Yadkin County is remembering its abandoned cemeteries during March. As a result, the public is more aware of their existence and more information is being found about these important places.
The event began in 1991, when the Yadkin County Historical Society asked the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners to approve a resolution declaring March as Abandoned Cemeteries Awareness Month. The resolution states that Yadkin County’s abandoned cemeteries constitute a valuable part of its cultural heritage.
“To visit one is to connect with the history of Yadkin County,” said a frequent visitor. The historical society chose March for the resolution because it usually precedes Easter, the traditional time for families to decorate graves and get them ready for spring.
The state of North Carolina defines an abandoned cemetery as one not having a burial in at least 50 years. In other words, it is an inactive cemetery. However the families buried in these forgotten graveyards are important to their descendants, who visit them regularly, it was observed.
The North Carolina General Assembly has directed every county to assume responsibility for protecting its abandoned cemeteries, which are owned by the county. In 1987, the late Carl C. Hoots of Yadkinville compiled the first list of cemeteries and submitted his reports to the North Carolina Cemetery Commission in Raleigh. In 1991, the Yadkin County Historical Society continued the work of Hoots by visiting these cemeteries to compile more information about them.
The Yadkin County Register of Deeds maintains a list of these cemeteries and the Yadkin County Clerk of Court keeps maintenance funds for at least three of them. However, there is no general county fund to maintain these cemeteries, which means that property owners, family members, and others must cooperate to do the job.
The cemetery committee is concerned that some families are not aware that these graveyards still exist. “It only takes two generations to forget the graves of your ancestors,” a concerned citizen said.
They are subject to desecration and destruction by vandals and unknowing property owners. The penalty for destroying an abandoned cemetery remains very low, and the sheriff’s office must still catch the perpetrators. By making the public aware of these cemeteries, there has been a reduction in their unwanted desecration and destruction.
The resolution encourages property owners to maintain these graveyards and provide access, not necessarily a road, to them. When families have access to visit their ancestors, they often help care for these sacred places. These visitors have a responsibility to ask permission before they visit and respect the land of the property owner.
As of 2018, the historical society’s cemetery committee has visited over half of Yadkin County’s 600 abandoned cemeteries. They worked with the county planning office to identify their location on county planning maps, so that property owners will know their locations.
For more information, contact Andrew Mackie at 336-428-8471, or firstname.lastname@example.org.