This week's Fact Friday comes to you from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
Physical Description of Biddleville Cemetery
Biddleville Cemetery is located within Five Points Park in the Biddleville neighborhood of Charlotte. The cemetery may be accessed via the park entrance at the intersection of French Street and Cemetery Street. There is no fence around the cemetery. Grave markers, depressions, and other evidence of burials are visible around the west and north edges of the property, as well as the center of the grassy area. The topography slopes from the northeast corner down toward the southwest.
There are nineteen readable grave markers in the cemetery and many more illegible or blank markers. Almost all graves are oriented to the east and west, the only exception being that of Roosevelt Bradshaw (1906-1952). Numerous depressions scattered throughout the property indicate additional burial plots. The style and make of the existing grave markers range from professionally-produced marble markers from the late 1800s to modern granite markers to flat stamped concrete markers created in more recent years. Many of the grave markers are heavily damaged, with several knocked off their bases or broken in two. The effects of weather and pollution are evident, especially on the marble markers, as they have become discolored or the script has eroded and is illegible.
The oldest existing marker in the cemetery dates to 1894. The name on the marker is mostly illegible, though a best guess may be "Sarah Harris." This is one of several simple marble markers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These markers are characterized by simple chiseled script with name, date of birth, and date of death.
While most graves in Biddleville Cemetery are unmarked, many of the extant stones may be considered ornate with carved symbols and decorative shapes. The marble grave marker of Cora Lee Foster, with the hand symbol and rounded top, is one of the more decorative markers in Biddleville Cemetery. The hand pointing up is symbolic of the pathway to heaven. The grave marker of Roxie McCormick (1856-unknown) features a star through open gates flanked by columns, symbolizing the entrance to heaven. The palm fronds on the grave marker of Martha McElmoore (1864-1921) signify victory over death.
Four military markers are extant in the cemetery. Government-issued grave markers for veterans officially commenced following the Civil War, though the first stone markers were issued in 1873. In February 1879, Congress authorized the provision of stone markers for the unmarked graves of veterans in private cemeteries. The oldest in the Biddleville Cemetery marks the grave of Charles Frank French (1874-1924), a veteran of the Spanish-American War. These grave markers are shorter and thicker than the modern grave markers for veterans as compared to the markers for John Edmond Evans (1893-1930) and Dave Queary (1894-1953). Following World War I, new grave markers were approved for veterans of that war. Both Edmonds and Queary served in World War I, thus receiving new markers. Grady Harrison, Jr. (1926-1966), a veteran of World War II, also has a military marker, though his is unusual in that the religious symbol is the Star of David, signifying he was Jewish.
Five family plots remain identifiable in Biddleville Cemetery. While African-American cemeteries tended to not have formal geometric layouts, family members were still buried near one another. The most prominent of these is the Harris family plot, which is located in the center of the cemetery. Two of the graves, perhaps those of Grady Harris, Sr. (1897-1970) and Cora Finley Harris (1900-1957), are raised and surrounded by a border of cinder blocks. Three other grave markers, for their children Grady Harrison, Jr. (1926-1966) and Hattie Harris Lowery (1923-1982) with the third being illegible, are located adjacent to the south.
Biddleville Cemetery is an endangered Mecklenburg County landmark. Being a private cemetery with no oversight and relying solely upon volunteer upkeep, the cemetery has fallen into disrepair. Many markers are damaged or even lost. As the village cemetery of Biddleville, one of Charlotte's oldest ring villages, the cemetery spans the history of post-Emancipation black society in Mecklenburg County.
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Until next week!
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, "Biddleville Cemetery: Located in Five Points Park, French Street," November 2016
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