If graveyards could talk, this site on "Little" Washington, North Carolina, would tell a story about hope in the promise of the South. I visited this site to dedicate a historical marker with a small group of locals, who had met in the spot late one Saturday, October morning, to hear the living history of a graveyard that holds incredible appeal to tourists and locals. The marker tells the story of the place, describing it as "free church," a novel idea at the time.
By Kari Baxter Donovan
Washington, North Carolina was founded in 1776 and was the first town in the new United States to be named after General George Washington. The graveyard holds the remains of men who fought with George Washington and served in the Civil War. The last burial was in 1890. There buried are the founder of the town, members of the famous Cecil B. Demille family, a female physician, the chain bearer for Daniel Boone, and others.
While attending a nearby festival one block over, I met one couple who saw the tall, cross-covered church steeple jetting out from amount the trees and walked over to investigate. While at the entrance of the graveyard, they noticed the "patriot" markings on one grave of Capitan Bonner, the founder of Washington, and decided to come in and walk along together. "We followed the cross and stayed for the shade. We were drawn in by the history," the couple from nearby Greensboro told me.
"We are really proud of the number of different tress here on the property," I remember Riley Roberson, one of the primary caretakers of the graveyard, said to me about the way the different seasons showed the trees off. When in full bloom, as they were that day, the leaves make a beautiful lacework tapestry on the ground and put on a show as the air moves the branches. The trees there are exceptional, having survived 150 years of storms, and were planted in 1873, including a particular Ginkgo Tree.
"We think of this place as alive because we fixed up the grounds with the trees, and brought back the Beaufort Iron work fences. We are very involved with local historians, and we paid for that history marker on our own. We want this to be a beautiful space for people to learn about this area," Roberson told me.
Curious about the dreams of people who would flee their homes and come to this area, I walked along until I felt the urge to stop and read. There, I learned a little bit more about our country's founding from reading the inscriptions on the tombs. If this grave could talk, it would tell us about the allure liberty and freedom had on the soul of an adventuresome and feisty Irish man whose family would not leave it to chance to tell his story. And about the hope a woman held in her heart for everlasting joy in the future. The families of these two had their stories etched in stone so that no one could say otherwise about them.
"Sacred in the memory Edwin Quinn, a native of Edinburg Ireland, But unwilling to endure the yoke of the Saxon Oppression, he emigrated to the US in 1806 and shortly after settled in this town. Where he for nearly 50 years enjoying the esteem of all who knew him for his sound Republican principles and underlying integrity - he died in April 1851 at the 69th year of age and was buried beside the remains of his children." "When the last trump shall wake the dead and them wise the chariots of the Lord shall take His Servant to the skies. Thy sin they suffer no more. But Triumph wonder and adore. The remains of Margret Lowre Here rest in hope of a glorious ressurection. Born 1791. Died 1837. 46 Years old."
Visiting Little Washington in St. Peter's first free church graveyard was a wonderful experience. One that I will revisit as many times as I can. For more information, please visit: www.Saintpetersnc.org