and lived at 506 East Clay, Richmond.
UPDATED: Reddick’s gravestone indicates affiliation with Heliotrope Lodge Number 12, Imperial Order of King David. Friends of East End corrected my guess at the name of this fraternal organization, founded in Richmond in 1908.
In the 1900 census of Harris township, Franklin County: farmer Jim Clifton, 45; wife Susan, 31; and children Grant, 20, Matilda, 18, Susan, 16, John L., 14, Genievieve, 8, Tommie, 6, Mary, 4, Martha, 2, and Myrtle, 3 months.
In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on Edmunson Road, farmer James T. Clifton, 52; wife Susan, 40; and children Genevieve, 18, Thomas, 16, Mary, 14, Mattie, 12, Myrtle M., 10, Eula P., 8, Minnie B., 6, Wesley, 3, and Leona, 2, plus lodger Arthur Bunn, 21. James reported that he had been married twice.
On 16 December 1911, Jim Bass, 21, of Saratoga township, married Jennie B. Clifton, 19, of Saratoga township, in Saratoga, Wilson County.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, farmer Jim Bass, 32; wife Jenny, 27; children Lillie Clifton, 11 (stepdaughter), and Jennie V., Jr., 10, Charlie, 8, James, 6, Williard, 4, and Bonnie Bell Bass, 2.
Eddie B. Bass died 6 April 1926 in Wilson township, Wilson County, when he fell from a tree and broke his neck. Per his death certificate, he was 5 years old and was born in Wilson County to James Bass of Wilson County and Geneva Clifton of Wake County.
In the 1930 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farm laborer James Bass, 39, farm laborer; wife Jennie, 38; and children Jennie V., 20, Charlie, 18, James, 16, Willard, 13, Vonnie B., 12, Adell, 6, Mildred, 4, Hattie M., 2, and Burnice, 11 months.
In the 1940 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jim Bass, 48; wife Jennie, 46; and children James, 26, Virginia Bell, 21; Adell, 16, Mildred, 14, Robena, 12, and Helen, 7.
In 1940, James Bass registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 24 May 1913 in Wilson; he worked for Doane Herring; and Jennie Bass was his contact.
James Bass Sr. died 29 May 1971 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 June 1892 to Charles L. Bass and Rhonda Bass; lived in Elm City, N.C.; was married to Genevieva Clifton; and had been a farmer. He was buried in Rest Haven cemetery.
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?
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.