cemetery

In justice to them, they should be entitled to this consideration.

I’m joining a long line of appeals to city officials to do something about conditions in and around the Negro cemetery.

On 10 February 1925, a Wilson Daily Times‘ report on proceedings at a board of aldermen’s meeting, Samuel H. Vick “brought up the matter of the colored cemetery” and requested that an awning be placed (?) and that roads into and out of the cemetery be repaired. A Mr. Grantham, chairman of the cemetery commission said it was difficult to get the cemetery into a correct shape and “lay it out” as graves had been placed “everywhere and without regard to lines or streets.” Further, some of the cemetery’s land was “worthless for the purpose, as it was in a bottom” [i.e. water-logged and prone to flooding.] Grantham also mused about the “old cemetery” — the one near Cemetery Street — “which if the graves were removed would be worth considerable money.” (The graves were in fact moved to Rest Haven in 1940.) In the end, Grantham agreed to come up with a plan and report back.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1925.

Twelve years later, the roads were still a problem. On 24 September 1937, the Daily Times printed this enlightened, but unattributed, op-ed piece under the headline “City Should Pave the Road to the Negro Cemetery.” A paved road was not merely a convenience to family members paying respects. The previous winter, “when after the successive rains, the ground was so soft that it was impossible to conduct funerals in the cemetery, the negro undertakers were compelled to hold out their bodies until the spring, when the road was in a condition to move over it with vehicles and conduct the interments.” This was city property, the writer pointed out, and money from the sale of burial plots went into the city treasury, and “the colored people are taxpayers,” and justice should be done accordingly.

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Wilson Daily Times, 24 September 1937.

Camillus L. Darden followed up a week later with a letter to the newspaper described a disastrous, but apt, attempt to expose an alderman to conditions on the roads leading to the graveyard. The “main road” seems to be what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway (and was East Nash Street/N.C. Highway 264 in my childhood.) My best guess is that this road was paved in the 1940s or early ’50s, but Lane Street, onto which one makes a right turn from the main road to reach Rountree, Odd Fellows and Vick cemeteries, was dirt and gravel into the 1980s.

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Wilson Daily Times, 30 September 1937.

Toward identifying Rountree, Vick and Odd Fellows’ dead, no. 2.

This is a running annotated list of people whose headstones still stand in Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries.

  • Barnes, Dave — Died 1935, age 52. Odd Fellows. Death certificate lists burial site as Wilson, N.C. (Undertakers C.H. Darden and Sons handled most of the Odd Fellows burials on this list, and their practice was to refer to the cemetery by this broad location name. Darden and Sons’ burials are marked CHD below.)
  • Barnes, Della — Born 1858, died 1935. Odd Fellows. Death certificate lists burial site as Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Barnes, Nunnie — Born 1885, died 1921. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson County; CHD.
  • Best family — Odd Fellows. Large flat family marker.
  • Carter, C.L.Clarence L. Carter. Odd Fellows. Foot marker only, engraved with Odd Fellows triple link and Masonic square and compass. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Dawson family — Odd Fellows. Large upright family marker.
  • Dawson, L. — Lucy Hill Dawson. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Dawson, Virginia S. — Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Ellis, Buster — Born 1914, died 1924. Rountree. Located in a cluster of broken stones, including grandmother Clarkie Ellis. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Ellis, Clarkie — Born 1853; died illegible. Rountree. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Farrior, Henry W., Rev. — Born 1859; died 1937. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Hines, Walter S. — Odd Fellows. Foot marker only. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Marlow, Daniel — Born 1870, died 1918. Rountree.
  • Mincy, Oscar — Odd Fellows.
  • Mincy, Prince — Died 1902, age 61. Odd Fellows.
  • Oats, Charles — Odd Fellows. Foot marker only. Death certificate: Roundtree cemetery; CHD.
  • Oats, Emma — Died 1908, age 40. Odd Fellows.
  • Pitt, Washington — Died 1917, age 38. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Robins, Daisy — Died 1914, age 38. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Rountree, Delzela (dau. of Jack and Lucile Rountree)– Born 1897, died 1914. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.
  • Spicer, Omega C. — Died 1945. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; Hamilton Funeral Home. [Listed in Howell volume.]
  • Tart, Henry — Born 1886, died 1919. Odd Fellows.
  • Tate family — Odd Fellows. Large upright family marker.
  • Tate, Hardy — Odd Fellows. Foot marker only, engraved with Odd Fellows triple links.
  • Taylor, H.B. — Odd Fellows. Foot marker only, engraved with triple links and square and compass.
  • Thomas, Charles S. — Died 1937. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.
  • Thomas, Sarah (wife of Charlie Thomas) — Odd Fellows.
  • Unknown — Died 1921, age 51. Odd Fellows.
  • Uzzell, Millie — Born 1872, died 1928. Rountree. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.; CHD.
  • Vick, Irma (dau. of S.H. and A.M. Vick) — Born 1905, died 1921. Odd Fellows. Death certificate: Wilson, N.C.
  • White, Lucinda (wife of Geo. W. White) — Odd Fellows.
  • Williams, Louis — Odd Fellows.

