Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Old Cemetery Discovered Near Averasboro

Old Cemetery Discovered Near AverasboroHistory Buffs Working To Preserve It
Tom Woerner

From the My Daily Record

Harnett County News EditorBryan Avery says history is one of his passions, so when he heard about a discarded cemetery lost in the woods near the Averasboro Battleground, his interest was roused.

Mr. Avery went to work learning about the heritage of the area and is now working to clean up the burial plots of some of the area's first settlers.

The Norris Family Cemetery appears, from a distance, to be part of a wooded area near what history students and lovers know as Averasboro. Down a dirt road, away from regular traffic, visitors to the cemetery are rare.

A closer look reveals the work Mr. Avery and other local history buffs working with him have done.

Tombstones, some as old as 200 years, now rise into an area which will soon have the appearance it deserves. Mounds in the ground mark where other bodies may lie. The exact number of those buried here is unknown.

"There are 90 recorded markers and there could be a lot more," Mr. Avery said.

The identified graves include those of soldiers, family members and others, and Mr. Avery said. He said the oldest of the people buried here were born in the 1750s.

Mr. Avery said he first learned of the cemetery when reading about the history of the old village of Averasboro, which sits south of Erwin. It was there that brave Confederates soldiers offered some of the only resistance to the destructive forces of Gen. William T. Sherman in the waning days of the Civil War.

Mr. Avery began an investigation and learned more about the burial plot from Wade Hampton West, who has lived nearby all his life. Mr. West is a living history book of the area, and is named after Confederate War hero Wade Hampton. He eagerly offered exact burial spots of individual Confederate soldiers.

Mr. Avery said once he was made aware of the situation involving the historic burial site, he felt he needed to do something.

"The history of Harnett County is right here," he said. "We love history and that is what everything we do is about."

Mr. Avery plans to provide many more people the chance to see the cemetery. He and friend Bill Faircloth have spent numerous days, including several Saturdays, with power equipment and hard labor to clear the area.

When they started, most of the graves were hidden by hundreds of years of debris and dirt. Now the names of the graves' occupants are clearly visible. Some of them have rested in the ground since the days of the Revolutionary War.

Rows between the graves that were once cluttered are now being cleared, offering easy access. A new fence will soon replace trees as the boundaries of the area.

Mr. West looks on the project with a smile. He is now slowed by age but still eagerly seeks out locations he has known most of his life.

His parents and grandparents have lived in the area since the Civil War. He is overwhelmed to see the work Mr. Avery and Mr. Faircloth are doing.

"This is something I have wanted to see for a long time," Mr. West said. "This is where I grew up and I want to see it look better."


Anonymous said...

I love stories like this. I picture myself doing something similar when I have the time.

I wonder how many forgotten cemeteries there are as those who remembered the buried are gone. At some point, people forget their ancestors and their burial grounds are left to their own fate.

Better records and an interest in heritage should save a lot of these places. Thanks, Jim

Anonymous said...

I visited this cemetery and found the grave of my great-great-great-grand father John McAllister, his wife, son , and daughter.

AB 7-27-08