A contributor who wishes to remain anonymous has made these incredible images available to Black Wide-Awake. They depict the funeral of Samuel and Annie Washington Vick‘s daughter Irma Vick, who died in October 1921 while a 16 year-old student in Asheville, North Carolina. Until recently, her large concrete headstone was the only marker visible in the Vick family plot. These two photographs are the only photographs we have to date that show Odd Fellows as an active cemetery or capture an early 20th-century funeral. (Per her death certificate, Irma’s body was prepared by Murrough’s, a Black Asheville funeral home, but Darden & Sons likely handled her burial.)
The first image depicts mounds of flowers heaped upon the grave, including a standing wreath arrangement (topped by a flying dove?), two baskets, and a sash whose visible lettering spells CL MBERS CLUB. Though her headstone had not yet been placed, the wreath marks the top of the grave. However, it is difficult to orient the angle of the photograph precisely. In the background, at least six grave markers are visible, none of which correlate immediately with known markers in Odd Fellows or adjacent Rountree Cemetery. (The tall, narrow shape suggests the white marble stones found in such abundance in Odd Fellows that were likely provided to members and their families as death benefits.)
The second image shows mourners standing at Irma Vick’s graveside: family friend Camillus L. Darden, an unidentified woman, Irma’s parents Samuel and Annie Vick, perhaps her brother Daniel L. Vick (though this man seems to be middle-aged), and an unidentified young woman. The obelisk visible over Darden’s shoulder is Wiley Oates‘ beautiful sandstone marker. It is difficult to be absolutely certain, but this detail suggests that the photographer was standing with his or her back to Rountree Cemetery, facing roughly south-southwest. (This assumes that the photograph is not image-reversed. The present orientation of Irma’s headstone suggests that this may, in fact, be a mirror image. Her marker faces southwest, as do all others in the cemetery. In the photo, however, the head of the grave (if the photo were rotated to the align with the cemetery’s axis, faces northeast.) In any case, we have not found the large headstone at the right side of the photo, nor what appears to be a flat marble vault slab just beside it.
I am honored to have been entrusted to share these photographs. Thank you.
For more about Rev. Richard A.G. Foster, see here and here and here.
Georgia Farmer Mitchell died 18 February 1938 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, she was a 15 year-old school girl; was born in Wilson to Floyd Mitchell and Lucy Farmer, both of Wilson County; and resided at 409 South Warren Street. She died of acute appendicitis and an intestinal blockage.
Rev. Foster, probably in the late 1930s or early ’40s, perhaps at Yale University, his alma mater.
In 1977, the late Hugh B. Johnston abstracted a newly discovered volume of the records of Wootten and Stevens, the earliest undertaking firm in Wilson County. The result, Funeral Register of Wootten and Stevens, Undertakers of Wilson, North Carolina, November 18, 1896-June 27, 1899 is an unpublished manuscript held at Wilson County Public Library. This post is the eighth in a series abstracting the abstract for entries naming African-Americans.
Sanders, ____. Wilson. Colored. Died 12 July 1898, aged 1 year 4 months. Length 2’6″. Cost $1.50. (Page 287)
Sanders, Mourning. Wilson. Colored. Died 19 November 1897, aged 9 years, of scrofula. Length 4’6″. Death certified by Salt Lake Harris. (Page 169)
Sharp, _____. Rocky Mount. Colored. Died 14 January 1899. Daughter of Sampson Sharp. “Died at Rocky Mt. & was brought to Wilson for interment.” Burial in Oakdale cemetery. Cost $5. (Page 407)
Sharp, Nellie. Wilson township. Colored. Died 20 December 1897, aged 58 years. Length 5’8″. Buried in Oak Dale cemetery. Billed to Wilson Sharp. (Page 189)
Simms, _____. Wilson. Colored. Died 9 May 1898, of pneumonia. Attended to by Dr. Williams. “Simms was a young man who had the misfortune to get both feet cut off by a R.R. train.” Length 5′. Cost $10. Buried in Oak Dale Cemetery. Billed to Lee Moore. (Page 245)
Simms, Amos. Wilson. Colored. Died 27 November 1898. Length 6’1″. Cost $10. Buried at Old Simms place. (Page 384)
Stallings, Mary. Wilson. Colored. Died 15 June 1898, deranged, aged 20 years, 19 days. Attended to by Dr. T.B. Person. Cost $15. Funeral at home. Buried in “old section” of Oakdale cemetery. Billed to Gilbert Stallings. (Page 275)
Strickland, _____. Wilson. Colored. Died 8 June 1899. Wife of Marcellus Strickland. Length 5’6″. Cost $15. Buried in colored cemetery. (Page 483)
Strickland, Dave. Taylor’s township. Colored. Died 11 December 1897, of “hemordge of lungs,” aged 70. Attended to by Dr. B.T. Person. Length 6′. Buried in Batt Thompson cemetery. (Page 179)
Sugg, _____. Wilson. Colored. Died 4 April 1898, age 22, of fever. Length 5’6″. Cost $4.75. Billed to Haywood Best. Buried in Oakdale cemetery. (Page 227)
Sutton, William R. Wilson. Colored. Died 4 August 1897, aged 6 months. Length 2’6″. Child of Aider Sutton. Attended to by Dr. T.B Person. Funeral at church. Burial in old cemetery. Cost $4. (Page 114)
Swinson, Sarah. Greene County. Colored. Died 11 October 1898, aged 4o years, of Bright’s disease. Attended to by Dr. S.H. Crocker. Length 6″. Funeral at house. Billed to H. Edmundson. (Page 356)
George Washington Suggs, commonly known to his white friends as “Uncle Washington” died at his home here in the city yesterday at six o’clock. He was one of the oldest, and most highly respected of our colored citizens. By trade he was a brickmason and plasterer and most of the older houses of the city still bear testimony of his superior skill and honest workmanship. To secure his services was a guarantee of a good job. He was honest, industrious and of sober and law-abiding. He enjoyed the confidence and respect of both races. He took care of his money and wisely invested it in the education of his children and property. As a result he reared and educated a family of two sons and four daughters. One of his sons, D.C. Suggs is at the head of the A. and M. College of Georgia and has been for more than twenty years, while his other son, J.T. Suggs, is a practicing physician in Florence, Ala. All of his daughters are married. Two live here in Wilson, one, Lorena [Serena] is the wife of Dr. E. Moore of Livingstone College, Salisbury, the other lives in Chicago.
