You are standing before the oldest continuously existing human institution in northern Mecklenburg County: Hopewell Presbyterian Church. There were seven churches in this southern region of North Carolina Piedmont before the Revolutionary War. Called the "sister churches", they were all Presbyterian because most of the original European settlers in this area were Scots-Irish Presbyterians from Northern Ireland. For more information on the church building itself, please see the visitor station on the west side of the church.
The oldest grave in this cemetery is dated 1775. Burials were performed here regularly until 1840 when a new cemetery was started on the back side of the church buildings. Archaeologists and infrared photography indicated there are graves within most of the gaps between the tombstones. That is, some graves were never marked. Others were marked with simple fieldstones. A few may have been delineated with wooden markers which decayed with time.
This cemetery contains the third highest concentration of box markers in the State of North Carolina. These are the ones that appear to be rectangular stone boxes. There are no bodies within the boxes as everyone is buried underground. Look closely and you can find evidence of what was called "table markers" as well. These looked like stone table tops held upright by six stone legs. These two styles were part of a "neo-classical revival", which means that there was renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman designs. Back in the early 1800's when those markers were installed, they were worth the equivalent of what the average family was paying for a house - proof of the early wealth of this community.
If you are searching for ancestors or for historic persons, go near the front of the church building. There you can find giant tablets that have a map and numerical listing of the graves in this cemetery.
The stone walls that you see on both sides of Beatties Ford Road consists of stones originally stacked in a wall that went all the way around this cemetery. You can see this wall in the background of the photograph above. The records state that this wall was erected to "keep out children and livestock."
In 1928, the North Carolina Department of Transportation was beginning to hard surface many of the rural roads in the state. Churches with stone walls were solicited to donate them to the cause as the stones were crushed for the surfacing of the roads. Ramah Presbyterian Church on the east side of Huntersville donated their wall, but a son of this church, E.L. Baxter Davidson, asked that the stones be given to him. He constructed this wall in addition to other walls, columns, and historic monuments along Beatties Ford Road. He also created and erected Hornet's Nest mileage signs the whole length of Beatties Ford Road. The only one remaining in public is set into this wall just past the church sign. See if you can find mile marker #11, exactly eleven miles from the square of Trade and Tryon.
Near the church building, you can see the gate to the cemetery. A slave named Lewis Phifer carved the gateposts. One of the mysteries of Hopewell is where were the church's enslaved members buried? Usually they were interned outside the walls of the main cemetery, but archaeologists and infrared experts have been unable to find evidence of such burials. The only other option is slave cemeteries on the master's land scattered throughout the community. For instance, there is the McCoy Cemetery on McCoy Road, an easy distance from here.
Feel free to explore the rest of the campus, and you will find other visitor stations like this one.
Originally a stepping stone to the Potts house on Patterson Road, this stone may have previously been a front step to Hopewell Presbyterian Church or Bethel Presbyterian Church.