The Search For Ney Continues…

An update to the investigation into whether a man who died in Davie county might be one of Napoleon’s commanders.

Previously I had written about the exhumation of the mysterious teacher by a documentary crew from France who hoped to confirm or refute the old local tale. Well, the results are in. Sort of.

Writing for the Davie County Enterprise Record, Marcia Phillips provides an update on what exactly they found. You can read about it here.

In short, the mystery remains.

The Old Myers’ Place

The picture at the top of this page is of a house which no longer exists. Likely built in the early 1800s, it stood within the tip of a right angle created by what we today call Somers and Iredell Line roads in Hamptonville, NC. The house either fell or was demolished sometime after the 1980s, and today another home sits in roughly the same place, but stories about it persist.

W.A. “Uncle Billy” Myers later in life.

William Almon Myers was born in 1833 to Shadrack and Mary (Windsor) Myers. With siblings numbering almost in the double digits, William was probably well acquainted with the human condition and with the hard work it took to keep a farming family in those days in food and clothing.
This kind of life meant that Myers didn’t make it to school very long or very often, and despite having a keen intellect, he was never privy to a college education.

In 1855 during a meeting at Zion Baptist Church in Union Grove, Myers “came to faith.” No details of this are readily available but one can imagine it might have been during a “protracted” or “camp meeting,” which were numerous in those days.

September that next year he would marry Lemirah (sometimes spelled “Lemyrah”) Jennings. The marriage would produce four sons and seven daughters. They would settle into a home in what was then the Somers community (now Hamptonville). As for the house, I am unsure if it was standing already or constructed for their family, but it’s the same one mentioned and seen above.

Zion Baptist Church, likely 1950’s/1960’s. Iredell County Library

By 1866 Myers has been ordained as a deacon at Zion and is also serving as a clerk for the church. Two years later in 1868, the reverends Thomas Howell, R.H. Parks, and William G. Brown would examine him, and finding his beliefs to be orthodox, he would be ordained as possibly the first (at least the first recorded) minister to come out of the Zion congregation. The church would present him with a gift- a new bible.
From 1879 to 1889 he would serve as Zion’s principle minister.

In September of 1889, as part of the Brier Creek Association, Myers left Zion to become the first permanent minister of the newly formed First Baptist Church of Elkin. He would be replacing the reverend W.B. Woodruff who had served for only four months before asking to be removed. That church at the time would have been on the lot at 404 Elk Spur Street in Elkin. Today it is the site of a private home, as the church moved to West Main Street in 1903.
Even though he left Zion, Myers remained a member at the church where he had come to Christ and where he had worshipped and served for over 30 years.

Site of the original First Baptist Church of Elkin. Google Earth

1893 sees Myers depart First Baptist. His preaching history is a little murky afterwards, but he would have been 60 by then, and likely became a pulpit supply minister for the Brier Creek Association and other church organizations in adjoining counties. What scant few mentions we find of him in the newspapers during those years are of preaching funerals and revivals in various places. He also served as “moderator” for the Association from 1884 until 1896.

June 24th, 1912, Myers was returning from preaching at Brier Creek Baptist Church in Roaring River, about 11 miles north of his home. He had preached to the congregation there from the book of John, chapter 19, verse 30. His sermon title had been “It Is Finished.”

During the buggy ride back to Somers, the elderly minister had somewhere along the way bowed his head and given up his spirit. He fell along the road, and his death was only discovered by his family when the horse arrived at the house with the buggy but no driver.
William Almon Myers was remembered as a man of infinite zeal and energy, even in his later years. Though he had never received any sort of college or seminary education, it was said that no man in the area was better versed in the scriptures. He was accredited with the baptism of thousands, and had preached innumerable sermons throughout all the adjoining counties.
As the years passed and he grew a crown of white about his head, he became concerned with the youth, making special addresses to children, and earning their affection as “Uncle Billy.”
He would be buried with his wife (who had passed in 1910) at his home church of Zion.

His mark.

