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What is Prospect Cemetery?

Ben Steelman

A small — 6.5-acre — country cemetery off Military Cutoff near U.S. 117 (Market Street), Prospect Cemetery faces pressure from the rapid development around it.

Originally, the cemetery was attached to Prospect Methodist Episcopal Church, which occupied the site until 1939. The earliest date on its tombstones is Sept. 18, 1860, but burials may well have occurred before then.

On Nov. 26, 1948, the Scotts Hill Charge of the Methodist Church conveyed the property to the Ogden-Middle Sound Civic Club, which set up a cemetery committee consisting of J.W. Covil, G.W. Koonce, Thurman Rivenbark, C.E. Shepard , G.W. Shepard and J.W. Thompson to oversee the property. By 1980, though, newspaper articles were complaining of overgrowth and trash on the cemetery grounds.

In 1977, area residents organized Prospect Cemetery Historical Association to look after the property, with Emma Yopp Murray, Ann Thompson, Barbara E. Morgan and Thurman J. Rivenbark as officers. This group launched a major cleanup, and Murray wrote a history of the cemetery, including an inventory of all the known burials and tombstones. (A copy can be studied at the New Hanover County Public Library, 201 Chestnut St., Wilmington [Map this].) By 2005, however, this association was largely inactive.

Shaded by pines and dogwoods and ringed by azalea bushes planted by relatives of the deceased, the cemetery is a relatively quiet oasis in one of the fasting-growing portions of New Hanover County. About 700 individuals are buried there.

Families represented at the cemetery have occasionally clashed with commercial neighbors. Sometime after 2000, the arched, wrought-iron sign that marked Prospect’s cemetery disappeared — the fault, relatives claimed, of heavy traffic on unpaved Prospect Cemetery Road, which loops around the burial ground.

More recently, family members opposed plans for Pages Creek, a 160-unit apartment complex that would have used Prospect Cemetery Road as one of its two main access routes. The developers proposed to pave the 24-foot-wide road, which relatives feared would generate heavy traffic, leading to vandalism and littering.

On May 20, 2009, the City of Wilmington’s Subdivision Review Board rejected the developers’ request for waivers from city rules, which would allow them to use Prospect Cemetery Road for access. Developers have several appeals options, though, so the cemetery’s future remains in doubt.

User-contributed question by:
Elizabeth Rivenbark

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2 Responses to “ What is Prospect Cemetery?”

  1. On June 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm Anita Lewis wrote:

    Does anyone know what exactly happened to the wrought iron sign that was at the entrance? Do the caretakers still have it (perhaps for safe keeping) or did it really disappear?
    Anita Lewis

  2. On July 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm pegi moyer wrote:

    i recently visited wilmington on a day trip and passed by this horrible cemetary. it saddens me to see this insult to people laid to rest there, i am sure the families intended this to be eternal. i have lived in areas with cemetaries much older than this and have never seen such disregard to the dead……

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