Greene County, NC
Thanksgiving Weekend 2001
My name is Thomas Wright Hardy, born and raised in Raleigh, NC, but now living in Dobbs Ferry, NY. I am descended from the Lemuel Hardy line (I – IV). My great-grandparents were George Mewborn Hardy and Lucy Ann Fields; my grandparents were Thomas Lemuel Hardy and Elizabeth Foreman Hardy (of Johnston County); and my parents are Wright Lupton Hardy and Jane McCarthy Hardy of Raleigh. The following is based on family history research being conducted by my sister, Gayle Hardy Franks of Garner, NC, my cousin, Gayle A. Hardy of Mebane, NC, and myself, in collaboration with other Hardy researchers.
We’ve been interested in and collecting information on family history for a number of years, relying heavily on the work that others in the extended family have done. With so much research already done, it’s sometimes hard for those of us newer to the study to figure out how to make an important contribution to the work. One of the things that has always intrigued us are the few references to the location of the Lemuel Hardy II (1730-1797) and Benjamin Hardy (1732-1790) plantations and gravesites in Greene County. While there seems to be general agreement about the approximate locations of the sites, we haven’t been able to find any eyewitness accounts more recent than David L. Hardee’s visit in 1960. So we had hoped to be able to visit them ourselves, and document for everyone’s benefit whatever we might be able to find. An update of this “mystery” should be of interest to all researchers of the Hardy and related families.
In a couple of preliminary visits to Greene County, and in email correspondence with other researchers, we gathered information and opinions about the possible location of these farms and gravesites. The consensus of people that we spoke to was that no current researchers had ever been able to pin down these locations. The only written accounts or clues we’ve seen are older accounts by David Hardee, Elder Lemuel H. Hardy, and James Creech (as well as other people quoting or referring to one of those three, such as Marjorie Sutton Oliver and Jessie D. Hardy).
On Friday after Thanksgiving, we again visited Greene County. Our primary purpose was to try again to find the home- and burial-sites of Lemuel Hardy II (1730-1797), his brother Benjamin (1732-1790), and/or his son Lemuel III (1779-1849). We decided to concentrate our search in a wooded area in the extreme southwestern corner of Greene County. Based on the sources identified above, our study of topographical maps of the area, and discussions of the matter with other researchers, here is the reasoning that guided this decision:
There appears to be general agreement that Lemuel II and Benjamin settled on Bear Creek, in SW Greene County, near the present Greene-Lenoir County line. David L. Hardee’s account of visiting these homesites provides some clues as to the physical appearance of the place in 1960 – e.g., the “cemetery...on the edge of a woods, where...sand had been dug out of surface pits..”; the “cotton planted on the knoll where the home stood”, and the “cemetery across the road from where the home stood...” The general location described by Hardee is consistent with the site that we planned to visit.
James Creech’s indication that Lemuel II’s and Benjamin’s plantations were within two miles of present day Jason on Bear Creek (“...see their graves over there on Bear Creek, near Jason.”) seems to argue that the lands were west, and probably south-west, of Jason. A two mile radius circle drawn around Jason covers a lot of territory, but if the plantations had been east of Jason, they would have been described as being near a topographic feature other than Bear Creek, such as Groundnut Creek or Falling Creek. Again, Creech’s description is generally consistent with the location we identified. We also know that Lemuel II and Benjamin had mills on Bear Creek, again suggesting that their homes and gravesites are in the general area that we set out to search.
Elder L. H. Hardy’s family history refers to Lemuel II’s home as being in the “southwest corner of Greene County”. He goes on to say that Lemuel III “settled one-half mile east of his father’s homestead but in Lenoir county”. Both of these bits of information are again consistent with this location.
Anecdotal accounts given by several residents of the Jason area – including Baxter Hardy, Faye Sutton Hardy, Scott Sutton Hardy, Brad Fields, Marjorie Sutton Oliver, and John Croom – indicate local knowledge of some gravesites being located in this area.
Thus, on November 23, 2001, we met Baxter Hardy, Faye Sutton Hardy, and Marjorie Sutton Oliver at the Hardy’s home in Jason. From there we drove south on Rt. 903, then right on SR 1505, to a point about ½ mile from Rt. 903. From there we turned right into cotton fields, along the edge of the woods. We parked at a point a little more than ½ mile north of Rt.1505, within a couple of hundred yards of large buildings housing a turkey farm. We walked west into the woods from this point. The edge of the woods was overgrown with briars and brambles, but these thinned out as we got deeper into the woods, which appear to have been logged sometime in the past. Approximately 300 yards into the woods, we found an old graveyard, consisting of several tombstones, other carved markers, what may be pieces of stone fencing or borders, and the remains of a small brick structure. For readers who have US Geologic Survey topographical maps of this area, look at the LaGrange quadrangle at the point just north of the Greene-Lenoir county line. Using the grid numbers on the map, the cemetery is located at approximately 46 X 17.5; about 1000 feet south of Mill Run, and approximately ½ mile east of Bear Creek.
