Donations to aid in the restoration and preservation of John N. Smith Cemetery
North Carolina Non-profit and 501©(3) organization can be mailed to :
The John N Smith Restoration and Preservation, Inc.
Post Office Box 11241
Southport, North Carolina 28461
Historical Southport Cemetery Restoration Campaign
JOHN N. SMITH CEMETERY
ADDRESS: 225 EAST LEONARD STREET, SOUTHPORT
To ensure the physical integrity, community relevance and the historical significance of the John N. Smith Cemetery.
This is an African American cemetery in the small town of Southport, North Carolina. The first recorded burial was in 1874, when Southport was called Smithville. Located on East Leonard Street, the cemetery was named after the first person to be buried there, John N. Smith. The Cemetery is the final resting place for an estimated 600 souls, all of whom are believed to be African American. Combined these individuals represent an essential component of Southport’s collective memory and of the history of this town on the shore of the Cape Fear River. Interred in this Cemetery were slaves, farmers, teachers, businessmen, laborers, domestic servants, homemakers and entrepreneurs. Veterans dating from the Civil War and subsequent military campaigns are also buried here.
Often cemeteries are the only remaining artifacts of a community’s early residents. By making connections from the present to the past, the John N Smith Cemetery can serve as an inspirational starting point for showing how all races are connected by historical events. If Southport loses the assets it’s only black cemetery represents, the connective tissue that once bonded people together disappears. However, once a chronicle of the factual history of the Cemetery is realized the result will be pride, respect and appreciation among Southport’s residents. The preservation of the Cemetery can have a unifying influence on Southport while enabling many persons to reclaim a heritage that might otherwise be loss for the ages.
The John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation Incorporated seeks partners to support the cemetery and ensure that its future is maintained forever as a unique and respected site for celebrating an honorable past. The urgency to restore the cemetery comes as a result of disappearing gravesites, and the aging and death of persons with knowledge of the Cemetery’s known inhabitants. The preservation of the John N. Smith Cemetery has a historical and spiritual significance that is an essential part of the Southport community. Its perpetual care will remind us of the lives and the contributions made by local black citizens towards Southport’s growth and development.
John N. Smith Cemetery was founded in 1874 when the trustees of an African American Methodist Church in Smithville (Southport) purchased a two-acre tract of land for the sole purpose of making it a grave yard. It now consists of 3.6 acres in total. The cemetery committee made up of representatives from five local black churches sold burial plots to the community at large. The cemetery was kept and maintained by the committee. In later years the cemetery was used as the site of Memorial Day Commemorations and grave plots were cleaned and decorated with red, white and blue arrangements for the occasion. The John N. Smith Cemetery is the site of more than 800 interments; many who have contributed to the historical and current quality of life of Southport.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP!
There is history all around if you know where to look. The John N. Smith Cemetery of Southport is the resting place of not just the influential individuals buried there but the fascinating stories that lay to rest with them. It is the resting place of many Vietnam, Korean, WWI, WWII, and even civil war veterans. Laid to rest there is also Brunswick county’s first black educator Mr. Frank Gordon as well as the tallest man in the history of Southport NC, the gentle giant himself Elias (Nehi) Gore said to be 7 feet 11 inches tall. We owe it to ourselves to work together in the restoration and preservation of this cemetery so that we may pass on the great history that these grounds hold to future generations. Most importantly we owe it to so many of those buried here whom sacrificed for us to reach the ultimate goal of equality and a greater nation.
JOB DESCRIPTION FOR VOLUNTEERS
Provide Public education and oral histories
· Ensure regular maintenance of the cemetery
· Locate unmarked graves
· Produce map that identifies burial sites, walking paths, etc.
· List the cemetery in the National Register of Historical Places.
Contributions are needed to fund:
· Publication of narrative and pictorial history
· Ground radar penetration to locate unmarked graves
· Upgrading and installing markers
· Design and implement a landscaping plan
· Install an attractive perimeter fence.
A FEW OF THE MANY DESERVED TO BE RECOGNIZED INDIVIDUALS BURIED AT THE JOHN N. SMITH CEMETERY
ABRAM GALLOWAY PVT CO I 37 US CLD TRPS CIVIL WAR BORN 1846 DIED 1927
ABRAM BLOUNT CO C 37 US CLD TRPS CIVIL WAR BORN 1842 DIED 1912
MR. FRANK GORDON FIRST BLACK SCHOOL TEACHER IN BRUNSWICK COUNTY BORN 1856 DIED 1937
ELIAS G. GORE AKANEHI THE GENTLE GIANT SAID TO BE 7 FEET 11 INCHES TALL BORN 1906 DIED 1944
OTHER SOURCES CLAIM 7 FEET 7 INCHES. 400 LBS