Toward identifying Rountree, Vick and Odd Fellows’ dead, no. 1.

In 2015, culminating a years-long project headed by Joan L. Howell, the Wilson County Genealogical Society published Wilson County Cemeteries, Vol. V: The Two City-Owned African-American Cemeteries, containing alphabetical listings of 11,472 burials in Rest Haven cemetery and 650 burials in Rountree-Vick cemetery.

Howell’s book is an invaluable resource for Wilson County researchers and — as far as we know — the sole list of burials in Rountree-Vick. Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile to assess this compilation in the light of recent discoveries concerning these cemeteries.

Confronted with the empty expanse of the Rountree-Vick memorial ground, Howell undertook an exhaustive search of death certificates filed in the Wilson County registrar’s office, abstracting all that gave “Rountree cemetery,” “Vick cemetery,” or “paupers cemetery” as the place of burial. An examination of the resulting list makes clear that these burials were in Rountree, Vick and Odd Fellows cemeteries, which are contiguous, but separately owned, graveyards. And the list is incomplete.

Vick and Odd Fellows cemeteries were in use by the late 1800s, and Rountree by 1900. However, the overwhelming majority of burials listed in this volume date from the 1940s. (Rest Haven was the city’s primary black cemetery thereafter.) There are a smattering of burials from the late 1930s, the 1950s and even the 1960s. Because North Carolina did not require death certificates until 1914, and death certificates did not list burial locations with specificity until around World War II, the first forty or so years of burials in these cemeteries are difficult to chronicle.

So, how many people are buried in Vick, Rountree and Odd Fellows? A 1995 Wilson Daily Times article estimated 1300.  However, as at least 600 were laid to rest here in the 1940s alone, this is surely a vast understatement. We may never arrive at a definitive number, but we can augment Howell’s list. I will start with a list of people whose burial in Rountree, Vick or Odd Fellows is memorialized by an existing headstone and continue with a list of people whose burial place is noted in a published obituary. Do you know of a family member buried in one these cemeteries? If so, please let me know. If I find that they are not listed in Howell’s book, they will be added to a third list. Thanks for your help.

Interested in purchasing a copy of Howell’s volume?  You can order one at http://www.wcgs.org.

Cemetery update, no. 2: ownership.

You just have to know where to look.

After I figured out some basic navigation tricks, Wilson County’s fine GIS maps yielded quick answers to the questions of ownership of Vick, Odd Fellows and Rountree cemeteries. (One would think this information would be readily available to the city employees and officials from whom I requested it, but let’s keep moving forward.)

Here is the 7.84 acre Vick cemetery, deeded by Samuel H. Vick to the City of Wilson in 1913. (The deed is recorded at Deed Book 96, page 85, which is not available via the Register of Deeds’ website. I’ll get a copy when I next go home.) It is classified, appropriately, as a cemetery.

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Adjacent to the northeast is a 2.16 acre parcel owned by Odd Fellows Society since 1900. (There is no deed book reference listed.) It is classified — inappropriately, in my view — as a vacant lot belonging to a club or lodge.

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And here, sandwiched between the Odd Fellows Cemetery and Sandy Creek, is a two-acre parcel owned by Rountree Missionary Baptist Church since 1906. (Rountree’s deed is in Deed Book 76, page 97. The present-day church is the irregularly shaped building on the large lot at the northen corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Lane Street.) This, too, incredibly, is described as a vacant lot belonging to a church.

