Historic Graves

John N. Smith Cemetery needs your help
Story by Ami Brown
February is not only the month of Valentines Day, but we also celebrate Black History Month. Southport’s John Smith Cemetery was the segregated burial grounds in the past. There is now a preservation society to help restore this forgotten cemetery and to maintain it’s history. The broken fence, unmarked graves, crumbled headstones, are just a few of the things the group is raising funds for.

John N. Smith Cemetery
A Bridge from the Past to the Present, to the Future
The preservation of the John N. Smith Cemetery has an historical and spiritual significance that is an essential part of the Southport Community. Its perpetual care will remind us of the lives and the contributions made by local black citizens towards Southport’s growth and development.
Many of the persons interred there were slaves, farmers, teachers, businessmen, laborers, domestic servants, homemakers, and other professionals. Additionally interred there are veterans dating from the Civil War and subsequent military campaigns.
The urgency to restore the cemetery comes as a result of disappearing gravesites and persons with knowledge to identify those sites.
The Southport community has the resources and the capacity to ensure the cemetery’s future is maintained forever as a unique and respected site for celebrating an honorable past.
Mission
The John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation Incorporation endeavor to ensure the physical integrity, the community relevance and the historical significance of the John N. Smith Cemetery.
Our Goal for 2018
We have been so fortunate, through donations and grants, a fence was installed around a portion of the property in 2017.
We have started the GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) study and have 60% of the cemetery mapped and to our surprise have found 800 unmarked graves. We are asking for donations to complete the rest of the GPR study.
We are working with Henry Louis Gate Jr. with Finding Your Roots to help us find out who John N. Smith was and what part did he play in the Smithville Community.
Judy Gordon adds, “Our next major current focus is the completion of the GPR Study. Over 800 grave sites have already been located, over 700 of those were unmarked. With just over half of the cemetery study done we are expecting to find more unmarked graves. Of course once they have been located there remains the issue of how to mark those graves. Though many will remain unnamed, we hope to preserve the individual sites. Additional funds are needed to complete the study.”
Another area of focus is the research we are doing on all the cemetery interments and the role each played in making this beautiful town. Especially John N. Smith who was the first person buried there.
“A portion of what we wanted to do with the fencing has been done but we do want to continue that effort until completion. The immediate goal is to raise enough funds to complete the GPR and eventually the fencing. There are so many other projects that will be generated from this project alone: mapping, marking and preserving. “
She adds, “The greatest portion of the goals we have set remain before us, but the satisfaction of preserving a portion of the whole history of this little town is very rewarding.”
Please visit
www.johnnsmithcemetery.org
or contact
Judy Gordon at
910-457-4756 for more information.

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