This is the oldest of four cemeteries on campus having been used at least between 1775 and 1840. This burial ground has the third highest concentration of box markers in North Carolina. Those are the grave sites that look like they have stone coffins on top of them. Don’t worry, the deceased were actually buried underground and not in these boxes!
Some of the markers were originally table markers. That is, they had six legs rather than panels. The last picture of one has been found in a 1927 newspaper article. These markers were highly fashionable in the first half of the nineteenth century. An expert has estimated that each one was worth about the equivalent of the average house in that era! That value plus the fact that Hopewell was one of the first bricked churches in the rural South demonstrates the wealth that cotton brought to the region in the first half of the nineteenth century. The population of the first cemetery is a veritable Who’s Who of early North Mecklenburg County history.
John McKnitt Alexander was the secretary of the Safety Committee that penned the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775. His plantation was known as Alexandriana which is now the name of a road. It burned down in 1800 which is the source of all the controversy about the reality of the “Meck Deck” because many of his original minutes burned along with all of the earliest records of Hopewell. Alexander Middle School is named in his honor. His grave is numbered 77 on the small bronze tag on the foot of the grave.
Frances Bradley (#135) was also one of the heroes of the American Revolution. It was at this farm that the battle with the British soldiers took place which lead to Mecklenburg County having the nickname of “Hornet’s Nest”. The present grave marker is a copy of the original which disappeared from the county between 1915-1998. Members of the congregation located it at the municipal cemetery in Old Fort, NC. Through legal agreements with Bradley’s descendents, it was brought back to the Hopewell History Room. During most of 2001 and half of 2002 it was on display at the Charlotte History Museum as part of a “Communities of Faith” exhibit. Bradley Middle School was named after him.
Perhaps the most famous person buried in the cemetery is General Williams Lee Davidson. Davidson College and the town of Davidson are named for him.
Other historic personages to be found include: Captain John Long (#310) for whom the creek, the community, and the Elementary School are named. John Beatty (#294) is the namesake of Beatties Ford and the road. Captain James Knox (#139) was the grandfather for whom President James Knox Polk was named. The Lattas (#211-213) of Historic Latta Place and the nearby park are there as well as the Torance family (#113-121) of Hugh Torance House and Store fame.
At least four of the signers of the “Meck Deck” have final resting places at Hopewell. They include the before-mentioned J.M. Alexander as well as Richard Barry (#245) and William Graham (#321). Major John Davidson was also a signer, but he is buried in his family’s cemetery on Neck Road. Matthew McClure’s gravesite has been lost, but efforts are underway to re-locate it probably near the graves of his off-spring (#151-153).