Rountree cemetery

The obituary of Charles Oats.

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Wilson Daily Times, 16 July 1941.

Incredibly, the grave markers of Charles Oats and his wife Emma Oats are among the few that remain at Rountree cemetery. Oats was an employee of C.H. Darden and Sons Funeral Home.

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In the 1870 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Albert Oates, 40; wife Elizabeth, 30; and children Ferrebee, 10, and Charly, 3.

In the 1880 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: Albert Oates, 51; wife Bettie, 34; and children Charles, 13, Turner, 11, Adam, 9, and Willie, 3.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer Charles Oates, 34; wife Emma, 30; and children Willie, 11, Fannie, 9, Annie, 8, Effie, 5, and Queen Elsie, 4.

On 9 August 1916, Charles Oats, 53, applied for a license to marry Lou Woodard, 48. It was never returned for registration.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on 119 Ash Street, laborer Charlie Oats, 52; wife Lilla, 42; and step-children Lizzie, 24, and Elmira Woodard, 15.

On 6 December 1920, Fannie McCullers died in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 32 years old; married to Andrew McCullers; lived on Ash Street; and was born in Wilson County to Charley Oates of Edgecombe County and Emma Williams of Wilson County.

On 3 February 1921, Matthew Smith of Greene County married Annie Edmundson, 30, of Wilson, daughter of Charles and Emma Oats. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of James Debury, Charles Thomas and Richard Green.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 203 Stantonsburg, rented for $24/month, Charlie Oats, 67, undertaking establishment laborer; wife Emma, 53; daughter Almira, 25; and mother Betsie, 92.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Jeff Benjamin, 41, bricklayer; wife Marie, 26, tobacco factory laborer; and lodger Charlie Oats, 75, widower, undertaker shop laborer.

Charles Oats died 13 July 1941 at his home at 112 South Vick Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 17 September 1873 in Edgecombe County to Albert Oats and Bessie Mercer; was widowed; and was an undertakers assistant.

Rountree cemetery, revisited.

We visited the remains of Rountree cemetery here and here. In the photo below, the arrow indicates the grove that surrounds the memorial plinth and obelisk erected by the city in 1995. The grassy area? THE CEMETERY. Denuded of forty years of overgrowth and seventy years of grave markers, filled, leveled and sown. There were no disinterments or removals. The graves are still there (and probably in the woods beyond, too).

In 1989-90, Wilson City Council wrestled with the question of its responsibility to Rountree after discovering that the city owned the property. In a 10 January 1990 Daily Times article, “Cemetery income down, costs up,” Cemetery Commission Chairman Earl Bradbury “described the small 100-foot by 140-foot cemetery as a jungle.” Jungle it may have been, but it was a lot bigger than the quarter-acre he imagined.

Lane Street was a dirt road well into the 1970s. When I was a child, we sometimes rode our bikes over to peer into the woods at Rountree’s gravestones, tilting and toppled in the leaf litters. I distinctly remember the long edge of a vault cover exposed in the weeds at the edge of the road, near the Y below. Right now, at X, a few markers remain visible inside the tree line.

The last burials at Rountree took place in the early 1960s. By 1967, there was a problem. With abundant heat and humidity, an abandoned Southern landscape is fecund ground, and “growing like a weed” is not a simile. Kudzu had not yet arrived in eastern North Carolina, but catbrier and poison ivy and broomsedge, followed quickly by sumacs, sweetgums and pines, make quick work of an untended lot. Worse, there was unchecked dumping.

 Wilson Daily Times, 10 June 1967.

The following spring, just as the weeds were flexing to spring to new heights, this appeal to the public appeared in the Times. “Come on out and do your part,” it implored. (“Persons interested”? There was probably not a black person in Wilson at the time, me included, that didn’t have someone buried at Rountree.)

Wilson Daily Times, 3 March 1968.

Less than ten years later, my friends and I were telling ghost stories as we cycled past woods dotted with lichen-flecked headstones. A dozen or so years after that, the Daily Times‘ 18 February 1989 article about Ben Mincey Jr.‘s efforts to honor his parents’ graves kickstarted the city’s reckoning with the travesty of Rountree. These photographs accompanied the piece.

So, having cleared the cemetery and raised a memorial, where are the headstones the city removed?

