Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic  Commission

  
Survey and Research Report on the
Biddleville Cemetery
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1.  Name and location of property:  The property known as Biddleville Cemetery is located in Five Points Park near the intersection of French Street and Cemetery Street, Charlotte, NC 28216.
 
2.  Name, address, and telephone number of the current owners of the property:
 
Society of the Minute Men
600 East Fourth Street
Charlotte, NC 28202 
Mecklenburg County
600 East Fourth Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
 
3.  Representative photographs of the property:  This report contains representative photographs of the property.
 
4.  A map depicting the location of the property:  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
5.  Current Tax Parcel Reference and Deed to the property:  The tax parcel number is 069-035-61.  The most recent deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 209, Page 138 on November 2, 1873.  UTM coordinates are 512708.27 E and 3900626.69 N Zone 17.
 
6.  A brief historical sketch of the property:  This report contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Susan V. Mayer.
 
7.  A brief architectural description of the property:  This report contains a brief architectural description prepared by Susan V. Mayer.
 
8.  Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S 160A-400.5.
 
            a.         Special significance in terms of its history, architecture and/or cultural importance: 
 
                         1) The Biddleville Cemetery served as a community cemetery forBiddleville, an African American residential                                    district that arose in the  late 1800s because of the nearby location of Biddle Institute, now Johnson C. Smith                              University
 
                          2) The Biddleville Cemetery contains representative examples of funerary art found in African American                                            cemeteries in Charlotte from the late 1800s until the mid twentieth century.
 
                         3) The Biddleville Cemetery contains the graves of African Americans who served in the Spanish-American War,
                                  World War One, and World War Two.   It is also the burial place of influential citizens of Biddleville.      
 
            b.         Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling and/or association:  The physical description                                     included in this report demonstrates that the Biddleville Cemetery meets this criterion.
 
9.  Ad Valorem Tax Value:  $44,400.  The property is exempt from payment of property taxes.
 
10.  Portion of the Property Recommended for Designation:  The entire Tax Parcel.
 
 
 
Historical Essay
 
  
As one of the original majority-black ring villages surrounding Charlotte following the emancipation of slaves in the 1860s, Biddleville is an important part of the history of African Americans in the city and Mecklenburg County.  Founded in 1873, Biddleville Cemetery is one of the oldest non-slave African American cemeteries in Mecklenburg County not connected with a church.  Many influential residents of Biddleville are buried within its grounds.  By examining the history of the cemetery, further insight into the people who lived in Biddleville, their everyday lives, and the conditions of the community are uncovered.
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 1 Rev. Stephen and Mary Lourie Mattoon.
Photos from Inez Moore Parker Archives and Research Center, Johnson C. Smith University.
  
 
Following the Civil War and Emancipation, African American freedmen and freedwomen sought to establish their own communities and associated institutions free of majority white control.  Churches typically served as the focal point of these communities.  In Charlotte both black and white missionaries began organizing churches.  The first, Clinton Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Rozelles Ferry Road, was founded in 1865.  Presbyterian missionaries, including Rev. Samuel Carothers Alexander from Pittsburgh, aided local African Americans in founding Seventh Street Presbyterian Church in 1866.[i]
 
Presbyterian missionary work expanded beyond churches.  On May 1, 1867, the first session of a theology school founded by the Committee on Freedman of the Presbyterian Church, USA began at a church on the corner of Fourth and Davidson streets in Charlotte.  Headed by Rev. Alexander and his fellow northerner Rev. Willis L. Miller, the school served to train freed slaves to be ministers and teachers for Southern schools.  Donations for the school were solicited through the church newspaper; and Mary D. Biddle, the widow of a Union officer who lived in Philadelphia, offered $1,900 with the stipulation that the school be named after her late husband Henry Johnston Biddle.  Former Confederate Colonel William R. Myers offered eight acres of property northwest of the city for the school.  In 1869 the Henry J. Biddle Memorial Institute opened on its new campus.[ii] 
  
