teenager

Lane Street Project: the funeral of young Irma Vick.

A contributor who wishes to remain anonymous has made these incredible images available to Black Wide-Awake. They depict the funeral of Samuel and Annie Washington Vick‘s daughter Irma Vick, who died in October 1921 while a 16 year-old student in Asheville, North Carolina. Until recently, her large concrete headstone was the only marker visible in the Vick family plot. These two photographs are the only photographs we have to date that show Odd Fellows as an active cemetery or capture an early 20th-century funeral. (Per her death certificate, Irma’s body was prepared by Murrough’s, a Black Asheville funeral home, but Darden & Sons likely handled her burial.)

The first image depicts mounds of flowers heaped upon the grave, including a standing wreath arrangement (topped by a flying dove?), two baskets, and a sash whose visible lettering spells CL MBERS CLUB. Though her headstone had not yet been placed, the wreath marks the top of the grave. However, it is difficult to orient the angle of the photograph precisely. In the background, at least six grave markers are visible, none of which correlate immediately with known markers in Odd Fellows or adjacent Rountree Cemetery. (The tall, narrow shape suggests the white marble stones found in such abundance in Odd Fellows that were likely provided to members and their families as death benefits.)

The second image shows mourners standing at Irma Vick’s graveside: family friend Camillus L. Darden, an unidentified woman, Irma’s parents Samuel and Annie Vick, perhaps her brother Daniel L. Vick (though this man seems to be middle-aged), and an unidentified young woman. The obelisk visible over Darden’s shoulder is Wiley Oates‘ beautiful sandstone marker. It is difficult to be absolutely certain, but this detail suggests that the photographer was standing with his or her back to Rountree Cemetery, facing roughly south-southwest. (This assumes that the photograph is not image-reversed. The present orientation of Irma’s headstone suggests that this may, in fact, be a mirror image. Her marker faces southwest, as do all others in the cemetery. In the photo, however, the head of the grave (if the photo were rotated to the align with the cemetery’s axis, faces northeast.) In any case, we have not found the large headstone at the right side of the photo, nor what appears to be a flat marble vault slab just beside it.

I am honored to have been entrusted to share these photographs. Thank you.

A hunting accident?

Wilson Daily Times, 15 November 1929.

I have not found any follow-up to this news story, but Harvey Rodgers‘ death certificate lists his cause of death as “Gun shot wound of chest accident while hunting.”

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  • Harvey Rodgers — in the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Jim Rogers, 60; wife Lanie, 50; children Latina, 15, Harold, 12, Louisa, 9, and Harvey, 8; and nieces Ema B., 20, and Mabel Sanders, 6.
  • Wray Bridgers

Spo’ty Odie.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 October 1914.

Fresh off serving thirty days on a chain gang for being homeless, 16 year-old Odie Williams showed up in court on larceny charges in his dandy finest — knee pants, black silk stockings, white slippers with rubber bottoms (sneakers?) — received his one-year sentence … and escaped.

Beyond his clothes, Williams’ description is poetic — “slick and neat,” white teeth, “medium dark ginger cake complexion,” and “mouth shaped like the rim of a jug” (whatever that may be.) I don’t know if he was ever caught. I sincerely hope he wasn’t.

The death of Alphonso Battle, age 15.

The Daily Times reported the death of 15 year-old Alphonso Battle as tragic, but straightforward — he had accidentally shot himself in the chest while squirrel hunting.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 October 1937.

Bizarrely, though, Battle’s death certificate tells a completely different story, establishing his legal cause of death as “natural cause no sign of foul play.”

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In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer John H. Battle, 49; wife Loutoria, 40; and children Johnie L., 21, Nettie, 19, Bessie L., 16, Mary L., 15, Roosevelt, 14, Armettie, 11, Alphnza, 8, Estelle, 7, Augustus, 4, and Harvey L., 2.