Photo courtesy of Sharon Corey
The above stone is a Memorial Stone purchased and erected at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Mt. Croghan, South Carolina. The individuals immortalized on this stone were and still are interred in the May Family Cemetery on a farm that they owned at the time of their deaths. These families lived along the border of North & South Carolina in Chesterfield (SC) and Anson County (NC).
The original headstones for their graves were willfully destroyed and all signs of the original Cemetery eradicated and the tombstones dump in a nearby gully. What happened to this cemetery is adequately documented here.
I would like to dwell on Why and What? Why are these Family Cemeteries being destroyed daily throughout the United States.? Why is nothing being said or done to prevent this deliberate destruction of such a scared place. Why?
Have we become a complacent society that doesn't care anymore?
We have laws; why are they not enforced?
What can be done to prevent this destruction?
There is an organization dedicated to preserving these cemeteries, it's called – SavingGraves
In North Carolina concern over the plight of abandoned, forgotten family cemeteries resulted in formation of a Legislative study committee in 1978. Their findings were reported to the General Assembly in 1981. As a result of these findings North Carolina says that criminal and civil statutes have been strengthened.
In fact, these “strengthen laws” have done very little to curtail the deliberate destruction of these cemeteries and our elected officials don’t have time to give it any attention.
These statutes are supposed to protect cemeteries from urban development, agricultural activity, harvesting of timbers, neglect and vandalism. Their "Cemetery Survey" program is designed to identify, map and describe all cemeteries regardless of size in North Carolina. All historical, genealogical, sociological and cultural data pertaining to these cemeteries are to be permanently preserved.
There are several General Statutes that protects these cemeteries. They are:
G.S. 14-148 and G.S. 14-149 outline the penalties for defacing and desecrating gravesites and for plowing over or covering up graves:
G.S. 65-1 through G.S. 65-3 outlines the duties of the county commissioners:
G.S. 65-7 through G.S. 65-11 describes the legal means for setting up a trust fund for the upkeep of a cemetery:
G.S. 65-13 details the proper procedure for the removal of graves, including who may disinter, move, and reinter:
G.S. 65-37 through G.S. 65-40 authorizes municipalities to assume control of any abandoned cemeteries within their boundaries:
This effort has done very little to curtail cemetery destruction in North Carolina. Violations of these statutes are considered a misdemeanor. They can result in a fine up to $500 and imprisonment of 60 days to a year. The punishment does not fit the crime.
If you think this is a harsh statement, consider how violating an Indian Grave protected under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979 or just picking up an Indian arrowhead on public lands is prosecuted. It's a violation of federal law – a federal offense. Are their graves more scared than our ancestors? We must do more to protect Family Cemeteries.
It’s time for a - National Cemetery Protection Act with harsh and stiff penalties.
Other suggestions are:
We can protect them through historical designations. If an Indian arrowhead on public land is protected shouldn't all cemeteries over 50 years of age be consider historical cemeteries.
Cemetery Preservation Association
A Cemetery Preservation Association could be established to maintain the cemeteries. The association could be established by the descendants of people buried within the cemetery or by municipalities.
We can fight for and demand tougher laws for the protection of these cemeteries. Demand that we establish a National Cemetery Protection Act.
Each of these actions would contribute to the survival of our pioneer family cemeteries. We need to protect and preserve these cemeteries. What part will you play in their survival?
A few NC Cemeteries being protected:
Three different cemeteries, all of pioneer families of Anson County, North Carolina. I took these photos in February 2002.