RICHMOND – In the town of Richmond, 89 cemeteries have been identified and registered. These burial grounds include the final resting places of founding fathers, military heroes, prominent local businessmen and hardworking farmers. We preserve their memories and histories but many don’t realize that is not enough.
“When cemeteries are not maintained regularly, they just go back to nature,” says Richmond Historical Cemetery Committee member Dory Wagner.
In the past, the committee has discussed its concerns during meetings of the Richmond Historical Society. Now, Wagner says, the committee has decided to hold its first self-contained meeting as volunteers are being sought for a number of important projects.
“Many people buried here don’t have family members around to take care of them,” she says. “Trees fall and break headstones. Headstones could become lost and never found again.”
Currently, there are several “missing” cemeteries in Richmond; recorded burial grounds that were either never marked with stones or have had the stones moved or destroyed over the decades and centuries.
“These are cemeteries for which I have searched and other people have searched and we cannot find them,” Wagner says. “We need people to volunteer for the lost cemeteries project. They may have been plowed under or the directions we have are wrong. We need someone to really research and go back in history looking for clues like a treasure hunt.”
Other cemeteries are known to be burial grounds but the internments within are a mystery due to lack of stones or burial information. An unknown lot on Route 138 contains the burials of 74 individuals who, as of yet, have not been identified. Only one stone remains, reading “W, J 1849 age 12”. A stone recorded to have been standing in the cemetery many years ago, that of James Woodmansee, a 33-year-old Civil War soldier, is now gone. The two clues suggest this may be a Woodmansee cemetery.
Deep in the woods, off Punch Bowl Trail, a cemetery with 21 burials contains only one inscribed stone, “June ye 26, 1752, day 10.” It is not known who lies beneath it or in the surrounding 20 plots.
On Hoxsie Road, a large monument reading “Hoxsie 1747 – 1890” stands within a walled 40 by 40-foot area. Yet it is unknown whether or not this is a burial place and, if so, who or how many people repose there.
Many historic cemeteries appear in old records with meager information such as “behind Scudder’s place” and “near the Moore lot.” Volunteers are needed to trace deeds and locate where these properties stood.
This lack of information puts many cemeteries in jeopardy. “All our cemeteries are not on tax maps where they’re supposed to be to protect them,” Wagner says. “We need people who are good with computers to do research. We need people that love photography to go out and take pictures of stones. We need someone to deal with queries that come in from all over the country about cemeteries and burials here.”
People are also needed to research the workings of the town’s perpetual care program.
“Long ago, people paid money to the town to take care of graves,” she says. “The interest was supposed to care for them. If that was done properly, there should be money somewhere in a separate account for upkeep. We need a volunteer to follow up on that program.”
Wagner says there is much to be done in many areas. “It takes a village… the village of Richmond. There are cemeteries that need love and care. If enough volunteers come to this meeting, that’s what I’d love to see happen.”
The meeting will be held Jan. 9 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Clark Memorial Library, located at 7 Pinehurst Drive in Carolina. All are welcome to attend.