Odd Fellows

Lane Street Project: Oscar Mincey.

Here’s what I wrote about Oscar Mincey‘s headstone in December 2019, in one of the first Lane Street project posts:

Oscar Mincey, son of Prince and Susan Suggs Mincey, was born about 1887. His small stone is a few feet from his father. It’s almost completely sunken, and his death date is unreadable. I have not found a death certificate for him, which suggests he died before the state required them in 1914. Oscar’s brother Benjamin, the fireman, is presumably buried nearby, but there is no trace of his headstone.

Since then, we’ve found Benjamin Mincey‘s fire hydrant grave marker and freed it from its next of vines. Today, it was time to bring Oscar Mincey’s headstone to light.

Scratching at the soil reveals a web of wisteria roots clutching the stone. They run as much as a foot beneath the surface and have to be clipped carefully to release their grip.

Vines cut, I dug carefully at each edge, scooping out dirt by hand to keep the hole small. At last, Oscar’s death date appears — January 15, 1905.

Finally, a simple clean-up with water and a nylon brush.

Oscar Mincey was about 17 when he died.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson town, Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Prince Mensey, 60; wife Susan, 52; children Ben, 19, Emma, 19, and Oscar, 12; and niece Rosetta Mensey, 7.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2021.

The obituary of Andrew J. Townsend, grocer and Odd Fellow.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 August 1947.

Brothers Lewis W. and Andrew J. Townsend migrated to Wilson from Granville County, North Carolina. Both settled and operated small grocery stores in the area near the southern stretch of Wilson’s tobacco factories in the Hines, Banks and Mercer Streets area. Lewis named a son Andrew J. Townsend after his brother. 

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In the 1870 census of Oak Hill township, Granville County, North Carolina: Demsy Townsend, 39, blacksmith; wife Leatha, 30; and children Thomas, 18, Lewis, 16, Mary J., 14, Crawford, 13, Andrew, 10, and Alx, 1.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Townsend Andrew J (T Bros) h Goldsboro cor Bank. Also, Townsend Bros (Andrew J and Lewis W), grocers Goldsboro cor Bank

A.J. Townsend, 51, of Wilson, was issued a license to marry Mary Lewis, 48, of Wilson, on 16 October 1915. 

Virginia Mae Artis was born 6 January 1916 in Lucama, Cross Roads township, Wilson County, to Andrew J. Townsend, age not listed, born in N.C., a mechanic, and Emma Artis, 36, born in Robeson County, a cook.

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Townsend Andrew J (c; Mary) bro 210 Banks h 1003 Mercer. 

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Mercer Street, Andrew Townsend, 51, grocery merchant, and wife Mary, 52, tobacco factory worker.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Townsend Andrew J (c) grocer Banks nr Goldsboro h 1003 S Mercer  

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Townsend Andrew J (c) gro Bank nr S Goldsboro h 1003 Mercer 

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Townsend Andrew J (c; Mary) gro 104 Banks h 1003 Mercer 

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1003 Mercer Street, owned and valued at $600, merchant Andrew Townsend, 65, and wife Mary, 40.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 522 Banks Street, rented for $12/month, A.J. Townsend, 77, clerk and owner retail grocery.

Mary Lewis Townsend died 13 August 1942 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 75 years old; was married to Andrew Townsend; lived at 1005 Mercer Street; was born in Wilson County to Alexander and Morning Barron; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery. Informant was Andrew J. Townsend, 522 Banks Street, Wilson.

Andrew Jackson Townsend died 20 August 1947 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 85 years old; was born on Pearson [Person] County, N.C., to Dempsey Townsend and Margaret [maiden name unknown]; was a merchant; lived at 522 Banks Street; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery [probably, actually Odd Fellows Cemetery]. Rachel Deaxon, 406 Hines Street, Wilson, was informant. [Rachel Townsend Dixon was A.J. Townsend’s great-niece, daughter of his nephew Andrew J. Townsend.]

Lane Street Project: cemetery records request update, no. 4, ownership of the cemeteries.

You just have to know where to look.

