I confess to some shock. Spring is relentless in eastern North Carolina; April is the scene of boundless vegetal fecundity. The green took my breath away.
Odd Fellows is fighting back.
The boundary between Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries.
The winter’s hard work is not undone, however. Though new sprigs of wisteria sprout from the stubs of vines, young trees have been thinned out, and the forbidding leading edge of solid woodland has retreated a few dozen yards. We are likely to halt organized clean-ups during the summer in order to avoid some of the hazards of wild woods and to focus on several related projects. Thus, your help in the next few weeks is even more critical to maintaining the progress we have made. Please join us April 24!
Henry Tart’s headstone, which was nearly invisible from just a few feet away just months ago, is now readily seen from the woodline.
If you or your group were not able to join the Lane Street Project this past winter, I hope you will make plans to do so in 2021-22. Many hands make light work, and our ancestors need you.
Odd Fellows Cemetery from above, two days ago. I can’t stop marveling.
The dotted yellow line is the approximate boundary with Rountree Cemetery (12). Vick Cemetery is (13).
The dotted white line marks the approximate edge of the woods in 2020, then a nearly impenetrable wall of vegetation. Over the last three months, dozens of Lane Street Project volunteers have worked tirelessly to open up the cemetery’s interior, exposing to sunlight patches hidden for decades. Blooming wisteria can be seen at upper left, but the front and right sides of the cemetery are clear of this scourge.
The remaining numbers mark identified family plots (and a gate):
This is wisteria. Its lovely lilac racemes are harbingers of spring and the Easter season. It is also a scourge, invading native landscapes, girdling trees, and smothering trees via dense networks of runners that criss-cross the woodland floor. Wisteria eradication is the greatest challenge to reclaiming Odd Fellows and Rountree Cemeteries, but our teams of volunteers have made unbelievable progress in just three months.
LSP volunteer days at Odd Fellows are normally the first and third Saturday. However, Easter is the first Sunday in April this year, and for that reason we are shifting to the 2nd and 4th Saturdays for the month. We’ll need all the help we can get as the weather warms up and privet, honeysuckle, and wisteria try once again to overwhelm the cemetery. We also need help with two side projects — the pruning of trees and shrubs around the monument in Vick cemetery, and application of defoliant chemicals at Odd Fellows.
If you’ve been thinking of coming out, please do — and bring a friend. If you’ve already been, please come back — and bring your sorority sisters, your lodge brothers, your motorcycle club, your soccer team, your usher board, your anybody!
As here, the applications below were made for military headstones to be installed in “Rountree Cemetery,” i.e. Rountree, Odd Fellows, or Vick Cemeteries. Of these, only James F. Scott’s grave marker has been found. (Another is now in Rest Haven, presumably the result of an exhumation and reburial.) The number of missing military headstones provides scale to the total loss of monuments in these cemeteries.
James Franklin Scott
The gravestones of James F. Scott and his father, the Rev. John H. Scott, have been located in Odd Fellows Cemetery. (Rev. Scott applied for his son’s gravestone.) However, they were found piled and stacked with more than a dozen other markers, and the location of the actual graves is not known.
Frank Scott’s headstone. Interestingly, the marker is engraved with after-market text — a birthdate and an epitaph, “Who is now with the Lord.”
Howard M. Fitts applied for the marker on Barnes’ behalf, as he did for many veterans.
Marcellus Lassiter died 4 July 1947 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 April 1897 in Wilson County to John Lassiter and Isabell Gear; worked as a laborer; was a World War I veteran; was the widower of Mamie Lassiter; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Informant was Hardy Lassiter of Baltimore, Maryland.
Hubert Romaine Mitchener
Hubert Mitchener’s gravestone now stands in Rest Haven cemetery.
Sam Nash registered for the World War I draft in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 20 February 1890 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 1069 West Lexington Street, Baltimore; and worked as a laborer for B. & O. Railroad.
Minnie Nash of Baltimore submitted the application and requested that the headstone be shipped to Rosa Battle, 913 Washington Street, Wilson.
John W. Pitts
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 904 East Vance Street, John W. Pitts, carpenter, 53, born in South Carolina; wife Penina, 52, hotel maid; and son Junius, 20, farm laborer.