His funeral takes place from the Trinity A.M.E.Zion church on Sunday afternoon at two o’clock. His many friends, white and colored are cordially invited.
The funeral will be preached by Rev. Wm. Coward, pastor of the church and Elder P.D. Gold who has known the deceased nearly all of his life, and was familiar with his good qualities as a man and a citizen will deliver a short address.
— Wilson Times, 21 February 1914.
George Washington Sugg.
Higher tributes could scarcely be paid any man white or colored than were those paid Uncle George Washington Sugg, a colored man of this city who moving here when the town was an infant has left a shining example of what industry and thrift, generous instincts and motives progressiveness and correct living and a life devoted to the uplift of his people, would bring in the way of heartfelt eulogies at his departure.
The man in the north and west who does not understand the kindly relations existing between the white man and the black man in the south, would probably have been surprised to have seen representative white and colored citizens mingling their tears together with their tributes at the bier of Uncle George Washington Sugg whose memory we all delight to honor, for his life in his sphere of activity has been all that could be asked of any man, and in order to set aside any superficial ideas resting upon the minds of those who are not informed, we regret they could not have witnessed the scene presented yesterday afternoon.
Rev. Cowan, pastor of the A.M.E.Zion church opened the services by asking Elder P.D. Gold to read the 90th Psalm. He did so [illegible] that tradition says that Moses wrote this psalm while Israelites were sojourning in the wilderness and to the vision of Moses there seemed to be nothing tangible and his life work had been thrown away, and yet in the purpose of God all things are known. It is not for us to reason or to question why, it it for us to remain in our places and do our part and the blessing always comes.
Then followed appropriate resolutions from the church read by a member of the committee. Rev. Cowan then read a sketch of the life of the deceased. His worth as a citizen, his activity as a trustee of the colored school, his help to his race generally. It stated that he moved here in 1868 before the county was able to support a school and became personally responsible for the salary of J.C. Price, who conducted a school here for the colored people.
Elder Gold was then asked to speak and state that he was glad to see such an interest manifested in the funeral of a man who in honoring you yourselves honor. I have known him for 50 years and always esteemed him. That he has reared a family of children well raised and properly tutored who have distinguished themselves in the world is a credit to him if he has done nothing else.
“Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart therefrom.”
A man is judged by the company he keeps. A good man likes good men and likes their company. Our deceased brother sought the company of the best white and colored men and in this way he found the best rather than the worst in life. A man fond of evil company shows he likes that sort of living. That it pays to seek good company and that a man is judged by the company he keeps was illustrated by Elder Gold who related a story of a young man who came to one of the Rothschilds for assistance and the Baron said to him, “come with me.” Together they walked up and down the bourse and then the Baron remarked, “They will be pleased to lend you all the assistance you need and you will henceforth be sought after.”
A man joined with Jesus Christ has enough. His conduct will be good, his deportment good and he will be found striving to do right and when he goes hence he will received the reward that remains to those of the redeemed.
Rev. Cowan then delivered an eloquent funeral address and at its close called upon Hon. John E. Woodard who complimented the pastor upon what he had so well said.
Mr. Woodard stated that he deemed this a melancholy pleasure to say a word over the bier of a man who had been his friend and a true friend to his race. He had known him 35 years as a distinct type of a man, a man who easily passed from the state of slavery to that of a citizen with the right ideas in his head and ideals in his mind as to the duties of citizenship. He gave to his people better opportunities than he had enjoyed. It was his pleasure to do so. He invested his wages for their good. He has reaped a noble harvest in the children he gives to his country and in the regard he has left in the hearts of the countrymen.
Prof. J.D. Reid followed in a laudation of the deceased as a promoter and supporter of the schools. He visited the schools and encouraged the children.
Prof. S.H. Vick delivered a beautiful eulogy and glowing tribute and Rev. Taylor of Calvary Presbyterian church also added a word to the many fine tributes that had been paid.
The exercises were interspersed with hymns and solos, and the large audience viewed the remains which were laid to rest by the Masons, of which he was an honored member.
— Wilson Times, 24 February 1914.
Death certificate of G.W. Suggs.
George W. Suggs, son of Lou and Julia Bess Suggs, was buried in the Masonic cemetery next to his wife, Esther. Their double headstone, now broken, once stood as one of the most impressive in the burial ground.
G.W. Suggs died intestate. (There is confusion about whether his surname carried a terminal “s.”) Letters of Administration issued in his estate named as heirs his children D.C. Sugg, Jas. T. Sugg, Serena Moore, Julia Bryant, Edmonia Purrington and Mollie Watson.
Photo of Suggs courtesy of user JamesKennedy621 at http://www.ancestry.com. Photo of grave taken November 2015 by Lisa Y. Henderson. Administrators Bonds, Wilson County Superior Court, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.