(Note that one could also reach this site from SR 1130, which is closer, but would require crossing Mill Run. We don’t know how difficult the terrain might be. John Croom, who lives on SR 1130, told us on an earlier visit that he knew of a cemetery in this general location, but that he didn’t know who was buried there. There is also a dirt road leading from Rt. 903 near the Greene/Lenoir County line, but this is an entrance to the turkey farm and is gated.)
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the cemetery is in very poor condition. It has either been vandalized or incidentally damaged during logging and/or farming. Only two headstones are legible, although others may become legible with cleaning. These two belong to Jesse Hutchins Hardy (b. 9/6/1837, d. 2/6/1895) and his wife Martha Stanton Hardy (b. 3/25/1837, d. 3/2/1895). (An entry on BJ's Genealogy Page indicates that these two are buried in the “Hardy Family Cemetery, Greene County”, but no other graves are listed for that cemetery). The markers for these two graves were apparently each constructed in three sections: a base, the engraved headstone, and a carved monument. In both cases, these three sections are now separated and lying close to one another on the ground. The headstones are engraved as follows:
Jesse H. Hardy, son of Lemuel E. Hardy Born Sept. 6, 1837 Died Feb. 6, 1897 (there were other carved sentiments on all 4 sides, but not readable in horizontal position found);
Martha Hardy, Dau. of Washington Stanton Born March 25, 1837 Died March 20, 1895 Loving Mother Wife of Jesse Hardy (writing on all sides but not fully readable in found position).
There was one other upright stone, a small white headstone on the opposite side of the brick structure, with the initials F. O. H. and no other information. It is most likely the burial area of Jesse and Martha’s 3rd child, Florence Ophelia, b. 6/13/1860, d. in 1862.
The other pieces of stone in the cemetery are scattered about in what at first appears to be haphazard fashion, though there may be patterns that aren’t immediately apparent. There are saplings growing throughout, and a thick covering of fallen leaves and moss covers the sandy soil around the area. Many of the carved stones are covered with this moss, which may hide additional inscriptions. The total area that is readily identifiable as a cemetery covers approximately 500 square feet, though the actual size may be substantially larger than that. There is also what appears to be the remains of an old road, running east to west through these woods just south of the cemetery. This seems to be a continuation of the turkey farm’s dirt road mentioned above, and may in earlier times have provided the route between Bear Creek and communities to the east (Jason, Tyson’s Marsh, etc.) This may also be the road mentioned in David L. Hardee’s account of his visit in 1960.
By the time we had looked around the cemetery and the surrounding area, it was rather late in the day, and we had unfortunately failed to bring any equipment that would have helped to clear the area. So we had to abandon that day’s efforts, with a promise to return to do more exploring and restoration.
Part of the significance of finding, and hopefully restoring, this cemetery has to do with the historical importance of Jesse Hutchins Hardy and Martha Stanton Hardy themselves.
Jesse petitioned the Greene County Superior Court in 1885 to authenticate his father’s will. One wonders why he needed to do this, especially in 1885, thirty-six years after his father’s death. The courthouse fire may be the reason, but why wait 9 years after the fire? Another explanation might be that Lemuel IV, Jesse’s brother and a major heir of Lemuel III, had died with many children but without leaving a will. But Lemuel IV died in 1863, more than 20 years before this issue came before the court. A possible explanation is that a family dispute over land had arisen between Jesse H. and his nephews and nieces, and that the dispute was in some way ameliorated by the authentication of Lemuel III’s will.
We haven’t yet examined land and estate records to determine what happened to Jesse’s land after his death. One clue is Marjorie Sutton Oliver’s assertion that her grandfather, Richard Walters Sutton Jr., purchased a 360 acre farm south of Jason on present-day Rt. 903 from Jesse Hutchins Hardy in 1896. However, if Ms. Oliver’s date for this transaction (1896) is correct, then it would have been approximately one year after Jesse’s death (2/6/1895). One wonders if Jesse’s heirs sold off this and perhaps other portions of his land after his death. This and other issues related to Jesse H. Hardy need further research (see list of questions at the end of this document).
Our theory is that Jesse H., at some point in adulthood, settled on what had been his grandfather's or granduncle's land, perhaps because one of his older brothers (probably Levi) had occupied or was occupying his father's house further east. (Remember that Lemuel III is said to have established his plantation to the east of Lemuel II’s land, and that Lemuel III’s will left his “home plantation” to Levi.) If this is true, Jesse and Martha might have occupied the former home of either Lemuel II or Benjamin, at least one of which was apparently still standing as late as 1870, according to an account related by David L. Hardee. It would then be reasonable to assume that Jesse and Martha were buried at the same place, or near the same place, where Lemuel II and Benjamin were buried. If this is correct, then the restoration of this cemetery takes on even greater family and general historical importance.
