My Turn, Ed Norvell: Salisbury’s oldest cemetery best location for ‘Fame’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 30, 2021

By Ed Norvell

It seems the main objection to moving “Fame” to the historic cemetery on North Lee Street is that it is “abandoned” and derelict.

This is not true as it is owned and maintained by the city of Salisbury. “Fame” will be well protected by decorative fencing, lighting and security cameras. But much can be done to make the cemetery more attractive

I challenge those who oppose the move not to abandon this cemetery but to adopt it and make it a garden filled with azaleas and flowering trees and shrubs as other historic towns and cities in the south have done like Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and Wilmington, North Carolina. The cemetery no longer accepts active burials. So, fill its empty spaces with plantings that will attract visitors, add it to the railwalk and our history and Civil War trails. Restore broken stones. Repair the brick wall.

The original property known as the “German Burying Ground” was given to the Lutheran church in Salisbury in 1768 by John Lewis Beard for the purpose of erecting the first church in Salisbury and a graveyard where his young daughter was buried. Originally, it was a 1-acre lot, known as lot 67 in the great east square. In 1824, the Beard family gave the adjoining 3-acre lots to the city of Salisbury to expand the cemetery to encompass an entire city block. When the railroad came through in the mid 1850s, it took some of that property, so it is no longer a city block. At first, a wooden fence surrounded it, but in 1872 the current brick wall was erected.  

Many of our city fathers and mothers are buried there, including Judge Archibald Henderson, Lewis Beard (who built the first bridge over the Yadkin River), Congressman Nathaniel Boyden and Charles Fisher, who was the second president of the N.C. Railroad after John Motley Morehead and for whom Fort Fisher was named. He was also the father of “Christian Reid” Frances Fisher Tiernan, a noted Victorian novelist from Salisbury. There is also an interesting burial of the foot of James Reid who lost it in a railroad accident in 1893.

There are 175 markers honoring Confederate war dead who died in Salisbury serving at the prison and who died in the Confederate Wayside Hospital near the railroad and were buried in unmarked graves. These stones were erected by the Robert F. Hoke Chapter of the UDC in 1996, and they look like a small national cemetery. There are over 489 recorded burials in the cemetery in addition to the Confederate burials. 

There is no better location for “Fame” than in this cemetery standing over 175 graves of Confederate war dead. We need to adopt, beautify and tell the story of this historic cemetery as well as other historic cemeteries in town. This way, they can become park-like and destinations for visitors to our city in addition to our well-known and well-visited veteran cemeteries. 

Ed Norvell lives in Salisbury and helped raise funds for amenities at the new location of “Fame.”