History of the Cemetery

green street timeline

The earliest mention of the Green Street Cemetery is the 1885 deed (right) where Mary C. Bell sells about a half-acre plot of land to the Colored Graveyard Association for $150. In 1888, and finalized in 1890, she sells an additional 2.75 acres to the association for $200 which is paid for by the City of Statesville. By this time, the Green/Garfield district was the heart of the African American community in Statesville, which was continuing to grow. By 1918, the cemetery was already well-established and this area was thriving with churches, schools, and businesses. The 1918 Sanborn map of Statesville (below) is the earliest city map in which we see this district represented. The First Baptist Church and Billingsley Academy are visible here, and we know that the school would have been in transition on the land beside the cemetery. The first graded school burned in 1916 and was not rebuilt until 1921. At this time, there are also African American shoemakers, grocers, and even the Gaiety Theatre on Center Street.

By 1930, Morningside School was in its prime and more homes were built and being occupied by African Americans. Dr. Robert Holliday and his wife Mary were making great strides in the medical and education fields, respectively out of their home at 241 Garfield Street. Daisy Robinson was operating as the "colored branch" of Davis Hospital at her home at 249 Garfield Street. In the late 1930s and 40s, Peterson and Mangum Funeral Home was located in this district as well. There was a Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist church all within a three-block radius and walking distance to the Green Street Cemetery. Unless they were being buried at churches on the outskirts of town, Green Street was the most common place for African Americans to be buried at the end of the 19th and early 20th century.

Green Street Deed 1
1918 Sanborn png

There are several references throughout local newspapers and oral tradition to a potter's field, located behind the Morningside annex building which eventually became a funeral home. During this project, researchers discovered six burial markers in that additional half acre. Ground-penetrating radar would reveal more than 50 graves in that area. The belief is that people who were unable to afford burial in the cemetery, or who were transient with no relatives to contact, were buried back here. Those who have markers in this area, are later burials. They are most likely located here because the cemetery was filling up and space was no longer available. Belmont Cemetery, which is still used today, opened in 1943 and the Green Street Cemetery was officially closed in 1949. An aerial photograph from 1956 shows the lay of the land when the school was still active and there were walking paths through the cemetery (below).