CLEMMONS, N.C. — Where some people might see an eyesore, Joan Schlicher sees history.
The place in question isn’t much to look at, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
It’s a small plot of land, .11 of an acre, according to Forsyth County tax records, just off Loop Road in Clemmons.
It’s surrounded by a rusting, waist-high chain link fence. Weeds and a thick canopy of junk trees seal out sunlight, and a muddy path runs by the only gate leading inside.
A closer look, one that requires visitors to get out of their cars, shows what Schlicher sees when she walks by: a small family burial ground with two headstones where the memories of Confederate soldiers are honored.
“Pretty soon the trees are just going to devour it,” she said. “It just saddens me. My parents have been dead for over 25 years and their graves have perpetual care. … It just seems like (the Civil War soldiers) deserve better, you know?”
Schlicher, an inquisitive transplant from Pennsylvania, first discovered the graveyard not long after she moved in across the street six years ago.
Within the fencing, there are maybe a dozen headstones. Some of them are still visible from outside the chain link, and their weathered faces tell pieces of a family’s story.
Thomas Hanes. Dec. 26, 1803. Feb. 19, 1879.
Others, particularly a pair of small white stones with no inscriptions, are nearly impossible to spot. “They might be for babies who died young,” Schlicher offered.
Two stones in particular, though, are the ones that inspire curiosity beyond that of a local family’s lineage.
Jacob Hanes. Born Dec. 28, 1828. Confederate soldier. Died in Richmond, Va. March 19, 1863.
Bryan Jarvis Sr. Feb. 16, 1829. March 16, 1864. Confederate veteran. Buried at Point Lookout, Md.
Those inscriptions are the ones that set Schlicher to thinking.
Before she retired, Schlicher worked for a municipal government in Lower Mayfield, Pa. There, ownership of abandoned cemeteries can revert to the towns and townships, and those municipal governments often will clean them up once or twice a year.
She thought something similar might exist here, so she started some basic research. Through property tax records, she learned that the land was registered to an entity called the Hanes Family Burial Ground and that its formal address was listed on Sink Dairy Road.
“That has to be this,” she said, gesturing to a muddy path barely wide enough for a single vehicle to pass through. “I imagine this could have been a dirt road that led to a family farm.”
Finding out some basic information about the Confederate soldiers isn’t as difficult as one might think, either.
The National Park Service maintains a database of soldiers from both sides that can locate a surprising amount of detail. Other websites, particularly one geared toward genealogy, fill in other areas.
A Jacob Hanes was indeed a member of the 21 st Regiment of the North Carolina infantry. That outfit was organized in Danville, Va., and recruited from Davidson, Surry, Forsyth, Stokes, Rockingham and Guilford counties.
Among other engagements, the 21 st fought at Manassas, Va. (also called Bull Run); Chancellorsville, Va.; and Gettysburg, Pa. Hanes enlisted as a private and died of pneumonia in Richmond just months before the battles at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.
Jarvis — whose name is alternately listed in Civil War records as Bryant — was a private who was buried in a mass grave of 3,384 Confederate soldiers at Point Lookout, a Union prisoner-of-war camp. He was in the 15 th Regiment of the North Carolina infantry, an outfit that was formed in the central part of the state.
To Schlicher, that history is worth noting and preserving.
“I was hoping to find some way to clean it up,” she said. “If there was a way to get some of the bigger stuff out — I was thinking a Boy Scout troop or something — I’d be willing to figure out a way to try to keep it up.”
One initial problem was that she was worried about trespassing. No contact information is listed on the county tax rolls after the site was registered in 1958.
“By definition burial property that is not available for sale is exempt under North Carolina statutes,” said John Burgiss, the county tax assessor. “We don’t tax it or send tax bills on it. Other burial property, if owned by corporation for example, that sells plots, is. This is a family burial ground.”
The N.C. secretary of state’s office has no corporate organization records for a Hanes Family Burial Ground.
There are records for financial trusts pertaining to the locally well-known Hanes family. It wasn’t clear whether this small burial ground is connected to the family tree, but there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that it might be.
“If somebody says it’s OK, I’d like to try to do something,” Schlicher said.