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And to my shock, there’s also this. The rhombus across Lane Street, shown below, is part of the Rountree cemetery’s acreage. It is not my imagination that I saw graves on this side of the road when exploring as a child.

Here’s an aerial view, also from Wilson County GIS/Mapping Office. The big empty square is Vick cemetery (known popularly, and confusingly, as Rountree cemetery), which contains the remains of thousands of African Americans who died between the late 1800s and about 1965. I have no idea how many people are buried in the Odd Fellows cemetery next door, which was the burial ground of choice for much of Wilson’s black elite in the early 1900s. The city maintains the strip of this cemetery that fronts Lane Street. You can’t see it here, but a deep ditch marks the boundary between Odd Fellows and Rountree cemeteries. The eastern border of Rountree is Sandy Creek, a small, sluggish tributary of Hominy Swamp.

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Next step: contact Rountree Missionary Baptist Church (which will be a straightforward endeavor) and the Odd Fellows Society (which will not.) And remind the city that I’m still waiting for a response to my public records request.

Cemetery update, no. 1.

Yesterday I sent a letter to the mayor of Wilson, the city manager, and all seven council members setting forth my concerns and requests regarding the status of Vick, Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries.

In a nutshell, I requested:

  • the survey PLT prepared of Vick cemetery or confirmation that it was never done or no longer exists
  • the whereabouts of gravemarkers removed from Vick or confirmation of their destruction
  • a plat map showing the boundaries of Vick cemetery
  • a statement of the city’s position on the ownership of Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries

I have already had some fruitful responses, and I look forward to the action of promises fulfilled. (And broad-based support for same.) City government is not the only stakeholder here though, and the hot lights of factual inquiry may illuminate a need for sustained community volunteerism.

In the meantime, I am sharing some Wilson Daily Times articles from the first period of public interest in these cemeteries, which began in 1989 and culminated in 1996 with the erection of the monument at Vick cemetery.

On 23 February 1990, Carl W. Hines Sr. hit the nail on the head with his letter to the editor lamenting Sam Vick‘s lost grave and noting “[m]uch of the apathy surrounding the cemetery is a result of: 1. Public unawareness, 2. Uncertainty about ownership, 3. Condemnation, 4. Removal of gravestones, 5. Removal of many remains to Rest Haven and, of course, the dumping of trash in the area.” Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

On 11 January 1991, the paper published a photo of city workers clearing Vick cemetery with a bush hog. This apparently was the first official attention paid to a Vick clean-up.

On 13 September 1991, various city officials weighed on the status (and challenges) of clean-up efforts:

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On 6 January 1993, this:

Finally:

On 19 May 1996, the Times announced that the end was near, that Vick would soon be “a proper cemetery.” A plan to mark each grave had been abandoned during the project, and Deputy City Manager Charles Pittman III mentioned that a survey  done instead had located more than 1000 graves. Facing these numbers, the city determined that a single monument would be “wiser” and less costly to maintain to boot. Pittman also noted that 30-40 “relatively intact” tombstones were being collected for storage by the city.

The state of Rountree, Vick and Odd Fellows cemeteries.

The grave of Millie Uzzell (1872-1928).

This was not what I expected.

First, a recap:

  • The cemetery generally known as Rountree (after Rountree Missionary Baptist Church, though Vick and Odd Fellows cemeteries are contiguous) began receiving burials of African-Americans around 1890. [UPDATE: Though it is accurate to say that this group of cemeteries is known collectively as “Rountree,” the cemetery I have been calling “Rountree” is correctly called the Vick cemetery. Corrections have been made throughout this post. See below.]
  • In 1913, Samuel Vick deeded the Vick cemetery to the city of Wilson, which commenced 80 years of neglect. (The ownership of the old Odd Fellows cemetery is unclear.) The city’s Cemetery Commission, which maintains (historically white) Maplewood and (historically black) Rest Haven cemeteries, has only a handful of records of Rountree or Vick burials, per response to my Public Records Law request. (Sam Vick himself, by the way, is buried here, but his grave is either unmarked or, more likely, the stone has been lost — as have those of a dozen other Vicks I would expect to have been interred here.)
  • The cemetery was active into the early 1960s, but abandoned soon after. There were public appeals for help with maintenance as early as 1967.
  • By the mid-1970s, the entire cemetery was overgrown.
  • Sporadically, private citizens attempted to clear the grounds, including Ben Mincey, who was determined to honor his parents’ burial sites.
  • In late 1994, Wilson City Council awarded a contract to PLT Construction Company to “restore” the cemetery. In a 29 August 1995 Wilson Daily Times article, city manager Ed Wyatt stated that Rountree Cemetery contained approximately 200 marked graves and 75-100 “intact, legible” headstones. PLT would survey and record the locations of gravesites prior to clearing and grading the cemetery site, and the headstones would be stored by the city’s public works division. (The city would then erect a single monument to memorialize Rountree’s dead.) I repeat: in 1995, the city leveled a public cemetery and covered the graves of many hundreds, and more likely some thousands, of its citizens. I assume council ran this action by the city’s attorney, but it certainly seems to fall afoul of (current) Article 22 of North Carolina Laws and Statutes Regarding Cemeteries:

