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
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
3230 Walters Rd
Creedmoor, NC 27522-8641
Or contact Cemetery Census by Email at: Cemetery Census
Back to Cemetery Index
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.
--- ATTENTION ---
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
WHERE THE CEMETERY DATA WAS ACQUIRED
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
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.
VOLUNTEERS GATHER CEMETERY DATA
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 VOLUNTEER CANVASSERS
The following persons canvassed more than two cemeteries:
|Jean B. Anderson
||Mt. Sylvan Church Group
|Nellie C. Ball
||W. T. Neal & McMannen Church Group
||Louise G. (W. T.) Parrish
||W. T. Parrish
|Dwight A. Evans
||G. H. Shepherd
|Hazel A. Godwin
||William A. Sherrill
|Gus T. Godwin and Robert Downey
|Lowes Grove Baptist Church
||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
|Mrs. Felix (Myra) Markham
|Mrs. S. D. McPherson
|Nannie Mae Herndon
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.
|Susan R. Esposito
||Thelma A. Mendenhall
|Johnnie D. Garrett
||A. L. Page
|Fannie I. Green
|Olive S. Herndon
|Kay Page Hoover
||J. B. Watkins
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:
Jacqueline Tilley Wilkerson
---------------- HAPPY SEARCHING! ----------------
--- UPDATES ---
- 19 Feb 1996 - Initial release of the original survey data.
- 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
- 8 Mar 1996 - Added cemetery
- 258 Hebrew Cemetery, Durham
- 2 Apr 1996 - Added cemetery
- 259 Violet Park Cemetery (also called Wolfs Den)
- 5 Dec 1997 - Added cemeteries
- 260 Glenview Cemetery
- 261 Squire D. Umstead Cemetery
- 262 Grove Hill Cemetery
- 263 Robinson Grove Cemetery
- 30 Aug 1999 - Added cemeteries
- 264 Barbee, Christopher and William Cemetery
- 265 DuBose, David St. Pierre Family Cemetery
- 29 Sep 1999 - Added cemetery
- 266 Lynn Crossroads Community Cemetery
- 25 March 2002 - Many corrections and updates posted to several cemeteries
- 10 May 2002 - Cemetery 077 Warren-Proctor-Lee Families documented with
photographs of all gravestones
- 20 May 2002 - Corrections and updates posted
- 17 Jun 2002 - Added cemetery
- 267 Woodlake: Hutchins - Markham Family Cemetery
- 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.
- Feb-Mar 2003 - Added pictures to several cemeteries, notably Mt. Sylvan
Methodist Church (all), Rose of Sharon Baptist Church (all), Poole Family
New survey of Shady Grove Free Will Baptist Church Cemetery.
- 19 Apr 2003 - Added new cemetery 269 Mt. Level Baptist Church and pictures of
- 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.
- June 2003 - Added new cemetery 271 Duke University Chapel Crypt.
- 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