Raleigh, North Carolina: The Death of Thomas H. Williams, Oberlin Cemetery

Thomas H. Willliams

(1830-1898)

Mr. Thomas H. Williams, who was born October 10, 1830, in Pittsboro, N. C., died at his residence in Oberlin on January 11, 1898. He came to Raleigh in 1866 and in the fall of the same year moved to Oberlin, where he resided until his death. He was a carpenter, and for about thirty years was in the employ of the late Mr. Thomas H. Briggs. He enjoyed the confidence and respect of all of our citizens. His was a Christian life. He leaves a wife, six sons, two daughters and twelve grandchildren to mourn his loss. His funeral, which was largely attended by people of both races, was preached at the M. E. Church in Oberlin Wednesday of last week by Rev. R. H. W. Leak, assisted by Revs. McDonald and Nunn. He was an old and honored member of Excelsior Lodge of F. and A. Masons, and was buried with Masonic honors by the fraternity, M. W., James H. Young, Grand Master, at the request of the W. M., J. J. Worlds, officiating. We extend our sympathy to the bereaved ones. – The Gazette, January 22, 1898.

She Promised to Honor Her Ancestors. First She Had to Find Them. The State of Things, WUNC 91.5, North Carolina Public Radio

Nadia Orton stands with the replacement gravestone she secured for African American Civil War veteran Sgt. Ashley H. Lewis (1842-1890), 1st U.S. Colored Cavalry. She has replaced 20 gravestones for African American Civil War veterans, most from various counties in North Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, December, 2018. All rights reserved
Warren County NC Rosenwald Orton
Mayflower Rosenwald School (ca. 1924), Inez, Warren County, North Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2015. All rights reserved.
The gravestone of Cherry Williams Sutton (1860-1911), Nadia Orton’s maternal great-great-grandmother, located in a slave cemetery. Inez, Warren County, North Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2015. All rights reserved.

When Nadia Orton’s kidneys were failing, she sent letters to friends and relatives in the hopes that someone could be a donor or help defray the cost. Orton’s great-aunt Philgrador responded with money from her church. So a few years later, when Aunt Phil asked on her deathbed that her family not be forgotten, Orton knew she had to find a way to honor her ancestors. The problem was that she didn’t know who they were, or where to find them.
 
As she started tracing her lineage and locating her ancestors’ final resting places in North Carolina and Virginia, Orton began to notice the state of black cemeteries. Many were overgrown, unprotected and unmapped. Seeing the condition of these sacred spaces sparked a passion for protecting them.
 
Orton has since visited hundreds of cemeteries, and helps other families identify their ancestors’ plots. Host Frank Stasio talks with Nadia Orton, a public historian and professional genealogist, about how she uncovers the past and how it feels to find who came before you

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