Vick

The streets of East Wilson, part 1.

Many of East Wilson’s streets were laid out on parcels of land owned by African-Americans and still bear the names they chose.

  • Vick Street

Samuel H. Vick built his Queen Anne mansion on Green Street, but developed the neighborhood around it. He named several streets for his daughters, others for family friends and his personal hero, Booker T. Washington.

  • Elba Street

Vick named this three-block street after his eldest daughter Elba Louise Vick, born in 1893.

  • Viola and Reid Streets

Viola Street was named for Viola Leroy Vick, who was born in 1894 and died as a toddler. Reid Street was named for either (or both) veterinarian Elijah L. Vick or J.D. Reid, school principal and banker.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.

650 choice lots for sale.

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The Colored American (Washington, D.C.), 18 January 1902.

As noted here and here, Samuel H. Vick was an investor in former United States Congressman George H. White’s real estate development venture in southern New Jersey. (Vick named his third son George White Vick in the congressman’s honor.)

Bold hold-up.

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Wilson Daily Times, 28 May 1921.

Alfred Robinson was a boarder in Samuel H. Vick‘s house at 622 East Green Street. Short Barnes did not live across the street, but three doors down from Vick at 616.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 502 Grace, James Austin, 34, tobacco company laborer; wife   , 28, tobacco factory worker; son James Jr., 3; and roomer George Jenkins, 24, tobacco factory worker.

Vick has piled up a fortune.

In June 1916, a Laurinburg newspaper reprinted the Wilson Dispatch‘s tally of Samuel H. Vick‘s wealth.

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Laurinburg Exchange, 1 June 1916.

Some minor corrections:

  • Vick was neither born nor bred in Wilson, though he moved to town as a small child. He and his parents were from Nash County, North Carolina.
  • In 1916, 98 town lots represented a sizable minority of all the lots in East Wilson. (Though not all Vick’s property was east of the tracks.) By time his empire collapsed in 1935, he owned much more.
  • It is not clear why Vick — who had living siblings — would be considered the practical owner of his father Daniel Vick‘s estate.
  • Vick’s holdings were in Whitesboro, New Jersey, not North Carolina.

The remains of West Vick, a colored soldier, return.

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Wilson Daily Times, 18 March 1919.

In the 1900 census of Stony Creek township, Nash County: farm laborer John Vick, 45; wife Hanna, 40; and children Tassey, 21, Clara, 19, Johnnie, 17, Berry, 15, Elisha, 13, Joseph, 10, Westray, 9, Paul 3, and Baby, 1.

Wesley Vick, 21, son of John and Hannah Vick, married Sarah Locus, 20, daughter of Jesse and Florida Locus, on 25 May 1912, in Wilson.

Rest in peace, Monte Vick Cowan.

Occasionally, we are reminded that the past is not so very distant, that we are often only a degree or two removed from the men and women whose achievements we now think of as historic. The news of the death last week of Monte LeRoque Vick Cowan, the youngest and last surviving child of Samuel H. and Annie Washington Vick, is just such a reminder.

A young Monte Vick on a snowy day.

Mrs. Cowan was born in Wilson in June 1918. World War I was raging, and Spanish flu had begun its deadly spread across the United States. At home, though, the Vick family was enjoying perhaps its period of greatest influence and prosperity. With the entrenchment of Jim Crow, Samuel Vick had retired from political life, but, described as the wealthiest man of his race in North Carolina, was involved one way or another in the establishment of nearly every important institution in East Wilson — an Odd Fellows hall, a Presbyterian church, a Baptist church, a public cemetery, a hospital, a theatre. Two months before Mrs. Cowan’s birth, black parents launched a boycott of the colored graded school, and Vick stepped forward with the offer a building to house an alternative school. Just before Mrs. Cowan’s third birthday, her father led the establishment of Wilson’s only black-owned bank. She grew up in her parents’ imposing East Green Street home in a neighborhood he largely planned with streets named for her older sisters Irma, Viola, Elba and Doris. She was five years old when Wilson Colored High School opened its doors, and a young adult when the elementary school named for her father admitted its first students in the late years of the Great Depression. World War II found Mrs. Cowan in Wilmington, Delaware, where she married Army corporal George Alexander Cowan.

Mrs. Cowan’s 101 years offer a bridge to places and events that can now seem remote. Her long life reminds us of the reach of our roots and invites remembrance and recognition of those upon whose shoulders we stand.

Rest in peace, Monte Vick Cowan.

——

Monte L. Cowan passed on February 12, 2020. She was a Maywood, N.J., resident, formerly of East Orange. She was a graduate of Bennett College of Greensboro, N.C., class of 1940. She was a life long member The Silver Steppers of East Orange, N.J.

