Yadkin historians find new home for Civil War gravestone

On Saturday, June 12, at 11 am, at Asbury United Methodist Church, the Yadkin County Historical Society, Asbury United Methodist Church, and descendants and friends of Lewis L. Chamberlain (1833-1865) will dedicate a new home for his lost headstone at the cemetery. The public is invited to attend. Donations will be requested to support the new placement of this headstone and the upkeep of the cemetery. Next May, a second ceremony will remember the Civil War service of Chamberlain and other Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate, who are buried in the cemetery.

On September 27, 1862, Lewis L. Chamberlain, of Hamptonville, was 27 when Yadkin authorities forced him to enlist in the 13th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in Raleigh, NC. Soon after, his wife, Elizabeth Nichols Chamberlain, wrote a letter to NC Governor Zebulon B. Vance, asking him to dismiss her husband from the Army. Mrs. Chamberlain describes herself as a “poor woman with one child” and no family to help her at home. She said that her husband was forced to enlist, even though his body was diseased. After authorities arrested him, she said that her husband was not given a physical examination. Vance ordered his secretary to reply that he did not have the authority to release her husband, so Lewis remained a soldier fighting for the Confederacy until 1864, when he went home and died on April 23, 1865, aged 32 years.

Chamberlain’s family buried him in a small family graveyard beside their home overlooking Petty Road, which was the main road between Yadkinville and Statesville. The family engraved a fieldstone for Lewis and placed it on his grave. About 2010, after the old Chamberlain family farm was sold, Danny Shore of Hamptonville found the lost headstone for Chamberlain leaning against a pine tree on Wright Road, which is near the old Chamberlain farm. He removed the engraved rock to his farm and leaned it against a hickory tree until the right time came along.

About 2015, the right time came along, when Shore and Andrew Mackie, local cemetery hunter, of Yadkinville, were eating lunch at Williams & Gentry Store in Yadkinville. As they talked about abandoned cemeteries, Shore invited Mackie to his farm to show him the lost headstone. When Mackie saw the death date on the stone, he realized that Chamberlain might have served in the Confederacy during the Civil War and died at home, about two weeks after the War ended at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. After more research, Mackie and others confirmed his assumptions. As a result, another lost piece of Yadkin County military history was found, which led to the discovery of more information about a reluctant Confederate soldier, and a new home for his headstone.

In the book by Frances Harding Casstevens, The Civil War and Yadkin County, North Carolina, Lewis L. Chamberlain is listed as one of Yadkin County’s 1,200 Confederate veterans. At his enlistment, his year of birth was listed as 1825 and his unit as Company G, 13th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. Regimental muster records indicated that Pvt. Chamberlain was present until March 20, 1864, when he was reported Absent Without Leave (AWOL) until August 1864. From September – October 1864, Lewis was reported “in arrest”. No reason was given for his arrest. Neither his Yadkin County residence nor the names of his parents and wife were listed.

In another part of the book, L. L. Chamberlain is listed as one of about 50 prisoners who were arrested at the Tennessee state line, while trying to escape from Camp Vance near Morganton, NC. According to CSA Maj. J. R. McLean, the officer in charge, these men were known as a “band of deserters and recusant conscripts”. He believed they left originally from Yadkin County to join the Federal Army.

Lewis L. Chamberlain was born about 1833 in Surry County, now Yadkin County, on the William T. Chamberlain farm near Hamptonville. He was the son of William T. Chamberlain, a blacksmith, and Sarah Gentry Chamberlain, a homemaker, of Yadkin County. The siblings of Lewis were Eliza J. Folks, Nancy Catherine Shermer, and William Henry Harrison. In 1856, Lewis married Elizabeth Nichols of Yadkin County. Lewis and Elizabeth lived in Yadkin County and had only one child, Sarah Jane Chamberlain (1860-1901), who married William Asbury Burton (1860-1931).

Following the death of her husband, the widow Chamberlain became head of household. She lived at the homeplace with Sara Jane, her daughter, and Eliza, her sister-in-law. Then she moved to the adjacent farm of William Asbury Burton with Sara Jane, her daughter, Eliza, her sister-in-law, and William Burton’s family.

In 2019, Chris Motley, a descendant of William Asbury and Sarah Jane Chamberlain Burton, asked Andrew Mackie to help him find the location of the William Asbury Burton homeplace, which was no longer standing. Their search led to the site on Petty Road and its intersection with Wright Road. All that remained was a covered well and two fishponds built by William Burton along Petty Road. Both the Burtons and Chamberlains were buried at Asbury United Methodist Church.