north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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     At more than 250 years old, the Old Burying Ground in Beaufort is a favorite attraction for tourists and is one of the town’s most important landmarks. Bounded by Ann, Broad, and Craven Streets, with its iron gates and ancient live oaks, the place evokes an air of age, peace, and mystery. Burials in the graveyard may have begun before 1724, but in that year town trustees deeded a lot to the wardens of St. John’s Parish. In 1731, an adjacent lot was added to the burying ground. Burials were probably confined to these two lots until 1820, when the Methodists acquired adjacent property and erected a new church. The lot acquired in 1731 was full by 1828, creating a need for additional space. The Baptists enlarged the cemetery again in 1851 and the Methodists in 1855 and 1894. The earliest legible tombstone date is 1756, but many markers are either undated or have dates that are illegible. There are also many unmarked graves.

     The cemetery probably differs little from its early appearance, save for the number of stones. There are around 200 dated stones from the pre-Civil War era, some 45 from the war years, about 150 from the period 1865-1900, and a smattering of twentieth-century markers. There are a number of wooden markers with some seventeen different designs of indeterminate date. Many of the graves are topped with brick. There are table stones, obelisks, and official military markers. Many of the stones are signed, providing a fascinating museum of the stonecutter’s art. The marks of the makers reflect Beaufort's orientation to the sea and other areas, as opposed to inland North Carolina. Wrought iron is also a fixture in the cemetery, one fence of which dates from 1865.

     The graves tell many stories. Notable interments include Col. Thallium Thompson, a Revolutionary soldier who was a delegate to the Convention at Hillsborough and to the Provisional Congress at Halifax; Capt. Otway Burns, whose privateer the Snapdragon took many prizes during the War of 1812; and Capt. Josiah Pender, whose men took Fort Macon early in 1861. Restoration work in the early 1990s included preservation and repairs for a number of stone and wooden markers, and the replacement of wooden fences. The Old Burying Ground is maintained by the Beaufort Historical Association and is on the National Register of Historic Places.


References:
“The Old Burying Ground,” The State, Vol. 52, No. 3 (August 1984), 23-24
Tony P. Wrenn, “Beaufort, North Carolina: Historic Site Survey of the Old Burying Ground" (North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1970)
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