Timeline of Wilson’s African-American cemeteries.

Between 1865 and 1975, African-Americans in the town of Wilson buried their dead in at least eight cemeteries — two in the area of present-day Cemetery Street and six along what is now Lane Street. From 1895 to about 1925, five of the cemeteries operated simultaneously. They often were referred to collectively and interchangeably as “the colored cemetery.” Similarly, the three cemeteries on the eastern end of Lane Street are colloquially known collectively as “Rountree cemetery,” though Rountree is but one of the three.  I’ve created this timeline to better understand the arcs of their usage, which, at this point, are baffling.


1870 — Washington Suggs purchased a lot adjacent to “the grave yard lot” and the African church. Suggs’ land was south of downtown between the railroad and what is now Pender Street. [Was this an African-American cemetery? If so, when was it established? If not, where were mid-nineteenth century black folk buried? It seems to have been located in the same general area as the later Oakdale cemetery.]

1895 — Per the 4 July Wilson Daily Times, the county commissioners took up the question of a “suitable burying ground for the colored people.” [Was there none? Or was it that the old one had been “unsuitable”?]

1897-1899 — The Funeral Register of Wootten and Stevens, Undertakers of Wilson, North Carolina, November 18, 1896-June 27, included burials of African-Americans, dozens of whom were interred in Oakdale (in one instance, called Oakwood) and generically labeled “colored” cemeteries, as well many rural graveyards.

1897 — Trustees of Rountree Missionary Baptist Church bought one acre of land “beginning at a stake on the path leading from the Plank road to the Stantonsburg road where a small branch crosses said path.” [This appears to be the half of Rountree cemetery that lies on the northwest-side of present-day Lane Street. The widening of the street for paving in the 1990s reduced the size of this lot.]

1896 — Rev. Owen L.W. Smith purchased from the Town of Wilson, in the person of Mayor John F. Bruton, lot 7, F Street, Section North, of Oakdale Cemetery (col’d). [This is the only evidence I have found of a formal layout for Oakdale.]

1897 — As reported in the 1 October 1897 issue of Wilson Daily Times, the Town of Wilson “paid on the account of Oakdale Cemetery 49.20.”

1900 — On October 8, Mount Hebron Lodge No. 42, Prince Hall Masons, purchased a lot from Cain and Margaret Artis near the Colored Graded School, Charley Battle, Cain Artis and Daniel Vick. [This is the Masonic cemetery. I was initially confused by the reference to the school, but a contemporaneous topographic map shows that Lane Street once extended parallel to Nash Street, across then-open fields, to meet Stantonsburg Street [now Pender] at the approximate location (and in the path of) today’s Black Creek Road. ]

1904 — The topographic map of Wilson shows empty spaces at the locations of Oakdale, the Masonic and Rountree cemeteries.

1906 — Trustees of Rountree Missionary Baptist Church bought one acre of land bordering a canal [Sandy Creek.]

1908 — The Wilson city directory listed Oaklawn cemetery (colored) on Cemetery Road near the Atlantic Coast Line Railway, Berry Williams, keeper.

1908 — T.M. Fowler’s bird’s-eye map of Wilson shows only a blank expanse of ground above and below Cemetery Street.

1908 — On February 17, F.W. and Mattie B. Barnes sold Samuel H. Vick ten acres in Wilson township adjacent to the Rountree church lot on what is now Lane Street. The purchase is recorded in Deed Book 81, Page 196. On an unknown date, Vick sold Hannibal Lodge #1552, Order of Odd Fellows about two acres, upon which it established its cemetery. The lodge apparently never filed a deed for the purchase. The Vick Family Cemetery is in Odd Fellows Cemetery, with several marked graves predating Vick’s purchase of the land. Presumably, these graves were moved from elsewhere, most likely Oakdale Cemetery.

1909 — Calvin Blount‘s will referred to a one-acre lot adjacent to G.W. Sugg, Cater [Daniel C.] Sugg, and the colored cemetery.

