Thursday, July 03, 2014

4th of July 2014~~ Remembering our soldiers of the past~~1898 "Buffalo Soldiers" 9th Cavalry

During this 4th of July 2014 weekend celebrations, take a few minutes to remember our Veterans.  In doing so,  however, we must also take a few moments to reflect on those in our own families who were in the military.  What were their lives like.  What experiences did they have; good or, bad?

If possible, find a tape recorder or a pen and paper and ask questions to a Veteran who may be attending your celebrations.  Don't be surprised, however, if they are shocked that someone is interested in they military adventures.  Imagine a Grandfather or, even a Great Grandfather talking for the first time of their time serving this great Nation of ours.  Hopefully, some may even have a few photographs to share.

When dealing with African American Veterans, especially in regards to our Wars prior to 1975, experiences were more negative then positive.  Segregation, abuse, hatred were often experienced by Black military personnel during their time in service.  Can you imagine serving your country, putting your life on the line, when you yourself did not have the open opportunity to enjoy all the freedoms that your country had to offer?   It happened. 

One of the wars where African Americans served in segregated units was during the Spanish American War. Ca.1898.  Many of the Blacks who volunteered to serve who lived in North Carolina, as in many other states as well, joined to show their community and National officials that they can serve with honor, dedication and commitment.   To show African Americans had the right, as of the White population, to have all freedoms that come to a freed man.

Below is an image of a post card given to me by a friend of mine.  Annie Fay knows of my work in preserving old all African American endangered cemeteries and finding "Forgotten " military Veterans.

If your Ancestor was a soldier in the 9th Cavalry in 1898 and served at Camp W. Koff, he may be in this photograph card.  

Post card depicting the 9th Cavalry Ca.1898
Camp W. Koff, Long Island, New York

Close up view of 9th Cavalry troops
Notice the trumpet and sword

There is always a "cool guy" in the crowd
Soldier with arm extended appears to have a cigar in his mouth
[Image is from a postcard that is copyrighted by Leib image archives, York, PA.  {Date unknown}]
Take time this 4th of July and thank a Veteran for their service. 
At the same time, try to learn a little bit of your family's heritage in regards to those in your family who served or, are now serving in the United States Armed Services.
Semper Fi !
Jack  Robinson
GySgt., U.S. Marine Corps, Retired/disabled

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ensuring the name is correct is the first step in finding your Ancestors

I wrote a post on Face Book a few months back in regards to a possible African American WWII military Veteran.  The overall point that I was attempting to make at the time was for over five years I attempted to confirm William Montford of Jacksonville, North Carolina, served in the U.S. military ca. 1917, with little results. 

William Montford
Died in France, September 26, 1918

I discovered during my search through various WWI war records that there were not only combat deaths but, those caused by disease.  What sparked my interest in regards to the possibility of “rediscovering” and giving long overdue respect for William, as a “forgotten” military veteran, was an inscription on this man’s headstone within the Diggs Cemetery, “Died in France.”  His date of death was in 1918, a period of time when the United States was involved in the War-to-end-all-wars.

As mentioned, I have attempted to use various military, genealogy and individual research techniques to obtain validation if this William Montford was in fact a military soldier during WWI.  A common saying within historical and genealogic research is, “coming to a brick wall.”  Each time a restart of my search was conducted I, too, came to a brick wall.  No military records could be located.  The fire at the National Archives was a main factor.  To add to this challenge there were no genealogic discoveries.  Local residents could not remember an Ancestor who died in 1918.  An added note to this particular graveyard is that it is made up of multiple family cemeteries that were “relocated” to Diggs cemetery.

Recently, I was introduced to an official report, written ca.1919, of military deaths that occurred during WWI, “Soldiers of the Great War.”  This text was brought to my attention due to the help of some keen genealogy researchers I met through Internet social media.  The death report, with images of soldiers, is listed by state and each death was recorded.  Not only was combat deaths mentioned but, there were also illness and accidental deaths listed.  This is where I found my first tangible, “possible” connection to my quests.

