gravestone

Mother Mary P. Wright.

“Trust in God to meet again.” (A Clarence B. Best production.)

Mary P. Wright‘s family was among hundreds who migrated North from Wilson County in the first half of the 20th century. However, her links to home remained strong enough that her children chose to bury her there, in Rest Haven cemetery.

Wright died 28 October 1962 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 October 1886 (not 22 May 1860 as her headstone states) in North Carolina; was the widow of Emit Wright; and lived at 621 Dudley Street, Philadelphia. Informant was Henretta Farmer, 621 Dudley Street.

On 13 November 1921, Jessie Farmer, 28, married Henrietta Wright, 20, in Wilson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1112 Carolina Street, rented for $16/month, Jessey Farmer, 34, tobacco factory laborer; wife Henerator, 26, laundress; and children Jessey Jr., 8, Ervin, 4, and Trumiller, 3.

On 30 December 1930, Raleigh Rae Farmer died in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 22 August 1930 to Jessie Farmer of Wilson, N.C., and Henrietta Wright of Zeblin [Zebulon], N.C. in Wilson. The infant died of bronchitis.

Jesse Farmer Sr. died 26 September 1931 in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Veterans Hospital at Oteen. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 October 1937 in Wilson to Jeff Farmer and Blanche Gay; was married to Henrietta Farmer; his regular residence was in Wilson; and he did factory work.

Though it is not clear when the Wright-Farmer family moved to Philadelphia, the Farmers, at least, were there by 1942, when Jesse Farmer Jr. registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 22 July 1922 in Wilson, North Carolina; his contact was Mrs. Henrietta Farmer, 621 Dudley Street; and he worked for Benjamin Cohen, 1140 North American Street, Philadelphia.

Jesse Farmer Jr., son of Jesse and Henrietta Farmer, married Virginia Atherine Darden, 24, daughter of William Sr. and Florence Darden, on 29 March 1947 at Crucifixion Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

In the 1950 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, city directory: Farmer Henrietta 621 Dudley HOwrd5-8655.

Wright’s daughter Henretta Farmer died just four years after her mother, on 5 June 1966. Per her death certificate, she was born 2 July 1909 in North Carolina to Emmett Wright and Mary Pullet; was a widow; and lived at 621 Dudley Street. Jesse Farmer was informant.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2019.

South Carolina roots: the Wilsons.

John and Lula Stokes Durant Wilson were among many South Carolina migrants to Wilson in the early 20th century. Rest Haven cemetery, June 2019.

In the 1900 census of Sammy Swamp township, Clarendon County, South Carolina: farmer William Stokes, 57, farmer; wife Ann F., 36; and children DeWit, 15, Euleda, 13, Lula, 11, Hallie, 8, Estell, 7, Marion, 5, Talmage, 4, and Eva, 5 months.

In the 1920 census of Sammy Swamp township, Clarendon County, South Carolina: farmer William Stokes, 76, and wife Annie, 60; Lula Durant, 27, widow; Talmage, 19, and Bennie Stokes, 16; Almot, 5, Clarence, 4, and B.J. Durant, 1.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer John Wilson, 65; wife Lula, 32; children Annie D., 6, John W., 3, and Mamie and Ruth, 2; and step-children Clarence, 16, B.J., 11, and Luke Durant, 7.

In the 1940 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: John Wilson, 76; wife Lula, 47; and children Luke, 20, Annie Dell, 18, John William, 15, Mamie, 13, Ruth, 11, and Council, 8.

John Wilson died 19 October 1959 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 December 1887 in South Carolina to Ardelia Wilson; was a fireman; was married to Lula Wilson; and lived at 1108 Queen Street. [John Wilson’s gravestone, shown above, lists his birth year as 1857. Census records suggest that he was born circa 1864.]

Lula Wilson died 13 December 1962 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 25 May 1902 in South Carolina to Billie and Annie Dell Stokes; and lived at 1108 Queen Street. Informant was Luke Durant, Baltimore, Maryland.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, June 2019.

