Cornelia Bass Reddick of Richmond, Virginia.

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

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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.

Richmond Planet, 15 November 1930.

Studio shots, no. 169: Genevieve Clifton Bass.

Genevieve Clifton Bass (1892-1990).

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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.

Genevieve Bass died 5 August 1990.

Photograph courtesy of Ancestry.com user ths1369.

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: 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.

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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.

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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 — what to bring.

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.

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Q: Hey! I’ll be there! What should I bring?

A: Thank you! The most important thing, of course, is a MASK! This will be a COVID-conscious event, and masks and social distancing will be required.

Also:

  • Your own particular talents. Whether strong arms or strong voices of encouragement, we need what you bring!
  • Protective clothing such as long sleeves, gloves, and boots. 
  • Hand tools only — hand pruners, loppers, hedge trimmers, mattocks, rakes, spades, etc.
  • No chainsaws. No other mechanized or heavy equipment. 
  • Jugs of water and nylon-bristle brushes for cleaning headstones, but no soaps, detergents or other cleaning agents. They will damage the headstones. 
  • Trashbags. 

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, 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.

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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.

Georgia Burke cheered on Broadway.

Jet magazine, 10 April 1952.

Though a native of Georgia, Georgia Burke spent at least ten years in Wilson, teaching third and fourth grade (and coaching basketball and tennis) to the children of the Colored Graded School and the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. She was one of the eleven teachers who walked off the job in support of Mary C. Euell in 1918 and, in 1921, was involved in another incident in which “a race riot was narrowly averted.” Burke auditioned for a Broadway on a lark in 1928, got the role, and never returned to teaching.

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.

Three killed in auto-train collision.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 June 1926.

After the car she was in collided with a train in Dunn, North Carolina, Bessie Manning of Wilson was rushed to the Atlantic Coast Line hospital in Rocky Mount, but died of her injuries. Tom Mingo died at the scene, and Viola Bullock at the A.C.L. hospital. Both were also Wilson residents.

Manning’s death certificate, filed in Nash County, does not reflect her residency in Wilson. However, her son Paul Kirk filed for letters of administration for her estate in Wilson County, estimating its value at $2500.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III. Thank you!