Cemetery Projects

The Forgotten South began in 2010 as a project to document the historic architecture that is quickly disappearing from the landscape of the rural South. Along the journey, I discovered so many neglected and forgotten burial sites that I was called to do something to help.

So in 2019, the mission of The Forgotten South was expanded and I began work in these cemeteries, cleaning, clearing, and researching as much as I could about the people buried there. My work in these sacred places includes full site reports that I compile and share with local and state agencies in an effort to document and preserve as many sites as possible. Since, then, I have surveyed and cleaned 32 burial sites, including 26 markers in 5 states, as I continue to work through the list of graves that still need attention.

If you’d like to support these efforts, you can volunteer, contribute, or suggest a neglected cemetery HERE.

Below are a few of the projects we have worked on, many of which are still underway. This need for the conservation of neglected cemeteries is never-ending and if you think preserving old burial sites is important, I hope you will consider supporting these efforts. You can help by contributing HERE where your support goes directly towards equipment, cleaning supplies, and research work I do in cemeteries.

Headen Cemetery

Chatham County, NC

This neglected cemetery contains the burials of members of the Headen Family, including a member of the Continental Congress. This cemetery has been vandalized and badly neglected for many years. We were contacted by Chatham County Historic Association to survey the cemetery and found numerous headstones that had been broken and parts removed/lost. In Winter 2021, work began to clear away some of the overgrowths and in Spring 2022, a photo survey and field notes were collected. In Summer 2022, extensive deed and records research was compiled to gather as much information as possible about the site. In Fall 2022, Phase 2 of cleanup will begin, followed by Phase 3 to begin the cleanup of the enslaved burial area that is not currently accessible. In the future, we hope to be able to erect a marker to commemorate the stories of the people buried here.

There will be 2 work days in Fall 2022. Sign up HERE if you’re interested and please note which project you’re signing up for. There will be limited space for volunteers so sign up early!

Unidentified Cemetery

Vance County, NC

This unidentified cemetery was brought to my attention by the owners of the property and their neighbors. The burial site has never been surveyed and was not marked on any maps or documentation at the local or state level. Complicating things further, most of the graves have no markers and the 2 that are still standing are no longer legible, although they were inscribed. In Spring 2020, we made the initial site visit. The cemetery is in decent condition and the grounds are covered in periwinkle vines. From a quick visual survey, there were at least 27 visible graves, most of which are marked by crude field stones or no marker at all. The 2 stone markers that were inscribed are a necked discoid style, popular in the late 1700s-early 1800s. The only visible carving is the death date which reads: 1801. Since 2020, we have met with the owner, neighbors, and numerous local experts to learn more about the property. A complete survey and field notes were compiled in Spring 2021 and research has been ongoing ever since. A citizens’ field report was submitted to the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology to ensure the site will be protected in the future from development.

In Fall 2022, work will be done to remove fallen trees, level the existing stones, and soil probing to locate possible additional markers. We are in conversation with a professional archaeologist who specializes in Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) who we hope to have out to the site in Fall 2022 to see what can be learned from soil data.

Our ultimate goal is to eventually know more about the people who are interred here so that a proper record of them can be made.

There will be 2 work days in Fall 2022, however, the space will be very limited. Sign up HERE if you’re interested and please note which project you’re signing up for.

Timber Ridge Cemetery

Randolph County, NC

We were contacted by a descendant of the founders of the cemetery who was concerned about the deteriorating condition of this burial ground. In Summer 2022, research work began to learn more about the property through deeds, old maps, church records, interviews, and information shared with us by the descendant. The cemetery hadn’t been surveyed since the 1950s and coordinates were never taken so the exact location of the cemetery had been unknown by descendants for many years.

The wooded area was once the site of Timber Ridge Baptist Church, although the church building has been gone for many years. The burial ground holds the remains of members of the Vickrey (Vickery, Vickory), Swaim, and Robbins Families. At least 2 of the men buried here are verified patriots who fought in the American Revolution. 

In late summer 2022, accompanied by the descendant who initially contacted us, an initial site visit was conducted. The condition of the cemetery has deteriorated considerably and suffered much damage from vandalism. At least three of the graves had been desecrated.

After the initial visit, we took immediate action to notify local authorities, as well as state officials. Starting in Fall 2022, we are working with the property owner to secure the site and install monitoring cameras to help ensure that further damage isn’t done. The next phase of our work will focus on collaboration with the property owner and descendants to outline a master plan for the future of the burial ground. Our goal is to secure a safe future for this historic site in an area where development is encroaching on all sides and to be able to tell the full story of who is buried here. 

Flint Ridge Cemetery

Chatham County, NC

We were contacted by the Chatham County Historical Association to complete a photo survey of Flint Ridge Cemetery. On-site, is a now-defunct church building, however, the cemetery is still moderately maintained. In Fall 2020, we made our initial site visit and completed the first portion of the photo survey for the county. Over the following months, the rest of the burials were surveyed and clean up needs were identified for portions of the cemetery that had become overgrown. Since then, we have returned to the cemetery quarterly to clear out underbrush and fallen limbs. We have also been commissioned to clean 6 of the headstones inside the cemetery.

In Fall 2022, there will be 2 public cleanup days and 2 training workshops that will be offered to a limited number of public attendees. If you’re interested in coming to clean or if you’d like more information about attending a training class here, the space will be very limited. Sign up HERE if you’re interested and please note which project you’re signing up for.

Betts Cemetery

Halifax County, VA

Canady Cemetery

New Hanover County, NC

Wall Cemetery

Putnam County, FL

Olive Family Cemetery

Wake County, NC

Snow Camp Cemetery

Alamance County, NC

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