Reported among the list of names of soldiers who died in France within Volume II of this book were the men who joined from North Carolina.  One surname was discovered who lived in Jacksonville, Onlsow County, North Carolina—William Munford.  I determined through census reports that there were Munford families living in Onslow County.  Records indicate ,however, there were no males that meet the age prerequisites for a William Munford to be serving in WWI.

William Munford
Jacksonville, (North Carolina)

Having correct information on a subject to conduct genealogy research is extremely vital.  If done haphazardly, a whole family tree may be distorted and contaminated from the roots to top branches.  Confirming and then re-confirming correct spelling of Given and Surnames is vital.

I am now closer to declaring William Munford, listed within the book “Soldiers of the Great War; Vol. II,” is in fact, William Montford buried within Diggs Cemetery with the headstone inscription—Died in France (1918). 

In time, hopefully, we can give this gentleman the recognition that was deserved, but not given in his lifetime, for a multitude of reason, and present to our next generation an opportunity to teach their next generation of our heritages.
Thank you for taking the time to reading this and other posts that I have written.

Here are links that will give you an idea of the work that I conduct in regards to finding our "Forgotten Veterans" and protecting our endangered cemeteries.


Books that I have written

Semper Fi !  

Remember our military Veterans.  Say hello and thanks to them the next time you see one.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Drive through the hog farm to get to the old African American cemetery

I was told seven years ago, last month, to do the following:

         "Drive off the main road; drive through the open field; drive  

          through the crop field; then, avoiding getting stuck on the
          muddy dirt path, drive in between the hog farm; avoiding the
          ruts in the road.  You will then come to a small cemetery on
          the left."

A) View of Brick Mill Cemetery January 2007

B) Looking from center of cemetery to tree line

C)  View of from far side of cemetery
During January and February of 2014, southeastern North Carolina had received not-less-then three harsh rainstorms along with some unseasonal heavy snow falls.  These weather conditions caused the dirt road to the cemetery to be extremely muddy and nearly impassable.  Sometime during the month of January, in between the bad weather conditions and while the dirt road was muddy, a burial took place within the Brick Mill Cemetery; which has been used continuously since ca.1900. 
As the cemetery's caretaker, I was not informed of the burial in January.  Contacting me is not required but, it would have been a courteous gesture of my work at this and other cemeteries. 
For instance, since over 40% of graves within this cemetery are unmarked, I could have assisted in "suggesting" where to place the newest grave.  During previous recent burials we were able to place family members with their Ancestors with little disturbance to the older graves. 

Another area where I could have been of assistance was to inform the grave diggers as to where to place any leftover dirt from the grave hole.  As the images below indicate, excess dirt was placed precariously next to an older grave.  In time, due to future weather conditions, this extra dirt, if not removed, will easily cover the older grave marker. 

In time, this excess dirt could cover this headstone

Newly placed grave with no markers.  I place an American flag near the front of the grave.  Animals have been known to carry flowers away from gravesites, leaving only a flat area with no indication of being a gravesite.

Also, notice how the newest grave is not properly marked; not even with a traditional "temporary" grave marker.  In time, hopefully, a headstone will be placed on this grave.   If not, however, it too will become one of the 40% of unmarked graves within the Brick Mill Cemetery.

I will close this post by showing the entrance to the historic Brick Mill Cemetery as it appears during the first week of February 2014.  Please note that since these images another heavier snow storm left the path with over seven inches of wet snow.  In time, this snow, as it melts, will cause the ground to be even softer and less passable.

Path in between the two major hog pens

Only route to the Brick Mill Cemetery.

Heavy duty truck that brought casket to newest grave site cause tremendous damage to the dirt path to the cemetery.  In the distance you can see the path continuing through the two primary hog pens.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Resetting sunken headstones within historic Brick Mill Cemetery

One of the hardest things to accomplish while stabilizing an endangered cemetery is to locate sunken headstones. Some are easier to locate then others since parts of the stone may be visible. Other stones, however are much harder to locate because they have sunken so far under the surface that no signs of a grave marker is visible. In either case, stabilizing a sunken headstone is the same.