Rev. Stephen Mattoon, a Presbyterian minister in New York who had served as a missionary in Siam (Thailand), was elected the first president of Biddle Institute in 1870.  Rev. Mattoon was born near Champion, New York in 1816.  He graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York in 1842, then Princeton Theological Seminary in May 1846.  While at Princeton, Rev. Mattoon served as a substitute preacher to local Presbyterian churches.  It was during this time that he met his future wife, Mary Lourie, and they married on May 3, 1846.  Two months later, the Mattoons left to serve as missionaries in Bangkok, where they would live until December 1865.  Rev. Mattoon was an interpreter for the King of Siam and founded the first Presbyterian Church of Siam.  He and his wife also adopted two Siamese children in addition to having two children of their own.  Upon return to the United States, Rev. Mattoon served as pastor to a church in Ballston Spa, New York, before being called to Charlotte.[i]
 
Initially, the only residents near the school were the professors.  On October 1, 1871, Rev. Mattoon and his wife Mary purchased 55 acres of farmland along Beatties Ford Road from W.F. Davidson for $1000.  Beginning in the 1870s, the Mattoons sold small lots to African Americans who wanted to live near the college.  This area came to be called Biddletown, later Biddleville.[iv]
 
Biddleville was one of several ring villages which arose around Charlotte in the years following the Civil War.  Other nearby African American communities included Greenville and Irwinville to the north of Charlotte and Blandville to the southeast.  Another village, Seversville, was located near Biddleville and was populated by white residents.  Biddleville existed as an adjunct entity to Charlotte for many years.  In 1878 the village attempted to incorporate under the name Biddletown, but this effort was unsuccessful.  By the early 1880s, the name of the village had transitioned to Biddleville.  In 1895, again Biddleville attempted to incorporate but failed; instead, the village was annexed into Charlotte.[v]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 2 Churches present in Biddleville in 1915—(clockwise from top left) Biddleville Presbyterian Church, Gethsemane A.M.E. Zion Church, and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.  From G.W. Clinton, Colored Charlotte (Charlotte, NC, 1915).
 
 
Three civic institutions dominated life in both black and white southern villages: churches, schools, and civic organizations.  Given Biddle University’s (the institution changed its name from Biddle Institute in 1876) ties to the Presbyterian Church, it is not surprising that the first organized institutions in Biddleville were churches.  The first of these was Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, founded in 1876.  Students and Biddle faculty served as ministerial staff until 1882, when former Biddle president Rev. Stephen Mattoon became pastor for a three-year period.  Biddleville Presbyterian Church first held services on October 17, 1880, on Mattoon Street, with Rev. Thomas Lawrence serving as pastor until 1883.  Original trustees included brothers Alexander Phifer (1848-1920), Henry Phifer (1846-1914), Amizi Phifer, and George Phifer (1865-1929).  Other denominational churches formed in the community with Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in 1878 and Greater Gethsemane A.M.E. Zion Church in 1874.[vi]
 
Because of the presence of Biddle Institute and the many churches in the community, Biddleville hosted many regional and state meetings of various religious bodies.  The Catawba Presbytery, which included the African American Presbyterian churches in the region, regularly met in Biddleville.  Other denominations also held meetings in the village.  The Baptist Minister’s Union held a four day meeting at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in November 1890.[vii]
 
With the growth of the village, elementary schooling became a need for the community.  In March 1885, the Mattoons sold one half acre of land to School Community District No. 88, represented by Biddleville residents Thomas Walker and Alexander Phifer, to be used for a school.  Until the establishment of a African American high school in Charlotte, male students would continue secondary education at Biddle University.  Female students attended Scotia Seminary in Concord.  Local Biddleville students included William R. Young (1881-1943), an 1899 graduate, George W. Pharr (1887-1933), and Claude J. Bradshaw (1878-1918).  Biddle also sponsored a Summer School for teachers in which many local residents attended, including Mary French Henry (1884-1938).[viii]
 