Of his sons, only William Gus Myers survived his father. Two other sons had died as children and John Edward Myers had died of typhoid fever in 1907 at 45 years old.
W.G. Myers also became a minister and operated a dry goods store as well. I don’t know for sure if he remained in the family home until his death in 1953 at 86 years old. I don’t know who ownership of the home passed to.

The former Myers home in the 1970’s. Statesville Record & Landmark

And while good records of ownership do not survive, along with the picture above what does remain are a gaggle of ghost stories.
These vary in detail and length. The most prominent says a son of W.A. Myers named William hung himself using a rope from a plow that he hoisted over a beam with his own hands. There are also nebulous tales of murders and strange goings on. For some reason these tales have outlived the house and even a memory of where the house actually was among the people who tell these stories.
As I’m apt to do, I have to wonder where these stories came from. Are they based in fact or fantasy?

I want to look at the most well known story about the house since it’s the only one with names and dates tied to it. That story being of W.A. Myers’ son William killing himself there in about 1897.
If you’ve read this far I probably don’t have to connect the dots for you on this one. “Uncle Billy” only had one son named William, and that son lived until 1953 and died of illness related to old age according to his death certificate. None of W.A. Myers’ other children died in 1897 either. None of W.A. Myers’ siblings died in 1897. Of the death certificates I can find none list suicide.
So where does this story come from?

When I had exhausted looking into the backgrounds of W.A. Myers’ children and siblings, I began to look for anything that might have appeared in the local papers about a suicide in 1897, and was surprised at what I found.

Charlotte Democrat. Sept 2nd, 1897.

As it turns out, there was a William Myers who committed suicide in the way the story describes. But he was not the son of W.A. Myers, nor, as best I can tell was he any close relation either. Who he actually was is a little bit of a mystery. I have found some records that seem to be the same young man, but I can’t be sure. There is no death certificate, no obituary, and no recorded grave marker. I’m not even sure how old he was, though I think somewhere between 22 and 25 years old.
Anyway, as the story in the local papers go, he had removed himself to Virginia as a young man and had married a wealthy woman there. For unknown reasons, he had run out on her, taking a sum of money and a donkey, and returned home. After returning home he became involved with another woman, possibly a “Rachel Cass” based on one document I found, who he also married in 1897. If this is the William we are looking for, he also got Rachel Cass pregnant before his death and had a son named David Preston Myers who he would never know.
It seems that with the fear of his previous marriage being discovered, and charges of bigamy to follow, this William had become despondent, and according to a “Curt Myers” who a local paper calls a half brother, William had been making preparations to kill himself. He even honed a razor to slit his own throat a week before his death but was talked out of using it.

Whoever this William Myers was, I feel I can safely conclude he did not kill himself in W.A. Myers’ home.

William showing up in the 1880 census as son of Patsy Myers.

He may also have been the son of Patsy Myers. She had a son named “William M. Myers” who was about 9 in 1880, which would make him about 26 in 1897. He would have been half brother to any children Patsy had with her husband Wesley Myers, who died in the Civil War and could not have been her son William’s father. Meaning if he had a brother by Patsy or his real father (whoever that may have been), they would have been a half brother, as the newspaper said. However, I’m inclined to believe the man named “Curt Myers” in the paper could possibly have been Rufus Martin Myers, his half brother, and Patsy’s son.
Further supporting that this might be the William from the story is that the newspaper accounts say the suicide happened in New Hope. New Hope is across the line in Iredell county, not Wilkes county where the W.A. Myers house was. Property maps from about 20 years later also show an “R. M. Myers” owns property near Grassy Knob Baptist Church in the New Hope community. I think this William, probably a bastard child of Patsy and an unknown man was the same William who led a troubled life and died young by his own hand.
Where he is buried, who his father was, and any other details of his life I will continue to look for, but have so far been unable to find.

