For the Ground Penetrating Radar Study & Interactive Website of the Friendship Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery, Wake Forest
The Friendship Chapel Cemetery is nestled in the woods on a one-and-half-acre parcel between two residential subdivisions in Wake Forest. The cemetery dates to the period before the Civil War and originally served as a nighttime gathering place for Christian slaves who met to worship in secret. After Emancipation, freed slaves left Forestville Baptist Church to form their own congregation, which became Friendship Chapel. By the 1880s, the church had constructed its first permanent building and dedicated their original meeting place as a cemetery. It was used for burials for approximately seventy years, ending in the late 1940s or early 1950s when it was deemed full and a new cemetery was started behind the church.
The older, wooded site fell into disuse. But it was never forgotten. Many church members have family buried there. The congregation of Friendship Chapel Missionary Baptist Church has continued to guard the property. In 2015, plans were announced for a new housing subdivision that could impact the edges of the cemetery. It became vital for the church to determine its precise boundary so that burials would not be disturbed during the construction process. This effort was complicated by the fact that a significant number of the graves were unmarked.
In 2016, a generous grant from the Jandy Ammons Foundation funded a Ground Penetrating Radar study of the cemetery. GPR is a non-invasive technique that shows differences in the physical and chemical properties of the soil. These differences can be used to identify graves. The Wake Forest Historical Association and the Friendship Chapel Missionary Baptist Church retained New South Associates, Inc., a company that specializes in researching, studying, and documenting historic sites, to undertake the study.
The GPR results showed the cemetery contained at least 567 burials–many more than expected. New South created a detailed surface map of headstones, footstones, grave depressions, and a mass grave thought to be attributed the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 and 1919. Of particular note are the hand crafted grave markers made of locally available materials such as stone and concrete The project results were shared with the community at a public meeting and through a website designed specifically for the project.
This cemetery is many things to the community: sacred ground, green space, and archaeological site. It is the final resting place for generations of African-American residents of Wake Forest, Forestville, and the surrounding area–including those who made the journey from slavery to freedom.
The Board of Directors of Capital Area Preservation, Inc. is pleased to present a 2017 Anthemion Award to Friendship Chapel Baptist Church; Wake Forest Historical Association; New South Associates, Inc.; The Jandy Ammons Foundation for the Ground Penetrating Radar Study & Interactive Website of the Friendship Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery, Wake Forest.