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Hampton’s Berea Cemetery tour set for October 13


By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  The rise in cemetery tours as a tourism draw has become an increasingly popular event in local towns and for the first time, the city of Hampton is offering a cemetery tour of its only graveyard, the Berea Cemetery, located on McDonough St. in the city on October 13 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Larry and Nita Rucker at the Berea Cemetery in Hampton.

Photo by Melissa Robinson

  The city was established in 1873 and the Old Berea Cemetery has been in use for even longer, telling the stories of Hamptonites through grave markers, for the past 150 years. Many of Hampton’s earliest citizens, those who built the city and shaped its future are buried there. Several still have relatives who reside in the quaint town.

  Larry Rucker, president of the Hampton Historic Preservation Commission said that the tour was the inspiration of town historian Richard McBrayer, who upon noting the success of the McDonough Cemetery Tour, realized there was a rich history to tell in Hampton.

  “He’s helped a lot to come up with interesting people and to come up with their biographies. Betty English has also been really helpful with that.”

  He said McBrayer has written several books on the history of Hampton, which he will be signing at the Speakeasy Bookstore on the day of the tour. English is a former teacher as well as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission.

  The tour is sponsored by the Hampton Historic Preservation Commission, along with Main Street Hampton, Moye’s Pharmacy, Speakeasy Book-store, Haisten Funeral Home and Berea Christian Church. Rucker said he is hoping that the tour will generate enough money and interest to become a yearly event.

  His wife, Nita, also a member of the Commission said that the volunteers are making the tour possible.

  “Everyone involved is a volunteer. The people portraying the historical figures are coming up with their own costumes and props,” said Nita.

  Eight characters will bring the past to the present through their portrayal and interpretations of various former residents of Hampton. They will all be in full character dress, some by relatives. Thomas Griffin Barnette, Hampton’s first mayor, will be portrayed by former councilman Arley Lowe. William Sadler Fears, who was a pastor at Berea Church and donated the land for the church and the cemetery, will be portrayed by Jim Middle-brooks, who married Fears’ great-granddaughter. Arthur James Henderson, a successful entrepreneur who founded the Hampton Cotton Mills, will be portrayed by his great-great grandson Ty Hoffman and Ms. Elmer Buchanan Bell Henderson will be portrayed by her granddaughter, Betty Ann Henderson Abblitt. The Hendersons were one of the first families of Hampton. Essie Grissom will portray Ruth Turnipseed, who was the long-time housekeeper for the Hendersons and the only African-American buried in Berea Cemetery. The first soul buried in the cemetery was Franklin Adams. He was the brother-in-law of Barnett and will be portrayed by Mark Pollard. Reverend Smith H. Griffin, who built Oaklea Plantation and was the Postmaster for Bear Creek and Hampton, will be portrayed by councilman Marty Meeks, and Col. William H. Peebles who was a surgeon in the Civil War will be played by councilman Willie Walls.

  Rucker said that people should really enjoy the tour from a historical perspective and he has already heard some of the characters portrayals and has been blown away by the performance.

 “We had a preservation meeting and some of the participants had the script and they were very good. If you’re interested in history and learning more about the people who lived here at one time or another, it’s a great historical tour. There’s a lot of pride in Hampton and in its history,” said Rucker.

  The Old Berea Cemetery Tour is set for Saturday, October 13 between 4 and 7 p.m. Tours will last approximately 30 to 45 minutes and will begin at the Speakeasy Bookstore located at 5 E. Main St. A shuttle will transport people from the bookstore to the cemetery in several shifts and Berea Christian Church is providing the shuttle service. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for ages 7 to 12. Children 6 and under are free. Tickets may be purchased at Hampton City Hall, Hampton Depot, Moye’s Pharmacy in Hampton, Speakeasy Books and through members of the Historic Preservation Commission. For more information, call 770-946-4306 or visit



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