Local cemeteries are a treasure-trove of history. But where are the cemeteries?
During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration completed a survey of cemeteries, and directions to the cemeteries were based on roads and landmarks of the time — meaning that locating the cemeteries may be confusing. The information remains invaluable, especially since the tombstones may have weathered and otherwise have become damaged. A listing of the administration’s survey can be found at Scotland County Memorial Library and at the North Carolina Archives in Raleigh.
Several years ago the Scotland County Genealogical Society undertook the project of locating local cemeteries and documenting each grave. Kelly Pearson had written “Cemeteries of Scotland County, NC” in 1979. His work is valuable but many cemeteries were not included. The Society made a plea to the community for help in locating all local graves. Armed with more information, pencils, paper, and weed-fighting equipment, members of the group went to well-maintained cemeteries and to isolated graves.
The results were published in “Black Cemeteries of Scotland County, NC” and “Scotland Piper — Genealogical Journal by the Scotland County Genealogical Society.” A companion resource is the Society’s 2010 publication, “Index of Obituaries from ‘The Laurinburg Exchange’ 1888-2007.” Copies of these works are permanently housed at Scotland County Memorial Library, Genealogy Room and in the Register of Deeds Office at Scotland County Courthouse.
The Society suspected that many sites were missing, but they had gone to all places the public had helped to identify. Enter Leon Gyles of Scotland County Memorial Library and his son, Chase. Chase learned of this situation from his father and suggested that the two of them work as a team. Chase was working on his Boy Scout merit badge “Citizenship in the Community” and thought this project would be a perfect fit. The father-son team are documenting county grave sites by providing a street address, GPS coordinates, county GIS map location, references to any publication they can find, photographs of the site as approached from the road, and photographs of various headstones located within the cemetery. They are coordinating their efforts with members of the local community and residents of other states and countries in order to access properties involved.
On Monday at 7 p.m. at the Scotland County Memorial Library, all this work will be discussed. This will be an informative session. All persons are invited and public input into this project is welcomed.
Leon Gyles is the Director of the Scotland County Memorial Library. Sandra Burns is president of the Scotland County Genealogical Society.