The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

May 22, 2013

Monumental task

Volunteers discuss cemetery cleanup


PRINCEVILLE — PRINCEVILLE — The volunteers who met Saturday to discuss cleaning the cemeteries on N.C. Highway 111 agreed that the task at hand is monumental.

Headed by Princeville native Milton Bullock, approximately a dozen volunteers exchanged ideas on how to turn the cemeteries from the overgrown weeded trash strewn graveyard, into a perpetual garden.

"I was told that it is in the worst shape that it has ever been in," Bullock said. "In many places, grass has covered markers. We have our work cut out for us, but with the help of God and all the partners pulling together, we will turn this cemetery."

For the first meeting, volunteer spent much of the day walking through the cemeteries. Some of the volunteer ventured off to find grave markers of their loved ones or some markers of people that they had known.

Bullock said he received correspondence from as far as Germany applauding him for his efforts. Keep America Beautiful and other local organizations and church groups also applauded Bullock and said they will provide assistance.

The last time the front portion of the cemetery was cleaned was approximately three years ago. Since then, at least two major storms have knocked over trees and grass has grown knee high on the majority of the hallowed grounds. Edgecombe County historian, Rudolph Knight, said that seven cemeteries are on that site — Dancy, Community and Wilson, Carney, Irwin, Greenwood and a pauper's cemetery. Greenwood is the newest cemetery and is separated by a wood line. It is privately owned and well-maintained.

The oldest cemetery, Community, was once maintained by Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church members. Herman Jones, one of the volunteers, recalled assisting Elder Purvis.

Mt. Zion, which was founded by Elder Abraham Wooten in 1876, is by far the oldest church in Princeville. Wooten is buried in the Community cemetery. His grave is marked with an impressive monument that symbolizes his importance in the community. The gravestone features an open bible atop a pedestal, and open gates welcoming the deceased into Heaven.  

On Saturday, the thicket of grass and shrubbery was so unbearable that the volunteers could not get to his marker.

It is also believed that the former slave in which the town is named after, Turner Prince, is buried there.

Playing off Wooten's and Prince's significant roles in Princeville history, Michael Bennett, one of the volunteers who attended the meeting said, "If you look at it from the historic point of view, it will benefit the town to clean it up. It is great that Milton came to the forefront and took the lead in this humongous task. Just like it will take a village to raise a kid, it will take a village to clean up this cemetery. It is in horrendous condition."

Another meeting has been planned for June 1 at Greenwood Heights Community Building. More volunteers are needed. For more information contact Bullock at 823-3740.