The Jesse Franklin chapter’s project this year will focus on cemeteries, including preservation and using information found in cemeteries to do primary historical research on individuals. The youth will eventually create a short video detailing the lives of five or six select individuals they find in local cemeteries.
“Cemeteries have an important place in the historical research process,” said Matt Edwards, Mount Airy Museum of Regional History director.
Thursday’s tour marked the first stop as they visited the old Methodist cemetery off South Main Street. As part of the tour, the youth received an informational sheet on cemetery and tombstone iconography, the representative images found on tombstones.
The location on South Main Street is the site of the second Methodist church in Mount Airy which was built in 1858. The wooden structure no longer stands but its location is marked by a brick community building constructed in the 1920s.
“When churches were built them, it was usually around the center of town,” said Glenda Edwards, who was giving the tour.
The first burial in the cemetery took place around 1857 and the cemetery was closed in 1895 with any later burials requiring special permission.
“Back in the 1800s, most people buried Uncle Joe out in the backyard. In the 1840s, they started to build these little parks. People would go on Sunday afternoon and bring a picnic to the family plot. It was like a family outing to be with their loved ones,” said Glenda Edwards of when cemeteries started in earnest.
She pointed out that graves in the cemetery dating until the end of the 1800s are made of marble. At that time, people started to construct tombstones out of granite because the marble did not preserve well.
As the youth walked through the cemetery looking for iconography and trying to figure out what each symbol meant, She talked to them about the different families represented in the cemetery such as the Banners and the Taylors and even Joseph Hollingsworth, who was the doctor for Eng and Chang Bunker.
In two weeks, the group will visit Oakdale Cemetery on North Main Street.
The Junior Historians program is run through the NC Museum of History to encourage the continued study of history by children. The Jesse Franklin Chapter was formed in 2007 and has been an award-winning chapter every year.
Contact Morgan Wall at email@example.com or 719-1929.