Welcome to Part Two of Greenville Graveyards (you can read Part One here).
Welcome Baptist Cemetery – Once part of the church grounds, the building has long been relocated. The cemetery goes from well-kept graves to deserted headstones scattered through overgrown brush and briars. The abandoned part of the graveyard is chained off with “No Trespassing” signs posted. Of course, we simply stepped over the chain and trampled through the overgrowth to discover graves dating back to the 1800’s. I plan to return in winter when it will be easier to navigate. A friend who has family buried there shared a fascinating fact. When the road was widened years ago, some graves were too close to the street. The excavation revealed several caskets. A brick wall was erected to hide the disturbed resting places. I’m convinced headstones were removed and grass was planted over graves. A wide strip of grass next to the wall is growing very differently! Our shoes sank every few feet. Indentations about the size of a casket were obvious!
The more fascinating markers were placed by the Woodmen of the World. The organization provided headstones for their members. The society has a long-standing motto: “No woodman shall rest in an unmarked grave.” Markers vary in size and design. The point that jumped out to me was the length of some of the inscriptions. My favorite: “Pause and think as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I. As I am now, someday you’ll be. Prepare for death and follow me.”
Lincoln Cemetery – Sitting right on the road, its’ graves are out of sight. We seem to be drawn to Private Property – Keep Out and No Trespassing Signs. Here again, we ignored the signs and proceeded to explore the grounds. AKA Greenville County Home Cemetery, this nine acres was originally privately owned. The City of Greenville paid the owners to use the land as a potters field. Mackey Mortuary was paid to bury transients and the poor in unmarked graves. In 1914, three prominent African American citizens developed it into an African American cemetery. African American soldiers from Camp Sevier and patients from Hopewell TB Hospital were buried there. Some of the land was sold in the 1930’s and the last burial took place in 1967.
Oakwood Cemetery – This one happens to be my personal favorite. Just outside Greenville, in the spirited town of Spartanburg, is Oakwood Cemetery. Otherwise known as Hell’s Gate. I’ve wanted to visit this particular spot forever. Considered to be the most haunted cemetery in South Carolina, Oakwood is full of ghosts. It’s actually a beautiful place. As you drive through the gates, you’ll find a mixture of really old and fairly new markers. We parked and walked around a little. What we really wanted to see was at the very back of the cemetery. The most haunted spot on the property. Once upon a time, this section was a potter’s field where orphans, homeless, and those who couldn’t afford a proper burial were laid to rest. In 1914, over one hundred graves were relocated to Oakwood to make room for a new development – these disturbed spirits are rumored to roam the grounds at night! The cemetery is also home to the infamous “Woman In White.” I couldn’t find her name. Apparently, she was visiting family plots when her young son wandered off and fell down a steep embankment onto railroad tracks. He died. At night, she searches the cemetery for her son.
Hell’s Gate is a popular site for satanic activity. March 26, 2012, James Hosea Smith’s grave was reportedly vandalized. His head was missing from his body. April 2012, a skull was found in the field across from the railroad tracks (300 yards from the cemetery). I wasn’t able to find a report linking the skull to Smith’s body, but let’s be real!
We wanted to share stories from Springwood Cemetery and Christ Church downtown, but there’s simply not enough space. We could write an entire series on Springwood alone. That’s on the list for next year!
One final thing…
There’s an abandoned cemetery in West Gantt that I can’t wait to learn more about. I’ve lived in Greenville my entire life. I’ve driven past this place no less than a million times and never knew it was there. Thanks to a friend (hey Michael), I was able to stop by for a quick second. Quick being the operative word. I don’t even have adequate words to describe this one. Let’s just say, if I was buried there, I’d be haunting someone for sure! Most of the headstones are not visible anymore. My homework for this year is to revisit when I’m wearing tennis shoes (or maybe snake boots) and figure out who these bodies belong to. Stay tuned…