By Belle P. Long
Rich Hunter, Still Hunter, Jr., Belle Long, and Josh Price visited what strong evidence suggests is the location of our immigrant, William Hunter’s, original land patent of 1695 (see: Hunter & Hunter (2019). Hunter Original Land in Virginia/North Carolina, (pp. 9-11) and Cross & Hunter (2019) William Hunter’s Original Land in America, Jacob Hunter Trust Newsletter, (pp. 2-7), (28:1). The old Hunter family home and cemetery were marked on a drawing by Cornelia Hunter Meara (1834-1909). On April 8th, 2019 our team located what Meara named as the old William Hunter Family Cemetery on the current Godfrey farm at 121 Sugar Run Road in Sunbury NC. The owners of the property, Helen and Kelly Godfrey, request that anyone who wishes to visit the cemetery call and request permission in advance. The site is on private property. Their contact information is available through the Jacob Hunter Trust.
The cemetery is just south of a pond at the end of a dirt road that runs through the Godfreys’ property. They have requested no visitors when it is, or has been raining, due to additional wear and tear on the road. GPS coordinates for the cemetery are 36º 25’ 60” North and 76° 36’ 11” West.
The cemetery is noted on the Meara map (shown below) as “Hunters Cemetary [sic],” and it is shown just west of “Old Hunter House.” Those locations are consistent with what Kermit Godfrey, father of Kelly Godfrey and former owner of the property, told us of the original location of the old house formerly located directly east of the fenced cemetery.
The cemetery turned out to consist of two sites, catty-corner to one another. Rich Hunter’s survey with his dowsing rods of the fenced area to the east, counted 120 burials. There were no discernible markers at this cemetery. It contained one very large camellia bush which could be over the top of additional graves, but the bush prohibited dowsing of that area. All the burials are surrounded by a metal fence made by the Stewart Iron Works of Cincinnati, Ohio, which further research revealed was founded in 1862 and is one of the largest iron fence companies in the country. The iron was clearly manufactured, not hand-wrought, which confirmed its manufacture to post-date 1862. The fence was bolted to hollow metal fence posts and was resting atop what appeared to be a cement foundation. The fence surrounded three sides of the cemetery. On the fourth, or north side, the iron had been removed, and only a few feet of foundation remained in the northeast corner. This portion of the northern boundary may have been compromised when a pond was constructed to the north of the cemetery.
The second site, Plot 2, was located just a few feet southwest of the fenced-in cemetery. It may have been established after the first cemetery filled up. It is enclosed on the east and south by an electric fence which keeps cows out of the cemetery. It is possible that there are additional graves on the south and east sides of the fence, but it was impossible to safely cross the fence to determine if additional graves were located there. The fenced area contained 98 graves by Rich’s count.
We located three tombstones. The first was a tall obelisk whose urn had broken off the top and was lying beside the monument. The obelisk was inscribed “T. S. Meara, born 29 June 1889, died 2 Jan. 1908” and “Cornelia A. Meara born 9 Nov. 1834, died _____.” Her death date was not listed.
One tombstone was partially visible in the ground. We dug it up and discovered it to read: “In Loving Memory of my Mother, Mrs. Emily Hunter [named on the Meara map] died 20 Sept. 1880 aged 81 years, 9 months, and 2 days, Asleep in Jesus.” Research by Thomas Hunter revealed that Emily Riddick (1796-1879) who married Isaac Riddick Hunter (1791-1835) was the mother of Cornelia Artemisa Hunter (1834-1909), and Cornelia’s husband was Captain Timothy Meara. We uncovered two more pieces of this very tall tombstone. We also found most of the footstone which was broken off at the top where the person’s initials would have been and which was inscribed, “E.B. Davis, E[lizabeth] City, NC.” (Note: Photo of footstone is missing—the writer is not 100% sure of surname of stone carver.) Kelly Godfrey remarked that the monument company is still in business. There were numerous bits of broken brick in the area of the two graves where we found the tombstones. It appears the graves may have been lined with bricks which was common for burials in that time.
Kelly Godfrey pointed out the location of another stone just to the south of Emily’s which, when dug up, was found to be inscribed “Miss Elizabeth S. Hunter, died Mar 16 [broken & illegible].”
We re-laid both stones flat in the ground to facilitate mowing of the cemetery by Mr. Godfrey.
Kermit Godfrey, father of Kelly, paid us a call while we were surveying the site. Kermit stated that the cemeteries had been quite overgrown many years ago, and he and his son had cleared them in 1991. We heartily thanked him for his work and for mowing the cemetery over the years.
Kermit also pointed out the location of the footpath that led to the footbridge over the old mill pond that is noted on the Meara map of the area. He stated that his mother-in-law used the footbridge on her five-mile walk to school from Folly Road where she grew up.
Cornelia Meara Map found by Frank T. Cross at Olivia Raney Library in Raleigh of the area showing Old Hunter Place, Hunter Cemetery, home of Emily Hunter, and the Meara home:
Aerial view of the cemetery plots 1 and 2 from Google Earth:
Below, Plot 1 of Hunter Cemetery looking northeast:
Plot 1 of Hunter Cemetery looking north with gate and camellia bush:
Hunter Cemetery gate with manufacturer’s name:
Close-up of cement foundation of Hunter Cemetery wall:
Layout, William Hunter Cemetery, Plot 1.
Plot 2 with Meara monument, looking east: Camelia bush seen behind Meara monument is in the older, fenced cemetery.
Layout, Plot 2 with Meara monument:
Meara monument in Plot 2:
Mrs. Emily Hunter tombstone as re-laid:
Miss Elizabeth S. Hunter tombstone before re-laying: