ROCKINGHAM — Old Northam Cemetery has been in existence since the 1800s and, through the years, has been maintained properly — but Joanna Maske of Charlotte and caretaker Guy Bryant are worried it may not stay that way much longer.
Bryant, 64, owns the Northam Cemetery Extension across the street from the original and has been the one in charge of upkeep for both properties, but he said it’s getting to a point where he can no longer take care of it. Bryant attempted to acquire some help but a lack of funds prevented that venture from taking off.
“I volunteered ‘cause some people got some money up to do it, and he’d been cutting it, so I helped him cut it one time, and he wasn’t interested in doing (it),” said Bryant. “Right now, it’s just too hot. I’ve cut it twice, but it needs a lot of maintenance. Some of the graves are falling over.”
Bryant added that he is looking into setting up a trust for the acre-and-a-half cemetery, but not having a map showing who is buried there — and who owns which spaces — is making it difficult to secure money.
“I’m gonna cut it and use the money to buy materials,” he said. “I’m not charging for labor, but I have to pay somebody for weeding and materials. We really need to know who else wants to be buried there. There’s no map of it. There’s a lot of empty space, but there is no list of who’s buried or who wants to be buried. It’s not real organized.”
Bryant said there aren’t any plots for sale, but for living family members who already owns grave sites there, a cemetery fee is being set up.
The fee is $100 for each burial and each plot owner or his or her heirs would be responsible for the upkeep of the grave site.
“I need to talk to anyone that’s got lots and see who’s gonna be buried there in the future,” he said.
Maske, whose family has several sites in the cemetery, is worried that eventually, with a lack of upkeep, the property will become overgrown.
“We’re afraid it’s gonna fall into a jungle. The people that own it are the people that have descendants there, and a lot of them are scattered everywhere,” she said.
Maske — whose grandmother, grandfather and father are buried at Old Northam Cemetery — is hoping that someone will be able to organize a way to make sure the graveyard will remain in good shape.
“(Bryant) volunteered to keep the grass cut and that sort of thing. He wrote letters to the descendants that he knew about, and (money) came in but not very much,” said Maske. “Rockingham has changed a whole lot since I was there. My hope is to get enough people involved so it won’t grow into a jungle.”
Anyone with information on family plots can contact Bryant at 910-895-5790 and those wishing to make a donation can make checks payable to Old Northam Cemetery, P.O. Box 301, Rockingham, NC 28380.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.