Tombstone Inscriptions of Blacks
in the City Cemetery, Raleigh, N. C.

by Robert Leon Shaw and Betsy J. Shaw


City Cemetery was established by an Act of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1798.. It was set up on four acres of land adjacent to the City of Raleigh. Two acres were reserved for the burial of local residents; one acre, for visitors; and one acre, for blacks, both slave and free. The cemetery has grown from the original four acres outside the city limits to a little over seven acres in the heart of downtown Raleigh. Few burials take place there now. The section reserved for blacks according to tradition is full, but tombstones are sparse. Records of the cemetery were destroyed by fire in the 1890’s and again in the early 1930’s. The only records extant are those made by each Superintendent from the standing tombstones. The earliest records were made by L. C. Mulligan in 1934. In his handwritten notebook are two pages entitled, “People Buried in the Colored Part of the Cemetery.” He lists only their names and a death date. Comparison of his book with existing stones reveals that some of the stones he catalogued over forty years ago are now gone or illegible. Many of the stones were handcraftedwith names painstakingly chisled in by unskilled hands. The stones were carved so lightly that today they cannot be read even by “rubbing.” Few blacks have been buried in City Cemetery since the opening of Mount Hope in 1872; however, at one time it was the only public burying ground for either blacks or whites.

In the November 1977 NCGS Journal on page 253, Lois S. Neal writes of CATO, a man of color, who was “interred in the burial ground of this city on Sunday evening last.” (From: The Raleigh Minerva, Thursday, February 7, 1811). If CATO had a tombstone, it is either gone or illegible today.

The following are the tombstone inscriptions that can be read (some with great effort) of all blacks buried in City Cemetery in addition to a list of the few people mentioned in the Superintendent’s notebook whose stones can no longer be identified.

Section B—l

    Several stones but only one legible:  “Here lies the Body of ALLEN W. McKETHEN
    who died _____ 183(2). Aged 35.”

Section B—2

    William son of Ed WILLIAMS and Alley. He died September 10, 1841.

    Rachal WILLIAMS Born January 24, 1830 Died December 18, 1830.

    Rebecka WILLIAMS Died 1836 (no legible stone)

    _____ WILLIAMS Died 1813 (no legible stone)

    In Memory of Alley, wife of Ed WILLIAMS Died July 24 _____ (Stone broken
    off and stuck in ground; however, Superintendent’s notebook has notation “died

    Albert son of Thomas and Caroline NORWOOD was born July 31st, 1855 Died Oct.
    27th, 1857.

    John SCOTT Born April 24, 1840 Died March 12, 1857. Aged 16 years and 11 mos.

    Large stone (illegible) with footstone “S.B.”  (Superintendent’s notebook lists
    a Sam BROUXON died 1896).

Section B—3

    An(ne) MORGAN daughter of Henry and Margaret MORGAN Born June (4), 1844 Died
    (Oct. 25), 1864.

    Memory of Chana HUNTER who died Aug. 25, 1860. (Stone has long inscription,
    no longer readable, which begins “she was” and ends “die in the Lord.”)

    Lisbon WHITE born 1781 Died 1835. Aged 54 years.

    Harriet E. LANE Born 1817 Died 187_.

    Margaret LANE Died 1817. (Could find no legible stone).

    The stone erected to the memory of our mother, Chaney HARRIS, who departed
    this life June 24, 1832 at an advanced age.

    Jane COPELANDBOR Born 20 September 1832  Died 3 August 1833,

    A. POLLARD Died 1855 (no legible stone).

    In Memory of John JOHNSON was Born Ap. 15, 1846 Died Feb. 18, 1863.

    Caroline STRONACH. Aged 29.

    Candis STRICKLAND Died Mar. 16, 1861, at an advanced age. Erected by her son

    Edno NASH 1890 ) These small stones are identical. They were apparently
    Dolly     1833 ) homemade with very irregular script writing.

    Bessie Ann HUGHES Died May 1862.

    Nancy KENEDY departed this life the 2nd February 18__. Aged 85 years.
    (Superintendent’s notebook says “died 1858.”)

    I. (or possibly L.) R E A D (No date, no other legible inscription. Not
    listed in the Superintendent’s notebook.)

    Thomas NOEIS died 8—18—1839. Aged 12 years.

