Lost Graves Found at Wilmington’s Pine Forest Cemetery

Pine Forest Cemetery in Wilmington, North Carolina serves as the final resting place for many of Wilmington’s Black residents. The cemetery dates to back prior to the American Civil War, being purchased in 1860 by the Commissioners of Wilmington who purchased 15 acres adjacent to Oakdale Cemetery as a Black Burying Ground. Much of the cemetery had become overgrown, and this last week folks from Hands On Wilmington decided to do something about it. The following excerpt is from an article in the April 29, 2009 Star News.

Graves hidden among brush were discovered by Hands On Wilmington crews last weekend. Photo by Amy Hotz

The top portion of the tombstone was long gone. The remaining part lay on the ground partially covered with dirt and oak leaves. “Gone but not forgotten,” were the only words legible in the weathered cement.

Volunteers were surprised to find more than 100 graves, like this one, dated between the mid 1800s and the 1960s hidden away in vines and bushes at Pine Forest Cemetery. Some had stones. Some were merely deep impressions in the soil.

“We knew there were grave sites back there. But these were not grave sites that had been lost. They were forgotten,” said Mike Kozlosky, project manager for the cemetery’s Hands On Wilmington clean-up held last weekend.

Stone after stone was uncovered from the vines and the trees and the bushes. Some revealed well-known names of black Wilmington families including Nixon and Williams. There were Pearsalls and Holdens, and many more that were too aged to read.

Some, such as Eugene Henry’s World War I grave marker, gleamed in the sunlight it hadn’t seen since some time soon after 1956.

Read the full article by Amy Hotz in the Star News.

Author: Leland Meitzler

Leland K. Meitzler founded Heritage Quest in 1985, and has worked as Managing Editor of both Heritage Quest Magazine and The Genealogical Helper. He currently operates Family Roots Publishing Company (www.FamilyRootsPublishing.com), writes daily at GenealogyBlog.com, writes the weekly Genealogy Newsline, conducts the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour to the Family History Library, and speaks nationally, having given over 2000 lectures since 1983.

14 thoughts on “Lost Graves Found at Wilmington’s Pine Forest Cemetery”

  1. I would like to know how to determined if there are any Miller family members buried in this cemetary. I am doing research on the family Of John Lee Miller.

  2. My mother, Annie Lucille Ward Hall ( Peyton) died in New York on April 30, 1949 she had to be buried the beginning of May, 1949. Her former husband James Hall, her sister Willie Mae Ward, and her niece, a baby were all buried together with her.
    I remember it being located, upon entering, on the left side of the road, on a hill near a large tree and Mr. Hall had a large headstone.
    I was told that the burial grounds had been vandalized and I was unable to locate her grave when I visited. But I would surely like to know if her grave has been located. Her brother William Duffie Ward should also be there, he died in 1967.

  3. I am delighted to see this article about Pine Forest Cemetery.
    My WEELDON ggrands are buried there——I have yet to hear from
    anyone who claims kinship to them, so am hoping that the article
    will be read by many and bring some results.
    carol wheeldin warren.

  4. Can someone please advise the current status of identifing thse graves? That they got in that condition is terrible enough but, knowing and not fixing them up may even be worse.

  5. Trying to locate my great grandfather’s grave and some of his relatives. He did not have a headstone and we have not been able to find his grave marker. His name was Junious McKoy and he died in July of 1950. His niece was also buried there (Theresa McKoy McDowell) and both his wives (Lula Lawrence McKoy and Addie Lamont McKoy). Is there someway to get help finding these graves. I live in GA and don’t get to NC very often anymore.

  6. Hello; I am trying to determine if Mrs & Mrs Thomas J. Bullock have head stones in Pine Forest. She was buried there in 1930 and his remains were brought from France (World War One) and buried in Pine Forest in 1921.

  7. I am researching my family history and I have death cetificates for Eli and Haywood Pollock with Pine Forest being the burial place. The year of deaths are 1920 and 1947. I am interested in any graves mark POLLOCK or POLLOCKS. Is there a map or records of the graves?

