Lane Street Project

Lane Street Project: Clean-Up Kick-Off Day 1.

I’m just gon step out the way and let the folk who were there today testify:

  • Brittany Daniel

“A HUGE shoutout to everyone who came out today in the cold to support Lane Street Project!!!! We have accomplished so much in so little time! If you couldn’t come out today, please come out Monday 9-11 or 12-2!”

  • Jocelyn Drawhorn

“In case you needed a dose of good news for the weekend, please check out the work Lane Street Project is doing. Today has been a continuum of restoring and rediscovering the rich history of African Americans in the city of Wilson, NC. So many stories are just WAITING to be told! If you are interested in what is happening, join the group today to stay up to date on clean ups, restoration projects, and more! Thanks to the dedicated Lisa Y. Henderson, we ALL have a chance to uncover true black excellence.”

  • Jane Cooke Hawthorne

“So this is a long story, but I’m standing in the takeout line at Parkers BBQ in Wilson, N.C., so I’ll have time to tell it. Today I participated in the Lane Street Project, which is a new effort to clean, reclaim and repair 3 black cemeteries in Wilson. The first was a city-owned cemetery that was neglected until the city decided that they would raze, yes raze!!!, all the tombstones there and erect one large monument. There are estimated to be approximately 2000 black bodies in this cemetery. No names have been identified and the tombstones were destroyed. Makes me sick to think about.

“We worked instead in the Odd Fellows Cemetery which was once owned by a fraternal organization that disbanded, and this cemetery also fell into neglect. The cemetery is covered in thick wisteria vines and briars but some daffodils and other typical cemetery plantings endure. The headstones are buried under leaves and often broken. We worked to carefully clear these stones of brambles and vines and cleaned them with a soft brush and water. We then flagged them and took photos.

Samuel Vick, one of the wealthiest black land owners in possibly the state of N.C. of his time is buried here. Many streets in Wilson were named for his family members and Vick School was named for him. I found a grave for a man who fought in the Spanish American War and other beautiful stones for men and women.

“I was so impressed by the young people that I met who came out to work. Please go out there on Monday if you are from Wilson. They are working again on MLK Day. This effort is being spearheaded by Lisa Y. Henderson, who, among many other wonderful things, writes the blog Black Wide Awake. Her blog is a treasure trove of African American history. In addition, she has started the Facebook page, Lane Street Project, where you can find out all you need to know about this project.

“Why did I go today? 1) I love a great old cemetery, 2) I love being outside, 3) because my history is richer when I know ALL facets of the history of my hometown, and 4) and certainly not least, because black lives matter to me.

“There is much to be done. Help is needed.”

  • Castonoble Hooks

“I have read one should never put new wine in old skins because it may burst. Working today with people with energy and purpose has me now bursting at the seams. I am filled with new energy. Our ancestors are honored by our efforts. I am so impressed by what we can do when we put our minds to it. God blessed us with the right minds and bodies for the job. Thank you, men — our muscle proved true, but our queens held the day. Mind and muscle both you displayed. Your organization, coordination, and logistics skills on full display. You were today’s MVP. See you all Monday. I must also comment on the white sisters and brothers who came from out of town as well as those from Wilson, remarkable people one and all. It warms my heart what they did — reminds me of our shared humanity. May God bless you and keep you safe.”

  • Mahalia Witter-Merithew

“Out in these forgotten woods are the graves of hundreds of people, many of them lost in time. Today we went out to the woods to clear some vines and let some light in. If you want to help heal the visible fractures in our society, you have to try to find and understand the history of forgotten people. Anyone can help shine the light of truth into the darkest of situations. And if you want to help with the Lane Street Project, we will be out there again January 18th from 12-2pm.”

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Day 2 of the clean-up is Monday, January 18, on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday National Day of Service. Wilson County Democratic Party and the Democratic Women of Wilson County are joining Lane Street Project to co-host the event. Sessions are 9:00-11:00 AM and noon-2:00 PM and, again, masks and social distancing are required. 

Photo collage courtesy of Brittany Daniel.

Lane Street Project: Lula Dew Wooten.

This lovely little headstone was discovered in Odd Fellows cemetery this very morning by volunteers at Lane Street Project’s Clean-Up Kick-Off!

Lula Dew Wooten’s grandparents and several generations of descendants are buried in the Dew cemetery on Weaver Road, northeast of Wilson. Lula’s grave in Odd Fellows cemetery suggests that she was buried in a plot purchased for her and her husband, Simeon Wooten. Wooten died in 1950, and his death certificate lists his burial location as “Rountree.” As we know, Rountree was the name broadly applied to Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemetery.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Jeff Dew, 38; wife Jane, 32, farm laborer; children Bessie, 12, Lesse, 9, Lula, 8, Nettie, 6, James E., 3, Lizzie, 2, and Jesse, 1 month.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, Jeff Dew, 46, farmer; wife Jane, 43, farm laborer; children Bessie, 21, Lessie, 19, Lula, 17, Nettie, 16, Eddie, 13, Lizzie, 12, Jessie, 9, Joseph, 8, Margaret, 6, and Jonah, 3. Jane and all but the youngest two children worked as farm laborers.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Rocky Mount Road via Town Creek, Jefferson Dew, 57, farmer; wife Jane, 55; children Lula, 26, Nettie, 24, Eddie, 22, Jesse, 20, Joe, 17, Margaret, 16, and Jonie, 14.

