plat map

Lane Street Project: why we need a survey map, part 1.

After the City commissioned a land survey of Vick Cemetery in May 2023, Assistant City Manager (and front man for cemetery matters) Rodger Lentz told a reporter that the City does not need a survey map because they now “definitely” know where the property lines are. Lentz is not only missing the point, he is dead wrong.

We need a survey map because:

  • We don’t want to fight this fight every change of administration. Once the temporary survey stakes are removed or fall down or otherwise disappear, there is no record of the boundary. We not only need a survey map, it needs to be filed with the Register of Deeds Office to create a permanent record of  Vick Cemetery’s boundaries. Taxpayer money paid for the survey — get the map that comes with it!
  • Four power poles, plus guy lines, are on or inside the cemetery property line. Coy as the City is trying to be about it, the poles are unquestionably city property. A survey map showing all utilities on the property (and showing the right-of-way) is critical for understanding the extent to which the cemetery has been damaged and determining how best to move forward with repair.
  • On the map below (taken from Wilson County GIS website), I’ve circled the driveway into the cemetery parking lot. It’s a little hard to see — I’ll enlarge it below — but if that blue property line were extended to the street, it would lop off a whole edge of the parking lot and part of the driveway apron. In other words, the City built a parking lot not only on top of Vick Cemetery graves, but on Odd Fellows Cemetery property as well. It also stuck a big granite post — misengraved “Rountree/Vick” — in Odd Fellows Cemetery. There’s no survey marker at that corner of the property, by the way. If there were, it’d be standing in the middle of the driveway.

  • Here’s a closer look, with a dotted yellow line extending the property line to the street. That’s a sizable chunk of parking lot on the Odd Fellows side. The pillars are standing on the property line; you can see their shadows stretching toward the street.

  • Transparency and accountability. What is the City trying to hide? You have to go out of your way to tell the surveyor “hold the map.”  Lentz’ laconic comment that the City just doesn’t need one is inadequate. There’s more at issue at Vick than the boundaries — though they’re questionable, too, given the historic extent of burials in the cemetery. City of Wilson, we demand a complete survey map showing all features — property lines, rights-of-way, fences, utilities, driveway, parking lot, ditches, wooded areas, whatever.

Photo of fence by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2023.

Lane Street Project: New South returns, but the city scoffs at a plat map.

The Wilson Times‘ continues its close coverage of Vick Cemetery with another Page 1 article in the June 27 edition. An engaged local press is vital to an informed community. Please support local media.

Also, please demand transparency from Wilson city government concerning Vick. Though I am described in this article as a liaison between the city and the descendant community, I can tell you there is precious little liasing going on. As if this isn’t the tack that got us to this unfortunate point in the first place, city officials continue to make decisions and take actions unilaterally, with no communication before or after.

We press on.

Lane Street Project: what will the survey show?

The city’s response to my request for documents related to any utility easements for the power poles in Vick Cemetery was disappointing. There apparently are no responsive documents. However, while we await the results of the land survey currently underway, the plat map of an adjoining property is illuminating.

In 2011, a plat map titled Boundary Survey & Divisions Property of James G. Wright & Wilson Farm Properties LLC (“Wright Farm”) was filed with Wilson County Register of Deeds Office in Plat Book 38, pages 198-199. Wright Farm borders Vick Cemetery to the west and south, and a portion lies across Bishop L.N. Forbes Street (LNF Street) to the north. For the purposes of this analysis, Wright Farm is the field to the left and below the cemetery and the wooded area above it on this Google Maps screenshot. (In fact, the Farm extends much further to the left and below Vick.)

Here’s a detail from Wright Farm’s plat map showing the area around Vick Cemetery:

That’s LNF Street, of course, across the middle with a dashed line marking its center line. PP indicates power poles. OHE is an overhead electric line. EIPs at the bottom corners are existing iron pipes. (See the notation of an “apparent gap in deeds” in Odd Fellows Cemetery. The fraternal organization never filed the deed of the sale from its purchase of the land from Samuel H. Vick.)

