The oldest tombstone in Adcox Cemetery dates back to 1861. Hundreds of other people have since been buried here. But where? The town of Hope Mills has owned the cemetery since 1961, and now leaders are trying to find out.
"It's important for history," says town manager Sheila Merriman, "and its important for family members to know their loved ones are being taken care of."
Other than town workers cutting the grass, the cemetery has not been taken care of. The sunken ground shows there are graves here, but no one knows who they belong to.
Years ago, people didn't always mark graves when they buried a loved one. If they did mark them, it was with wooden stakes that over time have rotted away.
There are tombstones here, but many are cracked, no longer legible, or not in their original location. Those facts came back to haunt Gladys Hilburn. When she went to bury her daughter in December, workers accidentally uncovered another grave.
"Cold chills," Hilburn recalls. "It was awful, really awful to know she was fixing to be buried on top of somebody."
Hilburn would like to purchase more plots for her family, but the town will not pre-sell graves. They'll only make them available on an as needed basis until they know exactly where the existing graves are. Town leaders hope surviving family members will come forward with the information. Hilburn believes that's important for future generations.
"Later on in years, the children, grandchildren are going to want to know where this person is," says Hilburn, "and they are not going to be able to find them."
If you have any information about who is buried at the Adcox Cemetery, you are urged to call Hope Mills Town Hall at910-424-4555.