Questers Restore, Give Tours Of Historic New Bern Cemetery

By: Alize Proisy
By: Alize Proisy

There is a part of New Bern's history dating back to the 1700's that you can still see, touch, and experience. Tomb stones at the Cedar Grove Cemetery date back more than 200 years, but they're deteriorating. A group of 20 New Bern women are working hard to keep the history alive, so to speak, as members of the Earl of Craven Questers.

"This cemetery is a living museum of New Bern. It is the final resting place of a lot of people who were important in this community, and in this state," said Earl of Craven Questers President Linda Howell.

In the heart of New Bern in the springtime outside the Cedar Grove Cemetery, weeping willows sway in the wind and birds chirp happily. It looks to be a peaceful perfect resting place until you take a closer look deeper into the cemetery and find headstones broken and tombs crumbling. That is where the Earl of Craven Questers come in. The Questers is an international non-profit organization encouraging an appreciation for antiques and the preservation of history.

"Too often today, many of the tombs and graves here are without people to care for them, and we'd like to preserve that history," said Howell.

"Our local chapter, the Earl of Craven Questers is about 15 years old, and very early on one of our members was very interested in the cemetery and said: Every Quester has a preservation project, we ought to take over the cemetery project because who else is going to do it? And we just fell in love with the project," said Nancy Mansfield with the Earl of Crave Questers.

Mansfield and Howell not only fell in love with the project, but also with the stories and the people who walked the same New Bern streets as them hundreds of years ago.

"The earliest graves here are brownstone graves that were moved from Christ Church dating from 1798 after the yellow fever epidemic that year," said Howell.

4000 graves span this cemetery. Some are more well-known than others.

"There is William Gaston who is probably the most famous New Bernian buried here. He was a state legislator, a judge, and was also the author of the state song of North Carolina," said Howell. "Issac Taylor, some of his decedents are Livingston and James Taylor, the song writers and singers."

Even the graves of famous New Bernians need some TLC. The Questers helped get a fountain back in working shape.

"We came in, raised some money, the city provided a lot of man power and we restored the fountain," said Mansfield.

The weeping arch at the cemetery is also being restored. The main entrance to the cemetery has an interesting rumor about it. The rumor is if you walk in and a drip of water drops on your head you will be the next person buried in this cemetery.

Over the past 15 years the Questers raised and spent $65,000 to make the cemetery a better place. Most recently by planting rose bushes around the confederate memorial, which is home to 70 soldiers killed in the battle of New Bern. Slowly these women are finishing their seemingly never ending feat. They give a tour every Saturday at 4:00 p.m. starting at the weeping arch. The tour costs $10 and all the money goes back to preserving the cemetery.


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