Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Photographs

Landscape, no. 2.

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Statesville, North Carolina. April 2011.

Green Street cemetery, Statesville, North Carolina, abloom in buttercups.  Though largely empty of headstones, this graveyard is probably close to full.  Most of the existing stones, including that of my great-great-grandfather John W. Colvert, date from 1890-1930 — ex-slaves and their children.  For some, it is the most detailed record of their lives.  One: MARY WILLIAMS passed away Mar. 13, 1917 in her 94th Year Blind cheerful her simple faith was an inspiration Rest in peace Aunt Mary.

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Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Row Q.

Less than an hour after we got from the WCGS meeting last night, I received an email from president Joan Howell. I’d mentioned to her that I was trying to locate an unmarked grave at Rest Haven, she’d offered to check her records, and there it was: Nina F. Hardy, Section 3, Lot 20, Q in the street, Space 4.

This is how the morning went:

  • My father and I drove over to Rest Haven, but quickly realized that there was no way to determine where A’nt Nina’s grave was just by looking.
  • We got back in the car and crossed town to Maplewood Cemetery, where the City of Wilson Cemetery Commission is headquartered. The manager provided a chart and a print-out and a good suggestion. “Walk about halfway up Q,” she said. “Then call me and tell me what headstones you see.” [Sidenote: Q was once a track running through Sections 3 and 4 of the cemetery, like P and R to either side of it. Years ago, Q and the other odd-lettered rows were closed off and converted to burial space. The designation “Q in the street” means that A’nt Nina’s grave lies under what was once a pathway.]
  • Back to Rest Haven. A few minutes and a call later, we had the general location of A’nt Nina’s grave between those of Rev. Calvin Harris Boykin and Annie Thompson. I snapped a shot or two, though there is nothing much to see. [Cemetery employees can pinpoint graves, but none were available at the time.]
  • No time like the present, so we headed to our cousin L.H.’s house. His family owns a vault business that does a sideline in gravestones. I ordered a simple flat granite marker to be inscribed with A’nt Nina’s name, birth and death dates; my dad wrote a check (I’d left mine in Georgia, and L.H. doesn’t truck with credit cards); and it was done. I kissed L.H.’s new grandson, and he promised to send me a photo when the marker is installed. [L.H. remembers A’nt Nina. I don’t know why that surprised me. When they arrived in Wilson from Wayne County, Nina and L.H.’s grandfather, Jesse “Jack” Henderson, both lived with Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs on Elba Street.]

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My father standing at the approximate location of Nina Hardy’s grave this morning. Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson, North Carolina.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 15: Henderson-Aldridge.

There was another Aldridge cemetery, but its whereabouts are only vaguely remembered.  Not far off Highway 117.  A few miles north of Dudley. Robert Aldridge was buried there about 1899 and, presumably his wife Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge, too. There they remain, though others who died in that era were disinterred and moved to what is now known as the Henderson-Aldridge cemetery.

The oldest graves belong to Robert and Eliza’s son John W. Aldrich (1853-1910), his wife Vicey Artis Aldrich (1865-1927), and their daughters Lula Aldridge (1882-1918) and Amanda Aldridge Newsome. [“Aldrich” was the preferred spelling of son J. Thomas Aldrich, who erected the stones.] Most of the other graves belong to descendants of John and Vicey, or of John’s brother Robert Jr. and his offspring.

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Burials include Catherine Aldridge Davis (1900-2009) and her son George E. Davis (1921-1964); Lenora Henderson (1902-1961) and husband Henry Lee Henderson (1901-1942); Aaron H. Henderson (1922-1943); Horace B. Henderson (1923-1984) and wife Katie Lee Henderson (1924-1963); Hoover Aldridge (1929-1970); Dr. James T. Aldrich (1890-1968) and wife Athalia F. Aldrich; Frances Newsome (1883-1961); Allen Aldridge (1908-1969); Milford Aldridge (1913-1985); Sarah Eliza Aldridge Powell (1918-1998); Paul Aldridge (1913-1947) and wife Lonie Mae Aldridge (1919-1940); Robert Aldridge (1865-1941); Lula Aldridge (1882-1919); Amanda A. Newsome (1892-1918); Bennie R. Aldridge Jr. (1940-2008); and, most recently, Isaiah Len Henderson (1998-2013) and Ross M. Sutton (1935-2013).

