Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Newton Academy and Cemetery

Newton School was built in 1922 and he remembers the principal (see file). Originally Union Hill Academy was, with several other buildings, on this location. For several years the school ceased to exist and the city, in agreement with the trustees, built and opened Newton. It operated until 1982 when, due to integration, the school was not large enough to accommodate the number of children required [however Jesse Ray's children attended - see his tape re: integration. The school building was said to be unsafe when it was closed suddenly during the school year of 1982.]. The land was leased from the Stevens' Family Trust. When the city was unable to use the building it was turned back to the trust. The trust stipulated that the land be used to operate a school. Jack, head of the trust and a member of the Community Foundation Board (see Imogene "Cissie" Stevens tape), devised legal means for the land to be given to the Community Foundation which could sell a portion of the school property and use the proceeds for educational purposes. [Mrs. Mabel Snowden, Jack Stevens]

[1/60] The Newton Cemetery, started in 1818, was part of the Stevens Family Trust property. A court order was necessary to sell the school property and: 1. restore the cemetery and set aside funds for maintenance in perpetuity; 2. establish an endowment trust for educational purposes (see tape by Imogene "Cissie" Stevens) with funds from sale of property.

[1/87] The Stevens Family Trust was established by William Forster in 1803 to be used for educational purposes. The cemetery was not established at that time but when it was he was buried there. The Union Hill Academy, on the property, changed its name to Newton Academy in honor of Newton, the first head master and Presbyterian minister who served in this area. [William Forster (Forster-Stevens scholarship award see p. 17, 1992 Annual Report enclosed), George Newton]

[1/108] Foundation was approached in 1984. The property was appraised for $689,000, offered for sale and sold to the Mission Hospital, the only bidder. The court ordered that $75,000 be set aside for maintenance of the cemetery. A proper fence has been installed and markers replaced. Five hundred thousand was set aside in the Community Foundation as an endowment trust for scholarships for the 18 counties in Western North Carolina.

[1/170] There is a cemetery committee which hires a landscaping company to take care of the property. The gates are opened and closed every day by an employee of the Memorial Mission Hospital. [Dan Foy]

[1/198] The hospital is now in the process of building on the north side. There will be an outpatient imaging center.

[1/209] Well-known people are buried in the cemetery along with some 28 Confederate soldiers and 5 unknown Union soldiers. [George Swain, David L. Swain (governor and early president of University of North Carolina)]

[1/262] The sale of the property was conducted by a former mayor and student of Newton School. He wanted it to be under a dogwood tree which his class had planted as a memorial to his class. [Richard A. Wood, Jr.]

[1/281] The blizzard of last March knocked down several trees but there is insurance for damage. The neighbors are glad the cemetery property is cared for.

Source: Newton Academy Oral History 1993

The Newton Academy Cemetery is a two-acre wooded knoll adjacent to Biltmore Avenue in the city of Asheville, N.C.. The restoration, preservation and maintenance of the cemetery has been given to the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina "as part of a unique gift agreement," related to the donation of the Newton Academy property to the Foundation by the Forster-Stevens Trustees.

The cemetery was established circa 1818 at the corner of what is today Biltmore Avenue and Unadilla Avenue. It is the location of many of Asheville's early families. Extensive research and mapping of the grounds was completed in the early 1990's by Dr. C. Michael Baker. His work revealed some 210 marked gravesites and approximately 85 unmarked graves. There are also memorial markers for soldiers (both Confederate and Union) whose bodies were not interred.

Early graves include that of James McConnell Smith (reportedly the first white child born west of the Blue Ridge Mountains) ; George Swain, the father of North Carolina Governor David L. Swain and stones marking the grave sites of many familiar Asheville names such as Alexander, Stevens, and Patton.

The following statement has been prepared by the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina regarding the cemetery:

"Newton Academy Cemetery is primarily a mid 19th century graveyard with no original landscape plan in existence. The Cemetery Committee wishes to avoid future changes in the graveyard that would romanticize the landscape to suit modern views of what a 19th century graveyard should look like.

The following are the goals and preservation guidelines established by the Cemetery Committee of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, along with a list of plantings that are historically appropriate for a 19th century graveyard.

Preserve the historic presence.

Maintain the simplicity of a rural, primitive cemetery; no formality in structures or gardens.

Maintain a sense of peace.

Create a welcome, inviting environment.

Assure respect for those buried there.

Plantings must be in keeping with those of the 19th century (wildflowers and others).

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