The following article was written in 2005 for the Hendersonville Times-News. There are edits and changes from the original article. This article in the cemetery series was not located on the newspaper’s web site, blueridgenow.com
The community of Zirconia got its name from a mining operation conducted by family members buried in a historical cemetery in Tuxedo. Also buried within the cemetery are veterans from the Revolutionary War to the Korean War.
James Murray, 1769-1857, moved to Old Buncombe County in 1797 with his father, Samuel. Until the formation of Henderson County, the area now composing the county was part of Old Buncombe County and Rutherford County.
Samuel Murray served under Gen. Francis Marion in the 2nd S.C. Regiment during the Revolutionary War. Documents appear to indicate that his son, a young teen-ager, may have served with his father in the last year or two of the war.
Samuel Murray operated Murray’s Inn, about one-half mile from Fletcher. A son, William, operated the inn after his father’s death until 1826, when the property was sold to Daniel Blake and became known as the Meadows. Samuel Murray also was a member of the committee to procure a public square for Asheville. This square became known as Pack Square.
One son, James, married Margaret Dugan in South Carolina. He bought 200 acres in 1806 along Mud Creek. When he died in 1847 he owned about 5,000 acres. He and his wife are buried in the Freeman Cemetery.
One of the couple’s daughters, Elizabeth, married Meridith (Meredith) Freeman, 1800-1869, who bought land along the Green River in 1829.
Meredith Freeman was one of the 15 justices of the peace on the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions when Henderson County was formed. He was also the first postmaster at the Green River Post Office. After the death of his first wife, Elizabeth, he married Lucinda Dugan. After her death, he married Julia Ann Mansell Hamilton.
Meredith and his son, Edward, conducted mining activities and owned a mine called Freeman’s Mine.
In 1879, a mineralogist, William Earl Hidden, who was employed by Thomas Edison, came to visit this zirconium mine. Edison and Hidden wanted to manufacture incandescent light bulbs using the zircon crystals from the mine. Twenty-six tons of zircon crystals were mined and shipped north.
The business flourished through the 1880s. The Freeman Mine was earning $100 a day from the sale of zircons, which were selling for a penny a pound. In 1890, the zircon market dropped and the mine closed.
By 1911, there was an upturn in the market and the family briefly re-opened the mine.
Hidden came to Henderson County several times through the years, along with two other mineralogists, A.G. Ogilvie of England and George Letchworth of Philadelphia.
Edward Hamilton Freeman, son of Meridith, even named his children after the mineralogists, Hidden Earl Freeman and George English Freeman.
Other persons buried in the old cemetery include Solomon Heatherly, born 1796, who owned a large two-story log home near present-day Tuxedo. Family records state that he is buried in a grave marked only by a fieldstone. He married Elizabeth Corn, a daughter of Revolutionary War veteran John Peter Corn.