Appalachia Ghosts - Haints - Spooky Heritage

The Harshaw Family Cemetery

My life in appalachia - lost in memories of childhood days
Pap was born in 1937. He spent the first years of his life on the Harshaw Farm. Pap’s father, Wade, and his grandfather, Benjamin, were sharecroppers for the large plantation.

The Harshaw Farm was established in the 1800’s and has the undesirable moniker of being the largest Slave plantation in the area. According to the Cherokee County Historical Museum’s book: A Pictorial History of Cherokee County in the year 1860 Abram Harshaw was the largest slave owner in Cherokee County. He had 43 slaves.

Pap remembering living at the Harshaw Farm, Murphy NC
A while back, me, Pap, and my friend Anna spent some time at the old Harshaw Farm. We poked around the woods, met the present owners of the farm,but mostly we listened to Pap remember what the farm was like when he was a boy.

Pap told us about a big snow, how his Mother caught fish from the river and took them to the big house to trade for things she needed, he remembered a big long row of outhouses (so the workers didn’t have to wait in line), he told us humorous stories about the escapades he and his Uncle Wayne got into. Along the way I’ll tell you some of Pap’s stories, but today I want to show you the Harshaw Family Cemetery. Its maintained by the present owner of the farm even though he is no relation to the folks who rest under the trees nor does he have any obligation to keep it up.

Harshaw Cemetary
The family plot is above the farmland as most mountain cemeteries are. It is totally enclosed by a rock wall.

Steps leading to harshaw family cemetery
On each side there are steps that lead up and over the wall.

Harshaw Cemetary Brasstown nc
One set of steps up one set down into the enclosed graveyard. The steps on the far side have almost been covered completely by moss and leaves. The huge tree and it’s roots have caused the steps to deteriorate over the years.

Harshaw farm
The graves inside the wall cover a large portion of time, well over a hundred years. Some are just rocks while there is one as recent as the 1980s.

old grave at harshaw farm

Especially interesting are the few graves that lie outside the enclosed wall. There was this one, nothing legible left to read if there ever was anything.

John Webb 1846 1892
There was John Webb 1846-1892.

Absalom Phiilip Mary Lou Johnson
There was this newer stone set to represent 3 members of the same family: Absalom, Phillip, and Mary Lou Johnson.

John W Parris 1903 1954
Lastly, there was a man Pap remembered from his time spent at the farm: John W. Parris.

Pap told us he remembered attending a funeral at the cemetery with his Mother, but can’t remember who it was for. None of the stones we read fit into the time line of when Pap lived on the farm. Makes me wonder if there were more stones outside of the wall that have been lost through the passage of time.

Harshaw Farm Cemetery

Pap was pleased to see an effort was being made to keep up the old cemetery. Over the years the farm has changed hands several times-and the owners weren’t always interested in keeping up somebody else’s family plot. In the late 60’s-early 70’s Pap said the cemetery became a hang out, a place for folks to party at. It was secluded and out of the way the perfect place to raise cain.

One night the party goers got out of hand. A gentleman who was running the farm took a rifle and went up to the cemetery to run the gang out. No one knows what happened for sure, but the farm representative ended up dead beaten to death with his own gun. Pap said they had investigations and even a trial, but no one was ever convicted. None of the living ever fessed up to what actually took place and of course none of the dead did either.



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  • Reply
    Jessica cannon
    March 21, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    My family is buried there in Harshaw as well they were yaqui Indians that work in the mine. I love the big tree and the little stream that runs in front of it. My great grand parent headstones are unreadable now I need to get them new ones.

  • Reply
    Sherice Harshaw
    February 21, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Hello My name is Sherice Harshaw and my great great great great granddaddy was Joshua Harshaw I love the fact that you all enjoyed the pictures and house

  • Reply
    Sandra (Apple) Hale
    September 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful story, music and the photos. My father was born in Murphy in 1904 and I am trying to write about his early years. It’s great to see others have great memories of this place. I hope to visit someday.

  • Reply
    jim morgan
    August 26, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    hello just found you. i live at the harshaw place. please come by again and bring your father with more stories. jim
    jim morgan

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    October 10, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I would be happy for my final resting place to be in that cemetery. I might be related to the Johnsons and Parris buried there. Both names are in my family tree. There were several intermarriages between Parris and Ensleys.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I LOVE that old cemetery! So interesting.
    So sad about the fella being beaten with his own gun.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Kimberly-I would think you are right-to keep the cows and pigs out-and to offer a more respectful area too.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    October 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Very cool cemetary and how nice that it’s being taken care of now. Poor farmer though, that’s too bad. Who ever did it had to live with that for the rest of their lives. I hope the deceased have aided in reminding them.. boo!

  • Reply
    October 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I love this post, Tipper. What a nice thing for the present owners to keep the cemetary up…such a small place with so many stories and history.

