Calvary churchyard’s design and original plantings are the work of Joseph Blount Cheshire, rector of Calvary from 1842 until 1889. Dr. Cheshire had a love for plants and a vision of what the churchyard could look like. When he started, the only plants in the churchyard were the cedar tree by the Cotton Vault and a white rose bush. He wrote missionaries all over the world to send him seeds, cuttings and plants, and he also dug native plants from the roadside. The result is an abundance of rare and costly plants representing almost every corner of the globe. Dr. Cheshire paid for all of it personally.
In 1950 the vestry established the Churchyard Memorial Fund with the goal of maintaining the churchyard. Memorials and donations are vital to keep the fund operative.
In 1963 the vestry created the Churchyard Committee to administer the trust and maintenance of the churchyard. One paid employee and a committee of volunteers keep the churchyard maintained. At present, the committee has a spring and a fall workday and encourages all church members to attend.
The churchyard is divided into four quadrants, and its two acres are enclosed by a brick wall given in 1926 in memory of the Pender family. Brick and gravel paths meander throughout. Some of the more interesting trees are the Cork Oak (quercus prinus), which Dr. Cheshire grew from an acorn from Spain; Magnolias (magnolia grandiflora and macrophylla); Dedora Cedars (cedrus deodara); Incense Cedar (calocedrus decurrnes); English boxwoods; Camellias; Buckeye (aesculus glabra); Ginkgo (ginko biloba); Osage Orange (maclura pomifera); Bald Cypress (taxodium disticum); Yews (taxus baccata) and a North Carolina Champion Big Tree. The ever-growing ivy came from Kenilworth Castle in England.
Among those interred in the churchyard are Joseph Blount Cheshire and his son, Joseph Blount Cheshire, Jr., fifth bishop of North Carolina; Henry Toole Clark, governor of North Carolina from 1861 to 1862; and William Dorsey Pender, one of the youngest generals in the Confederate Army.
We welcome your interest in maintaining our distinctive churchyard through participation during our semi-annual workdays and by your generous donations to the Churchyard Memorial Fund.