Residents of Biddleville also maintained membership in a number of fraternal and social organizations.  Many of these institutions were established in Charlotte and surrounding communities following the Civil War.  Paul Drayton Lodge #7, a Prince Hall Masonic chapter, was founded in 1872.  Chapters of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows were present by 1873.  Local members included Armistead Brown (1818-1893).  Three years later, chapters of Independent Order of Good Samaritans and Daughters of Samaria, which were open to both men and women, were founded in Charlotte.[ix]  In October 1884, the Supreme Grand Lodge of the Grand United Order of the National Laborers’ Aid Protective Society held a meeting to elect officers in Biddleville.  Among the officers elected were Biddleville residents Rev. Samuel Milius Pharr (1858-1936), Junius Nathan White (1862-1919), Rev. Warren Thomas (1830-1910), and George W. Phifer (1865-1929), all of whom are interred in Biddleville Cemetery.[x]
 
Biddleville also served as a meeting place for black political activity in the Charlotte area.  A rally held on July 4, 1876, at Biddle Institute saw 8,000 African Americans gather to hear speeches against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zebulon Vance.  In late 1890, Mecklenburg County black Republicans met at the university to protest discrimination within the local party.[xi]
 
Life in Biddleville.
 
In the early years of the village, Biddleville was populated primarily by professors and students at the university.  When the Mattoons began selling lots to African Americans in the 1880s, farmers, laborers, and other tradesmen moved into the village.  Biddleville attracted “families who wanted to raise their children in an intellectual atmosphere…around the University, with its cultural offerings.”[xii]  Thomas Christopher Columbus Foster (1848-1936) is representative of the property buyers in Biddleville.  Born a slave in Davie County, Foster attended Biddle Institute and was a teacher in Biddleville.  Following his retirement from teaching, he purchased land near the village to farm.  Foster was active in civic organizations and churches in Biddleville.  He was a member and building trustee of the Star Hope Lodge #1790 of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows.  He served as a delegate representing Biddleville Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of Catawba at Presbyterian Church national general assemblies in 1898, 1908, and 1910.[xiii]
 
As Charlotte grew and African Americans began to share in the streetcar-centric suburbanization, new residential developments became attractive to the middle class blacks.  Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company, owner and developer of the city’s streetcar system, began service of the line along West Trade Street to Seversville and Biddleville on  April 25, 1903.  Over the following decades, neighborhoods developed down Beatties Ford Road beyond Biddleville as the streetcar continued to expand.  Washington Heights was designed to be the Dilworth for middle-class African Americans in Charlotte, a streetcar suburb platted with modest bungalows.  Douglassville was planned by C.H. Watson to be an adjacent black suburb at Beatties Ford Road and Oaklawn Avenue, but the development never grew to be as popular as its neighbor.  During the 1920s Western Heights, an 1890s white suburban development on West Trade Street just south of the university, became a majority African American neighborhood.[xiv] 
 
Because of the presence of Biddle University, modern utilities and other amenities became available to the area.  A post office opened in the village in 1892.  Electricity was provided to the university in 1895, and the following year telephone poles and wires were extended to the village.[xv]  Municipal water service was not available until later.  The “From the Village” section of the December 1921 Young Rooster newsletter of Biddleville Presbyterian Church reports that “a committee of three is working on the proposition of getting water in the village.”[xvi]   Plans for a hospital near Biddle University were made also in 1921, but unfortunately it did not come to fruition.[xvii]
           
Longtime resident Gene Pharr remembers much about growing up in Biddleville.  Gene was born in Charlotte and lived in Biddleville until moving to Washington, D.C. at the age of fifteen in the mid-1940s.  After a career in the military, including service in Korea, Gene moved back home to Biddleville in 1970.  The Pharr family has been in Biddleville since around 1880, when Alex Pharr came to Charlotte from Cabarrus County.  Gene’s father Bernard (1889-1949) was the first black truck driver for the local Coca-Cola bottling company.  As Gene recalls, Biddleville was a small close-knit community where “everybody knew each other,” and you could eat at anyone’s house.[xviii]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 3 This 1949 map of Biddleville shows that many streets in the neighborhood, including portions of Solomon Street, Cemetery Avenue, and Jenkins Street, were unpaved.
           