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2013.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

A Seaberry clue.

Back in December, I went on a hunt for Artis cemeteries in the Eureka area. One that I found, just south of the others, holds the remains of William M. Artis and his family. Today, while I was sorting old documents, I ran across William’s death certificate. His place of birth, which I’ve surely read a hundred times, seized my eye:

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“Family (Seabury)”? Was this graveyard originally the resting place of William’s maternal great-grandfather, Aaron Seaberry, who died just after 1910? Are there other Seaberrys here, including William’s mother Frances Seaberry Artis? (Who was erroneously referred to as Frances Hagans above. “Hagans” was her mother’s maiden name and the surname of her half-brother Napoleon Hagans. William’s age is off, too. He was 70 when he died.)

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 14: Pleasant Shade.

Cardinal direction can be difficult to gauge on a peninsula, but you leave my late grandmother’s house in Newport News headed west (I think) on 35th Street. After a couple of blocks, you’ll cross Chestnut Avenue, and the street becomes Shell Road. You are now in Hampton, and a cemetery is on your left. Don’t turn at the entry to the first part — that’s white. Go down a little further to the second — Pleasant Shade.

Pleasant Shade is, according to founder James East’s headstone, “the first cemetery to be operated and controlled by colored people in Tidewater Va.” My mother’s parents, John C. Allen jr. and Margaret Colvert Allen; her paternal grandparents, John C. Allen Sr. and Mary Holmes Allen; and her aunt Marion Allen Lomans are buried there.

I have never seen it looking wild (though it often feels desolate), but Pleasant Shade’s condition warranted the formation in 2011 of a restoration group. Its website mentions my great-grandfather John C. Allen Sr. among notable burials. Even had it not, I obviously need to contribute.

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Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2011.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Final resting place.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to get at it. GPS coordinates and satellite views showed the cemetery way back from the road on private property, without even a path to get to it. I took a chance, though, and pulled up in the driveway of the house closest to it. 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 approached the final stretch, 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.

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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 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:

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Elder Jonah Williams, brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis.

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At his side, wife Pleasant Battle Williams. And his children Clarissa, J.W. and Willie nearby.

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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?

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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. He has invited me back anytime, and I intend to take him up on the offer.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 13: Artis Town.

We passed Edwards cemetery on the left, rounded the curve, and there, just where I suspected, was the turn-off onto a farm road leading to Artis Town cemetery. The graveyard is a rectangle of green amid bare spring fields, neatly mowed. A row of weedy trees bristles down one side, broken limbs scattered from recent storms. The oldest stones tilt sideways or sprawl toppled on their backs, but the cemetery is obviously cared for. It lies at the heart of what was once known as Artis Town, a hundred or more acres between Highway 58 and Speights Bridge Road on which lived and farmed Artises and Edwardses in every direction, descendants of Daniel Artis, who bought the land in the 1800s. There was even a racetrack here, said my cousin, where men would line up horses and buggies for weekend contests. As time went by, however, the land got “swindled down.”

Daniel Artis’ headstone stands in a shadowy pocket underneath a chinaberry tree, the grave itself sprinkled with wrinkled yellow fruit. The small white marble obelisk is a testament to Daniel’s prosperity and the esteem in which his offspring held him.

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I did not locate stones for any of Daniel’s children in the graveyard, though surely some are buried there. (Daughter Clara Artis Edwards is buried in the nearby Edwards cemetery.) Many markers memorialize the deaths of descendants of Loderick Artis and Prior Ann Artis Sauls Thompson, including Loderick’s daughter Sarah Artis Speight:

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and son, Manceson Artis:

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and daughter Hannah Artis Mitchell, as well as Prior Ann’s daughter Mariah Sauls Edwards:

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and a host of other Saulses, Forbeses, Artises, Speights and Mitchells descended from Daniel Artis.

Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2 May 2014.

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