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The site is the location of the Purefoy family cemetery located on roughly one acre of undeveloped land inside the Southern Village Community in Chapel Hill. The cemetery contains eleven marked graves, 14 graves marked by fieldstones, and 3 unmarked graves indicated by ground depressions. Included at this location are Reverend William Henry Merritt and his son-in-law, Reverend George Washington Purefoy.

Reverend William Henry Merritt

Plant, Grass, Cemetery, Headstone

Reverend George Washington Purefoy

Plant, Headstone, Cemetery, Tree

Plant, Plant community, Tree, Natural landscape

Alice Purefoy

Plant, Tree, Natural environment, Cemetery

The Merritt family is closely tied to the establishment and history of Chapel Hill. In 1787, John Morgan (son of Mark Morgan, one of the original white settlers in the area that would eventually be known as Chapel Hill) conveyed land to William Merritt including a mill seat. This mill was located at the confluence of Obed Creek and Morgan Creek. Today, Obed Creek is more commonly known as Fan Branch/Wilson Creek located near Merritt’s Pasture. This location places Merritt’s Mill almost directly at the site where the NC Route 501 bridge crosses over Morgan Creek. Today, no remnants of the mill remain at that location, however, original stones from the mill’s foundation can be seen at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill. Additionally, Merritt Mill Road runs just south of the University of Chapel Hill and crosses Franklin Street almost at the exact border of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

The mill passed from William Merritt to his son Reverend William Henry Merritt (b. February 19, 1779; d. July 3, 1850), who is buried in Arlen Park. Reverend Merritt operated the mill for most of the first half of the nineteenth century. A devout Baptist, Reverend Merritt left $1,200 in his will to pay for a Baptist Church in Chapel Hill. When he died in 1850 the mill passed to his daughter, Lucy, and her husband, Reverend George Washington Purefoy (b. January 29, 1809; d. April 17, 1880). The mill eventually burned down in 1900, never to be rebuilt. George W. Purefoy would eventually use Reverend Merritt’s bequest to help fund the construction of the University Baptist Church of Chapel Hill, located on Franklin Street just one block off the main University campus.

Reverend George Washington Purefoy was a well-known Baptist Minister in Orange County. His father, John Purefoy, helped found Wake Forest College (today, it is Wake Forest University). George Purefoy eventually served as a trustee of Wake Forest, as did his brother, James Simpson. George Purefoy played a key role in reopening the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill following the American Civil War (the University had been closed for two years during the war). In 1870, George received an honorary doctorate (D.D.) from the University.

In February 2020, the cemetery was vandalized which included demolished head stones that had been toppled over and broken. Also, a makeshift cross with a noose draped over was part of the vandalism. The original head stones were repaired (see attached pictures). It was reported that some locals mistakenly refer to this cemetery as the “slave cemetery.” There is no evidence suggesting that slaves were buried at this location. It is possible that locals mistook the cemetery in Arlen Park with the Barbee-Hargrave Slave Cemetery located in four miles away in the Greenwood subdivision.

Merritt, William Henry (d. 1850), Documenting the American South. Accessed May 8, 2021.,%20William%20Henry%20(d.%201850).

"Merritt Mill." The Old Mills of the Haw River Watershed (blog), last updated February 28, 2009,

Robert C. Peurifoy, Rev. George Washington Purefoy Sr., Find A Grave. April 3rd 2004. Accessed May 8, 2021.

"George W. Purefoy," Biblical Recorder, April 28, 1880, Accessed through:

Cassell, Michelle. "Southern Village's Arlen Park Cemetery Vandalized." The Local Reporter February 22, 2020, Accessed through:

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