Section B—4

    Lies the Body of William HOLM born Apr. _____ (Rest of stone buried in the
    ground and not mentioned in Superintendent’s notebook.)

    Peter STONE Died 1858. (no legible stone)

    Austin SKYSLOCK son of George and Clarissa born 1861 died 1862

    In Memory of Robert ALEXANDER, son of Naucissus and Steward ELLISON born July
    14, 1803. (Stone broken off and stuck in ground. Superintendent’s notebook lists
    “died 1868.”)

    In Memory of Frank TEREL son of Abby and Allen TEREL was born November 17, 1844
    Died February __, 1863. Aged 22 years.

    Missouri TEREL daughter of Allen and Abby was born the 11th day of May 1857
    died the 28th day of July 1857. Age 2 Months 2 Weeks and 3 Days.

    Moranda SMITH died Mch. 9th 1899. Aged 40 years. Erected by her Children.

Section C—l  

    Ginny died 27 June 1849 Age 59 years. (Superintendent’s notebook lists a
    Jinny GILCHRIST Died 1859.)

    In Remembrance.. Jane DICKERSON who died 19 February 1844. Aged 90 years.

    Richard DICKSON died March 10, 1868. (The DICKERSON and DICKSON stones are so
    close in proximity, they could possibly be related, even though the names are
    spelled differently.)

    Martha BUFFALO daughter of Joe. M. BUFFALO Born Jan. 9, 1828 Died Oct. 21,
    1845. Aged 17 years, 9 mos. and 12 days.

    Stone with initials only — “K. B.”

    R. WILLIAMS Died 1840 (no legible stone).

    Cynthia WILLIAMS Died 1870 Aged 50 years.

    In Memory of Pricilla daughter of Henry and Matilda JONES Born Dec. 1816

    Henry MALONE son of John MALONE Died Oct. 9, 1841. Aged 23 years.

    Elizabeth P. ALSTON daughter of Oscar E. ALSTON Died Aug. 16, 1857, in her 28th
    Year. (This stone has been moved from the grave and is now standing against a
    nearby storage shed.)

    C. J. ALSTON Died 1871 (no legible stone)

    Rachel YOUNG Died Dec. 19, 1871. Aged 21 years, 9 mos. and 23 days.

    Rosaline wife of Ransam HARISON Died Oct. 6, 1847. Aged 38 years.

    Stone with no visible name but bears the date 1819.

    Columbus THOMPSON Born 1834 Died 1872 (Stone now broken in half)

    Gilbert WILLIAMS Died 1856 Aged 41 years

    In Memory of John Louis son of Samuel and Grace TAYLOR Died July 9, 1850.
    Aged 10 months

    Mekin LANE Died 1857 (no legible stone)

    Thomas WEEMS Born Nov. 1843 Died December 25, 1859. Aged 16 years 2 mos.

    Sacred to the Memory of Harriet. An Honest and Faithful domestic servant-in
    the family of John H. BRYAN Died 19 April 1853. Aged about 54 years.

    Peter DAVIS Died June 17, 1853.

    Sofia R. HOMES Died 8 June 1830. Aged 48 years.

    Mary HUNTER Died 1856 (no legible stone)

    Stone under bush near fence with only the word “TAYLOR” legible. (Not listed
    Superintendent’s notebook).

Article originally appeared in the N.C. Genealogical Society Journal, Vol. V, No. 3, August 1979, p. 173-176.

"Betsy Shaw is no stranger to the Journal (See her “William Peace of Raleigh and His Brothers and Sisters & c.” in the August 1978 issue (Vol. IV, No. 3). She recently completed an interesting brochure, “A Walking Tour of the City Cemetery,” which provides 38 mini—summaries of prominent citizens buried there. The brochure is available for $1.50 (shipping & handling included) by writing to: Raleigh City Cemeteries Committee, c/o Mrs. Robert L. Shaw, 4901 Brookhaven Rd., Raleigh, NC 27612. In the above article, Mrs. Shaw is joined by her husband, who assisted her in the project, as co-author."


2 Nov 2000 | 26 Mar 2003
Copyright © 2000-2003. All rights reserved.
African American Cemeteries Online