§ 14-149. Desecrating, plowing over or covering up graves; desecrating human remains.

(a) It is a Class I felony, without authorization of law or the consent of the surviving spouse or next of kin of the deceased, to knowingly and willfully:

(1) Open, disturb, destroy, remove, vandalize or desecrate any casket or other repository of any human remains, by any means including plowing under, tearing up, covering over or otherwise obliterating or removing any grave or any portion thereof.

(2) Take away, disturb, vandalize, destroy, tamper with, or deface any tombstone, headstone, monument, grave marker, grave ornamentation, or grave artifacts erected or placed within any cemetery to designate the place where human remains are interred or to preserve and perpetuate the memory and the name of any person. This subdivision shall not apply to the ordinary maintenance and care of a cemetery.

  • In October and November 2019, I sent letters to several city officers and department heads (and PLT), requesting a copy of the survey and any records related to the removal and storage of the headstones. Only the city clerk responded — to provide copies of council minutes from the early 1990s. To date, I do not know if the survey was ever done or if copies of it exist. Without any record of the locations of graves, or the names on the surviving headstones, the city has essentially created a potter’s field.

This brings us to late last week.

Through a reliable back-channel source, I learned that after several years the Public Works Department sent letters to next-of-kin (where it could determine them) and published a notice in the Daily Times requesting family members to retrieve their kin’s headstones by a certain date. A few people responded. The remaining headstones were destroyed. (See Article 22, Section 14-149(a)(2), above.)

This morning, I drove over to Vick cemetery to look around and contemplate my next move.

This is what the cleared acreage looks like. Again, keep in mind that there are graves beneath this bland expanse:

Here’s what the remaining graves look like. This little section is subject to some heavy-handed upkeep that results in fewer and fewer standing stones with my every visit. The two large monuments in the middle distance mark the graves of Dave and Della Hines Barnes, the (step)father and mother of Walter Hines, William Hines and Dr. B.O. Barnes.

I walked along the edge of this cleared area, looking for a small headstone I’d noticed once before. The floor of the woods here is a thicket of greenbriers and wild blackberry and saplings and springy vines and is nearly impassable in summer. Without so much as a hand pruner, even with winter’s bare branches, I had to fight my way in.

I found it: Prince Mincy Died Sept 14 1902 Aged 61 years. And nearby: Oscar Mincey. The irony. For all that Ben Mincey did to keep these cemeteries clear to honor his forebears, they’re still lying in the woods.

A minute for the lay of the land:

(A) The grassy area is the seven-acre parcel the city cleared and graded in 1995. The dotted line marks a chain-link fence. (B) The small area in which several headstones stand in bare earth. It is regularly scraped of all plant growth and the trash that people continually dump there. (C) Thickly wooded area east of (B). The short white line marks a ditch between (B) and this section. (D) Another thickly wooded section south and behind (B).

I continued along the edge of the woods, peering into the brush. As I stood on the lip of the ditch that marks the clear area’s eastern boundary, I was startled to spot the pale gray of an obelisk monument looming about 50 feet away. I crossed the ditch and plunged into (C), briers snatching at my socks and twigs catching my high bun. Suffice to say, Millie Uzzell and Daniel Marlow‘s stones are not the only ones I found, but that’s another post.

