Christian Aid Society Cemetery
On March 7, a speeding car did considerable damage to the Christian Aid Society Cemetery on Ridge Road in Davidson. At least three headstones were knocked over and several others, as well as the fence, were damaged.
Many Davidsonians know little about this small peaceful cemetery, tucked away behind the baseball field adjoining Davidson College. It was organized by the Christian Aid Society, a group of members of Davidson’s African American churches, around 1905. Although the cemetery adjoins the property of Davidson College, the land does not belong to the college but was acquired from prominent businessman and Davidson mayor, J. Lee Sloan. Although the cemetery was originally used as a burial place for Davidson’s African Americans, it is now open to anyone. Members of the Christian Aid Society receive discounted services, but others can request burial contingent on the approval of the society’s board.
There were several headstones damaged in the accident, one of which memorialized Ollie Espie Houston, son of prominent citizen Logan Espie Houston. Another was that of Enoch Donaldson, who died in 1962 at the age of 94. He was a longtime employee of Davidson College, and his headstone was put up by “his friends of the faculty and trustees.” He himself was born shortly after the Civil War, but there are several others who were born in the time of slavery. Among them are Enoch’s father, Tobe Houston, who was born in 1835 and died in 1915, along with Enoch’s brother Ephriam Houston (born 1862). A number of other former slaves are buried there, including Monroe Hiram Byers (1862-1924),Claude Eas (1851-1924), William F. Falls (born in 1855), Mary E. Torrence Falls (1864-1928), Adeline Osborne (1845-1915), Alex Osborne (1832-1912), Hiram Potts (c1842-1917), Charles Torrence (1846-1928), Lee Solomon Torrence (1860-1928), and Margaret Davidson Torrence (1861-1952).
The headstone of Robert L. White (1919-1968), a veteran of World War II, was also damaged. White is one of many veterans buried in the cemetery. According to an examination of the cemetery’s headstones, there are two veterans of World War I, twelve veterans of World War II, two Korean War veterans, and one veteran of the Vietnam War. Six other men served in the military, but their tombstones don’t indicate in which war they served. On Memorial Day 2014, Davidson resident Bryan Hall spearheaded an effort to mark the graves of all the veterans in the cemetery. This tradition has continued.
The Christian Aid Society Cemetery serves not only as a resting place, but is emblematic of the lives of African Americans in and around Davidson from the time of slavery through their brave service to their country. The Society is in need of contributions to defray the cost of repairs. Those wishing to contribute may write a check to the Christian Aid Society and mail it to Davidson Christian Aid Society, PO Box 1323, Davidson NC 28036.
Nancy Griffith lived in Davidson from 1979 until 1989. After a career as an archives and special collections librarian, she retired to Davidson in 2015. She has published a number of books and articles on local history, and has just completed a history of the Ada Jenkins Center.