The Search for John Chavis
Daily Dispatch, The (Henderson, NC)
Friday, January 1, 2016
Author: David Irvine

OXFORD, NC — A great deal is known about John Chavis. He taught and preached in many places in North Carolina, including Granville County. He taught the sons and daughters of white people, as well as free blacks before the Civil War.

Chavis, who lived from 1763-1838, was a free African-American whose life spanned the American Revolution and the first third of the 19th century.

His presence in Raleigh is recognized by the John Chavis Memorial Park, which opened in 1937 to serve African-Americans.

Nearby is Chavis Heights, a neighborhood of apartments and brick townhomes.

What has not been known about Chavis is where he was buried.

Now that mystery may be on the verge of solution.

Late last month, Kathy Hamilton Gore, a teaching associate professor in the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Department of the North Carolina State University School of Forestry, reported on a project to locate Chavis’ grave.

She told a group gathered in the large meeting room of Richard H. Thornton Library that the project got its direction from a book written by George Clayton Shaw, founder of Timothy Darling Presbyterian Church and Mary Potter High School in Oxford. Shaw wrote that Chavis is buried in the family cemetery at the Mangum plantation in Rougemont in Durham County. The Mangum plantation, also known as Hill Forest, is managed by the N.C. State School of Forestry.

Willie P. Mangum, who later became a U.S. senator, attended the private school run by Chavis in Raleigh. They became lifelong friends, and he allowed Chavis to be buried in the Mangum family cemetery. But where in that cemetery?

“One of the pieces missing from the puzzle is where he is buried,” Gore said.

Her class on the history of North Carolina decided to look into the identification of Chavis’ grave site.

Gore said the project was being documented using story map, a strategy that combines pictures and text to capture the key elements of a story.

Gore’s vision is for Hill Forest to become a destination for people who want to know more about John Chavis.

It is an open-ended project, Gore said. Efforts are being made now to spread the word about the impact of Chavis on the history of the state in order to attract funding, as well as to encourage individuals to share information they may have about his life.

Gore would like to see Hill Forest develop as a cultural heritage site that would stimulate tourism, which is consistent with the purposes of her department.

Gore was introduced by Helen Chavis Othow, president of the John Chavis Historical Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1986. Othow, professor emerita from St. Augustine’s College, invested 10 years in researching the life of her famous ancestor. The result was the book “John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor 1763-1838.”

Gore said the project to confirm Chavis’ grave site will continue with the students in her history course next semester. Five students from the fall session have become so invested in the project that they want to continue.

“We’ll get the story,” Gore said. “What then?”

She said she hopes it will help connect the different pieces of Chavis’ life, which bridged many of the chasms faced by African-Americans in the 19th century.

Search for John Chavis
 

The Search for John Chavis
Daily Dispatch, The (Henderson, NC)
Friday, January 1, 2016
Author: David Irvine

OXFORD, NC — A great deal is known about John Chavis. He taught and preached in many places in North Carolina, including Granville County. He taught the sons and daughters of white people, as well as free blacks before the Civil War.

Chavis, who lived from 1763-1838, was a free African-American whose life spanned the American Revolution and the first third of the 19th century.

His presence in Raleigh is recognized by the John Chavis Memorial Park, which opened in 1937 to serve African-Americans.

Nearby is Chavis Heights, a neighborhood of apartments and brick townhomes.

What has not been known about Chavis is where he was buried.

Now that mystery may be on the verge of solution.

Late last month, Kathy Hamilton Gore, a teaching associate professor in the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Department of the North Carolina State University School of Forestry, reported on a project to locate Chavis’ grave.

She told a group gathered in the large meeting room of Richard H. Thornton Library that the project got its direction from a book written by George Clayton Shaw, founder of Timothy Darling Presbyterian Church and Mary Potter High School in Oxford. Shaw wrote that Chavis is buried in the family cemetery at the Mangum plantation in Rougemont in Durham County. The Mangum plantation, also known as Hill Forest, is managed by the N.C. State School of Forestry.

Willie P. Mangum, who later became a U.S. senator, attended the private school run by Chavis in Raleigh. They became lifelong friends, and he allowed Chavis to be buried in the Mangum family cemetery. But where in that cemetery?

“One of the pieces missing from the puzzle is where he is buried,” Gore said.

Her class on the history of North Carolina decided to look into the identification of Chavis’ grave site.

Gore said the project was being documented using story map, a strategy that combines pictures and text to capture the key elements of a story.

Gore’s vision is for Hill Forest to become a destination for people who want to know more about John Chavis.

It is an open-ended project, Gore said. Efforts are being made now to spread the word about the impact of Chavis on the history of the state in order to attract funding, as well as to encourage individuals to share information they may have about his life.

Gore would like to see Hill Forest develop as a cultural heritage site that would stimulate tourism, which is consistent with the purposes of her department.

Gore was introduced by Helen Chavis Othow, president of the John Chavis Historical Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1986. Othow, professor emerita from St. Augustine’s College, invested 10 years in researching the life of her famous ancestor. The result was the book “John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor 1763-1838.”

Gore said the project to confirm Chavis’ grave site will continue with the students in her history course next semester. Five students from the fall session have become so invested in the project that they want to continue.

“We’ll get the story,” Gore said. “What then?”

She said she hopes it will help connect the different pieces of Chavis’ life, which bridged many of the chasms faced by African-Americans in the 19th century.

Article provided Courtesy of the Daily Dispatch