Burnette Siding (Old Spuce) Cemetery
BURNETTE SIDING (OLD SPRUCE) CEMETERY is located in the Sunburst Campground area of Bethel Community in Haywood County, NC, off of Highway #276 on Lake Logan Road (Highway 215 S) approximately 2 8/10 miles beyond Lake Logan on the ridge overlooking the West Fork of Pigeon River.
From HWY 276, turn south on Lake Logan Road and drive 5.8 miles to cross the bridge across Lake Logan. Continue south for 2.7 miles, and slow down at the Sunburst Recreation Area Campground on your right.
Seventy-five yards beyond the Sunburst Campground, on the right, is a brown Forest Service gate across a gravel road identified with a “97” on a marker. If the gate is open, drive up the gravel road. If the gate is closed, park your vehicle, and walk up the gravel road.
On the right, 275 yards up the gravel road, is an open area. Enter the open area and walk up to another brown gate which the Forest Service identifies on a nearby marker as “97B.”
Walk around the gate and continue walking up the trail for 90 yards. There is a road grade incline above on the slope to the right. After you have walked 90 yards on the trail, there is an open area on the right with another trail that goes up the slope and then to the right. Walk up the slope and follow the trail to the right.
You will be on an old, grass-covered, one-lane road. Stay on that road for 150 yards. It will gradually rise as it wraps around the side of the ridge.
At the end of the road, there is a 15' x 15' square concrete foundation. Walk across the concrete square. At the northwest corner of the concrete square is a trail. Walk out onto the trail which curves to the left and continues up the slope. Follow this trail for 45 yards where it will meet with another trail that cuts to the right along the top of the ridge.
Follow this ridge-top trail for 145 yards. It will gradually rise, and there may be sections of the trail encumbered by tree trunks that have fallen across the trail. After 145 yards, there is a small area, 8 feet across, enclosed by a wire fence with an old iron gate. Within this enclosed area, there is a gravestone for George Anner Bumgarner (June 26, 1884 – Oct 25, 1931) and daughter Lindy (Feb 12, 1913 – Mar 23, 1918). There is also another gravestone (in the shape of two hearts joined together) with the inscription: JOYCE Born and Died May 1, 1925, Blessed are the early dead, and CLAYTON Born and Died May 31, 1924, The lovely flower has faded. Children of Mr. & Mrs. J. M. Gregory.
Continue on the ridge-top trail for another 40 yards. It will gradually rise. There may be sections of the trail where fallen trees obstruct the path. After 40 yards, is the gravestone for Hazel Buchanan (Mar 30, 1915 – Nov 19, 1918) and another broken gravestone on the ground beside it. Twenty feet to the left is the gravestone of BONNIE Daughter of J. H. & Callie Page (Nov 3, 1918 – Dec 19, 1922).
The vegetation and tree growth that covers the area make it difficult to locate additional gravestones.
According to an interview by George Augustus Miller, Sr., with Malita Inman, the history of the cemetery dates to 1919 when the flu epidemic broke out in the area. Her father, the Reverend W.A. Hampton, along with her brother, took care of the sick and buried the dead. Reverend Hampton made the coffins himself and, on many days, buried three at a time. Thus, this cemetery filled rapidly during the flu pandemic but was abandoned a few years later when many residents moved from the area.
From an interview written by Evelyn Coltman in Book 4 of Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, Virginia Oats, an African American lady whose parents worked at Sunburst, stated that Black and white members of the Spruce and Sunburst Logging Villages were buried at this cemetery. One of her mother's sisters, Noraie, as well as Virginia's sibling, Edith, who died in infancy, are buried there. Their names, however, are not recorded in grave listings by Find a Grave, The Haywood County, NC, Cemetery Records, LDS Genealogy catalog, or George Miller's Cemeteries and Family Graveyards in Haywood County.
During the filming of Bethel Rural Community Organization's Sunburst and Other Logging Operations in the Bethel and Cold Mountain Region DVD, videographer Doug Chambers, Evelyn Coltman, and Lewis Oats hiked to the cemetery during the filming session about African American contributions connected with Sunburst Logging Village. During his interview, Oats described the burial site in connection with African Americans who worked at Spruce/Sunburst logging operations.
