While most teenagers are spending their free time on popular social media apps, John McAllister Jr. spent 10 weekends of his spare time clearing and marking a long forgotten cemetery on Fort Bragg training lands.
“I felt that this was something that would be important to help preserve the history of the area,” said McAllister. “It seemed like a task that no one else was willing or able to take on.”
McAllister and members of Boy Scout Troop 746 worked together to clean and remap unmarked burials at Muse Cemetery on Camp Mackall during free weekends between February and September of 2021. The overgrown cemetery had only seven known graves, marked with headstones dated between 1912 through 1928. While raking, burning and leaf-blowing to expose the land, the team of volunteers was able to expose burial pits, known because of the linear east to west depressions, some in rows, of 136 new, unmarked grave locations. Armed with just GPS and colored pinflags, they numbered and mapped out the cemetery – updating Fort Bragg’s cemetery map from seven to 143 burials. The troop also cleaned the headstones, installed a new gate and repaired perimeter fencing and posts.
With the help of the Fort Bragg’s Wildlife Branch, the pinflags were replaced with recycled metal posts and then numbered with permanent metal signage for the burials in January of 2022. To increase the protection of the site during controlled burnings or possible wildfires, the Fort Bragg Forestry Branch created a new firebreak on the perimeter of the cemetery.
The project significantly helped alleviate the strain on Fort Bragg’s Cultural Resources Program’s budget by helping them stay in compliance with North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (NCSHPO) regulations, explained McAllister. It also helped with Federal and Army regulations regarding the maintenance of historic cemeteries on Federal land.
The original 884 acres of land surrounding the cemetery was purchased as part of the Whitehurst Tract in 1985 by the Army as a buffer to Camp Mackall, a large training area for Special Operations and many other units. The cemetery sits on a boundary road between Moore and Hoke counties, near the community of Addor, located just to the north.
The land, of the now hallowed ground, once belonged to sympathizer, John A. Campbell. In a 1913 deed, Campbell granted the two-acre site to three African-American Churches (one church was the Poplar Springs Baptist Church, still in existence today) in the area to use as their graveyard.
The three churches appear to have used Muse Cemetery as a graveyard around the 1913 to 1928 era. The Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Program plans to conduct more research to determine the families buried here, the local community and why the graves are unmarked.
According to the earliest known grave marker, Hazel Muse was buried in 1912. Muse died at age six and the 2-acre cemetery is named for her.
Once the brush was removed from the cemetery, the volunteers discovered that at least 20-30 burial pits were marked with local sandstone, a common headstone seen at other Fort Bragg cemeteries and used when “store-bought” markers could not be afforded. Four graves were marked with temporary metal tags with patent dates but no names. Other burial pits appeared to have no markers or they were removed, deteriorated, burned or stolen - no one can say at this point, explained Dr. Linda F. Carnes-McNaughton, RPA, Program Archaeologist and Curator, Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Program.
The site was last cleared in 1996. The standing headstones are surprisingly well-preserved and have a new “shine” to them thanks to the volunteers of Troop 746.
At least two of the readable markers show a 1918/1919 date, which suggests these deaths occurred during the 1918-1920 influenza epidemic. The graveyard is assumed to be a possible pandemic burial place that may have been hastily used, but no one knows for sure - yet.
“I hope that the fact that we identified so many more graves in the Muse cemetery than anyone thought were there will spur historians to look more closely at their records for the area to help determine how important the Muse cemetery was for previous generations,” McAllister said.
Carnes-McNaughton hopes that the project will generate interest and possible descendants to come forward to learn more about the known names that are laid to rest at Muse Cemetery, and possibly more about those who are unnamed.
Descendants of the occupants may be currently living in the surrounding counties of Fort Bragg and do not know that their ancestors are buried on what is now a portion of the military installation.
“Cemeteries are as much a part of the living communities in an area as they were when they were used,” said Carnes-McNaughton. “Engaging the descendants is how we gain more knowledge and keep the past present.”
NOTE: If upon reading this feature you realize the possibility of being a descendant or know someone who might be a descendant of one of the seven known buried at Muse Cemetery, please contact the Cultural Resources Management Program at, 910-396-6680. The seven known grave markers are:
Marker 1. S. V. CORE, Sept. 9, 1873 – Jan. 14, 1919
Marker 2. SARAH CORE, Aug. 1, 1865 – Aug. 20, 1915
Marker 7. ABAHARAM L. CLARK, Jan. 30, 1894 – May 30, 1914
Marker 20. HAZEL MUSE, Feb. 28, 1906 – Feb. 8, 1912
Marker 21. MARY ANN, WIFE OF D.A. BLUE, Sept. 1876 – Apr. 29, 1914, AGED 38 YEARS
Marker 30. ELLER, WIFE OF S.F. FERRELL, Mar. 1, 1855 – Aug. 3, 1918
Marker 33. MARTHA, WIFE OF FRED SHIPMAN, DIED July 15, 1928, AGE 26 YRS
Photo Credit: Dr. Linda Carnes-McNaughton, Fort Bragg Archaeologist and Curator, cleans around Hazel Muse's headstone, the first known burial at Muse Cemetery located on Camp Mackall, Feb. 16. (Photo by Sharilyn Wells,Fort Bragg Public Affairs Office.)