KERNERSVILLE, N.C. (WGHP) –Tonight, we take you to Kernersville where the Historical Preservation Society has taken over the grounds in hopes of not only preserving it but finding out who is buried there.
In Kernersville, just off south main street, in the center of town, you’ll find a quiet cemetery that Chris Gaugler calls her safe haven.
“I can feel their presence sometimes because you know, when I’m walking through…I can feel people laughing. I can feel people…saying ‘thank you'”
She dedicates her free time to learning about the roughly 300 people who are resting here.
“I tell them all the time, when I sit here on the bench, ‘we care about you, and we love you, and we’re doing this because we do want everybody to remember everything that you were then and now to this country,’” Gaugler said.
She is a Kernersville Historical Preservation society board member.
Years ago, she took a liking to the St. Paul Cemetery and eventually became the coordinator.
“My priority and my work has been the physical aspects of keeping it clean and trying to preserve it,” Gaugler said.
Black people have been buried there since the early 1800s–which dates back to pre-Civil War times. So some of the people at the St. Paul Cemetery were slaves.
“Yes. We do know that the slaves in town were buried here. And, of course, once they had freedom, they would have buried here because their family members were here,” said Kelly Hargett, executive director of the Kernersville Museum.
While some of these tombstones of veterans and prominent Black figures stand tall, there are those that are weathered, and others never had a stone to begin with because some families simply couldn’t afford it.
“If we can’t read them, then we have no idea,” Hargett said. “We just know that somebody’s there.”
The only reason they know someone is there is thanks to an environmental engineering firm out of Raleigh that donated their time to conduct ground penetrating radar
They found 89 unmarked graves.
Then another donation from the Marble Granite World in Kernersvill made place holders that symbolize a person is buried there.
But it’s who is buried here that brings life to their stories. One story in particular, brings up the hurtful past of Guilford County.
“I came up one day during the summer, and there were flowers that were pretty…dead at that point. And a note attached to them that this is in memory of Eugene Hairston, which is the only recorded lynching in Guilford County,” Gaugler explained.
So who was Eugene Hairston, what’s the story behind his tragic death and why some say the teen was innocent of what he was accused of?
Details are provided in FOX8’s next episode of the Forgotten Souls of North Carolina’s Black Cemeteries.