Posted by: smirkdirk | August 23, 2009

A Visit To Blackstock “Slave” Cemetery – Fort Mill, SC

The last few days I caught a summer cold and have been sicker than I’ve been in a two or three years. Stuffy head and nose, rumbling cough, and absolutely zapped of all energy. Friday I spent the entire afternoon and night sleeping. Yesterday was the first day I was feeling better, but Mrs. Smirk would still have me nowhere near herself or the kids so I was forced to find stuff to do on my own. I decided I would finally pay a visit to this place and take some photos (which didn’t turn out nearly as well as I wanted them to – but oh well) as it had been on my radar for a few months since I’d first read about it while researching my post about Old Stone Cemetery near Landsford Canal State Park.

A relatively detailed history of the cemetery was written by Karen Blair in the Rock Hill Herald in January of 2008 in an article concerning the sale of the property to a developer at that time. That article is here. One interesting thing is that according to her article every Spring and Fall volunteers from a nearby church clear the growth, so it doesn’t get over-run. If comparing my own photos to those accompanying the Herald article are any indication, the last time this cemetery was cleared out was probably the Autumn before the article was written – Autumn 2007.

Here is what it looked like in January of ’08:

And here is what it looks like now (August ’09):

January ’08:

August ’09:

In the time since the article was written there has been a little development in the general vicinity of the cemetery. For instance, a small stripmall has appeared in the last year, but it is still at least a 1/3 of a mile away. The patch of woods that the cemetery is in is actually adjacent to a Texaco gas station that has been there for years, and an abandoned lot that is often used by truck drivers as a stop-over. The cemetery is located within a 1/4 mile of Exit 89 off of I-77 directly adjacent to Hwy 21. That road generally has quite heavy traffic and is a four lane road. Carowinds theme park is also located right down the road. This is also the same exit where Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Heritage USA is located. Interestingly, since I’ve learned of the cemetery’s existence I’ve brought it up to more than a few locals and almost none of them even know it is there.

Here is a picture of the empty lot from the gas station parking lot. The cemetery is a five minute walk into the woods behind the pictured semi-truck.

Here is a picture of the signage asking trucks not to park there.

Actually there was a truck backed right up to that sign as I pulled in to park and begin exploring. The moment I pulled up, he started up and pulled out, I suppose thinking that perhaps I was the property owner about to enforce the signage.

I made my way into the woods, the first several yards of which were covered with litter. I made my way down into a gulley and back up, seeing no sign of a graveyard and thinking that perhaps I had the wrong place after all. None of the info I could find on the web actually gave detailed directions to the cemetery so I just sort of had guessed that it was in this small patch of woods by the process of elimination. As I really started to believe that maybe I was in entirely the wrong place I came upon this old road/path in the middle of the woods:

I’m guessing that the rocks seen to the left of the photograph are the foundations of the church that once stood there and was moved in 1883 to an alternate location according the The Herald article. There is, for some reason, a tractor tire amidst the boulders?! – who knows why…

Walking up to the cemetery entrance there are the two large rocks on which once hung a wooden gate. Here’s a second shot of that.

According to the Blackwelder interview in the newspaper article, outside of the wall were where the slaves were buried in unmarked graves. (It still astounds me that, really? After a lifetime of servitude that’s really the best you can do? really?) In an effort to at least pay a modicum of respect now that they couldn’t get then, we shall tour a few shots of the area outside the wall that I presume would include the unmarked graves of the slaves.


This is taken from down the gulley. About the halfway point up the photo you can see the wall. This leafy ground-covering covered the entire acre-ish circumference around the cemetery, but outside of that area the forest floor was just dirt and leaves. It was also conspicuously absent within the actual walled portion of the cemetery.


Also outside of the wall, where the developer has marked one of the trees.


This was actually taken standing on the wall and facing towards the outside of the cemetery.


Outside the cemetery looking at the wall.

Inside the cemetery is an overgrown mess. Interestingly, the ground cover outside the wall discourages seedlings and saplings from taking hold, but within the walls in just a few years is a forest in miniature. At first glance, one can hardly see any graves except for a single tall one that rises above the growth, the Kimbrell headstone:

The Kimbrell headstone.

However, pushing further into the graveyard and changing perspectives, other stones soon become visible:

The Harris headstone. Death Dates 1903 & 1915

Seeing how the brush and growth swallowed up the gravestones led to some interesting shots and definitely amplified the abandoned aspect of the location.

Although there are not as many interesting and notable stones in Blackstock as there were in Old Stone, there are still quite a few that are in excellent shape. An entire list of all the known burials in Blackstock is available here and here.

Individual Stones:


A very contemporary looking stone. I’m guessing this was a replacement for a damaged one sometime in the last 50 years.


