01/28/08 — Gathering memories

View Archive

Gathering memories

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 28, 2008 1:45 PM

As a child, Mallory Peacock's father, John, used to take her to Willow Dale Cemetery and tell her about some of the people buried there.

She heard the stories about a former North Carolina governor, a young soldier killed on the battlefield overseas and even her own great-great-grandfather, William Andrew Jackson Peacock, a cavalry soldier who was part of Gen. Wade Hampton's "Great Beefsteak Raid" in 1864.

And even with all that she has heard, there are still countless other stories Mallory, now 18 and a senior at Charles B. Aycock High School, will never know. But she'd like to.

When it came time to select a project for her Gold Award, the Girl Scout's equivalent to the Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts, memories of those cemetery visits came to mind.

She wondered if maybe others had stories of their friends or loved ones buried at Willow Dale.

"I thought it was interesting, and other people might, too," she said.

Mallory is seeking stories and pictures that might be compiled into a scrapbook and eventually displayed at the Wayne County Public Library. Beyond encapsulating historical facts, though, it will also be a way to preserve some of the area's personality.

"When you start hearing stories from people about this person and that person, all the stories kind of jump right out at you," John Peacock said, recalling several he has heard over the years. "You'd hear about this person buried there having a bed frame for a headstone, or the wife who used to come out on Sundays with a lawn chair and read the comics to her husband (buried there)."

From community leaders to prominent dignitaries, the possibilities are endless. But at the same time, Peacock points out, there is so much more to be gained from this project.

"We're looking for the ordinary. It's the stories that don't make the history books that really are what local history's all about," he said, expressing the hope that the opportunity "will give people an outlet to share some of the significant stories about friends or family members that otherwise would be forgotten."

When the father and daughter approached Betsy Rosemann, director of Goldsboro/Wayne County Tourism, with the idea, she was very receptive.

"I have been working on a cemetery brochure for probably about a year," she said, focusing primarily on Willow Dale, Elmwood and Cogdell cemeteries.

"I didn't have quite enough information, so when she came to me and said she wanted to do some research, I was very excited."

While most of Mrs. Rosemann's research had centered around prominent people buried there, she did not want to be limited by that.

"I thought it was fantastic that she wanted to ask people what's out there, what stories they have. I think it will be a great partnership," she said, noting that she plans to incorporate some of the findings into her own tourism project.

Cemeteries are such a "niche market," she says. With an increasing interest in history and genealogy, plus the fact that there is rich history to be explored in Wayne County, the collaboration makes sense.

"There are graves that go back as far as the Revolutionary War," she said. "(Cemeteries) give people an opportunity to explore what's here and kind of stroll through, learning about the stories. It might be fascinating for people to explore what's here."

Confident that Mallory's efforts will uncover "some very amazing stories," Mrs. Rosemann said it will be nice to add to the tales the cemetery is already known for. Like the plot where black baby nurse Eliza Dyer is buried.

The monument to her memory is significant because it was an era of slavery and segregation, Mrs. Rosemann explained.

"She took care of the children and the (white) family was so honored, they buried her with the family," she said. "She may have thought her life didn't matter or that she was not contributing something important, but to the family they apparently thought she hung the moon."

The example illustrates the fact that no one's story is insignificant, Mrs. Rosemann said.

"You don't have to be famous or receive an award or be some general in a war to have made some change in history," she said. "When you have a memory of someone, you're basically keeping that person alive."

Submissions for the scrapbook can be sent to info@waynecountychamber.com.

Inquiries can also be mailed to the Peacocks at 114 Cassedale Drive, Goldsboro, NC 27534. Deadline for stories and photos is Feb. 15.