Top photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019; aerial photo courtesy of Google Map.

Della Hines Barnes.

Della Hines Wife of Dave Barnes 1858-1935 She is not dead but sleeping

Della Hines Barnes was mother of three of early 20th-century Wilson’s African-American heavyweights — Walter S. Hines, William Hines and Boisey O. Barnes. Her ornate marble grave marker — with its angel lifting her finger heavenward — gleams from the shabby remains of Rountree cemetery, a testament to the wealth of her children at the time of her death. Though the success of the Hines brothers and Dr. Barnes is primarily attributable to their own talents, each had the great good fortune to be the beneficiary of their mother’s drive and early financial success.

Della Hines Barnes was born in 1858 in Cokey township, Edgecombe County, which borders Toisnot and Gardners townships in Wilson County to the west. She was reared by Joshua Hines and Callie Mercer Hines, but, according to Hugh B. Johnston Jr., her birth father was John Routh Mercer (1825-1894), a wealthy white Edgecombe County physician.* (Mercer was likely the owner of Callie Mercer and her eldest children.) Della Hines Barnes’ first surviving child, Walter Scott Hines, was born in 1879 in Edgecombe County. Again per Johnston, his father was Walter S. Parker, a white farmer. Her second son, William Hines, was born in 1884, also in Edgecombe County. His father was Thomas Williams. About a year later, she gave birth to daughter Lucy.  In 1890, Hines and her children left the Jesse Norris farm in Edgecombe County for Wilson. There, Hines worked at Briggs Hotel and as a seamstress and tailor and was a member of London’s Primitive Baptist Church. Johnston further recorded that on 25 January 1894, just a few months before her marriage, Della Hines purchased 613 Green Street in Wilson for $375. (Though it not clear when it was built, by 1913 Della Barnes had erected a large two-story house at this address (originally 612 Green), which stood until the 1990s.) On 25 September 1911, she purchased four lots on Pender, Green and Second Streets in her own name (not her husband’s) from son William Hines for $1000, and on 1 March 1915, she purchased another lot on Green Street from son William and his wife Ethel Hines for $1200 and four lots from son Walter S. and and his wife Sarah E. Hines.

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In 1866, Joshua Hines and Callie Mercer registered their seven-year cohabitation with an Edgecombe County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: carpenter Joshua Hines, 41; wife Calley, 37; and children Jerry, 11, Ashley, 21, Watson, 16, Della, 14, Joshua, 8, Eliza, 6, Caleb, 4, and William, 4. [Judging by the children’s ages, it appears that Jerry was their first child together.] Listed next door were physician John R. Mercer and his children.  Mercer reported $26,500 real property and $6500 in personal property.

In the 1880 census of Cocoa township, Edgecombe County: Joshua Hines, 52; wife Cally, 47; children Jerry, 20, Deller, 22, Lizer, 17, Joshua, 15, Caliph, 13, William, 11, Robert, 7, and Adline, 4; nephew Allen Harris, 3; and grandson Walter, 1 [Della’s son.]

On 15 April 1894, David Barnes, 35, married Della Hines, 32, in Wilson. Rev. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the bride’s home in the presence of J.T. Deans, Mrs. Hardy Tate, and Hardy Tate.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hotel porter Dave Barnes, 40; wife Della; and children Walter, 20, William, 15, Lucy, 13, Dave, 5, and Viola, 11. [Walter, William, and Lucy were, in fact, Hineses and were Della Hines Barnes’ children. Viola Barnes was Dave Barnes’ daughter by an earlier marriage to Pattie Battle. She married Mack Jones and died in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, on 8 September 1909. Dave and Pattie Barnes also had a son Efford Barnes, who was born about 1883.] Dave Sr. worked as hotel porter, Walter as a barber, and William as a day laborer.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hotel servant Dave Barnes, 50; wife Della, 50; and children William, 25, barber, Lucy, 23, Dave, 15, Bosey, 8, Mary, 7, John, 5, Sam, 3, and Carry, 1 month. [No further record is found of the youngest four children, which suggests that they died between 1910 and the regular recording of North Carolina death certificates in 1914.]

