Wilson’s 2043 comprehensive plan.

The homepage of the website for Wilson’s 2043 Comprehensive Plan declares: “The City of Wilson is a place for innovation, ideas, and creativity. Wilson’s strengths lie in its welcoming community, arts and culture, and nationally recognized programs and infrastructure. In the coming decades, Wilson will be poised to harness growth from the Triangle and take advantage of its place in the region to continue to build a welcoming place for all.”

More: “The Comprehensive Plan is a roadmap that provides guidance on where and how a community will grow and change over a period of time. The City of Wilson uses this as a policy document to set priorities and make important land use and investment decisions. The 2043 Update will revise sections of the Wilson Growing Together: The 2030 Comprehensive Plan to reflect the changes that have occurred in the community in the past decade and to support a renewed vision for the future of the community. In some cases, issue areas will be added that are not part of the original 2030 Plan. …

“The updated Comprehensive Plan will address land use, development, transportation, public investment, and identify other community priorities. The Project Team, led by City of Wilson staff, was supported by local consultants at Clarion Associates and VHB. As part of this process, the City of Wilson gathered input from the community to guide the development of a renewed vision for Wilson.”

The image below is a detail from the Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use Map. The parcels shaded blue have been designated “institutional” for future land use zoning. “Institutional” land has “uses related to community services, such as fire stations, libraries, schools, civic buildings, water treatment plants, and the like.”

I placed the upper circle over Maplewood Cemetery, which is appropriately shaded blue. What is going on in the oval though?

Here’s a close-up of Bishop LN. Forbes Street. The blue blocks on the left represent various churches colored “institutional.” The blue block at the top is B.O. Barnes Elementary School. The smaller blue blocks below it are Rountree Missionary Baptist Church and the two halves of its cemetery on B.L.N.F. Street. Strangely, though, the other five cemeteries on the street are shaded maize, “2-4 units/acre (med-density residential),” and part of Odd Fellows is green, “agricultural residential (rural residential).” Huh?

Why would these cemeteries be marked for the same future use as the neighborhoods around them? An oversight? Nefarious design?

The City is holding two more Open Houses for the public to review and provide feedback on the draft Comprehensive Plan. Ask why Vick Cemetery and Odd Fellows Cemeteries and the other L.B.N.F. cemeteries are not “institutional.”

Thanks to Jon Wesley Mullins for bringing this to my attention!

[Update: 9/18/2023 — the map has been updated, and the Masonic, Hamilton, and Rest Haven Cemeteries are now blue! Vick remains in limbo, but we appreciate this start.]

Lane Street Project: kudos to Elizabeth City.

Another city doing it better than Wilson — Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Thirteen-acre Oak Grove cemetery was founded about 1886 as a burial ground for African-Americans. The City of Elizabeth City took ownership of the cemetery in 1964, and its newer sections are still open for burials.

In 2021, Elizabeth City officials agreed to help fund an archaeological survey to identify marked and unmarked graves at Old Oak Grove. The $50,800 survey was funded by a $30,480 grant from the state’s Historic Preservation Fund with the remaining $20,320 supplied by the city. [Here’s a takeaway, City of Wilson — there’s grant money out there!]

The first phase of the project included a land survey to mark and record the boundaries of the cemetery. [In other words, unlike Wilson, Elizabeth City had a survey map prepared and recorded.] Industry leaders New South Associates then performed a ground-penetrating radar survey of Old Oak Grove, finding evidence of 5,418 graves, of which 2,331 are unmarked (including some found under dirt paths in the cemetery). New South’s report recommended that Elizabeth City nominate Old Oak Grove for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Though I have no doubt the road to enlightened treatment of Old Oak Grove was a stony one to tread, Elizabeth City now understands its value as a selling point for the city. The City’s tourism website devotes a whole page to the site, touting its significance to local history as well as national events. [Looking at you, Wilson County Tourism Development Authority.]

And you, Barton College. Per Visit Elizabeth City:

“In 2021, Elizabeth City State University and the Museum of the Albemarle partnered with the NC African American Heritage Commission (NC AAHC) and the Office of State Archaeology (OSA) to teach preservation techniques focused on Elizabeth City African American cemeteries. At Old Oak Grove Cemetery, techniques and best practices were shared with current ESCU history students on how to photograph and survey the grounds. Proper cleaning methods of gravestones were demonstrated and the ECSU students and professors cleaned six historic markers. These headstones memorialized Civil War veterans who were enlisted in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Heavy Artillery Regiment.

“Cemetery Hours of Operation: Year-round. The cemetery is maintained by the Elizabeth City Department of Parks and Recreation and is open from dawn to dusk. Street parking is available. Please be respectful of these hallowed grounds.”