Della Hines Barnes.

Della Hines Wife of Dave Barnes 1858-1935 She is not dead but sleeping

Della Hines Barnes was mother of three of early 20th-century Wilson’s African-American heavyweights — Walter S. Hines, William Hines and Boisey O. Barnes. Her ornate marble grave marker — with its angel lifting her finger heavenward — gleams from the shabby remains of Rountree cemetery, a testament to the wealth of her children at the time of her death. Though the success of the Hines brothers and Dr. Barnes is primarily attributable to their own talents, each had the great good fortune to be the beneficiary of their mother’s drive and early financial success.

Della Hines Barnes was born in 1858 in Cokey township, Edgecombe County, which borders Toisnot and Gardners townships in Wilson County to the west. She was reared by Joshua Hines and Callie Mercer Hines, but, according to Hugh B. Johnston Jr., her birth father was John Routh Mercer (1825-1894), a wealthy white Edgecombe County physician.* (Mercer was likely the owner of Callie Mercer and her eldest children.) Della Hines Barnes’ first surviving child, Walter Scott Hines, was born in 1879 in Edgecombe County. Again per Johnston, his father was Walter S. Parker, a white farmer. Her second son, William Hines, was born in 1884, also in Edgecombe County. His father was Thomas Williams. About a year later, she gave birth to daughter Lucy.  In 1890, Hines and her children left the Jesse Norris farm in Edgecombe County for Wilson. There, Hines worked at Briggs Hotel and as a seamstress and tailor and was a member of London’s Primitive Baptist Church. Johnston further recorded that on 25 January 1894, just a few months before her marriage, Della Hines purchased 613 Green Street in Wilson for $375. (Though it not clear when it was built, by 1913 Della Barnes had erected a large two-story house at this address (originally 612 Green), which stood until the 1990s.) On 25 September 1911, she purchased four lots on Pender, Green and Second Streets in her own name (not her husband’s) from son William Hines for $1000, and on 1 March 1915, she purchased another lot on Green Street from son William and his wife Ethel Hines for $1200 and four lots from son Walter S. and and his wife Sarah E. Hines.

——

In 1866, Joshua Hines and Callie Mercer registered their seven-year cohabitation with an Edgecombe County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: carpenter Joshua Hines, 41; wife Calley, 37; and children Jerry, 11, Ashley, 21, Watson, 16, Della, 14, Joshua, 8, Eliza, 6, Caleb, 4, and William, 4. [Judging by the children’s ages, it appears that Jerry was their first child together.] Listed next door were physician John R. Mercer and his children.  Mercer reported $26,500 real property and $6500 in personal property.

In the 1880 census of Cocoa township, Edgecombe County: Joshua Hines, 52; wife Cally, 47; children Jerry, 20, Deller, 22, Lizer, 17, Joshua, 15, Caliph, 13, William, 11, Robert, 7, and Adline, 4; nephew Allen Harris, 3; and grandson Walter, 1 [Della’s son.]

On 15 April 1894, David Barnes, 35, married Della Hines, 32, in Wilson. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the bride’s home in the presence of J.T. Deans, Mrs. Hardy Tate, and Hardy Tate.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hotel porter Dave Barnes, 40; wife Della; and children Walter, 20, William, 15, Lucy, 13, Dave, 5, and Viola, 11. [Walter, William, and Lucy were, in fact, Hineses and were Della Hines Barnes’ children. Viola Barnes was Dave Barnes’ daughter by an earlier marriage to Pattie Battle. She married Mack Jones and died in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, on 8 September 1909. Dave and Pattie Barnes also had a son Efford Barnes, who was born about 1883.] Dave Sr. worked as hotel porter, Walter as a barber, and William as a day laborer.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hotel servant Dave Barnes, 50; wife Della, 50; and children William, 25, barber, Lucy, 23, Dave, 15, Bosey, 8, Mary, 7, John, 5, Sam, 3, and Carry, 1 month. [No further record is found of the youngest four children, which suggests that they died between 1910 and the regular recording of North Carolina death certificates in 1914.]

