University engaging local communities to protect graves.
Clemson University is working to protect and preserve 15 off-campus sites where an undetermined number of graves are located on some of the 33,000 acres of property the school owns and manages across South Carolina.
The grave sites are located at several different locations in the state, with some locations comprised of multiple sites. The number of sites as well as the number of graves within them is expected to increase as the university continues its research and conducts surveys of the land.
The school’s priority is preserving and protecting these sites while engaging local communities in identifying the graves and understanding who might be buried there.
For many years, Clemson University has taken care to protect gravesites on property it owns and manages. Last year, the school began extensive work to identify sites at its nine Research and Education Centers. To date, the largest number of graves is believed to be at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center where a cemetery dates back to the 1850s.
None of the sites on Clemson property is an operational cemetery, though some have been maintained by nearby churches in the recent past. Many are within heavily forested property, making discovery difficult. Head stones and other markers designate some of the graves, but many are not marked. Some of the sites were family cemeteries and others were church cemeteries.
Those buried in the graves are believed to include Caucasians, African Americans and Native Americans. One site is known to include the grave of a Revolutionary War veteran.
“Each of these sites is unique and presents its own challenges,” said Garland Veasey, Director, Research Farm Services, who is providing technical support for the project. “Clemson is dedicated to ensuring those who are buried in these graves are treated with the utmost respect.”
A team established by Clemson to oversee the work is identifying and surveying each of the sites and using ground-penetrating radar where possible to identify possible graves. They have reached out to local historians and others in the surrounding communities and are using local research, deeds and other documentation to learn more about the grave sites and who might be buried there.
Clemson is working closely with the Darlington County Historical Commission and Museum among others to research the site at Pee Dee. The Darlington County Historical Commission and Museum believes the Pee Dee site may be comprised of up to five graveyards spanning more than a century.
The school is seeking input from the surrounding communities on steps to protect and memorialize these sites. Clemson is working to maintain or create public access to each site where feasible. Anyone who has information about graves on Clemson property or questions about the sites is asked to contact Clemson at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
The off-campus grave sites are under the direction of the Office of Land Management and PSA Divisions of Clemson and are in addition to the historic African American burial ground at Woodland Cemetery on the University’s main campus.
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