Cemetery Clearing Finds Common Roots for Families

Freemont, NC News Leader Thursday, May 24, 2001
with permission from the publisher91

By John Feely, Staff Writer

A group of people from Nahunta and Fremont who knew each other for years learned they were more than friends as they recently toured a graveyard rescued from the grip of four decades of neglect. On the morning of April 21, Frank Hinnant met members of the Velma Sullivan family and the Joy Aycock family at the Elisha Holland graveyard, located off NC 581 near the Pinkney road intersection. Compatriots with the Dr. B. T. Person Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans had cleared the oblong-shaped cemetery, which is in the middle of a crop field.

Allen Aycock, SCV camp commander and a descendent of Elisha by marriage, said it was the organizationís most difficult mission so far in its effort to reclaim local family graveyards from the overgrowth of time. The volunteers spent a Saturday cutting down trees and hacking through tangled bushes and briar patches that were taller than a grown man. On of the men used a bush hog to re-mark the borders of the cemetery.

Their labor revealed three Confederate soldier graves and a Confederate widowís grave. Mr. Hinnant placed small Confederate flags at the foot of each grave.

"I last went out there in the early 1960ís with my Dad and a Holland family researcher," said Mr. Hinnant who believes that was the last time the graveyard had been accessible until last month. "There were 13 small wooden markers in the middle of the graveyard identifying the graves of Elisha, his two wives, and many of their children. The lady researcher, who was a lawyer, told me I should take the wooden markers home with me and now I wish I had. Years later, some farmer was burning off the overgrowth for crop land and all the markers were lost in the flames."

The families first gathered by the cars and Mr. Hinnant showed them the photographs he had taken of the wooden markers four decades ago. The families than compared their individual branches of the Holland family tree to see how their families intertwined.

"Terry Aycock and I have been best friends all of our lives, said Terry Sullivan, a son of Velma Sullivan. "We grew up together, we went to school together; and I was at his wedding. I didnít know his wife Joy and I were cousins.

Mr. Hinnant, Joy (Whaley) Aycock, and the Sullivan family are all descendants of Absalom Holland who was the seventh of 17 children born to Elisha Holland. Their family branches veer off in different directions as they trace their ancestry through three different sons of Absalom.


Mr. Hinnantís great-grandfather was Rufus Holland who was the second of ten children born to Absalom and Nancy Holland. Velma Sullivan is the great-granddaughter of Simon Holland, the third child (Terry would be the great-great-grandson of Simon Holland). Joy Aycock is the great-great-granddaughter of Burdin Holland.

The visit to the graveyard kind of let me know where my family came from," said Joy Aycock. "I never knew I was kin to Mr. Hinnant. I grew up knowing Terry (Sullivan), but never knowing we were kin. It was all real interesting.

The three families are all descendants of one of the first settlers to Wayne County and a man who fought in the American Revolution. Jimmie Holland and his wife, Ruthie, are believed to have purchased land along the Great Swamp in 1769, near what is now Highway 581 and Pinkney Church Road. Mr. Holland fought the English (actually their Scottish allies) at the battle of Morris Creek Bridge, 12 miles north of Wilmington.

Jimmie and Ruthie Holland had twin sons born five years prior to them coming to Wayne County. Absalom never married, but Elisha was married twice. The descendants of his 17 children make up many of the families present in Wayne County today.

"It was kind of eerie walking through the graveyard," said Terry Sullivan. "I wish I could go back 100 years for a week and see how people lived back then, and how the country worked."

The SCV volunteers will return to the Elisha Holland graveyard next month to burn up the browning foliage they had chopped up. They may also lay new markers to recognize the early ancestors of the family whose original wooden markers were lost.

The poem chiseled on one of the preserved headstones aptly illustrates why the local SCV camp has been donating their time to recover these lost graveyards. The words from a time gone by are on the headstone of Needham Holland, the youngest of Elishaís children and a Confederate veteran himself. Rufus and Simon Holland were also Confederate soldiers. Under the heading of Gone but not Forgotten:

"Tis hard to break the tender cord when love has bound the heart.
Tis hard to speak the words we must forever part.
Dearest loved one, we must lay there embrace in the peaceful graves.
But their memory will be cherished.
Someday Iíll see thy heavenly face."

If you would like to thank two of the men involved in this project, or to ask questions, I am sure they wouldn't mind hearing from you.  They are Terry Sullivan and Terry Aycock   Terry Aycock's wife, Joy, btw, is a Holland  descendent as well as a contributor to this web site.  

Other related pages on this web site: 

Elisha Holland cemetery graves 
Transcription of the Elisha Holland Cemetery
Elisha Holland cemetery restoration 2001-2002 
Holland Cemeteries table of contents 
Holland monument  
Album table of contents 

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Holland Family History and Family Tree:  Cemetery Clearing 
This Holland site Published 10 July 1996  This page added 4 June 2001   Last updated 10 March 2014