Sunken grave markers within
Fisher family section of Brick Mill Cemetery


The following is a brief  discussion on how to properly reset a sunken grave headstone:

  There are numerous ways to ensure a sunken headstone can be reset.  My method may seem simple but, it has proven to me at least, this process produces a good outcome.  One that shows respect to the individual who had been laid to rest and to their family.
View of removed headstone that was partially buried.

When dealing with either partially or fully sunken grave makers, one must use extra care while using hand tools.  Sharp edges of metal shovels or, other such hand tools, will cause cuts into the stone.  Over time, the stone will deteriorate due to harsh impact caused by weather that enter these cracks and cuts. 

After clearing dirt from the around the stone, carefully lift it out and away from the actual grave site.  Since you are doing one grave at a time, the need to temporary mark the grave is not required. 

With the stone safely placed to one side, "till" the original grave soil equal to the hole left by the once sunken grave.  With this done, add fresh dirt to bring the entire grave site back to the visible ground surface.  [The upper layer of soil, which consists of the layer of grass could be cut out and set aside.  After the work is completed the layer of grass could be put back in place]

Level dirt throughout entire grave site.Stones are not reset 

With the soil replaced, packed and leveled the next and final step is to set the actual stone.  Some form of stone or, rock should be used to place the grave marker on, to prevent future sinkage.  The extra stone adds addtional weight support and allows rain water to disperse around the headstone without washing away the soil from under the stone.  Treated lumber, like a 4x4 beam, could also be used.  Over time, however, timber may deteriate.  With the support stone in place, reset the headstone and ensure the stone is properly level.

With this method, as with other techniques that may be used, the final outcome will be obvious.  Direct descendents and other visitors will be thankful for the extra effort made in setting a presentable grave marker, that gives proper respect to the individual laid to rest. 

{Author's note:  I always suggest that detailed photographs be taken throughout a cemetery preservation project.  The pictures will help to show and educate the general public on the process and progress of work.}

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Update: Henderson family cemetery; Jacksonville, North Carolina

  Here is a link to some images of the Henderson Cemetery preservation project, as of September 5, 2012:

                      Henderson Cemetery preservation project images

Locating an unmarked grave_ Part II

    In Part I, I gave some examples of the process in clearing and searching for possible unmarked graves within an area of a cemetery that had been encrouched by wild foliage and brush.  In Part II, I will be discussing a more detailed aspect of finding an unmarked grave--searching for artifacts and other signs of possible graves.

Front area of Petteway Family Cemetery before removal of foilage and brush{Review Part I of this post}

     In the front area of the Petteway cemetery is a span of property that is separated from the original early 20th Century railroad tracks and the cemetery as it is seen today.  The car path leading to the cemetery, today,  separates this piece of property and the cemetery.  Sometime, ca. 1970s the land developer "dug a ditch," to ensure loggers would not encrouch upon the cemetery. 

   The Elder of the family, Dalton Odell, Grandson of Former Slaves George and Cecilia Petteway was born in 1925.  His earliest memories of the cemetery starts when he was around ten years old.  The cemetery has been in use since 1888, if not sooner.  How many individuals were buried in the cemetery prior to 1925.  Since at least the 1950s the area in front of the cemetery has never been cared for by the family.  Is this area, between the railroad tracks and the known cemetery empty of graves?

   The only true way of knowing if there are unmarked graves within this particular area of the cemetery is to clear out all of the excess brush and debris.  Under some eight inches of mulch and compost there may be a fallen headstone or other form of grave markers that are within this area.  Special care is needed to identify a metal pipe or large stone as a grave markers or just, discarded.

   In older times, it was not uncommon for African Americans to use pottery, dishware, tools, money or, other items to identify the location of a grave.  Sea Shells is another tradition that is carried on today.  The larger the shell, the more respected the individual was to the family.  One grave located in the Blackwell cemetery has very large sea shells that cover the individual's grave from front to back.  Pvt. James Blackwell is the only known Spanish American War African American Veteren within Onslow County.

   If no unmarked graves are confirmed then, Odell Petteway will remove the majority of small trees to make a parking space for visitors.  At this time, there is only the pathway to the cemetery that has been used for parking.  Many Elders have to walk a long distance to visit the cemetery.  The lack of parking has always been an issue for the Petteway family, especially during a funeral where dozens of cars are used to transport family members to the cemetery.

