grave marker

The resting place of Joseph Batts.

Joseph Batts‘ grave marker is unique in Rest Haven Cemetery. A small metal plaque etched with his name in Gothic script is affixed to a slab of concrete and flanked by his hand-engraved initials. Beneath, a worn inscription notes his birth and death dates, but they are illegible. Without this information, I am unable to identify him specifically.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2021.

The Jacksons’ resting place.

The Clarence Best-carved double headstone of Benjamin and Annie F. Jackson stands over their graves in Rest Haven Cemetery.

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In the 1900 census of New Bern, Craven County, N.C.: baker Edward Jackson, 58; wife Sophia, 46; sons Benjamin, 10, and George, 7; and nephew Hallie Taylor, 20.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wagon driver John W. Farmer, 37; wife Edmonia, 33; and children George, 13, Paul, 12, Annie, 9, Mary, 7, and Fannie, 5.

In the 1910 census of New Bern, Craven County, N.C.: baker Edward Jackson, 56; wife Sophia, 54; and children Ida J., 37, seamstress — dressmaking; Benjamin, 21, butcher at meat market; George, 19, delivery boy for retail dry goods store; and Garfield, 22.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: express wagon driver John Farmer, 48; wife Edmonia, 41, a laundress; and children George, 23, factory laborer; Paul, 19, hotel servant; Annie, 18; Mary, 16; Fannie, 14; Arthur, 8; Melton, 6; and William, 4.

On 21 August 1917, Ben H. Jackson, 28, of Wilson, son of Ed and Sophia Jackson of New Bern, married Annie Lee Farmer, 26, of Wilson, daughter of John Wash and Edmonia Farmer, at the residence of the bride’s father. Walter Maynor applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister H.B. Taylor performed the ceremony in the presence of Emily M. Daniels, Cornelia E. Maynor, and S.B. Thomas. [Note that the officiant, Halley B. Taylor, was Benjamin Jackson’s first cousin and had lived with the Jackson family in New Bern at the time of the 1900 census.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vick Street, barber Ben Jackson, 30, and wife Annie, 28.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jackson Benjamin H barber W M Hines h 721 e Green

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jackson Benj H (c) barber h 721 e Green

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jackson Annie (c) cook h 721 e Green

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jackson Benj H (c; Annie) barber Wm Hines h 1212 Washington

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1212 Washington Street, owned and valued at $1500, barber Benjiman Jackson, 39; wife Annie, 38; and daughter Devaria, 4.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1212 Washington Street, paying $10/month in rent, Robert Shaw, 30, presser at Moore’s Cleaners; wife Bertha, 25; and roomer Ben Jackson, 50, barber. [What happened here? Where was Annie Jackson? If Ben Jackson was a roomer, who actually owned the house at 1212? I suspect this is an enumerator error.]

Benjamin Harrison Jackson died 24 October 1951 in Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 9 November 1890 in New Bern, N.C., to Edward Jackson and Sophie [maiden name unknown]; lived at 1212 E. Washington Street; and worked as a barber.

Annie Farmer Jackson died 8 February 1983 in New York.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2021.

The mystery of Julia Boyette Bailey’s grave.

Julia wife of Moses Bailey Born July 25, 1832 Died May 23, 1869 A tender mother and faithful friend

Brian Grawburg shared this astonishing photograph recently — the headstone of Julia Bailey, who was born enslaved in 1832 and died in 1869, just four years after the Civil War ended. Her grave marker, beautifully and professionally engraved, may mark the earliest African-American burial I have seen in Wilson County, and its discovery was serendipitous. While kayaking on Buckhorn Reservoir, Al Letchworth spotted a broken headstone in the water. Getting out to explore further, he found Julia Bailey’s marker. Letchworth mentioned his discovery to his friend Guy Pittman, who knew of Grawburg’s project documenting obscure and forgotten Wilson County cemeteries. Julia Bailey was almost certainly buried in a family cemetery, and it seems tragically likely that at least part of that cemetery was lost in 1974, when Contentnea Creek was dammed to create the reservoir, or in 1999, when a new dam was constructed downstream.

What do we know about Julia Bailey and her family?

