The Mountain Laurel
June 12, 2001
Daniel W. Brown, Superintendent
Blue Ridge Parkway
199 Hemphill Knob Road
Asheville, NC 28801-3417
In Meadows of Dan Virginia, on NPS property, which borders the Meadows of Dan Baptist Church at the intersection of US 58 and the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are 12 or 13 unmarked slave graves.
Steptoe Langhorne who donated the land for the church owned the slaves. They were buried adjacent to the Langhorne family but when the Blue Ridge Parkway was built the NPS acquired the property on which the slaves were buried.
During parkway construction, workmen moved the rocks that marked the slave's graves in order to landscape the small meadow. The rocks were never replaced.
A life long resident of Meadows of Dan, Mr. Matt Burnett helped build the Parkway in this area and he told me about the slave's graves before he died, in the mid 1980's.
At that time, I approached Gary Everhart with the idea of erecting a monument on the meadow to commemorate not only the slaves buried in the meadow but to acknowledge and honor the black contribution to Blue Ridge settlement.
Gary told me that a monument could be erected if I could raise the funds privately to prepare the site and erect the monument. Over the intervening years I have tried, without success, to raise the funds privately.
Mr. Matt is dead and I'm not getting any younger and I fear if something is not done soon, even the fact that slaves are buried in the meadow will someday be forgotten and they will pass into oblivion like countless other forgotten black people who contributed to the settlement and development of the Blue Ridge.
I am sure that grants could be applied for, and funds secured to erect a monument to these people but I am not a grant writer nor do I have the expertise and time that would be required to generate the necessary funding for an adequate monument to the Blue Ridge black experience.
I am writing you at this time to request your assistance, either in erecting a monument in this meadow to the overall Blue Ridge black experience or to simply restore the grave markers that were removed from the graves during Parkway construction.
It would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge that I hope you will elect to put the power of your position behind erecting a monument in this meadow that would be more than the simple rocks that once marked the graves.
A more fitting place for a monument to commemorate the black experience in the Blue Ridge could not be found. Here in a scenic meadow cemetery less than one mile south of Mabry Mill is the epitome of the black experience. In these unmarked graves lie people who contributed to the settlement of these picturesque mountains. Yet, how many black school children and families pass this intersection every year without realizing that blacks played a part in the settlement of this area and their heritage and a part of our national legacy lies all but forgotten in this scenic mountain meadow.