At the left edge is a large arrow indicating an area marked Inset 1. It offers closer detail of the junction of Wright Farm and Vick Cemetery. The city’s electrical substation is at top right.

A few interesting observations about Inset 1:

(1) LNF Street is marked as having a 60-foot right-of-way, i.e. 30 feet in both directions from a center line. Recall, however, that after human bones were found exposed in a ditch along the street, Bill Bartlett of the city’s Public Works Department said the city had attempted to define the road in about 1985 (around the time the road was paved) and had found that only a 40- to 45-foot right of way could be allowed, compared to the usual 60-foot right of way “because of the numerous graves in the area.” To this day, LNF Street notably narrows from the point it rounds the curve near Lane Park to just past Sandy Creek. Thirty feet from the center line encompasses one half of the paved road, a ditch several feet wide, an embankment, and several feet of flat ground. At the time the cemetery was in use, LNF Street was a dirt path and then a maintained county dirt road. (It was not annexed until the early 1970s.) There were no setbacks or right-of-ways for utilities or other public use. As aerial images show, cemetery plots ran close to the edge of the road. It is reasonable to conclude that significant numbers of graves lie within the current right-of-way and others have been lost to road expansion or ditch-cutting.

(2) There is a recorded natural gas easement on the north side of the street, but the natural gas easement on the south side was not recorded and thus is not shown on the survey. We know it exists, however, as there are fiberglass marking stakes with notices of the gas easement near the street and at the rear corner where Wright Farm wraps behind Vick.

(3) Two guy wires extend from power poles to anchors imbedded in Vick Cemetery. [Update: actually, five. One from the first pole and four from the second.]

(4) The P/L, “property line.” Property lines are mapped at the edge of the public right-of-way. (Check your own survey, if you’ve had one done of your property. You’ll notice that the strip of land closest to the street, at the end of your driveway where your mailbox and perhaps some lovingly tended Knock-Out roses stand, is not technically yours.) Again, it’s reasonable to conclude that, prior to the imposition of public right-of-ways — in Wilson County, perhaps in the 1960s or ’70s — the original property line extended to the road. The control corner at (6) may indicate the original corner of Wright Farm and Vick Cemetery. I haven’t laid on eyes on it, but my guess is it’s close to the ditch.

(5) The power poles in the larger map appear to run along the edge of the right-of-way. However, Inset 1 shows that the first pole (with guy wire) in Vick is slightly outside the right-of-way, i.e. inside Vick Cemetery. And it’s certainly inside the control corner.

Plat map of Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church property.

Corner Line Primitive Baptist Church’s land was surveyed in 1980, and the plat map was drawn and filed in 1981. In August 2008, church trustees, acknowledging that  “Cornerline Primitive Baptist Church no longer uses the … property as its church,” determined that “it is in the best interest of the church that it be sold,” and, for a nominal price, transferred ownership to Elder Samuel Barnes, grandson of Cornerline’s long-time pastor Elder Wiley Barnes.

The Commercial Bank block.

Wilson Commercial Realty Company commissioned a survey in November 1925 of three commercial buildings it owned at 418, 420 and 422 East Nash Street between South Pettigrew Street and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, adjacent to the African-American-owned Commercial Bank.

The labels on the buildings — grocery store, clothing, barber shop — were perhaps intended to suggest suitable uses for the spaces, as they do not correlate with the businesses listed at those addresses in 1922 or 1925 city directories.

I have not been able to identify businesses for 418, which stood closest to the railroad.

In the center building, James Henry Barnes operated a barbershop at 420 1/2, which perhaps was a second floor space. Cutt Davis and James Mack operated the Baltimore Shoe Repair Shop at 420.

At 422, next to the bank, Leroy G. Hemingway operated a second-hand furniture dealer and repair shop, The Furniture Exchange.

Blueprint courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Lipscomb’s property at East Street.