A 1921 Wilson Daily Times piece about the death of her son Nathan Boyette offers another fortuitous glimpse of her life:

Nathan Boyette “was born on September 18th, 1850 and was a slave belonging to Jimmy Boyette living about twelve miles from Wilson in the Old Field Township. At the close of the Civil War Uncle Nathan was a husky boy just fifteen years of age. He had seven brothers and three sisters, one sister being older, Nathan being the next oldest child. His mother was name[d] Julie, and evidently had a very strong character. She could read and write, and she taught Nathan and the other children to read and write. …”

The 1860 slave schedule of Oldfields township, Wilson County, lists James Boyett as the owner of eight enslaved people: a 28 year-old woman, who was likely Julia; six boys aged 19, 12, 9, 7, 4 and 2; and a girl aged 8. The nine year-old boy was probably Nathan. (Or perhaps the 7 year-old, with the 8 year-old girl his older sister.) [Like most people enslaved in small units, Julia’s husband Moses Bailey had a different owner and lived apart from his family.]

On 15 August 1866, Moses Bailey and Julia Boyett registered their 15-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

Per her headstone (which was probably placed long after her death, see Lula Wooten’s similar marker), Julia Bailey died in 1869.

In the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farm laborer Moses Baily, 51, and children Allen, 15, John, 13, Patrick, 10, Yamah, 5, and William, 8. [Next door: white farmer Neeham Bailey, 67, and wife Peninah, 38. The 1860 slave schedule lists Needham Bailey with four slaves, but none of an age to be Moses. However, in 1860 Levi Bailey, Needham’s close neighbor, owned a 40 year-old man among his eleven slaves.]

In the 1870 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Alfred Rice, 40; wife Amy, 30; and son Thomas, 13, with Gray Baily, 24, all farm laborers. Next door: Violet Baily, 45, and Isabel Baily, 12. [“Emma” Bailey and Alfred Rice also registered a cohabitation in 1866. Gray Bailey was born to Moses Bailey’s earlier relationship with Isabel Bailey, and it is likely that Amy was his sister. Mary Bailey, daughter of Moses Bailey and Hannah Bailey, who married Hilliard Bailey in 1868, may have been their half-sister.]

On 21 April 1870, John Boykin, son of Rose Boykin, married Dicy Baily, daughter of Moses and Julia Baily, in Wilson County.

On 5 January 1871, Moses Bailly, son of Benja Bryant and Juda Jones, married Isabella Renfrow, daughter of Mingo Hinnant and Patsy Deans, at Moses Bailey’s in Wilson County.

On 24 December 1875, Allen Baily, 20, married Harriet Taylor, 16, in Oldfields township. Minister Elisha Horton [early pastor of Rocky Branch Church of Christ] preformed the ceremony in the presence of H. Powell, R. Jones, and Gray Bailey.

On 5 March 1879, Patrick Baily, 21, married Atsey Sanders, 19, of Nash County, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Moses Bailey, about 60; wife Isabel, about 45; and son William, 15.

Also, in the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Allen Baily, 22; wife Harriett, 21; and children Cora A., 4, Lucy A., 4, and Dortch, 1, sharing a household with Randall Hinnant, 33; wife Angeline, 26; and children J. Thomas, 10, James H., 8, Lilly Ann, 6, Roscoe F., 4, and Hugh N., 7 months.

Also, in the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: laborer Patrick Bailey, 19; wife Atsy, 20; and son Arthur M., 6 months.

Also, in the 1880 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John Boykin, 26; wife Dicey, 25; and children Julian, 8, Rear Ann, 7; John C., 5; W. Brogan, 3; and Sallie A., 9 months.

On 23 February 1882, Nathan Boyett, 31, of Wayne County, son of Moses Bayley and Julia Bayley of Wilson County, married Charity Crow, 27, of Wayne County, daughter of Jorden and Jane Crow of Wayne County, in Mount Olive, Brogden township, Wayne County, North Carolina.

Gray Bailey died 7 July 1914 in Oldfields township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 March 1845 to Moses Bailey and Vilet Bailey; and was buried at New Vester.

Dicy Boykin died 6 October 1929 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 66 years old; was born in Wilson County to William Bailey and Julia [last name unknown]; was married to John Boykin; and worked as a housewife. Daughter Sudie Woodard, Smithfield, was informant.

Nathan Boyett died 2 June 1937 in Wilson, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 February 1850 in Wilson County to Moses Bailey and Julia Boyett; was married to Emma Boyett; lived at 115 West Walnut Street, Wilson; and worked as a laborer.

