Births Deaths Marriages

Notice of intention to disinter.

On sequential weeks in April and May 2006, the Wilson Daily Times ran this Notice of Intention to Disinter, Remove and Reinter Graves.


Notice is hereby given to the known and unknown relatives of those persons buried in The Wilder Family Cemetery located in Springhill Township, Wilson County North Carolina and being described as follows: BEING all Tract No. 1 containing 130.94 (C/L of Creek & Branches); Tract No. 2 containing 24.84 acres (C/L/ of Road & Branch); Tract No. 3 containing 11.17 acres (to C/L of Road); and Tract No. 4 containing 4.20 acres (to C/L of Road), as shown on a map entitled “Survey for Kemit David Brame, Jr., Property of Charles B. Brame, Jr., et al,” which map is recorded in Plat Book 27, page 204, Wilson County Registry; for reference see Deeds recorded in Book 125, page 583, Book 249, page 313, Book 249, page 322, Book 290, page 306, Book 381, page 37, and Book 419, page 218, Wilson County Registry. Being better described as approximately 500′ northwest of the intersection of NC#42 Highway and Neal Road (SR #1198).


There are 2 marked graves said cemetery, Josiah Wilder DOB – April 5, 1866, DOD – April 22, 1919; Elizabeth Wilder Barnes, DOB October 5 1898, DOD – July 23, 1928.


There are approximately 8-10 unknown (unmarked) graves in said cemetery; that all of the graves will be relocated and reentered in the Rocky Creek United Church of Christ Cemetery, located on NC #581 Highway, Kenly, North Carolina. Also the grave of Chestiney Earp Wilder, DOB – July 11, 1869, DOD – January 10 1957 will be relocated from the southeast corner of the cemetery to the northwest corner of the cemetery. Then a complete record of where these deceased person will be reentered will be on file with the Wilson County Registry of Deeds, Wilson, North Carolina. You are further notified that the graves are being moved under the provisions of North Carolina General Statute #65-13, and that the removals will not begin until this notice has been published four (4) successive times in The Wilson Daily Times, Wilson, North Carolina and until approval to do so has been given by the Wilson City Council, Wilson, North Carolina. This the 3rd day of April, 2006.    R. Ward Sutton [address omitted] ***


Here is the rough map of the site attached to the Removal of Graves Certificate and filed with the Wilson County Registry of Deeds: 

The Certificate gives two reasons as “basis for removal” — (1) to give perpetual care, (2) subdivision development. This Google Maps aerial view of the former Josiah Wilder property clearly shows the subdivision that now covers the former site of his family’s cemetery:

As shown in this photograph posted to, the Wilder family’s new plot at Rocky Branch cemetery is marked with an explanatory headstone:


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. 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.

In memory of my husband.


Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1960.

For at least 15 years, Mary Jane Bynum Lassiter placed an annual ad in the Daily Times to commemorate her husband Dempsey Lassiter‘s life.


In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: lumber sawyer Charley Bynum, 41; wife Julia Ann, 43; and children Calvin, 21, Mary Jane, 18, Ameta, 16, Annie, 13, John C., 9, and Abraham, 1.

Dempsy Lester, 38, of Wilson, son of Green and Mary Lester, and Mary Jane Bynum, 28, of Wilson, daughter of Charlie and Julie Bynum. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony on 2 October 1912 at the bride’s residence. Witnesses were A.R. Phillips, Roscoe Barnes, and C.L. Coppedge.

Rufus Lassiter died 10 October 1914 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 11 July 1913 in Wilson to Dempsey Lassiter and Mary J. Bynum.

In 1918, Dempsey Lassiter registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he lived at 103 East Street; was born 28 October 1874; was a blacksmith for Hackney Wagon Company; and his nearest relative was Mary Jane Lassiter.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on East Street, wagon factory laborer Dempsey Lassiter, 35, and wife Mary, 25.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lassiter Dempsey (c: Mary J) farmer h 106 S East

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 106 East Street, owned and valued at $1250, Dempsey Lassiter, 55, wife Mary J., 44; nephew Charles Bynum, 16; and nieces Katie Powell, 10, and Willie M. Leonard, 6.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Dempsey Lassiter, 65; county school teacher Mary, 55; and widowed sister-in-law Carrie Bynum, 30, a housekeeper.

