This past December, I had the good fortune to meet Dwain Roberts, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans camp in Randolph County.
I ventured to Asheboro with my mom and a friend to view the historic flag at the public library of the Randolph Hornets, a local company that served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. We encountered Roberts in the history room where he was conversing with local historian Mac Whatley. When told of my interest in the Civil War, Roberts eagerly told me about his Confederate ancestors on his mother’s side, numbering nearly 30.
Among his ancestors were the Presnell brothers — Henry Calvin (Dwain’s great-great grandfather), John, and Stanton. Henry Calvin served as a noncommissioned officer in the 52nd North Carolina; Stanton served in the same regiment.
Stanton was wounded at Gettysburg, where he was captured, and spent approximately six months as a POW at Point Lookout, Md., before he was paroled. Shortly after his exchange, he was hospitalized in Richmond for chronic rheumatism, after which he received a 30-day furlough. He was subsequently dropped from the company rolls, with no reason given, although Roberts speculated it was because of the injuries at Gettysburg.
We were intrigued to learn of Roberts’ background and eagerly engaged in conversation with him. He told us about an unmarked cemetery on the outskirts of Asheboro, which he is seeking to have recognized as a historic landmark, and offered to take us there.
We followed him to Caraway Mountain Road, where he led us to a small gravestone marked by a Confederate flag in a patch of woods between two houses. The grave belonged to George M. Foust, who served in Company C of the 2nd Battalion of North Carolina Local Defense Troops.
Roberts said this site had been on the property of the Old County Rest Home, where impoverished residents were buried in unmarked graves.
The Old County Rest Home building, erected in 1922 on the site of previous buildings dating back to 1777, was declared a local historical landmark by the Asheboro City Council in 2009.
Roberts pointed out some of the spaces known to be graves. Only two other individuals buried there have been identified, but Roberts is determined that all of those buried in this cemetery receive recognition.
Several Randolph Community College students have contacted him about the project, Roberts said.
Local officials also support his endeavors, he said, but the recognition campaign has some official hoops to pass through before it is enacted. Roberts said the project will first have to be approved by the Randolph Historic Landmark Preservation Commissionical Society.
I wish Roberts success in securing recognition for the Old County Home as a historic landmark.
As a historian, I firmly believe in the importance of keeping history preserved for future generations. Although the Civil War is not a popular topic in our current climate, I believe that we should learn from our history, including its dark and controversial aspects, in the hopes of a more constructive future.
Recognizing this cemetery as a historic landmark will help instill greater appreciation among Randolph County residents for their local history, which often goes unnoticed. I hope the successful implementation of Roberts’ endeavor will achieve that purpose.
Nils Skudra is a master's student in library and information science at UNCG, where he received his master's degree in history last year. He is passionate about the American Civil War and aspires to become a full-time professional historian.