In either case, as a newly found piece of the Petteway cemetery being rediscovered or, as a much needed parking area for the cemetery, this particular area will be put to good use.  But, before anything can be done, the entire area needs to be carefully and properly cleared, using only hand tools.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Reasons For Sunken Grave Headstones

     One of the most challenging aspects in the preservation of old cemeteries is the need to identify "unmarked" graves.  The term unmarked refers to a grave where the headstone or, any other form of identification, is missing. 

       Sometimes, however, the marker is where it is suppose to be, except it can not be seen.  Broken, fallen or even, sunken may be the reason.  Another explaination, one less thought of, is the accumulation of debris, mulch and compost.

 Broken headstone base. 
Notice the broken metal rods that pertrude from the center of the stone. 
The grove is where the actual headstone rests.

    In the two images below, note the lettering at the base of each visible headstone.  The remaining writing is under the surface.  There are two main reasons for this:  The stone, due to soften ground from rain saturation, sank into the ground.  The second cause is much more reasonable. 

   When a cemetery is left unattended, in this case for over thirty years, fallen debris, leaves and other material accumulate around the stone.  Over time, these things decay and become mulch, also known as compost.  Each yearly amount of mulch adds onto the previous amount. 

  When cemetery preservation work is first started, many headstones appear to have sunken into the ground when in reality, the ground rises up and over the headstone.

Mulch accomulation around two headstones which hides scripture
and other vital information such as, birth and death dates.

     In the case of this particular cemetery there is not less then five inches of mulch laying on top of the "original" ground surface.   Other areas of this cemetery, based on the amount of foliage decay, there is in excess of twelve inches of mulch surrounding or, covering grave headstones. 

    Image a surface grave marker, the ones that lay flat on the ground.  Now, imagine having thirty or, more, years of  mulch debris, covering the grave.

   Cemetery preservation is not a quick process.   Time, research and getting your fingernails dirty is a vital part of the work.

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to review this post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Locating an unmarked grave_Part I

I have been the exclusive caretaker for the Petteway Family cemetery since January 2007.  During this time I have "reclaimed" nearly eighty percent of the original cemetery that dates to ca.1870.  Being an all African American and the largest of it's kind in Onslow County, North Carolina (southeastern part of the state), it is vital to rediscover as much of the cemetery, as feasibly possible.  The primary reason. . . to show proper respect to the individuals who were laid to rest within the cemetery when it first was used.

Dave adds the final touches to a marker that I commissioned him to make, for the Petteway Family Cemetery. (2011)

I have conducted extensive, independant research in regards to who had been laid to rest within the Petteway Family cemetery.  By the end of 2009, twelve names were added to the list to help identify "unmarked" graves that are scattered throughout the cemetery.  Ten of these individuals were not known to many of the current Petteway family members.  Two were children under two years of age and three were Former Slaves.  They died between 1912 and 1924.  This cemetery has been used since ca. 1870.  Starting in the Spring of 2011, a once wild foliage encrouched section of the cemetery grounds was finally cleared, using only basic handtools.  The work was long and hot but, well worth the effort.

(Above/Below)  Front section view of
Petteway cemetery, before clearing. 

Allowing the "visible" ground surface of the recently cleared land to acclamate, to allow grass and not wild brush and weeds to grow, made identifying additional "possible" unmarked graves easier.  If allowed to happen, decades, and in this case, a century's, worth of fallen foliage debris will eventually cover original cemetery grounds.  Leaving no evidence of cemetery or, it's graves.

For the novice, when a part of a cemetery is cleared of it's surface foliage and then left alone, so grass can grow, unmarked graves can be identified.  The soil around a potential grave will be altered in appearance.  In some cases, using a mathmatical equation, the actual demensions of a grave can be seen in the ground.  Other instances, the ground surface "gives way," allowing a depression of a grave to be visable.  After confirming a depression as an actual unmarked grave, through detailed anylisis and care, additional graves can be rediscovered.

Front area of cemetery that has been cleared. 
See images above for comparison.

