He became one of North Carolina's greatest statesmen: Revolutionary War general and hero,
framer of the U.S. Constitution, state legislator, governor and French emissary. He also
founded the University and laid the cornerstone of Old East, the oldest state university
building in the country.
Davie retired to Waxhaw and was
buried in the church's cemetery in 1820. In 1927, a distant relative moved the family's
graves to a specially constructed enclave at the far end of the cemetery and gave the
University $1,000 to invest and use to maintain the compound.
The large, cross-shaped Davie enclave consists of a brick wall about
five feet high with a wrought-iron gate at one end. Davie is buried there along with other
family members. His tomb, at the end, is by far the most ornate. It is a tabletop tomb
with columns, set up on a tile base. The wall rises up behind the tomb, as if
"framing" a picture.
Davie was a devoted Freemason, and the enclave shows traits of a
Masonic lodge. Lodge rooms are closed on the north and open to the south; so is the Davie
enclave. Lodge rooms have checked floors. Davie's tomb is the only one in the enclave that
sits on a checked, tile base.
The tabletop tomb was a fad during the mid-19th century. "The
people are buried in the ground, underneath the box tomb," Ruedrich said. "Yet
half the box tombs I've worked on have had their tops taken off by curiosity-seekers
looking for a body. So the more people who understand that no one is buried in there, the
better off we'll be."
The elements have weathered the inscription on Davie's tomb, which
reads, in part, "Soldier, jurist, statesman and Patriot . . . polished in manners,
firm in act, candid without impudence, wise above deceit; a true lover of his country . .
. a Great Man in an age of Great Men."
Church trustee and cemetery caretaker Nancy Crockett alerted the
University to the need for repairs. Crockett was honored for her caretaking by Chancellor
Paul Hardin during the University's bicentennial observance. An offshoot of the Davie
Poplar now grows in front of the Davie enclave.
Ruedrich, who restored the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery and the Old
Burying Grounds in Beaufort, said the secret to preserving gravesites is to accept what
they have become and not force them to be what they are not.
"When you go into a cemetery this old, the stones shouldn't
look like they were all carved yesterday," he said. "You should do the gentlest
work possible for conservation and preservation, rather than restoration."
Materials and labor for the restoration cost $19,000, about $10,000
of which came from the 1927 gift. The other $9,000 came from private donations. Charlotte
physician J. Dewey Dorsett '47 is leading an additional effort to raise money to buy
ornamental trees and bushes for the compound.
by Karen Stinneford '87