Oakdale, Wilmington’s Antebellum Cemetery

A postcard showing the cemetery’s entrance. Image from the New Hanover County Public Library.On December 5, 1854, the first lots of Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington were sold.

Oakdale, Wilmington’s first municipal burial ground, is one of the most beautiful and scenic graveyards in the Old North State. It remains the town’s largest cemetery, and is noted for the abundance of prominent Wilmingtonians and other North Carolinians who are buried there.

The cemetery’s roots can be traced to early 1852, when several prominent citizens of Wilmington met to discuss establishing a new burial ground. A site was selected on a neck of land northeast of the town limits on the east bank of Burnt Mill Creek, and an initial tract of 65 acres was purchased for $1,100.

Many who died before the cemetery was established were later moved and re-interred at Oakdale. A large area of unmarked graves reveals the mass burial ground where victims of the 1862 yellow fever epidemic were interred.

Civil War-era burials are numerous, including a mass grave marked with a large monument for hundreds of Confederate soldiers killed in battle at Fort Fisher in 1865. Oakdale is also the resting place of Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a Confederate spy who drowned in the surf off Fort Fisher in 1864.

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