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Cemetery Census



Durham County North Carolina Cemeteries

Other NC County Cemeteries

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Durham-Orange Genealogical Society

All About The Cemetery Survey

--- WELCOME ---

This is the Internet Web edition of the Cemetery Survey of Durham County, North Carolina. It is brought to you by Cemetery Census.  We hope you will find it user-friendly and useful.  We will be adding "newly discovered" cemeteries and updating cemetery location and other information from time to time.

If you note any problems with using this data please advise Cemetery Census.

If in your use of the data you note any errors, missing entries for any cemetery, changes needed to any data entry, or older cemeteries, family burial grounds or individual gravesites not included in this survey that you have information or personal knowledge about, please write to Allen at this address:

Cemetery Census
3230 Walters Rd
Creedmoor, NC 27522-8641

Or contact Cemetery Census by Email at: Cemetery Census

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List of Cemeteries Not Surveyed

This web site Copyright (c) 1996-2008, Cemetery Census. All Rights Reserved
Reproduction, adaptation or alteration without prior written permission of Cemetery Census is prohibited, except as allowed under the copyright laws.

Cemetery Census shall not be liable for errors contained in this material, or for incidential or consequential damage in connection with the data herein.


You are invited and encouraged to read the following summary of the origin of this data and how it came to be here today.

We suggest that you read this summary at least once, probably before starting to use the data, as it contains important information that may bear on your research.


This cemetery survey data started with an Original Project in 1976 started by Doris Belk Tilley and Jean Bradley Anderson.  The Original Project, which lasted through 1990, collected cemetery information from about 250 cemeteries in Durham County and included nearly 8,000 burial names.  This information was published in 1991 in a book by the Historical Preservation Society of Durham County.

In late 1995, Allen Dew started collecting cemetery information for burials in Durham County to make this information easily accessible on personal computers, especially at the Durham County Library.

The starting point was the Original Project cemetery survey of about 8,000 names.  To this was added the burial records from the city of Durham for Maplewood and Beechwood cemeteries which included over 31,000 names of people buried through 1993.  Several more cemeteries and burials have been added to bring the total names to over 49,300 as of July 2005.


by Doris Belk Tilley

How the Original Project Began

In late 1976, Jean Bradley Anderson suggested to me that Durham County needed someone to be a 'central repository' of information gleaned from cemeteries in the county.  "Doris,  will you do it?  It'll only be a matter of taking down the information which people will phone in."

I was a logical choice because I was already interested in locating the graves of my husband's Tilley and Terry great-grandparents.  My interest was spurred as a result of taking Jean's Continuing Education class on "Genealogy" at Duke in 1975.

In early 1976, Jean showed up at my door with data she had gathered from six cemeteries.  This data became the genesis of what was to be a five-year project to gather tombstone data from as many church and family cemeteries in Durham County as could be found.  John Flowers, then president of the Historic Preservation Society of Durham, established a cemetery committee on May 8, 1978, consisting of myself as chairman with members Jean B. Anderson, Mildred Mangum Harris, Rufus Coulter, and Kenneth Coulter.  The committee's goal was to solicit volunteers to gather and submit cemetery data.

Cemetery Project Initiated by State

In late 1978, the committee learned that the 1977 General Assembly had formed the North Carolina Abandoned Cemeteries Committee to recommend and enact methods to record such cemeteries.  In May 1979, this committee requested interested persons in the counties to contact the State Coordinator, Frank D. Gatton, Archives and Records Section, Department of Cultural Resources.  Mr. Gatton's office had devised forms to be filled out by cemetery surveyors.  The forms requested location of the cemetery, number of identifiable graves, and the  number of inscribed markers.  The State committee made no request for the inscriptions on the markers.  But our committee had already decided, in the interest of genealogists and preservationists alike, that we would copy down all that could be read on the tombstones we found.  Completing the State forms would add little extra effort to our project.

