While the remains of at least a dozen blacks were removed from Cedar Grove Cemetery in early 1914 to make room for more whites, and laws were passed that April outlawing the future burial of blacks there, that doesn’t mean that the cemetery is occupied only by whites.

The city and some citizens are awaiting an archeological study that will be performed in September to decide how to handle the removal of the remains, that were re-interred a few blocks away in Greenwood Cemetery, the city’s official cemetery of the black community in the early 1900s.

In the era of Jim Crow, which began at the turn of the 20th century, blacks had not been buried in Cedar Grove for a number of years.

But from at least 1,805 blacks regularly used the grounds, owned until the 1850s by Christ Episcopal Church, before the church turned the cemetery over to city control.

The Daily Journal stated on Jan. 9, 1914, in an article about the dis-interment, “Many years ago, eighty or ninety maybe, a number of colored persons whose souls had passed … were interred in Cedar Grove cemetery.”

A dozen of the graves were apparently dug up — the same article refers to a gravedigger’s description of bones he found in one of those graves — and the remains and their markers removed to Greenwood where they were placed in a 10-by-10 foot plot section. It isn’t known whether those remains were placed in a single grave, or individual graves — or even, for certain, if they were re-interred at all, according to East Carolina University architect Charles Ewen, who will head up the fall study to answer those questions.

New Bern was unique in the number of freedmen who lived here in Antebellum years before the Civil War. Among them was John Carruthers Stanly, the mulatto son of New Bern patriot John Wright Stanly and a slave woman. Stanly, himself, was a freed slave who was the largest slaveholder in the county.

According to a 2010 study by the Earl of Craven Quester program, in 1860, “free blacks (were) living in all six wards of New Bern, indicating that free blacks and whites lived together in one community,” as opposed to distinctly black and white sections of town. They also shared the same cemetery, until the bitterness of the Civil War and Reconstruction resulted in the so-called “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws.

Some of the bodies of blacks were removed because the cemetery was running out of plots to sell to the white community. To make certain no more blacks would be buried on the grounds, the city aldermen passed regulations outlawing blacks from being buried at Cedar Grove, and outlawing whites from being buried at Greenwood, according to a May, 1914 Daily Journal article.

But the city removed blacks from only one particular section. That leaves upwards of 70 or more graves where blacks are interred in the cemetery, if the newspaper accounts of the day are correct.

Where are they?

The vast majority of graves are unmarked and unknown. This is not unusual for a cemetery as old as Cedar Grove, which was officially begun in 1800 after yellow fever epidemics filled the churchyard at Christ Church. Numerous graves are unmarked and many unknown.

Tracking records of burials is difficult, since many city records were destroyed when the courthouse burned in January, 1861. Christ Church lost many of its records from when it owned the cemetery when the church was destroyed by fire in the 1870s.

The New Bern Historical Society’s Jim Hodges said that two or three graves are definitely known.

A large memorial stone a dozen yards or so to the left of the Confederate Memorial marks the grave of Sally McLure Green, the first wife of John Rice Green. According to cemetery records, Green owned the plot on which she is buried, and he is probably buried beside her, though he has no standing stone.

Green married Rice in 1819 and she died in 1837.

Green himself was the son Sarah Rice who is almost certainly the Sarah Rice whose grave was one of those moved from Cedar Grove to Greenwood (a marker there with her name notes her death at age 45 in 1821).

Green and his mother are an interesting pair in New Bern history: Before she was freed, Rice was the slave of Richard Dobbs Spaight, a former North Carolina governor and signer of the Constitution who was slain in a duel with John Stanly, son of the patriot Stanly.

That same Stanly fathered Sarah Rice’s son John nine years before he would kill her master in 1802.

Green, like his relative John Caruthers Stanly, would be freed and would also own slaves. The 1850 census shows him owning three of them: a man and two women.

Perhaps a mystery

The other known grave of a black woman at Cedar Grove is more troublesome — because historians aren’t certain its occupant is black.

That woman was Lucinda Stanly.

Allen Eubanks was an auctioneer in New Bern who owned Lucinda, a young slave that was to wait on his mother, who lived with him. He fell in love with Lucinda, however, and she fathered several children by him.

A household slave, Hattie Rogers, would describe the situation during a slave narrative project undertaken in the 1930s by the Federal Writers Project: “She had eleven children by (Eubanks),” she said. “All the missus I ever had was a slave, and she was this same Lucy. Yes, sir, he loved that woman, and when he died he left all his property to her.”

No record exists that Eubanks and Lucinda Stanly officially married but, Hodges said, he did leave all his property to her in his will.

In her book, “Crafting Lives,” about black artisans in New Bern between 1700 and 1900, Catherine Bishir describes Lucinda as “a mulatto domestic servant. … Eubanks’s former slave, his lifelong mate, and the mother of his children.”

Lucinda’s son, architect George C. Eubanks, would actually go to court to have himself declared white, and records refer to him variously as either race. That litigation, Hodges said, suggests at least the possibility that she might have been half-Indian and half-white.