Originally published by the Gaston Gazette: Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 11:34 AM.
No plaques or memorials there state that he is strongly believed to be the first freed slave to have owned property in Gaston County. Nor that his home, livery stable and makeshift general store became the hub of a thriving black community known as “Freedom” in the 19th century.
Even his burial site, in a nondescript African-American cemetery along South Hawthorne Street, lacks a clearly visible gravestone.
But his family members have never forgotten his story, his importance in the community, nor the place where he was laid to rest in 1918 after he died at the ripe age of 93.
“When I was growing up as a little boy, we used to always go down there and put flowers on his grave,” said great-grandson Eric Wilson, 55, an architect who now lives in Greensboro. “A tree was planted down there to mark it.”
Over the last two years, a movement has grown to properly recognize Hunter’s place in local history. More than 200 of his descendants will attend a family reunion — their first in two decades— on July 5 at Tuckaseegee Park in Mount Holly. A day later, they’ll gather for a church service and then dedicate new, prominent cemetery markers above the graves of Hunter and four of his family members.
The inscription on Hunter’s new headstone will assert his achievement as a freed slave who broke the mold in owning property — and accomplished much with it — during Reconstruction. For Hunter’s blood relatives, the stately oak tree that has grown to overlook his burial site is a metaphor for the towering reputation of the man himself.