Lane Street

Lane Street Project: aerial views.

A refresher:

  • The eastern end of Lane Street, in southeast Wilson, is home to three historic African-American cemeteries: Rountree (established about 1906), Odd Fellows (established circa 1900), and Vick (established 1913).
  • Rountree and Odd Fellows are privately owned. Vick is owned by the City of Wilson.
  • All three have been abandoned.
  • Rountree is completely overgrown with mature trees and heavy underbrush.
  • Odd Fellows is also overgrown, except for a narrow strip along the road that the city maintains.
  • In 1996, the city clear-cut Vick cemetery, removed its remaining headstones, graded the entire parcel, and erected a single marker in memory of the dead.

A series of aerial photographs of the cemeteries over time shows in astonishing detail the forgotten features of these cemeteries and the terrible march of neglect across all three. Each photograph has been overlaid with the present-day boundaries of tax parcels. The rectangle at left is Vick, then Odd Fellows and Rountree.

  • 1937

This blurry photograph shows the interconnectedness of the three cemeteries, with narrow dirt paths winding across property lines and no visible boundary markers. The light areas are too large to be individual stones and more likely are family plots of varying sizes. The back edge of Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries — marshy land along Sandy Creek — was wooded.

  • 1948

Though hundreds were buried between 1937 and 1948, Vick is still almost completely open field, with some trees at its western and southern edges and numerous plots visible.  A large cleared trapezoid straddles the Vick and Odd Fellows boundaries — what is this?

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  • 1954

Six years later, the change is shocking. Vick has clearly fallen into disuse, its paths allowed to fill with weeds. Rountree and Odd Fellows, too, are overgrown, but their major paths remain clear. The mystery trapezoid, however, is gone.

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  • 1964

Another ten years and all three cemeteries are well on their way to complete abandonment. Only one path is clear, a new passage cut to join an old one in Odd Fellows.

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  • Today

A contemporary aerial view of the three cemeteries shows the empty expanse of Vick; its lone city-sponsored monument; the paved path leading from the monument to a small parking lot located at the boundary of Vick and Odd Fellows; the cleared bit of Odd Fellows; and the jungle that is Rountree. There is no trace of the trapezoid.

I am indebted to Will Corbett, GIS Coordinator, Wilson County Technology Services Department, for responding to my inquiry re the availability of Wilson County maps, answering a million questions, and providing these remarkable images.

Lane Street Project: Lane Street on a breezy winter morning.

Two minutes, 49 seconds, of Lane Street on a breezy winter morning.

Sandy Creek spilling from the culvert under Lane Street.

The road, walking southwest.

The high bank of Rountree cemetery with its crown of honeysuckle and privet and catbrier and blackberry bramble.

Across the road, the low bank marking the cemetery’s western half. Note the daffodils. Sandy Creek flows just behind the trees; the houses crouch in its flood plain.

Just past the ditch marking its boundary, the gravestones of Odd Fellows Cemetery hove into view.

Between the Dawson and Tate family plots, Irma Vick‘s leaning concrete marker is visible at the edge of the woods. Hers is the outlier of the Vick family plot, which is otherwise overgrown.

A remnant of the cemetery’s wall; I enter the old gateway.

The cemetery looks empty. It is not.

The two tall marble markers are Dave and Della Hines Barnes, from the back. Presumably, other members of the Barnes and Hines family lie in their marked plot, but no stones are visible.

The city erected the two pillars at the entrance to the parking lot. They are, inaccurately, engraved “Rountree/Vick.” The parking lot bears the scorch marks of a torched vehicle. It is rarely visited by anyone with good intention.

Vick cemetery as playground.

The monument and its towering shrubs.

Video shot by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2020.

A gathering of saints.

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Mount Zion Freewill Baptist Church, Wilson, N.C., 29 May 1950.

Mount Zion Original Freewill Baptist, founded in 1912, remains an active congregation and is located at 305 Lane Street Southeast, Wilson.

Many thanks to Edith Jones Garnett for sharing this wonderful photograph. If anyone recognizes these church members, please let me know.  — LYH