Over the years, I’ve developed a knack for looking at a property and realizing that there’s more to it than might be readily evident to your average rubbernecker.
Recently, on a trip down some back roads in Yadkin county a chance glance at a piece of land turned up something amazing.
I knew from the way the clump of trees was divided from the farm field on three sides that it had not been plowed like the rest of the property for a reason. I assumed maybe there was a tobacco barn or some sort of shed there in the past, maybe even a house. But my wife was quick to point out that as we blew by she was able to see there were some tombstones sticking up out of the brush.
Even though I was wearing shorts, I knew I had to at least get some kind of idea the extent of what my wife had identified. I learned very quickly that there was a curtain of thorns protecting the whole cemetery. And I suffered dearly pushing through them to be able to read one stone.
This stone gave me the details I needed to find out whether these were documented burials or if this was that rarest and choicest of all burying grounds for explorers and local history junkies: one that there was no written record of.
With a name, a birth date, and a death date in hand, I started looking. Nothing on Find A Grave. Nothing on the county cemetery survey I did find 2 brief mentions of possible cemeteries that would match this one in an old list of county cemeteries. However, there was no mention of number of burials, names, or even the location of those cemeteries.
This, for all intents and purposes was a “lost” cemetery. And I had to explore it.
But there was one major problem. The thorns. In order to get in deep enough to see how many graves there might be and to get close enough to read any details that might be left on them, a lot of work was going to have to be done.
In North Carolina there are actually some interesting laws on the books in regard to accessing old burials for research and the like, but the best way to go about this kind of thing is always just to ask directly. Luckily, the county GIS had the relevant information and I already had an email out to the property owner that night.
I was overjoyed when I got a reply back with permission to clean up the property. I knew I would be in for at least a full morning of knocking down thorns from trees and pruning them down to the ground. But, I worked quicker than I thought I could and it really amounted to about 4 hours of hard labor and sweat in order to at least create enough pathways to access all the graves and possible burials I could see.
With enough space to explore I decided the next thing I wanted to do was create a rough map of every burial I could find and document any information left on the stones. This was something I had never done before, and with no other tools available to me but a small tape measure and a 100 foot surveyors tape I had to devise a way to get a relatively usable picture of the graveyard.
What I decided to do was use graph paper as a way to keep my measurements somewhat uniform and measure off each line of stones and burials individually from grave to grave. After measuring from one stone to the next I would stop to make notes about the disposition of the stone and any information on it. This took about another 2 hours. What I ended up with is far from professional but serves it’s purpose. It allowed me to catalogue and count the number of burials, tie those burials to dates and names, and get an idea how the cemetery progressed as time went on.
Most of the burials here that can be identified are Johnsons with a small number of Pattersons and a single young man with the surname Ladd.
The Pattersons represent some of the earliest burials that can be identified, with John Patterson and his wife Edith being laid to rest in the mid-1800’s. John’s family was already a well established American one by the time they arrived in North Carolina. I’m unsure of when that would have been, but it was likely the mid to late 1700’s, as John and his siblings were born in Bladen county after 1740. Their father would have come from Maryland where three generations of his family had lived before his sons branched out into NC. They were in America at least as early as 1672, and possibly earlier. They may have also been called Pattison.
I haven’t found the exact point of contact, but there has to be some blood tie, likely via marriage that brings the Pattersons and Johnsons together in what it is now Yadkin county. The oldest identifiable grave is a Johnson, an Elizabeth Johnson who died in 1846. I unfortunately have found almost nothing about her in records, and wouldn’t know who her husband was if it weren’t on her stone. Her husband Ashley is almost as much a mystery. Due to the naming conventions of the day, the amount of “Ashley Johnsons” in the area is not a small number, and the older census records have less information on them which means that any attempt to track him or his family further back involves a lot of guessing and inferring.
But my favorite stone, and the one which has caused me the most confusion is not even nearly the oldest. That stone is half sunk in the ground, but the most ornate in the cemetery. It belongs to someone named “Leuah Johnson”.
Leuah is hard to track through local history and genealogy. Her name is unique enough that it ought to be easy to find in records, but what happens is just the opposite- people collecting census data spelled names phonetically or sometimes just completely wrong. If her husband’s name hadn’t been included on her stone I might not have found her at all, but the wife of John G. Johnson was actually named Verlinda Louisa Messick Johnson, and it makes sense how people might call her Leuah, but still strange it was included on her tombstone.
Also of note are at least 4 of the children of Andrew Johnson and his wife Lydia Jane Ray All who died before their first birthday.
The Johnsons lived in the area around the turn of the century but eventually moved to Mount Airy where Andrew worked as a book keeper. He died there of in 1918 due to what would be later called the Spanish Influenza. He was 56 at the time. His wife Lydia made it to 90 years old before her death in 1960.
