I’ve written here of Rev. John W. Perry, the Episcopal rector who served both Tarboro’s Saint Luke and Wilson’s Saint Mark’s for more than a decade beginning in 1889.
I was headed out of Tarboro back toward Wilson yesterday when a sign at the edge of a somewhat shabby cemetery caught my eye — it was Saint Luke’s graveyard. The cemetery was established in the 1890s and likely contains many more graves than its headstones would indicate. Rev. Perry, his wife Mary Pettipher Perry, and several of their children are among the burials.
The Perry family plot lies in the shadow of this impressive light gray granite marker.
Rev. John W. Perry 1850-1918 He served St. Luke’s Parish for 37 years with honor to his Maker and himself.
Mary Eliza Pettipher Wife of Rev. J.W. Perry 1854-1929 Our lives were enriched because she lived among us.
Saint Delight Community Cemetery lies perhaps four miles inside Greene County from Wilson County’s Stantonsburg, but it is the final resting place of many Wilson County residents with roots in the Speights Bridge and Bullhead area of Greene.
Saint Delight contains more than one thousand graves within its well-kept borders. The stones marking these sites include dozens carved by Wilson marble cutter Clarence B. Best; at least two by an unknown artist whose style I have dubbed “angle-and-serif;” and two beauties of a style I have not seen before, characterized by white lettering, idiosyncratic numbers, and designs that could almost be described as dainty.
The astonishing headstone of Greene County native Adam Fields, who was both a Mason and an Elk.
Addie Edwards’ headstone. The illustration under its ornately shaped top is faded, but lovely.
The headstones of Dicie Williams, Thelma W. Joyner, and Cloudie Williams feature the angle-and-serif style of an unknown artist. I’ve seen only two other examples, both in William Chapel Cemetery.
In this post adapted from my personal genealogy blog, http://www.scuffalong.com, I tell of my small adventure searching for Jonah Williams’ grave just north of Eureka, in far northeast Wayne County.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to get at it. GPS coordinates and satellite views showed the cemetery on private property way back from the road, without even a path to reach it. I took a chance, though, and pulled up in the driveway of the closest house. A wary, middle-aged white woman was settling an elderly woman into a car as I stepped out. I introduced myself and told her what I was looking for. “Goodness,” she said. “I remember a graveyard back up in the woods when I was child. You should ask my cousin J.”
Following her directions, I knocked on the house of a door perhaps a quarter-mile down Turner Swamp Road. J.S. answered with a quizzical, but friendly, greeting, and I repeated my quest. Minutes later, I was sitting in J.’s back room, waiting for him to change shoes and look for me some gloves and find the keys to his golf cart. We bounced along a farm path for several hundred yards, then followed the edge of the woods along a fallow field. Along the way, J. told me about his family’s long history on the land, and the small house and office, still standing, in which his forebears had lived. As we slowed to a stop, he cautioned me about the briers that we were going to have to fight through and pulled out some hand loppers to ease our path. The cemetery, he said, was there — in that bit of woods bulging out into the plowed-under field.
Google Maps aerial.
The view from the ground.
When they were children, J. and his cousins roamed these woods at play. Though only a few markers were now visible, he recalled dozens of graves on this hillock. Turner Swamp runs just on the other side of the tree line nearby. Without too much difficulty, we cut our way in and angled toward the single incongruity in this overgrown copse — a low iron fence surrounding a clutch of headstones. I made for the tallest one, a stone finger pointing heavenward through the brush. At its base:
ElderJonah Williams 1845-1915
At his side, wife Pleasant Battle Williams, with their children Clarissa, J.W., and Willie Williams nearby.
Pleasant wife of Jonah Williams Born Dec. 23, 1842 Died Apr. 13, 1912. She hath done what she could.
In Glimpses of Wayne County, North Carolina: An Architectural History, authors Pezzoni and Smith note that the largely forgotten graveyard was believed to hold the remains of members of the Reid family. This is quite possibly true as Reids have lived in this area from the early 1800s to the present. As I followed J. through the brush, and my eye grew accustomed to the contours of the ground beneath us, I could see evidence of thirty to forty graves, and there are likely many more. Had this been a church cemetery? Was Turner Swamp Baptist Church (or its predecessor) originally here, closer to the banks of the creek for which it is named? If this were once the Reid family’s graveyard — known 19th and early 20th century burial sites for this huge extended family are notably few — how had Jonah and his family come to be buried there?
Pleasant Williams’ headstone at left, and Jonah Williams’ obelisk at right. The winter woods of eastern North Carolina are quite green well into December.
I am indebted to J.S. for the warmth and generosity shown to a stranger who showed up unannounced at his doorstep on a chilly December day, asking about graveyards. I have been at the receiving end of many acts of kindness in my genealogical sleuthings, but his offer of time and interest and knowledge — and golfcart — are unparalleled.
Do you know where Granite Point (or is it Grantie Point) cemetery is?
Detail from death certificate of Henry Joyner, who died 13 June 1944 in Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.
We know Granite Point cemetery was generally in the area of Silver Lake on N.C. Highway 58 just a mile or so from the Nash County line.