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    October 9, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Tipper, love, love this story. I have spent more time than the average person tromping through old cemeteries. My SIL has been researching family history for many years, and I have searched many a cemetery for a particular stone. Always look forward to your posts!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    October 9, 2011 at 5:53 am

    That really is a beautiful, old cemetery and so nice of the present owners to keep it up. I really enjoyed the story, even though the ending took me by surprise.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Wow, what a story!! My husband’s great grandparents are buried in a small family cemetery in the defunct town of Oscosta down on the Washington coast. We’ve tried several times to get permission to access the cemetery, but cannot find an owner to do so… how blessed to have access for you and your family…

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson (USA)
    October 8, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Such an interesting place. The story and the images suggest a rich and beautiful story.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    October 8, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    i am glad that you and pap got to visit the graveyard.. i hope you write down the stories he tells… so chitter and chatter can read to their children one day. i too loved seeing the moss and leaves around the old steps.. so gracious in their aged state.. thank you so much for sharing. I do love graveyards and the stones and statuary.
    sending big ladybug hugs to you all

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 8, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    What an interesting story…Do you know where the slave cemetary is located? Not all slave cemetaries are marked..a lot of the time the location is just word of mouth, passed down from family members…We have a slave cemetary near here that has finally been marked and fenced with an honorable marble marker, recognizing it with the name etc. It was sort of off to itself..There was a list of names that was thought to be buried there. Some just had a blank stone..
    That is so respectful of the land owners to try to take care of the cemetary..I wonder if there was ever a church near by..usually there is and part of the care is taken on by the church…
    I am sure some of the old small stones have been removed by vandals. such a shame!
    Not me, no way would I want a grave marker in any shape, form or fashion…I would be scared of a haunting of some sort! LOL
    Thanks Tipper and Pap

  • Reply
    Joe Penland
    October 8, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Tipper, I have read that in some family cemeteries in the time frame that this one existed, slaves were buried outside the walls. The graves were marked with only a field stone.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    October 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    That is such a beautiful cemetery. I am assuming that the steps were build up and over the wall that way to keep the cattle out?

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    October 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t know if this is the case or not, but I thought that the ones that were buried outside the cemetery walls, were those that were not fitting enough to be buried with the others. Either they were “outside” of the church, they were slaves or Native Americans, or.. they did something so bad they could not be buried in hallowed ground. But I do not know if I am right about that, or that this is the case in this graveyard.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I really enjoyed this story and the pics. So glad you went with your Pap up there.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    One of my favorite pastimes is to visit old cemeteries, read their names and wonder about their lives.
    I visited one the last time in was in NC and actually saw my family name on one of the stones. While my family is from NC they are from the Mecklenberg County area. Pretty far from Liberty.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    God bless the current owners for keeping up the cemetery. So many people seek the resting place of their grandparents and great-grandparents and find that the cemetery is plowed over, or the stones are missing.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Don’t you almost feel like there are voices there talking to you, a story if you could only hear it.
    I love old places like this!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    That was a sad ending. Wonder if the partys stopped? Like to go to old cemeteries and read tombstones. Sad that so many can’t be read and some are falling over.

  • Reply
    Benny Watt Terry
    October 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    If folks want to keep up the grave markers there is an excellent products that will help; it is called D2. Check with the local cemetery folks or go on-line to find it. It not only cleans the stones but it seeps into the pours to prevent mold and mildew from get back in there.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    October 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Tipper: You make a feller wonder just how much history is lost by folks not being able to mark a final resting place for their love ones! Times were hard back then and I guess just making it from day to day took priority over laying some body to rest. Thanks for sharing!
    Eva Nell
    p.s. I missed your posts for the last few weeks! I have been far, far away – but happy to be home!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Nice pictures of Pap’s “Touch of
    the Past.” I love reminiscing about times gone by and imagining
    the hard times life brought upon
    them. But they were filled with the joy of a simplier time where
    families looked forward to going
    to church and giving thanks for
    what they had. And when a family
    member died they were brought
    back to the house, where friends
    and neighbors gathered, some
    sitting up all night to share in
    the family’s loss…Ken

  • Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    There are so many stories and lots of history in old cemeteries. I’ll stop at an old cemetery at any given chance.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth K
    October 8, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Love the photos of the old cemetery and glad the present owners are taking care of it.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    October 8, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Yout last comment about the dead not fessing either triggered an old funny memory. In Oak Ridge, Tn. the government of course, went in and created a town! However, they honored the many family cementaries by putting up a fence around them…usually small places, where an old farm had stood. My mother told me if I ran around the graveyard three times and stopped and asked, “What did you die for?” They would answer, “Nothing.” (I was about 7)So, I did it, careful to make it a full three times, asked the question and got mad that I didn’t hear the answer and then the light bulb came on. Mother got a kick out of that!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 11:10 am

    i like that wall and the steps are beautiful. a really wonderful piece of history behind that wall. and maybe a ghost from the man who was killed there.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Mercy Tipper what an end. I love going to old cemeteries, but I do feel sad when you can’t read the headstones any longer and you wonder if anyone knows who they were.

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