Corn Family Cemetery

The Corn Family Cemetery was destroyed when a trailer park was located on the property on Poor Boy Lane off North Clear Creek Road.
Some older people in the community and descendants state that in addition to members of the Corn family, some of the old fieldstones were also those of the McMinn and the Drake family. And according to local historians, descendants and members of the community, there was a black section in the old cemetery containing the graves of either slaves or former slaves.
The cemetery was located on the property of Robert Glaspy off North Clear Creek Road. A grassy spot in front of a trailer is where the bodies are buried, Glaspy said. The area is now part of a septic field.
The fieldstones in the cemetery, which dates to the early 1800s, were scattered along a wooded bank, through the woods and into a nearby pasture.
There were about 30 graves in the white section and an unknown number in the black section in 1993, according to the Henderson County, North Carolina Cemeteries book.
The written report of the survey states that four of the graves had decipherable markings: Jesse B. Corn, 1818; Jean Drake, (wife of J.B. Corn, daughter of Hezekiah Drake) 1822; Mitchell Corn; and Leander Corn.
Jesse Corn and Jean Drake Corn are also noted in the book at Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery. A stone bearing their names was not found at Ebenezer, George Jones, founder of the Henderson County Genealogical and Historical Society, said. Early in the cemetery survey, some Corn family members believed that indecipherable stones at Ebenezer marked the couple’s burial sites.
“Their stones, with names and dates, were located and seen at the Corn cemetery,” Jones said.
In 2004, several piles of head and foot stones that once marked graves were covered with dried grass clippings. Other headstones and footstones were scattered along the wooded bank, through the woods and into a nearby pasture. Several were broken and showed marks from construction machinery.
Most of the old, weathered granite fieldstones do not have inscriptions — no names, no birth and death dates. If a name or initial was hand chiseled onto the stone more than 150 years ago, it has long since disappeared.
Robert Glaspy said the Corn Family Cemetery was on land his family had owned for several generations.
“That cemetery was in the trailer park at that grassy spot,” Glaspy said. “The cows had knocked some down. They were old fieldstones and we moved them.”
The names of persons buried in the other graves are not known. Erskine Corn, who has studied the Corn family history, said the Drake family once owned the land.
“Thirty years ago my wife’s uncle told me there was a Corn cemetery up there,” Corn said.
There was a fence surrounding the cemetery with a gate in 1993, Jones said.
Edna Harper, lifelong resident of the community, said she remembered the cemetery. There were slaves and some McMinns buried in it, she said.
It is known that more than 30 stones marking graves were in the cemetery in 1993 when it was surveyed and in 1996 the stones were gone.
Seth Swift, environmental health supervisor with the Henderson County Health Department, sent a staff person from the Health Department to confirm the location. He then researched the issuance of permits. Permits were written for four mobile homes from 1996 to 1999.
“I wrote one of them myself,” he said. “There was no mention or indication of a graveyard anywhere. We would never knowingly issue a permit for something on a graveyard.”
Wells, for example, must meet certain setback requirements, Swift said. A cemetery would fall into the “all other potential sources of groundwater contamination,” he said. A well would require a minimum setback of 50 feet from a cemetery.
“We would try to keep it at 100 feet,” Swift said.
The Health Department did not issue a permit for a well on the property, Swift said.
There are no setback requirements on a septic system in relation to a cemetery, Swift said.
“But no one in this office would knowingly issue a permit for a septic system in a cemetery,” he said. “We did not know a cemetery was there.”
At the time the septic permit was issued, the majority of cemeteries in the county were not recorded yet on the county’s GIS system or on Land Records maps. Staff had to take the property owner’s word as to whether a cemetery was on the property, he said.
The last burial in the cemetery was about 1900, J.Z. Maxwell said.
Maxwell said he saw grading equipment at the cemetery as early as January 1989.
“I drove up the road and saw the grading equipment up there,” Maxwell said. “My nephew and sister went up there and it was already partially destroyed.”
There were probably 75 graves at the cemetery prior to 1989, he said.
Will Rhodes of Hooper’s Creek has photographs of Jesse B. Corn and Jean Drake Corn.
“Their daughter, Louiza, and her husband, William A. Lanning, are my great-grandparents,” Rhodes said.
“About 24 years ago, an aunt said she knew family members were buried here in Clear Creek,” he said. “She said someone had damaged the grave site.”
For years, Rhodes believed the cemetery was destroyed. Rhodes learned that it was the black or slave section that was destroyed prior to 1993.
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Department investigated the alleged destruction. The Sheriff’s Department and district attorney’s office said in 2004 that no charges would be brought against anyone for the desecration of the cemetery.
“Unless someone comes forward who saw a person on a certain day remove those stones, we can’t prove anyone committed a crime,” said then Sheriff George Erwin Jr. “The last time anyone saw this cemetery was more than 10 years ago. We need to pinpoint the time or narrow the date down.
“If someone sees a bulldozer or backhoe moving into a cemetery, that would be a totally different kind of case and should immediately be reported,” Erwin said.
“The burden of proof is on the complainant,” he said. “We have to prove when and how a crime was committed and produce all witnesses.”
Since 2004, the Henderson County GIS has placed all cemeteries on the GIS system, has taken photographs of all cemeteries, and they are noted in the Land Records office.