public utilities

Lane Street Project: “linear anomalies.”

The power poles are not the only utilities in Vick Cemetery.

New South Associates’ GPR report revealed three “linear anomalies” that they interpreted as utility lines. Two of them appear to postdate the 1994 grading of the cemetery and disturbed multiple graves during construction. What in the world are they?

Utility Lines 1 and 2 are marked below. (New South believes Line 3, the pink T-shape off the green path, dates to the period the cemetery was active. It does not cross graves.)

Per Wilson County GIS information, “soil and water drainage tiles” run under the southwest quadrant of Vick Cemetery. It is not clear if this is what GPR detected. It would seem an odd location for drainage infrastructure as this is a relatively high, flat section of the site. If they are drainage lines, who placed them and when? I’ll seek more information from Wilson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Lane Street Project: a closer look at these power poles.

Something about these power poles was vexing my spirit.

There is the terrible fact that they and their guy wires lie inside the boundaries of Vick Cemetery, but my suspicion was about something worse.

Back on July 13, I posted video of a morning walk in Vick Cemetery. At 2:23, I stop at power pole #4 and zoom in on a small plaque affixed to its side. “Ah!,” I exclaimed, “1997.”

“So, one year after the City did this [camera pans across the empty cemetery], it put in these poles, which undoubtedly replaced poles that were here previously.”

Undoubtedly replaced poles that were here previously”? Did I overspeak?

Wilson Energy’s Substation No. 2 was constructed in the mid-1960s after Wilson got out of the electricity generation business and entered into an agreement with Carolina Power & Light to distribute CP&L’s electricity.

Utility poles line both sides of Bishop L.N. Forbes Street between Substation 2 and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. Those on the north side are smaller wooden poles, the ordinary kind that carry low- and medium-voltage electrical lines and telecommunication lines. On the south side — the cemetery side — the poles are much taller and thicker, are made of steel, and appear to be transmission, rather than distribution, lines. (I’m not an electrical engineer or lineman, and I welcome a more precise identification of the type of pole, but it’s a minor point in this discussion.)

I had assumed that both sets of poles on B.L.N.F. Street were erected around the same time as the substation.

I was wrong.

The dirty truth is that the City of Wilson installed the steel power poles after it cleared Vick Cemetery, when it incontrovertibly knew this was the site of a public graveyard.

I’ve shared a 1994 aerial photograph of Vick Cemetery, but its poor resolution did not allow a close examination of the landscape. However, a couple of weeks ago, I received United States Geologic Survey aerial images of Vick Cemetery taken in 1993 and 1998.

Vick Cemetery, March 1993.

The ’93 image is also pretty low-resolution, and I set it aside (figuratively speaking) to look at the 1998 shot. 1998 was fuzzy, too, but I immediately noticed a difference between the two images. 1998 is a mid-winter shot, taken in the morning as the elongated shadows of power poles stretched across what was then known as Lane Street. They’re a little faint, so I’ve added yellow lines below to parallel their paths.

Here’s a current Google Maps image of the site with the five poles clearly visible.

I went back to take a look at 1993. 1998 — power poles. 1993 — no power poles.

The City cleared Vick Cemetery in 1995 and erected the central monument in 1996. In 1997, knowing full well that Vick and Rountree were cemeteries, the City ran a power line through them, sinking one wooden and three steel poles into Vick and one steel pole into Rountree.

Sit with that a minute.

After desecrating Vick cemetery by removing its headstones and leveling its surface, the City turned around and rammed power poles and guy wires into its graves.

Twenty-six years ago.

From Wilson County GIS’ website, here’s an image showing property lines (in orange) superimposed over part of Vick Cemetery. The bases of the steel poles on the south side of the street are plainly outside the public right-of-way and inside Vick Cemetery, which we know is chockfull of graves.

Here’s an angle from the ground, shot in mid-July. The yellowish specks in the grass to the right are the tops of the markers New South Associates placed to show graves detected along the cemetery’s border. Clearly, they lie outside the power pole.
Here’s this area in the grid 9 of New South’s report’s Appendix A, thick with graves.
And this gruesome shot at the other end of cemetery. Surely, when these poles were placed, workers unearthed evidence of damaged graves.


A survey map of Vick would make clear the location of power poles inside Vick Cemetery’s boundaries. Is this why the City is refusing to produce one?

On August 16, I submitted this public records request for records related to the power poles running alongside Vick Cemetery:

I have not received a response.

Mayor, Council, City Manager, Wilson Energy — what is your response to this outrage? Who is accountable for this further — and ongoing — abuse of Vick Cemetery’s dead? What is the plan for righting this continuing wrong?

Lane Street Project: the gas line (or, your daily dose of sacrilege.)

Not only is it scarred by transmission poles and buried utility trenches, a natural gas pipeline wraps around two sides of Vick Cemetery.

Using NPMS’ Public Viewer, I confirmed the presence of gas tranmission pipelines in the utility easements I’d noticed marked at the two southwestern corners of the cemetery.

Here’s a closer view, with my labeling in yellow:

And here’s the Google Maps view, with the gas line corridor highlighted:

I checked for you — there are no such gas transmission lines near Maplewood Cemetery. Why? Because there are none west of 301 in the whole of Wilson County.

Elm City’s water woes.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 May 1950.


  • James Young

On 3 February 1936, James Young, 21, of Toisnot township, married Alice Simmons, 17, daughter of Sam and Minnie Simmons, in Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: renting for $8/month, town laborer James Young, 27, born in Georgia; wife Allice, 20; and children Rachiel E., 3, and Eddie J., 1; and cousin Romar McGee, 16. 

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: electric light lineman James Young, 40; wife Bessie, 39; and children Ratchel, 13, Eddie, 12, Verge, 10, Edna Hines, 10, and Willie Lee, 2.

In 1942, James Alexander Young registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 8 May 1904 in Savannah, Georgia; lived in Elm City; and worked for O.C. Hill, Elm City.

In the 1950 census of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: James Young, 49, city electrician; wife Lucille, 29; and children Thomas, 19, Willie Lee, 12, Thomas B., 3, Carolyn, 2; and Shirley, born in November. [The family is erroneously described as white.]

James Alexander Young died 21 June 1971 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 May 1904 in Georgia to Alexander Young and “Claretta (?) Young”; lived in Elm City; worked as an electrician; and was married to Lucille Newbern Young.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.