How his story became attached to W.A. Myers and his old house is probably the result of a simple error. In years past someone found one of the stories or various reprints of the story of the mysterious William’s suicide, or maybe even heard it first or second hand and tried to connect the dots. W.A. Myers had a son named William. A match was made but the match wasn’t correct.

But where do the other vague stories come from? Why are there so many purported tales of death, murder, and hardship associated with this nondescript, nonextant house? The answer is simple, and a little bit silly.

In the early to mid 1970s, the house was partially abandoned, and whoever owned it during those years used it for various purposes.
When I started talking to older folks in the community about the “ghost” stories, I was treated to tales of just what transpired in the house during several Octobers during that decade. The old homeplace was used was a “haunted house” for children in the community.
Where did the other nonsensical and unverifiable ghost stories about the Myers house come from? From the imagination of adults trying to scare children during Halloween. And those children repeated the stories through the decades to their children, and so on.
It’s an anti-climactic answer, but most of the ghost stories about the Myers house were simply invented. Tales told to thrill, yarns for youngins. They have no basis in reality, and it is a shame that we remember such nonsensical myths about a house rather than the dedicated minister who lived there.

If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. It is well said in the old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’
-Charles H Spurgeon

Dr. Solomon Angle. Dentist, Jew, Confederate, Republican.

When looking at historical figures, it’s easy to paint with a broad brush trying to understand motives and beliefs. This unfortunately is how we tend to label even modern people, especially in regard to politics. But a real man is complex, with intentions and convictions that aren’t always easy to pin down or to neatly grouped into categories based on our current understanding of things. I believe Dr. Solomon Angle was such a man.

Myer Angle, (Findagrave)

Born to Myer and Catharine (Pallen) Angle in 1823, he was the first of several children the couple would have.
His father Myer Angle was an immigrant to America, born in a small village in Neidenstein in southwest Germany on July 4th, 1776. It’s possible that the his surname may have been Engle or Engel in Germany, and became “Americanized” to Angle once he came to the United States.
He would likely have been among the first Jewish settlers in Richmond, Virginia and would do well in business and in his personal life. Among other things, he would be noted years later as being the first president of Congregation Beth Ahaba, Richmond’s first German synagogue.
He would marry Catharine Pallen in 1821 when he was 44 and she was only 17. Solomon’s mother was likely also the child of immigrants.
Not much is known about Solomon’s childhood. He would have numerous brothers and sisters by the time he was an adult, and his parents were still adding to that number when Myer was nearly 70 years old.
As a result of interest in the sciences or possibly just as a pragmatic decision, Solomon decided on dentistry as a career. I haven’t been able to find where this education took place or when, but by the time of the 1860 census, he’s been in practice in Richmond Virginia for a number of years.

When the war between the states broke out in 1861, the Angle family sided with the Confederacy, and besides Solomon, five other sons of Myer and Catharine would wear the grey.

Uniform of the Brooklyn Greys (source)

Solomon would join up in May 0f 1861 and would find himself in the 23rd Virginia Infantry Regiment as part of the “Brooklyn Greys”, company E, mostly made up of boys from Halifax county. Solomon was enlisted as a private and probably due to his training in dentistry was made a hospital steward for the regiment.
The regiment would see constant action, including the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Bull Run, the siege of Harper’s Ferry, and finally the Battle of Sharpsburg. I can’t be sure, but at Sharpsburg I believe Solomon may have been among the 21 wounded, as he was discharged on December 2nd, 1862 due to disability.

In 1864 he marries Eleana R. Durham. I have been able to find almost nothing about her or the circumstances of their meeting and marriage save for it’s date and that it took place in Virginia. After her death it would be said of her that she was “well versed in the art of preparing food and serving and dispensing hospitality“, as she was from an “old and aristocratic Virginia family.” To their union would eventually be born two sons and a daughter.
I’m not even able to find her full legal name. Her tombstone proclaims her to be “Eleana R.”, her obituary “E.C.”, and still other sources call her “Ealeaner” or “Eleanor”.

