Help Save the Cemeteries

 

  The Cemetery is in good hands now...

24 May 2000

I am sending this to those I think may be interested in what I am doing concerning the cemeteries for the Caswell family. I have yet to hear from the Governor's office and suspect it may be a few more weeks before I do. I guess that he will have to word his answer to me very carefully!

Anyway, I have been posting all over the Internet and writing letters to editors of newspapers and sending the letters to the Governor's office as well. I do not want to offend anyone or step on toes, but I am determined to right a very wrong and get this resolved. Here are some of the postings and letters I have

written.
 
 
I am asking for all the Caswell descendants (and others interested) of RICHARD CASWELL and CHRISTIAN DALLAM (originally of England and Maryland to North Carolina) and their family, most notable their son RICHARD CASWELL JR. (first Governor of North Carolina) and wives MARY MACKILWEAN and SARAH HERITAGE to come together to help save three cemeteries from any further development and desecration.
 

The situation is appalling and sickening to say the very least. One cemetery, the state has allowed part of it to be paved over for a parking lot for a medical office, another lies between an empty lot and broken down boarded up house without fence or safe guard of the graves and the site for Richard Caswell's grave site at the Caswell Memorial is missing part of the land now owned by a packing plant I believe (still investigating the deeds). There is more to the story, if you want further information or names and addresses to write to, please email me. I am Richard Caswell Jr's 5th great! grand-daughter and I will be darned if I let this disgraceful situation last any longer!

Susan Burgess-Hoffman
205 Captain Newport Kr.
Williamsburg, VA 23185
rhoffman@widomaker.com or shoffman@cwf.org
 
Wed, 24 May 2000 Received a phone call this evening from a reporter for the Kinston Free.

Press Newspaper, Mr. Jason Hardin. He wanted to know about my intentions concerning Richard Caswell and the cemeteries. (I told him it was not just about the cemeteries, and not just about Richard Caswell.) I forwarded a copy of the letter I sent to the Governor on May 8th, and told him all the other people I was writing to. He seemed amazed at my "commitment" to this.

If you are writing a letter to the Governor or anyone else, please forward a copy to this newspaper and reporter. He asked me to keep him informed. He also asked me if there was "anyone else interested in this subject", as if I would be the only concerned about the desecration on a grave site!

Anyway, I appreciate any and all help in this. Remember, it could happen to your family as well, you do not need to have relations with the Caswell family, just someone who is interested in seeing the graves of ordinary people saved and respected. Just like what we hope for, for our families and selves.

Susan Burgess-Hoffman

The reporter has an email: Jason_Hardin@link.freedom.com

 
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The Honorable James B. Hunt                                                               June 5, 2000
Governor, State of North Carolina
State Capitol
Raleigh, North Carolina 27603
 
Dear Governor Hunt,
 
I am writing to you on behalf of your predecessor, Governor Richard Caswell, the first provincial Governor of the State of North Carolina. I am a Caswell descendant . My daughter and her family live in Raleigh and Jennifer worked for the State in the office of the Attorney General until the birth of her first son. Thus, our family has a strong and vested interest in the past, present and future of the Great State of North Carolina.

President John Adams, referring to Richard Caswell's role in the first Continental Congress of 1775, said, " We always looked to Richard Caswell for North Carolina. He was a model man and a true patriot." It is past time to" look to" Richard Caswell once again.

In 1881, the Hon. Zebulon B. Vance dedicated the Caswell monument in Kinston, noting that it was the first such commemorating stone ever erected at public expense. "Oh, my countrymen, let us amend these things...Let us make the future more careful of the fame of the faithful and brave, to whom we owe so much...There is hope that North Carolina will yet do justice to the memory of her great dead."

It is past time for North Carolina to do justice to the memory of Governor Caswell.

It is time to validate, once and for all, the final resting place of the first Governor. The technology to do so is now readily available. I implore you, Governor Hunt, to take measures with appropriate State agencies to prove where Richard Caswell is buried.

Do not be satisfied with the recent report of an Archives researcher that "there are too many nagging questions and loose ends to say beyond any doubt just where Richard Caswell is buried."…"one can always hope" for a more definitive answer, it concludes.

That is simply not good enough. You must not dismiss this issue like a bothersome fly. Would you, the present Governor, wish to be dismissed so lightly? Our first Governor deserves better.