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While researching the lives of Julia Boyette Bailey, her husband, and children, I came across this Notice of Intention to Disinter, Remove and Reinter Graves published several times in the spring of 1998 by R. Ward Sutton, a Rocky Mount, N.C., funeral director:

Wilson Daily Times, 15 April 1998.

This notice raises more questions than it answers.

What it tells us:

  • the cemetery was located on property then owned by Sudie Bailey Sullivan, who inherited said property from Levi T. Bailey. (Note, per the referenced deed, in 1974 this property was subject to a condemnation action and is shown on the Buckhorn Reservoir Land Acquisition Map filed in Plat Book 13 at pages 73-76);
  • Levi T. Bailey (1873-1931) was the grandson of the Levi Bailey whom I identified above as the likely owner of Moses Bailey;
  • of approximately 18-20 graves in the cemetery, only two were marked — those of Julia Bailey and Andrew W. Tarell;
  • Andrew W. Terrell was a son of Alonzo and Jane Cooke Terrell, who were both born in Wake County, N.C., and settled in what is now the Buckhorn area before 1880;
  • all of the graves in this cemetery were to be removed and reinterred in Bailey Cemetery, Bailey, Nash County, N.C. (about 5 miles north);
  • a record of the reburials was to be filed in the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

What it doesn’t:

  • did this cemetery start as a burial ground for enslaved people that was turned over to the Bailey family as a family cemetery?
  • why was Andrew Terrell buried there in 1905, rather than in New Vester Missionary Baptist Church’s cemetery, where his father Alonzo was buried in 1918 and several other Terrells later? (Though New Vester’s roots date to the slavery era, perhaps it did not establish its cemetery until much later. The earliest markers bear 1911 as a death date.)
  • is Andrew Terrell’s marker the broken stone that first drew Al Letchworth’s attention?
  • digital records for Bailey Cemetery show graves for neither Bailey nor Terrell/Tarell, and why was Bailey cemetery chosen at all (rather than, say, New Vester)? Bailey Cemetery was white-only for nearly all of its existence and is in Nash County.
  • the cemetery is on land condemned in 1974 for the first Buckhorn Dam, and disinterment was necessitated by the expansion of Buckhorn Reservoir in 1999, but if Julia Boyette and Andrew Terrell’s graves were removed, why are their headstones still in the woods?

In memory of Katie Black.

Lead Kindly Light. Katie daughter of Fred & Dora Black Born Dec 1 1885 Died May 5 1916 She was ready to do any good deed.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Thomas Johnson, 53, mail carrier; wife Alice, 40, laundry woman; sons Keefus, 18, Thomas, 1, and Willie, 30; daughter Daisey, 22, cook; and lodger Katie Black, 19, cook.

Kattie Black died 6 May 1916 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 30 years old; was single; was born in 1885 in North Carolina to Fred Black and Dora Buxton; and worked as a cook. Allice Blunt was informant.

Katie Black was buried in the Masonic Cemetery.

Alice Black Blunt applied in Wilson County Superior Court for letters of administration for Katie Black on 31 May 1916. The application values Black’s estate at $550 and lists her heirs as Ed Black, Fannie Black, Fred Black, and Alice Black Blunt.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2021.

Lane Street Project: yucca.

Spiky clumps of yucca dot Odd Fellows cemetery as further reminders that this patch of woods was once a curated (if not manicured) space. Though widely found in cemeteries across the country, in African-American tradition specifically, yucca binds restless spirits to their graves. Easily transplanted and nearly ever-lasting, yucca was sometimes planted near the head of a grave in lieu of an expensive stone marker.

Odd Fellows’ daffodils, which typically bloom around February, were also planted by mourning families, and it’s likely that the wisteria that has taken over the site was introduced as a grave planting.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2021.

Lane Street Project: Nettie Young Foster.

Nettie Wife of Walter M. Foster Born July 5, 1871 Died July 7, 1912. As a wife, devoted As a mother, affectionate As a friend, ever kind and true.

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In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Young, 34; wife Anna, 37; and children Joseph, 5, Jane, 4, John, 2, and George, 5 months.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Henry Young, 45; wife Zelpha Ann, 21; and children Joseph, 15, Nettie, 13, and George, 10.

