Tomb of William Jeffreys – Youngsville, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura

Tomb of William Jeffreys

Youngsville, North Carolina

A young state senator's deathbed plea to be buried inside a rock resulted in this unusual grave site. 


Let’s say you had a fear of worms—specifically, that when you died, worms would devour your corpse. Add to that a fear of rotting, and it’s pretty clear that death is going to be a problem for you. This was the exact dilemma that North Carolina state senator William Jeffreys reportedly faced, and so he did the only thing someone in his situation would: He had himself buried inside of a 20-foot boulder.

Jeffreys was elected to the North Carolina senate in 1844 when he was just 28 years old. His tenure was off to a good start when, returning home from a trip in September of the following year, he started to feel weak. He was later diagnosed with bilious fever, and during his illness he began to hallucinate. He’d talk about his death, horrified at the thought of being buried in the ground. “Bury me in rock,” he is said to have told anyone at his bedside who’d listen.

At first, no one took him seriously. He was young, healthy, and expected to recover from the fever. But as the days went on, Jeffreys grew weaker, and his father agreed to his odd burial request. Jeffreys died on October 3, 1845.

His father planned on honoring his request, but how? The family had land and burial plots, so that part was taken care of, but how would a body be put inside of a rock? The mourning father reached out to a stone mason that his son knew, and asked if it could be done using a rock on the edge of the family’s property, one that was 20 feet around, 10 feet tall, and reachable only by ladder.

The stone mason said it could be done, and so, he honored his son’s last wish. It reportedly took the mason over a year to chisel out the rock. He also created a marble slab with an inscription honoring Jeffreys. This slab was broken during shipment. It would be another year before the tomb, marble slab and all would be completed. A promise kept.

Of course no story like this would be complete without rumors, whispers, and folktales, and there were quite a few surrounding Jeffreys’ tomb. One story was that his body was placed in a barrel full of brandy and lowered into a local river to keep him preserved until the tomb could be completed. (The story also says that they drank the brandy after removing the body.) There were reports that Jeffreys was buried with valuables, which made his grave a target for vandals. One incident of vandalism shattered the inscribed marble slab and vandals entered the grave.

The family made repairs to the memorial, but as of 2015 the slab was reported shattered, and all road signs directing visitors to this unique tomb have been removed. 

Know Before You Go

Southwest of Harris Crossroads on the west side of Sid Eaves Road, south of NC Hwy 98 and north of US Hwy 401, on private property adjacent to the Pearce Family Cemetery.

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