On 5 June 1912, Lucy P. Hines, 21, of Wilson, daughter of William Hines and Della Barnes Hines, married John L. White, 27, of Hampton, Virginia, son of William and Mary R. White (resident of Hingham Centre, Massachusetts), at the bride’s parents’ home. W.S. Hines applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister H.B. Taylor performed the ceremony in the presence of M.E. Dortch of Goldsboro, North Carolina; J.M. Parker of Rocky Mount, North Carolina; and [illegible] B. Thomas of Washington, D.C.

David Barnes died 23 January 1913 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 52 years old; lived at 612 Green Street; was married; was born in Wilson; and worked in “hoteling.” William Hines was informant.

Della Barnes was appointed administratrix of her deceased husband’s estate in 1913. The estate was valued at $600, and heirs were identified as Della Barnes, Dave Barnes Jr., Boisey O. Barnes, Effort Barnes and “Viola Jones’ child.” (Efford Barnes died months later on 31 May 1913. I have not been able to identify Viola Barnes Jones’ child.) William Hines and Walter Hines joined their mother to post bond, as shown below.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 612 East Green, widow Della Barnes, 50; Cleveland Chick, 25, barber, and Dasy Chick, 23, both of South Carolina; and Della’s sons Dave, 24, and Otha, 17.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 613 East Green, valued at $8000, widow Della Barnes, 71, and sons Boysie, 26, and Dav., 35, barber.

Della Hines died 10 January 1935 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 75 years old; was born on January 19; was born in Edgecombe County to Joshua Hines and Pattie Hines; and was a widow. William Hines was informant.

Some Black Families of Wilson County, North Carolina, a compilation of The Hugh B. Johnston Working Papers published in 1997 by Wilson County Genealogical Society, contains several worksheets that Johnston apparently filled in while interviewing subjects. The information attributed to him here is drawn from the worksheets for Della Hines Barnes and William Hines.

This look at the life of Della Hines Barnes is the 2000th post of Black Wide-Awake. When I commenced this journey in October 2015, I had no idea where it would go or for how long, or even if anyone other than I would benefit from it. Thanks for coming on the ride with me.

The obituary of Mariah Lipscomb.

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 December 1924.

In the 1870 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: carpenter Stephen Lipscomb, 49; wife Mariah, 29; and children Anna, 13, Tilitha, 12, Betha, 12, Frank, 10, Archibald, 8, Penny, 6, and Daniel, 1 month.

In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Stephen Lipscum, 52; wife Mariah, 42; children Penny, 13, Daniel and Louvenia, 9, Mary, 5, Rosa, 4, and George, 3 months; and grandchildren Isabella, 7, James, 5, and Henryetta, 2.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer George Hines, 53; wife Lew, 48; children Howard, 19, Hubbard, 17, May Lillie, 12, Joseph, 10, Nora, 8, Robert, 5, William, 4, and Charlie, 2; and widowed mother-in-law Mariah Lipscombe, 72.

Lou Lipscombe Hines applied for a Social Security number or claim in May 1937. Per her application, she was born 6 May 1868 in Wilson, North Carolina, to Stephen Lipscombe and Maria Barnes.

Frank Lipscomb died 5 October 1941 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 80 years old; resided at Wilson County Home; was a widower; was a farmer; and was born in Wilson County to Stephen and Mariah Lipscomb. Johnnie Coley was informant.

 

“I have respect for my father and mother.”

What is now called Rountree Cemetery first caught wider Wilson’s attention in February 1989 when the Daily Times printed a full-page feature. I’ve abstracted the piece, with some commentary, below:

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Wilson Daily Times, 18 February 1989. (Please click image to enlarge.)

“Vick Cemetery is just one of several Lane Street cemeteries being used as trash dumps, but a small group of people want to change all that.”

Ben Mincey Jr., [who is in his 70s and] whose father is buried in the old Odd Fellows Cemetery directly north of and adjacent to Vick cemetery, is trying to get help for both cemeteries.

Councilman A.P. Coleman discussed the cemeteries with City Manager Cyrus Brooks and suggested Mincey seek grants from historic societies or other groups. Brooks said he was aware of the situation at the Vick Cemetery but “had no solutions and had directed inquiries to the [Cemetery] Commission,” over which the city has no control.