  8. I am searching for the grave of my grandmother. Her name was Alice Williams. According to her death certificate, she died on April 25, 1924 and was buried at Pine Forest Cemetery on May 1, 1924. How can I confirm that her grave is there? I live up north, but would like to visit the cemetery. Is it possible to contact someone who maintains the cemetery?

  9. Good luck with that, Brenda! I visited Pine Forest a few weeks ago and couldn’t find anyone. It’s unbelievable that they didn’t even have any kind of records. It’s beyond heartbreaking that the cemetery is just sitting there. The city of Wilmington won’t even cut the grass or even get rid of the weeds. I believe this is the cemetery that was up for sale a few weeks ago. I’m not sure what happened with that. The only way to truly know who’s buried there is to pretty much look around the cemetery. That was the ONLY way I was able to find my great-grandmother. However, most of the families have a family plot. If you visit that might help you out some. Also, pretty much no one even knows the cemetery is around. It’s not even listed. I went to one of the larger cemeteries to see if they knew where Pine Forest was and she had never heard of it. She did have a map and found it that way. There’s another directly across from it. You just have to look at the cemetery names to see which is which.

  10. My wife and I spent a couple hours last weekend exploring Pine Forest, where we did come across the graves of Thomas Bullock and his wife. They share a tombstone, along with another individual named George F. Cleapor. Their tombstone is located in the furthest section of the cemetery from its entrance, 15 yards to the left of the large tombstone of educator James Dudley. A smaller marker for Thomas Bullock recognizes him as a lieutenant of the 367th infantry, 92nd division, and vet of the 1914-1918 World War.

    As noted by others, the condition of the cemetery leaves much to be desired. However, given that the city turned the control of the land over to an independent group to run the cemetery, my guess would be that the city has no responsibility for its upkeep. Which is a shame – the grounds are in need of LOTS of attention. The slopping land is consistently uneven. The grass is cut in some areas, but, weeds, vines, plants and leaves are overtaking much of the cemetery. A good number of the tombstones and grave markers are slowly disappearing into the earth. The revival of this historic place would seem to be a priority of the community and city of Wilmington.

  11. Though the cemetery needs much attention, there is a gentleman named James Lofton who volunteers his time to do the landscaping of the Pine Forest Cemetery, may God bless him. Most of my relatives are buried in this cemetery. I did attempt to locate their graves to no avail. Mr. Lofton met me at the cemetery with a Cemetery Log Book containing many of the names of those buried there. This was done with the help of some college students who volunteered their time to walk through the cemetery, writing down all that they could. The project isn’t complete, but it is step in the right direction. Hopefully, upon my next visit to Wilmington, I will be able to locate my family members. (ASHE & WHEELER) There’s a donation box at the entrance just past the gate on the left hand side. Time and money will help assist in this endeavor. If you need Mr. Lofton’s contact info, please email me at: brothahakim@aol.com.

    Peace & Blessings.

  12. Wow! My great Aunt Bettie L. Jenkins told me about this cemetery years ago, however I thought she was confused about where it was located. While sitting and talking to her about our family’s geneology she told me that her mother and mother’s mother were buried at Pine Forest. My grandmother Viola Johnson recently passed and a conversation started with my sister and cousins and I discovered that this cemetery indeed exists.

    I would be interested to know if Mary Johnson DOD 8/21/1960, Cloreah, Violet Tyndall (last name may not be correct) or Evans Johnson is buried there. I am ordering the book suggested ‘Strenght Thru Struggle’ to learn more about the cemetery and plan to acutally go by on my next visit home.

    I hope and pray that the cemetery log book records will be posted online so families outside of Wilmington can see what we can find.
    As a child in elementary school I can remember visiting Bellevue or perhaps Oakdale cemetery to do research, not knowing that the research that I should have truly been completing lie only a few yards away.

    It is sad that the cemetery is neglected and goes without care. we buried my grandmother at Calvary Cemetery (another well known black cemetery in Wilmington) and the current owner told us that they have a trust that will guarantee that year adn years from now the cemetery will be maintained. Amen for that.

  13. My grandfather went by john lee or Lee A. Miller. He left wilmington in the 1920’s and may have had another wife and children. He may have had other siblings with names like Mary, Annie or Charles. We are trying to research other Miller family members.

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