So we had a head start; our cemetery committee was in place and working under the auspices of the Durham preservation group.  With the added incentive to participate in the State program, our committee won more backing and began a publicity campaign in late 1979 to let County residents know about the project.  We received newspaper, radio, and television coverage in January 1980.  The response was almost overwhelming.

I received the first call at 6:45 of the January morning the first article about our cemetery project appeared in The Durham Morning Herald.  By 10 o'clock that night, I had logged 24 calls.  From that day on, I continued to receive calls from people who wanted to tell about a family or church cemetery they knew about.  We spoke to any group or club which would invite us, and from our solicitations we enlisted students, Boy Scouts, husbands and wives, retirees, club leaders, and church groups to help find and canvass old cemetery sites.

Somehow it fell to me to coordinate the efforts of the volunteers.  I mounted maps of all the County townships on walls of a room in my home -- a room quickly dubbed "Mom's War Room" by my son -- so I could try to channel everyone's efforts and prevent duplicate canvassing.  By pinpointing each located cemetery on the maps, we were able to avoid all but a few duplicate efforts -- and these happened because people described the location differently or called a cemetery by a different name.

Volunteer Robert Winfree nicknamed me "Tombstone Tilley," and proceeded to spread the moniker throughout the County.

Tiptoeing Among the Tombstones

I can briefly characterize our cemetery explorations as:  chigger bites, poison ivy infections, bouncy rides proffered by farmers to find some backwoods burials, warding off a fear of snakes, and numerous aches and pains from stooping and crawling around tombstones and markers to try deciphering weathered inscriptions.  A large percentage of the burial sites we were after were abandoned, known perhaps by only a few long-time residents or members of families whose forebears were buried in hidden away places.  We did a lot of walking after driving as close as we could get.  Many family plots were almost completely obscured by growth, sometimes vines but often forests.  Finding markers became the art of a practiced eye.  Clearing enough surrounding growth to determine an inscription was just plain work.

Like any other challenging project, our's generated more and more interest as we uncovered or discovered more and more cemeteries.  We found them in backyards of houses, in cow pastures, across the road from new churches where older churches once stood, in an island of a parking lot of a shopping center or residential development, next to a tee on a golf course -- the experience was enough to cause wonder at how many graves may have been paved over, built on, or otherwise passed by because no one could tell they were there.  Some were enclosed by stacked walls of native stone, others had beautiful iron fences marking their borders.  Still others were set off by rows of boxwood or hedges of rose.  And then some were recognizable only by the surface depressions in ordered rows, or by simple native stones.

One day, near an old homesite in Mangum Township, I was led across Buffalo Creek on a footlog and up a hill overlooking the creek to find and record the grave of Tracy Clark, born in 1895, died 1903.  Her lone grave was well preserved.

Finding Grave of First Wife of Washington Duke

Our most exciting find -- and saddest story to tell -- was the grave of the first wife of Washington Duke, Mary Caroline Clinton.  Apparently Mary Caroline received a dowry of land which is believed to be the first farm Washington Duke ever owned.  Duke Homestead is located on part of this dowry.  Mary Caroline died in November 1847 and was buried near her father and other relatives in what we have called "the Clinton, Duke, Woods Cemetery" off Chalk Level Road.  Sidney Duke, the son of Caroline and Washington, died of typhoid fever on August 10, 1858, and is buried beside his mother.  In the Fall of 1987, vandals struck this cemetery, knocking over every stone and shattering Caroline's and breaking Sidney's.

Earliest Tombstones Found

The earliest date we found inscribed on a tombstone was 1752.  It is the grave of Wiley Roberts (1752 - 1836) in the Mt. Bethel Methodist Church cemetery.  The next earliest date is that of Anne Owen Nash (Jun 15, 1753 - Aug 25, 1825) in the Cameron Family cemetery in Mangum Township.  The oldest grave marked by a tombstone, however, is that of William Johnston who died May 3, 1785 at the age of 48.  His grave is on the Snow Hill property next to his wife Anne and their five unnamed (on the obelisk) children.  Johnston owned a store on the Indian Trading Path, and with others founded the Transylvania Company which commissioned Daniel Boone to claim Tennessee and Kentucky for the company.

