Odd Fellows cemetery

Lane Street Project: are there graves on the other side of the road?

Are there graves on the other side of Bishop L.N. Forbes Street?

Here is the evidence we have:

Per an aerial from Wilson County GIS website, here are the four cemetery parcels, plus the parcels across the street from Vick and Odd Fellows. All this land was originally part of a large farm owned by Frank W. and Mattie B. Barnes. Descendants of the Barneses still own the Wright Trust property and the Wilson Farm Properties parcel.

Rountree Missionary Baptist Church owns parcels on both sides of the road, one purchased in 1897 and the other in 1906. Together, they constitute Rountree Cemetery. No headstones currently are visible in the Rountree lot on the northwest side of the street. However, in late winter, profuse drifts of daffodils bloom in this lot, common indicators of old graves.

There is also this:

It is difficult to see here, but this is a rectangular slab of concrete at the edge of the ditch, perhaps six to seven feet long. Its surface is covered with dead plant matter, and fire ants have built nests along its front edge. In my youth, when (then) Lane Street was a dirt road, I saw an exposed vault cover parallel to and at the very edge of the ditch lining the street. This appears to be that vault cover.

The cement slab is visible as a light-colored rectangle in this aerial from Wilson County GOS website. 

But there’s also this:

We know the City placed steel power poles in Rountree and Vick Cemeteries in 1997, and an older set of wooden poles marches down the northwest of the street, as is visible in the upper left corner. There are also a fire hydrant and a manhole cover on the northwest side of the street. In other words, there is a municipal water line running either under Bishop L.N. Forbes Street or in the public right-of-way that occupies the first ten or so feet of Rountree Cemetery, measured from the edge of the street. There are no manholes in B.L.N.F. Street, which suggests the water (and sewer?) lines are in the right-of-way. There would have been no right-of-way observed during the period Rountree was actively receiving burials. Thus, as with Rest Haven, Odd Fellows, and Vick Cemetery, there were likely burials up to the edge of Rountree — on both sides.

This detail from a 1940 aerial depicts the stretch of B.L.N.F. Street that runs past the cemeteries. The patchy light areas below the street are family plots within the graveyards. However, the light areas above the street are ambiguous. They are clearly bare earth, but do they indicate graves? And what is going on across from Vick? A 1959 aerial shows that area completely denuded. There is no evidence, however, that this parcel has left the hands of the Barnes-Harriss-Wright family since the late 1800s, and it seems unlikely that they would have permitted burials on their property.

This detail from a 1985 aerial photograph of a section of the street is similarly ambiguous. The area encircled corresponds with the local of the cement slab above and appears to show several similar light-colored rectangles. There are some small white marks on the Wilson Farm Properties parcel, but are they graves?

The same year this image was taken, a jogger on Lane Street found bones on an unspecified side of road. Public Works director Bill Bartlett stated, “There is a concrete slab over one grave on one side of the road that wasn’t there when we annexed the property in 1972,” adding “The marker says the person was buried in 1950, but the slab has been poured in the past six or seven years.” Is this the slab above?

Bartlett also reported that a woman had called Asa Shreve, a former sanitation employee, and claimed she might have relatives buried under the street.  “Asa was going to look into that for me. It could be that we need to find out who that could be and see if they want to do some digging out there to remove the remains.” I’ve found nothing further about this alarming claim, but notice Bartlett didn’t dismiss the idea outright.

It is certain that graves lie on both sides of the road in the halves of Rountree Cemetery. Whatever the photos above may or may not show, more than one person has stated with certainty that they recall (or were told) that a family member’s grave was located on land across from Vick Cemetery as well.

Lane Street Project: the New York Times on “the decay, destruction and desecration plaguing many of America’s Black cemeteries.”

Last week, The New York Times shined its powerful spotlight on three African-American cemeteries and the women fighting to save them.

“Three Black women, shocked by the condition of cemeteries in Washington, Georgia and Texas, have turned their anger into action. None have prior experience in historic preservation, landscape architecture or design. But like many others working to save Black cemeteries, they view the work as a sacred trust and payment of a debt to ancestors who led the way.

As disheartening as the details of these cemeteries are — Vick is not the only graveyard ravished by a utility company — I am encouraged by the increasing attention paid to their plights and the knowledge that Lane Street Project is not alone in its struggle. Or its dreams. “I don’t want to keep trying to save the land,” said Lisa Fager, who fights for Washington, D.C.’s Mount Zion-Female Union Band Society cemeteries, “I want to save the people and their stories.”

Lane Street Project: the street.

I’ve talked about the narrowing of Bishop L.N. Forbes Street (formerly Lane Street) and now want to show you. It’s important that we interrogate the spaces we encounter: why does this look this way? what choices did planners have? who benefitted from the choices made? who lost?

Here’s an aerial view, per Google Maps, of the elbow of the arm that LNF Street forms between U.S. 301 and Martin L. King Parkway.

Below, I am standing at the beginning of the curve, looking toward 301, with Lane Park to the left and the undeveloped expansion portion of Rest Haven Cemetery on the right. The curbing comes to an abrupt stop here. Note the asphalt paving widths — the paver needed three passes to cover the street.

Now I’ve turned around to face the bend. The road abruptly narrows from three paving widths to two, requiring quick deceleration if you meet a car approaching the turn in the opposite direction.

There are no curbs. No gutters. Open ditches run along each side of the street. (I cannot think of another stretch of street — not highway, street — inside Wilson city limits where this is the case.) 