Nathan Austin died 22 July 1948 at a Veterans Hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1893 in Wilson County to Marshall Ingram and Louise Ingram Austin; was a widower; lived at 610 Taylor Street, Wilson; and was unemployed.
Robert E. Ashford
[This is not the Robert Edward Ashford born 23 November 1918 in Wilson, who was white.]
Robert Edward Ashford registered for the World War II draft in 1942 in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 23 July 1923 in Wilson; lived at 614 East Green Street, Wilson; his contact was mother Rosa Ashford; and he worked at the Marine Base in Jacksonville, N.C.
Rosa L. Ashford submitted the application.
Fred Hyman registered for the World War I draft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 15 September 1887 in Tarboro, North Carolina; lived at 1323 South Markoe Street, Philadelphia; was a farmer for “Dougherty” in Haddonfield, New Jersey; and was married.
Fred Hyman died 23 August 1947 at a Veterans Hospital in Kecoughtan, Virginia. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 September 1888 in Tarboro; was separated from Magnolia Hyman; lived at 1233 South 47th Street, Philadelphia. His body was shipped to Wilson, N.C., to the care of C.H. Darden & Sons Undertakers.
Sam Hyman, 816 Mercy [Mercer] Street, Wilson, submitted the application.
John Henry Jackson
John H. Jackson died 7 April 1946 at the Veterans Hospital in Asheville, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 27 September 1872 in Surry County, N.C., to Tom Jackson; was married to Ida Mae Jackson; worked as a laborer; lived at 1201 East Washington Street; and was a veteran of the Spanish American War.
Henry Hines died 11 March 1937 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 October 1892 in Wilson County to Mary Hines; was married to Lela Hines; lived at 808 Suggs Street; and was a day laborer for Farmers Oil Mill.
Will Dixon registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born in 1896 in Farmville, North Carolina; lived on Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; was a laborer for W.L. Russell Box Company, Wilson; and was single.
Vick Cemetery, September 2020. The cherry tree at left is dead, smilax is overgrowing the rear, and shrubs and trees need hard pruning.
This Saturday, two teams of Lane Street Project volunteers will turn their attention to discrete tasks at the cemeteries. One group, headed by volunteer gardener Julia Newton, will focus on the 25-year-old planting of cherries, hollies, junipers, and eleagnus that has overtaken the memorial obelisk at Vick Cemetery. Anyone is welcome to join between 10:00 AM and noon, but she’d especially love to see “plant folks that know how to use pruners, loppers, and hand saws. Wheelbarrow operators also appreciated.” As always, masks and social distancing are required.
R. Briggs Sherwood will lead a second group working closely with a professional to apply an initial defoliant treatment to the areas previously cleared within the tree line at Odd Fellows Cemetery. We have made amazing progress clearing the growth strangling the cemetery, but without treatment much of our effort could be undone in the course of a single hot, humid growing season. Briggs anticipates that a few small teams of volunteers could handle this job effectively. Please note that this work involves chemical spraying, and volunteers should wear protective clothing, including coveralls, chemical-resistant gloves, goggles, and respirators. NO CHILDREN PLEASE.
Frankly, I didn’t expect much. I’d made similar appeals before and then spent hours tangled up in briers by myself. December 15, 2020, though, was different. Despite cold weather and Covid-19, a dozen people (and, critically, a newspaper reporter) came with pruners and rakes and surgical masks — and Lane Street Project stepped into its purpose. We’re still feeling our way to long-range plans, but short-term we’re exceeding my wildest dreams.
