- Associated Press - Saturday, May 9, 2015

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Clyde Albright points to the grave markers in one of the outer brick walls at Buffalo Presbyterian Church.

The graves belong to his great-great uncle, Jesse Albright, who was born in 1791, and Jesse Albright’s 18-month-old son.

“When it was time to expand the church, they extended it right over the graves,” said Albright, an attorney and church and local historian of sorts, who is full of stories because his family on both sides is among the oldest in the city as well as the church.

“The families decided rather than to move them, to put the headstones in the wall,” Albright said.

The two Albrights are underneath where the organ now sits.

“It’s great if everybody’s singing on key,” Albright joked.

Buffalo Presbyterian, 803 16th St., is one of the oldest churches in the city, with the first documented mention in denomination records in 1756 - before the founding of both Greensboro and the United States. The church predates the founding of Guilford County by 14 years, the United States by 33 years and Greensboro by 52 years.

The Federal-style sanctuary and cemetery were designated a local landmark in 2000 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The cemetery and lore are a history buff’s delight.

The church has existed under four different governments - British, U.S., Confederate and U.S. again. The cemetery contains the remains of Revolutionary War heroes and Civil War veterans.

“Don’t look at these buildings as relics of the past; look at them as part of a story line,” said Benjamin Briggs, the executive director of Preservation Greensboro.

The congregation dates to the mid-1700s after Scotch-Irish immigrants left Maryland and Pennsylvania to come south.

They started with a log building on the same property about 1756. The older section of the third and current sanctuary - and some of the pews - are traced back to around 1826.

“We still have people in the pews who can trace their families back to the very beginning,” said Thomas McKnight, one of them.

The two-story portico at the front was added in the 1920s and the Colonial Revival-style wings were added between 1950 and 1960, according to Marvin A. Brown’s 1995 “Greensboro, An Architectural Record.”

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Clyde Albright’s great-great-grandfather, Jacob Albright, made the bricks for the first brick structure in the 1820s using clay with small specks of iron from his property, where Friendly Center now stands. The puppy prints that are visible in some of the bricks come from a small dog that used to run around the farm and stepped on the brick while it was still wet.

During the expansion, Albright’s great-grandfather, Daniel E. Albright, took the Boren brick makers to the same spot to collect the same clay so the bricks made decades later are indistinguishable.

At the rear of the church, the cemetery is surrounded by a rock wall and the growth from centuries-old English boxwood.

The oldest identifiable headstone is for Mary Starrett, the wife of Benjamin Starret, who was buried in 1775.

Others are likely earlier - but they aren’t legible.

The first markers were made of wooden slabs and field stones. Later, stone slabs were hand-chiseled - and figuring some of them out more than 200 years later is nearly impossible.

Buffalo’s most famous grave holds the body of David Caldwell, one of the area’s first statesmen who was known for holding back the state’s approval of the U.S. Constitution until a Bill of Rights was added. Caldwell did so while serving on the N.C. Ratification Convention.

Caldwell, a physician, was also the church’s first pastor. He is buried beside his wife, Rachel.

Area Presbyterians also know him from founding the local presbytery, or governing body for Presbyterians.

Much of the Presbyterian clergy of the frontier generation also began their training under Caldwell.

He also established the most influential school-academy in the colonial south, the Log College in Greensboro, near Caldwell Park. Among his students were six young men who would go on to be governors.

Buffalo Presbyterian is also the burial site for Col. John Gillespie, a local leader during the Revolutionary War.

“We get calls periodically from people all over the United States who have got relatives buried here, and we do our best to help them locate them,” McKnight said of visitors. “David Caldwell’s - and I don’t know how many ‘greats’ before grandson - has come and attended church a couple of times, and he lives in the Midwest.”

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Information from: News & Record, https://www.news-record.com


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