On 5 June 1912, Lucy P. Hines, 21, of Wilson, daughter of William Hines and Della Barnes Hines, married John L. White, 27, of Hampton, Virginia, son of William and Mary R. White (resident of Hingham Centre, Massachusetts), at the bride’s parents’ home. W.S. Hines applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister H.B. Taylor performed the ceremony in the presence of M.E. Dortch of Goldsboro, North Carolina; J.M. Parker of Rocky Mount, North Carolina; and [illegible] B. Thomas of Washington, D.C.

David Barnes died 23 January 1913 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 52 years old; lived at 612 Green Street; was married; was born in Wilson; and worked in “hoteling.” William Hines was informant.

Della Barnes was appointed administratrix of her deceased husband’s estate in 1913. The estate was valued at $600, and heirs were identified as Della Barnes, Dave Barnes Jr., Boisey O. Barnes, Effort Barnes and “Viola Jones’ child.” (Efford Barnes died months later on 31 May 1913. I have not been able to identify Viola Barnes Jones’ child.) William Hines and Walter Hines joined their mother to post bond, as shown below.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 612 East Green, widow Della Barnes, 50; Cleveland Chick, 25, barber, and Dasy Chick, 23, both of South Carolina; and Della’s sons Dave, 24, and Otha, 17.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 613 East Green, valued at $8000, widow Della Barnes, 71, and sons Boysie, 26, and Dav., 35, barber.

Della Hines died 10 January 1935 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 75 years old; was born on January 19; was born in Edgecombe County to Joshua Hines and Pattie Hines; and was a widow. William Hines was informant.

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 several worksheets that Johnston apparently filled in while interviewing subjects. The information attributed to him here is drawn from the worksheets for Della Hines Barnes and William Hines.

This look at the life of Della Hines Barnes is the 2000th post of Black Wide-Awake. When I commenced this journey in October 2015, I had no idea where it would go or for how long, or even if anyone other than I would benefit from it. Thanks for coming on the ride with me.

The grave of Rev. Richard J. Young.

The grave marker of Rev. R.J. Young, Masonic cemetery, Wilson.

——

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: P.J. [sic] Young, 57, farmer; wife Mary, 44; and children Bertha, 24, Rosa, 22, Emma, 20, Mary, 17, and Louise, 11.

Richard J. Young died 28 November 1933 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 May 1876 in Sumter, South Carolina, to Richard Young and Emma Scott; was married to Mary Young; resided at Route 3, Wilson; and worked as a farmer.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

The Harts’ resting place.

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A photograph does not do justice to these unique matching headstones in Rest Haven cemetery. The inset is etched black glass. Tempie Ann Hart‘s shows a regularity that suggests it was machine-made. Ben Hart‘s, however, with its pointed-tail 9’s and serifed 7’s, bears the unmistakable imprint of craftsman Clarence B. Best. Though the insets have cracked, their lettering still darkly gleams in sunlight.

——

In the 1870 census of Walnut Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer Wiley Hart, 47; wife Chaney, 33; and children Susan, 13, James, 12, Lucius, 11 (described as “idiotic”), Wiley, 5, and Benjamin, 3.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Willie Hart, 57; wife Chaney, 43; children Susan, 24, James, 23, Willie, 15, Ben, 13, Epsy, 8, and Tildy, 6; and nephew Willie Killebrew, 15. Willie and Chaney reported suffering from dysentery.

In the 1880 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: Stephen T. Jones, 25; wife Fortune, 22; and daughters Susan, 4, and Tempy A., 2.