Dempsey Lassiter died 16 July 1946 at his home at 106 South East Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he he was married; was 68 years old; was born in Wilson County to Green Lassiter and Mary Powell; was a farmer; and his informant was Mary J. Lassiter. He was buried in Rountree cemetery.

Mary Jane Lassiter died 21 August 1966 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 84 years old; was born in Wilson County to Charles Bynum and Julia Ann Davis; was a school teacher; and was a widow. James Bynum was informant.

Suffer the little children: death by accident.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away with stunning regularity. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children.

Few Wilson County children who died in that era were buried in marked graves. In town, original burials were in Oaklawn or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, and headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time. By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

  • On 13 January 1914, Prince Albert Barnes, 14, of Wilson, son of Arren and Margaret Barnes, died of a “blow upon head & fracture of the skull, accidental.” He worked as a laborer.
  • On 2 February 1915, Herman Carroll, 6, son of A.J. and Marchaline Pierce Carroll, died when a falling tree fractured his skull “from ear to ear.”
  • On 10 March 1915, John Hines, 8, of Toisnot township, son of John Hines, was killed by a runaway mule. His feet were caught in the stirrups, and he was dragged head down for half a mile. He was buried in Elm City Colored Cemetery.
  • On 22 April 1917, Lonnie Hilliard, 3, died after his ankle was fractured in an automobile accident.
  • On 2 May 1918, Elma Taylor, 5, of Taylors township, daughter of Alice Taylor and Haywood Johnson, fell in a well and drowned. Her family buried her.
  • On 9 August 1921, Fredie Williams, 15, of Wilson township, son of Richard and Mary Williams, drowned. He was buried in “Barnes grave yd.”

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 August 1921.

  • On 24 October 1921, Robert Speight, 17, in Wilson township, son of James Adkinson and Mamie Hill, was “killed at sawmill by some sort of machinery striking him on the head accidentally.”
  • On 6 March 1922, Novella McClain, 8, of Wilson, daughter of Charley and Mary Ella McClain, died from a blow to the head, over her right eye, by an automobile.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 March 1922.

  • On 11 December 1923, Lily Mae Reid Jones, 17, of Wilson, was “accidentally killed by train.” She was a factory laborer and a widow.
  • On 23 December 1923, Rosa Lee Jones, 5, of Saratoga township, daughter of Garfield and Bessie Parker Jones, died after she was “accidentally run over by car automobile.”
  • On 15 May 1925, Massey L. Murchinson, 10, of Elm City, son of A.A. and Annie Townsend Murchinson, drowned by accident.
  • On 6 April 1926, Eddie B. Bass, 5, of Wilson township, son of James and Geneva Clifton Bass, was “accidentally killed while playing in a tree [fell] and broke his neck; instant death.”

Suffer the little children: death by violence.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away with stunning regularity. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children.

Few Wilson County children who died in that era were buried in marked graves. In town, original burials were in Oaklawn or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, and headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time. By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.


Though it appears that there was relatively little intentional homicide, death by gunshot was a dispiritingly common occurrence:

  • On 16 March 1910, Mary Lillie Loyd, 10, of Wilson, daughter of Bettie Loyd, died “from gunshot wound, accidentally fired.”
  • On 23 October 1911, Ida L. Speights, 7, of Wilson, daughter of J.C and Rebecca Robinson Speight, died of a “gun shot accidentally by Fred Davis carelessly handling gun among children.” (In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Green Street, Jake Speights, 45, laborer; wife Rebecca, 30; and children Eva, 14, Lennie, 12, Joseph, 10, Ida, 5, Bessie, 3, and Addie, 1.)

Wilson Daily Times, 27 October 1911.

