Pin Hook is part of Durham’s salacious reputation, perhaps the most important part for Durham history geeks (a surprisingly large group). It is like the pepper used in some Thai cooking, the one you’re not supposed to eat, but that adds so much to the spicy flavor. Before the railroad track, it was there, on maps, under that name: Pin Hook. A stop along the Raleigh-Hillsborough road where you could tie up your horse, get a slice of watermelon, some gin, and a hooker. I mean to go exploring this site soon, in those woods across the tracks from my office, but today I went to look for what remains, also across the tracks, but further west: Cedar Hill Cemetery, aka Erwin Mills Cemetery. You see, Erwin Mills, the cotton factory, was what came along to replace Pin Hook, and Cedar Hill was the cemetery the mill owners established for their workers, in the best spirit of corporate paternalism. (Those owners, by the way, were Benjamin Duke and William Erwin.)
So, today I went exploring down a largely forgotten stretch of Pettigrew St., which re-emerges in West Durham as a gravel path through the woods along the railroad track, and I found this old cemetery. Below are some pictures I took:
Back in 2000, a group of descendents and Old West Durhamites came and fixed up a part of this cemetery. You’ll find a cleared section that still reflects their work, but there’s much more to be found still hidden in the woods.
The Conways had several infant graves here.
Early death was apparently commonplace in Erwin Mills.
There were two graves like this, with rough white marble and brass plates. I want to come back and do some rubbings.
Other graves were more readable, such as this one for Ida Regan.
A number of the stones had fallen.
Pettigrew St. as old dirt road, with the tracks and lumberyard beyond. This is the view to the north of the cemetery.
I wish this sign was obeyed by all visitors. In any case, it’s a nicer message than the one in the well-tended New Bethel Memorial Gardens just across a fence to the east: “No Trespassing.”
P.S. Fellow geocachers, though I shouldn't need to say it: Dibs.