While Biddleville was home to Biddle University, which was renamed to Johnson C. Smith University in 1923, and a strong middle class that dominated the Beatties Ford Road corridor, the neighborhood did have its share of poverty.  Rev. Howard W. Givens, pastor of Biddleville Presbyterian Church and later Memorial United Presbyterian Church for nearly 40 years, remembers the condition of Biddleville Presbyterian Church when he arrived:
 
Many of you who worship here now can hardly imagine your church with no toilet facilities, homemade benches, no church school facilities…Maybe you can’t, but I can.  I remember them for these conditions that existed when I came to Biddleville in 1940.[xix]
 
Much can be learned about Biddleville through an examination of the people interred in Biddleville Cemetery.  Many of the residents of Biddleville who were buried in the cemetery were originally from surrounding rural areas of North and South Carolina.  During and following Reconstruction, many former slaves moved from their former plantations to towns and cities across the south.  This rural-to-urban migration continued well into the twentieth century.  South Carolina natives buried in Biddleville Cemetery include Sarah Fredrick Ellis (1900-1933), Peter McKee (1858-1933) of York County, and Martha Mills McElmoore (1864-1921).
 
Many infants and children are buried in the cemetery, most dying of diseases or conditions that today we consider easily preventable or curable.  Common diseases and sicknesses included tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and pneumonia.  Thirteen persons buried in the cemetery are known to have died of tuberculosis.  Records of thirty persons show they died of pneumonia, with half being infants and children.  Many death certificates are marked “no doctor,” indicating that medical care was less accessible in Biddleville and other African American areas of Charlotte. 
 
Nutrition was also an issue.  The “Three M” diet of meat, molasses, and meal, common among poor Southerners, was apparently a staple of Biddleville residents, many of whom suffered from pellagra, or niacin deficiency.  During the early twentieth century, the epidemic of pellagra afflicted 250,000 and caused 7,000 deaths per year, primarily in the South.  Among the victims of pellagra buried in Biddleville Cemetery are Lula Grier Adams (1884-1917), Minnie Brown Bland (1868-1914), and Ellen Bogan Dixon (1862-1913).[xx]
 
Biddleville Cemetery
 
            On November 22, 1873, the Mattoons sold approximately one acre of land at the north end of Biddleville to trustees Olmstead Brown, Toney Jordan, and Milas Thompson.  The property was, according to the deed, “in trust for the use and behoof as a cemetery lot of the Society of the ‘Minute Men.’”[xxi]  There are no further records of the “Minute Men,” which was most likely one of many black civic organizations founded during Reconstruction.
            Biddleville Cemetery is not a slave cemetery.  It was established following the Civil War, and all persons buried were free blacks.  Similar non-slave cemeteries in Mecklenburg County are Roseland Cemetery (ca. 1865), the burial ground of members of Roseville A.M.E Zion Church in Matthews; Ben Salem Cemetery (ca. 1869), which is connected with Ben Salem Presbyterian Church on Monroe Road; and Pinewood Cemetery, the municipal black cemetery adjacent to Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte.  While Biddleville Cemetery was not officially affiliated with a church, members of community churches—Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Biddleville Presbyterian Church, and Greater Gethsemane A.M.E. Zion Church—were typically buried there.  Because of Biddleville’s location outside of the Charlotte city limits, the cemetery essentially served as the village cemetery.  This perception is present on the 1942 death certificate for Hazel Martin lists the cemetery as “Biddleville Village.”[xxii]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 4 This photo of Biddleville Cemetery circa 1982 shows more natural settings of black cemeteries.
 
