Helping Hand Cemetery requests helping hands for cleanup

Published 5:40 pm Monday, March 21, 2022

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The Helping Hand Cemetery in Courtland will be the site of a volunteer cleanup March 25-26 in preparation for a May 28 event that will be held recognizing the cemetery’s 125th anniversary.

The cemetery is owned and managed by the Helping Hand Club, which has produced a brief history of the property.

The history states that in 1897, Trustees Jenkins, Darden, Epps, Hardy and Blount appealed to Joseph B. Prince to sell them a parcel of his land “situated on the left side of the public road leading from Courtland.” Prince was a wealthy landowner, a judge and the clerk of Southampton County Court. According to the deed, this land was for the “sole purpose of burying colored people,” and no one could be buried there without the permission of these trustees.  

In 1913 an ex-slave, who had escaped his bondage to become a Union soldier in the Civil War, returned to Courtland and bought property next to the cemetery, the history states. He sold to Helping Hand Trustees Scott, Darden, Brown, Ricks, Taylor and Harrison a parcel of his land for $5 to extend the cemetery space. This Civil War veteran, Solomon Stevens, was also a member of the Helping Hand Club and is now buried in the cemetery.

Around this time, the cemetery was renamed The Helping Hand Cemetery and continued, from that time to today, to be owned and managed by the Helping Hand Club, the history states. Additional land was purchased throughout the years as well as an HHC clubhouse in which meetings were held and records kept until the building was destroyed by fire.

The history notes that the cemetery, now with more than 450 interred, is currently managed by a new Board of Trustees under the leadership of President Alton Darden. The trustees have initiated long-term cleanup, landscaping and documentation projects.

The cleanup project set for Friday, March 25, and Saturday, March 26, will run from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each day, and a continental breakfast and lunch will be provided to volunteers.

Alton Darden said the cemetery needs all the help it can get from volunteers.

“We’ve got leaves and branches, we’ve got signs to put up to identify different things and so forth, so we need any support,” Darden said.

HHC Trustee Maurice Darden, who is organizing the cleanup project, said volunteers are encouraged to bring their own tools with them, including rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows and definitely gloves.

“Just the general things that you would use for cleanup,” he said.

Alton emphasized that the purpose of this cleanup project “is to get the cemetery ready for our program that’s going to be May the 28th — our 125th-year celebration.”

Maurice said Alton has put together an outline of what the club wants to accomplish during that 125th anniversary, but for now, the focus is on completing the cleanup to make the celebration possible.

For more information, call or text Maurice at 919-632-3166 or email him at

The Helping Hand Cemetery can be found on Facebook at