Old English or Oak Grove Cemetery, Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina, USA

Located at the corner of West Council and North Church streets in Salisbury, behind the old First Baptist Church site and across the street from St. Luke's Episcopal Church.


Quoted from Salisbury Sunday Post article of 11 Sep 1966, titled "Footnotes to History," written by James Brawley:

Some Facts About "Old English"

"Oak Grove" or "Old English" had its official historical marker dedicated this week. Let Footnotes add some sidelights to this second oldest cemetery in the city.

Rumple reports that some of Gen. Gates' soldiers who died following the Battle of Camden in 1780 are buried there and here also were interred some British soldiers who died in 1781 during the time of Gen. Cornwallis' visit to Salisbury.

The graveyard was not enclosed until William Gay, by will, left $100 for that purpose. Either that was not enough money to do the job or perhaps the wooden fence fell apart because in 1855 the Carolina Watchman reported that "the citizens of Salisbury by a liberal and humane subscription have at last succeeded in enclosing the grave yard in the rear of the Episcopal Church with an elegant granite wall." The newspaper reported that Robert Hendry did the job.

An old schoolhouse in front of the cemetery had burned to the ground in 1824 yet the school lot was never used as a burial ground.

In reporting the fire the Western Carolinian stated that the building was "respected more for its antiquity than its value for no less than eight or ten generations have been taught the rudiments of their education in the venerable house."

Although the cemetery was not given to Salisbury until 1794 it was used as such long before this time. The oldest grave uncovered there was that of Capt. Daniel Little who died in 1775. [Actually, the marker for Henry Bruner and his family is dated 1769.]

This would seem to support the fact that the burying ground referred to in the 1770 act incorporating Salisbury, was, indeed, the Old English Cemetery.

The Colonial Records of North Carolina reporting the act states: "And be it enacted ... that the aforesaid lot, reserved and Known by the name of the Burying Ground, be forever hereafter reserved for that use only; and the title hereof vested in the Commissioners of said Town for the time being ..."

Of course there is no evidence to support the fact that the burying ground referred to in the act was in fact the Old English, as even Rumple states there was another Masonic burying ground near the railroad at East Bank Street.

An even older grave was found in the old English graveyard in 1873 when a very old tree, said to have been well over 150 years old, was dug up from the cemetery and at its base was found a skeleton in a kneeling position. Local historians of that day surmised that it must have been that of an Indian as that was the usual way they buried their dead.

Besides Revolutionary soldiers buried there, some bones of Confederate rest with the soldiers of an earlier war. One marker in the cemetery covers the bodies of four unknown soldiers. On the face of the tomb are these words: "For us they fought, For us they died -- God Bless them."

Clarence Wainwright Murphy left instructions in his will that he be buried in a mausoleum on the square and if that was not possible to be buried in the Old English Cemetery under a tombstone carved in the shape of his Sigma Nu fraternity pin. Alas, his plans went awry when his nephew broke the will and he was laid to rest there under a simple headstone.

Part of the Old English Cemetery was dug up when in 1899 Jackson and Liberty Streets were cut through. In doing this part of the Colored Cemetery behind the Old English was used and the city purchased four acres of land near Livingstone College for $200 from S. F. Lord for the use as a Negro graveyard.

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