Let’s go to the end of the street between Rountree Cemetery and MLK Parkway. The word “Bishop” is superimposed on this map over the bridge spanning the sluggish murk of Sandy Creek. [As an aside: the gravel path entering the road below “Forbes”? It runs to a small natural gas pipeline substation that regulates the pressure and flow of gas from the pipeline that runs around Vick Cemetery. Also, you can see the power lines that start at Wilson Energy’s Substation #2 (which is located down LNF near the curve), run on poles through Vick and Rountree Cemeteries, then cut sharply south, passing over the end of the street I grew up on.]

Just past that bridge, the curb stops. It won’t resume until you round the curve at the point shown in the first photo above.

The ditches at this end are badly overgrown. Rountree Cemetery lies on both sides of the road here. In my childhood, I recall seeing a vault cover on the right side of what was then a dirt road. In late winter, daffodils bloom profusely on that side. There are graves there. LNF Street runs through the middle, then, with a slight dip in the road visible below, straight past Odd Fellows and Vick until the abrupt curve above.

So, why?

Because the graves of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick Cemeteries were too close to the road to permit the installation of a standard-width street or curbs and gutters. In 1985, after a man jogging on Lane Street found human bones exposed in a ditch, Wilson Public Works official Bill Bartlett told the Wilson Daily Times that about 1980 the city attempted to define the road and found, because of the numerous graves in the area, only a 40- to 45-foot right of way could be allowed, compared to the usual 60-foot right of way.  

After an eight-year push to pave all the City’s remaining 23 miles of dirt streets — almost all of which were in Black neighborhoods — City Manager Bruce Boyette told the Times on 26 May 1984 that all but 1.2 miles had been completed, Lane Street (which is close to a mile long east of 301) was the primary street still in need of paving. 

The street was finally paved in the late 1980s. Rumors persist in the Black community that there are graves under the pavement. We certainly know they’re in the right-of-way up the edge of the ditch. 

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2023.

Lane Street Project: Sam Vick’s purchase of the lot.

As we know, in 1913, Samuel H. Vick sold the Town of Wilson the 7.84 acres that became Vick Cemetery. As the deed below shows, Vick had purchased this land in February 1908 from banker Franklin W. Barnes and his wife Matilda Bynum Barnes. 

Deed book 81, page 196, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Notice that Vick’s purchase is described as about 10 acres adjoining the Rountree Church lot. In other words, Vick bought a large lot that he later subdivided. At an unknown date, he conveyed the two or so acres adjoining Rountree Cemetery to Hannibal Lodge, Odd Fellows, for use as its cemetery and conveyed the rest to the City for Vick Cemetery in 1913. The Odd Fellows never filed a deed for their cemetery, but we now have a tighter window — between 1908 and 1913 — for the date of its establishment.

So, if Odd Fellows Cemetery was not established until some time after 1908, why do some of its grave markers show death dates before that time? Recall Wilson’s first Black public cemetery, Oakdale. Sam Vick was an ardent Odd Fellow. It may be that after the cemetery opened, he had the graves of his mother, father, and daughter Viola moved from Oakdale and reinterred in a new family plot. Chief Ben Mincey may also have done the same for his father and brother

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: 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: congrats to Winston-Salem’s Friends of Oddfellows Cemetery!

Wilson’s Odd Fellows Cemetery is not the only one that fell on hard times. Nor is it the only one under the care of a dedicated group of volunteers. Winston-Salem, N.C.’s Odd Fellows Cemetery is much larger than Wilson’s, and F.O.C. is a much older organization founded under different circumstances than Lane Street Project. They are a model, though, for work we may seek to undertake in Wilson, and we congratulate them on winning the 2022 Minnette C. Duffy Landscape Preservation Award!

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.

Lane Street Project: sponsor a marker.

Want to help Lane Street Project, but you’re nowhere near Wilson? Adopt a headstone!

For the discounted rate of $50, Foster Stone and Cemetery Care will clean, stabilize, and reset a headstone in Odd Fellows or Rountree Cemeteries. Billy Foster has more than “20 years of experience honoring the memory of loved ones” and in just a few weeks has already transformed the appearance of Odd Fellows. 

Newly cleaned and reset grave markers gleaming in the evening light. Photo courtesy of Billy Foster, Foster Stone and Cemetery Care.

These markers are among those available for sponsorship:

  • Hood S. Phillips

Hood S. Phillips was a barber. His wife Phillis Phillips was probably buried nearby, but we have not yet found her marker. Phillips’ marker will be cleaned and set upright, and the small collapsed area at the grave filled in.

  • Walter M. Foster 

Walter M. Foster‘s beautiful white marble headstone has a splintered corner that needs repair. Foster worked as a fireman (one who tended the fire to run a boiler, heat a building, or power a steam engine) for Hackney Wagon Company. 

  • Lula Dew Wooten

Lula Dew Wooten‘s headstone is perhaps my favorite in all of Odd Fellows. A simple rectangle with softly rounded shoulders and delicate engraving, the marker needs only cleaning and straightening. Wooten was a dressmaker, and her husband Simeon Wooten is likely buried nearby.

  • Nettie Foster

Nettie Foster‘s headstone badly needs cleaning.

  • H.B. Taylor

H.B. Taylor has not been identified. (He was not Rev. Halley B. Taylor, minister of Calvary Presbyterian Church for several years.) Taylor’s marker, which bears symbols of both the Masons and Odd Fellows, needs cleaning and straightening.

If you’re interested in sponsoring these or another marker, you can CashApp fifty dollars to $blackwideawake, Venmo to @lanestreetproject, or email me at lanestreetproject@gmail.com to arrange payment otherwise. Contributions less than $50 will be pooled — so no amount is too small!