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Scalping Started Historic Cemetery

Written by Earl Kelley
Tribune Staff Writer



Historic cemeteries have had unusual beginnings, but few as unusual as one of the first in Cabarrus County - the first cemetery of Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church.

The scalping of the wife of a Pennsylvania immigrant's wife by Cherokee Indians inaugurated one of the oldest graveyards in Cabarrus County in the 1700's.

The information comes from the "Historic Sketch of the Poplar Tent Church."  The sketch was written by William S. Harris, early ruling elder of the Poplar Tent Church.  It was later supplemented with an article on the Rev. Hezekiah James Balch and another article by the Rev. W. Hampton Eubank, bringing the history up to date in 1923.

Tradition mentions, according to the historic sketch, that among the first settlers in the Poplar Tent section was a Clark.  No first name has ever been recorded, but Clark and others first settled around 1732.

This particular Clark family and name have both become extinct - not a trace is left except the mound of the log cabin chimney on the east marking of Clark' Creek, which is said to have been named after the same Clark immigrants.

Clark was a Scotch-Irish immigrant from Pennsylvania, one who possessed uncommon energy, and undaunted courage.

Clark brought with him a young and beautiful wife to the new land of the wilderness.  It was soon after his settlement that the historic incident occurred.

The Cherokee Indians made an incursion into the neighborhood, prowled around the log cabin, killed and scalped her.  They made escape before Clark could reach home from an adjacent field where he was at work.

William Black and Charles Harris, who were the nearest neighbors of the Clarks, were both absent from home when the event occurred.

There were no saw-mills yet established and no suitable coffin could be made.  The body of Clark's wife was wrapped in a blanket, taken on a sled about two miles to a bluff on Rocky River, which was known as George C. McClure's and buried by an Irish bondman and an African slave.

This, the history explains, inaugurated the cemetery.

No grave marker for Mrs. Clark has ever been found, but a number of others erected about the same time still stand, even though trees have grown up and around many of them.

One cemetery marker for a W. A. Clark, who died May 9, 1778, still stands in the present cemetery of the Poplar Tent Church, and some believe this to be the same Clark.  Date of the birth of W. A. Clark is listed as 1714.

W. A. Clark, then, was about 18 years old when the first settlers came in 1732.  The historians have never been able to trace all of the Clark clan, but have reason to believe W. A. Clark to be the same one whose wife was scalped by the Cherokees.