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Travel Prompt: Recent Cemetery Musings

Preserving cultural history: A few recent trips reveal a few historic cemeteries or burials.

Land developers are in a unique situation to protect cultural history. Oftentimes gravesites are discovered during subdivision surveying. Title research and surveying often reveals the history of structures and ruins. References to deeds and plats to identify early owners is a helpful resource to document the history of the land. Old roads and fences, clusters of trees in an otherwise barren landscape can tip one off their presence.

County Historical Associations are concerned with preserving cultural history, which includes historical structures, gravesites, and prehistoric artifacts. They try to work with developers to document and preserve these features. Chatham County, NC published an AGOL Map online called ‘Chatham County – Cemeteries’. These resources can help developers determine whether known or suspected burial sites exist on property to be developed. Developers should also be aware, however, that unreported burial sites might also be discovered during surveying or other development activities.

States may have statutes that protect burial sites, and county subdivision regulations may require that such sites be noted on plat maps, along with ingress/egress routes, as required by law. Cemeteries are generally preserved insitu, however, developers may request approval from the local government for moving remains to another location.

 

Family Burials

 

Mills Family

This cemetery is located off an unpaved, forested residential street near Castleberry Road just northwest of Serenity Trail in Apex, North Carolina. The interesting find here is an upright headstone with a War of 1812 veteran medallion.

 

Headstone of War of 1812 Veteran
Headstone of War of 1812 veteran at the Mills Family Cemetery in Apex, North Carolina.
Grave stones of the Mills Family Cemetery
Grave stones of the Mills Family Cemetery in Apex, North Carolina.
Dirt Road to Mills Family Cemetery
Dirt road leading to Mills Family Cemetery in Apex, North Carolina.

 

Upchurch Family 

Located in the Heritage Pointe Community at the intersection of Heritage Drive and American Court in Apex, North Carolina, this family cemetery is separated from a new residential development. A black metal fence is in place to outline the boundary nestled in a narrow strip of trees.

 

Gravestones for Mary and B.F. Upchurch in a woody area
Gravestones for Mary and B.F. Upchurch in Apex, North Carolina. This cemetery is located on the Corner of Heritage Drive and American Court. Chatham County Historical Association has information on this site at https://cemeterycensus.com/nc/chat/cem369.htm
Black fence forming the boundary of the Upchurch Family burial ground
A black fence forms the boundary of the Upchurch Family cemetery in Apex, North Carolina. The cemetery is located on the corner of Heritage Road and Democracy Court.
The Upchurch cemetery is located at the corner of Democracy Court and Heritage Drive
The Upchurch cemetery is located at the corner of Democracy Court and Heritage Drive in Apex, North Carolina. Many smaller family cemeteries exist around new property developments.

 

Olive Family 

This cemetery is on the corner of New Hill Olive Chapel Road and Olive Chapel Road in Apex, North Carolina across from the Baptist church. A few property boundary markers are still visible today most likely showing the original dimensions and shape of the lot from a survey or deed description.

 

Gravestones at Olive Family Cemetery
A view of the gravestones at Olive Family Cemetery in Apex, North Carolina
A burial ground boundary stone at the Olive Family Cemetery
A burial ground boundary stone at the Olive Family Cemetery located in Apex, North Carolina.

 

Howell Family 

Traveling at highway speeds it is easy to miss this small family cemetery. It’s located on highway 64 West at Two Pond Lane inside Western Wake County, North Carolina, on the north side of the road. This is an open area near some farmhouses over some drastic change in topography.

 

The Howell Family cemetery includes upright gravestone markers scattered in a field.
The Howell Family cemetery includes upright gravestone markers scattered in a field. The burials are located on highway 64 West at Two Pond Lane inside Western Wake County, NC, on the North side of the road. This is an open area near some farmhouses over some drastic change in topography.
The Howell Family burial ground is located over some drastic change in topography
The Howell Family burial ground is located on highway 64 West at Two Pond Lane inside Western Wake County, NC, on the North side of the road. This is an open area near some farmhouses over some drastic change in topography.

 

Trumbo/Hill Family 

Located in Springfield (Lake Shore), IL, the markers at this burial site were too worn down to be legible. The headstone markers were moved from their original location due to a property boundary dispute. The homeowner plans to return the grave markers to their original place and install a fence.  

