16 Gravesites Relocated From Abandoned Cemetery

Cemetery was located just yards off US 70 and abandoned sometime after 1940

The abandoned Parrish-Holt cemetery was located in the 2200 block of US Highway 70 Business West across the highway from the Amazon distribution warehouse. Johnston County Report Photo

SMITHFIELD – Sixteen graves from an abandoned cemetery that was located in the right-of-way, just yards off US Highway 70 Business (W. Market Street) in Smithfield, have been relocated. The graves had been located in the proposed Floyd’s Landing development, a 669 lot subdivision, across the highway from the Amazon distribution warehouse currently under construction.

Representatives with Triangle Land Partners, LLC on behalf of Floyd Landing Holdings, LLC received approval from Johnston County Commissioners to relocate the graves from the abandoned Parrish-Holt Cemetery. While the future subdivision and abandoned cemetery are within the Town of Smithfield’s ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction), approval to relocate gravesites fall under the legal authority of county commissioners.

A gravesite in the abandoned Parrish-Holt Cemetery prior to relocation. Johnston County Report Photo

A historical and archaeological investigative report from Richard Grubb & Associates of Wake Forest said the Parrish-Holt Cemetery was in an overgrown areas of trees, briars and poison ivy. A November 2021 geophysical survey report of ground penetrating radar confirmed the presence of 11 marked graves and 5 additional possible unmarked burials.

The report stated the land on which the cemetery is located was once owned by Albert Parrish (1825-1906), a farmer, who purchased a total of 360 acres around Swift Creek and Reedy Branch between 1869 and 1880. He married Millie Harper (1827-1903) in 1850 and had at least 12 children together. Two of their daughters, Francis and Millie Catherine, were buried in the cemetery. Others graves were identified as M.C. Pierce, Frances Holt, William M. Holt, and Irenne Holt. The identities of those buried in unmarked graves on the site could not be confirmed.

A gravesite in the abandoned Parrish-Holt Cemetery prior to relocation. Johnston County Report Photo

The report said Albert Parrish died in 1906, and his obituary in the Smithfield Herald indicated he was buried at a graveyard on Mr. F.H. Parrish’s farm where he formerly lived. Researchers believe this is likely one of the graves.

“Deeds records make it difficult to discern what happened to the Parrish property after Albert and Millie entered into a mortgage contract with Frances Gardner in 1887. The gravemarkers for William M. Holt and Francis Parrish Holt indicate the family was still associated with the cemetery through at least 1922, and possibly 1940,” the report stated. The last possible burial on the site took place in 1940 and the small cemetery was abandoned sometime thereafter.”

A gravesite in the abandoned Parrish-Holt Cemetery prior to relocation. Johnston County Report Photo

Researchers were able to locate 11 next of kin of those buried in the abandoned cemetery. Nine did not have a preference on where the graves should be relocated. One wished for the remains to be moved to Barbour’s Chapel Advent Christian Church in Four Oaks. Another wished for reinterment take place at Yelverton Grove Church Cemetery in Smithfield.

Commissioners agreed it was not feasible to relocate the graves on site, and voted 7-to-0 to relocate the graves to Sunset Memorial Park in Smithfield, which provides perpetual care.

A gravesite in the abandoned Parrish-Holt Cemetery prior to relocation. Johnston County Report Photo

The removal and reinterment was observed by Johnston County Public Health Department staff. A funeral director filed disinterment and reinterment forms with the State and Register of Deeds Office.

A gravesite in the abandoned Parrish-Holt Cemetery prior to relocation. Johnston County Report Photo

An engraved group grave marker was placed at the new reinternment site at Sunset Memorial Park.


  1. Am I the only one that thinks this is disgraceful? Clearly, Hwy 70 was paved entirely too close to the existing cemetery and now they want to move those bodies so they can put up a 669 lot development? Too much disgrace in the name of progress, in my opinion.

    • Progress is a nice word for saying money matters and people don’t. This county and its once vibrant wonderful people are being squashed by so-called progress. Building townhouses and such only to invite people that destroy the southern way of life and its resources without any respect for the people and its laws.

    • Yes, this is disgraceful. It’s all about the money to be made on the land. The people doing this and agreeing for it to be done are forgetting they will one day die or their child, wife, mother or father may be buried on land that in the future might happen to be in the way of “progress”. Most folks in this county only heard about this now, after the fact. It’s really sad when they move people from their grave in the name of progress! They should not be allowed to do this.

  2. This is just the one you hear about. I’m sure there are new subdivision’s in the county that didn’t say a word about a Cemetery and built houses right on top of them.

  3. I wonder if all the research was done and all relatives where contacted I have ran into this building subdivisions and there is a lot that has to be done we would usually clean it up and set aside a lot for these sites Your talking about at least a year at minimum to post ads on this and all looking for relatives

    • I saw this online yesterday. Albert Parrish/Millie Harper are my 2xGreat Grandparents. I did not know of this cemetery nor was I aware of this relocation. Considering that Albert/Millie Parrish had (at least) 11 children, you would think that 6 generations later most of us native to Johnston or Wake County would have them somewhere in our family tree. Certainly more than 11 people could (should) have been found during the “search” for relatives.

  4. The graves were destroyed and the yard was run down. Obviously no one cared about it until now. Move the graves to a place they can be visited and kept orderly.

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