Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cherryhill Cemetery

Cherryhill Cemetery is one of the community cemeteries in Greenville, NC.  It is one of the older cemeteries, and encompasses two lots that were originally the location of churches.  Elizabeth Ross has a brief history, a map, and transcriptions of the standing graves online.  I'm focussing on the African American section of the cemetery, which was established in 1872 as a "colored" area.  


Above are the main gates into the cemetery.  The cemetery retains its gravel and grass path and is well maintained, although a few markers show signs of vandalism.  There are lots of missing heads and hands from the statues near the front.  The African American area of the cemetery is to the right, past a hedge and chain-link fence which separates it from the rest of the cemetery.  You enter a gap in the hedge see a sloping area of ground with several markers in a variety of styles and sizes.  

African American Section

The first time I entered this area of the graveyard, I knew it as the African American section, even without knowing the history.  The types of markers and the location of this area, along with the fact that its the only area separated with a hedge, let me know right away.  In particular, this area has several concrete vault markers which are distinctive and, as far as I have been able to find out, only associated with African American graves.  These crypts are often painted a metallic silver, although by now the paint has faded and worn off many of them.  Cherry Hill has a cluster of these, with a few others scattered about. 

This area has suffered more damage than some other areas.  Many of the markers are damaged, some have fallen, and there is evidence of vehicles driving through the center of the area.


Despite the damage, this is one of the most beautiful areas of the cemetery.  The street is mostly hidden by the hedges, and the sloping boundary at the rear of the cemetery provides an unimpeded view of the sunset's colors.  There are several stately old trees standing guard, including a magnificent magnolia shading a few graves beneath it's spreading canopy.  The segregated design of these old community cemeteries has a certain poignance as, in death as in life, skin color trumped all.


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