The burial location of most persons in Biddleville Cemetery is unknown. African American cemeteries differed from white cemeteries in design, use of markers, and landscaping.  While white Elmwood Cemetery, a municipal burial ground, was planned as a cemetery park with pleasant lawns and sweeping drives for Sunday afternoon walks, Biddleville Cemetery served solely as a burial ground for the residents of Biddleville.  The scattered arrangement of plots in black cemetery is thus described:
 
African-American cemeteries are not landscaped as Euro-American cemeteries are. They have depressions or mounds and no attempt is made to make grass grow over the graves nor to create special vegetation. Trees are native, not specially planted, and are neither encouraged nor discouraged. Rather than the park-like setting with formal landscaping often found in Euro-American cemeteries, the African-American cemetery does not attempt to romanticize death nor create an artificial landscape.[xxiii]
 
The only path in the cemetery was a road for vehicular transport of coffins located near the present-day entrance to Five Points Park.  A similar approach to African American cemetery landscape design may be seen in the municipal Pinewood Cemetery, which “is shaded by an abundance of mature hardwood trees” with “the family plots…laid out seemingly arbitrarily.”[xxiv]  Since there was no fence around Biddleville Cemetery, its boundary was a bit arbitrary as well.  According to Gene Pharr, some graves are located outside the property line in the back yard of the house at the corner of French and Mattoon Streets.[xxv]
 
Biddleville Cemetery was not officially tied to a church, though various death certificates refer to it as Gethsemane Church Cemetery (1931) or Biddleville-Emmanuel Church Cemetery (1965).  Likewise, the Charlotte City Directories between 1925 and 1931 refer to the cemetery as Gethsemane Cemetery.[xxvi]  While the cemetery name may have fluctuated, one constant for many years was the presence of caretaker Carey Ethridge (1861-1941).  Ethridge served as caretaker of Biddleville Cemetery starting in the 1910s until his death.  Born a slave in Norfolk, Virginia, Ethridge moved to Biddleville in the 1870s.  He bought an acre of land from Stephen Mattoon in May 1889 for $30.00.  Many members of the Ethridge family are buried in Biddleville Cemetery.  After Ethridge’s death, however, there is no record of the cemetery having an official caretaker.  In addition, after 1931 the cemetery was no longer mentioned in the city directories.[xxvii]
 
While burials in Biddleville Cemetery certainly occurred in the 1870s after the property had been established, the earliest known burial in Biddleville Cemetery occurred in 1886.  John Springs was one of two men who died in an elevator accident at the Mecklenburg Iron Works in February.[xxviii]
 
Many notable residents of Biddleville are buried in the cemetery.  Isreal Harris (1833-unknown) was an elder at Seventh Street Presbyterian Church.  Several ministers are interred, including Rev. Boysie B. Moore (1888-1950), former pastor at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Brooklyn and Myers Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Cherry, and Rev. Samuel Milius Pharr (1858-1936), who pastored many A.M.E. Zion churches.  Pharr was also the original owner of the Pharr Building on Beatties Ford Road, later home of the Grand Theater.  George W. Pharr owned Pharr Service Station and grocery at the corner of Beatties Ford Road and Celia Avenue in Washington Heights in the late 1920s.[xxix]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 5 Unmarked peaked concrete posts serve as grave markers in Biddleville Cemetery.
 
Burial in Biddleville Cemetery was free, with the only cost to the men who dug the grave site.  Gene Pharr worked with his father Bernard Pharr to dig graves in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  They were paid $5 per grave.  Gene remembers the cemetery being filled with graves and markers, many of which did not have names on them.  There were few large stone markers since many Biddleville residents could not afford them.[xxx] 
  
Because there was no cost to purchase a burial plot, increases in the number of burials in Biddleville Cemetery during periods of economic depression become quite understandable.  The 1920s saw approximately 58 burials in the cemetery, and in the following decade that number increased to 96.  Economic hardship frequently struck black communities harder than white ones.  During the 1930s, African American unemployment in urban areas reached 50% across the country, double the rate of their white counterparts.[xxxi]
  
As Charlotte grew and local cemeteries filled to capacity, additional cemeteries opened for the African American community.  Cedar Grove Cemetery, located at the dead end of Hildebrand Street in nearby Washington Heights, was established in the late 1910s as the black counterpart to nearby white Oaklawn Cemetery.  York Memorial Park opened in 1941 and was located on the southeast side of town on York Road (today South Tryon Street).  These cemeteries are typical of modern cemeteries with master plans that call for access roads convenient for hearses, plots laid out in straight rows, and requirements for grave markers.[xxxii] 
      
