BLADENBORO — Unlike most poultry farmers, Bobby Ludlum has three generations of ancestry buried behind his chicken barns.
As Ludlum strolls alongside the white picket fence that encompasses the family cemetery located 5 miles north of Bladenboro on Hwy. 131, he recounts the history of his six Pait relatives, beginning with his great-grandfather, Jesse Cameron Pait.
Pait, for whom the family cemetery is named, was a blonde, blue-eyed Civil War veteran, so passionate about the war that he joined the Confederate States Army at the age of 37.
According to Ludlum, Pait served as a private until he was diagnosed with dropsy and discharged at Ft. Fisher in 1863.
“My great-grandaddy was the first buried here in 1903,” Ludlum said, gesturing to the distinct upright monument.
Down the row of Paits lies Ludlum’s grandfather, A.R. “Bob” Pait, a tobacco, cotton and corn farmer.
Though A.R. died before Ludlum was born, Ludlum has relied on memories of his grandfather passed down over the years.
“A.R. was introverted and a hard worker,” Ludlum said. “He and my great-grandaddy farmed this land together.”
The youngest of the honored Paits is Luther Leonard Pait, son of A.R. Pait, who died at just 2 years old.
“The scarlet fever came through and killed a bunch of people in the early 1920s,” said Ludlum. “They told me that’s what happened to Leonard.”
At the end of the row of Pait family graves is one which isn’t a Pait at all.
“My grandmother’s second husband, Madison Pridgen, died in 1946,” Ludlum explained, gazing at the last grave. “I’ve had some relatives come by and want to visit him from as far as California.”
And while the Pait Cemetery now receives regular visitors from Ludlum and other relatives, it was overlooked for many years.
Ludlum, aware of the old cemetery, bought the 37-acre farm from his aunt in 1986 while he was working aircraft maintenance.
“When I first returned from the Air Force in 1991 it was all overgrown,” Ludlum said. “I was embarrassed and I spent a little money on it.”
Ludlum renovated the 20-foot by 40-foot plot, using his chainsaw to eliminate aged cherry trees and replacing the original cracked, illegible monuments with new headstones.
“It was abandoned at one time,” Ludlum said. “That’s for sure.”
This, Ludlum supposes, is why there are only six Pait relatives buried on the “Back 40.”
“I wish more family was buried here, but it was not in good condition during those times,” Ludlum said. “I‘m sure that had a big impact.”
While the upkeep of the cemetery has been a personal commitment for Ludlum, it isn’t just a one-man job.
Ludlum’s aunt and wife Jackie contribute to the aesthetics of the memorial every season, birthday and holiday with flower arrangements.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” Jackie said. “It’s your loved ones. You care about them, so why not put some flowers on their graves?”
A loyal custodian, Ludlum takes advantage of showing respect for his family.
“With these old farm cemeteries, people die and then they move away,” Ludlum said. “I just hope someone will pick it up when I’m gone.”