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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Thomas Land Family Cemetery

So much to share about our wonderful trip to Stony Fork last week with the cousins!  In this post I want to share some additional information about the Thomas Land Family Cemetery and our encounter with a newly found cousin.
Last September, 2010, I first visited this beautiful valley where so many of my relatives lived and still live from the early beginnings of Wilkes County in 1752 to the present.  At that time I came with two 1st cousins 1X removed and a 2nd cousin.  The elder of these cousins remembered visiting where Thomas Harvey and America Ann McNeil West, his grandparents, had lived on Stony Fork before moving to Banner Elk in 1902.  These cousins helped get me started on this road to discovery that I am currently traveling.
For my most recent visit, on Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, two 4th cousins, who had grown up in the nearby community of Beaver Creek, and I arranged to meet in Wilkesboro.  We toured the countryside together with one cousin’s spouse driving us in his truck.  As we drove along those narrow, winding, country roads, I listened to JJL and JP talk about our mutual ancestors and point out the various locations where they had lived and were buried.  I tried to absorb as much as I could but now realize that I had missed or have forgotten a great deal of what I had heard since I didn’t have the prior knowledge to make that permanent connection.  
I greatly appreciate the hospitality and friendship of all of these cousins.  Without them, I would not have known where to go or how to find answers to my questions as I travel my personal road seeking knowledge of the past.
While searching for the West family grave plot on that first visit in September 2010, one of my 1st cousins 1X removed and I talked with a man who was parking his tractor in an abandoned chicken barn.  He was able to point out the cemetery which was on a small knoll down the road behind a barn and corral west of the chicken barn.  During this recent visit last week with my 4th cousins, we noticed a man working on the farm across the road from the Mt. Zion Baptist Church.  We drove down the driveway toward the house to inquire about another cemetery which BL thought was nearby.
The man acknowledged the existence of another nearby cemetery which was adjacent to the property on which he was working and across the road from Mt. Zion Baptist Church. He indicated that the stones in the cemetery had deteriorated to mere rocks with only one name, that being the name White, visible on a stone.  A small grove of trees overshadowed those forgotten graves where a church had once stood.  Supposedly, a group of worshippers separated from the Advent Baptist Church where the Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery is located and built a church on land the where this forgotten cemetery lies.  Later, after the church burned, the “new” Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Mt. Zion Road was erected diagonally across the road.
Surprisingly, this man with whom we spoke was the same one with whom my 1st cousin 1X removed and I had spoken on my 2010 visit.  Initially, I didn’t recognize him, but he remembered me and the conversation my cousin and I had with him a year ago.   As we talked, another surprising fact emerged:  he is a grandson, perhaps the 2nd great grandson, of William Hamilton Barnett and our 2nd great grand aunt, Mary Ann West.  For those of you following the genealogy, Mary Ann West was the daughter of John Balus West and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson and a sister of Alexander Balus West and Franklin West.  According to my calculations, Mr. Barnett would a 3rd cousin 1X removed to my 4th cousins and me.  I regret that I did not ask his first name.  He appeared to have some knowledge of and interest in his ancestors.  I left my contact information; hopefully, he will contact me.  My belief that I am related to many people in Wilkes County continues to be reinforced as I have had and continue to have many encounters with them in person or through e-mail.

Thomas Land Family Cemetery
The Way It Looks Now

And now back to my topic, the Thomas Land Cemetery.  In my last post, I discussed my meeting with the man operating the Tuscarora Ranch where the cemetery is located.  Through research and mostly though contact with another cousin, George F. McNeil, a 5th cousin 1X removed, I learned that the cemetery is known as the Thomas Land Family Cemetery.  When Mr. McNeil and his wife verified the cemetery, which, I think, must have been in 1989, they identified 8 marked graves and about 10 unmarked graves in the 75X50 foot plot.  At that time the land was owned by the G. W. Wellborn heirs.  The McNeils commented in their report that “Cattle have turned over all stones.  Cemetery is overgrown with high grass.  Additional markers may be found by probing.”   They also indicated that the plot was not easily identifiable.  George F. and Joyce D. McNeil identified the following graves:
·         Jane Carlton Land (15 Apr 1793 – 15 Mar 1865), spouse of Thomas Land
·         T. C. “Tommy” Land (18 Mar 1828 – 30 Nov 1912)
·         Thomas Land (13 Sep 1788 – 9 Jul 1871), spouse of Jane Carlton
·         Jim Pennell
·         A 1y 8m Robinett infant (28 Dec 1909 – 31 Dec 1909), child of R. Zeb  Robinett and Molly E. Land
·         A. J. West (29 Jan 1884  - 3 Apr 1884), child of Thomas Harvey West and America Anne McNeill
·         Willard A. West (13 Feb 1889 – date of death gone, tombstone broken), child of Thomas Harvey West and America Anne McNeill[i]
The McNeils also listed Molly Land Robinett as being buried in the plot.  However, they did not find a grave/tombstone but had been told by family members that she was buried in the plot near her infant child.  Molly was the daughter of J. C. and Nannie Land and the wife of R. Zeb Robinett.[ii]

Thomas Land Family Cemetery
The Way It Looked Years Ago
(Thanks to G. Land for the Photograph)

At this point, I would like to recognize the work of George F. McNeil and his late wife, Joyce D. McNeil. They have done extensive work compiling abstracts of documents and data bases of cemeteries in the Wilkes County area.  Their works are widely published and found in many libraries.  Mr. and Mrs. McNeil have provided an outstanding service to those of us who are searching for information about our past.
As I related in my post of July 27, 2011, “The Cemetery,” according to my 1st cousin 1X removed, CALT, her mother, who was my grand aunt, Flora West Lowe, along with Flora’s niece, Edna Triplett Coder, cleaned up the cemetery and installed the split rail fence around it.  They did this sometime before Aunt Flora’s death in 1993.
My desire is that this ancestral cemetery, which dates back to the first burial in 1865, be preserved and maintained. 
Again, may I express my thanks to those cousins and spouse (FL, CALT, NLS, and AML) who took me on that first journey to Stony Fork and to those 4th cousins and spouse (JJL, JP, and BL) for our recent excursion there.  Thanks to George F. McNeil for his assistance and information.  Lastly, but not least, I must thank my patient husband, Doug, who endures those long hours he spends with me in court houses and libraries and the many jaunts he takes with me across the mountains and through the valleys of western North Carolina as we make these trips.

[i] McNeil, George F. and Joyce D. McNeil. “Wilkes County Database.” Wilkesboro, NC, 2009.
[ii] McNeil, George F. Letter to Charlotte West Dade, July 27, 2011.

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