History collides with 21st century development. The entombed bodies of generations lie in the path of expanding a housing development.
It’s sadly not that unusual and the latest iteration is playing out just up Clement’s Ferry Road in the Cainhoy area.
An article in the Post & Courier outlines the tale of how the graves of former slaves are endangered:
” For 150 years, the dead lay undisturbed. But the land nearby is now transforming into a new subdivision, Oak Bluff, and the development threatens to erase part of the old dirt road that leads to the cemetery and possibly impinge on yet-to-be-discovered remains.
Recent surveys of the property conducted on behalf of local residents hoping to protect the graveyards have identified several visible African American gravesites just outside the fence delineating McDowell Cemetery. Dozens of below-ground “anomalies” detected by ground-penetrating radar suggest additional graves, as many as 40 or so, according to Grant Mishoe, a historical researcher for The Gullah Society.
While the White graves inside the defined cemetery are part of a property now deeded to the Cainhoy Methodist Church and Cemetery “Old Ruins” Corp., the Black graves are located on private property that now belongs to Crescent Homes.”
Read the entire P&C article at https://www.postandcourier.com/news/local_state_news/how-new-development-in-cainhoy-threatens-historical-burial-grounds/article_3e63dadc-931c-11eb-9689-7f48469356de.html (Non-subscribers may encounter a paywall).
MaeRe Skinner (who has worked with DIHS on various projects and been a guest speaker) is working with other community activists including Fred Lincoln, the Gullah Society, The Preservation Society of Charleston to at least slow down the project expansion until it is clear the extent and location of black graves adjacent to the Old Ruins Cemetery. For more background on that earlier conflict with Crescent Homes, see this 2018 Daniel News article http://www.thedanielislandnews.com/news/grave-situation
Skinner says the current conflict is complicated by the area being both in the City of Charleston and Berkeley County making for bureaucratic frustration. And if that isn’t complicated enough, State agencies such as the Historical Preservation Office and DHEC assess such sites, determine their environmental and historical significance and oversee any impacts to burial grounds. But wait….there’s more: the federal government could get involved if Skinner or her allies petition for the site’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s obviously a complicated situation…and it’s still playing out.
But MaeRe Skinner and Fred Lincoln are old hands at these battles. For a recap of their March 2017 presentation to DIHS go to https://dihistoricalsociety.com/blog/cainhoy-history-up-close-and-personal/
For another perspective on Cainhoy development, check out this 2017 article from the Charleston Regional Business Journal https://charlestonbusiness.com/news/real-estate-commercial/73013/