grave marker

Lane Street Project: then and now.

We have seen this photograph taken at the funeral of Irma Vick in 1921 in Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Below, as closely as I could estimate it, is an image shot from the same vantage point. Above, Wiley Oates‘ dome-top obelisk is visible above behind the man at left.  Below, it’s at rear left. The headstones of  Viola Vick and Daniel and Fannie Vick are hidden behind the mourners.

Above, a large white marble monument looms above a flat ledger stone or vault cover. Neither can be seen below. The large monument looks much like Henry Tart‘s pyramid-top obelisk, the largest known in Odd Fellows. Below, the top of Tart’s marker is barely visible as it sits on slightly lower ground than the Vick plot. However, Tart’s marker appears to be much further from Irma Vick’s than the marker above. (The lens in my iPhone camera has a wide-angle effect, so objects are closer than they appear below, but I don’t think this accounts for the difference.) Also, the monument above does not seem to show the square abacus (the “shelf” the pyramid rests on) atop the column of Tart’s monument. Also, there is no large ledger stone near Tart’s monument.

As we work to defoliate swaths of Odd Fellows Cemetery, we hope to unearth these and other hidden grave markers.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2023.

Lane Street Project: one of the few gravestones at Vick.

This 1991 article about the city’s clean-up activity at Vick Cemetery prior to the 1995 gravestone removal includes the only known photograph of its headstones. It is unattributed. Was this one of the photos Charles Pittman showed council two years later?  

The image depicts a substantial white marble monument that likely dates from the first twenty or thirty years of the cemetery when this type of rooftop obelisk marker was in common use for people who could afford them. In the first half of the twentieth century, Wilson’s wealthiest African-Americans were often Masons or Odd Fellows and were buried in those fraternal organization’s cemeteries. Not all who could afford headstones were lodge members though, and there is no reason not to believe that in its heyday Vick was not substantially populated with headstones. If only ten percent of graves were buried (and that seems a low percentage, though I have no basis for calculation), there would have been more than 400 headstones.

By the way, Earl Bradbury’s assertion that the Commission did not keep records for Vick because it did not kn0w the city owned the cemetery is preposterous. 

My thanks to Joan L. Howell for sharing this article. 

Lane Street Project: Daniel Vick.

Billy Foster also turned up this buried grave marker:

Though badly damaged, the white marble marker etched with Odd Fellows triple links appears to be inscribed DANIEL VICK and was likely originally placed at the foot of the grave of Samuel H. Vick‘s father Daniel Vick or his eldest son, Daniel L. Vick.

Photo courtesy of Billy Foster, April 2023.

Lane Street Project: Alice Pierce Maynor.

The Tate family plot lies near the northeast corner of Odd Fellows. Its markers are generally in good shape, but my eyes were often drawn to a small rim of marble barely visible above the soil.

Billy Foster of Foster Stone and Cemetery Care recently prised it up to reveal the handsome little marker of Alice P. Maynor.

Alice P. Maynor Born Apr. 24, 1888 Died Apr. 15, 1915.


On 6 January 1910, Walter A. Maynor, 19, of Wilson, son of Robert L. and Mary Maynor, married Alice Pearce, 22, of Wilson, daughter of Andrew and Alice Pearce, at Noah Tate‘s residence in Wilson. Levi Jones applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of F.S. Hargrave, E.P. Reid, and Mrs. M.J. Foster.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Walter Maynor, 19, barber, and wife Alice, 23. [The couple had two children, Harriett V. Maynor Whitfield (1910) and Walter Alfred Maynor Jr. (1912).]

Allice Maynor died 13 April 1915 in Wilson, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 26 years old; was born in Wilson County to Andrew Pierce and Alice Knight. Informant was Hattie Tate. Her cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis.

Photos courtesy of Billy Foster, April 2023.

Lane Street Project: another thanks.

Special thanks to all who donated to our headstone restoration fund! All donations go directly to pay a local company for their care and expertise in cleaning, stabilizing, and resetting grave markers, and are always welcome!

Among the stones recently cleaned  was Joseph S. Jackson‘s white marble marker, which was partially buried and badly stained.


In the Oates family section, Billy Foster unearthed these two hand-lettered markers, which appear to be foot stones.

As you see, the grass is starting to grow quickly at Odd Fellows. Please come out for our April 15 and 29 workdays!

Photos courtesy of Foster Stone and Cemetery Care, April 2023.

Fine cemetery memorials!

Nearly all grave markers from the last 40 years or so are machine-cut, their lettering precise and even and utterly predictable. In Wilson County’s African-American cemeteries, however, even a casual perusal of older markers reveals artisanal work, almost always anonymous. Though there are many hand-cut styles, one repeatedly snags the eye with its distinctive font — squared letters with flared serifs and, especially, 9’s with long, pointed tails. These carvings are the work of marble cutter Clarence Benjamin Best, who chiseled stars, crosses, flowers, lambs, and Masonic emblems, as well as grammatically idiosyncratic epitaphs, into slabs of stone for more than 50 years. I have found his work in rural Wilson County cemeteries and as far afield as Wayne, Edgecombe, and Greene Counties, but Rest Haven Cemetery is the ground zero of his oeuvre.

Best got his start as a marble cutter at Wilson Marble Mantle & Tile Company on North Railroad Street. By the early 1920s, he was designing and cutting headstones for African-American clients as a side gig. Operating from a backyard workshop, Best worked at every price point, often repurposing scrap stone or headstone seconds to create custom monuments that collectively testify to his skill and endless creativity. He opened his own business in 1946, advertising FINE CEMETERY MEMORIALS, and worked another 30 years.

As a tribute to this unsung vernacular artist, I’ve set out to photograph every monument I can attribute to Clarence B. Best and will feature his stand-out pieces in a dedicated Instagram account. Stay tuned.