I clawed my way back out and entered (D) near its western edge. More headstones, including a stately marker over Henry Tart‘s grave.

What was going on here? If the city cleared Vick’s graves in order to create a perpetually maintained memorial, why were all these headstones still standing in the woods? While drafting this post, I realized that (D), site of the Tart and Mincey graves, is likely the old Odd Fellows cemetery, which the city expressly disavowed responsibility for in the late 1980s. The Odd Fellows lodge has been defunct for decades, and no one has shown this cemetery love since Ben Mincey.

What about (C), then? The headstones and collapsed graves that dot this section attest to the density of burials here. This is logically part of the former Rountree cemetery, for which the city has acknowledged responsibility. [Update: on 1 March 1990, city council denied ownership of Rountree cemetery.]

I confirm that I’m feeling pretty reactive right now, but here are my initial thoughts on next steps for the reclamation of this important African-American burial ground, reaffirmation of respect for our dead, and restoration of common decency:

  • If this account contains inaccuracies, I welcome correction by any authoritative source.
  • I restate my request for a copy of the survey prepared by PLT when Vick cemetery was cleared. A copy, if not the original, of this survey should be shared with Wilson Cemetery Commission and made available to descendants, genealogists, or other researchers as requested.
  • As, through the city’s actions, the locations of the graves in (A) have been obliterated, the city should map (A) and (B) with ground-penetrating radar and make the results available to the public.
  • If (C) is part of Vick cemetery, it is the city’s responsibility to maintain it, and it should do so immediately. The city should also survey and catalog the cemetery’s headstone, leave them in situ, and utilize ground-penetrating radar to determine the locations of additional graves.
  • If, as it appears, the city has no legal responsibility for (D) the Odd Fellows cemetery, I implore community groups to intervene to clean it up, survey it, and create a record of the identifiable graves remaining there.

UPDATE, 12/30/2019: In reviewing city council minutes from 1 March 1990, I found this: “The Mayor again recognized Mr. Charles Hines. Mr. Hines asked whether the Rountree Cemetery located on Lane Street belonged to the City. Council indicated that it did not, but the Vick Cemetery next to it did.” I am seeking clarification from city officials, but if this is the case, (1) the cemetery I have referred to as “Rountree-Vick” or “Rountree” is in fact the Vick cemetery and (2) clean up of the graves in (C) will likely require community effort. I will edit my posts to clarify the name of the cemetery.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2019, except aerial image, courtesy of Google Maps.

Alex Williamson cemetery, revisited.

I wrote here about visiting the Alex and Gracy Shaw Williamson cemetery. This cemetery lies in a partially cleared patch of woods adjacent to the Hardy H. Williamson cemetery, and I wondered about the relationship between the two families. I asked Gregory D. Cosby when I met with him recently and was astounded by his answer. Though the earliest marked grave in the Alex Williamson cemetery dates to 1885, the graveyard is much older. It was originally, in fact, the burying ground for African-Americans enslaved by Hardy H. Williamson’s family. The wooden markers that identified the oldest graves have been lost, but some rough fieldstone markers remain. Though I know the locations of many graves of formerly enslaved Wilson County residents, most are buried in church graveyards or graveyards established on family land, and this is the only so-called “slave cemetery” that I have located in the county.

The John B. Williamson house, which is built around a house originally built for Hardy Williamson.

Gregory Cosby also told me that the house across the road from the cemeteries, which I had used as a landmark to find them, was originally the Hardy Williamson house. (Hardy Williamson was Hardy H. Williamson’s father.) In History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985), I found this entry for John Bartley Williamson Family that I’ve been overlooking for decades: “The original portion of the John Bartley Williamson homeplace, located on Highway 42, west of Wilson, in Spring Hill township near Buckhorn, is believed to have been built by his grandfather, Hardy Williamson. … Most of the Williamsons are buried in the Williamson cemetery, which is located across the highway from the John B. Williamson someplace, or in the Buckhorn church cemetery. Almost adjacent to the Williamson cemetery is a Williamson slave cemetery.

Photo of house by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2019; aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Plans for Elm City Colored Cemetery.

ELM CITY — Descendants and family members have reestablished the commission that oversees the black cemetery located at 4979 Elm City Road S.