If Lemuel III's home was indeed further east, then maybe he's buried further east as well. (According to Marjorie Sutton Oliver, James Creech believed that one of the Lemuel’s homes and gravesites was in an area just west of present SR 1122, which is east of Rt. 903. Our very brief visit to this site yielded nothing but scratches from briars – future explorers there should be intrepid and well-equipped with machetes.) It might also be possible that Lemuel III was buried in the "family cemetery", and it may be that it is this “Hardy Family Cemetery” that we re-discovered over Thanksgiving weekend.
A number of important questions remain to be answered, and a number of important actions need to be taken to assure the preservation of this important family and historical site. Some of those questions and actions are:
Under the laws of North Carolina, cemeteries listed with the state are afforded protection from any damage, and access is guaranteed to family members of anyone buried there. We are in the process of figuring out how to contact the State of NC in this regard, and how to contact the current owners of this land. (Note that we have no reason to believe that the current owners would object in any way to our efforts, but it never hurts to play it safe.)
A group of people with machetes, saws, rakes, and shovels could do much to clear the cemetery area in a day or so. We will try to get such a group together for a weekend (perhaps in March, before springtime in NC makes the job more difficult) to begin this process. Anyone who wishes to participate in this can contact us at email@example.com. People with specific knowledge of cemetery restoration and tombstone cleaning/restoration techniques are especially needed, but anyone interested is more than welcome.
1. Does anyone have any additional information, opinions, or other useful thoughts about the locations of the Lemuel Hardy II, Benjamin Hardy, or Lemuel Hardy III plantations and gravesites?
2. Who/what was the source of the listing on BJ Hughes website of Jesse Hutchins Hardy and Martha Stanton Hardy being buried in the “Hardy Family Cemetery, Greene County”? Does anyone have any additional information about the circumstances of Jesse and Martha’s deaths and burials, or know anything else about this “Hardy Family Cemetery”?
3. Did Jesse Hutchins Hardy leave a will? Is there any other information about the disposition of his estate?
4. What are the present day locations of the following place names mentioned in Lemuel Hardy III’s 1844 will? “Goods Branch”, “Groundnut Swamp”, “Oat Marsh”, “Malachi Field’s” property, “Wooten’s” property.
5. Does anyone have any other information or insights that would help determine exactly how Lemuel III’s land was divided up among his sons?
6. Why did Jesse H. Hardy find it necessary to have the Superior Court of Greene County authenticate Lemuel III’s will in 1885?
7. How was land south of Jason divided among the various Hardy families during this timeframe (1850-1900)?
Anyone with any information, or a desire to help in this restoration effort, please contact us at our e:mail
. Finally, for those of you not exhausted or bored, or both, with all of the above, here’s another little mystery that arose during our visit to Greene County. Anyone who knows anything about this is also encouraged to contact us.
The monument in the Mewborn Family Cemetery on SR 1121 in Greene County has information on related families, like the Hardy’s and Aldridge’s. In speaking of the Aldridge family, it says that the family cemetery is located “¼ mile away on the other side of the road”. We struck out through the cotton fields in an attempt to find this Aldridge Cemetery. In an “island” of trees (the fields surround them) about 400 yards to the northwest of the Mewborn Cemetery, we found a single headstone, inscribed as follows:
Born July 12, 1847 Died June 23, 1927
“His Work is Done,
The Victory Won”
The only “Willis” that we can find in family records was a male slave left to Lemuel III’s third wife (and mother of Jesse) Patsy Mewborn in Lemuel III’s will. If the Willis we found was Patsy’s slave before she and Lemuel married, he could have been a “Mewborn”. No other graves are evident in this grove of trees, but it is thickly overgrown, so others may be hidden, especially if the stones are overturned.
Note that there is an Aldridge Cemetery described on the Greene County website, but that one is located to the southeast of SR1135, near Drew Creek, which I think is the site of the ancestral Aldridge Plantation, and is about 1 ¼ miles as the crow flies east-north-east of the Mewborn Cemetery.
Mystery #2: Who was Willis Mewborn, and why is he buried across the road rather than in the Mewborn Cemetery?
Greene County GenWeb
How to Conduct a Cemetery Survey
Cemetery Laws in NC
BJ's Genealogy Page
Hardy Lineage Page
Hardy Burial Sites Page
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This page created: 12/31/2001
To contact web page owner: Belinda Melton Hughes