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New Bern's Cedar Grove Cemetery
Historic cemetery open for GhostWalk
October 20, 2022

Y
ellow fever crept into New Bern in the late 1700s. The city was suddenly in need of more space – not for those living, but for those who died.

The epidemic filled up Christ Episcopal Churchyard, and a spot in the surrounding countryside was found for the newly deceased.

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Detail of a grave marker from 1799. Cedar Grove was established in 1800.

Established in 1800, Cedar Grove Cemetery covers about 12 acres. The grounds hold thousands of residents, 3,000 of whom have no marker.

Originally known as the Episcopal Cemetery, it was deeded to the city in 1853, and renamed Cedar Grove for the trees that then surrounded it. The Great Fire of 1922 burned most of the cedars in the cemetery. Briefly, the graveyard became a haven for displaced families who lost their homes. Many spent the first night after the fire sleeping between the tombstones.

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Infant and child deaths were far more common in the 1800s. From left to right: Jenny, age 5, Infant, Albert, 6 years, 11 months and 9 days. The last two are nearly unreadable.
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The grave of Major Daves, who was disinterred and moved to Guilford Battleground.
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Some monuments have fallen due to time. Others fell under the baseball bat of a vandal in late April of 2022. Repairs are ongoing.

Individual plots are owned by families. Some of those families have died out. Others have moved away.

Some markers been repaired while others await restoration. It falls to the city and the Earl of Craven Questers to maintain the grounds.

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The marker of Matthew A. Outten. Born 1798. Died 1857.
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Markers range from modest markers to elaborate monoliths.

The Questers are national group dedicated to the preservation and restoration of historical sites. New Bern’s chapter, The Earl of Craven Questers, focuses solely on Cedar Grove Cemetery. To that end, they give free tours of the grounds, asking for a donation in return.

Over the years, the Earl of Craven Questers have raised over $50,000. With those funds, they’ve been able to restore several iron gates, a fountain inside the cemetery, vaults, mausoleums and many other monuments inside the walls. Some headstones that are damaged by time, machinery, or other means have been able to be replaced with granite stones.

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Several of the monuments show wear and weathering.
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The repaired stone of Mary, widow of Thomas Brown, who died ’1851 in the 60th year of her age.’
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Marker carvings and adornments vary based on beliefs, lives lived, and the era in which they died.

Every year in October, the Earl of Craven Questers join with the New Bern Historical Society for GhostWalk. Actors dressed as residents from New Bern’s past occupy the cemetery and venues downtown, retelling their and the city’s history.

The churches and local businesses join in, offering food and other seasonal entertainments. The GhostWalk through the cemetery is guided, but only on Friday, Oct 21 at 2p.

GhostWalk attendees are given a map to show participating venues. One ticket gets participants entry to all three days’ events, which vary by day.

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An actor portraying Thomas Tomlinson, the first headmaster of New Bern Academy, stands near his grave, ready to tell visitors about his life and death.
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When Cedar Grove was established, it was in a rural area. Fences were put up to keep out the livestock.

Guided cemetery tours occur only a few times a year, usually in the cooler months. Cedar Grove is open year round, from sunrise to sunset, and is at 808 George Street in New Bern, NC. The entrance, a triple arch made of coquina, is on Queen Street.

Tickets for the 2022 GhostWalk can be purchased through www.newbernhistorical.org.

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The Weeping Arch Gate entrance on Queen Street.
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Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern, North Carolina.

Posted Thursday October 20, 2022 by Allison DeWeese


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