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Published August 24, 2015

NC Senator Jeffreys: The Man Buried In A Rock

Senator Jeffreys’ grave may be smashed by vandals, but his final tomb, carved inside a 20-foot boulder, can’t be touched. Perhaps he was right to request on his death bed, “Please don’t bury me in the cold, wet clay.” (Josh Shaffer, News and Observer)

According to several sources, Senator Jeffreys had an awful phobia of his corpse rotting and being devoured by worms. He felt safer enclosed in stony walls, protected from the elements.

Other sources paint Jeffreys as a brave, clever man, who actually chose to be buried in a rock so his grave could never be moved. His dying wish was to be buried in Wake County, and “some age old law prohibited it.” So he had his body entombed in an immovable boulder across the Wake County line.

The first time I heard about “the Senator buried in a giant rock,” I was around 10 years old. My dad told me about a strange boulder he’d stumbled upon, and a historic marker sign that informed him he’d found a “Unique Burial Site.”

He rode his motorcycle up to the grave, dismounted, and climbed atop. It was night time in the middle of wide open farm land and hunting grounds–and not much else–at the crossroads of country roads 401 and HWY 98.

Photograph by: Amy Robbins-Tjaden

As if a man buried in a giant rock wasn’t fascinating enough for my childhood love of spooky stories, Dad claimed he began to hear a slight scratching, as if someone deep inside the boulder was trying to claw his way out.

This seems unlikely–just one of Dad’s eerie tales. But for someone so afraid of being buried, it might not be surprising to discover he wants to escape his tomb.

Or he could be angry about the Wake and Franklin County border being re-drawn, placing his grave solidly in Franklin.

RELATED: Abandoned Cemetery for Emancipated Slaves Hidden in Cameron Village.

For more than a decade, I dreamed of finding this rock. Precise directions are difficult to come by. Most websites simply say it’s located a little ways in the woods near Harrison Crossroads, at 401 and 98. I’ve visited several times, creeping through the thick trees, on and off the beaten path.

NC Senator Jeffrey-- The Man Buried In A Rock - 3

The first time I visited, I pulled my car into a little dirt trail off the 401 just as the sun was going down. My headlights shone into an open field, revealing five looming shadows on the horizon, shaped like the silhouettes of giant headstones.

Turns out they were just giant bales of hay.

I’ve explored the area several times, finding severed deer heads and rotting building foundations — leading me to wonder what buildings used to stand in these woods. I’ve found several large boulders. But despite best efforts, I’ve never found Jeffrey’s gravesite–my white whale.

Senator Jeffreys passed away young, only 28 years old in 1845. He was only able to serve the Senate for a year, before typhoid fever took hold. His father made certain his son remained buried on his own farm. According to Forgotten Tales of North Carolina, it took more than a year for the stone crypt to be prepared.

A six foot slab of marble marks the top of the rock, inscribed, “He was a kind husband and parent, a loyal and honest man and a faithful public servant.”

RELATED: Oakwood Cemetery’s Origins: Digging Up The Past.

What worms and weather couldn’t destroy, vandals have. If you visit the grave today, you’ll find large cracks marring the slab, along with a shattered headstone.

Photograph by: Amy Robbins-Tjaden

For his sake, I hope this kind husband, father, and Senator is not clawing at his grave, nor disturbed by the vandals outside, but instead resting easy in a gravesite lovingly crafted at the care of his family.

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  • heather

    Heather

  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. My resume. All my articles.

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