Location: Pittsboro, Chatham, North Carolina, United States
A great deal of work has been done to determine the location of the graveyard, and it is currently thought to be underneath a dumpster pad located behind some buildings near the Chatham County Court House Square located at the intersection of US Highways 64 and 15/501.
The Cemetery Census team has archived a title chain document that contains information on all the deeds for the property that they were able to find.
Recently, I have been working to solve the mystery, and I believe that I may have done so. Winship Stedman made an agreement to sell two lots of land in downtown Pittsboro in 1827. He died a year later, not having completed the sale. The buyer, one Daniel McLeod, also died.
In 1840, Winship's sons, Nathan and Oran, as Executors of his estate, completed the sale of the property to the infant son and heir of Daniel McLeod. That deed may be found in the online files of the Chatham County Register of Deeds. It contained a very specific exemption, which I believe is the location of the Stedman family cemetery. The deed language reads
"thence East with the line of Lots No 73 & 88. 25 feet to a stone thence North 25 feet to a stone thence West 25 feet to a stone in the line of Lots No 73 & 74 thence along said line North 185 feet to the first mentioned Street and corner of said Lots No 73 & 74 thence along said street East 105 feet to the beginning Reserving also a free & clear way for ingress and egress at any and all times to and from the said excepted twenty five feet square"
So, the deed exempted a 25 foot square in the southwest corner of Lot 73, including ingress and egress to that site, from the sale. That exemption was included in the next two deeds affecting that property. There is a break in the title chain (the deeds have not yet been located) until the bankruptcy deed of H. H. Burk dated 23 Jun 1869. That deed does not mention the exemption.
The next three deed transactions mention a "grave yard" but do not describe the exemption or define its dimensions.
In 1939, a new survey was undertaken, and the cemetery location was described as 25 feet by 37 feet and located approximately 172 feet south of US Highway 64 (West Street).
However, an examination of a plat made in 1870 shows that the northwestern corner of the cemetery would have been located 185 feet south of West Street and 210 feet east of Fayetteville Street exactly as described in the 1840 deed. That location is not the location marked on the 1939 Plat of the property.
An 1890 plat of Pittsboro also contains the lots numbered as they originally were.
An 1884 deed conveying the property from one Wm. F. Foushee (likely William Franklin Foushee) to Annie A. Chapin contains a phrase confirming that the 25-foot square was indeed a cemetery.  "Excepting that portion of the lots covered by the graveyard"
A 1928 deed conveying the property from Annie Chapin and her heirs to one E. A. Farrell contains similar language. "Excepting that portion of the lots covered by the graveyard, as described in deed from Wm. F. Foushee to Annie M. Chapin, registered in Chatham County Registry, in Book BP, page 46."The 1939 deed reads as follows:
"running thence on the south side of the said highway No. 64 north 84 degrees west a distance of 177.5 feet to an iron stake at north-east corner of Methodist Episcopal Church lot; thence south 6 degrees west with the church lot a distance of 171.71 feet to an iron stake, grave yard corner; thence south 84 degrees east a distance of 25 feet to stake; thence south 6 degrees west a distance of 37 feet to an iron stake, another corner of grave yard lot"
Comparing the descriptions in the two deeds, the problem becomes obvious. The graveyard was located 185 feet south of what is now Highway 64, not 171.71 feet. So, the graveyard was located 13.28 feet south of where the surveyor placed it. Furthermore, he described the north-south border of the graveyard as being 37 feet when we know from the 1840 deed as well as subsequent deeds that it was a 25-foot square.
I have drawn a map, somewhat to scale, that shows where the cemetery was located in the 1840 deed.
Work is now underway to find the precise location of the cemetery and determine if there is any evidence of remains at that location. If the location can be determined by survey, ground-penetrating radar will be used to determine if remains may exist under the ground. If that is successful, the developer of the property is willing to foot the bill for an archeological dig to unearth whatever remains and artifacts may be found and to reinter the remains in the Pittsboro United Methodist Church, which is located on the adjoining property.
Work is ongoing to identify living lineal descendants of Winship Stedman. Since the property legally belongs to them (even though they may not be aware of that), their permission is required to unearth any remains and reinter them. As of this writing, over 30 lineal descendants have ben identified and contacted.
It has been estimated that the value of the property to each descendant is in the range of 17 cents to one dollar.
Although the property belonged to Winship Stedman and he was a very successful businessman in his own right as well as serving in the North Carolina Senate in 1806 and as Pittsboro Postmaster, the real significance of this cemetery is his brother, Nathan Alexander Stedman III.
Nathan is not only a certified DAR Ancestor, but he served in the North Carolina House of Commons, the General Assembly, and the Senate. He was also elected Comptroller of the state and served as Clerk of Court for the Chatham County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for a decade before his death. He was one of the commissioners selected by the North Carolina Legislature to layout the Town of Pittsborough in 1787. And he was a member as well as the clerk of the Board of Superintendents for Common Schools for Chatham Couunty.
Both men's legacies deserve better treatment than to be completely forgotten and paved over with asphalt.
For those interested in examining the actual deeds and plat records for themselves, you should go to the Chatham County Register of Deeds Remote Access Site and click on Acknowledge Disclaimer to Begin Searching Records. Once on the site, select the Imaging System Only link. Once there, you will find a drop-down menu. For plats, select plats For deeds, select Letter. Type in the letters like this: A-E (not AE). Enter the page number to view the deed or plat.
With deeds, you may have to scroll down to find its beginning. Don't assume you're on the wrong page if you don't see it immediately.
- ↑ Stedman Family Cemetery, FindAGrave Cemetery #2552108
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Title Chain to the Stedman Cemetery, Chatham County Historical Association
- ↑ Chatham County Deed Book AE, Pages 452 and 453
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Chatham County Plat Book 1 Page 44
- ↑ Chatham County Plat Book 1 Page 56
- ↑ Chatham County Plat Book 28 Page 66
- ↑ Chatham County Deed Book BP Page 46