The commission will meet at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9 in the Wilson County Public Library assembly room, 249 Nash St. N. Members will discuss renaming the cemetery, electing 2019-20 commission members and potentially soliciting bids for lawn care. All members of the public are invited to attend.

Organizers say the acting commission has succeeded in removing the chain blocking access to the cemetery, obtaining an address for the property, hiring landscaping crews to remove fallen trees and debris and spearheading a community cleanup day. The commission plans to install a flagpole to honor veterans interred there just in time for Veterans Day.

For more information, call Marie Knight at 801-390-8017.

Rountree cemetery, revisited.

We visited the remains of Rountree, Vick and Odd Fellows cemetery here and here. In the photo below, the arrow indicates the grove that surrounds the memorial plinth and obelisk erected in Vick cemetery by the city in 1996. The grassy area? THE CEMETERY. Denuded of forty years of overgrowth and nearly a century of grave markers, filled, leveled and sown. There were no disinterments or removals. The graves are still there (and probably in the woods beyond, too).

In 1989-90, Wilson City Council wrestled with the question of its responsibility to Rountree after discovering that the city owned the property. In a 10 January 1990 Daily Times article, “Cemetery income down, costs up,” Cemetery Commission Chairman Earl Bradbury “described the small 100-foot by 140-foot cemetery as a jungle.” Jungle it may have been, but it was a lot bigger than the quarter-acre he imagined.

Lane Street was a dirt road well into the 1970s. When I was a child, we sometimes rode our bikes over to peer into the woods at gravestones tilting and toppled in the leaf litters. I distinctly remember the long edge of a vault cover exposed in the weeds at the edge of the road, near the Y below. Right now, at X, a few markers remain visible inside the tree line.

The last burials at Rountree and Vick took place in the early 1960s. By 1967, there was a problem. With abundant heat and humidity, an abandoned Southern landscape is fecund ground, and “growing like a weed” is not a simile. Kudzu had not yet arrived in eastern North Carolina, but catbrier and poison ivy and broomsedge, followed quickly by sumacs, sweetgums and pines, make quick work of an untended lot. Worse, there was unchecked dumping. (Note the collective designation of all the cemeteries as “Rountree.” This is the name used by most people.)

 Wilson Daily Times, 10 June 1967.

The following spring, just as the weeds were flexing to spring to new heights, this appeal to the public appeared in the Times. “Come on out and do your part,” it implored. (“Persons interested”? There was probably not a black person in Wilson at the time, me included, that didn’t have someone buried at Rountree.)

Wilson Daily Times, 3 March 1968.

Less than ten years later, my friends and I were telling ghost stories as we cycled past woods dotted with lichen-flecked headstones. A dozen or so years after that, the Daily Times‘ 18 February 1989 article about Ben Mincey Jr.‘s efforts to honor his parents’ graves kickstarted the city’s reckoning with the travesty of Rountree. These photographs accompanied the piece.

So, having cleared the cemetery and raised a memorial, where are the headstones the city removed in 1995?

Top photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019; aerial photo courtesy of Google Map.

Colored persons buried in the Thomas graveyard.

Some Black Families of Wilson County, North Carolina, a compilation of The Hugh B. Johnston Working Papers published in 1997 by Wilson County Genealogical Society, contains a list of “Colored Persons Buried in the Old Thomas Graveyard on the Drake Thomas Farm.” The Old Thomas Graveyard, located just east of Wilson off N.C. Highway 42, is also known as the Toisnot Baptist Church cemetery. Per a marker in the cemetery: “Thomas Graveyard. Many early members of Toisnot Baptist Church lie near in unmarked graves. The Thomases continued to bury here for a century after the church was moved in 1803. …”

Here annotated, the list includes:

  • Charles Bynum, born 1825, and Caroline Bynum, born 1826 — they were former slaves of Colonel Robert Bynum and were both reputed locally as “conjure doctors”

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Charles Bynum, 45, farmer; wife Caroline, 34; and sons Richard, 3, and Isaac, 17. (In a duplicate entry in the same township: Charles Bynum, 38; wife Caroline, 39; and sons Isaac, 16, and Rich’d, 3.)

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Charles Bynum, 49, farmer; wife Caroline, 48; and son Richard, 14.

  • Isaac Bynum, son of Charles, was born in 1853 and died February 13, 1915.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Isac Bynum, 27, farm laborer.