  • On 28 January 1913, Floyd Anderson, 6, of Toisnot township, son of Charlie Anderson, “was accidentally shot by his brother a boy 8 years old.” (In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Township #12, Edgecombe County: Charlie Anderson, 24, and wife Viola, 20, both farm laborers, and sons Thomas, 4, and Floyd, 3.)
  • On 24 March 1914, James Scott Johnson, 8, of Elm City, son of James and Lola Batten [Battle] Johnson, died of an “accidental gunshot wound, self-inflicted.” (In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: James Johnson, 35, drayman for wholesale grocery; wife Lola, 34, washerwoman; and children Laurenzell, 6, and James S., 4.)
  • On 5 July 1914, Clinton Sylvester Ayers, 6, of Wilson, son of William and Zilfie Dew Ayers, died of a “gunshot wound, accidental.” A second death certificate, for Sylvester Ayers, 6, of Spring Hill, gives the cause of death as “gunshot wound in knee, death from shock after operation, accident.” (In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Red Hill Road, William T. Ayres, 54; wife Zilphia, 45; and children David J., 15, Lillie, 11, Albert, 9, Walter, 7, Solomon, 4, and Clinton S., 1.)
  • On 2 January 1917, Minnie Barnhill, 11, of Wilson, daughter of Marcellus and Mary Barnhill, died from a “rifle bullet through brain by another person, accidental.”
  • On 31 January 1917, Eugenia Abram, 11, of Toisnot township, daughter of Tom and Sallie Bunn Abram, died from a “hemorrhage from gun shot wound (accidental).” (In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Tom Abram, 25, sawmill laborer; wife Sallie, 22; and daughters Genie, 4, Mary, 2, and Savannah, 1.)
  • On 18 November 1918, Simon Moore, 13, of Saratoga township, son of Marcellus and Lissie Rountree Moore, was “accidentally killed by gunshot wound.” (In the 1910 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County: Marcelas Moore, 26; wife Lissie, 24; and sons Simon, 4, and Henry, 2.)
  • On 22 July 1919, Lewis Henry Williams, 15, of Toisnot township, son of Czaar and Annie Williams, died of “accidental gun shot in abdomen.”
  • On 24 March 1920, Mary Brown, 16, of Wilson, daughter of Willie and Mary Brown, died of a “stab wound above left nipple, homicide.”
  • On 20 May 1920, David Jackson Moore, 4, of Wilson, son of Andrew Moore and Minnie Mercer Moore, died of “gunshot of head, accident.”
  • On 8 July 1921, Ira Owens, of Wilson, son of Mack and Mary Gardens Owens, died as a result of “punishment received while at work on county road.” [In other words, Owens was beaten or otherwise abused to death while serving on a road crew, a sentence imposed by a county court.]

The obituary of Harry H. Bryant.

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Wilson Daily Times, 1 June 1946.

In the 1880 census of Smithfield, Johnston County, North Carolina: laborer Nestus Bryant, 48; wife Annie, 38; children Alice, 17, Arthur, 15, Thedo, 10, Harry, 6, John, 4, and Baby, 5 months; and mother Penny, 80.

Harry Bryant, 21, of Wilson, son of Nestus and Ann Bryant, married Julia Suggs, 20, of Wilson, daughter of Washington and Easter Suggs, on 26 September 1895 at the Methodist church, Wilson. Richard Renfrow applied for the license, and Presbyterian minister L.J. Melton performed the ceremony in the presence of Mattie Harris, L.A. Moore and Lovet Freeman.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Harry Bryant, 34; wife Julia, 34; and sons Leonard, 14, and Leroy, 4.

In 1918, Harry Haywood Bryant registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his draft registration card, he was born 23 January 1873; lived at 132 Sugg Street; was married to Julia Bryant; and worked as a carpenter for Boyle-Robertson Company in Newport News, Virginia.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Suggs Street, Harry Bryant, 44, carpenter for construction company, and wife Julia, 41.

Julia Bryant died 27 January 1929 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 23 September 1874 in Wilson to Washington Sugg and Easter Best of Greene County; was married to Harry Bryant; and resided at 618 Sugg Street.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 Suggs Street, meat market butcher Henry Bryant, 58; son Leon, 33; daughter-in-law Alice, 32; and granddaughter Christine, 9.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 Suggs Street, tobacco factory laborer Leon Bryant, 42; wife Alice, 42, tobacco factory laborer; daughter Christine, 19; and father Harry H., 68, widower and tobacco factory laborer.

