Editorial: Community responds to Dixonville vandalism

Published 12:55 am Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The community responded forcefully and generously following the discovery of vandalized graves at Dixonville Cemetery last week.

At the time of the vandalism last week, the cemetery had already received more than $500,000 in donations from private individuals, foundations, churches and the city of Salisbury through the fundraising platform GoFundMe. In the days since city staff members and Emily Perry, who leads the Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Task Force, discovered 16 toppled or broken gravestones, people have added another $5,765 to the total.

Perry may have inspired some of the recent gifts with a quote when speaking to the Post and WBTV last week.

“I just hope and pray that we will be able to get the money to complete the project and also be able to move on where we can really celebrate the awesomeness of this community,” she said.

It reflects positively on the Salisbury community that the immediate response was an outpouring of donations to help with future parts of the project or repairs. Dixonville Cemetery is a vital link to our city’s collective heritage, and every dollar helps get the project closer to completion. Recent donations range from $5 to $2,000 from the N.C. Lutheran Synod.

At the time of the vandalism last week, city staff estimated the project required about $15,000 to engrave names of those buried on markers at the exterior of the cemetery. Though it wasn’t an exact figure, and recent price increases for goods and labor could raise that total.

One of the city’s oldest Black cemeteries, Dixonville Cemetery was deeded to the city of Salisbury in 1874.

There are more than 500 documented burials that have occurred at the Dixonville site since 1914. However, many took place prior to the practice of official record-keeping and are unmarked. The oldest existing headstone in Dixonville Cemetery dates to 1851. While engraving was the next step, the project also hoped to revitalize Lincoln Elementary School, a long-vacant historic school behind the cemetery. That probably will require more funding and cooperation than the cemetery project has to date.

In the immediate future, the city of Salisbury has taken a good step by agreeing to cover costs of repairs to gravestones, which ensures the thousands raised recently will go entirely to remaining construction work if donors who contributed specifically for repairs are OK with that.

Positioning a camera in the area to add to the city network monitored by Salisbury Police also may be another worthwhile. Depending on its position, it may be able to serve the dual purpose of monitoring traffic on Old Concord Road.