Ben Hart, 31, son of Wiley Hart and Chaney Hart, married Tempy Joyner, 20, daughter of Forten Joyner, on 6 June 1900 in Toisnot township, Wilson County.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer Benjamin Hart, 32; wife Tempy, 25; children Hattie, 5, and Grover, 2; grandchildren [niece and nephews] Edwin, 17, George, 12, and Chaney, 11; and grandmother [mother] Chaney Hart, 65.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wells Daws Avenue, Benjamin Heart, 43; wife Tempy, 33; children John L., 8, Willie B., 6, Dicy A., 5, Mattie, 3, and George, 1; wife’s children Hattie, 13, and Grover Johnson, 10; nephew Dallis Locus, 11; and mother Chanie Heart, 73.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Wilson-Tarboro Road, farmer Ben Hardt, 50; wife Tempy, 45; children John L., 18, Willie, 16, Dicie, 14, Mattie, 12, George, 10, Mary, 8, and Effie, 4. Next door, Grover Hart, 21, wife Mammie, 21, and son William, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Ben Hart, 63; wife Tempie, 51; and children George, 21, Effie, 15, and [grandson] Ben Jr., 7.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Ben Hart, 70; wife Tempie, 62; nephew Aaron Hinnant, 18; son-in-law Ernest Parker, 23; daughter Effie, 24; and granddaughter Elouise, 6.

Tempie A. Hart died 9 July 1940 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old; was born in Wilson County to Steve Jones and Forneighny Jones; and was married to Ben Hart.

Ben Hart died 7 November 1951 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 20 March 1881 in Edgecombe County to Wiley Hart; was a widower; resided at 1200 Washington Street, Wilson. Informant was Rev. J.L. Hart, 1200 Washington Street.

Willie Brown Hart died 2 April 1956 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 January 1906 in North Carolina to Ben Hart and Tempie Ann Jones; was married; and worked as a janitor at City Treading Plant. Informant was George Hart, 104 North Reid Street.

Grover Lee Hart died 1 November 1958 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 August 1898 in Wilson County to Ben Hart Sr. and Tempie Ann Jones; was engaged in farming; lived in Elm City; and was married to Mamie Hart.

Hattie Pitt died 12 June 1962 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 January 1897 in Wilson County to Ben Hart and Tempie A. Jones; she was a widow; and she resided at 1306 Washington Street. Mrs. Festee Cotton, 1306 Washington, was informant.

John L. Hart died 6 February 1963 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 January 1901 in Wilson County to Benjamin Hart and Temie Ann Jones; was a minister; lived at 1200 Washington Street; and was married to Elouise Hart.

George Hart died 30 September 1971 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 February 1911 to Ben Hart and Tempie Jones; worked as a cabdriver; resided at 104 North Reid, Wilson; and was married to Lutoria Hinnant Hart.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2018.

Wilsons of Wilson.

Though there is only one individual headstone, this family plot in Rest Haven cemetery likely holds the remains of several members of the John Adam Wilson and Mollie Newsome Wilson family.

On 13 July 1893, Adam Wilson, 26, married Mollie Newsome, 19, in Wayne County.

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Adam Wilson, 34; wife Mollie, 27; and children Leonard, 5, Nina, 4, Adam, 2, and Zilphia, 1 month; and John Locus, 20, boarder. [Locus was the son of Adam Wilson’s sister Louisa Wilson Locus.]

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Adam Wilson, 44; wife Mollie, 36; and children Lenna, 15, Nina, 14, Adam J., 12, Zilpha A., 10, Sarah P., 8, Bunna, 6, Hurman, 4, William H., 2, and James J., 8 months.

Adam Wilson has two death certificates — (1) Adam Wilson died 30 October 1916 at the State Hospital in Fork township, Wayne County; he was 51; his regular residence was in Wilson County; and he was a carpenter, and (2) Adam Wilson did 31 October 1916 in Wilson; he was about 51; he was born in Wayne County to John Wilson and Zilfie Artis; he was a carpenter; and informant was Mollie Wilson of Wilson. [J. Adam Wilson was the brother of Elizabeth Wilson Reid.]

