By: Dan Gibbs
Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville, the city’s first municipal cemetery, was laid out in 1885. What was then known as Shaw’s Creek Road, now US 64, borders the cemetery on the north and south. It has well over 5,000 burials on 22 acres of land. In 1885, there were two sections of the cemetery- a White section and an African American section. Later additions were made to both and a Jewish section and a Pauper section were later added. The Pauper section was added for those that could not afford gravemarkers.
Oakdale Cemetery is one of the more popular and most visited landmarks in Hendersonville. A lot of the headstones and gravemarkers are ornate and even qualify as works of art. I have written articles for Hendersonville Best about several of those interred at Oakdale Cemetery including female stunt pilot Uva Minners, the Sunshine Lady of Hendersonville, and Walter M. “Watt” Bryson who was reinterred there from the Methodist Church on Church Street in Hendersonville in the 1920’s. Bryson’s lifelong friend, former slave George Mills, is also buried here.
The most famous gravemarker is that of Margaret E. Johnson who has the large Italian marble angel as her headstone. The angel came from the Asheville shop of W.O. Wolfe and the statue was the inspiration of Thomas Wolfe’s book Look Homeward Angel. The angel was ordered and shipped from Carrara, Italy from a New York distributor of fine Italian marble.
I love walking through cemeteries. The gravemarkers can be artistic and they often tell a story about the individual buried there. They are also full of history and it is also a great place to do genealogical research. I have been to Oakdale many times over the past several years sometimes just to read the gravemarkers. The website findagrave.com is a wealth of knowledge about Oakdale Cemetery.