As a last image of Part I of this post, I present you the after view of the front of the Petteway Family Cemetery.  I conducted the entire clearing process, by hand, using only small handtools.  Evidence suggests that not less then twenty unmarked graves are present in this particular area of the cemetery.  Waiting to be confirmed to be actual graves of the Elders of the Petteway family.

Possible unmarked graves. 
Two orange flag markers indentify possible graves.  
A small pile of coal and a ca.1895 era bottle were located more then twelve inches under visible surface.  The bottle is wedged and encrusted, under a two-inch thick tree root.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Watertown Daily Times | Vandals smash headstones at Champion cemetery

Here is another sad news article in regards to endangered cemeteries. 

The staff of Resurrection Mission try to inform the public why it is important to protect these family and community cemeteries. 

Take a few seconds out of your busy lives and reflect on how it would feel if these intentional desecrated graves was one of your Ancestors.

Watertown Daily Times | Vandals smash headstones at Champion cemetery

Monday, June 25, 2012

Remembering the War of 1812

This is the year to learn more about the War of 1812.  Some argue; our second war of independence.

Southeastern North Carolina had a vital role during the War of 1812 with numerous shorelines and ports along the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

Captain Otway Burns, Privateer during the War of 1812, was born and raised in Swansboro, North Carolina.  He sailed the open Oceans and devestated the British trade routes by capturing not-less-then forty vessels.  Many twice the size of his small ship--Snap Dragon.

Take time to learn more about Captain Burns and the role he played during the War of 1812.   Does your family have a connection to him or the events that took place during the war?  Did any of your Ancestors fight in the War; on land or by sea?

Here is a link for a book that I wrote about Captain Burns's entire life.  Much of the book is presented for the first time and gives a more accurate discription of his many adventures and escapades.

Remember our military Veterans, both present and past.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

James H. Thompson; A Civil War Veteran?

Out-of-state family matters, over the last six months, had taken me away from my blog entries. 

I came across an interesting photograph, obtained from a family friend, during my most recent trip to Northern New York.  Below is an image that provides a humorous aspect of family genealogy.

James Harvey [Sic] Thompson, was twenty-one years old when the below image was taken of him, ca.1910.  Can anyone give a reason for his appearance?

Apparently, James was born on February 29, 1820.  To Genealogists who recognize this day of the month, it is easy to see why James appears much older then twenty-one. 

Doing family genealogy can be adventurous.  Learning unique aspects of family history can be fun for a researcher. 

How many of your family members share in James' birth date?  How were they listed on Census reports?

A question that needs to be answered:  Was James H. Thompson a Civil War Veteran?  Being Memorial Day weekend, it would be nice to find out that he was and to rediscover how he served his county.

To all Veterans out there, young and old, thank you for your dedication, sacrifices and commitment to protect our Freedoms.

Semper Fi !

Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011 Petteway Family Reunion

The direct descendents of George Washington and Cecilia Ann White Petteway, both Former Slaves, held their family reunion recently on the grounds of the Edney Primative Baptist Church School house.

The Primative Baptist Church and school was established ca. 1872, by George W. Petteway, fellow Former Slaves and local White citizens of Richlands, Onslow County, North Carolina. Since 1872, a Petteway family member has cared for the land and buildings.

In early 1960s, the Edney church was destroyed along with a portion of the school house. Dalton Odell Petteway, Grandson of G.W. and Cecilia Petteway, has cared for the church and school house since returning from his WWII era tour of duty in the U.S. Army.

There are scant "official" records for the Edney Primative Baptist Church and school house. By chance, if a reader has material dealing with this subject, please contact me. The School house was in continuous operation from ca.1872 to late 1950, when National education policies were changed.

Some of the Petteway family members who once attended the Edney Primative Baptist Church School house. Framed photograph depicts the school house prior to 1960 Hurricane damage.

Today, the remaining portion of the Edney School house still stands on the grounds where it was built. Due to severe damage caused by the 1960 era Hurricane, the church was evetually torn down and replaced, by Odell Petteway, with a new cinder-block style building. This new church is still being used for church, education and family gatherings.

Dalton Odell Petteway, Grandson of G.W. & Cecilia Ann Petteway, received the Petteway family "Hero Award," for his life-long dedication in protecting the Edney Primative Baptist church and School house.

