Essay

A Paper I Wrote for a
Freshman College Course

GREEN HILL CEMETERY:
WORTHY OF HONOR

Imagine a book which covers the history of Greensboro's growth as a city. This book would reveal to us how a wooded railroad town came to be one of the largest industrial cities of the South. With its gold trimmed pages and ornately decorated cover, this beautiful book would allow us to remember some of Greensboro's most important citizens. Now imagine that this book never gets published. Who is going to read it?

Such an injustice has befallen Green Hill Cemetery. True, it is not trimmed in gold, but it is a site worth seeing, bound by Battleground Avenue, Hill Street, Latham Park, and several residential tracts, Green Hill is a beautiful reminder of Greensboro's past. Unfortunately, this book of the city's history is not well known. Originally, in 1887, the city of Greensboro bought 57 acres of land to lay out as the cemetery, but records show that interrments were made in the land as early as 1882. It may remain a mystery why this is so. Perhaps the elder Judge John A. Gilmer, from whom the land was bought, would be able to provide the answer. However, Judge Gilmer is one of the interrments.

Gilmer is not the only important figure buried in Green Hill. As one strolls through the cemetery, pages are turned to reveal characters from Greensboro's educational history. Reverend Peter Daub, founder of Greensborough Female School (now known as Greensboro College) lies in Green Hill. Dr. Turner Jones, Mrs. Lucy Robertson, and Dr. Samuel B. Turrentine, all presidents of the same institution, also rest among the lichen-painted stones.

The founder of the Women's College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro), Dr. Charles Duncan McIver, is among the many buried here. He is kept company by Dr. J.I. Faust, school president of 27 years and expander of the college.

The tall, proud magnolia trees of Green Hill cast their silhouettes upon the grave of Cyrus P. Mendenhall, during whose term as mayor preparations were made for Greensboro's first graded schools. Greensboro's first mayor, Squire A.P. Eckel, occupies another of the cemetery's plots.

As we read on, granite and marble grave markers provide for us the names of still more of Greensboro's past leaders. One such stone bears the name "Daniel Schenk", who through his vision and promotion helped to establish the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.

Much like the park, Green Hill is a place which preserves the memory and honor of the deceased. It provides a resting place for those passed on. Ironically, though, some of its citizens, during their lifetimes, created places where the living could rest. Such people were: Dr. D.W.C. Benbow, D.W. McAdoo, and Branch Merrimon--all of whom established grand hotels in Greensboro.

After visiting the resting places of former Justices of the State Supreme Court, Judges Robert P. Dick and Robert M. Douglas, we find Green Hill's chapter on more of Greensboro's most influential businessfolk.

A shady, even spooky, brick wall enclosure leans in one corner of Green Hill. Claims have been made of shadows with no beings and bad vibes existing around this structure. The only sure existences there include those of the creaky, worn wrought-iron gate which leads inside the structure, and the long, flat, marble slab which bears the name of "Lunsford Richardson", organizer of the first wholesale drug company in Greensboro and founder of the Vick Chemical Company.

Other businessmen, J.A. Odell, J.E. Latham, and J.W. Frye, have their peace in the cemetery. A.M. Scales, once governor of North Carolina, is honored by a tall, polished granite gravestone. E.P. Wharton, contributor to Greensboro's library interests and A.W. McAllister, insurance businessman, are also found within the pages of Green Hill Cemetery.

One of the more interesting sites of the cemetery is the Julian Price mausoleum. A short series of stone steps leads to the iron door of this hilltop monument. Looking inside, one may see the vase of flowers that stands close to the vault of one of Greensboro's most important men. Starting as an agent for Greensboro Life Insurance Company, later becoming agency manager, and eventually becoming President of the Jefferson Standard and Jefferson Life consolidation, Price was easily one of Greensboro's most potent insurance magnates. Having majority interest in the Greensboro Record, Price helped finance the Record's merger with the Greensboro Daily News. The Jefferson Pilot building here in Greensboro serves as a more prominent reminder of the man. Although the letters stand for the company name, the flashing "J.P." brings to mind the name "Julian Price".

Perhaps the most noticeable plot in Green Hill is that of the Julius A. Gray family. Julius was another of the city's builders, but the beauty of the huge obelisk that towers over his grave seems to overshadow that fact. The fixture, surrounded by aged statues, is another point of wonder. It is said that the statue above Annie Gray is filled with Annie's spirit. On a cold night, some say, all of the statue is frigid except for the area of the chest around the heart. Those who wish to find out for themselves may locate the Gray monuments easily, for they are most prominently visible from Hill Street. Once drawn inside by its majesty, one may travel through time and mystery in the world of Green Hill Cemetery.

If beauty and mystery were enough to put Green Hill in the local historical brochures, it would be so. Obviously, it has not been considered that Green Hill is worthy of being claimed an historical landmark. No battles were fought there, but the proud statues, standing for our lost firefighters and Confederate Dead, are part of Green Hill and containing the graves of so many important figures from Greensboro's history, the cemetery does most definitely qualify for historical value even if only for a roadside placard.

Greensboro is a great city--the result of the efforts of many great men and women. Green Hill cemetery, filled with the scent of magnolias and decorated with the oldest of time-worn statues and most eloquent of recent markers, is a great way to learn about the city and its builders. It is also a means by which I may remember my own dear friend Virginia Barnes. Let's not close the cover on this beautiful book.

I wrote this paper in February of 1993. I have been cleared up on some information, and some things have simply dawned on me. For instance, the reason there were plots in 1882, before the land was declared a cemetery, is because there were already the family graves of the Gilmer family. Duh!

I also have another friend in Green Hill. Mr. Harvey Ljung.

Also, the Richardson's brick wall (the Garden) no longer leans so terribly. A stretch of fine masonry replaces the most damaged portion. Hoorah!

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Kerryck@aol.com


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