Thanks for the vote, CC! Of course, we are only guessing. NC was considered a maritime colony and has a lot of interesting and strange history, especially in the area mentioned (Salisbury,NC). Check out this other well known local mystery. I include it to just to show that there are 'stranger things under the sun'.
Richard, plague was one of the theories presented in the search for information on these graves, but why punish the dead with no names? If it were a mass grave, why in the middle of a well preserved church cemetery? I guess they might have been travelers/strangers with no identification-
You bring up a good point. Many murderers were indeed buried in unmarked graves, but usually unconsecrated ground so as not to 'pollute' the other graves. Unconsecrated ground also served as a punishment and a message, these villains were not in heaven...or so the belief goes.
Of course, pirate burials were also on unconsecrated ground when maritime law was in place. The pirate was executed at the 'high water mark' when the tide was out, symbolizing that the criminals were punished by the laws of the sea and not the land courts. Their bodies were left for three ebb tides to wash over their bodies, further signifying that their execution was under naval regulations. They were then buried at the waterline or in some other unconsecrated area away from any churchyard.
If we believe the rumors, the story says they had joined the community and hid their past. When discovered, they were punished accordingly by a court far from the ocean and given (at least) burial in the cemetery.
Are there any other reasons these graves might not be labeled if not murderers or pirates? Could they be house slaves? Symbolic markers for some past event??