Bethel Cemeteries, Churchyards, and Graveyards
Bethel/Cruso Cemetery Project
George Augustus Miller, Sr. documented twenty cemeteries in Bethel in his book, Cemeteries & Family Graveyards in Haywood County, N.C. (June 1, 1979). For the next several years, he continued to list all deaths and burial locations in the county and published those listings annually. Miller deserves tremendous credit for spending hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours traversing highways, back roads, yards, hillsides, valleys, and mountainous reaches to survey at least one hundred and seventy churchyards, graveyards, and cemeteries in Haywood County. Not only did he supply directions and give a brief but detailed history of each, but he also listed the names of individuals who were interred in each cemetery whose information was discernible from grave markers or historical documents. Miller may have missed obscure and unknown-except-to-the-family burial sites, but his listings are amazingly thorough and accurate.
Bethel Rural Community Organization's (BRCO) Historic Preservation Committee is embracing the project of researching Bethel and Cruso cemetery locations. We have used the Miller reference as a baseline while expanding that information with data from other cemetery data sites and from oral sources. There are additional cemeteries since Miller's original list of twenty. Historic Preservation Committee members travel to each location in order to include up-to-date directions. Some graveyards are in locations where owners or families may not wish to have visitors to the site. In such cases, we have not included specific instructions about how to access those graveyards. However, visitors are welcome to contact BRCO, and BRCO will contact the owners or families to see if a visit can be arranged. As the Historic Preservation Committee documents information about each cemetery, we will include that data on BRCO's website.
Burial Grounds - Types and Layout
While Miller does not address the types of internment locations, historians distinguish among three primary categories of traditional burial sites:
- Cemetery – large public burial plots owned by a community, town, or city
- Churchyard – burial area near a church (community cemeteries may be near a church but accommodate burials for all community members, not just church affiliates)
- Graveyard – small private or family plots
Gravesite grouping and arrangement in North Carolina burial grounds varies from region to region and also depends upon which religious community, social population, or ethnic group planned the layout of the internment area. In the Eastern part of the state, for example, where slavery and plantation life were more prominent, there was vast distinction between the humble stones or wooden markers of the commoners and the massive ledger and box-and-brick tombs of the wealthy gentry. In the Piedmont and mountain regions, local artisans cut most gravestones, and cemeteries placed rich and poor side by side. Moravian cemeteries, primarily in the Piedmont, reflected the rigid construct of egalitarian life typical of the religious community since all stones were exactly the same size and design, placed the same distance apart, contained the same wording except for names and dates, and were situated in four distinct areas of the landscape: married men, married women, single women and girls, and single men and boys.
In the mountains of WNC, cemeteries, graveyards, and churchyards maintain their own distinctive character. Because of the pockets of isolation, the ruggedness of the terrain, and the self-sufficient nature of its people, cemeteries in this region of the state are frequently situated on high, grassy knolls that are not useful for farming or building. The hillside location also assured that rainwater would drain from graves so that they would not stand in water. (Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, Book 5, 28-29).
As committee members have researched community burial locations, we have found this inclination toward hillside burial to be typical in Bethel/Cruso.
Another distinction that occurred in Bethel was typical of other areas in the region and the South - slave cemeteries were separate from Caucasian cemeteries. Miller lists two slave cemeteries in Bethel. Oral tradition, however, indicates that there are slave burials in unmarked graves in Bethel Community Cemetery.
Bethel Cemeteries Documented by George Augustus Miller, Sr.
- Bethel Methodist Church Cemetery (Bethel Community Cemetery)
- Burnette Siding Cemetery (Spruce Cemetery)
- Cathey Slave Cemetery
- Center Pigeon Baptist Church Cemetery
- Cecil Community Cemetery
- Cecil School Cemetery
- Edmonston Slave Cemetery
- Gwyn Cemetery
- Henson Family Cemetery
- Inman Chapel Cemetery
- Inman Family Cemetery
- Long’s United Methodist Church Cemetery
- Michal Family Cemetery
- Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery
- Piney Grove United Methodist Church Cemetery
- Riverside Baptist Church Cemetery
- Smoky Cove Cemetery
- Spring Hill Baptist Church Cemetery
- Sunburst Cemetery
- Trull Family Cemetery
Bethel Cemeteries Not Listed by Miller
- Burnette Siding Baptist Church Cemetery (located near Burnette Siding Baptist Church)
- New Cruso Cemetery (located adjacent to the Gwyn Cemetery)
Article written by Evelyn Coltman, Chair
Historic Preservation Committee of Bethel Rural Community Organization