These men and women are known to have been buried there: George Bryant (1868-1941), Nathaniel Bryant (1910-1959), Henry Joyner (1866-1944), James A. Joyner (1932-1954), Maggie Joyner (1925-1949), Margaret Joyner (1867-1944), Ruth Joyner (1929-1969), Floyd Rand (1900-1962), and Ernest Winstead (1878-1952).
Last year, when someone accidentally toppled Henry Tart‘s magnificent obelisk, I despaired that resetting it would cost more than Lane Street Project’s meager coffers could ever disburse.
Today, then, when I read Billy Foster’s PM, I could hardly believe my eyes.
Here’s what Tart’s gray and white marble grave marker looked like yesterday.
And here it is after Foster Stone & Cemetery Care put it to rights.
Here’s the military marker for the grave of Corporal Willie Gay, the only known African-American Spanish-American war veteran buried in Wilson.
And here, released from a foot of soil:
I am deeply grateful to Billy Foster and Foster Stone & Cemetery Care for this generous gift to Odd Fellows Cemetery and Lane Street Project. We are working with him to identify our most pressing needs for repair and restoration and will raise funds to pay for his expert service.
Technological miscues last night prevented me from reaching the question-and-answer portion of my LSP presentation, but I did manage to record my exposition on the history of the Lane Street Project cemeteries and the Project itself. Please send me any questions you have about our work, and I’ll answer promptly.
The Season 3 kick-off clean-up is Saturday, January 14, and we hope to see you there!
As noted here, there is no end to the number of desecrated African-American cemeteries across this country. Ten or so years ago, I posted to my Tumblr account (scuffalong.tumblr.com, if you’re interested) a photo I took in a bizarre “cemetery” not far from where I live in Atlanta, Georgia.
Yesterday, I stumbled on a recent YouTube short that explores Gilbert Memorial a little further. There are echoes of Vick Cemetery in what happened to Gilbert — the themes and trajectories of all these sacred spaces are depressingly familiar.
My thanks to Doug Loggins for sharing Gilbert’s story.
Per unsourced notes, a slave cemetery lies adjacent to the Boykin-Lamm-Wells cemetery in Oldfields township. On an overcast November morning, I went to see what I could see. I am aware of only one verified slave cemetery in Wilson County, though there must have been many dozens. I was skeptical of this one, but also hopeful.
The cemetery, set a hundred yards or so behind a house under construction, contains 44 graves. Twenty-nine are marked with readable headstones, the earliest of which dates to 1892. Thus, there is no visible evidence that the cemetery dates to the antebellum period.
Of the remaining, several are marked with dressed fieldstone markers, such as those seen below. These graves are intermingled with those of Boykin-Lamm-Wells family members, an unlikely arrangement for the graves of enslaved people.
Stephen D. Boykin (1832-1910) was patriarch of the intermarried families buried here. He does not appear to have been a slaveowner, but his father, also named Stephen Boykin (1797-1864), was. In the 1850 federal slave schedule, the elder Boykin reported owning five enslaved people, ranging from a one month-old boy to a 35 year-old woman, and in 1860 reported 11 enslaved people, ranging from an eight-month-old girl to a 55 year-old man. If Boykin the elder is buried here, his grave is either unmarked or is marked by one of the fieldstones. If enslaved people are buried here, their graves are likely in the woods that border the cemetery on two sides.
On 28 June 1901, Wilson’s Board of Commissioners enacted town ordinances, including IX, which governed cemeteries. Twelve years later, the city abandoned African-American Oakdale Cemetery in favor of Vick Cemetery, which in turn it proceeded to neglect.
Section 1 — That any person making an interment in the Town other than in Maplewood or Oakdale Cemeteries should be subject to a fine of Ten Dollars.
Section 2 — That any one injuring or defacing the inclosures around Maplewood or Oakdale Cemeteries, or tombstones, or plucking the flowers shrubbery therein or in any Church yard, should be subject to a fine of Five Dollars.
Section 3 — That any person riding or driving a horse or vehicle within the Cemeteries faster than a walk should be subject to a fine of Five Dollars.
Section 4 — That the use of the avenues in the Cemeteries as public thoroughfares is hereby prohibited, under a penalty of Two Dollars for each offense.
Section 5 — That no dead body should be exhumed in the Cemeteries except by permission of the Mayor, under a penalty of Ten Dollars.
Section 6 — That it should be the duty of the Keeper of Cemeteries to keep all lots clean, keep all graves filled when caved and in good condition.
Section 7 — That the Keeper of Maplewood Cemetery should be and is hereby invested with full Police power and is denominated Cemetery Policeman.
Section 8 — That no Cemetery lots should be sold except for cash.
I have repeatedly gushed my admiration for the artistry of gravestone cutterClarence B. Best. In William Chapel church cemetery, I noticed two headstones bearing the distinctive work of another artist, this one unknown. He worked in concrete, incising narrow, upright letters with oversized serifs into the face of each marker. These markers, created during the decade after World War II, also feature highly stylized floral designs.
William Wells July 30_1886 Oct. 25_1946 Gone But Not Forgotten