St. David’s Cemetery: Excerpt from Escape from St. David’s
St. David’s Cemetery
Summer Writing Assignment
by Wylder Shans
St. David’s Cemetery was established in 1775, and nearby stood St. David’s Church and the school for the deaf. Mrs. Diane Caldwell deeded the land for the church in 1893. The church building and school are no longer there, but the cemetery has stood as a historically significant location in the town and is still used to this day. The cemetery is a burial ground for veterans from the Revolutionary War and members of the local community. One-quarter acre in the northwest corner of the two-acre cemetery was a sacred burial ground for slaves and freedmen during the nineteenth century.
People of many different faiths lie buried in St. David’s, which consists of multiple burial sections : the main section, the slave section, the Jewish section, and the outside section. The outside section was beyond the walls of the cemetery and was separated from the main population because those individuals had died of a contagious virus.
Visitors enter the cemetery by passing under an old rusty archway that reads “ST. DAVID’S CEMETERY.” There is a gate which blocks the entrance, and a sign that reads “Closed from dusk to dawn.” The well-traveled paths through St. David’s are still only dirt. They were first used by horses, and later worn down by automobiles and hearses delivering bodies to their final resting places. Now the paths are used by visitors coming to pay their respects to those they have lost. The main path resembles the eye of a needle. Visitors enter the cemetery and go straight through the center to a circular drive that returns them back to the main path.
There are also three areas designated for reflection. The first is in the center of the circular drive, beneath a towering yew tree which is estimated to be 400–600 years old. Yew trees are especially appropriate for a cemetery since most parts of the tree are poisonous and will lead to death if consumed.
The second reflection area was established in secret, hundreds of years ago for the slaves who had family buried in the segregated part of St. David’s. This area is not widely known about because of its purpose and location. Dense trees surround the back entrance to St. David’s. Since slaves were not brought through the main entrance, but instead through the back, an unofficial place of reflection was made by the Black community. This small dark place used the stumps of dead trees as benches and came to be known as The Silence because of the strange stillness felt by those who have been there.
The final place of reflection was added in the year 2000 by a prominent member of the community. Multiple generations of families, representing several faiths and various races, are buried in St. David’s. This garden of reflection is intended to allow visitors the opportunity to see how far society has come regarding segregation and to see that humanity all ends up in the same place in the end.
The cemetery has a colorful history, with residents who have died from tragic accidents, murder, suicide, and even a virus of pandemic proportions. Because of this history, St. David’s has a long reputation for being haunted. Legend has it that if you visit the cemetery at night, you will see spirits gathering around the areas designated for reflection. If you come during a full moon, you may see a girl, escaping St. David’s on a horse.
But that is just a legend.
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