Plat Book 3, page 67, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Another section of Sallie B. Lipscomb’s property was surveyed, subdivided, and platted in December 1934. Though the name Lipscombe Alley was abandoned in favor of Narrow Way (and later Narroway Street), the layout is readily recognizable today.

Aerial image courtesy of Google Maps.

The removal of graves from Jones-Hill-Coleman cemetery.

Though the Grave Removals volume in the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office did not include a Removal of Graves Certificate for Julia Boyette Bailey and those buried near her, it did contain this file for the 1995 disinterment and reinterment of graves from the Jones-Hill-Coleman cemetery.

The graves in this large graveyard — on Old Raleigh Road in Oldfields township –were moved to two cemeteries, the nearby Eva Coleman cemetery and Rest Haven cemetery in Wilson. 

The Jones-Hill-Coleman cemetery had six rows of twelve to sixteen graves, but the identities of the bodies buried in most were unknown. 

Fifty bodies were reinterred in a cemetery on Eva Coleman’s property on Old Raleigh Road just west of Interstate 95.

Ten were re-laid to rest in Rest Haven.


Follow-up: the mystery of Julia Boyette Bailey’s grave.

I checked. Wilson County Register of Deeds office holds a volume, labeled “Grave Removals,” that contains records of every registered disinterment and/or reinterment in the county for the past 50 or so years. The volume contains no record of the removal of the graves of Julia Bailey, Andrew Terrell, or the 16-18 unknown others whose disinterment was publicized in 1998 ahead of the expansion of Buckhorn reservoir. As the headstones of Bailey and Terrell attest, the graves now lie at the edge or under the lake.

Here’s a detail from a 1974 plat map showing two tracts of Manuel and Sudie Boykin Sullivan’s land, a section of which held the cemetery. The map also shows the projected borders of the reservoir.

Detail from Plat Book 13, page 73.

A current aerial view reveals the striking accuracy of the projected edges of the lake.

This aerial shows the proximity of New Vester Missionary Baptist Church, to which the Baileys and Terrells belonged, to the approximate location of the drowned cemetery. Despite this, the notice of disinterment published in the Daily Times stated the graves would be moved to Bailey Cemetery in Nash County. As we see, this was never done.

Aerial images courtesy of Google Maps.

S.H. Vick’s Winona subdivision.

“Winona, a suburb of Wilson, N.C.” Deed book 68, page 457, Wilson County Register of Deeds.

In 1905, Samuel H. Vick filed a plat map for the subdivision of a parcel of land he owned along Mercer Street. Assuming Mercer Street follows its present course (the street was outside city limits until the mid-1920s), this appears to be the stretch west of Hominy Swamp. There’s no Daniels Mill Road in the area though, and the parallel Wells Alley and unnamed street do not match up with modern features. However, if you flip the map upside down to view it per the compass designation at top center, the landscape falls into place. Daniels Mill Road, then, is modern-day Fairview Avenue.

Below, on an inverted Google Maps image, I’ve traced modern Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue in red. In dotted yellow, the probable course of Wells Alley, which seems to track a line of trees that runs along the back edge of the lots facing Mercer, and the short crooked unnamed street that apparently never was cut through.

The cursive note added at upper left of the plat map says: “See Book 72 pp 527 et seq perfecting title to these lots.” At bottom left: “Lots 100 ft in debth [sic] & 50 ft in width except lots 23, 24, 25, 33, 61, 57, 58, 59, 60, & lots 1 and 2.”

A few of the 85 lots are inscribed with surnames, presumably of their purchasers: #46 Bynum, #48 Johnson, #53 Melton. In addition, lots 17, 19, 20 and 22 appear to be inscribed with the initials J.H. The 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists the home of William A. Johnson, an African-American cook, as “Mercer St w of N & S Ry.” Though imprecise, this is broadly describes the street on the map. No Melton or Bynum is similarly listed.