In an article by Edie Burnette, “Overgrown, Damaged Spruce Cemetery Saddens Former Residents of the Community,” she interviewed Vaughn Rogers. Rogers indicated that in his youth Spruce was a thriving community with 1,500 residents, a large school, commissary, rows of bungalows, and the railroad that carried logs to Champion Fibre Company. He conveyed that the cemetery was originally tended by Burnette Siding Baptist Church, but declining membership did not allow them to continue the maintenance. Rogers indicated that the cemetery was once a large, beautiful, well-kept place cleared of trees. The cemetery is now part of Pisgah National Forest and is the responsibility of the federal government. Burnette noted on her visit to the burying grounds that vandalism was responsible for much of the degradation of the cemetery.
The burial area became an official cemetery in 1919, though burials occurred at the location prior to 1919. This graveyard served primarily as a gravesite to accommodate deaths associated with the 1918 flu pandemic and a few years before and beyond.
The cemetery has, unfortunately, fallen into disarray with the original governing body, Burnette Siding Baptist Church, no longer in charge of its upkeep.
The cemetery is part of Pisgah National Forest and is under the auspices of the US Forest Service.
There is currently no funding to support cemetery upkeep.
GRAVES AND GRAVE MARKERS
Tomb rocks and stones are frequently seen lying or tossed down the hill, with very few remaining. Dilapidated fencing is evident around family plots.
In his Cemeteries & Family Graveyards in Haywood County, NC, George Augustus Miller, Sr. estimates that the cemetery once contained over 100 stones marking grave sites, but vandalism has destroyed and desecrated the cemetery. Vaughn Rogers, in the Edie Burnette interview, stated that the cemetery once housed hundreds of deceased individuals. *
The following notations of the few remaining stones are included in Augustus Miller's book about Haywood County Cemeteries and the Haywood County Cemetery Records, LDS Genealogy catalog. The article by Edie Burnette confirmed or added notations (Burnette additions marked with *).
Ethel Buchanan (09-02-1913 – 11-27-1918) (named carved on a broken headstone) *
Hazel Buchanan (03-30-1915 – 11-19-1918)
George Anner Bumgarner (06-27-1884 – 10-25-1931) *
Lindy Bumgarner (02-12-1013 – 03-23-1918) (daughter of George Anner Bumgarner)(Anner and daughter share a clean, well-preserved tombstone leaned against a fence post) *
Daniel Roosevelt Dockery (01-02-1903 – 02-28-1917)
Harriett Sophronia “Dollie” Mann Green (04-18-1871 – 08-02-1945)
Joyce Gregory (05-01-1925 - 05-01-1925) (daughter of Mr. & Mrs. J.M. Gregory)(“Blessed are the children of God”) *
Clayton Gregory (05-31-1924 – 05-31-1924) “Blessed are the early dead. The lovely flower has faded” (son of Mr. & Mrs. J.M. Gregory) (Siblings Joyce and Clayton Gregory share a joined heart-shaped stone) *
Tom Hall (04-18—1917 – 04-18-1917) “Our Darling Infant” (son of J.P. & Dora Hall)
Velmer Owen (04-02-1918 – 11-12-1918)
Bonnie Page (11-03-1919 – 12-19-1922) (daughter of J.H. & Callie Page) *
Wilma Donna Peek (09-02-1923 – 09-06-1923) (daughter of I.T. & Charlotte Peek)
James Alvin Reece ( 08-18-1881 – 08-23-1951)
*American Cemeteries does not list this cemetery. The Haywood County, NC, Cemetery Records, LDS Genealogy does not list this cemetery. Haywood County site maps do not list this cemetery.
*Find a Grave and George Augustus Miller's Cemeteries and Family Graveyards in Haywood County include this cemetery in these listings.
*Burnette Siding Church established this earlier cemetery but abandoned upkeep and later established another cemetery in proximity to the church on Lake Logan Road. The Burnette Siding/Spruce Cemetery is the one described in this listing and should not be confused with the Burnette Siding Baptist Church Cemetery.
*Find a Grave:
Information for this article came from the following sources:
Bethel Rural Community Organization. Sunburst and Other Logging Operations in the Bethel and Cold Mountain Region DVD, Douglas Chambers Productions, 2019.
Burnette, Edie. “Overgrown, Damaged Spruce Cemetery Saddens Former Residents of Community.”
Coltman, Evelyn. Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, Book 4. Waynesville, NC, 2005.
Find a Grave.com.
Miller, George Augustus, Sr. Cemeteries and Family Graveyards in Haywood County, North Carolina. Waynesville, NC, 1979.
Data from BRCO's Historic Preservation Committee members Bill Holbrook, Carroll Jones, and Carol Litchfield.
Carol Litchfield provided updated directions.
Article written by Evelyn M. Coltman, Historic Preservation Committee Chair