Harry Bryant died 26 May 1946 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 July 1873 in Smithfield, North Carolina, to Nestus Bryant and Annie Bryant of Johnston County; he resided at 653 Suggs Street, Wilson; he was the widower of Julia Bryant; he had worked as a laborer; and he was buried in the Masonic cemetery. Leon Suggs was informant.


The obituary of Handy Earle.

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 January 1935.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Road, Albert Earl, 55; wife Katie, 43; and children Benjamin E., 13, James L., 8, and Handy, 4; and brother Alfred, 55.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Earl Handy, lab h 27 Carolina

Handy Earles died 21 January 1935 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, he was born 28 December 1906 in Wilson to Albert Earles and Cattie Battle, both of Edgecombe County; resided at 809 East Nash Street; and worked as an orderly at Moore-Herring Hospital. Mamie Taylor was informant.


He lived a fine Christian life.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 July 1944.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Wade Barnes, 33; wife Adline, 25; children John, 6, Willis, 3, and Varina, 1; and Dury Simons, 60.

On 23 November 1894, John A. Barnes, 21, of Wilson County, married Sarah Jane Staten, 23, of Wilson County, at Margarett Staten‘s in Wilson. Witnesses were Aaron Sharp, William Weaver and George Weaver.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County:  day laborer Johnny Barnes, 25; wife Sarah, 29; and children Victoria, 10, Robert, 8, Ella, 2, and Johnny, 8 months.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: John Barnes, 36, church preacher; wife Sarah, 38, dressmaker; and children Robert, 16, Mary E., 12, John E., 11, Wade, 8, Rosa L., 4, and Frank, 3.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Lipscomb Road, farmer John A. Barnes, 44; wife Sarah J., 45; and children Ella M., 22, John, 20, Wade, 17, Rosa L., 15, Frank, 12, Willie C., 10, Bessie M.C., 8, Roy L., 7, and Elson, 6. John Jr. and Wade worked as wagon factory laborers.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: at 739 Lipscomb, owned and valued at $2000, farmer John A. Barnes, 55; wife Sarah, 55; aunt Lucy Bynum, 65; and son Frank W., 23, cook at cafe.

Mary Ella Barnes died 24 March 1934 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 July 1897 in Wilson County to John Allen Barnes of Wilson County and Sarah Jane Staton of Tarboro; was single; worked as a laundress; and resided at 403 Viola Street.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: at 739 Lipscomb Road, garden worker John A. Barnes, 65; wife Sarah J., 71; son John A., Jr., body work-Hackney Bus Bodies; daughter-in-law Emma, 35, laundry; son Wade, 36; grandson James D., 17; and grandchildren George, 15, Odell, 13, and Margaret McAllister, 10, and Inez Tart, 9.

John Allen Barnes died 20 July 1944 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 January 1879 in Wilson County to Wade Barnes and Adeline Bynum; was married to Sarah Jane Barnes; lived at 739 Lipton [Lipscomb] Street; and was a preacher.

Access to the Elm City cemetery.

Cemetery Access Prompts Concern: Meant to deter vandals, chained road may discourage descendants

By Drew C. Wilson, Wilson Times, 15 August 2018.

ELM CITY — When Marie Knight brought her daughter to see her great-grandmother’s grave, she was disappointed to find a heavy chain across the access road leading to the cemetery.

Knight, a native of Elm City, had driven from Cary on Monday to meet her mother, Shelly Robinson, to visit the African-American cemetery where their relatives are buried.

The access road, located along the south side of the former Nexans wire and cable plant on Elm City Road across from the Family Dollar, has been open and unimpeded as long as either Knight or Robinson can remember.

Nexans was sold in September 2017 and become Elm City Warehouse LLC. The new owner, Charles Gardner, put up the chain at the entranceway.

Gardner said he wants to keep people from throwing trash, vandalizing and desecrating graves and using the spot as a lovers’ lane. He posted a sign with a telephone number to call for those seeking graveyard access.

