Black Cemeteries in Fruitland

Johnnie Washington, Daniel Nesbitt and other members of the black community were searching for the graves of their ancestors and the early history of the black community in Henderson County.
“We need to document and survey the black and slave cemeteries in the county before they disappear and no one is left who can remember where they are,” Washington said.
Many fieldstones are scattered throughout the county that mark the grave sites of freed blacks and slaves. Their surviving family members, just as many of the early white pioneers, could not afford to pay someone to make a headstone, did not have the tools to engrave a lasting inscription, or, in many instances, could not write.
Black sections are located in many of the early church graveyards. Some family cemeteries also contain the graves of slaves, such as the William Mills Cemetery.
But others have disappeared or cannot be located, Washington said.
The black cemetery located at a church named Green Mountain Missionary Baptist Church has disappeared.
Edna Allman of Hendersonville has the deeds for the old Green Mountain Missionary Baptist Church in Fruitland. Today’s Fruitland Baptist Church was once named Green Mountain Baptist Church. It is surmised that the black church with the same name was a missionary church of this church.
“That was the old church, before Mount Zion,” she said. “It was up near Fruitland Institute. They sold out up there and bought the Mount Zion property.”
Mount Zion Baptist Church is located in the Clear Creek community.
“There are a lot of people buried up there at the old Green Mountain Church,” Allman said.
On June 25, 1888, L. Pittillo and M. Pittillo sold land totaling about one acre to Green Mountain Missionary Baptist Church.
The property of Green Mountain Missionary Baptist Church was sold Dec. 8, 1933, by G.B. Leonard, Mack Whitesides and Oscar Maxwell, sole surviving trustees, to JC Coston and wife, Octavia.
Part of the land was owned by the Henderson County Board of Education and was described in deed books as the “colored schoolhouse property.” This land was sold to the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board.
“William Payne said he walked across Fruitland Assembly to get to that school,” Washington said.
Payne, who lived in the area and could have located the church, is now deceased.
Washington and Nesbitt spent several days driving the area and searching for any recollection of where the church and its cemetery may have been.
A person who remembered the church and school stated that it was located off today’s Fruitland Road in a grassy area across from Sugar Street.
The cemetery was not recorded in the Henderson County, North Carolina Cemeteries book and most likely has disappeared, Washington said.
As they searched for the Green Mountain Baptist Church cemetery, Washington and Nesbitt also visited the Maxwell Cemetery on Green Mountain in the Fruitland community.
The cemetery is in a wooded tract surrounded by pasture land, which is owned by Calvin and Pat Banks.
“We thought it was an Indian cemetery,” Pat Banks said.
The only headstone with an inscription is that of Mary Maxwell, born Feb. 22, 1797, who died March 20, 1866.
At least 60 more headstones and fieldstones are in the area.
The cemetery is near land owned by free blacks in the 1800s, Washington and Nesbitt said. The G.B. Leonard, also known as Green Berry, who was a trustee of the Green Mountain Missionary Baptist Church, lived within one-half mile of the cemetery.
It is not known which graves in the cemetery mark the burial site of early Maxwell family pioneers, and which mark the burial site of blacks carrying the names Maxwell, Leonard, Whitesides and others.