Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Locating an unmarked grave_Part I


I have been the exclusive caretaker for the Petteway Family cemetery since January 2007.  During this time I have "reclaimed" nearly eighty percent of the original cemetery that dates to ca.1870.  Being an all African American and the largest of it's kind in Onslow County, North Carolina (southeastern part of the state), it is vital to rediscover as much of the cemetery, as feasibly possible.  The primary reason. . . to show proper respect to the individuals who were laid to rest within the cemetery when it first was used.

Dave adds the final touches to a marker that I commissioned him to make, for the Petteway Family Cemetery. (2011)



I have conducted extensive, independant research in regards to who had been laid to rest within the Petteway Family cemetery.  By the end of 2009, twelve names were added to the list to help identify "unmarked" graves that are scattered throughout the cemetery.  Ten of these individuals were not known to many of the current Petteway family members.  Two were children under two years of age and three were Former Slaves.  They died between 1912 and 1924.  This cemetery has been used since ca. 1870.  Starting in the Spring of 2011, a once wild foliage encrouched section of the cemetery grounds was finally cleared, using only basic handtools.  The work was long and hot but, well worth the effort.



(Above/Below)  Front section view of
Petteway cemetery, before clearing. 



Allowing the "visible" ground surface of the recently cleared land to acclamate, to allow grass and not wild brush and weeds to grow, made identifying additional "possible" unmarked graves easier.  If allowed to happen, decades, and in this case, a century's, worth of fallen foliage debris will eventually cover original cemetery grounds.  Leaving no evidence of cemetery or, it's graves.

For the novice, when a part of a cemetery is cleared of it's surface foliage and then left alone, so grass can grow, unmarked graves can be identified.  The soil around a potential grave will be altered in appearance.  In some cases, using a mathmatical equation, the actual demensions of a grave can be seen in the ground.  Other instances, the ground surface "gives way," allowing a depression of a grave to be visable.  After confirming a depression as an actual unmarked grave, through detailed anylisis and care, additional graves can be rediscovered.

Front area of cemetery that has been cleared. 
See images above for comparison.


As a last image of Part I of this post, I present you the after view of the front of the Petteway Family Cemetery.  I conducted the entire clearing process, by hand, using only small handtools.  Evidence suggests that not less then twenty unmarked graves are present in this particular area of the cemetery.  Waiting to be confirmed to be actual graves of the Elders of the Petteway family.

Possible unmarked graves. 
Two orange flag markers indentify possible graves.  
A small pile of coal and a ca.1895 era bottle were located more then twelve inches under visible surface.  The bottle is wedged and encrusted, under a two-inch thick tree root.



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