Graves of Lucy Crabtree James and her husband Jesse James were found in Mangum Township.  Historians believe Jesse the outlaw was a nephew of Durham County's Jesse.

Another Hazard of Canvassing

The husband of one of the volunteer canvassers regretted letting his wife get involved with the project.  She found the graves of her great-grandmother and great-grandfather, the latter unmarked by a tombstone.  So she went out and bought a tombstone and had it erected on the ancestor's grave.  As her husband was leaving with her one day later to do some more canvassing, he cautioned, "I want one thing understood before we go:  we are not buying any tombstones today."

Types of Markers and Inscriptions

Obelisks generally contain information on three sides for three or more persons buried side by side, while the fourth side shows the family name.  Logs, stacked or upright, mean the person was a member of "Woodmen of the World." (need footnote here telling what org. is.)  Other markers picture open Bibles, grapevines, gates swinging open, a cross, a picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd, a lily, clasped hands, a lamb, a crown and cross -- each having a special meaning for the deceased.  For example, a lamb was most often used for the grave of an infant or small child.  A lily might be more associated with a mother.

Favored epitaphs were:  How Great Thou Art, In Loving Memory, Asleep in Jesus, Thy Will Be Done, Safe in the Arms of Jesus, She was the sunshine of our home, Gone But Not Forgotten, and A Precious One.  This epitaph was for a wife:

  Fold her O Father in thine arms
  and let her henceforth be,
  a messenger of love, between
  our human heart and Thee.

And we found this for a five-year-old daughter:

  A precious one from us is gone
  A voice we love is still
  A place is vacant in our home
  Which never can be filled.

And this for an 80-year-old woman:

  God gave, He took,
  He will restore
  He doeth all things well.

And finally, this one:

  Good night here - Good morning there.

Thanks to the Volunteers

As one who personally experienced the hard work and long hours of gathering this cemetery data, I am so grateful to the many citizens of Durham County who assisted by reporting and/or canvassing graves and cemeteries.  A special debt to those listed next -- without whose efforts this project could not have been done.

We know we were not able to find all the abandoned cemeteries in the County.  I encourage a continuing interest in locating and recording such cemeteries so they can be known and protected.


The following persons canvassed more than two cemeteries:

Jean B. Anderson Carrie McNair
Reginald Atkins Mt. Sylvan Church Group
Nellie C. Ball W. T. Neal & McMannen Church Group
Jean Bovard Louise G. (W. T.) Parrish
Dan Coulter W. T. Parrish
Mark Coulter Scott Reaves
Dwight A. Evans Bobby Richardson
Lucille Glenn G. H. Shepherd
Hazel A. Godwin William A. Sherrill
Gus T. Godwin and Robert Downey     Barbara Simko
Lowes Grove Baptist Church Robert Thompson
Melvia Haas Duke's Chapel Methodist Church
Lucinda Anne Wise Hamilton Doris B. Tilley
W. E. Hancock Jeff Upchurch, Boy Scout
Mildred M. Harris Mrs. Mack L. (Juanita) Vickers
Mrs. Phillip (Pat) Hutchings Mack L. Vickers
Mrs. Charlie Horton King Christie Winfree
Mrs. Felix (Myra) Markham Matt Winfree
Mrs. S. D. McPherson Robin Winfree
Nannie Mae Herndon Harry Wyatt

The following persons canvassed one or two cemeteries:

Henry Aiken, Sr. Mrs. Robert E. (Enda) Hurst
Joe A. Atkins T. J. Jones
Mrs. J. M. (Lena) Austin     David S. Kennett
J. M. Austin Dr. Hans Lowenbach
Mrs. R. J. (Edna) Baker C. C. Malone, Jr.
Excell Ferrell Kenneth McFarland
Susan R. Esposito Thelma A. Mendenhall
Johnnie D. Garrett A. L. Page
Fannie I. Green Hubert Page
Olive S. Herndon David Southern
Kay Page Hoover J. B. Watkins
Snowdeen Clegg  