“I have a caretaker who will go and unlock it for anybody that wants to go back there,” Gardner said. “I’m not denying anybody access. All I am doing is trying to keep people that don’t need to be back there drinking and throwing cans out.”

Knight called the number Monday and the caretaker responded in a short amount of time to unlock the chain.

“You basically have to get permission to come out here and visit your loved ones,” Knight said. “I guess when you set up a cemetery, you never set it up thinking that you are going to be barred from entering. That’s never a question that enters into your mind. It’s supposed to be open with free access. I feel that it needs to be remedied quickly and I am just appalled that someone would want to do it.”

The cemetery is located on 5.46 acres of land purchased in 1900 by the Elm City Colored Cemetery Commission, which is no longer active.

According to Knight, the property was acquired by a group of Elm City residents concerned that the resting places of many of the community’s black residents could be lost unless they staked claim to the property.

Indeed, there are graves that go back to the 1840s if not earlier at the site. There are also many graves of World War I, World War II and Korean War veterans there. The latest burial appears to have been in 2014.

Knight was so disappointed with the high grass, fallen branches and general disrepair that she decided to organize a cleanup day scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 1.

Knight said Elm City residents need to band together to take care of their ancestors’ resting places.

“My loved ones are out here and the people that I know,” Robinson said.

Elm City names like Gaston, Spivey, Williams, Brewer, Atkinson, Barnes and Harris are throughout the graveyard.

“The graves are still here but the headstones are broken off of a lot of them,” Robinson said. “They are laying in the dirt and I don’t like it. Some of them are covered up in weeds. When you come out here to see your loved one, you don’t want to see broken stones, trees all on top of them covering them up.”

Jonathan Russell, Elm City town manager, said the cemetery is outside the town limits but within its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

“It’s something that we have assisted with cleanup of debris and mowing just to kind of maintain it as a courtesy historically for a number of years,” Russell said. “We haven’t had any issues with any vandalism or any thefts that was reported while Nexans was in operation and we are aware that the new owner has engaged the town in regard to a couple of questions regarding the property. We advised him at that time that we did not want to restrict any access to the graveyard. We had some discussions regarding the graveyard that was back there and that there were citizens within the region that visited relatives there. Our stance on that since he has purchased the property (has been) to keep it open. It hasn’t been a major concern as far as vandalism taking place back in there.”

Russell said the town has previously assisted with the removal of fallen limbs, mowing the grass, removing some debris from time to time and cleaning up.

Knight said there could be a couple hundred graves at the site.

“I would encourage if there are any relatives or distant relatives that could reestablish the commission, that would be beneficial,” Russell said. “I think that would be helpful if they could possibly come to some type of an agreement with the current owner to provide easier access to it. I think that would probably be the best solution. The town is sympathetic with the citizens and family members who want to visit. If there is anything we can do to assist to facilitate anything between potential commission members and the owner, we will be glad to help.”

Knight said she has spoken to attorneys about how the commission might be reestablished.

Brian Grawburg, who has been surveying and photographing lost and hidden cemeteries in Wilson County, said Gardner’s chain on the access road is not illegal.

“The statute does specify that they have to provide access, but they are the ones to determine what the access is,” Grawburg said.

Grawburg said that while it may be an inconvenience to call for access, people need to understand that it may not be a bad thing to keep vandals and litterers out.

There is evidence that some gravestones have been knocked over and broken.

Grawburg has seen some old cemeteries that were heavily littered with debris.

“I have seen what can happen when it is accessible and nobody is looking after it,” Grawburg said. “If there is a driveway that they can go to, they will go up there. People will dump trash back there.”

Grawburg visited the cemetery Wednesday to document it.

“It’s historic,” Grawburg said. “We don’t want to lose historic things.”

Grawburg said Knight’s desire to organize a cleanup is a good idea.

“If they don’t get it done, it’s going to get to the point that it can’t get done because it’s so overgrown,” Grawburg said.

To reach Knight concerning details of the cemetery cleanup day, call 801-390-8017. To reach the caretaker for entry to the graveyard access road, call 252-289-5085.