There are lots of models out here for progressive public-private partnerships and community engagement around neglected and abused African-American cemeteries. The City of Wilson has not chosen one.

Photos courtesy of visitelizabethcity.com.

The final resting place of Rev. John Perry and family.

I’ve written here of Rev. John W. Perry, the Episcopal rector who served both Tarboro’s Saint Luke and Wilson’s Saint Mark’s for more than a decade beginning in 1889. 

I was headed out of Tarboro back toward Wilson yesterday when a sign at the edge of a somewhat shabby cemetery caught my eye — it was Saint Luke’s graveyard. The cemetery was established in the 1890s and likely contains many more graves than its headstones would indicate. Rev. Perry, his wife Mary Pettipher Perry, and several of their children are among the burials. 

The Perry family plot lies in the shadow of this impressive light gray granite marker. 

Rev. John W. Perry 1850-1918 He served St. Luke’s Parish for 37 years with honor to his Maker and himself.

Mary Eliza Pettipher Wife of Rev. J.W. Perry 1854-1929 Our lives were enriched because she lived among us.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, March 2023.

Cemeteries, no. 31: Saint Delight community cemetery.

Saint Delight Community Cemetery lies perhaps four miles inside Greene County from Wilson County’s Stantonsburg, but it is the final resting place of many Wilson County residents with roots in the Speights Bridge and Bullhead area of Greene.

Saint Delight contains more than one thousand graves within its well-kept borders. The stones marking these sites include dozens carved by Wilson marble cutter Clarence B. Best; at least two by an unknown artist whose style I have dubbed “angle-and-serif;” and two beauties of a style I have not seen before, characterized by white lettering, idiosyncratic numbers, and designs that could almost be described as dainty.

The astonishing headstone of Greene County native Adam Fields, who was both a Mason and an Elk.

Addie Edwards’ headstone. The illustration under its ornately shaped top is faded, but lovely.

The headstones of Dicie Williams, Thelma W. Joyner, and Cloudie Williams feature the angle-and-serif style of an unknown artist. I’ve seen only two other examples, both in William Chapel Cemetery.

And this fascinating work with inset glass:

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2023.

The roots of many Wilson County Artises, no. 3: searching for Elder Jonah Williams.

As we saw here, many Wilson County Artises can trace their roots to Solomon and Vicey Artis Williams. Though most of the couple’s children adopted the surname Artis, two took the surname Williams after their father was emancipated. Son Jonah Williams was a well-known Primitive Baptist elder who founded churches in Wayne, Wilson, and Edgecombe Counties and lived his last decades on Wilson’s East Green Street

In this post adapted from my personal genealogy blog, http://www.scuffalong.com, I tell of my small adventure searching for Jonah Williams’ grave just north of Eureka, in far northeast Wayne County.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to get at it. GPS coordinates and satellite views showed the cemetery on private property way back from the road, without even a path to reach it. I took a chance, though, and pulled up in the driveway of the closest house. A wary, middle-aged white woman was settling an elderly woman into a car as I stepped out. I introduced myself and told her what I was looking for. “Goodness,” she said. “I remember a graveyard back up in the woods when I was child. You should ask my cousin J.”

Following her directions, I knocked on the house of a door perhaps a quarter-mile down Turner Swamp Road. J.S. answered with a quizzical, but friendly, greeting, and I repeated my quest. Minutes later, I was sitting in J.’s back room, waiting for him to change shoes and look for me some gloves and find the keys to his golf cart. We bounced along a farm path for several hundred yards, then followed the edge of the woods along a fallow field. Along the way, J. told me about his family’s long history on the land, and the small house and office, still standing, in which his forebears had lived. As we slowed to a stop, he cautioned me about the briers that we were going to have to fight through and pulled out some hand loppers to ease our path. The cemetery, he said, was there — in that bit of woods bulging out into the plowed-under field.

Google Maps aerial.

The view from the ground.

When they were children, J. and his cousins roamed these woods at play. Though only a few markers were now visible, he recalled dozens of graves on this hillock. Turner Swamp runs just on the other side of the tree line nearby. Without too much difficulty, we cut our way in and angled toward the single incongruity in this overgrown copse — a low iron fence surrounding a clutch of headstones. I made for the tallest one, a stone finger pointing heavenward through the brush. At its base:

Elder Jonah Williams 1845-1915

At his side, wife Pleasant Battle Williams, with their children Clarissa, J.W., and Willie Williams nearby.

Pleasant wife of Jonah Williams Born Dec. 23, 1842 Died Apr. 13, 1912. She hath done what she could.