On 11 July 1920, Sim Wooten, 38, of Wilson, son of John and Claudia Wooten, married Lula Dew, 26, of Wilson, daughter of Jeff and Jane Dew, at Jeff Dew’s residence. Daniel A. Crawford applied for the license, and Primitive Baptist minister C.H. Hagans performed the ceremony in the presence of Moses Dew, J.C. Lassiter, and John P. Battle

Lulu Jane Wooten died 7 November 1927 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 May 1892 in Wilson County to Jefferson Dew and Jane Weaver; was married to Simeon Wooten; lived at 510 South Lodge, Wilson; and was a dressmaker.

Photo courtesy of Jane Cooke Hawthorne.

Lane Street Project: a conversation (and a word.)

In conversation with Brittany Daniel about what the Lane Street Project is and what to expect at this weekend’s clean-up kick-off:

And, on the eve of the kick-off, a heartfelt shout-out to my Lane Street Project team, my boots on the ground. In less than a month, they’ve adopted this project as their own and are literally making my dreams for the LSP come true. This multigenerational crew is pouring into the project critical new perspectives and talents, and I’m so grateful to and for Joyah Bulluck, Portia Newman, Craig Barnes Jr., Brittany Daniel, Castonoble Hooks, LaMonique Hamilton, John Woodard, Charles Jones, and Raven Farmer. (Look at all those good “Wilson names” in the bunch!)

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — what to do.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

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Q: So … what’s the plan?

A: Glad you asked.

  • You’ll be assigned to a lane marked at the edge of the overgrowth. Try to work straight back toward the rear of the property, maintaining social distance between you and the next person. 
  • The short-term goal is clear the cemetery of trash and undergrowth — vines, privet, vines, small shrubs … did I say vines? Wisteria and smilax (green with thorns) are probably the worst invaders, with honeysuckle a close third. You can’t go wrong by cutting every vine you see, both at ground level and as high as you can reach.

Wiley Oates’ lovely monument was covered with a cape of honeysuckle vine. If the vines aren’t cut back hard, the obelisk will disappear again come summer.

  • Watch out — vines can snap back and pop you pretty hard. 
  • Also, watch your feet. Vines can trip you, and you’ll want to avoid stepping into sunken graves, animal burrows, or other holes in the ground.
  • Please don’t try to cut down any trees.
  • Please haul out any trash you find, but do not move grave markers. Here’s what to do instead. Markers may look like chunks of concrete or rocks, so to be on the safe side, don’t move any of either. 

An entry into Odd Fellows opened by volunteers in December 2020. 

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — what to bring.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

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Q: Hey! I’ll be there! What should I bring?

A: Thank you! The most important thing, of course, is a MASK! This will be a COVID-conscious event, and masks and social distancing will be required.

Also:

  • Your own particular talents. Whether strong arms or strong voices of encouragement, we need what you bring!
  • Protective clothing such as long sleeves, gloves, and boots. 
  • Hand tools only — hand pruners, loppers, hedge trimmers, mattocks, rakes, spades, etc.
  • No chainsaws. No other mechanized or heavy equipment. 
  • Jugs of water and nylon-bristle brushes for cleaning headstones, but no soaps, detergents or other cleaning agents. They will damage the headstones. 
  • Trashbags. 

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — preliminary info.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

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Q: I’m coming to the Clean-Up Kick-Off! What do I need to know?

A: First, Lane Street Project appreciates you!

Here are a few things to know before you arrive:

  • Masks and social distancing will be enforced at the Clean-Up Kick-Off. For real. Be safe!
  • Wear comfortable protective clothing – gloves, boots, long-sleeved outer garments.
  • Cleaning up abandoned cemeteries carries risks of injury, and you will be required to sign a waiver before you begin working.
  • At the beginning of each clean-up session, Lane Street Project volunteers will explain the history of the cemeteries and go over guidelines. 
  • To facilitate social distancing, you’ll be assigned a clean-up lane. 
  • Please bag all trash and cuttings and dispose of them in the bins provided. 
  • Here’s what to bring — and what not.
  • Here’s what to do if you find a headstone or other grave marker.
  • The atmosphere will be joyous and celebratory, but these are cemeteries — please be respectful.

Odd Fellows cemetery on a sunny December morning. Della Hines Barnes’ marble headstone inspired Lane Street Project’s logo.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

Lane Street Project: “City responsible for old cemetery”


Wilson Daily Times, 17 February 1990.

This op-ed piece ran in the Wilson Daily Times in February 1990, shortly after the city acknowledged its ownership of Vick cemetery.