Mincey thinks the city or commission should help clean both cemeteries and notes that Vick deeded the property to the city in 1913. With volunteers and hired help, Mincey has cut down and burned off much of overgrowth in Odd Fellows and is trying to remove the accumulated trash, which includes appliances, bed frames, rotting clothing, dead animals wrapped in plastic bags, tires, and bottles.

Mincey says both cemeteries were well cared for when the “older people whose families were buried there” were still living, and he was trying to clean up because “I have respect for my father and mother.” An unnamed cemetery official said he had no idea why relatives had let the old cemeteries deteriorate or why nothing was said until recently.

Both cemeteries are over 100 years old, and neither has been used in more than 30 years. There are no known records on who or how many people are buried in Vick cemetery (or presumably, Odd Fellows.)

“Mincey said many prominent blacks from Wilson’s past are buried in these two cemeteries and the Rountree Cemetery, also on Lane Street, located where Rountree Baptist Church used to sit.” They include Ben Mincey Sr., who helped start the East Wilson Volunteer Fire Department and worked for the city’s Utilities Department; Nettie Foster, a well known teacher; Walter Hines, a downtown barber; and S.H. Vick, the cemetery’s namesake, a former postmaster.”

“Trees not hide all but one grave, which sits by the roadside at the old Rountree Cemetery. The commission was not even aware of the Rountree Cemetery’s existence” and did not know Vick Cemetery existed “until about four years ago” when Mincey brought it to their attention. At that time, they determined that Mincey Sr. was buried in the Odd Fellows, not Vick, cemetery.

Pursuant to a 1923 state statute, the Cemetery Commission was given title to all city property used for cemetery purposes, including Vick Cemetery. Currently, only Rest Haven and Maplewood are active cemeteries. The commission does not receive city funding, but is audited by the city.

Cemetery Commission chairman Earl Bradbury says of Vick Cemetery, “Burial patterns are any which way. Nobody has any records of who was buried there. It just sat there and so nobody had any interest in it and it just grew up.” After its “discovery,” the commission authorized $8000 for cleanup by hand “because heavy machinery would cause the graves to collapse.”  (As wooden caskets decay, the ground above them subsides, creating sunken graves.) “Because of this, no local firms will help with the cleanup.” Heavy rains prevented the completion of the cleanup, and the area still needs to be burned off and treated with weed killer. Bradbury agrees that the Vick property should be cleaned and cared for, but says the commission did not have the funds to do so. “He said he hoped to pack the collapsed graves with silt dredged from Toisnot Lake, but that silt is just sitting on unused Maplewood Cemetery property. Also, Bradbury thinks people with relatives in the Vick cemetery should show some interest in having the cemetery renovated, and he said it would be nice if the city could help with possibly a one-time grant.” As for Odd Fellows, it is the responsibility of the fraternal organization or relatives of the deceased to clear that cemetery.

Councilman Coleman notes that the city might have a “moral obligation” to find a solution, notuing that “the Lane Street area was included in the 1972 annexation of east Wilson, wich was an area that had been neglected for many years.”

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  • Odd Fellows cemetery? This is the first I’ve heard of it. The obelisk now marking the remaining stones says “Rountree-Vick.” If Odd Fellows was north, and “north” means northeast toward Martin Luther King Parkway/U.S. 264, is it now completely wooded? As this cemetery was not city property, was it just left to revert to nature? In the mid-1970s, headstones were visible among the trees and underbrush in this area. Though we called it Rountree, was this actually Odd Fellows? (For more about Hannibal Lodge No. 1552, International Order of Odd Fellows, see here.)
  • If so, where was Rountree cemetery? The article seems to imply that it was not immediately adjacent to Vick and Odd Fellows. The east parking lot of the “new” Rountree Missionary Baptist Church, built in the late 1970s, was laid over the site of the clapboard predecessor. There is no apparent graveyard immediately adjacent to the church now, and it’s not clear where a location closer than the known cemetery could have been.
  • It’s heartbreaking that Ben Mincey Sr.’s headstone is not one of those that survives.
  • Silt from Toisnot Lake? Did this ever happen? Is this really a sanctioned method of handling sunken graves? Several of the remaining graves have collapsed, and at least one has been breached to the point that a dark vacuum is visible below ground.