The 1910 census settles the matter. On “Winona Road,” restaurant cook William Johnson, 40; wife Pollie, 35, laundress; and children Mary E., 13, Willie C., 11, Winona, 4, and Henry W., 2, and dozens of African-American neighbors, mostly laborers and servants who owned their homes (subject to mortgage).

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Mercer Street next door to Smith Bennett and wife Mary, restaurant proprietor William Johnson, 39; wife Polly, 38; and children Wyona, 14, Margaret, 8, James, 11, and Millie, 19. Herbert and Ella Bynum owned the house on the other side, and Mollie Melton was up the street, and may have been related to the Bynum and Melton noted on the plat map.

The 1930 census reveals the house number: 910 Mercer Street, valued at the astonishing figure of $18,000. (This may well be a matter of an errant extra zero, as the 1922 Sanborn map shows a small one-story cottage at the location, which would not have commanded that sum.) Will A. Johnson, 60, worked as a cafe cook, and wife Pollie, 55, was a cook. The household included daughter Margrette Futrell, 18; infant grandson Wilbert R. Hawkins, born in Pennsylvania; widowed daughter Mary J. Thomas, 33 (noted as absent); and niece Jannie Winstead, 7.

When Sam Vick’s real estate empire collapsed in 1935, he lost three lots and houses on Mercer Street — 903, 907 and 915 — perhaps the last property he held in Winona subdivision.

Bellamy Chapel Primitive Baptist Church.

I wrote here of my discovery of Sharpsburg’s traditional African-American section, which lies mostly in Wilson County. Below, a better photo of old Bellamy Chapel Primitive Baptist Church (first known as Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church).

The church’s trustees purchased the property in 1915. The church building was already on the lot and, unusually, the deed contained a stipulation that the property would always be used for “church purposes.” If not, it would revert to J.H. Bellamy (whom I have not been able to identify.) At deed book 102, page 578, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office:

North Carolina, Wilson County } THIS DEED, made this September 24th, 1915, by and between M.V. Barnhill, Trustee, party of the first part, and Henry Reid, Robert Lewis and George Drake, as Trustees of the Sharpsburg Colored Primitive Baptist Church, parties of the second part; WITNESSETH

THAT for and in consideration of the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00) to him in hand paid, the receipt whereof expressly acknowledged, the said party of the first part, has bargained, sold, aliened and conveyed, and by these presents does bargain, sell and convey unto them, the said Henry Reid, Robert Lewis and George Drake, as Trustees as aforesaid, their successors in office and assigns, all that certain lot or parcel of land lying and being situate in Toisnot Township, Wilson County, North Carolina, being the unnumbered lot as is shown by plat of the Bellamy property, recorded in Book 78, page 170, Wilson County registry, to which plat and survey reference is hereby made for a more specific description of said lot; it being the lands upon which the Church aforesaid is now situate, said lot fronting thirty (30) feet on the East side of Railroad Street and running back seventy-five (75) feet. 

TO HAVE AND HOLD the aforesaid land and premises, together with all and singular, the rights, easements and appurtenances thereunto in any wise belonging unto them, the said parties of the second part, as Trustees as aforesaid, their successors in office and assigns so long as said premises may be used for church purposes, and no longer. Should the said premises cease to be used for church purposes, then and in that event said land shall revert to and become the property of J.H. Bellamy, and this Deed shall be held and deemed to be null and void.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, the said party of the first part has hereunto set his hand and seal, this the day and year first above written.  M.V. Barnhill, Trustee

Deed book 78, page 170, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

[Update, 4/26/2021 — As reader DC pointed out, I actually do know who J.H. Bellamy was. I needed merely to search my own blog. From C.L. Spellman‘s treatise on Elm City’s Black community: “J.H. Bellamy and his wife Cherry were among the first Negroes to move into the Sharpsburg vicinity. Bellamy was a preacher and a teacher. He did some good work in the general section in both these capacities. Together these two acquired a small tract of farm land. This was held up in his preaching and teaching as an example of what Negroes generally should do in order to succeed in life.”]