Roseland Cemetery, historic African American gravesite, will be restored and protected amongst development

News

Did you know we have a historically designated cemetery in our Monroe Road area?

Roseland Cemetery rests about 70 to 75 African American gravesites dating from 1865 to 1955 on the edge of Matthews in the Monroe Road corridor. The cemetery, designated as a historic site by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Commission in 2012, is near the corner of Galleria Boulevard and Monroe Road behind the current construction across from the Family Dollar headquarters. The cemetery is located on 1.35 acres at the rear of the 22-acre site that is currently under construction for a multifamily project. You can view the site plan here.

Some areas of the ground are covered in periwinkle and other areas are sunken indicating settling of graves over time. Only a few gravestones remain. The Mecklenburg County Historical report describes Roseland as ‘a hidden gem of historical information encompassing two centuries of African American history in this county.’ You can view the full report here, which provides some very interesting history of southeast Charlotte.

The Commission judges that the property known as Roseland Cemetery does possess special significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following criteria:

1) The Roseland Cemetery is a large and well-preserved burial site of African Americans from Matthews, North Carolina that contains graves dating from roughly 1865 until about 1955;

2) the Roseland Cemetery is located in an otherwise highly-developed section of Matthews and is the one of the few reminders of the rural farming community that once stretched along this section of Monroe Road; and

3) the Roseland Cemetery is one of the few reminders of the quickly disappearing rural African American experience in Mecklenburg County in the years following Emancipation thorough the last decade of Jim Crow Segregation.

The historic cemetery provides an important reminder of the hardships faced by African Americans after Emancipation when 40 percent of Mecklenburg’s population was freed from slavery. In fact, the predominately African American town of Crestdale was without running water until incorporated with Matthews in the 1980s. Many of these residents were laid to rest in the historic cemetery.

[Mr. Harvey Boyd, descendant of the “mayor of Crestdale” who pushed for running water to the area] knows this cemetery well because he has many family members buried there. The oldest is his great-grandfather, Calvin Henry Boyd, who was born a slave and died a free man.

The site, far through the previously wooded property on Monroe Road, has fallen into disrepair.

Overgrown and virtually forgotten by many, this property serves as an important and extant piece of the African American story of Matthews. Originally known by local African Americans as “Renfrow Quarters” it is known today as Roseland Cemetery. The Renfrow’s allocated a portion of this property for a cemetery for local African Americans. In fact, the cemetery contains the remains of slaves and freed blacks from Matthews and areas beyond.

What’s in store for the historic site now that the parcel is under construction for apartments and townhomes?

During rezoning meetings, community members – including descendants – and the Town of Matthews agreed that restoring and preserving Roseland was a priority condition for rezoning.  As part of the rezoning conditions, the developer (Taft Development Group) must:

  • preserve trees on and directly adjacent to the cemetery;
  • construct and maintain historically appropriate fencing and signage; and
  • provide public access to the cemetery (including parking and a walkway to the entrance)

The site should be fenced off in a similar setup.

The restoration begins after the new residential complex is completed, likely near the end of 2020. The restoration and preservation should allow more people to visit the historic cemetery and limit further degradation. Hoke Thompson is the Project Manager of the restoration.  Paula Lester of the Matthews Historical Commission and others on the Matthews Preservation Advisory Committee have also been involved with planning this restoration.

Catherine Hall