Sampson County – Investigating A Lost Cemetery

By Fred Kerr

I’ve written this short article in the hope it might benefit someone who didn’t know where these graves were located.

I was recently in Sampson County attending a family funeral which occurred at the old Kerr Family Cemetery located near Harrells, NC. A number of us returned to the Kerr Family Cemetery later that day for another brief visit. My cousin said he’d looked at aerial photos in Google Maps and had seen what appeared to be a clearing about 100 yards southeast through the woods from the Kerr Family Cemetery. He thought it might have been the remains of an old house. So we walked over there.

We didn’t find a house foundation – but we did find an undocumented cemetery with 2 intact grave stones and one grave stone that was broken up. It wasn’t possible to identify what was written on the broken marker as all the pieces didn’t seem to be there.

Julious Newkirk

Julious Newkirk
Born April 15, 1881
Died Mar 4, 1919
Now his labor is done
Now, now, the goal is won

John C. Murphy

John C. Murphy
Born: July 2, 1887
Died: Sept. 3, 1928
Gone to a brighter home
Where grief cannot come

The inscriptions on the 2 intact grave stones were:

Julious Newkirk was only 37 years old when he died.
John C. Murphy was only 41 years old when he died.

Broken Headstone

I thought it would be interesting to try to find out more about these 2 people using the various genealogical databases I subscribe to. There wasn’t much, but what I found is interesting.

The 1910 US Census showed a “Julius Newkirk” living with the Tate Robinson family in Franklin Township, NC. He was identified as a brother in law (to Tate Robinson), and was unmarried and able to read and write. He worked as a laborer in a Saw Mill.

While it’s not the same spelling as the gravestone, it is phonetically the same. Also, the occupation listed matches the next item I found – a Draft Registration Card in the name of Julious Newkirk.

This Draft Registration Card was filled out on Sept. 12, 1918, about a year before his death, described him as Negro, of medium height, medium build, with black eyes and hair. He was a native born US Citizen. He was employed as a “Saw Mill ______” (last word was unreadable) working for C. A. Brown & Brothers Company in Ivanhoe, NC. He lived in Kerr, NC and worked in Ivanhoe, NC (both in Sampson County). Interestingly, the company went on to become a large lumber producer in Sampson County. The Kerr family had even deeded access to some family land to the company. Julious Newkirk’s nearest relative (from the draft card) was Mary Murphy who lived in Kerr, NC.

While I didn’t find anything on John C. Murphy, it seems likely he was related to Julious Newkirk.

Locations Referenced:

Kerr Family Cemetery:
Located approximately 1.5 miles south of intersection of Wildcat and Dr. Kerr (SR 1105) Road near Harrells, NC.

The cemetery is located on private property. There is a sign (“Kerr Family Cemetery”) marking the access road which is on the east side of SR1105. The access road is protected by a locked metal gate. Once inside the gate, the cemetery is located approximately 100 yards down the access road.

GPS location for Kerr Family Cemetery Sign/Access Road is N34º38.206’ W78º16.206’.

Unidentified Cemetery:

Located approximately 105 yards southeast of the Kerr Family Cemetery in a wooded area. I believe this cemetery is also located on private property.

GPS location for both grave stones is N34º38.167’ W78º16.026’.