The John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation Inc. is a third generation cemetery organization. The organization invites any and all willing to join. The officers of the committee are:
Judy Gordon, Chairperson
Eddie Davis, Vice Chairperson/ Chaplain
Wendell Watson, Treasurer
Ellie DeYoung, Secretary
The incorporation has started a Friends of the John N. Smith Cemetery Committee comprised of volunteers who will assist with:
· Public education and oral histories
· Ensuring regular maintenance of the cemetery
· Locating unmarked graves
· Producing map that identifies burial sites, walking paths, etc.
· List the cemetery in the National Register of Historical Places.
Contributions are needed to fund:
· Publication of narrative and pictorial history
· Ground radar penetration to locate unmarked graves
· Upgrading and installing markers
· Design and implement a landscaping plan
· Install an attractive perimeter fence.
This is an African American cemetery in the small town of Southport, North Carolina. The first recorded burial was in 1874, when Southport was called Smithville. Located on East Leonard Street, the cemetery was named after the first person to be buried there, John N. Smith. The Cemetery is the final resting place for an estimated 1500 souls, all of whom are believed to be African American. Combined these individuals represent an essential component of Southport’s collective memory and of the history of this town on the shore of the Cape Fear River. Interred in this Cemetery were slaves, farmers, teachers, businessmen, laborers, domestic servants, homemakers and entrepreneurs. Veterans dating from the Civil War and subsequent military campaigns are also buried here.
Often cemeteries are the only remaining artifacts of a community’s early residents. By making connections from the present to the past, the John N Smith Cemetery can serve as an inspirational starting point for showing how all races are connected by historical events. If Southport loses the assets it’s only black cemetery represents, the connective tissue that once bonded people together disappears. However, once a chronicle of the factual history of the Cemetery is realized the result will be pride, respect and appreciation among Southport’s residents. The preservation of the Cemetery can have a unifying influence on Southport while enabling many persons to reclaim a heritage that might otherwise be loss for the ages.
The John N. Smith Cemetery Restoration and Preservation Incorporated seeks partners to support the cemetery and ensure that its future is maintained forever as a unique and respected site for celebrating an honorable past. The urgency to restore the cemetery comes as a result of disappearing gravesites, and the aging and death of persons with knowledge of the Cemetery’s known inhabitants. The preservation of the John N. Smith Cemetery has a historical and spiritual significance that is an essential part of the Southport community. Its perpetual care will remind us of the lives and the contributions made by local black citizens towards Southport’s growth and development.