If you're a North Carolina State fan on your way to a football game, you might pass by two tiny isolated cemeteries in the parking lot without even knowing it.
But if you look closely, you would see several headstones resting in two little groves of trees in the parking lot of North Carolina State University's Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.
That's right -- Cemetery #1 is in the grove of trees in the center of the parking lot behind Parking Space #93034B. And Cemetery #2 is towards the stadium and slightly to the right in a wooded area, where there are four headstones visible in front of Parking Space #00589.
How is it possible that these cemeteries could end up in a parking lot?
Little family cemeteries are always in danger of the developer's bulldozer. Sometimes, the developers have an appreciation for the past and do what they can to preserve the graves that are in their way. Rather than tearing out the cemetery, the developer will preserve the site, leaving a small cemetery in the middle of urban development. And often, that is right in the middle of a parking lot!
And those cemeteries at Carter-Finley Stadium aren't the only ones. If you start looking, you might see a small cemetery in the middle of a movie theater parking lot, a freeway interchange, or even at the entrance to a shopping center!
In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, there's a small cemetery located in the middle of an apartment complex parking lot. It's elevated and fenced - apparently the developer couldn't get permission to move the cemetery when he built the apartments, so they left it in the middle of the complex.
In an article at WashingtonPost.com by Theo Emery - More Family Cemeteries Dying Away in the South - we can learn more about how development is affecting these little cemeteries.
"Throughout the South, family cemeteries pepper the landscape. But as cities...radiate rapidly outward, the growth is swallowing rural land that swaddles the graves. In Tennessee alone, dozens of long-hidden cemeteries appear each year--sometimes in mid-construction--creating headaches for builders and heartaches for families of the dead. Some cemeteries are moved at landowners' expense. Those that stay sometimes become forlorn islands of green amid parking lots and suburban developments. Others are paved over or bulldozed." WashingtonPost.com, More Family Cemeteries Dying Away in the South, Theo Emery, March 27, 2006.
What can we do to help these endangered cemeteries?
Sometimes we are able to get into the cemetery and do clean up, preservation, and restoration work. Another thing we can do is preserve the records of these small cemeteries. There are many ways to do this -- taking photos of the headstones and publishing burial listings are helpful.
NAMES IN STONE has developed a great way to preserve these records -- creating an on-line map of the cemeteries.
Creating a map preserves the records in a format that makes it possible for everyone to see the cemetery as it really is - who is buried next to whom. It's like a virtual walk through the cemetery. And the records become searchable -- so records that were previously unknown are now available for everyone to see and use for research.
Do you have a small isolated cemetery in your community? We invite you to add your cemetery to NAMES IN STONE. It's an easy, quick, and permanent way to preserve those priceless records before it's too late!