1910 — On July 15, the Daily Times reported Henry Hagans‘ escape through the colored cemetery [Oakdale/Oaklawn] after shooting a woman.

1911 — On December 12, the Daily Times reported two commissioners had been appointed to investigate complaints about drainage problems at the colored cemetery. [This would have been Oakdale/Oaklawn.]

1912 — The Wilson city directory listed Oaklawn cemetery (colored) on Cemetery Road near the Atlantic Coast Line Railway, Blount Moore, keeper.

1913 — The town of Wilson purchased 7.84 acres from Samuel and Annie Vick adjacent to the “colored Odd Fellows cemetery track.” This parcel was the remainder of the ten acres Vick had purchased from F.W. Barnes in 1908. [After less than 20 years, Oakdale/Oaklawn was not only experiencing serious drainage issues, it also was crowded and becoming hemmed in by residential expansion.]

1916 — The Wilson city directory listed Oaklawn cemetery (colored) on Cemetery Road near the Atlantic Coast Line Railway.

1922 — The Wilson city directory listed Oaklawn cemetery (colored) on Cemetery Road near the Atlantic Coast Line Railway.

1923 — The plat map of D.C. Suggs‘ property shows a blank area labeled “colored cemetery.”

1924 — Per 1940 news article, the last burial in the Cemetery Street cemetery took place in this year.

1925 — The Wilson city directory listed Oaklawn cemetery (colored) on Cemetery Road near the Atlantic Coast Line Railway.  The Business Directory section lists only Maplewood under the “Cemeteries” heading.

1925 — A soil survey of Wilson County shows the Masonic cemetery and a combined Rountree/Odd Fellows/Vick cemetery, but not Oakdale.

1925 — Per an article published in the Daily Times on February 10, Samuel H. Vick requested that city board of aldermen provide an awning for the colored cemetery [likely, Vick] and repair roads leading to it. An alderman noted that the “old cemetery” [Oakdale] was on valuable land.

1925 — Per notice published in the Daily Times on December 2, a trustee offered for sale a lot owned by Nathan Hines south of Suggs Street “beginning at a corner near a ditch on the South East corner of the colored cemetery on Sugg Street.” [Suggs Street runs parallel to and a block north of Cemetery Street.]

1927 — Per notice published in the Daily Times on July 16, a trustee offered for sale six acres owned by D.C. Suggs and wife, north of Contentnea Street [Cemetery Street, see below] and adjoining the Calvin Blount land on the west, John Ratley and S.H. Vick on the east, and the colored cemetery and A.S. Woodard on the north.

1928 — Oaklawn is no longer listed in the Wilson city directory, and no “colored” cemetery is listed under the heading in the Business Directory section.

1930 — Oaklawn is not listed in the Wilson city directory, and no “colored” cemetery is listed under the heading in the Business Directory section.

1932 — In a notice of sale published on March 31 in the Daily Times, a lot is described as beginning at the corner of S.H. Vick and Dollison Powell‘s land on “the colored Masonic Cemetery road.”

1933 — The City of Wilson purchased 38 acres from the Jesse R. Barnes family to establish Rest Haven cemetery. See also here.

1937 — Per letter and article published on September 24 and 30 by the Daily Times, Camillus L. Darden and others requested paving of the road leading to the “negro cemetery.” [This is most likely a reference to Vick cemetery.]

1940 — On August 30, the city manager published in the Daily Times a notice of removal of graves from the abandoned cemetery on Cemetery Street, in which there had been no burials in 16 years, to “the new cemetery for the colored race, situated near the Town of Wilson, N.C., and known as Resthaven cemetery.”

1941 — On November 6, the Daily Times published a brief article on the removal of graves from the old Negro cemetery [Oakdale] to Rest Haven cemetery.

1941 — Cemetery Street had been called Contentnea Street as far back as 1922 (see above), but the change apparently was not made official until graves were moved from Oakdale to Rest Haven. The change did not take; Cemetery Street was so-called in both the 1941 and 1947 city directories and still is today.

Wilson Daily Times, 7 November 1941.

