Last week on vacation, my husband indulged me on my birthday by taking a side trip from our short stay in New Bern by going to Kinston, NC to visit where my father’s family lived. When we were kids and even after married with a family of my own, I enjoyed spending time there. So not having any close living relatives still there, I wanted to go by the family burial places and cemeteries so I could pay my respects and have a few conversations.
I like to stop by and place my hand on the stones with their names or even just to stand in quiet for those where no stones are now left. I talk to them, out loud. I especially like to talk to my grandparents and tell them what is going on, to ask them to look over myself, my father and our families. Sometimes I even ask for their help, and get it!
This time however, when we went to the Sr. Caswell cemetery, my heart ached once again so that I felt physically effected. The property is where my 6th Great Grandparents Richard Caswell Sr, his wife Christian Dallam Caswell, their son Samuel Caswell and other Caswell family (as well as some of the Washington family) are buried. The property was owned by their son Richard Jr, though he would be remembered as the First Governor of North Carolina more importantly to me he was my 5th Great Grandfather.
The graves in this cemetery are some of the oldest. Richard Sr died in 1755, Christian in 1787. The cemetery was left to the family of Gov. Caswell and we have to imagine at that time it was a known cemetery, a place to be respected and honored for eternity. This was a place the Caswell, and later Washington, family chose to have their loved ones buried. A place some would say is holy ground, the final resting place for loved ones. There still remains an obelisk and broken down brick wall around an area to honor the mother of the Washington family
Now through the centuries and recent decades this site has been disturbed, paved over and what was left is overgrown and neglected. The sad fact is though it was left in his will for the family it has traded owners many times and now is left to time and nature to be forgotten. None of the legal property owners have taken the responsibility of care or protection, and none have given even the slightest respect the land on which a cemetery exists deserves.
I feel I am to blame as much as anyone, for allowing this to stay this way.
Somehow I am determined, though with limited means and unlimited desire and determination, I am going to find a way to get this cemetery clear, fenced and to be a true place of rest with the knowledge that though they are gone, they are not forgotten. We may not know a lot about their lives but we know their names and we will keep their memory with the honor deserved.
Their seed shall remain forever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth unto generation and generation.