Cemeteries, no. 23: the Taylor-Barnes cemetery.

Deborah Webb sent the tip a month ago — there was an abandoned graveyard off Webb Lake Road that contained the remains of an unknown African-American family. After my library talk Tuesday, I got some additional directions, and yesterday morning I set out it find it.

L. and T. Speight gave permission for me to park in their driveway and pointed out the copse out back. Standing in the middle of a turned-under corn field, such a stand of woods is a tell-tale sign of a cemetery.

It was a fight getting in. The smilax is ferocious. Breaking through though, I could see unmarked, subsided graves across the forest floor.

I saw no headstones, and only two graves bore small metal funeral home markers, meant to be temporary. The paper inserts identifying the dead were long gone.

Toward the back, there was a single vault. Its concrete and brick cover had collapsed at one end, exposing the interior. I did not disturb it to search for a name. Mr. Speight told me that the graveyard had been there when his grandfather bought the farm in 1938, that the last burial had been more than 30 years ago, and that he thought the family was named Barnes.

Wilson County Genealogical Society has published several volumes of transcribed cemetery records. I didn’t have access to my copies, so I consulted Joan Howell, the tireless spirit behind the project. She called me back this morning with an ID. This is the Aaron Barnes cemetery, first surveyed in 1991 (and so named for the earliest visible grave). It was overgrow even then, with only the vault and two metal markers visible among the 33 identifiable burial sites. Two graves bore names — Aaron Barnes (1888-1951) and Pattie J. Taylor, who died 3 January 1953 at age 16.

Here is Aaron Barnes’ death certificate:

Aaron Barnes had been a World War veteran, and his widow Martha Barnes applied for a military headstone for his grave:

Theirs was a late marriage. Aaron Barnes, 50, of Gardners township, son of Jarman and Mollie Barnes, married Martha Lancaster, 38, of Gardners, daughter of John D. and Susan Lancaster, on 3 November 1938 in Wilson.

Though the cemetery is called Taylor’s on Aaron Barnes’ records, and presumably most of the burials were of members of that family, I have not found information about young Pattie J. Taylor. However, Lillie Taylor died 17 January 1941 in Gardners township and, per her death certificate, she was born 6 January 1882; was married to James Taylor; was born in Wilson County to Jarman and Mollie Barnes; and was buried in Taylors cemetery near Elm City. Also, Lillie and James H. Taylor’s male infant was stillborn on 24 December 1917 in Gardners township and was buried at “Taylors place.”

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2019. Many thanks to Deborah Webb, L. and T. Speight, and Joan Howell.


  1. Your research is relentless and so interesting! You’ll read a cemetery scene in Half-Truths. It was inspired by a true story (I’ll tell you more after you read the manuscript–don’t want to give it away!) as well as finding out about this cemetery in Charlotte. http://www.thecharlottepost.com/index.php?src=news&refno=4071&category=News. It’s in the middle of the affluent South Park area. See this too:https://saintlloydchurchcemetary.wordpress.com.

  2. i believe this to be my family. i’m the daughter to Jesse Taylor. Rebetha Taylor Carter

      1. I’m still trying to connect the pieces. Bryant Taylor (1839-1933) and Dinah Barnes (1844-1917) were my dad’s Jesse Taylor’s (1926-2017) grandparents. Bryant and Dinah are James Taylor’s (1883-?) parents. I haven’t found anything on Patti, but the other names mentioned in your piece, are familiar.

  3. And to add, I came across this article because some of the death certificates I found mentioned the Taylor Cemetery as the burial site.

    1. This isn’t the Taylor graveyard. Or rather, there were many Taylor graveyards in Wilson County, especially in the western half that was once part of Nash County. This graveyard is derived from the names on the only two identifiable graves.

      1. This is the Taylor’s Graveyard. My name is John Taylor. I knew of the Graveyard before you were born. Matter of fact. My Great Great Grandfather Bryant Taylor once owne the land it sits on.

      2. Thank you for clarifying. I knew I was right! I’m in Texas, but the next time I visit my mom in Wilson, I am going to see if I can locate the graveyard.

      3. My point is that there are many family cemeteries in Wilson County known as “the Taylor cemetery.” Thus, while this may be a Taylor cemetery, one should not assume that it is the only cemetery in which Taylors are buried, or that everyone buried here is named Taylor. There are very few marked graves in this cemetery, which makes its identification by anyone other than a family member difficult. Bryant Taylor’s own death certificate does not name the cemetery in which he was buried. I assume from your assertions, however, that he is buried here.

  4. Oh, ok. I was going by the death certificate shown in your piece as it states Taylor Cemetery.

      1. These have to be my relatives, there are just too many coincidences, but I will keep looking, of course. Thank you.

    1. Rebetha. This is the Taylor Cemetery. They are your relatives. Yes there may be other cemetery’s in North Carolina that carry the name Taylor, but this one is the one that belongs to our family. If you want to know the Taylor Family History. Please ask me. Yes. Bryant Taylor did own this land. Bryant Taylor had 4 sons. James, Jessie, Joe, and Frank. He had one daughter Mary. Frank Taylor was my Great Grandfather. Trust me. I know more about our history than anyone present at this time with the exception of a few older cousins. Frank Taylor, my Great Grandfather died when I was in the 10th grade. I’m in Wilson North Carolina right now. Bryant Taylor was married to Dianah Barnes. I’ve been to that cemetery plenty of times. Frank Taylor was married to Emma Barnes. Frank Taylor’s oldest son was Connie Taylor who was my Grandfather. Bryant Taylor did purchase the land the cemetery is on. The land was auctioned off but the cemetery is still in the family.

  5. Hello I was wondering about young Pattie J Taylor. Maybe she is my aunt. My Grandparents Benjamin Franklin Taylor and Delphia M. Ruffin had a daughter by that name who died at 16 yrs old. I have recorded that she died 23 January 1963, however. We used to live right around the corner from the Webb Lake Road Taylor’s cemetery on Highway 42.

    1. My info for Pattie’s death date may be a misreading of the gravestone or incorrect info carved in it. I would bet money that this is your aunt’s grave. Thank you for reaching out.

    2. Will. Benjamin Taylor was my Great Uncle. The daughter you are talking about was called Janie. She still has siblings that are living. I talk with them on a regular basis. My advice to you is that you contact them or myself for information.

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