Historic Piney Grove Cemetery incorporates

Barbara Hootman

A not-for-profit corporation has been formed to care for historic Piney Grove Cemetery, the final resting place for more than 1,700 people.

Buried there are the ancestors of many well-known Buncombe County families, including the Davidsons, Pattons, Alexanders, Connellys, Stepps and Burnetts, among others. The cemetery contains some of the oldest grave markers in the Swannanoa Valley. It contains the graves of veterans of several wars, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, Civil War and modern military conflicts.

Last October, First Presbyterian Church of Swannanoa celebrated its 220th anniversary. It also closed, leaving Piney Grove Cemetery without care. The church, including playground and parking lot, is for sale, and there is some interest in it, said Dave Alexander, chairperson of the Piney Grove Cemetery incorporation committee. “There has been a church on this site since 1830,” Alexander said. “We are concerned about the legacy of Piney Grove Cemetery.”

Alexander is related to James Alexander, buried at Piney Grove Cemetery in the oldest grave there. The cemetery has been the final resting place of his family for 180 years, he said. He plans to be buried there.

“There are 57 Alexanders and 59 Davidsons buried at Piney Grove, and I am related to every one of them,” he said. “My sister, Sally Alexander Matherly, was buried there last year beside our parents, and I’ll be buried by my sister. I think incorporation of the cemetery is the best way to care for it. I spent over three hours last weekend caring for the Alexander graves, mowing and making everything look nice.”

Incorporation means the grounds will be tended - grass mowed, trees pruned and brush cleared - but it does not provide for the perpetual care of the graves and markers, Alexander said. “There has been a fund for the past 80 years for the maintenance of the cemetery. Folks contribute to it, and hopefully will continue to do so,” he said. “We also hope sometime in the future to be able to establish a ‘Friends of Piney Grove Cemetery.’”

Alexander said the cemetery is full. No lots are for sale, though some owners have expressed an interest in selling theirs, cemetery trustee Steve Hansel said (anyone interested in selling should call him at 299-4424 or get in touch with Alexander).

Serving with him as trustees are Alexander, Steve Bucy, Bill Cox, Brenda Parks Hughes and Betsy D. Kirschner. For more about the cemetery, located at 372 Bee Tree Road in Swannanoa, contact Alexander at 279-3221.