Update on the James-Brown Cemetery in Madison County

old gravestone on overgrown grass with person walking in the background
One of the graves in the James-Brown Cemetary. Photo by Hugh Kenny.

During #BlackHistoryMonth we’re elevating stories that recognize important African American sites and achievements across the Piedmont. In 2021, we shared a story on Walker Cobler and the James-Brown Cemetery in southeastern Madison County.

PEC has since secured funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and local donors to hire an archaeological firm to undertake a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey of the cemetery due to the likelihood of unmarked burials. A walkover survey found roughly 25 burials marked with a combination of inscribed markers and fieldstones.

The GPR results demonstrate that the cemetery is likely much larger, with possibly 74 individuals interred. Additional deed research recently revealed the land was purchased by a free Black man named William Edwards in 1810. He lived here with his family until his death around 1835. We believe that he and some family members may be among the early internments in the cemetery, which was in use for over 100 years. With Walker Cobler and now William Edwards, the story of Black land ownership in this neighborhood of southeastern Madison County continues to grow.

Learn more about the Cobler family history: https://www.pecva.org/region/madison/against-all-odds-re-discovering-walker-cobler-and-his-legacy/.

stone marker jutting out from the grass
man pushing radar equipment on three wheels next to unmarked graves near some trees
blue flags stuck in the ground where unmarked stones sit in the woods