Located next to Beaver Hill Cemetery and on the same lot as the White or Sugar Hill House, this half acre lot has existed in Historic Edenton since July 8, 1818. William J. and Emma Leary obtained ownership of the property via purchase, then sold it to Joseph and Laura Collins for $750.00. Both properties were willed to their daughter, Mary Collins Diggs on May 3, 1939. After that the property went unmanaged until J. Peter Roscoe III, from Edenton's Office of Special Projects, discovered it in 2000. In February 2001, Roscoe reconsecrated the land, and year later an official ceremony was held to commemorate the one year anniversary of its rediscovery. This property has since become a stop along the Historic Edenton Trolley Tour Bus route that has tours every season. Information about this location can be found in the archives of Shepherd Pruden Memorial Library. Wreaths Across America still places a commemorative wreath at the site and headstone of Private Jonathan Overton every Christmas.
This location since its reconsecration in 2002 largely went unnoticed. Many residents of Edenton forgot that it was there, or never knew of its existence in the entirety of their time in the town. This fact is understandable, when you consider the cemetery's location at the end of the predominately white Beaver Hill Cemetery which stands to the left of the property, and its slightly barren appearance in general.
But this location holds buried treasure, i.e: historical figures important to Edenton's African-American community dating back to the 1800s, around the time of the Revolutionary War, and definitely predating the abolition of slavery.
The property holds the grave markings of three notable African Americans and Edenton residents. Private Jonathan Overton, volunteer in the Revolutionary War; NC 10th Regiment and veteran. During the American Revolution, blacks rallied against the British, hoping their acts would also help to abolish slavery. Some were recruited as slave workers or spies for the American soldiers, and others were forced to fight on behalf of the soldiers. Overton was one such volunteer who fought honorably for his master, Capt. John Bateman. Overton served in the army for nine months and twelve days post his company's victory in Charleston, SC. He died at age 101. Overton is one of three headstones still in tact on the property. The others are Thomas Barnswell: Freed slave and one of Edenton's first African-American property owners. Barnswell also owned his own slaves; Asa Barnswell; Thomas' wife, and their two children, Matilda Mattie Barnswell and Richard Barnswell, who was born and died on October 22, 1817. It is believed that Harriet Jacobs (1813 - 1897), former slave and resident of Edenton, NC., was also buried at the cemetery. Jacobs was an abolitionist and author of a self titled biography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.