LEWISVILLE, N.C. (WGHP) — In our continuing coverage of “Forgotten Souls of North Carolina’s Black Cemeteries,” we take you to Lewisville, where dozens of former slaves settled after the emancipation proclamation was signed — many of whom were buried in the Double Springs Garden of Memory Cemetery.
“My personal family members, probably everybody here is part of my family, but I estimate between 30 to 50 people here,” descendant Fay McCauley said.
McCauley is self-taught independent genealogist. For her, saving this cemetery after the church it once belonged to moved was a lifeline that connected her to her ancestors.
“I feel like the best way I can honor those who gave me the privilege of life, of being here is to remember them and do what they would have you to do to, you know, tell their story,” McCauley said.
The Garden of Memories Committee, which now owns the cemetery, is made up of community members and descendants.
McCauley’s great-grandfather, James Williams Puryear, is one of her ancestors buried in Double Springs.
Williams, a former slave turned Confederate soldier, was granted his freedom sometime after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863.
“I found a document where he told where he was, where he had been a slave in Virginia and Mecklenburg County, Virginia, the day of independence, basically for them when the war ended and stuff,” McCauley said.
Like her grandfather, so many other former slaves are buried beyond these woods in rural Lewisville.
About a mile up the road was the Panther Plantation — owned by the Williams family.
McCauley believes her grandfather worked on that farm.
After turning from slaves to freedmen, they were given this land near Double Springs to start new lives.
“They worked to build the church. And so, a lot of those slaves who were brought on that plantation, this is where they started worshiping their first church,” she said.
Her mother and grandmother were both teachers at the school once connected to the church.
“I remember my mom, not that she was a slave, but talking about, she used to have to cut sugar cane and help her mom out,” McCauley explained.
Because McCauley’s ties to this cemetery runs so deep, she was pained to have to pick up the pieces vandals left behind after they broke some of her family member’s tombstones in the night, throwing them in a nearby river.
“These people are dead and yes, it hurts the families to know that they did this, but they’re doing more harm to themselves than they are to me. … And they’ve got to account for that,” McCauley said.
It happened twice. The people who did it were never publicly identified or held accountable.
Despite these setbacks, the committee’s work continues.
“It’s still a place to honor our ancestors and every year, usually for Memorial [Day] weekend, that Saturday, we set up a tent out here and have a program where we do a fundraiser to help maintain the ground,” she said.
The Memorial Day Cookout has been canceled for a second year in a row because of the pandemic.
Tuesday, FOX8 is digging up the truth with Winston-Salem native Earl Byers, whose father dug many of the designated Black graves in town. See what it was like to work in these Black cemeteries.