I recently solved a 50-year-old conundrum and, in doing so, created a new one.
Back when I was a student at Elon College (now Elon University) outside of Burlington, I had to travel Highway 87 out of Pittsboro to get there. I spent many an hour on that lonely road between Pittsboro and Graham. During those many travels, I always took note of a small monument that sat in the middle of a well-trimmed area that looked to have been carved from the adjacent pine forest.
Even in later years, though I traveled that stretch of road less often, I would see the monument and wonder what it represented. A similar-looking monument on Highway 210 commemorates several World War II-era airmen who died at that spot when their plane crashed. I learned that when I stopped once to investigate that monument more closely.
But there is no easy access to the monument on Highway 87 so I’d never stopped to read its inscription.
Then I traveled to Burlington in May to see my youngest grandson and his tennis partner play for the state high school championship title in men’s doubles, which they won last year. I was on Highway 87 again and I told my wife I was going to stop at the monument, which is about 12 miles north of Pittsboro because I wanted to see what it said.
I did and that portion of the mystery is solved. The monument is a memorial to Samuel L. Lewis, who died in 1879. He bequeathed land for Mount Olive Baptist Church, which still exists – but not on the spot where the monument is located. It’s several miles away, on a road that’s aptly called Mount Olive Church Road.
Now I have more questions: Does the church maintain the grounds around the monument? Was that part of the deal when Mr. Lewis donated the land? Imagine maintaining that site for 140 years.
I couldn’t find anything about Samuel Lewis on the internet. But he must have been a wealthy farmer to be able to donate a tract of land to his church in 1879. Without that monument, no one would know about him today. I’ve emailed the church, asking for information. Hopefully, I’ll get a response.
On another matter, Fayetteville recently lost one of its long-time radio icons. Curt Nunnery died on May 31 at 83 years of age. I didn’t know Curt well, only enough to speak to him over the years at a restaurant or the barber shop. But he had a commanding voice and was a good Christian man. Fayetteville will miss “Curt’s Coffee Hour” on the radio and his excellent command of the English language.