On 14 August 1896, Walter Foster, 23, son of Peter and Phillis Foster, married Nettie Young, 28, daughter of Henry and Annie Young. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at Lou Ellis‘ house in Wilson in the presence of William Coley, Cora Ellis, and Minnie Coley.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter Foster, 26, day laborer; wife Nettie, 29; daughter Mollie, 6 months.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter Foster, 34, fireman at wagon factory; wife Nettie, 39; and children Henry E., 8, and Walter A., 5; plus boarder Arthur Broady, 22, laborer.

Nettie Young Foster died 7 July 1912.

Lane Street Project: Henry Tart.

Henry Tart Born Apr. 11, 1886 Died Mar. 13, 1919

Henry Tart‘s magnificent obelisk is the largest gravestone standing in Odd Fellows. Tart was the well-known proprietor of a transfer company. Read more about him here and here and here.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Walter S. Mitchel, 42, mason; wife Elizabeth, 36, laundress; and children Ada, 14, and Esther, 18; plus, wagon factory laborer Oleone Brooks, 18, and laborer Henry Tart, 18.

On 13 December 1911, Henry Tart, 25, of Wilson, son of John and Oliphia Tart, married Julia Clark, 23, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Mathew and Amanda Clark, at Saint Paul A.M.E. Zion Church, in Township #1, Edgecombe County. Levi Jones and Herman Grissom of Wilson were among the witnesses.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tart Henry lab h 613 E Green

Henry Tart registered for the World War I draft on 18 September 1918. He recorded his address as the corner of Green and Reid Streets, his birth date as 11 April 1884, and his occupation as self-employed in the transfer business. His wife Julia C[lark] Tart was his next-of-kin, and he signed his card in a neat, well-spaced hand.

Upon Henry’s death, Tart’s wife applied for Letters of Administration for her husband’s estate. She listed four surviving daughters, all minors — indeed, young children — Olivia, Julia, Josephine, and Miriam Tart.

Lane Street Project: Smith Bennett, revisited.

I’ve written of the dozens of simple narrow marble grave markers in Odd Fellows Cemetery. Most are inscribed with the full name of the deceased and, often, the fraternal organization’s emblem. Were they headstones or footstones, though?

Yesterday I had a go at unscrambling the chunks of concrete from a shattered anchor-and-ivy marker found when trash and privet were cleared from the edge of the parking lot bordering Odd Fellows. There was an obvious base and, around it, two dozen or so pieces of headstone, which I sorted more quickly than I’d expected. I was surprised to recognize the name of the deceased — Smith Bennett — especially since I’d already found a Smith Bennett marker

Smith Bennett Died Apr. 30, 192_ [May the Resur]rection Find Thee On the Bosom of Thy God

The first stone, which lies about 15 feet from this one, is of the smooth white marble variety that the Odd Fellows seem to have supplied to lodge members and their families. Presumably, in this instance, it served as a footstone, though it (or the headstone) has obviously been dislodged from its original place. 

Smith Bennett’s footstone. At top, between the trees, his broken headstone.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2021.

Lane Street Project: Oscar Mincey.

Here’s what I wrote about Oscar Mincey‘s headstone in December 2019, in one of the first Lane Street project posts:

Oscar Mincey, son of Prince and Susan Suggs Mincey, was born about 1887. His small stone is a few feet from his father. It’s almost completely sunken, and his death date is unreadable. I have not found a death certificate for him, which suggests he died before the state required them in 1914. Oscar’s brother Benjamin, the fireman, is presumably buried nearby, but there is no trace of his headstone.

Since then, we’ve found Benjamin Mincey‘s fire hydrant grave marker and freed it from its next of vines. Today, it was time to bring Oscar Mincey’s headstone to light.

Here it was when I first saw it in 2015:

L.S.P. volunteers have cleared away the vegetation. Scratching at the soil reveals a web of wisteria roots clutching the stone. They run as much as a foot beneath the surface and have to be clipped carefully to release their grip.

Vines cut, I dug carefully at each edge, scooping out dirt by hand to keep the hole small. At last, Oscar’s death date appears — January 15, 1905.

Finally, a simple clean-up with water and a nylon brush.

Oscar Mincey was about 17 when he died.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson town, Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Prince Mensey, 60; wife Susan, 52; children Ben, 19, Emma, 19, and Oscar, 12; and niece Rosetta Mensey, 7.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2021.