Just after the Civil War something prompts the Angles to move from Richmond to Cool Springs here in North Carolina. They don’t stay very long however, and move thereafter to Charlotte, where they stay for about 2 years. I haven’t been able to find any records from this period in his life so I’m unsure what Dr. Angle was doing. He may have continued in dentistry but it wasn’t a profession he would keep into his later life. It could have been in Charlotte he took his first steps into politics.
His next move was from Charlotte to the small community of Eagle Mills in Iredell County, about 15 to 20 miles north of where he started in Cool Springs. Again, I don’t know what brought him to the area, though Eagle Mills had been a notable manufacturing town before most of it was burned during “Stoneman’s Raid“. By the time Angle came the “town” of Eagle Mills would have been a shadow of what it was and the name was used for the surrounding area rather than the place the town had been.

None of these structures remain today and the “town” of Eagle Mills is a farm field. After the Civil War the grist and cotton mills were rebuilt but the place never regained it’s former glory. The newer mills eventually burned down in an accidental fire. The place where Angle chose to build his home is actually several miles southeast of this. (findagrave)
“Eagle Mills” today. (Google Earth)

It’s hard trying to put in order what I know about Angle’s life in the area, but he must have immediately became a fixture in the community and for the decades until his death he would call Iredell home.
Dr. Angle foremost seems to have dabbled in politics. It was noted at his death that he was a staunch Republican who could often be found at the various conventions and gatherings, usually giving speeches of a “humorous nature”. He must have been something of an orator and story teller because he was readily invited to these functions despite never holding an actual office in the house or senate, though he did run and was beaten in 1884 for his district’s senate seat. His exploits also earned him the name “Bull of the Woods” among his peers, but I haven’t been able to find where this name originated or what it truly signified, though one would assume it had to do with his place of residence and forceful personality.
One of his typical humorous tales survived in a newspaper clipping from the time.

April 7th, 1892. Statesville Record & Landmark.

Dr. Angle would also fill various other roles throughout his life, including justice of the peace, gauger for the Revenue Service, and local school board member.
His politics put him at odds with many locals, especially in Statesville where the Democratic party held considerable sway. This led to Angle and various public figures firing off letters back and forth over various subjects and issues.
In particular, Angle and the editor of the Landmark (J.P. Caldwell) seemed to have had a very sour relationship. One small blurb published in 1897 informs the readers that Dr. Angle is of Jewish descent.

This will be news to our people, as few, if any, of them knew that Dr. Angle was a Hebrew.”

I don’t know this for sure, but it almost seems printed to slur the man in the eyes of the readers. I don’t know how “Hebrews” were perceived by the common county citizen at the time, but why would someone who has shown a contempt for the man print something for any other reason that to detract?
Then later in 1900 after another perceived slight, Angle fires back at the paper and it’s editor.

Dr. Angle wasn’t afraid or hesitant to put right what he thought spoken wrongly, whether it be from the mayor and editor of the Statesville newspaper, or the president of the United States.

Carolina Mascot. April 20th, 1899. This is only partly true. Angle was discharged 5 months before Jackson’s death.
Statesville Daily Record. November 6th, 1947.

During his life, his home was remembered as a place where even strangers could find a warm welcome and it became a favorite stopping place for travelers along the north-south road. His obituary remembered him as “extremely cordial and affable in his home” and his guests could expect “the best of everything he had“.
This hospitality was not just for outsiders and foreigners. Parties were thrown for the locals, with great gatherings of over 100 people being not uncommon. These were sometimes for newlywed couples from the area, sometimes for other special occasions, and sometimes for none at all. In the 1930’s, a local named N.D. Tomlin would recall these to-do’s in a couple letters to a local paper, talking about the absolute glut of food such as a “forty pound pig” with an apple in it’s mouth he saw at one of these gatherings, likely in 1896 at a 50 year anniversary celebration for Dr. Myers and his wife Eleana.
It became a habit later in life for Dr. Angle to also host hunting parties from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania who would come to the area for the excellent bird hunting and legendary hospitality. Just such a group was noted to be present at the aforementioned celebration.

