Cemeteries, no. 24: the Mercer cemetery.

Armed with a 1937 Leica IIIa 35mm camera, Brian Grawburg has begun a project to document “lost” Wilson County graveyards. Using early 20th topographical maps, WPA cemetery surveys, Google Maps, and tips from the public, Grawburg has battled heat, humidity and nearly impenetrable thickets to create and preserve a record of these forgotten spaces.

This is the first in a series of posts exploring African-American cemeteries that Grawburg has rediscovered.

This cemetery, off Carter Road in Gardners township in eastern Wilson County, contains six marked graves:

  • Willie Reid, 23 September 1920-23 September 1920
  • Sula Reid, 23 September 1920-23 September 1920
  • Jack L. Barnes, 1921-1946
  • Robert Mercer, 1908-1930
  • Charlie Mercer, 1902-1936
  • Gilmore McKoy, 29 August 1873-18 October 1939

Robert and Charlie Mercer were sons of Dempsey and Mattie Knight Mercer. Gilmore McKoy was Mattie Knight Mercer’s second husband. I have not been able to identify the Reids or Jack Barnes.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Dempsy Mercer, 27; wife Mattie, 20; children Charles, 7, William, 6, Robert, 3, and Walter, 2 months; nieces Lula, 2, and Gertrude Hines, 1 month; and sister Margarett Hines, 19.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Dempsy Mercer, 40, widower; children Charley, 17, William, 15, Robert, 10, Walter, 9, and Maggie, 8; sister-in-law Maggie Hines, 24, and her children Lula, 8, Silvey, 7, and James, 4. [Dempsey Mercer was separated/divorced rather than widowed.]

On 15 August 1929 in Wilson, Robert Mercer, 22, of Gardners, son of Dempsey Mercer and Fannie [last name no given], married Retha Barnes, 14, of Gardners, daughter of Blannie and Dora Barnes.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Dempsey Mercer, 50; [second] wife Fannie, 40; children Charlie, 27, Lee, 19, Jonah, 16, Jamar, 13, and C[illegible], 10; and lodger Rachel Melton, 30.

Robert Mercer died 9 December 1930 in Gardners township. Per his death certificate, he was 23; single; was a farmer; was born in Wilson County to Dempsey Mercer and Mattie Knight; and was buried in Wilson County. Informant was Dempsey Mercer.

Charlie Mercer died 9 December 1936 in Gardners township. Per his death certificate, he was born in January 1902 in Edgecombe County to Dempsey Mercer and Mattie Knight; was single; worked as a farmer. Mattie McCoy was informant.

Gilbert McKoy died 18 October 1939 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 29 August 1883 in Whiteville, N.C., to Waddie McKoy and Annie Richardson; worked in a China American tobacco factory; was married to Mattie McCoy; and was buried in Wilson County.

For more information about this cemetery, please contact Brian Grawburg at archive@myglnc.com.

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