AN EARLY CUSTOM AND THE CEMETERIES OF WARRENTON
One of the early customs of Warrenton, lasting down to the almost universal use of telephones, when communication became easy, was sending the notice of the death of a citizen, and the hour and place of the funeral, around by a colored boy, who either walked or rode horseback. This notice was written on a large sheet of paper with a piece of black ribbon, an inch wide, inserted in a slit, made in the side of the sheet of paper. The bearer usually rung a bell, to let the household know that he was near by, they generally heard the bell, went to the front door and read the notice. As there was no daily paper, this primitive method answered the desired purpose.
"And yet they think that their homes shall continue forever; and that their dwelling places shall endure from one generation to another; and call their lands after their own names." Psalm 49. Out of the picture that the Psalmist has drawn for us must have grown the spirit of the men of his day, and the custom of burying their dead on their own land, that they thought was to be theirs forever. To feel that, there sprung from it the universal custom, both of the town and the country people, to make their burial plot in their garden, never looking forward to the time when their homes might pass into other hands. Around these plots they planted cedars, and periwinkle on each mound, which soon covered the entire square.
There had been some few burials in the church yards of persons not regular citizens, or temporarily in the town. A few years before the opening of the war, William Plummer gave to the town a burial plot, of several acres, on the west side of the road leading from Warrenton to Warren Plains. This was intended to be used by persons not owning their home, as well as those not permanently living in town. Up to the close of the war it was very little used, but from that time to the late nineties it was generally used, by both white and colored. A broad road ran through the center, dividing the plots allotted to the two races.
The ground, however was too flat, almost incapable of being improved or beautified, and always considered entirely unsatisfactory.
In the last years of the last century, an effort was made by the town people to purchase some acres from the Misses Hawkins, adjoining the old Plummer burying ground, to be used as a new cemetery for the town, a great advantage being its proximity to the town limits. As that was not accomplished, the present site was purchased, and called "Fair View." This lies on a hill, west of the town, really a beautiful site capable of wonderful improvement. In the twenty odd years it has been made a very attractive spot. It has grown beyond all reasonable expectations, as very many families from the country purchased lots and moved their dead to them.
In the center is a very beautiful Confederate monument, a figure of a soldier, carved in very fine Italian marble, the work being done in Italy. It stands just high enough on a pedestal of Warren County granite. The occasion of its unveiling was of great interest to the citizens. The committee of ladies, who made this stone possible, was Mrs. Lucy Polk, Mrs. V. L. Pendleton and Mrs. Mattie Wilcox. The orator was a son of the county by birth and loyal affection, Hon. W. A. Montgomery. The poet was Hon. Tasker Polk, and the Chaplain of the occasion was the Rev. T. J. Taylor.
As I have said before, the growth of this cemetery has been phenomenal, as many removals have been made from the gardens in the town, as well as from the plots in the country, also from the old cemetery. As the old homes would pass from the families, it was one of the first acts of duty as well as sentiment to purchase a lot in Fair View, and remove their dead thither.
The town now has a cemetery association, with rules and regulations laid down to be observed.
I have heard that, by a touching coincidence, the first person to become interested in the new cemetery was Mrs. Frank Hunter ("Katie" Wilcox), and that she was the first person placed there to rest.
Montgomery, Lizzie Wilson; Sketches of old Warrenton, North Carolina; traditions and reminiscences of the town and people who made it, Raleigh, Edwards & Broughton printing company, 1924.