History of the Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter Cemetery

128 Union Branch Road
Corapeake, (Gates County), NC
36° 29’ 22” N & 76° 38’ 22” W
Richard H. Hunter

Arial photo of Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter cemetery

In January 2021 Dr. Surry P. Roberts and Joshua Price, both of Raleigh, NC located the Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter family cemetery northwest of Sunbury. NC. This cemetery had been forsaken for many years and had been mostly forgotten. Individuals associated with the Jacob Hunter Trust had heard stories about this “old Hunter Cemetery” and the female buried in an iron casket partially out of the ground with an oval glass window. Intrigued by this story, Joshua Price began a search of old land deeds in Gates County. He located property owned by Civil War Veteran, Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter in the vicinity of where the long-lost cemetery was thought to be. In January 2021 Josh and Dr. Roberts visited the land and discovered the cemetery severely overgrown with brush and fallen trees and hidden by dense vegetation. An iron fence was badly damaged by age and fallen trees. With a generous donation by Dr. Roberts and others, the Jacob Hunter Trust began restoration efforts.

In November 2021 the Trust contracted with Rountree Engineering and Contracting in Gatesville, NC to remove the dead and fallen trees and brush. In January 2022 Dan Rountree completed clearing and photographing the cemetery for the Trust. During his renovation Dan found several sections of the iron fence damaged and missing. He took the remaining sections of the fence and the decorative gate to his business for storage until the Trust could afford to have the fence restored. In January 2022 Belle Long registered the cemetery with the NC Office of State Archaeology (31GA131).

Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter

There were eight graves with headstones in various stages of deterioration. More unmarked graves may be found with a future survey. The earliest burial was of Martha Sumner Hunter (1793-1855), wife of Edward Riddick Hunter (1788- 1857) in May 1855. Martha was Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter’s mother. The last burial was December 10, 1903, with the death of Mary Hinton Cheek Hunter, wife of Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter.

Artemisia Maria Hunter Mullen (1819-1854) received a most unusual burial. She was the daughter of Edward Riddick Hunter and Martha Sumner Riddick Hunter and sister of Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter. Artemisia married Joseph Mullen III 15 Mar 1841. A son, Edward M. Mullen who died at 7 years, 5 months is buried in the family plot. There may have been another son, or relative, who died at 3 years, 9 months Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter named Edward H Mullen, who has a headstone next to Edward M. Mullen.

When Artemisia died, she was buried in an iron casket containing an oval glass window with a sliding top. The casket was left partially out of the ground so she could be seen through the glass window. Sally Koestler (www.SallysFamilyPlace.com) sent me a copy of a letter she received in 2006 from Stacy Lynn Jones (age 36) who viewed the casket as a young girl. Stacy wrote, my grandparents lived in a large two-story house off HWY 32 in Gates County. Their daughter (my aunt) lived with them along with her son Scott. He is about two years older than I. I was around 8 years old when I was visiting for the weekend, and my cousin took my hand and said “SHHH! Let’s sneak off , I want to show you something spooky!” As little as I was, we jumped a few ditches and cleared many field rows. At the edge of the woods was a fancy iron fence [of a hidden cemetery]…. A tomb, the only one different from the rest had been slid open. Down below I saw a beautiful lady with only her face showing through an oval glass cover. The rest of her coffin was made of iron in the shape of a woman. Her hair was up in a bun. Black attire was noticeable along with a splendid white lace around her neck. I was amazed…. I never told a soul until I was around 22 years of age. I began to think I dreamt it all up. I called my cousin…asked him if he remembered; and sure enough it was true. I went back to that place with my husband…… the lady’s facial glass was busted and filled with water. Alongside her were the remnants of a pine coffin and a few bones.

Al Byrum currently owns the farm where the cemetery is located. He told Dr. Surry Roberts that he remembers the coffin with the glass window and as a child he and his brother charged people a dime or a quarter to take a look. Later on, the iron casket and glass began to deteriorate, and they had a stone mason brick over the top of the grave.

Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter had a large two-story house that was East of the cemetery near Union Branch Road. He used his home as a hospital for many years serving people in Gates County. The home fell into disrepair and was taken down.

The Jacob Hunter Trust hopes to continue the maintenance of this historic cemetery.

Dr. Henry Holmes Hunter cemetery drawing