Fredrick Odel Wilson died 19 May 1918 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 December 1916 in Wilson County to Adam Wilson and Mollie Newsome, both born in Wayne County. He died of ileocolitis, and Mollie Wilson was informant.

John Adam Wilson registered for the World War II draft in Newport News, Virginia, in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born 25 February 1899; resided at 2131-22nd Street, Newport News; worked as a carpenter for Boyle-Robertson Construction Company; and his nearest Relative was Mollie Wilson of Wilson, North Carolina.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 302 Vick, Mollie Wilson, 46; son Lennie, 25, house carpenter; daughter-in-law Georgia, 23; grandson Lennie Jr., 2; and children John A., 22, house carpenter; Annie D., 19, Sarah, 17, Bunyon, 16, Hirmon, 14, William H., 12, James J., 10, and Ire, 7.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 302 Vick, owned and valued at $2000, widow Nolly Wilson, 54, laundress; son John B., 20, theatre janitor; daughter Irene, 17; and lodgers Mollie Zackery, 30, nurse; Blonnie Zackery, 22, cook; and Earl Zackery, 44 barber. [This entry is riddled with errors. Nolly Wilson was in fact Mollie Wilson, and Mollie Zackery (who was male, not female) was Nolly Zachary, who was a barber, not a nurse. Earl Zachary, son of Nolly and Blonnie Barnes Zachary’s son, and was 4 years old in 1930. Also, it is not clear who “John B. Wilson” is, unless this is a misnomer for son James J. Wilson.]

In the 1930 census of Newark, Essex County, New Jersey: at 10 Burnett Street, apartment janitor Leonard Wilson, 34; wife Georgia, 33; brother Herman, 21, lather; and children Leonard Jr., 11, Elma, 10, Ernest, 8, and Toney Lee, 6. All were born in North Carolina.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 302 Viola Street, owned and valued at $1800, widow Mollie Wilson, 66; fish market owner Dorphus Williams, 61, roomer; and father James Newsome, 86.

Mollie Wilson died 30 January 1952 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 September 1875 in Wayne County to James Newsome and Penina Artis; was the widow of John A. Wilson; and resided at 301 North Vick. Informant was Irene Sherrod, 302 North Vick.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2018.

The graveyard artistry of Clarence Best, pt. 3.

I’ve written here of Clarence B. Best, the marble cutter whose custom gravestones can be found in cemeteries across Wilson County and beyond. Here’s more, all in Rest Haven cemetery.

  • Joseph Earl Mercer, died 1969. Apparently, a young man who loved cars.
  • Clifton L. Howard, died 1969. Best made gravestones affordable by offering customers damaged or repurposed markers such as this one, which appears to be the top portion of a larger piece.
  • Ruby M. Ellis Opie, died 1965, and Charles E. Ellis, died 1964. THEY WAS AN AFFECTIONATE SON & DAUGHTER.
  • Charlie H. Thomas, 1965. Modeled after the white marble markers provided by the military to veterans.
  • Johnnie G. Baker, died 1962. GOD LOVES LITTLE CHILDREN.
  • Rev. Nebraska H. Dickerson, died 1969. To his oft-used dogwood and cross motifs, Best added an open book.
  • Dora M. Hoskins, died 1963. Past Matron, Order of Eastern Star. DIEING IS BUT GOING HOME.
  • William Earl Artis, died 1961. Inclusion of his mother Cora Dawes’ name is unusual as is the near-italicization of the date lines.
  • James Powell, died 1939. DEAR FATHER. GOD FINGER TOUCHED HIM AND HE SLEPT.

Applications for military headstones, no. 2.

  • Admire Zimmerman

In the 1900 census of Philadelphia, Darlington County, South Carolina: farmer Ceasar Zimmerman, 28; wife Irene, 23; and children Leila, 7, Admire, 3, Lillie A., 1, and George, 2 months.

