Charlotte’s oldest burial site has held down a prominent hilltop location in the heart of Uptown for almost as long as the city has existed.
Settlers’ Cemetery is located at the corner of W. 5th Street and N. Church Street in Fourth Ward. According to a 1984 historical overview by Dr. William H. Huffman, the land that is currently home to First Presbyterian Church and Settlers’ Cemetery was used for religious worship and burial following the formation of the city in 1768.
It wasn’t until 1815 that the land was officially designated as a cemetery by the city, but the oldest known gravestone dates back to October 21, 1776. It belongs to Joel Baldwin who died at age 26.
You likely haven’t given the crumbling headstones at Settlers’ Cemetery a second glance.
Today, the cemetery functions as much as a small city park as a burial ground. You’ll see Uptown apartment dwellers walking their dogs, joggers running on the paths and office workers cutting through on the way to work.
But this site is actually the final resting place for a number of Revolutionary War veterans, Confederate veterans and other prominent founders of Charlotte and Mecklenburg.
Check the list of names at the front gate for a corresponding map coordinates identifying that person’s gravesite.
Colonel Thomas Polk, great-uncle of President James K. Polk, is buried in Settlers’ Cemetery.
Colonel Polk is said to have called the county-wide meeting on May 19, 1775 that resulted in the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence a year prior to the U.S. Declaration of Independence. He died in 1793.
Major General George Graham is buried there too.
Graham is said to have been one of the “Gallant Twelve” Revolutionary War soldiers who warded off hundreds of British soldiers in the now infamous Battle of McIntyre Farm on October 3, 1780. He died in 1826.
Unfortunately, a number of sites also remain unmarked, unknown or illegible.
In 1855, much larger Elmwood Cemetery (referred to at the time as New Cemetery) opened to accommodate new burials as Settlers’ approached capacity.
The city passed an ordinance officially closing Settlers’ Cemetery, effective August 1, 1867. Anyone continuing or attempting to bury bodies in the old cemetery after that point would be fined $25 for each offense.
Today, Settlers’ Cemetery is still owned by the City of Charlotte and is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Pets must be leashed. Lounging or sitting on monuments is not allowed. Tombstone rubbings are not permitted. No alcohol.