CLOVER — Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series of articles about Clover-area residents and their connection to the community, to mark the 125th anniversary of the town of Clover.
Ed Stewart spent three years mapping the graves in Clover-area cemeteries, with the goal of making it easier for residents today and those of future generations to locate their buried ancestors.
Stewart, 61, a longtime funeral director at M.L. Ford and Sons in Clover, was trying to find his own ancestors who were buried at Clover’s Woodside Cemetery in 1999, when the project began.
“There were really no records of who was buried there,” Stewart said. “So I decided, to help other people who were trying to locate their ancestors and loves ones, that I would create a record of who was buried there.
“It turned into a major project, and it took almost three years to do it.”
The project eventually included two other cemeteries. The second is Clover Community Cemetery, which began in the 1880s as a cemetery for the Clover Chapel AME Zion Church.
The third cemetery was started in the 1820s, as part of Center Presbyterian Church, about a mile south of downtown Clover. That cemetery was abandoned around 1880 when Woodside Cemetery was started.
“There’s probably 20 to 30 marked graves in that cemetery, and a large number of graves marked with field stones — rock out of a field that was used to mark graves,” he said. “It’s surrounded by what used to be a stone fence. The sandstone uprights are still there.”
Stewart said Woodside, which has about 4,900 marked graves and about 700 unmarked graves on more than 17 acres, began as a Presbyterian church cemetery. In 1906, he said, it was turned over to the town.
Clover Community Cemetery has about 250 to 300 marked graves, he said, and another 300 to 400 that are unmarked. The abandoned Center cemetery, which is smaller, and now located in a private backyard, has about 40 unmarked burial plots, he said.
During the project, Stewart learned a lot about the town’s history.
“There were so many people who were instrumental in founding Clover that were buried there,” he said. “And I learned a bit about their lives and some of their family, who they were buried next to.”
He also saw many graves from soldiers who served in all the nation’s wars — the Civil War, World War I, the Korean War, World War II and the Vietnam conflict. He also came across a lot of graves for infants and children who died in a 19th-century flu epidemic.
Stewart, a Clover native and a 1970 graduate of Clover High School, said he recorded the information that is on the stone markers. However, he said there’s no way to know who is buried in the unmarked graves.
“Sadly, that’s a piece of our history that we will never be able to figure out,” he said.
“I think that it’s important for people to know about their heritage, and that was one way to keep up with our ancestors,” Stewart said. “I enjoyed doing it; I thought it was interesting.”
Stewart said he was able to find the grave of his own ancestor — a brother of his great grandfather — in a grave at Woodside. He said he found the unmarked grave by talking with elderly ancestors, one of whom was 97, and examining town records on the purchase of cemetery lots.
Since he finished the project, some improvements have been made at Woodside.
In 2005, Stewart said, a town cemetery committee worked with the Clover Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion to place a veterans monument at Woodside Cemetery. Stewart worked with the committee to design it and they raised money to pay for it.
He said the Linden Smith family put up a new brick entrance to the cemetery around the same time in memory of their ancestors. The cemetery committee also worked with some local landscapers to plant trees in the cemetery and to line the entrances with crepe myrtles.
Stewart said he printed a book on the Woodside Cemetery in 2002, when he finished mapping it, and still keeps the information updated. He gets constant inquiries for information. The Clover library and the town of Clover also have the information he collected.
“Clover is a great community,” he said. “And doing this was a small way to give back.”