W. 5th St. at Church St., Charlotte
HOURS: Daily dawn–dusk
Old Settlers Cemetery is often referred to as the Presbyterian Burying Ground because of its location across the street from First Presbyterian Church, but despite the proximity the cemetery has no connection to the church. It was the first municipal burying ground in Charlotte  and the only non-denominational cemetery in the city.
The oldest known burial in the cemetery is Joel Baldwin, who died on October 21, 1776, at the age of 26. The cemetery also contains the graves of heroic Civil War and Revolutionary War veterans, governors, senators, and founders of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, including members of the Polk, Graham, Berryhill, Davidson, and Alexander families. The northwest corner of the cemetery was reserved for slaves of the families whose members are buried elsewhere in the cemetery.
Thomas Polk, one of the founding fathers of Charlotte and a relative of former president James K. Polk, is buried here, as is Colonel Thomas Polk, the great uncle of president James K. Polk, who died in 1793 and was one of the county’s first commissioners and one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence .
One of the most impressive monuments in the cemetery is an obelisk engraved with the name of William Davidson (1778–1857), a North Carolina Senator who was first elected in 1813 and served four terms. He was also elected to Congress as a Federalist and served from 1818 to 1821.
The most interesting markers in Old Settlers Cemetery belong to Confederate veterans. The obelisk monument that marks the grave of Colonel William Allison Owens of the 53rd Regiment, N.C.T., bears the iron cross marker that signifies the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Owens was wounded in Snickers Gap, Virginia, on July, 18, 1864, and died the next day. His grave is the last one in the cemetery that bears a Confederate marker, though other Confederate soldiers are thought to be buried here.
In 1867, the cemetery reached its capacity and the city closed it, allowing a small number of burials with special permission until 1884. The cemetery was neglected for the next 40 years, until the Charlotte Park and Tree Commission stepped in to undertake preservation efforts in 1906. In conjunction with Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R) Auxiliary Committee for Cemetery Square, the cemetery was cleaned up and iron gates with granite gateposts were installed. The gate and gateposts are still in place today and have become one of the cemetery’s most recognizable features.
Over the years, the D.A.R. attempted to take care of the cemetery, doing some of the work themselves and often hiring professionals to handle landscaping and monument repairs. In 1925, the committee planted an oak tree to commemorate George Washington’s visit to Charlotte in 1791. In 1932, a bronze plaque was placed by the tree to mark Washington’s 200th birthday.
Despite the efforts of the D.A.R., the cemetery was in dire need of attention by the 1950s. The city launched a beautification campaign that included $10,000 for landscaping, cement walkways, electric lights, and a fountain in the cemetery. The project was completed in 1953.
In 1968, another beautification campaign was launched to repair the cemetery from the effects of vandalism and vagrants. The project included a $195,000 fund to turn Old Settlers Cemetery into an inner-city park. New landscaping, brick walkways, benches, and a three-tiered fountain were installed, the monuments were cleaned and repaired, and it became a city showpiece. Today, it’s a historical landmark and a popular park.