What Lane Street Project has done in three months:
Developed a fantastic core team of volunteers responsible for planning, promoting, supplying, and managing bimonthly clean-ups at Odd Fellows Cemetery, as well as strategizing about ways to encourage community engagement in the reclamation of these historic African-American spaces
Conducted two informal and five planned clean-ups at Odd Fellows Cemetery with a multi-ethnic, multi-generational crew of enthusiastic, hardworking volunteers
Built a tool bank for volunteer use during clean-ups
Recovered the gravesite of educator, businessman and community leader Samuel H. Vick; cleared the grave of Red Hot Hose Company chief Benjamin Mincey; and named and reclaimed the gravesites of 22 more individuals (bringing the total at Odd Fellows to 76), for which we maintain a detailed spreadsheet
Developed relationships with established organizations doing similar work in African-American cemeteries across the Southeast
Developed relationships with allies in local government, business, and the faith community, as well as individuals willing to invest time and talent to our efforts to preserve and protect the historic burial grounds of thousands of Wilson’s African-Americans
Begun to map the locations of graves at the site
Developed a plan for responsible defoliation of invasive plant species in Odd Fellows cemetery
We’ve accomplished a lot in three months, but there is so much more to be done. Thanks so much to those who have supported us with gifts of labor, tools, coins, cheerleading, signal-boosting, and prayer. Please continue to do so! Follow us on Instagram at @lanestreetproject; join us on Facebook at Lane Street Project; reach out to us at email@example.com. In the coming months, we’ll be broadening our focus from clean-up to documentation and restoration, and we will need your help at every step.
Photo of Corp. Willie Gay’s headstone courtesy of Drew C. Wilson.
H.S. Phillips Born Dec. 6, 1870 Died Feb. 22, 1919 Gone, but not forgotten
In the 1880 census of Tarboro, Edgecombe County: minister H.C. Philips, 37, wife Emma, 34, and children Louisa, 12, Hood, 9, Walton, 6, and Cornelius, 3.
On 18 May 1893, Hood S. Phillips, 22, of the town of Wilson, son of H.C. and E.E. Phillips, married Phillis Gay, 24, of the town of Wilson, daughter of Wiley and Catharine Gay. Rev. H.C. Phillips performed the ceremony at the A.M.E. Zion church. Witnesses were Annie Mincy, Annie Thorn and Alex Warren.
Hood Phillips is listed as a barber living at 623 Viola in the 1908 Wilson City directory.
Alma Phillips died 9 December 1916 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 12 August 1901 in Wilson County to Hood Phillips and Bessie Ralia; was a school girl; and was buried in Wilson County [possibly in Odd Fellows Cemetery.]
Hood S. Phillup died 22 February 1919 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 48 years old; was born in North Carolina to Henry Phillip and Elezbith Moore, both of South Carolina; lived on Stantonsburg Road extended; was married to Phillis Phillips; worked as a barber for hire for Garfield Ruffin; and was buried in Wilson County. William Phillup, Green Street, was informant.
In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 415 Stantonsburg Street, widow Phillis Phillips, 33, tobacco factory laborer, and roomers John Bogans, 46, and Carl Goods, 25, both oil mill laborers.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 808 East Nash, paying $8/month rent, widow Phillis Phillips, 42, and, also paying $8, Ardena Barnes, 46, both tobacco factory stemmers.
Phillis Phillips died 22 May 1932 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 51 years old; the widow of Hood Phillips; was born in Wilson to Wylie Gay and Catherine Speights, both of Greene County, N.C.; and was buried in Wilson [probably in Odd Fellows Cemetery.] Catherine Arrington of Richmond, Virginia, was informant.
Lucinda Wife of Geo. W. White Oct. 15, 1880 Nov. 30, 1915 Age 35
George White, 34, of Craven County, son of Louisa Dew, married Lucinda Parker, 20, of Craven County, on 27 December 1898 at Jackson Dew‘s residence in Wilson township, Wilson County. Alfred Dew applied for the license, and Baptist minister J.T. Deans performed the ceremony in the presence of James T. Alston, L.A. Allen, and Jackson Dew.
In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: George White, 25, day laborer fireman, and wife Lucinda, 23.
In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, George White, 35, box factory laborer, and wife Lucindia, 30.
Lucinda White died 13 November 1915 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1883 in North Carolina to Henretta Richardson; was married; and was buried in Wilson. George Wilson was informant.
Delzela Dau of Jack & Lucile Rountree Born Aug. 5, 1897 Died Mar. 8, 1914 An angelvisited the green earth and took the flower away.
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 1898to Jack Roundtree and Lucy Body; was single; lived on Stantonsburg Street; and was buried in Wilson.