South view of Westfield Cemetery in Wadesboro, North Carolina. (Photo Coutesy of N.C. State Historic Preservation Office)
More than a hundred D.C. residents and friends gathered at the Washington Navy Yard for a holiday gala in support of the The Westview Cemetery in Wadesboro, N.C. Earlier this year, on June 29, the cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historical Places, recognizing the abandoned all Black cemetery as a piece of American history.
The Dec. 5 gala was one of 14 annual fundraisers Friends of Old Westview Cemetery, a group dedicated to restoring the cemetery, held to raise money for the upkeep, including routine maintenance on sunken graves, landscaping, and resetting headstones in Westview Cemetery.
“I have no limit to where I will go to get money,” D.C. resident Rose Sturdivant Young, president and founder of the group, told the AFRO on Dec. 3. She said 115 tickets were sold and the group raised more than $4,000 dollars to aid the cemetery.
Pearl Danner stands between Rose Young and Rip Preston as she receives an award for selling the most holiday gala tickets to support preserving The Westview Cemetery in N.C. (Photo by Briana Thomas)
Young started the group in 2001, when she buried her mother in Westview Cemetery.
“I did not want my family to be buried in an unknown place,” Young said, explaining that she wanted the now 117-year-old cemetery to be a notable place. When she asked around other people who were connected to the cemetery felt the same way.
The four-and-a-half acre burial site belonged to the Klutz family who sold six plots to Young’s father before he was buried there in 1981. Tom Klutz granted her family permission to clean and maintain the cemetery lot, she said.
In 2003, Friends of Old Westview Cemetery became a nonprofit organization and by 2007, the son and granddaughter of Tom Klutz signed over the deed to the organization, makingYoung the owner of the cemetery.
“I sincerely hope this will help facilitate all efforts to preserve a sacred resting place for all of our loved ones, yours and mine,” Young read from an excerpt of the letter that Klutz’s heirs wrote her when they signed over ownership.
Young said the cemetery is home to Wadesboro’s first Black preacher, first Black lawyer and over 40 slaves that date back to the 1800s.
“We want to restore and remember people who are buried there,” she said.
Young said businesses are starting to construct around the cemetery and law students from American University are helping her write a grant to obtain a fence that is estimated to cost anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. The fence, also brings up concerns on who will maintain the burial grounds and work rigorously to find funding for the conservation.
“The city needs a group of people who have passion,” said Rip Preston, a donor who attended the gala. “If we don’t do it, who will?” Preston said.
Olivia Thomas, secretary of the organization’s board, said that she hoped the youth would step up and take care of the cemetery. “Hopefully they will take the reign and continue to keep it up. Don’t just let it die out,” she said.