There is ample evidence to suggest a successful excavation of the area next to his daughter's grave in the Caswell Memorial cemetery. Here are just two examples. Caswell was Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge at the time of his death and was undoubtedly buried in full Masonic dress with easily identifiable metal badges. Also, his funeral in Fayetteville is well documented and clearly indicates where he was buried. "As soon as the ceremonies ended, Caswell's coffin …departed for the two day journey to Red House…His remains were attended to the grave …and interred with the usual solemnities."

In addition, the State and local government must address the appalling condition of the cemetery at Vernon Hall. That cemetery was reserved by Governor Caswell in his Will "for all those of my family who may choose to bury their relations and friends there, one half acre of Land where the Bones of my dear father and mother lie, at a place called the Hill". According to his Will, that half acre (and another at the" Red House" in the present day Caswell Memorial) "is to be reserved for the uses aforesaid forever...and those who wish to bury their dead shall always have liberty of Egress, Ingress, and Regress to, at, and from the said burying grounds to bury the dead or repair or raise an enclosure to the same."

There is still " liberty of egress and ingress" at the Vernon Hall cemetery, but only if one is willing to thrash through a thicket of six foot weeds, climb over concrete rubble and a broken brick wall, to find shattered remnants of tombstones trapped amidst thick undergrowth. Few are aware of this deplorable situation, I feel sure, because the cemetery is impossible to locate without knowing exactly where to look. Would you wish your parents and family members to be so remembered ?

I implore you to define the boundaries of the cemetery at Vernon Hall, clear and clean the area and restore it to the memory of his parents, other notable Kinstonians buried there, and those who may wish to exercise their right to be buried there in the future.

Governor Hunt, let us, as Zeb Vance said, be more careful, more respectful of the fame of the faithful and brave. There are few Caswell relatives left in North Carolina to protect or promote Governor Caswell's legacy, for he gave his wealth as well as his wisdom to his State and to his Country. It is up to the Great State of North Carolina to honor that sacrifice so freely given.

The dedication of THE HISTORY of LENOIR COUNTY to Governor Caswell reads as follows: "Caswell the private man is seldom visible; but the public man has emerged as a statesman of wise decisions, of steadfast principles, and of resolute and honorable actions."

I am confident that you, who guide this great state 225 years later, will exercise the same wise decisions, steadfast principles, and honorable actions in this matter. Let justice be done.

Sincerely,
Clair Rivers Hadley

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So far I have received 3 newspaper articles in the mail from friends and family concerning my request for the finding of the grave of Richard Caswell as well as the clean-up and protection of the cemeteries. The article in the Kinston Free Press was picked-up by the Associated Press and that is how it got to other newspapers. I have written to the Editors to expand and clarifyon some of the quotes, but for the most part the article was accurate. What was great was the picture it included of the Heritage Street/Vernon Hall cemetery site. Shows exactly how bad it really is.

I am also receiving email concerning other cemeteries that are in danger and am asking for anyone who knows of a cemetery in NC that is in danger, whether from neglect or encroachment from developers, to please email me the specifics. I am keeping a log of all sites and adding to my list for the governor and other people I have written to.

I just want to make it clear that my "fight" is not just about my 5ggrandfather Richard Caswell and the family cemeteries or the neglect of him as an important figure, it is also about the neglect of all of our ancestors and how we treat their final resting place. Too many times I amhearing of the disgraceful conditions of cemeteries and the local/state governments refusal to become involved in the care and maintenance when there is no "owner" to be found.

Note from Susan : Fri, 9 Jun 2000

I am so thankful for the time and effort everyone is taking for Governor Richard Caswell. Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to a gentleman from Virginia speak of his efforts for the new colony, as well as those of his contemporaries. Thomas Jefferson spoke of all the men whose valiant efforts came at the price of placing their "lives, fortunes and our sacred honor" on the line for the birth of this nation. This is just what Richard Caswell did, he paid for North Carolina's freedom with his own monies when the state had none. I have even read accounts of other General's being just a wee bit angry because of Caswell's troops having food when theirs did not, they would push on to be united with Caswell's troops so that they too couldeat. He paid for their food and their care with his own money. Every descendant of those soldiers needs to pay their respects by helping to honor him now by writing and calling their representatives.

Of course working for Colonial Williamsburg allows me to meet such fine gentleman, and I am glad to be around those who care about our history so that "the future may learn from the past" (our motto). I only wish more Americans new about the beginnings of this great nation.

 

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