Allen Dew, a computer professional, spent many hours resolving formatting problems in the data and preparing the database program that presents the information in a readily accessible manner.  Allen coordinated the acquisition of the material and performed certain manual editing tasks necessary to make the material easier to use.  A capability exists to add additional cemeteries and graves to the database in the future.  Allen Dew has and continues to maintain the cemetery database.  He may be reached at: Cemetery Census   or by mail at Cemetery Census, 3230 Walters Rd, Creedmoor, NC 27522-8641
Allen has begun adding pictures of grave markers and cemeteries to the database. The pictures display a graphic PHOTO before each name listed. The graphic PHOTO may be clicked to show a large, high resolution, picture. These pictures have been generously provided by:

Allen Dew
Marie Cooke
Ellen Kerley
Milton Forsyth
Jacqueline Tilley Wilkerson

---------------- HAPPY SEARCHING! ----------------

--- UPDATES ---

  1. 19 Feb 1996 - Initial release of the original survey data.

  2. 29 Feb 1996 - Added cemeteries
    • 058  Maplewood  [Durham City]
    • 251  Beechwood  [Durham City]
    • 252  Geer Cemetery
    • 253  Leigh Family
    • 254  Moore, John  [single grave]
    • 255  Proctor-Vickers Families
    • 256  Leigh, John W. Family
    • 257  Calvery Baptist Church

  3. 8 Mar 1996 - Added cemetery
    • 258  Hebrew Cemetery, Durham

  4. 2 Apr 1996 - Added cemetery
    • 259  Violet Park Cemetery (also called Wolfs Den)

  5. 5 Dec 1997 - Added cemeteries
    • 260  Glenview Cemetery
    • 261  Squire D. Umstead Cemetery
    • 262  Grove Hill Cemetery
    • 263  Robinson Grove Cemetery

  6. 30 Aug 1999 - Added cemeteries
    • 264  Barbee, Christopher and William Cemetery
    • 265  DuBose, David St. Pierre Family Cemetery

  7. 29 Sep 1999 - Added cemetery
    • 266  Lynn Crossroads Community Cemetery

  8. 25 March 2002 - Many corrections and updates posted to several cemeteries

  9. 10 May 2002 - Cemetery 077 Warren-Proctor-Lee Families documented with photographs of all gravestones

  10. 20 May 2002 - Corrections and updates posted

  11. 17 Jun 2002 - Added cemetery
    • 267  Woodlake: Hutchins - Markham Family Cemetery

  12. Sep-Dec 2002 - Added pictures to several cemeteries, notably Maplewood, Woodlawn, Andrews Chapel & Cozart Family, Bethesda Baptist Church, McMannen United Methodist Church (all), Olive Branch Baptist Church, Red Mountain Baptist Church, Clinton-Duke-Woods Family, Gooch Family (Murray Avenue), Barbee,Christopher and William Family. Added new cemetery 268 Markham Gardens with a couple of pictures.

  13. Feb-Mar 2003 - Added pictures to several cemeteries, notably Mt. Sylvan Methodist Church (all), Rose of Sharon Baptist Church (all), Poole Family Cemetery (all).
    New survey of Shady Grove Free Will Baptist Church Cemetery.

  14. 19 Apr 2003 - Added new cemetery 269 Mt. Level Baptist Church and pictures of all graves.

  15. 13 May 2003 - Added new cemetery 270 Ferrell Family Cemetery in Oak Grove Township.
    19 May 2003 - Added pictures for all markers in Cain's Chapel Baptist Church cemetery.

  16. June 2003 - Added new cemetery 271 Duke University Chapel Crypt.

  17. July 2003 - Added new cemetery 272 St. Matthew Catholic Church on Mason Road.
    July 2003 - Added new cemetery 273 Union Grove United Methodist Church on Highway 501 North.

Last revised 4 September 2010

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