Mysteries and modern touches at Morningside Cemetery

One of Charlotte’s hidden gems is Morningside Cemetery. The cemetery is tucked into a secluded hillside off Morningside Drive a short distance from Spear Street. Those familiar with the cemetery know that the names, dates and other information carved into the gravestones provide a treasure trove of historical information and insights.

Morning Side Cemetery. Photo by John Quinney
Morning Side Cemetery. Photo by John Quinney

Some of that history reveals sad truths about life in the 1800s and early 1900s, especially the gravestones of children who died at appallingly young ages. Readers of inscriptions such as “Little Georgie A., Son of Alonzo H. & Elvira A. Barker, Died Apr 5, 1860, AE 10 Yrs. 1 Mo” can well imagine the heartbreak of the Barker family.

The Morningside gravestones also remind us that Charlotters have answered the call as America fought wars overseas and within itself. Veterans of the Civil War, Spanish American War, World Wars I and II are buried inside the cemetery fences. The cemetery also is the final resting place for Charlotte’s sole fatality in the Vietnam War. Fred St. George was just 20 years old when he was killed in action in Vietnam.

In certain instances, the words and dates written on the headstones suggest mysteries or questions to which we may never have answers. For example, what are the odds John Naramore would outlive three wives, including his third wife who was 60 years his junior? Did Pvt. Delial W. Magee ever see a European battlefield in 1918 or did he succumb to the Spanish flu that devastated many Army battalions prior to shipping out?

Another mystery surrounds the name of Cyrus Prindle/Pringle, perhaps the most famous individual buried at Morningside. Prindle Road in East Charlotte was home to the illustrious botanist who identified and catalogued a wide variety of plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The Pringle Herbarium at UVM, named in his honor, contains many of his collections. But why the different spellings of his name? Family members and long-time residents of East Charlotte have consistently used the “d” spelling; and family members, having the last word, had Prindle etched on the headstone. Still, it appears Cyrus—for reasons unknown—may have preferred the “g” spelling, and UVM respected that preference. The plaque on the north side of the headstone referencing his professional accomplishments uses the “g” spelling and states: “Cyrus Guernesy Pringle 1838-1911 ‘The Prince of Plant Collectors.’”

Other history and fun facts about Morningside:

The dates carved into the grave markers suggest the first person buried in Morningside was 26-year-old William Barker who died in August 1796.

The earliest birthdate recorded on the gravestones was that of Eliphalet Bingham born in 1761, a birthdate that allowed him to witness the American Revolution.

Old records state the cemetery was deeded from Roger Horsford to the Town of Charlotte in 1819. Just shy of a century later, March 2, 1915, Town Meeting Day, voters approved the transfer of the cemetery to the Morningside Cemetery Association. The transfer was completed in 1917, and the association manages the cemetery to this day.

Purchasers of plots at Morningside Cemetery must be current or long-time residents of the town.

Like most small privately operated cemeteries, Morningside faces challenges. These include operating on a tight budget and striving to add modern touches to a historic and hallowed place. An update currently being explored is creation of a cremation garden in a tree grove along the cemetery’s southwest boundary. The association hopes to have the garden available by summer 2023. Many individuals and families now opt for cremation rather than casket burials, so a peaceful shaded site with specially designed plots for urns would be well-tailored to today’s preferences.

In the meantime, Charlotte residents wishing to purchase a plot in the main section of the cemetery may contact Nancy Richardson ([email protected] or 802 539-2110) for additional information.

Note: John Quinney serves on the Board of Trustees of the Morningside Cemetery Association and as the interim President and Publisher of The Charlotte News.