 

view of the Trumbo/Hill family burial ground
Located in Springfield (Lake Shore), IL. The headstone markers were moved from their original location due to a property boundary dispute. The homeowner plans to return the grave markers to their original place and install a fence.  
Trumbo / Hill Family gravestones leaning against a fence
The gravestones leaning against a fence are from the Trumbo/Hill family burial ground in Springfield, IL. These were found on personal property but were moved to accommodate an adjoining property fence. 

 

 

Arkansas/ Missouri Railway: Springdale to Van Buren Route

The Arkansas and Missouri Railroad runs through the Northwest Arkansas Region. This includes the metropolitan statistical area of Fayetteville, Springdale, and Rogers. It comprises Benton, Madison, and Washington counties in Arkansas and McDonald County in Missouri. Much of the area has miles of woods and most of the towns off the railroad line have small populations. Freight and passenger trains exist for industry, to ship their products, and tourism which brings tourists and locals to the various area historic sites, shopping, and scenic natural wonders. On this trip I rode the passenger route from Springdale to Van Buren, Arkansas. The guided journey offers railroad and area history along significant mileposts.

Much of the area along the railroad routes was primarily prairie, it wasn’t until the 20th century that woods covered Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri. My mind froze on the idea of seeing tall, thick grass at heights that obscured anything within eye level. I considered myself fortunate to see the three crosses, a gravesite for rail workers and the Chester cemetery from the old Coach #106 Passenger car called the ‘Mountain View’. It was built by Harlan and Hollingsworth in 1927 for the Central Railroad of New Jersey, used as a commuter service car running out of the Jersey City terminal where passengers caught ferries to New York. Now the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad operates passenger trains over most of its rail lines, primarily between Monett, MO and Van Buren, AR.

This route covers the mountainous terrain of the Boston Mountains between the Ozark Plateau at Springdale and the Arkansas River Valley at Van Buren. Between the two, the railroad climbs over the backbone of the Ozark Mountains at Winslow, passing through a tunnel at the highest mountain pass between the Rockies and the Appalachians. The grades of a railroad are super critical. As the train exits the tunnel heading southbound, the grade peak at 2.3% to the town of Schaberg. Helper locomotives are used to give either an extra push or pull.

Approaching the town of Winslow, a tunnel built between 1881 & 1882 and enlarged in 1968 to allow use of large freight cars, gets to a height of 1,735 feet, the highest railroad pass between the Rockies and the Appalachians. Line camps were segregated due to the frequent violence between ethnic groups working the rail line. At the tunnel, the white workers were based in the community of Winslow while the black workers lived in rough camps on the south side of the mountain. It was here that the Gravesite and Chester cemetery were visible.

The entrance to Chester Cemetery in Arkansas
The entrance to Chester Cemetery in Arkansas as seen from the Arkansas / Missouri Train.

 

Chester Cemetery

Captain James C Wright built a small store near the east side of the train tracks in the 1880's in what would become Chester. It was named for Chester, Iowa, the hometown of one of the local engineers. The community thrived due to the railroad and for a long time was a shipping point for local products. Other businesses at the time included a barbershop, meat market, sawmill, black smith shop, and carpenters.

 

Unmarked crosses indicate burial ground
Unmarked crosses indicating the burial ground for railroad workers along the Arkansas / Missouri railroad, Springdale to Van Buren Arkansas route.

 

 

Railway Gravesite 

To the east is the site of a mass grave, reportedly railroad construction workers who died from smallpox. In early 1882, an outbreak of smallpox swept through the tunnel workforce and caused dozens of deaths, followed by malaria. Black laborers, working on the south end of the tunnel, were buried in four graveyards along the railroad, one called the African Center. Whites worked on the north end of the tunnel and were buried in a white-only graveyard. 

 

 

    • TNMCorps Guidance on Unnamed Cemeteries

      TNMCorps prefers that volunteers not add new cemetery points to the system if a name cannot be confirmed. Here is a refresher on cemetery collection.

      link

      TNMCorps Guidance on Unnamed Cemeteries

      TNMCorps prefers that volunteers not add new cemetery points to the system if a name cannot be confirmed. Here is a refresher on cemetery collection.

      Learn More

 

Fort Smith National Cemetery

Fort Smith is located in Arkansas. Permanent gravesite grid monuments are used to lay out dimensions of burial sections and can vary depending on the terrain. An excellent read is ‘Cemetery Components - Burial Areas and Burial Sections’ from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

 

A section marker and gravesite grid monument side-by-side
Fort Smith National Cemetery in Arkansas gravesite grid monument and section stone.