By Jennie Jones Giles
Reuben Ballard was one of the first 15 justices to serve on the first Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions when Henderson County was formed. Ballard owned property in northern Henderson County, near the Buncombe County line.
In 2005, his grave and those of his descendants were covered in an impenetrable thicket of growth off Old Fanning Bridge Road in the Mills River community.
There was no way of counting the grave stones without cleaning the cemetery.
Grass, briars and brush concealed the cemetery from view. It seemed as if there was not an inch of ground not covered with briars.
The 1.22 acre lot is noted as the Ballard Cemetery – Henry W. Smith Property. A couple, Roger Dale and Teresa Bradley, helped preserve the cemetery by obtaining ownership and not allowing mobile homes placed on it.
In 1992 and 1994, were found numerous field stones and sunken graves in at least four rows. Listed were 23 field stones, a marble base with initials E.B., and one field stone with the words “age 80” legible.
An earlier property owner found 26 graves and a footstone marked M.J.B.
“There were also fragments of stones found in a barn across the road,” George Jones with the Henderson County Genealogical and Historical Society said.
The cemetery is located on Lyda Lane.
The Henderson County Historic Cemetery Advisory Board decided to try a new experiment: use goats to clear the worst of the brambles and underbrush in order to make the cemetery accessible.
“It was so bad, you couldn’t move in here,” said Toby Linville, the county staff member for the board.
Henderson County Magistrate Sandra Laughter loaned the goats.
Henderson County Animal Services transported the animals after a perimeter fence was installed.
Linville made frequent visits to the site to supplement the goats’ feed and set out fresh water. A salt block and temporary shelter were also set up.
Large holly trees and smaller deciduous trees grow on the cemetery site, which is now part of Phillip McElrath’s residential property. The trees were kept to discourage underbrush.
The old historic cemetery is currently in good condition, with frequent monitoring by the Henderson County Cemetery Advisory Board.
By Jennie Jones Giles