By the 1940s, the number of annual burials in Biddleville Cemetery had sharply declined.  York Memorial Park especially had a strong impact, with many Biddleville residents choosing to be buried in the newer, more modern cemetery despite having a spouse already buried in Biddleville.  George Johnson, Jr. died in 1961 and was buried in Biddleville, but his wife Alice died the following year and was buried in York.  Similarly, Maggie Pharr Gormley chose to be buried with her family in Biddleville in 1947, but her widower Thomas was interred in York in 1957.  Burial did not cease in Biddleville Cemetery but continued on into the 1980s. The latest documented burial in the cemetery is of Hattie B. Harris Lowery, who died June 4, 1982.  A concrete cross grave marker is still extant, though it is difficult to read.
 
Physical Description of Biddleville Cemetery
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 6 Biddleville Cemetery view from southeast corner looking northwest.
           
Biddleville Cemetery is located within Five Points Park in the Biddleville neighborhood of Charlotte.  The cemetery may be accessed via the park entrance at the intersection of French Street and Cemetery Street.  There is no fence around the cemetery.  Grave markers, depressions, and other evidence of burials are visible around the west and north edges of the property as well as in the center of the grassy area.   The topography slopes from the northeast corner down toward the southwest.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 7. The grave marker for Sarah Young (1846-1936), wife of Robert Young, shows the deterioration of Biddleville Cemetery over the years.  The left photo was taken in 1982, and the right photo taken in 2015.
 
There are nineteen readable grave markers in the Biddleville Cemetery and many more illegible or blank markers.  Almost all graves are oriented to the east and west, the only exception being that of Roosevelt Bradshaw (1906-1952).  Numerous depressions scattered throughout the property indicate additional burial plots.  The style and make of the existing grave markers ranges from professionally-produced marble markers from the late 1800s to modern granite makers to flat stamped concrete markers created in more recent years.  Many of the grave markers are heavily damaged, with several knocked off their bases or broken in two.  The effects of weather and pollution are evident, especially on the marble markers, as they have become discolored or the script have eroded and are illegible.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 8 The oldest extant grave marker in Biddleville Cemetery dates to 1894.
           
The oldest existing marker in Biddleville Cemetery dates to 1894.  The name on the marker is mostly illegible, though a best guess may be “Sarah Harris.”  This is one of several simple marble markers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  These markers are characterized by simple chiseled script with name, date of birth, and date of death.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 9 The grave markers of Jane Phifer (1842-1911) and Isreal Harris (1833-unknown) are examples of the simple marble style of late nineteenth and early twentieth century markers.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 10 (top) Two of the more decorative marble grave markers that display symbology in Biddleville Cemetery. 
(bottom) The ornate marble grave marker of Cora Lee Foster (1877-1908), daughter of Thomas Christopher Columbus Foster and Nancy Ann Carothers Foster.
 
While most graves in Biddleville Cemetery are unmarked, many of the extant stones may be considered ornate with carved symbols and decorative shapes.  The marble grave marker of Cora Lee Foster, with the hand symbol and rounded top, is one of the more decorative markers in Biddleville Cemetery.  The hand pointing up is symbolic of the pathway to heaven.  The grave marker of Roxie McCormick (1856-unknown) features a star through open gates flanked by columns, symbolizing the entrance to heaven.  The palm fronds on the grave marker of Martha McElmoore (1864-1921) signify victory over death.[xxxiii]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 11 Four military markers in Biddleville Cemetery.
 
           
Four military markers are extant in the cemetery.  Government-issued grave markers for veterans officially commenced following the Civil War, though the first stone markers were issued in 1873.  In February 1879, Congress authorized the provision of stone markers for the unmarked graves of veterans in private cemeteries.  The oldest marks the grave of Charles Frank French (1874-1924), a veteran of the Spanish American War.  These grave markers are shorter and thicker than the modern grave markers for veterans as compared to the markers for John Edmond Evans (1893-1930) and Dave Queary (1894-1953).  Following World War I, new grave markers were approved for veterans of that war.  Both Edmonds and Queary served in World War I, thus receiving the new markers.  Grady Harrison, Jr. (1926-1966), a veteran of World War II, also has a military marker, though his is unusual in that the religious symbol is the Star of David, signifying he was Jewish.[xxxiv]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 12 The Harris family burial plot is one of five family plots identified in Biddleville Cemetery.
           
