Under discussion: Cemetery history

“Talking Tombstones” may sound like the name of a horror movie, or an unhealthy obsession with dead people, but it’s really a way to make history come alive.

It’s an afternoon event Sept. 14 sponsored by the Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society that provides information on “Mount Pleasant’s most interesting deceased citizens” and three historic local cemeteries.

Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, St. James Reformed Church and Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church all have 19th-century cemeteries within the town limits, said Ben Callahan, historical society president. He’s done research on each, and some of the families buried in them. That information will be shared by guides at each cemetery.

“Talking Tombstones” is free and open to the public. Guests are invited to stop by Society Hall at the Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society Museum for information and directions, or proceed directly to any of the cemeteries. All are within easy walking distance of the museum, which is on North Main Street in Mount Pleasant.

You can proceed at your own pace; guides will be at each cemetery from 3 to 5 p.m. And if you are interested only in Methodists, for example, and care nothing for deceased Lutherans, you can skip a cemetery or two.

At each stop, after providing a very brief history of the cemetery and how it was started, guides will focus on families buried in that cemetery.

At the Methodist church, you can learn about the Bangle, Kindley and James families. They were prominent businessmen in Mount Pleasant’s history.

The talk at the Reformed Church will focus on its founding minister, the Rev. Paul Barringer, as well as the Foil and Moose families.

Barrier, McAllister and Cook, well-known surnames in Mount Pleasant, are the families under discussion at Holy Trinity.

The tour will be very informal, Callahan said, and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion. He hopes descendants of these families will join in the “Talking Tombstones” tour to share anecdotal history. In fact, some of the guides are themselves descendants of the people to be discussed.

These three churches were selected because they are the oldest in Mount Pleasant. The Methodist cemetery is the oldest, established in 1848; the first burial – a young child – took place that same year.

Holy Trinity’s cemetery predates the church building. The first person was buried there in 1873, five years before the church acquired the deed to the land.

The folks at St. James bought the land for their cemetery in 1897 from a surprising source, a fact to be shared on the tour.

Gravestones are fascinating, said Callahan, because “You can see who was here.” Studying them gives insight into the town’s founding and growth.

History may be all about dead people, but their tombstones have a lot to say.