After I figured out some basic navigation tricks, Wilson County’s fine GIS maps yielded quick answers to the questions of ownership of Vick, Odd Fellows and Rountree cemeteries. (One would think this information would be readily available to the city employees and officials from whom I requested it, but let’s keep moving forward.)

Here is the 7.84 acre Vick cemetery, deeded by Samuel H. Vick to the City of Wilson in 1913. (The deed is recorded at Deed Book 96, page 85, which is not available via the Register of Deeds’ website. I’ll get a copy when I next go home.) It is classified, appropriately, as a cemetery.

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Adjacent to the northeast is a 2.16 acre parcel owned by Odd Fellows Society since 1900. (There is no deed book reference listed.) It is classified — inappropriately, in my view — as a vacant lot belonging to a club or lodge.

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And here, sandwiched between the Odd Fellows Cemetery and Sandy Creek, is a two-acre parcel owned by Rountree Missionary Baptist Church since 1906. (Rountree’s deed is in Deed Book 76, page 97. The present-day church is the irregularly shaped building on the large lot at the northen corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Lane Street.) This, too, incredibly, is described as a vacant lot belonging to a church.

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And to my shock, there’s also this. The rhombus across Lane Street, shown below, is part of the Rountree cemetery’s acreage. It is not my imagination that I saw graves on this side of the road when exploring as a child.

Here’s an aerial view, also from Wilson County GIS/Mapping Office. The big empty square is Vick cemetery (known popularly, and confusingly, as Rountree cemetery), which contains the remains of thousands of African Americans who died between the late 1800s and about 1965. I have no idea how many people are buried in the Odd Fellows cemetery next door, which was the burial ground of choice for much of Wilson’s black elite in the early 1900s. The city maintains the strip of this cemetery that fronts Lane Street. You can’t see it here, but a deep ditch marks the boundary between Odd Fellows and Rountree cemeteries. The eastern border of Rountree is Sandy Creek, a small, sluggish tributary of Hominy Swamp.

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Next step: contact Rountree Missionary Baptist Church (which will be a straightforward endeavor) and the Odd Fellows Society (which will not.) And remind the city that I’m still waiting for a response to my public records request.

Towe buys a house and lot for $900.

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North Carolina, Wilson County  }

This Deed made this the 30th day of March 1898 by Silas Lucas and wife, Charity Lucas, parties of the first part and G.H. Towe party of the Second part, all of the State and County aforesaid, Witnesseth:- That for and in consideration of the Sum of Nine Hundred Dollars in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, the Said parties of the first part have bargained and Sold and do by this deed bargain, Sell and convey unto the Said party of the Second part, his heirs and assigns, the following described land: One lot or parcel of land lying and being Situate in the town of Wilson, State and County aforesaid on Nash Street on the South Side of the Colored Odd Fellows Lodge, beginning at the corner of Said Odd Fellows lot, thence about eighty feet Eastward to Charles Dardin‘s line, thence South with Said Dardin’s line about Eighty feet to a light wood Stake, thence west parallel with the first named line to Nash Street, thence with Nash Street to the beginning, being part of the lot purchased by the said Silas Lucas from A.D. Farmer and also being the lot on which the Said G.H. Towe now resides To Have and To Hold To Him the Said G.H. Towe, his heirs and assigns, forever. And the Said Lucas does for himself, his heirs, administrators and executors, covenants and agrees to and with the Said Towe that he will forever warrant and defend the title to the above described real estate against the lawful Claims of all persons whatsoever.

In Testimony whereof the Said parties of the first part have hereunto Set their hands and Seals the day and year first above written.    /s/ Silas Lucas, Charity Lucas

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A year after he bought this property, Granville H. Towe‘s lot on Nash Street was listed on a delinquent property tax list.

Deed book 46, page 455, Register of Deeds, Wilson County Court House.

Samuel H. Vick.

Educator, politician, businessman, real estate developer, church leader — Samuel H. Vick was the most accomplished resident of East Wilson in his lifetime. (And many years after.)

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A.B. Caldwell, ed., History of the American Negro and His Institutions, North Carolina Edition (1921).