Despite the celebrity of Solomon Angle, I have yet to find a photo of the man. Accounts from during his life described him as “good natured and easy going” and a lover of humor and of people. I haven’t been able to find a physical description either, but an entry in the county heritage books mention that he had a custom made rocking chair which might still be in the possession of one his local ancestors. It was made much larger than a standard model, and so it seems Dr. Angle, at least later in life, may have been a fairly stout man as well. An account from a remembrance printed in 1947 claimed him to be “310 pounds.”

Dr. Angle died on September of 1901 and was buried at Holly Springs Baptist Church, though I don’t believe he was ever a member or attended there.

The graves of Solomon (right) and his wife Eleana (left) at Holly Springs Baptist Church.

His home, over 100 years old at the time, burned in April of 1902. A spark from the chimney fell on the roof and destroyed the house and majority of it’s contents. Inside at the time were Angle’s widow Eleana and a group of hunters who were staying there. They lost their belongings in the fire as well.
Though the home was insured for $1,000, the loss was estimated to be double that. At least Dr. Angle’s chair must have been taken from the house sometime before the blaze (possibly by one of his children) or else pulled from the remains after the fire because we know it survived at least until the county heritage books were published in 1980.
Ultimately, the decision was made to rebuild. A local contractor named Nelson Summers (possibly “Somers”) was hired to construct a new home on the site of the old for $1,500, and had it finished by the end of 1902. The bird hunters and hunting parties returned shortly thereafter and probably financed the widow Angle’s final years in the house. Se would die in 1905 and be buried next to her husband at Holly Springs.

The house survived a number of decades, and in 1947 there was a small gas station known as the “Hunting Creek Station” that sat on the road in front of it. Unfortunately, that station was knocked down in the last couple years. I took a poor photo of it some time ago which I managed to find again.

The old “Hunting Creek Station”. I think this may have been 2016 or 2017.

The “second Angle house” also has unfortunately succumbed to the ravages of time. I don’t know when it became a derelict but I would wager sometime in the 70’s or early 80’s judging by what remains. It’s hard to know for sure but there might still be traces of Dr. Angle’s original home mixed in with the bones of the second.
Most of the other buildings that were scattered over the property on both sides of the road have also been removed. Less and less remains of the home and of Dr. Solomon Angle each year.

Thunderstorm Etiquette

This time of year it’s not uncommon to have late afternoon thunderstorms. Thankfully, these storms usually blow themselves out as quickly as they spring up. When I was a small child though, these storms terrified me.

During the time I’m referring to, we lived with my great grandparents for several years out in the country between the towns of Richfield and Gold Hill.
There were no streetlights. No neighbors houses visible from our windows. There were only trees in every direction until you got a quarter of a mile up the driveway. When these storms hit they usually happened at night so you couldn’t tell what was going on outside. It was black as pitch unless lightning briefly lit up the yard.
The roof of my grand grandparents house was tin and it would make horrific noises when the storm picked up. At 4 years old my imagination ran wild and in my mind’s eye I could see the wind peeling it off like a can lid and sucking us out into the air.

A storm this week that produced hail, damaging winds, a heavy downpour, and possibly a weak tornado.

During these storms my great grandmother adhered to certain rules. While the storm was raging outside, the TV was turned off and everyone was gathered in the living room. There was no raucous behavior or raised voices. Most of the time during these storms my great grandmother would just sit in her chair and read from her old bible until it passed. She was never scared, she was never alarmed.
Once the storm had passed, we would evacuate the room and get back to whatever we were doing. Watching tv, eating dinner, playing with toys.

I never really thought much about that practice and had almost forgotten it until a storm this week blew through and I got trapped under an overpass waiting on the hail to stop. As I was sitting there watching the marbles fall from the heavens and bounce off the road, my mind decided to take me back to those years.

I don’t know why my great grandmother did what she did. I don’t know the belief behind it because I never thought to ask. I also have never heard of anyone else’s family observing this “thunderstorm etiquette” either.

