Hillsborough woman works to restore Old Slave Cemetery

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Evelyn Poole-Kober, a UNC graduate and resident of Hillsborough, NC, sorts through old newspaper clippings and files depicting her journey in reviving the Margaret Lane Cemetery.

Evelyn Poole-Kober believes that everyone should have a peaceful place to rest, even after death.

Poole-Kober, a UNC graduate, has been working to repair the once-abandoned Margaret Lane Cemetery in Hillsborough since 1985.

She was honored Monday by the Town of Hillsborough for her work at the historic cemetery, which includes uncovering old headstones and improving the landscape.

“Everybody on the awards committee thought it was really important to recognize her since preserving history, especially something this important, is one of the most important things we try to do in Hillsborough,” said Town Manager Eric Peterson.

The cemetery, also known as the Old Slave Cemetery, was used before the Civil War as a burial ground for slaves and blacks.

According to a 2006 archeological survey, the cemetery contains 151 graves.

Poole-Kober said the cemetery was overgrown and cluttered with trash when she first moved to Hillsborough.

“People used to just hang out in the cemetery,” she said. “I was picking up trash every Sunday.”

In the early 1980s, she approached the town and requested that they maintain the property.

“I wanted it to be preserved and maintained,” said Poole-Kober. “You don’t want it to fall into disarray.”

As secretary of the Margaret Lane Cemetery Committee in the 1980s, Poole-Kober worked with the committee to repair the cemetery and research who was buried there.

The committee’s most recent project was the creation of a monument that houses three uncovered gravestones.

The monument was unveiled in January.

District Court Judge Beverly Scarlett said she attended the dedication ceremony.

“To finally have the work of the slaves and the slave descendants recognized is powerful,” said Scarlett.

“I hope it’s going to bring our community closer together.”

One of the headstones in the monument belonged to a relative of Scarlett.

Poole-Kober said the monument has already brought more recognition to the cemetery.

“I see a lot of people stop by,” said Poole-Kober. “That’s nice to know that people now are recognizing it as a place to see history of the town.”

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said Poole-Kober’s work in the cemetery has been important to the town.

“She is a real advocate for what she believes in about Hillsborough,” said Stevens. “She has been a champion.”

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at city@dailytarheel.com.

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