In Glimpses of Wayne County, North Carolina: An Architectural History, authors Pezzoni and Smith note that the largely forgotten graveyard was believed to hold the remains of members of the Reid family. This is quite possibly true as Reids have lived in this area from the early 1800s to the present. As I followed J. through the brush, and my eye grew accustomed to the contours of the ground beneath us, I could see evidence of thirty to forty graves, and there are likely many more. Had this been a church cemetery? Was Turner Swamp Baptist Church (or its predecessor) originally here, closer to the banks of the creek for which it is named? If this were once the Reid family’s graveyard — known 19th and early 20th century burial sites for this huge extended family are notably few — how had Jonah and his family come to be buried there?

Pleasant Williams’ headstone at left, and Jonah Williams’ obelisk at right. The winter woods of eastern North Carolina are quite green well into December.

I am indebted to J.S. for the warmth and generosity shown to a stranger who showed up unannounced at his doorstep on a chilly December day, asking about graveyards. I have been at the receiving end of many acts of kindness in my genealogical sleuthings, but his offer of time and interest and knowledge — and golfcart — are unparalleled.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2013.

Seeking Granite Point cemetery.

Do you know where Granite Point (or is it Grantie Point) cemetery is?

Detail from death certificate of Henry Joyner, who died 13 June 1944 in Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.

We know Granite Point cemetery was generally in the area of Silver Lake on N.C. Highway 58 just a mile or so from the Nash County line.

These men and women are known to have been buried there: George Bryant (1868-1941), Nathaniel Bryant (1910-1959), Henry Joyner (1866-1944), James A. Joyner (1932-1954), Maggie Joyner (1925-1949), Margaret Joyner (1867-1944), Ruth Joyner (1929-1969), Floyd Rand (1900-1962), and Ernest Winstead (1878-1952).

Lane Street Project: an unexpected gift.

Last year, when someone accidentally toppled Henry Tart‘s magnificent obelisk, I despaired that resetting it would cost more than Lane Street Project’s meager coffers could ever disburse.

Today, then, when I read Billy Foster’s PM, I could hardly believe my eyes.

Here’s what Tart’s gray and white marble grave marker looked like yesterday.

And here it is after Foster Stone & Cemetery Care put it to rights.

Here’s the military marker for the grave of Corporal Willie Gay, the only known African-American Spanish-American war veteran buried in Wilson.

And here, released from a foot of soil:

I am deeply grateful to Billy Foster and Foster Stone & Cemetery Care for this generous gift to Odd Fellows Cemetery and Lane Street Project. We are working with him to identify our most pressing needs for repair and restoration and will raise funds to pay for his expert service.

Photos courtesy of Billy Foster.

Lane Street Project: our story.

Technological miscues last night prevented me from reaching the question-and-answer portion of my LSP presentation, but I did manage to record my exposition on the history of the Lane Street Project cemeteries and the Project itself. Please send me any questions you have about our work, and I’ll answer promptly.

The Season 3 kick-off clean-up is Saturday, January 14, and we hope to see you there!

Lane Street Project: the Gilbert Memorial Cemetery.

As noted here, there is no end to the number of desecrated African-American cemeteries across this country. Ten or so years ago, I posted to my Tumblr account (scuffalong.tumblr.com, if you’re interested) a photo I took in a bizarre “cemetery” not far from where I live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Yesterday, I stumbled on a recent YouTube short that explores Gilbert Memorial a little further. There are echoes of Vick Cemetery in what happened to Gilbert — the themes and trajectories of all these sacred spaces are depressingly familiar.

My thanks to Doug Loggins for sharing Gilbert’s story.


A burial ground for the enslaved?

Per unsourced notes, a slave cemetery lies adjacent to the Boykin-Lamm-Wells cemetery in Oldfields township. On an overcast November morning, I went to see what I could see. I am aware of only one verified slave cemetery in Wilson County, though there must have been many dozens. I was skeptical of this one, but also hopeful.

The cemetery, set a hundred yards or so behind a house under construction, contains 44 graves. Twenty-nine are marked with readable headstones, the earliest of which dates to 1892. Thus, there is no visible evidence that the cemetery dates to the antebellum period.

Of the remaining, several are marked with dressed fieldstone markers, such as those seen below. These graves are intermingled with those of Boykin-Lamm-Wells family members, an unlikely arrangement for the graves of enslaved people.

Stephen D. Boykin (1832-1910) was patriarch of the intermarried families buried here. He does not appear to have been a slaveowner, but his father, also named Stephen Boykin (1797-1864), was. In the 1850 federal slave schedule, the elder Boykin reported owning five enslaved people, ranging from a one month-old boy to a 35 year-old woman, and in 1860 reported 11 enslaved people, ranging from an eight-month-old girl to a 55 year-old man. If Boykin the elder is buried here, his grave is either unmarked or is marked by one of the fieldstones. If enslaved people are buried here, their graves are likely in the woods that border the cemetery on two sides.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, November 2022.