Mrs. Cowan leaves to cherish her memories her daughter Vicki M. Cowan, granddaughter Kyara A. Cowan, nieces Joyce Freeman, Beverly Adams, Darnell Street, Denise Cowan, Emma Cowan, Roslyn Lanham, and a host of other relatives and friends. Funeral Services Tuesday February 18, 10 am at Mt. Olive Baptist Church 260 Central Avenue, Hackensack. Visitation 9-10 am Tuesday at the church. Cremation at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Bennett College of Greensboro, N.C. in the name of Monte L. Vick Cowan Class of 1940. Arrangements by Earl I. Jones Funeral Home, 305 First Street, Hackensack. Brent Smallwood Senior Director.

My thanks and condolences to Vicki L. Cowan on the loss of her mother and for sharing these family photographs. Thanks also to Cynthia S. Ellis for the notification of Mrs. Cowan’s passing and for connecting me with the Vick-Cowan family.

Lane Street Project: another search for gravestones in Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries.

First: my request for the Vick cemetery survey and documentation re the decision to destroy its headstones? As yet unfilled, though the city attorney assures me it’s coming soon.

With boots and gloves and a hand pruner, I returned to Rountree/Odd Fellows/Vick cemeteries on a frosty Saturday morning to see what else there is to see.  Walking through the clear strip of Odd Fellows, I noticed immediately that someone had neatened up the stones that are usually lying higgledy-piggledy on the ground. Here, Clarence L. Carter and his daughter Omega Carter Spicer.

Picking my way toward the back edge of the cleared section, it dawned on me that this was once the main entrance to Odd Fellows. The hinges on the post to the right were the give-away. And the traces of asphalt driveway.

Standing near Irma Vick‘s headstone and looking in, I spotted this, plain as day. It’s hard to imagine how I missed it in December.

It’s the double headstone of Daniel and Fannie Blount Vick, Samuel H. Vick‘s father and mother. Daniel Vick died in 1908 (112 years to the day before my “discovery” of his grave) and Fannie Vick sometime in the late 1800s. (Is that a bullet pockmark?)

A few feet away, the headstone of Viola Leroy Vick, daughter of Samuel and Annie Washington Vick. She died as a toddler in 1897, and East Wilson’s Viola Street was named in her honor.

And then, perhaps 25 feet away, cocooned in honeysuckle and evil smilax, this monument loomed. Was it Sam Vick’s?

To my astonishment — no. The honeysuckle pulled off like a cape (after I wasted time hacking at the briars on the other side) to reveal that this remarkable marble headstone, which tops six feet, marks the grave of Wiley Oates. (More about him later.) Samuel and Annie Vick’s gravestones remain elusive.

I’d bought the cheapest hand pruners I could find, and they performed cheaply, but I got through to this gravestone and its companion, which appear to lie across the property line in Rountree cemetery.

The gravestone for Amos Batts’ wife, Jennie Batts, who died in 1945. Behind it in the left corner of the frame you can see the base of a pine whose diameter is at least two feet, which gives a measure of how long this cemetery has been neglected.

Here is the “canal” described in the Rountree cemetery deed. It’s a channeled section of Sandy Creek, and I imagine Rountree Missionary Baptist Church once performed baptisms here. I spent idyllic childhood afternoons exploring along the banks of this waterway perhaps a quarter-mile downstream. Sandy Creek is a tributary of Hominy Swamp, which flows into Contentnea Creek, which empties into the Neuse River at Grifton, North Carolina.

Here, I’m standing on the south bank of Sandy Creek looking down into the bowl that was once Rountree cemetery. I have not found any markers in this low-lying section, though there appear to be collapsed graves. Repeated flooding was one of the factors that led to the abandonment of cemetery. The undergrowth is starting to green up and, as the weather warms, soon these graveyards will be nearly impenetrable without sharper, heavier tools.

Daffodils are not native to eastern North Carolina and would not ordinarily be found blooming in the middle of the woods. This thick drift has naturalized from bulbs perhaps more than one hundred years old. Daffodils were commonly planted in cemeteries to symbolize the death of youth or mortality.

My exit strategy failed at the edge of barricade of wild blackberry twenty-five feet deep between me and Lane Street. I had to scramble back through the woods to gain egress at the ditch dividing Rountree from Odd Fellows. All this battling ate up my time, and I wasn’t able to explore the far end of Odd Fellows, next to Vick. Peering through the fence, though, I did see this marker for Lizzie May Barnes, daughter of H. and L. Barnes, who died in 1919.

——

  • Amos Batts died 24 March 1937 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 61 years old; was born in Wilson County to Thomas and Mariah Batts; was married to Jennie Batts; worked as a common laborer; and lived at 1202 East Nash Street. Informant was Jennie Batts.
  • Jennie Batts died 25 December 1945 at her home at 1202 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was the widow of Amos Batts; was 58 years old; was born in Wilson County to unknown parents; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Eddie Batts was informant.
  • Lizzie Barnes died 3 April 1919 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 August 1918 in Wilson County to Henry Barnes and Lena Woodard.