A few notable passages:

  • “Although as many as 2,000 people may be buried there, only 30-some graves are marked …”  (Two thousand seems like a low estimate of the number of burials in Vick, and absolutely more than 30 graves were marked. In 1995, Wilson’s city manager was quoted estimating that there were approximately 200 marked graves and 75-100 “intact, legible” headstones.)
  • “Those persons buried beneath this littered and unkempt ground deserve the respect and dignity we would accord any deceased.”
  • “Insofar as possible, the Vick cemetery and the individual graves must be restored. The city can do no less for its deceased citizens.”
  • “Mobilizing volunteers in the community can get the cleanup off to a low-cost start. Civic clubs, Boy Scouts, church groups and other organizations could take pride in helping restore a piece of Wilson history.”
  • “Identifying and marking each grave may be impossible, but every identification that is historically and humanly possible is the duty of the city.”

Another four years passed before Wilson made serious effort to meet the challenge outlined in the Daily Times. Vick cemetery is no longer a dumping ground, but it still “bears little resemblance to a cemetery.” The graves were not restored, or even identified. Rather, they were pulled from the ground, stacked in storage for a few years, then discarded. No known record exists of the thousands of burials in Vick cemetery.

Lane Street Project: Clean-Up Kick-Off!

PRESS RELEASE

Wilson, NC (January 16th, 2021) – Community leaders, spearheaded by historian Lisa Y. Henderson, are eager to announce Lane Street Project, a community initiative dedicated to the restoration of three historic African-American cemeteries in Wilson, NC and to the preservation of our community’s culture and history.

Lane Street Project is calling for volunteers to join its Community Clean-Up Kick-Off as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and prepare for Black History Month. The Project’s bimonthly clean-up events at Odd Fellows Cemetery, 2100 Bishop L.N. Forbes St. [formerly Lane St.], will kick off Saturday, January 16, 2021, and continue Monday, January 18, 2021. Hours both days will be 9-11 AM and 12-2 PM. Community members can contribute by picking up trash, cutting and pruning weeds and vines, and sharing stories and oral history. Lane Street Project welcomes volunteers to bring hand tools, jugs of water, gloves and trashbags to help ease clean-up efforts.

“This is a unique opportunity to honor both our ancestors and an important historic community space,” said Henderson. These cemeteries were founded nearly 125 years ago, and have been neglected for half that time. These are our families, our people, and I’m hoping all of Wilson will work together to restore this sacred space.”

Lane Street Project hopes that volunteers of all ages and abilities will help to restore dignity and respect to the men and women buried in these cemeteries, both working people and some of Wilson County’s most prominent historic African-Americans. In addition to the physical work of clearing Odd Fellows cemetery of undergrowth, Lane Street Project invites community members to come share their experiences and perspectives on the project’s importance.

This historic cemetery clean-up is a prime opportunity for individuals, faith-based communities, and community organizations interested in an impactful way to participate in National Service Day and to support the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther Jr.

Participants must wear masks at all times, and this will be a socially distanced event. In addition, liability waivers will be required.

To learn more about Lane Street Project, please visit afamwilsonnc.com or @lanestreetproject on Instagram.

Lane Street Project: the Joseph S. Jackson family plot.

The deeply incised, irregular J’s of these granite cornerstones are unmistakably the work of Clarence B. Best. They, and a foot marker for Rev. Joseph S. Jackson, are all that remain of the Jackson family’s plot in Odd Fellows cemetery.

The grave of Jackson, a Baptist minister and tobacco factory foreman, may be the only one in the plot. Jackson’s children migrated North and West, and his wife died in Philadelphia in 1962. Annie H. Jackson’s Pennsylvania death certificate lists her place of burial simply as Wilson, N.C. However, by then Odd Fellows was in serious disrepair. She was buried in city-owned Rest Haven instead, and Rev. Jackson was disinterred and reburied beside her. When Joseph S. Jackson Jr. died in 1967, his body was returned to Wilson for burial in Rest Haven, too.

Lane Street Project: Sarah Best Thomas.

Summer 2020, Odd Fellows Cemetery.

December 2020 with leaves fallen and bit of the wisteria cut back.

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In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, hireling Lewis Best, 53; wife Harriette, 50; and children Daniel, 23, Sarah, 12, John, 8, and Willie, 10.

On 25 January 1888, Charles Thomas, 23, son of Sarah Thomas, married Sarah Best, 21, daughter of Lewis and Harriet Best. Missionary Baptist minister J.T. Clark performed the ceremony at Lewis Best’s in the presence of Charles Barbry, Wyatt Studaway and Charles Williamson.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 38, printing office pressman; wife Sarah, 33; children Elton, 9, Louis, 8, Elizabeth, 6, and Hattie May, 2; and lodgers Manse Wilson, 36, and Johnnie Lewis, 21, both carpenters.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month.

Sarah Thomas died 16 August 1916 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 46 years old; was born in Greene County, N.C., to Lewis Bess; and was married. Charles Thomas was informant. Her burial location was listed only as “Wilson County.”