Thomas Patterson is another notable burial. He was born 1803 to John and Edith Patterson who are also buried here. He married a woman named Jane who died when Thomas was 50. At the time of her death there was another woman named Rebecca Ladd who was living in the household with her children. Possibly as a servant, possibly for other reasons unknown. At whatever rate, Thomas ends up marrying her 2 years later. Around that time Thomas is also caring for his “lunatic” uncle Isaac Patterson, who may very well be buried here as well. Thomas died in 1885 at the home of his step-grand daughter Mary Reece, who would have been Jane’s daughter from her previous marriage.
I haven’t found a good way to display what I have collected on this cemetery so I’m simply going to post it as is. I have attempted to contact the county’s historical society to see if they have any more information about this cemetery and to offer them what I have, but have never received a reply.
Below the survey map I will include information and a picture of each burial.
I had hoped to clean up my results but the original survey was in April, 2023 and as I’m writing this up in June the cemetery has already grown up so much as to be inaccessible again.
- Possibly a fieldstone. (Seen at right of #1)
- Infant Daughter of A + LJ Johnson,
Born March 12th, 1902 Died March 13th, 1902
1A. Possible footstone.
- Sarah A
Daughter of A + LJ Johnson
Born May 16th 1901, Died May 17th 1901
- Infant son of A + LJ Johnson
Died August 5th, 1900
- Burial Depression
Very likely another child of A + L.J. Johnson, who lost 5 children by the time of the 1910 census.
4A. Possible footstone.
- Blanche daughter of A + LJ Johnson
Born May 2nd 1890 Died October 24th 1890
- Jacob D Johnson
Born May 13th, 1835 Died July 10th 1871
6A. Footstone marked J.D.J.
- Small unmarked fieldstone.
- Lucinda Johnson
Born October 27th, 1810 Died May 25th, 1890
Stone broken off of pedestal.
8A Footstone marked L.J.
- Hutchins Johnson
Born May 13th, 1808 Died April 28th, 1867
9A Footstone marked H.J.
10A. Small fieldstone.
10B Small grave depression.
- Elizabeth, wife of Ashley Johnson.
Died May 7 1846. Aged 57 years, 9months, 4 days.
11B. Unmarked footstone.
- A.J. Johnson
Died 1868. Aged 88 years, 2 months, 24 days.
16B. Large toppled fieldstone with roots growing over it.
- Thin jagged fieldstone with small stump in front of it.
- Large weathered and fallen stone undermined by animal, partially buried, broken. Two divided inscriptions on it.
Daughter Born ? 26 1850
James a son born June 22 1841?
- Ring of flat stones in ground, possibly marking a grave or a portion of an old wall/divider.
- Fieldstone with grave depression.
- Fieldstone with grave depression in front.
- Miles Ladd
Born December 22nd, 1842 Died September 25th, 1861
27A. Footstone marked M. L.
- Edith, wife of John Patterson.
Died May 20th, 1848. Aged 78 years, 8 months, 9 days.
- John Patterson
Died April 1st, 1850. Aged 77 years.
29A Likely footstone.
- Fieldstone with grave depression.
30A Possible foostone.
- Weathered tombstone, no details visible.
- Leuah, wife of Jno G. Johnson.
“GONE TO REST”.
Stone partially sunk under root, other details obscured.
- Small stone enclosure with fieldstone marker.
- Small stone enclosure.
- Unmarked cut stone.
- Fieldstone with small grave depression.
- Shaped stone, weathered and illegible.
- Fieldstone possibly reads “J.G. Johnson”
42A. Possible footstone.
- Badly weathered cut stone.
- Small square stone.
- Thomas Patterson
Born May 24th, 1803 Died October 2nd, 1885.
“Among the dead, lies at rest, An honest man who now is blest”
Large depression in front of stone.
- Jane, wife of Thos Patterson
Died March 30th, 1853. Aged 54 years, 9 months, 28 days.
- Rebecca Patterson wife of Thomas Patterson
Born September 25th, 1805 Died December 27th, 1877
- F? W.P. Most likely a “Patterson”. 18?9. Possibly “1859”. Can’t make heads or tails of this one. It almost looks like “1959” which makes little sense.
Poorly marked and weathered stone.
48A. Likely footstone.
- and 51A. Two small fieldstones close together with small depression in front of them.
- Small grave depression, no visible stones.
- Small grave depression, no visible stones.
55A. Possible footstone.
This is all a lot to put one on page so if you would like to see all the raw photos, I’ve made a separate page for the gallery here.
A lot of what I have been able to find has also been added to Find A Grave. You can view the cemetery on that site here.