Five family plots remain identifiable in Biddleville Cemetery.  While African American cemeteries tended to not have formal geometric layouts, family members were still buried near one another.  The most prominent of these is the Harris family plot, which is located in the center of the cemetery.  Two of the graves, perhaps those of Grady Harris, Sr. (1897-1970) and Cora Finley Harris (1900-1957), are raised and surrounded by a border of cinder blocks.  Three other grave markers, for their children Grady Harrison, Jr. (1926-1966) and Hattie Harris Lowery (1923-1982) with the third being illegible, are located adjacent to the south.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 13 The obelisk grave marker of Green Davidson (1857-1908) shows some of the most extensive damage among the grave markers in Biddleville Cemetery.  The marker still stood in 1982, but today is scattered in pieces among ivy and heavy groundcover.
           
Biddleville Cemetery is an endangered Mecklenburg County landmark.  Being a private cemetery with no oversight and relying solely upon volunteer upkeep, the cemetery has fallen into disrepair.  Many markers are damaged or even lost.  As the village cemetery of Biddleville, one of Charlotte’s oldest ring villages, the cemetery spans the history of post-Emancipation African American society in Mecklenburg County.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 14 The grave marker of Hester Gaddy (1879-1915) in 1982, and what remains in 2015.
  
 
 
 
 