My great grandmother was a Christian woman who had been raised in a “Missionary Baptist” home with parents who discouraged things like playing cards and reading comics in the newspapers, regarding them as unprofitable or downright sinful. I can only assume that my great grandmother’s practice of being quiet and still during storm must have come from them as well. Maybe as a display of reverence or respect to the one who “rides upon” the weather. Like Job laying his hand over his mouth when the Lord spoke to him from the storm.
Perhaps it was practical as well though. My great grandmother was born during the depression and spent her early years probably close to poverty with her parents and her numerous brothers and sisters in rural Rowan county. Back then there was no weather radio, no cell phone alerts for tornados. Probably not even a fire house siren the town where they lived could crank.
Turning off appliances or unplugging them could be to spare them destruction if lightning were to “run in”.
During a dangerous storm, gathering together the family in one place would have been a sure way to know everyone was safe and accounted for. Being quiet during a storm would be a good way to listen and be attentive to what was going on outside. They didn’t have a TV or radio when she was a child, but probably later in life when they did, they would turn them off just like my great grandmother did when I was a “youngin” at her house.

There are many things I wish I had asked my great grandmother before she passed on, but when you’re a kid you just don’t think to. It’s only later you realize the opportunities you missed.

I did some internet sleuthing to see if anyone else’s family ever acted like this and didn’t find much, but it seems the even though the practice isn’t very notable, it wasn’t confined to one skin color or state.

Moss Chapel

It might not look like much today, but the history of this little Iredell county church goes back over 200 years. It is also unfortunately somewhat murky.

As best I can discover, the earliest use of this land tied to what it would become was in the late 1790’s when Methodist evangelists began a series of protracted camp meetings in the area. These seemed to grow in fervor and attendance and even became host to Francis Asbury, a famous Methodist bishop and prominent figure in the “Second Great Awakening”. One of the remaining proofs of these meetings is a letter that Asbury received from another evangelist in August of 1802 informing him of the “great and glorious work” taking place.

At a quarterly-meeting held in Iredell County, which began the thirtieth of July, and continued four days, the power of the Lord began on Friday about sunset, under an exhortation, and continued till Monday twelve o’clock without intermission. The groans of the distressed went up on Friday night from all parts of the camp, and increased till ten o’clock the next day, when many found the Lord precious in the pardon of their sins.
“On Saturday afternoon, while Brother Douthet was at prayer, the mighty power of the Lord came down; many hard-hearted sinners fell to the ground and cried to the Lord for mercy as from the belly of hell. The slain of the Lord were many, and numbers that fell rose again with the new song. The next morning was an awful time–some shouting praise to the Lord, others screaming for mercy, and the whole congregation seemed thunder-struck.

Moss died in 1826 and was buried in the church yard.

During those years, people stayed in tents and it’s likely a brush arbor was erected on the property, as was the custom of many meetings in the area that later became churches.
When the meeting became a “church” is up for debate. One source I have found claims Asbury organized the church himself in 1800. A flag inside the church lists 1799.
A third option relates to the arrival of a reverend originally from West Virginia named William Moss. Moss had been a circuit rider from 1788 until 1799. Arriving with his family in about 1802, he purchases a large tract of land from a John Huey near the meeting space and eventually the camp meeting tract as well from another man named William McKarahan, setting aside an acre “…for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Society…”. Moss is probably the first established minister of the congregation and it’s for him the building would be named, called first “Moss’ Meeting House” and eventually just “Moss Chapel”.

The church’s roll was never as large as the crowds which attended the camp meetings. The area where the building was erected has never been heavily populated, and many people came from parts further off to see and experience the revivals. But, the church continued on. Today however, it is not a standard church, but is used for special occasions and intermittent revivals and services with preaching every third Sunday of the month. The graveyard is also still in use.

One other interesting fact is that the Iredell County Heritage books mention that in 1852 the predominantly white church lists three free black members. Jane Graham, who was a free widow, Margaret A Lock who was free and single, and another woman named Allis Morris.