Framed picture, being held by Ms. Shelia Blue, is a re-discovered image of the original Endney School house, ca. 1935.

Someone, somewhere, may have material dealing with the Edney Primative Baptist Church and school. Before the Petteway's next family reunion, hopefully, more of their Heritage can be rediscovered and presented to them--for their continued dedication in preserving our local & family histories.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cemetery vandalized in southeastern North Carolina

Another Onslow County cemetery (southeastern North Carolina) has been vadilized. No information is available at this time.

I will post updates as news develop and I am able to this newest endangered cemetery.

In the meantime, here is a link my primary Internet site:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Endangered cemetery dirt storms


Recently, I was asked by a land developer to attempt to locate an old cemetery that may have been located within a plot of land that is currently a crop field. Currently, no physical evidence of the late 19th cemetery exists. No headstones, markers or, even the slightest ground depressions.

The developer was extremely concerned that, if there was a cemetery, somewhere on the plot of land, he wanted to ensure it was not only protected but, more importantly, respected.

When dealing with pre-1900, misplaced cemeteries, it is not uncommon to have no evidence of a grave yard. There are numerous reasons for this: over-growth of foliage; headstones being "disasembled" to use land for other purposes; never had headstones, as in the common practice when dealing with old African American cemeteries. These graves were often identified by wooden stakes, stones, pottery--eventually destroyed by the environment.

When dealing with an old cemetery that is adjacent to a crop field, another often not thought of reason for "misplacing" a cemetery occurs. The catalys for the disappearing cemetery begins just before planting season and ends during harvesting.

(above & below images)
Airborn dirt, flowing over road, caused by plowing of the cropfield

Imagine the above dirt storm flowing not over a road but instead, onto an adjacent small family cemetery located within the neighboring tree line of the crop field. Now, add ten; twenty-five; one hundred or, even two hundred years of this flowing dirt, coming to rest on that same cemetery.

The cemetery that was located "at one time" within the crop field area has been re-discovered. I had to spend some detailed time researching the grounds. The image below, is from this specific cemetery and represents, clearly, how plowed crop fields can, over time, encrouch a cemetery:

(Left; A) Grave head stone located nearly twenty inches under "visible" surface.

(Left; B) Actual headstone from the crop field cemetery---After washing stone, with only clear water & soft brush, information was re-discovered.

First name is hard to decifer.

Born: December 1825

Died: July16, 1908

I hope these images help to explain how some old & endangered cemeteries can become "mis-placed." Urban sprawling has dominated the once plentiful farm land. There are, however, land developers out there, who insist on taking the most extreme steps and care to protect the final resting places of people who once lived in their communities.

Take just a moment and think of all of the "forgotten" military Veterans who are laid to rest in the endangered cemeteries within your neighborhood.

To make a contribution to Resurrection Mission--protecting endangered cemeteries and search for our "forgotten" military Veterans please visit the Resurrection Mission Website.

Happy Easter & say thanks to our military troops and Veterans when you see them.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brick Mill Cemetery Burial roster

Richlands, North Carolina:

I have finalized the Brick Mill Cemetery burial roster for section "A," only. There are 107 confirmed graves, some unmarked, within this area of the cemetery. There are more but, due to the harsh treatment of the cemetery over the past fifty years, these graves may never be re-discovered.

There are another seven sections to re-confirm the marked, unmarked and possible grave locations.

There will be numerous family reunions being held in the summer of 2011. I hope to have the burial roster complete by June. This will give me time to publish my findings and present a copy to some of the direct descendents of their Ancestors who were laid to rest within the Brick Mill Cemetery.

I have worked for five years on the Brick Mill Cemetery. Nearly all costs, labor and required equipment and supplies were at my own expense.

Thank you all for your support,


To make a modest donation:

To learn more about Resurrection Mission:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Time to let off some steam about gas prices

Tired of the rising, by the hour, of gas prices? Do you have an opinion as to what can be done to lower the need of oil dependency?

Visit the Gas Out Day group page on Face Book and express your thoughts to people all over the Nation who are upset about the price of gas.