In the 1910 census of Lamar, Darlington County, South Carolina: farmer Cesare Zimmerman, 38; wife Rena, 33; and children Leila, 17, Admire, 12, Lily, 11, Shepherd, 9, Eulis, 7, Charlie, 6, Caesar, 4, Grant, 2, and N. Efether, 11 months.

On 1 July 1920, Sheppard Zimmerman, 22, of Wilson, son of Caesar and Irene Zimmerman, married Florence Howard, 18, of Taylor township, daughter of Deal and Nancy Howard. Admire Zimmerman applied for the license, and a justice of the peace performed the ceremony at Wilson County Court House in the presence of David Woodard, B.E. Howard and Admire Zimmerman.

On 10 July 1920, Admire Zimmerman, 23, of Elm City, son of Caesar and Irene Zimmerman, married Viola Wilson [Williams], 24, of Wilson, daughter of Richard and Martha Jane Williams, in Elm City. Witnesses were David Woodard, J.A. Anderson, and Sid Laws.

On 28 July 1927, Admire Zimmerman, 27, married Alma Dock, 18, in Wilson. Jim Dock, Lillie Dock and G.W. Kinlaw witnessed.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: pubic service laborer Admire Zimmerman, 47; wife Kattie, 37; and children Junior, 14, Mary, 12, and Shirley, 3. The family had lived in Richmond, Virginia, in 1935. Next door: Baptist preacher Ceasar Zimmerman, 68, and wife Irene, 65.

On 5 April 1956, Admire Zimmerman, 63, son of Cecil and Irene Zimmerman, married Ava Gardner, 66, daughter of Stephen and Hattie Roberson Owens, in Wilson.

Admire Zimmerman died 23 February 1962 at 616 Manchester Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 May 1896 in Darlington, S.C., to Ceasar Zimmerman and Irene Jarrell; was a widower; and was a laborer. Informant was Caesar Zimmerman, 900 Woodard Avenue, Washington, D.C.

  • Jack Washington

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Jack Washington died 23 November 1962 at his 1109 Woodard Street Extension residence. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 August 1884 in Tampa, Florida, to George Washington and Cecil (last name unknown); was married to Daisy Washington; and was a laborer.

Cutt Davis died 9 August 1952 in Wilson. Per his death certificate: he was born 28 September 1888 in South Carolina to Berry Davis; worked as a shoemaker; resided at 803 East Nash Street; and was buried at Rest Haven. Informant was Thomas F. Davis of Washington, D.C.

  • Ned Barnes

Ned Barnes died 14 November 1960 at 1608 Washington Street Extension, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 February 1896 in Wilson County to Jessie R. and Sary Barnes; resided at Route 4, Wilson; was a plasterer; and was a widower. Frank Barnes, 308 Ward Boulevard, was informant.

  • John T. Barnes

“I have respect for my father and mother.”

What is now called Rountree Cemetery first caught wider Wilson’s attention in February 1989 when the Daily Times printed a full-page feature. I’ve abstracted the piece, with some commentary, below:

wilsondailytimes-feb181989-9

Wilson Daily Times, 18 February 1989. (Please click image to enlarge.)

“Vick Cemetery is just one of several Lane Street cemeteries being used as trash dumps, but a small group of people want to change all that.”

Ben Mincey Jr., [who is in his 70s and] whose father is buried in the old Odd Fellows Cemetery directly north of and adjacent to Vick cemetery, is trying to get help for both cemeteries.

Councilman A.P. Coleman discussed the cemeteries with City Manager Cyrus Brooks and suggested Mincey seek grants from historic societies or other groups. Brooks said he was aware of the situation at the Vick Cemetery but “had no solutions and had directed inquiries to the [Cemetery] Commission,” over which the city has no control.

Mincey thinks the city or commission should help clean both cemeteries and notes that Vick deeded the property to the city in 1913. With volunteers and hired help, Mincey has cut down and burned off much of overgrowth in Odd Fellows and is trying to remove the accumulated trash, which includes appliances, bed frames, rotting clothing, dead animals wrapped in plastic bags, tires, and bottles.

