Samuel H. Vick

Lincoln University, 1882-’83.

During academic year 1882-’83, 73 of Lincoln University’s 214 students were from North Carolina. Five of that 73, all in the collegiate division, were from Wilson County: juniors Frank O. Blount, Cato D. Suggs [Daniel Cato Suggs], and Samuel H. Vick; sophomore Braswell R. Winstead; and freshman Francis M. Hines (whose home was Toisnot.)

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N.B.: Though Francis M. Hines’ home was listed as Toisnot, now Elm City, and firmly within Wilson County, it seems certain that he was in fact from the Temperance Hall area of Edgecombe County, a few miles east and just across the county line. Hines graduated from Lincoln in 1886 and, upon his return to Edgecombe County, plunged into local politics. He quickly rose to leadership of the Knights of Labor and, on the strength of the African-American voting power in a county in which they were the majority population, was elected Register of Deeds. Tragically, Hines died of kidney disease at the age of 28. Local newspapers’ laconic reports of his death did not fail to include aspersions.

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Tarborough Southerner, 21 February 1889.

He is buried in the cemetery of Pyatt Memorial A.M.E. Church in the Temperance Hall community.

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“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.”

——

  • 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.

Negroes take advantage. (Vick is an unusual negro.)

NY Times 12 7 1902 Vick

President William H. Harrison appointed Samuel H. Vick postmaster of Wilson in 1889. President William McKinley selected Vick again for the position in 1898. Despite the setback described above, the Lily Whites ultimately were successful in thwarting Vick’s reappointment in 1903.

Vicksburg Manor.

In 1925, Samuel H. Vick engaged a surveyor to lay out several hundred lots on a large tract of land he owned southeast of downtown Wilson. The subdivision was to be called Vicksburg Manor, and a Durham auction company handled sales. At twenty-five feet wide, these lots would have been marketed to developers and working-class buyers.Plans_Page_05 1

Nearly one hundred years later, the footprint of Vicksburg Manor remains largely the same — other than U.S. highway 301 slashing diagonally across it — though several original street names failed to stick. Elliott Street was instead named Elvie and Masonic Street is Lincoln. Douglas Street disappeared under the highway, but a truncated Dunbar exists. Irma (named for a daughter of Vick who died early), Graham and Davie Streets remain, as do the cross streets Manchester, Singletary and Hadley.

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Plat filed at Book 3, page 13 of Plat Book, Wilson County Register of Deeds office, Wilson.

Done out of $3000.

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News & Observer (Raleigh), 28 June 1907.

  • Samuel H. Vick
  • John F. Collins — I have found no record of John Collins living in Wilson. Possibly, in the 1910 census of Washington, D.C.: at 2010 Third Street, N.W., John F. Collins, 32, lawyer in general practice, born in North Carolina; wife Alice E., 29; and son John F., Jr., 2. Collins in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 censuses of Washington employed as a mail carrier with wife Alice and sons John and William K. Collins.

Alfred Robinson, barber, civic leader, postal worker.

Who was Alfred Robinson?

In the 1870 census of Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina: Becky Robinson, 44, huckster; her children Athalia, 24, Polly, 21, and George W., 22; and Sophie Newhoff, 14. Athalia and Polly were dressmakers; George, a shoemaker; and Sophie, a seamstress. Becky reported owning $900 in real estate. She was described as black, and her children as mulatto.

In the 1870 census of Washington, D.C., Alfred Robinson, 19, student, is listed in “Dormitory Howard University.”

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Catalogue of Howard University for the Years 1869-1870.

After completing his studies, Alfred returned to Wilmington. In 1878, he married Lucy A. Leary, who had been educated at Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute. (Lucy was a native of Fayetteville and the daughter of Lewis Sheridan Leary, Harper’s Ferry revolutionary.)

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ar-marriage

(Notably, the couple’s marriage license listed no parents for Lucy and only Alfred’s mother. His brother George W. Robinson was the official witness.)

The couple initially boarded with Alfred’s sister Athalia’s family.  In the 1880 census of Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina: Benjamin F. Scott, 37, wife Athalia M., 34, and children Warren F., 9, Armon W., 7, and Benj. F., Jr., 4, and Thos. A., 2; Alfred Robinson, 27, barber, brother-in-law, and Lucy Robinson, 25, sister-in-law; John Howard, 21, boarder, a porter; James S. Robinson, 1, nephew; and Eliza Carrel, 13, servant.

They’re also found in the 1880 census of Monroe, Union County, North Carolina: Alfred Robinson, 29, barber, wife Lucy, 24, and son James S.A., 1, plus boarder Samuel Pride, 23, barber.

A second child, Mariah, was born in 1880.

