Though the Grave Removals volume in the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office did not include a Removal of Graves Certificate for Julia Boyette Bailey and those buried near her, it did contain this file for the 1995 disinterment and reinterment of graves from the Jones-Hill-Coleman cemetery.
The graves in this large graveyard — on Old Raleigh Road in Oldfields township –were moved to two cemeteries, the nearby Eva Coleman cemetery and Rest Haven cemetery in Wilson.
The Jones-Hill-Coleman cemetery had six rows of twelve to sixteen graves, but the identities of the bodies buried in most were unknown.
Fifty bodies were reinterred in a cemetery on Eva Coleman’s property on Old Raleigh Road just west of Interstate 95.
I checked. Wilson County Register of Deeds office holds a volume, labeled “Grave Removals,” that contains records of every registered disinterment and/or reinterment in the county for the past 50 or so years. The volume contains no record of the removal of the graves of Julia Bailey, Andrew Terrell, or the 16-18 unknown others whose disinterment was publicized in 1998 ahead of the expansion of Buckhorn reservoir. As the headstones of Bailey and Terrell attest, the graves now lie at the edge or under the lake.
Here’s a detail from a 1974 plat map showing two tracts of Manuel and Sudie Boykin Sullivan’s land, a section of which held the cemetery. The map also shows the projected borders of the reservoir.
Detail from Plat Book 13, page 73.
A current aerial view reveals the striking accuracy of the projected edges of the lake.
This aerial shows the proximity of New Vester Missionary Baptist Church, to which the Baileys and Terrells belonged, to the approximate location of the drowned cemetery. Despite this, the notice of disinterment published in the Daily Times stated the graves would be moved to Bailey Cemetery in Nash County. As we see, this was never done.
As noted here and here, I have long been intrigued by the disappearance (in space and memory) of Wilson’s first African-American cemetery, sometimes called Oaklawn or Oakland or Oakdale. Yesterday, the mystery was solved.
In the late summer of 1940, the Wilson Daily Times for several weeks ran a “Notice of Removal of Graves from Abandoned Cemetery.” Town Commissioners had declared Wilson’s “colored cemetery” on Cemetery Street abandoned as there had been no burials there in 16 years. The Commissioners proposed “to remove all graves to the new cemetery for the colored race situate near the Town of Wilson, N.C., and known as Resthaven Cemetery.” Interested persons had 30 days to object.
Wilson Daily Times, 13 September 1940.
Whether or not there were objections, the work of removal commenced. It seems likely, then, that the oldest headstones in Rest Haven (such as those of the Dunstons) mark graves moved from Oaklawn, rather than Rountree cemetery, as I earlier speculated.
[Of course, as I learned back in February, the Cemetery Street cemetery was never entirely forgotten, at least by people who lived in the neighborhood. Harry Harris recently shared the history of the Turkey Bowl, an informal neighborhood football game taking place on holidays. The original game, he said, was played Christmas Day 1958 at the “old Carnival Ground,” then an open field at the corner of Barnes and Stantonsburg (now Pender) Streets. In 1965, the game moved to Stephenson Street, in “the projects,” where it became “part of the fabric of local community culture.” After several years, however, the game was again moved “because the ladies who lived there at that time reminded us that we were playing on sacred ground as the projects were built upon the grounds of the old Black cemetery, hence Cemetery Street.”]