Costin & Harris – Notice that Mrs. Harris’ death date is not filled in.


Robert Stewart – 1885


McClelland – 1904 “At Rest”


Broken and unreadable but same imagery as McClelland stone.


Toppled Harris stone. 1907 & 1914


James Magill – Died 1810, 25 years old. I know this quote is wrong because it makes no sense but it appears to be: “Take comfort unreadable when your friends in Jesus fall asleep. Their better being never ends. Why then deject/defect/defeat weed (?)”


Agnes Simpson – 1802. Both this one and the previous one share the same lettering style – and also the same style as some stones in the Old Stone cemetery. Perhaps the work of the same person….?


Sarah Jackson – 1795. (This one also maybe.)

And finally, my personal favorite:


This stone had no name, date or any other identifying information, which works just fine considering its message essentially conveys the stark anonymity that eventually is the fate of all who die and their physical remains. (One of my internet buds pointed out that back then they often replaced s’s with f’s… kinda helps to decipher the code to know that.)

“Stop carelefs youth and read
And when you read confidder
The worms e’r long may feed
On you and I together”

Furthermore, I’m guessing that the stupidity of the slaves being buried outside the wall is not lost on someone who would request not only to remain anonymous in death, but to have that as their epitaph to taunt the living. I’m thinking this person was ahead of their time.

All of these photographs and a few more are available in much larger and more detailed formats HERE if you should wish to view them more carefully.

Towards the end of my half-hour visit I also took a quick, 3-minute, video walk-through of the graveyard as I really didn’t feel the photographs captured just how large and overgrown the place was. It was during the middle of the video that for the first time I sort of started getting creeped out. Up until that point it felt like a museum field trip. Seeing that I-77 is less than a 1/4 mile away, and HWY 21 is about 1/8 of a mile away, you should notice how surprisingly quiet and peaceful it is. The video starts out on the abandoned road walking towards the entrance of the graveyard and into it, and then winds its way through the various graves and weeds until, at the end of the video, we are on the complete opposite side of the graveyard facing the entrance. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my actual video camera which films in Hi-Def, so this was filmed with my still camera’s video setting but it still gives you a good idea of what the place is like in person.

Lastly, I will mention that sometime during my adventure I dropped my cellphone. I didn’t realize this until about an hour after I left, so had to return. As dusk was coming down I searched the woods while ringing the phone. It took about 20 minutes to find it, and I wasn’t scared, but I was scared that dark would come and that I would end up scared. Does that make sense?

Anyway, while researching this blog post I came upon these folks, the Charlotte Area Paranormal Society who visited this site in 2007 looking for ghosts and say they found some. Check ’em out, here!

Incidentally, they also investigated Old Stone Cemetery which sounds a lot spookier as it has a “strong, rather nasty male spirit”.

Maybe I’ll think about contacting them and seeing if they’ll let me tag along taking photographs and video of them doing what they do for a blog post. I’ll have to think on that… I’m not sure what I’d do if I ever saw a ghostie, and from the look of their investigations they always find something…

EDIT: To be honest, at the very end of the video there is what sounds like thunder, but there was no thunder out there that afternoon. It’s probably just me breathing into the mic or something.

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Responses

  1. I just left a reply on your youtube video and to be honest, with what you said there I thought you were perhaps at best a really lazy researcher and at worst a lucky wanderer with a camera. I got the impression you thought the entire cemetery was composed of slave graves but anyway I’m glad I stumbled across the blog version. Thought you would be interested in a little more history here, or at least what I know. W.S. McClelland (headstone pictured above) was my great-great-grandfather who bought the land where Carowinds is now around 1850-1860 and it stayed in my family until the ’70s when they sold it to the developers. My dad and I visited the cemetery a few years ago and it was in much better shape than it is now but it was also winter so everything was easier to see with the lack of foliage. At that time, from the back corner where the McClellands are buried, we could see a few large-ish stones just outside the perimeter of the wall. These we assumed were slave graves since they were usually marked that way or with wooden markers which would have long since deteriorated. Also, I do find it rather interesting that none of the people around know about it. When we were looking for it (my dad hadn’t been there since before they put in I-77), we asked the people working at that gas station and they had never heard of it.

  2. I am under the impression that our family lived adjacent to this cemetery for most of our lives. We still have a relative near the cemetery. My sister & I and a cousin stumbled upon this site while youngsters. It was not a site anyone would know was there unless relation. Could anyone provide me more info, I am very interested to know if it is the same cemetery. It was beautiful and dated back to the 1700’s. Some tombstone’s, sorry to say, you could not read, to old. The tombstone’s were actually completely smooth. I have always thought of that peaceful place and wonder if anyone remembered it. It was kept up by someone during the time we found it, probably around 1970-1974 (?). What a interesting message!


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