Will Bolin is also buried here at Moss Chapel.

Here Be Interred the remains of The Rev. William Moss, Elder in the M. E. Church;
For his uncommon piety and meekness, for the benevolence of his temper,
and the simplicity of his manners,
He was deservedly beloved & esteemed, an excellent Preacher;
But whose best Sermon was the constant example of an edifying life.
After preaching the Gospel 38 years he finished his course and life together in the 61st year of his age,
11th October 1826.

Split Farm

I’ve seen this building several times over the past several years driving around but it always looked well kept and tended so I didn’t think of it as abandoned. Unfortunately, water damage has recently started to split the front of the house and caved in a portion of roof. I thought now might be the last chance to see it before it completely collapses.

The Johnson and Patterson Cemetery Rediscovered

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.

Seen from the farm field behind the cemetery.

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.

The “front” of the cemetery bordering the road.
Representative of the thorn problem.

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.

Looking better.

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.

Ashley Johnson’s grave marker.

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.

The Johnsons, from FindAGrave

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.

Biblical Recorder, November 4th, 1885.
Record & Landmark October 16th, 1885

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.

My crude survey of the cemetery. Each grid square represents roughly 1 ft. Burials were measure right to left so may not be completely accurate if measure from one diagonal line of burials to one below or beneath it.
  1. Possibly a fieldstone. (Seen at right of #1)
  2. Infant Daughter of A + LJ Johnson,
    Born March 12th, 1902 Died March 13th, 1902
    1A. Possible footstone.
  3. Sarah A
    Daughter of A + LJ Johnson
    Born May 16th 1901, Died May 17th 1901
    2A. Footstone.

  4. Infant son of A + LJ Johnson
    Died August 5th, 1900
    3A. Footstone.
  5. 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.
  6. Blanche daughter of A + LJ Johnson
    Born May 2nd 1890 Died October 24th 1890
  7. Jacob D Johnson
    Born May 13th, 1835 Died July 10th 1871
    6A. Footstone marked J.D.J.
  8. Small unmarked fieldstone.
  9. Lucinda Johnson
    Born October 27th, 1810 Died May 25th, 1890
    Stone broken off of pedestal.
    8A Footstone marked L.J.
  10. Hutchins Johnson
    Born May 13th, 1808 Died April 28th, 1867
    9A Footstone marked H.J.
  11. Fieldstone.
    10A. Small fieldstone.
    10B Small grave depression.
  12. Elizabeth, wife of Ashley Johnson.
    Died May 7 1846. Aged 57 years, 9months, 4 days.
    11B. Unmarked footstone.
  13. A.J. Johnson
    Died 1868. Aged 88 years, 2 months, 24 days.
  14. Fieldstone.
  15. Fieldstone.
  16. Fieldstone.
  17. Fieldstone.
    16B. Large toppled fieldstone with roots growing over it.
  18. Thin jagged fieldstone with small stump in front of it.
  19. 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?
  20. Ring of flat stones in ground, possibly marking a grave or a portion of an old wall/divider.
  21. Fieldstone.
  22. Fieldstone.
  23. Fieldstone with grave depression.
    22A. Footstone.
  24. Fieldstone.
  25. Fieldstone.
  26. Fieldstone with grave depression in front.
  27. Fieldstone.
  28. Miles Ladd
    Born December 22nd, 1842 Died September 25th, 1861
    27A. Footstone marked M. L.
  29. Edith, wife of John Patterson.
    Died May 20th, 1848. Aged 78 years, 8 months, 9 days.
    28A. Footstone.
  30. John Patterson
    Died April 1st, 1850. Aged 77 years.
    29A Likely footstone.
  31. Fieldstone with grave depression.
    30A Possible foostone.
  32. Fieldstone.
  33. Fieldstone.
  34. Weathered tombstone, no details visible.
  35. Leuah, wife of Jno G. Johnson.
    Stone partially sunk under root, other details obscured.
  36. Small stone enclosure with fieldstone marker.
  37. Small stone enclosure.
  38. Unmarked cut stone.
  39. Fieldstone.
  40. Fieldstone with small grave depression.
  41. Shaped stone, weathered and illegible.
  42. Fieldstone.
  43. Fieldstone possibly reads “J.G. Johnson”
    42A. Possible footstone.
  44. Badly weathered cut stone.
  45. Small square stone.
  46. 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.
  47. Jane, wife of Thos Patterson
    Died March 30th, 1853. Aged 54 years, 9 months, 28 days.
  48. Rebecca Patterson wife of Thomas Patterson
    Born September 25th, 1805 Died December 27th, 1877
  49. 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.
  50. Fieldstone.
  51. Fieldstone.
  52. and 51A. Two small fieldstones close together with small depression in front of them.
  53. Small grave depression, no visible stones.
  54. Small grave depression, no visible stones.
  55. Fieldstone.
  56. Fieldstone.
    55A. Possible footstone.
  57. Fieldstone.
  58. Fieldstone.