Behold the Lamb of God. Clarence B. Best’s work is well-represented in Saint Delight Cemetery, near Walstonburg, Greene County, North Carolina.

Lane Street Project: the Vick family plot.

The Vick family plot was the nucleus of what is now Odd Fellows Cemetery. It contains five marked graves — Samuel H. Vick, his wife Annie Washington Vick, their daughters Irma and Viola Vick, and his parents Daniel and Fannie Blount Vick — but likely other family members.

With funds crowdsourced from Black Wide-Awake‘s readers, Foster Stone and Cemetery Care has been expertly cleaning, repairing as necessary, and resetting grave markers in Odd Fellows. The past few days, Billy Foster has worked his magic in the Vick family plot.



The earliest of these markers belongs to little Viola Leroy Vick, who died in 1897 just before her third birthday.

It is a pretty little headstone, but oddly proportioned and badly in need of cleaning. When Billy Foster began to work on it, he discovered that the two-part base of the stone was completely buried — we’ve only been seeing the stele.

Foster dismantled the headstone.

When he cleaned it and reassembled it, an epitaph came into view on the pedestal:

A light from our household is gone

A voice we loved is stilled

A place is vacant in our hearts

Which never can be filled.

The plinth is also inscribed: Burns & Campbell, Petersburg, Virginia, a prolific firm known as much for its headstones as for constructing Confederate monuments.


My deep thanks to M. Barnes, R. Breen, S. Brooks, V. Cowan, D. Dawson, D. Gouldin, J. Hackney, J. Hawthorne, B. Henderson, T. Lewis, B. Nevarez, and M. Wrenn for sponsoring headstone repairs. There is more restoration work to be done, and I hope others will donate to support our efforts. 

Lane Street Project: Nunnie Barnes, pt. 2.

Nunnie Barnes‘ striated gray headstone is one of the most striking in Odd Fellows Cemetery. Although the grave marker itself is in good condition, Barnes’ grave was not. With no vault to support it, the soil above her casket subsided and eventually collapsed, leaving a gaping hole. As part of the restoration work they’re doing in Odd Fellows, Foster Stone and Cemetery Care not only reset Nunnie Barnes’ head and foot markers, but filled and leveled her gravesite.

Your generous donations make this type of work possible, and Lane Street Project thanks you.

Photo courtesy of Billy Foster.

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.

Lane Street Project: and another one — Jack Rountree!

Yesterday, while working at Odd Fellows, Billy Foster of Foster Stone and Cemetery Care unearthed two more grave markers. One was blank, but the other was that of Jack Rountree, whose daughter Delzela Rountree is also buried at Odd Fellows. It is likely that his wife Lucille Rountree is there as well.


In the 1870 census of Bushy Fork township, Person County, North Carolina: farm laborer Henry Rountree, 30; wife Margaret, 20; and son Jack, 6.

On 21 October 1891, Jack Rountree, 30, parents unnamed, and Lucy Bergeron, 20, of Falkland, of Elias and [illegible] Bergeron, were married in Pitt County, North Carolina.

In the 1900 census of Falkland township, Pitt County: farmer Jack Rountree, 49; wife Lucy, 27; and children Julius, 5, Daisy E., 2, and Cora, 2 months; sisters Marcela, 23, Cora, 24, and Ella Bargeron, 26; and boarder Jacob Worthan, 18.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 53; wife Lucy, 35; and children Junius, 15, Delzel, 12, Cora Lee, 10, John H., 7, James, 6, Mable, 4, and Gollie May, 1.

Daisy L. [sic] Roundtree died 5 August 1914 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1898 to Jack Roundtree and Lucy Body; was single; lived on Stantonsburg Street; and was buried in Wilson [Odd Fellows Cemetery].

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Rountree Jack (c) farmer h Stantonsburg rd extd

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Old Stantonsburg Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 57; wife Lucile, 47; son Julius, 24, daughter-in-law Lida, 23, sons John Henry, 17, and Jesse, 16, daughters Mabel, 14, and Ola May, 10, and married daughter Cora Farmer, 19. [Her husband Paul was working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Mason Street, Loucile Roundtree, 52; husband John H., 67, yard gardener; and children Jessie D., 26, plasterer in public buildings; Mable, 22, dressmaking; John H., 27, cotton mill mechanic; Goldie J., 19; and Bertha, 14, “adopted daughter.”

Lucile Elizabeth Rountree died 14 May 1930 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 May 1875 in Pitt County to Elias Barden and Lettice Davis; was married to Jack Rountree; lived on Hadley Street; and was buried in Wilson [probably Odd Fellows Cemetery].

On 16 September 1931, Jack Rountree, 60, of Wilson, son of Henry Rountree and Margaret [maiden name not given], married Catherine Waddell, 50, of Rocky Mount, daughter of Charles and Mary Small, in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of J.L. Cooke, Clara R. Cooke, and S.A. Coward.

In the 1940 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County, North Carolina: at 1812 South Church Street, yardman Jack Rountree, 78, and wife Katherine, 62.

In the 1950 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: at 1812 South Church Street, John H. Rountree, 88, and wife Catherine, 77.

John Henry Rountree died 21 June 1953 at his home at 1812 South Church Street, Rocky Mount, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 March 1887 in Person County, N.C., to Henry Rountree and Margaret [maiden name not stated]; worked as a retired janitor; and was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Wilson. [There is no marker in Rest Haven for John or Jack Rountree.]

Catherine Waddell Rountree died 1 September 1958 at her home at 1812 South Church Street, Rocky Mount. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 July 1888 in Greene County, N.C., to Charles Small and Mary Patrick; was the widow of Jack Rountree; and was buried in Unity Cemetery, Rocky Mount.