On 3 September 1882, in Gardners township, Isaac Bynum, 28, of Wilson, son of Chls. Bynum and Cynthy Thorn, married Laura Bynum, 31, of Wilson, daughter of Tart Bynum and Rhody Bynum.

Isaac Bynum died 13 February 1915 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1848 in Wilson County to Chas. Bynum and Caroline Thorne and was a widower. J.B. Farmer was informant.

  • William “Will” Weaver, Sr., born 1854, died September 2, 1930.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Tarboro Road, farm laborer William Weaver, 56; wife Celia, 48; and sons Charlie, 16, and Iversen, 11.

William Weaver died 2 September 1930 in Coopers township, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was 78 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to William Weaver and Fannie Weaver; and was married to Sealy Weaver. Informant was Frank Weaver, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

  • George Weaver, son of William Weaver, born 1875

George Weaver died 27 January 1941 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 9 March 1887 in Edgecombe County to Bill Weaver and Annie Williams; was a farmer; and was the widower of Mary L. Weaver. Contrary to Johnston’s assertion, George Weaver was buried in “Bynum cemetery,” Wilson County. James Weaver, 301 Finch Street, was informant.

  • Johnnie Weaver, son of William Weaver
  • Louis Williams, a native of Pitt County

In the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County, North Carolina: Louis Williams, 25; wife Delphia, 20; and children Emily, 6, Willis, 4, and Ben, 2.

In the 1880 census of Farmville township, Pitt County: Lewis Williams, 32; wife Delphia, 35; and children Jenny, 15, Willie, 12, Ernold, 10, Lewis, 7, Mariah, 5, Jerry, 3, and Pattie, 1.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Williams, 62; wife Delphia, 64; and children Lewis, 23, Pattie, 20, Jerry, 19, Lena, 17, Isaac, 15, Eddie, 13, Emmie, 11, and Odie G., 9.

  • Delphia Williams, wife of Louis and daughter of Jerry Smith and wife Annie Smith of Pitt County
  • Jerry Williams, son of Louis Williams

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, farmer Jerry Williams, 40; wife Mary, 28; and children Edward, 10, Martha, 8, Maggie, 5, and Jerry, 1.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jerry Williams, 48; [second] wife Martha, 38; and children Eddie, 18, Martha, 14, Maggie, 11, Jerry Jr., 7, Lucille, 5, and Nestus, 1.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Jerry Williams, 60; wife Martha, 50; and children Eddie, 30, Jerry, 21, Lucille, 17, Ivy, 15, Nestus, 11, and Wade, 4.

Jerry Williams died 1 December 1946 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 January 1882 in Wilson County to Louis Williams of Edgecombe County and Delphia Williams; was married to Martha Williams; and, contrary to Hugh Johnston, was buried in Rest Haven cemetery. Jerry Williams was informant.

  • Mary, wife of young Jerry Williams, was born in 1894 and died on March 5, 1920.

Mary Williams died 5 March 1920 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; married to Jerry Williams; was born in Edgecombe County to Tony Sharp and Sarah Wasten.

  • Alex Ray, son of George and Hannah Ray, was born in 1851 on the ancestral plantation of Captain Culbreth in Cumberland County and died on the George W. Thomas farm on January 15, 1941.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Alex Ray, 62, widower, farmer.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Alex Ray, 75, widower, farmer.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Alex Ray, 90, widower, farmer.

Alex Ray died 15 January 1941 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in Cumberland County, North Carolina, to George Ray and Hannah Ray; was 89 years old; and was a farmer and a widower. Informant was Lizzie Williams. He was buried in Thomas cemetery.

  • Jenny Williams Thomas, wife of Jordan Thomas and daughter of Louis and Delphia Williams, was born in 1867 in Pitt County, and died on the T. Drake Thomas farm on February 9, 1925.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jordan Thomas, 53; wife Jennie, 50; nephews Jerry Williams, 13, and Nathan Williams, 7; and uncle Arner Williams, 80.

Gennie Thomas died 9 February 1925 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old; was married to Jordan Thomas; was born in Pitt County, North Carolina, to Lewis Williams and Delphia Williams, both of Edgecombe County; and farmed for Mrs. W.L. Banks. Jordan Thomas was informant.

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