Alex Williamson cemetery, revisited.

I wrote here about visiting the Alex and Gracy Shaw Williamson cemetery. This cemetery lies in a partially cleared patch of woods adjacent to the Hardy H. Williamson cemetery, and I wondered about the relationship between the two families. I asked Gregory D. Cosby when I met with him recently and was astounded by his answer. Though the earliest marked grave in the Alex Williamson cemetery dates to 1885, the graveyard is much older. It was originally, in fact, the burying ground for African-Americans enslaved by Hardy H. Williamson’s family. The wooden markers that identified the oldest graves have been lost, but some rough fieldstone markers remain. Though I know the locations of many graves of formerly enslaved Wilson County residents, most are buried in church graveyards or graveyards established on family land, and this is the only so-called “slave cemetery” that I have located in the county.

The John B. Williamson house, which is built around a house originally built for Hardy Williamson.

Gregory Cosby also told me that the house across the road from the cemeteries, which I had used as a landmark to find them, was originally the Hardy Williamson house. (Hardy Williamson was Hardy H. Williamson’s father.) In History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985), I found this entry for John Bartley Williamson Family that I’ve been overlooking for decades: “The original portion of the John Bartley Williamson homeplace, located on Highway 42, west of Wilson, in Spring Hill township near Buckhorn, is believed to have been built by his grandfather, Hardy Williamson. … Most of the Williamsons are buried in the Williamson cemetery, which is located across the highway from the John B. Williamson someplace, or in the Buckhorn church cemetery. Almost adjacent to the Williamson cemetery is a Williamson slave cemetery.

Photo of house by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2019; aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.


  1. Is there documentation stating of the existence of an Alex and Gracy Wiliiamson Cemetery? I am 68 years old and have lived on most of my life. My sister and I own part of the Alex Williamson land currently. The cemetery where the Blacks are buried was divided by a wire fence which is crushed to the ground. The driveway to the cemetery is now covered overgrown. Even in the Williamson Family Bible, the cemetery is called the Hardy Williamson Cemetery. The land was originally own by the Nichols which Hardy obtained through the inheritance of his wife, daughter of Nichols.

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by “existence,” Ann. The cemetery obviously exists. I’ve been there. And it is clearly separate from the Hardy H. Williamson cemetery, which is completely cleared and fenced. I describe the “black cemetery” as Alex and Gracy Williamson cemetery because their headstones are the largest. (That’s also how it’s described in Wilson County Genealogical Society’s cemetery volume.) I make no claim that Alex owned the cemetery land. However, it is clear, per this post, that the area in which Alex, Gracy and their descendants are buried also contains the graves of their ancestors, and I can DEFINITELY document that Thomas, Hardy and Hardy H. Williamson were slaveowners who owned, among others, Alex.

      1. Yes, you are right that the cemetery is on the Williamson land. I was only questioning the name of Alex & Gracy Williamson Cemetery. Alex’s mother was a servant of Mary Ann Nichols which she inherited after her father died. Mary Ann married Hardy Williamson. As growing up, the members of Rocky Branch would clean the cemetery in the spring and fall each year. My husband and I cleaned it until my husband got sick in the late 1900’s. T
        More family members are buried there but markers were destroyed doing a cleanup in the 1999. Alex and Gracy is my great great grand parents. My great grand and grand parents are buried in another Willuamson place. The only name I heard that the cemetery was called is the Williamson Cemetery. I was trying to find out where the name Alex and Gracy Williamson orginally came from so I can add this to my documentation of the family history. Thank you for responding to my comment. I appreciate all you have done and is doing to inform and make aware of the Black History in Wilson County.

      2. Thank you so much, Ann! I hope you’ve seen my other Williamson posts. This is such a fascinating group of families — and so fortunate that there is such a wealth of documentary evidence concerning their lives! If you have old (pre-1950) photos of Williamsons, I’d love to share them here!

  2. I do have alot of the history of the family including the place where my great grandfather, Paul Williamson, owned his first store. The second store is closed and sits on the property which my sister and I owned. My grandfather, James Williamson, operated/owned a garage next to the store. The area was called the Williamson Community.

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