1949 — On November 7, the Daily Times reported a dispute between Harry Howell and Carl Ward, who each purchased the same plot in the colored cemetery in 1934. Howell had recently requested that the cemetery commission remove Ward’s wife from the lot and place her body in another. [This dispute likely involved Vick cemetery, but maybe Rest Haven.]

1953 — On January 8, the Daily Times reported that farmer J.J. Skinner found a stolen safe “at the old colored cemetery just outside Wilson.” Skinner, who lived nearby, had cut through the cemetery on the way to his fields. [This was likely Rountree/Odd Fellows/Vick cemeteries.]

1953 — The heirs of Harry Clark sold three tracts of land to the Cemetery Commission for the expansion of Rest Haven cemetery.

1958 — On February 10, the Daily Times reported a stolen truck abandoned on a rural road “near the old Colored cemetery one mile east of Wilson.” [This, too, was likely Rountree/Odd Fellows/Vick.]

1967 — On June 10, the Daily Times ran a photograph of dumping at “Rountree cemetery.”

1969 — On March 3, the Daily Times ran a notice seeking volunteers for a clean-up at Rountree cemetery.

1983 — Per a 19 May 1996 Daily Times article, the Cemetery Commission “heard” the city owned Vick in this year and spent $10,000 on a partial clean-up.

1985 — A man jogging on Lane Street found human bones exposed in a ditch.

1989 — On February 18, the Daily Times ran a full-length feature article on Ben Mincey‘s attempts to maintain Odd Fellows cemetery.

1990-1991 — The city cleared Vick cemetery with a bush hog and began public discussions about clean-up and maintenance.

1994-1996 — As detailed here and here, the city cleared Vick cemetery of grave markers, graded the site, and erected a single monument commemorating all buried there. The grave markers were originally to be replaced in the cemetery, but city officials later decided to store them in an unknown location.

1996-2022 — City contracted out the maintenance of Vick Cemetery, which consisted primarily of cutting grass and filling in low areas with dirt.

ca. 2003 — Gravestones removed from Vick are believed to have been destroyed.

2015 — Wilson County Genealogical Society published Wilson County Cemeteries, Vol. V: The Two City-Owned African-American Cemeteries, containing alphabetical listings of 11,472 burials in Rest Haven cemetery and 650 burials in “Rountree-Vick” cemetery. The latter were largely derived from death certificates issued in the 1940s to 1960s. Though an admirable and worthwhile effort, the Rountree-Vick list is a vast undercount and does not accurately reflect actual burial locations, as individuals may have been buried in Rountree, Odd Fellows, or Vick.

2020 — In response to Public Records Law request, the city of Wilson confirms that it cannot produce any record of the identities of those whose grave markers it removed from Vick cemetery or provide any documentation of the decision to destroy those markers.

2020 — On December 15, Lane Street Project volunteers locate the graves of Samuel H. Vick and his wife Annie Washington Vick in Odd Fellows cemetery.

2021 — Beginning the weekend of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, LSP volunteers begin regular clean-ups in Odd Fellows cemetery. Season 1 extends to May.

2022 — On October 21, the City of Wilson deeds Vick Cemetery to Cemetery Trustees of the City of Wilson. The transaction is recorded at Deed Book 2990, Pages 678-679. The Cemetery Commission assumes maintenance for Vick, resulting in improved appearance over the next several months as the ditch is cleared and overgrown trees and shrubs around the central monument are pruned or removed.

2022-23 — LSP clean-ups continue in Odd Fellows.

2022 — In June and July, New South Associates conducts a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of Vick Cemetery.

2023 — After a public records request, on April 28, the city of Wilson releases the GPR report, which identifies at least 4,224 grave anomalies in Vick Cemetery. On May 11, at the request of LSP, Mayor Carlton Stevens arranges an open forum at which Lisa Y. Henderson shares results of the survey with the public. On June 29, New South returns to Vick Cemetery to mark graves lying on the cemetery’s borders.

2023 — Working with LSP, on August 5, faith leaders reconsecrate Vick Cemetery in a public ceremony.