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.

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church

I haven’t been able to find a full history, but one can assume like many local churches St Matthew’s started as a revival or brush arbor meeting.
By 1839, forty three people in total are requesting from the North Carolina Lutheran Synod someone “to break unto them the bread of eternal truth, to baptize their children, and instruct their youth.”
By the next year the church is part of the synod. I’m not sure what the original building may have looked like but it was probably more modest than this one, which was likely built to replace the original in the late 1800’s.

The building in 1985 (Digital Davie)
The church in 2023.

I have heard by word of mouth though have been unable to confirm that the church may have close in the late to mid 1950’s. Finding written records has been a chore due to the fact that there is another “Saint Matthew’s Lutheran” in the next county. That church is still in operation.
Today it’s not used very often, though I believe the Synod still somewhat maintains the property.
The first burial in the cemetery I could find was 1843. Burials continue on the property with one even taking place this year.

Turner’s Grove AME Zion Church

It’s been difficult finding much information about this little church in print. In fact the only reason I know when it was built is the cornerstone has an inscription with the date September, 1907. It may have also served a dual role as a colored school in the 1920’s/1930’s.
The land was originally granted to David Anderson, Franklin Edwards, and Henry Jones of the African AME Zion Church of Davie County in February of 1901. It’s assumed it took the intervening years to raise money and formalize plans for the building.
The grantor was a William Leach of Buncombe county. Leach lived with his wife Della (Steel) on Jefferson St in Asehville and was a railroad brakeman. He was also likely from Davie County originally and the land was a family tract, as an adjoining property was also owned by a Mary Leach.

I don’t know when it closed, but it was at least being used for things such as family reunions in the 1970’s. A mention of the pastor being a “Sonny Turner” appears in a newspaper in 1979 in regards to preaching at a revival in Charlotte.

The church building in 1985 (DigitalDavie)

People are also occasionally still buried on the property with the most recent being in 2017. Unfortunately, the graveyard is not well cared for and there are many unmarked, unknown, and possibly lost stones.

Agnes Gaither, the last burial from 2017.
The church in March of 2023.

Photo of The Day: Set In Stone

To err is human, to forgive divine, but I would have had trouble with this one.

I came across Charlie Tulbert’s marker today recording some stones for Find A Grave.

I can only imagine the family gathering to mourn the passing of a loved one and realizing that the mason botched his name. I don’t know, maybe they took it in stride and it provided a little levity on a difficult day. Maybe (hopefully) they got a discount for the stone.

The phonetic spelling of names has caused a lot of problems for people doing genealogy and other kinds of historical research, especially in old census documents where people were being asked their name and some couldn’t spell it themselves.
As an example, Charlie Tulbert’s parents are listed as “Tolbert” in records. So maybe the mason who inscribed this stone can be forgiven.

But was Charlie’s name Talbert, Tulbert, or Tolbert?

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