Family Stories: Good Samaritan Cleans McKinley Gravestones

Good Samaritan Cleans McKinley

Gravestones at Steele Creek Cemetery

Steele Creek Cemetery and Steele Creek Church is located at 7407 Steele Creek Rd, Charlotte, North Carolina; it was founded in 1760. Surnames buried there connected into my family lines of McKinley are… Beatty, Cathey, Stinson, Swain, Sloan, Whiteside and Berryhill.

Good samaritan emails are always one of my favorite emails… and this one was quite a surprise to me. Retired USN “JQ” contacted me after reading my blog on my McKinley gravestones at Steele Creek Cemetery in Charlotte, Mecklenburg Co., N.C. While searching for his ancestor of William “Little Gabriel” Stevenson of Statesville, N.C. (1763), “JQ came across my post, and found the article interesting enough to warrant a Sunday trip to check out the cemetery.

Who doesn’t enjoy a Sunday drive through an old cemetery?

He had come across my blog, not because he might be family connected, but because he was looking for information to help “twist” the arms of the local city council for better care of the burying ground where his “Little Gabriel” is buried at Fourth Creek Burying Ground.

Steele Creek Presbyterian Church

Steele Creek Cemetery is divided into two sections, and being focused on the old section… he began walking to view how the stones had been cared for, and noted to me that he personally had never seen that many soapstones (headstones) anywhere. “JQ” even made a second trip, the next day, to clean half of my McKinley stones… just with water and a bristle brush… which seemed to be all needed to scrub away the lichen. One stone (Margaret’s) had more stubborn lichen roots, which may need further work at another time. He suggested “D/2 Biological Cleaner”, which is designed for architectural stones; I’ll be checking that product out. Throughout North Carolina, soapstone was commonly used between 1750 and 1825… mostly in the western part of N.C… which is where Steele Creek Cemetery is located.

John’s gravestone is finally readable… and reads: Sacred to the memory of John McKinley who departed this life. Nov. 11, 1797 in the 21st year of his age. Love the before and after photos!

Sacred to the memory of John McKinley who departed this life Nov. 11, 1797 in the year of his age.

Let worms devour my wasting flesh

And crumble all my bones to dust

My god shall raise my frame afresh

At the revival of the just


Sacred to the memory of James McKinley who departed this life Nov. 7, 1797, in the 14th year of his age.

When I lie buried in the dust

My flesh shall be thy care

These withering limbs with thee I trust

To raise them strong and fair


Margaret McKinley (1740-1806) Photo by “JQ”

Margaret’s gravestone was very lichen covered, so even after only one soaking, it still showed that it needs more TLC… but so much improved and readable!

Margarets epitaph reads:

Sacred to the memory of

Margaret McKinley

Who departed this life June 16th, 1806. Aged 66 years

Her life was without reproach and
Death we believe to her was Gain,
And she left to her Children the richest of all legacies
That of a good Name.
Why should we mourn departed friends
Or shake at deaths alarms.
Its but the voice that Jesus sends
To call us to his Arms
The graves of all the Saints he blessed
And softened every Bed.

Where should the dying members rest
But with the dying Hea
Here she shall slumber in the ground
Til the last trumpets joyful Sound
Then burst the Chains with sweet surprise
And in her Saviors image rise.


William McKinley ( 1743-1815)

William McKinley’s headstone wasn’t touched that day as the North Carolina 12-noon sun was really beginning to push the heat index… and if you’ve ever lived in the South… you know that once mid-morning passes, things can get quite sticky! I hope to stop there on my next trip to Georgia and finish the process and be able to finally read the description.

To the memory of William McKinley
who died on May 29th, 1815
Age 72 years
He was a true Patriot, a kind husband and a tender parent.
He died in hopes of a glorious resurrection.

Soapstone is a metamorphic composite-type stone, composed mostly of talc, which is generally a soft stone, and easily quarried. It was a stone choice often used in the Southern Appalachian region as it was easier to carve. What saved most of the soapstone gravestones throughout the years is that it is high in silicates… which gives it great resistance to acids, as in acid rain. This gives us the why and how, as to how they are still standing, and still readable today, except for the lichen… which is removable as I found out after my good samaritan gave them a cleaning.

My McKinley gravestones are documented in the book… “THE MECKLENBURG SIGNERS AND THEIR NEIGHBORS, BY Worth. S. Ray. Margaret is listed on page 398 as being buried in STEELE CREEK CHURCH, MECKLENBURG CO. N.C. in lot 7DE. Also listed on page 399, and buried in same lot is James McKinley, 14 years of age, died on Nov. 17, Nov. 1797 and John McKinley, 21 years of age, died Nov. 11, 1797.


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2 Responses to Family Stories: Good Samaritan Cleans McKinley Gravestones

  1. ReginaMary says:

    I could spend day after day in a cemetery cleaning off tombstones. We have civil war era cemeteries here in Rhinebeck.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lyn Smallwood Smith says:

    Such a wonderful cleaning job and I think you’ve done justice to his work.
    I did submit these changes to Find A Grave and will let you know when I hear back from the creator.
    I noticed with the biography of William, the inscription was included.
    To the memory of William McKinley
    who died on May 29th, 1815
    Age 72 years
    He was a true Patriot, a kind husband and a tender parent.
    He died in hopes of a glorious resurrection.
    Now for efforts to get his stone looking as sharp as the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

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