 
Endnotes:
[i] Seventh Street Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Seventh and College streets, merged with Brooklyn United Presbyterian Church of Second Ward in December 1967 to form First United Presbyterian Church. Janette Thomas Greenwood, Bittersweet Legacy: The Black and White “Better Classes” in Charlotte, 1850-1910 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 44.
[ii] William H. Huffman, “Carnegie Library Building at Johnson C. Smith University,” January 1983, Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, http://www.cmhpf.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/surveys&rcarnegie.htm, accessed October 5, 2015.
[iii] Mary L. Mattoon, Sketch of the Life of Rev. Stephen Mattoon, D.D. (July 1928)..
[iv] Mecklenburg County Deed Book 209, Page 138.
[v] Thomas W. Hanchett, “Biddleville-Five Points,” Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, http://www.cmhpf.org/kids/neighborhoods/Biddleville.html, accessed October 6, 2015; “Local Dots,” Daily Charlotte Observer, September 3, 1878; “Started But Didn’t Make It,” Charlotte Observer, March 20, 1895; “The Police Census,” Charlotte Observer, September 3, 1895.
[vi] History of Memorial United Presbyterian Church, 1979.; J.D. Martin, Brief History of the Seventh Street Presbyterian Church, 1939, 19; “History,” Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, http://www.mcbaptist.org/History.aspx, accessed October 30, 2015.
[vii] “Colored Baptists,” Charlotte Observer, November 19, 1890.
[viii] Mecklenburg County Deed Book 40, Page 466; Catalogue and General Catalogue, Biddle University, Charlotte, N.C., 1901-1902,(Charlotte, NC: Biddle University, 1901), 37; Greenwood, 242.
[ix] 1879 Charlotte City Directory, 127; Greenwood, 71.
[x] “A Big Colored Organization,” Daily Charlotte Observer, October 10, 1884.
[xi] Greenwood, 71, 162-163.
[xii] Hanchett, “Biddleville-Five Points.”
[xiii] Mecklenburg County Deed Book 55, Page 222; Evening Review, September 21, 1936; Annie L. Little to Johnson C. Smith University, November 20, 1963, Records of the Director of Public Relations Moses S. Belton, Inez Moore Parker Archives, Johnson C. Smith University, http://cdm15170.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16324coll2/id/1604.
[xiv] Hanchett, “Biddleville-Five Points;” Thomas W. Hanchett, “Washington Heights,” http://www.cmhpf.org/kids/neighborhoods/WashHts.html, accessed December 12, 2015; Colored Charlotte, 6.
[xv] “Brief News Items,” Charlotte Observer, February 9, 1892; “Dr. Sanders to Lecture—Biddle Lights,” Charlotte Observer, July 31, 1895; “’Phone to Biddle,” Charlotte Observer, June 5, 1896.
[xvi] Young Rooster 6 (December 5, 1921), Biddleville Presbyterian Church.
[xvii] “Local Negroes are Planning Hospital,” Charlotte News, October 20, 1921.
[xviii] Interview with Gene Pharr, October 30, 2015; 1880 U.S. Census.
[xix] Memorial United Presbyterian Church Fescentivity: 1880-1980, 3.
[xx] Alfred Jay Bollet, “Politics and Pellagra: The Epidemic of Pellagra in the U.S. in the Early Twentieth Century,” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 65 (1992), 211-221.
[xxi] Mecklenburg County Deed Book 209, Page 138.
[xxii] Bill Jeffers, “Survey and Research Report on Roseland Cemetery,” Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, http://landmarkscommission.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/SurveyS&RRoseland.htm, accessed October 6, 2015; Emily Ramsey, “Survey and Research Report on Elmwood/Pinewood Cemetery,” Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, http://www.cmhpf.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/Surveys&relmwood.htm, accessed October 6, 2015; Interview with Gene Pharr, October 30, 2015.
[xxiii] “African American Cemeteries,” Family Search, https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/African_American_Cemeteries, accessed October 6, 2015.
[xxiv] Ramsey, “Elmwood/Pinewood Cemetery.”
[xxv] Interview with Gene Pharr, October 30, 2015.
[xxvi] Death Certificate for Baby Henderson, March 2, 1931, File No. 60-2416-237, North Carolina State Board of Health; Death Certificate for Baxter Foster Neal, November 28, 1967, File No. 60-95-2387, North Carolina State Board of Health.
[xxvii] Death Certificate for Carey Ethridge, January 8, 1942, File No. 60-95-2, North Carolina State Board of Health; 1917 Charlotte City Directory, 18; 1918 Charlotte City Directory, 20; 1920 Charlotte City Directory, 24; 1922 Charlotte City Directory, 27; Mecklenburg County Deed Book 66, Page 191.
[xxviii] “The Elevator Accident,” Daily Charlotte Observer, February 12, 1886.
[xxix] 1889 Charlotte City Directory, 36; Emily and Lara Ramsey, “Survey and Research Report on the Grand Theater,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, February 12, 2000, http://landmarkscommission.org/S&Rs%20Alphabetical%20Order/Surveys&rgrandtheater.htm, accessed January 11, 2016; 1928 Charlotte City Directory, 650; 1930 Charlotte City Directory, 677.
[xxx] Interview with Gene Pharr, October 30, 2015.
[xxxi] Joe W. Trotter, "African Americans, Impact of the Great Depression on," Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, Robert S. McElvaine, ed., Vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004), http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/uhic/ReferenceDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&jsid=7812016b5ea4d6684ea4837e2c6ef921&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE|CX3404500017&u=sand55832&zid=b57acc008e359910d5c24de390bb447b, accessed January 13, 2016.
[xxxii] Today, Cedar Grove is essentially an abandoned cemetery located adjacent to University Park Creative Arts School.  Oaklawn later allowed black burials.  “Cedar Grove,” Cemeteries of Mecklenburg County, Charlotte Mecklenburg Story, http://www.cmstory.org/content/cedar-grove, accessed October 6, 2015; Charlotte News, October 26, 1921; “York Memorial Park,” Cemeteries of Mecklenburg County, Charlotte Mecklenburg Story, http://www.cmstory.org/content/york-memorial-park, accessed October 6, 2015.
[xxxiii] “Tombstone Symbols and Their Meanings,” United States Genealogy and History Network, http://msghn.org/usghn/symbols.html, accessed December 19, 2015.
[xxxiv] “History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers,” National Cemetery Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, http://www.cem.va.gov/history/hmhist.asp, accessed December 21, 2016.