By 1884, the Robinsons had relocated to Wilson, where Alfred opened a barbershop on Tarboro Street catering to white clientele.

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Wilson Advance, 17 October 1884.

He quickly joined the leadership of the town’s African-American community and was elected president of the Wilson County Industrial Association. Samuel H. Vick, with whom Alfred would become a friendly rival for federal patronage positions, was elected secretary.

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Wilson Advance, 3 November 1887.

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Weekly State Chronicle (Raleigh), 29 December 1887.

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Wilson Advance, 28 March 1889.

Alfred was the first to land a postal job under the patronage of Congressman Henry Plummer Cheatham.

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Wilson Advance, 11 April 1889.

The job required frequent travel along his postal rail route, and Alfred sold his barbershop in Wilson.

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Wilson Advance, 2 May 1889.

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Wilson Advance, 8 August 1889.

The Robinson family apparently kept its home in Wilson at least part-time, though, as Lucy Leary Robinson died there on 30 April 1896.

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Wilmington Messenger, 1 May 1896.

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Raleigh Gazette, 17 July 1897.

Less than two years after his wife passed, Alfred Robinson lost his mother. She died in Raleigh while visiting Alfred’s sister, Mary Robinson King. The ever-flattering Gazette mentioned her “clever” son Alfred’s postal route between Norfolk and Wilmington.

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Raleigh Gazette, 12 February 1898.

Though he is elusive in census records, Alfred Robinson seems to have made a home base in Norfolk by the mid-1890s. In the 1894 Norfolk city directory, he is listed as a clerk living at 28 Lee Av. In the 1904 Norfolk city directory, he is listed as a “Carrier P O” living at 393 Bank. In the 1910 Norfolk city directory, he is a “clerk R M S” [railroad mail service] living at 446 Bute.

James S.A. Robinson married Emma Mossom in Phoebus (now Hampton), Virginia, on 22 December 1903.

In the 1920 census of Norfolk, Virginia: Alfred Robinson, 67, divorced, United States post office mail clerk; James A. Byers, 39, physician; and Maria Byers, 36. The Byerses were renting from Robinson. [From whom was he divorced?]

Within a few months, Maria Robinson Byers was dead of a stroke. Per her death certificate, she died 25 July 1920 at her home at 314 East Bute, Norfolk. She had been born in North Carolina on 2 July 1880 to Alfred Robinson and Lucy Leary, and her body was returned to Wilmington for burial.

Before the year was out, Alfred retired from government service, having served the postal service for 31 years.

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Twin City Daily Sentinel (Winston-Salem NC), 26 November 1920.

Alfred Robinson made out a will on 16 July 1926. Reflecting, perhaps, his peripatetic lifestyle, his city of residence is omitted from the document. Golden Robinson, son of his brother George, was the principal legatee with a $2000 bequest, but he also set aside $500 to bury his “mentally afflicted” son James S.A. Robinson; $1000 to be divided among the children of his deceased nephew Benjamin Scott; and $800 to be divided among nieces Parthenia Blakeley, Annie Sadgwar, Rebecca Robinson, and Mrs. Vincent Waters. After bequests to pay for a headstone and the upkeep of his grave, Alfred earmarked the remainder of his estate to be divided among the children of nephews Warren Scott, Thomas A. Scott and Benjamin Scott.

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In the 1928 and 1930 city directories of Wilson, Alfred Robinson is listed living at 622 East Green Street. (In other words, he lived in Samuel H. Vick’s household.)

Alfred’s son James S.A. Robinson died 22 July 1930. That year Alfred was involved in an imbroglio with Dr. Lovelace B. Capehart, grand master of the Ancient Free & Accepted Masons, whom he blamed for causing him to lose his position as treasurer of the organization. A Wilson Superior Court judge agreed and awarded Alfred $400 in damages.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 22 November 1930.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 30 November 1930.

On 6 November 1936, Alfred remarried in Wilson. His wife, Julia Winstead, was a Nash County native. He was about 85 years old, and nearly 40 years his wife’s senior.

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On 29 November 1938, Alfred Robinson executed a new will devising an entire estate to his nephew Robert H. Scott, with whom he was living. His property consisted of two lots in Norfolk; a house and lot at 207 North Tenth Street, Wilmington; and two lots in Raleigh. He specifically made no provision for his wife Julia, asserting that he had already made her a property settlement. Nor did he mention his many other nieces and nephews.

Alfred Robinson died 26 June 1939 in Wilmington.

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On 27 July 1939, Alfred’s nephew Golden Robinson, son of his brother George, filed his 1926 will in Wilson County Superior Court, asserting that he had found the document “in a small satchel in [Alfred’s] home.” On November 1939, his other nephew, Robert H. Scott the 1938 will in New Hanover Superior Court.

Which prevailed?