Mincey says both cemeteries were well cared for when the “older people whose families were buried there” were still living, and he was trying to clean up because “I have respect for my father and mother.” An unnamed cemetery official said he had no idea why relatives had let the old cemeteries deteriorate or why nothing was said until recently.

Both cemeteries are over 100 years old, and neither has been used in more than 30 years. There are no known records on who or how many people are buried in Vick cemetery (or presumably, Odd Fellows.)

“Mincey said many prominent blacks from Wilson’s past are buried in these two cemeteries and the Rountree Cemetery, also on Lane Street, located where Rountree Baptist Church used to sit.” They include Ben Mincey Sr., who helped start the East Wilson Volunteer Fire Department and worked for the city’s Utilities Department; Nettie Foster, a well known teacher; Walter Hines, a downtown barber; and S.H. Vick, the cemetery’s namesake, a former postmaster.”

“Trees not hide all but one grave, which sits by the roadside at the old Rountree Cemetery. The commission was not even aware of the Rountree Cemetery’s existence” and did not know Vick Cemetery existed “until about four years ago” when Mincey brought it to their attention. At that time, they determined that Mincey Sr. was buried in the Odd Fellows, not Vick, cemetery.

Pursuant to a 1923 state statute, the Cemetery Commission was given title to all city property used for cemetery purposes, including Vick Cemetery. Currently, only Rest Haven and Maplewood are active cemeteries. The commission does not receive city funding, but is audited by the city.

Cemetery Commission chairman Earl Bradbury says of Vick Cemetery, “Burial patterns are any which way. Nobody has any records of who was buried there. It just sat there and so nobody had any interest in it and it just grew up.” After its “discovery,” the commission authorized $8000 for cleanup by hand “because heavy machinery would cause the graves to collapse.”  (As wooden caskets decay, the ground above them subsides, creating sunken graves.) “Because of this, no local firms will help with the cleanup.” Heavy rains prevented the completion of the cleanup, and the area still needs to be burned off and treated with weed killer. Bradbury agrees that the Vick property should be cleaned and cared for, but says the commission did not have the funds to do so. “He said he hoped to pack the collapsed graves with silt dredged from Toisnot Lake, but that silt is just sitting on unused Maplewood Cemetery property. Also, Bradbury thinks people with relatives in the Vick cemetery should show some interest in having the cemetery renovated, and he said it would be nice if the city could help with possibly a one-time grant.” As for Odd Fellows, it is the responsibility of the fraternal organization or relatives of the deceased to clear that cemetery.

Councilman Coleman notes that the city might have a “moral obligation” to find a solution, notuing that “the Lane Street area was included in the 1972 annexation of east Wilson, wich was an area that had been neglected for many years.”

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  • Odd Fellows cemetery? This is the first I’ve heard of it. The obelisk now marking the remaining stones says “Rountree-Vick.” If Odd Fellows was north, and “north” means northeast toward Martin Luther King Parkway/U.S. 264, is it now completely wooded? As this cemetery was not city property, was it just left to revert to nature? In the mid-1970s, headstones were visible among the trees and underbrush in this area. Though we called it Rountree, was this actually Odd Fellows? (For more about Hannibal Lodge No. 1552, International Order of Odd Fellows, see here.)
  • If so, where was Rountree cemetery? The article seems to imply that it was not immediately adjacent to Vick and Odd Fellows. The east parking lot of the “new” Rountree Missionary Baptist Church, built in the late 1970s, was laid over the site of the clapboard predecessor. There is no apparent graveyard immediately adjacent to the church now, and it’s not clear where a location closer than the known cemetery could have been.
  • It’s heartbreaking that Ben Mincey Sr.’s headstone is not one of those that survives.
  • Silt from Toisnot Lake? Did this ever happen? Is this really a sanctioned method of handling sunken graves? Several of the remaining graves have collapsed, and at least one has been breached to the point that a dark vacuum is visible below ground.