Spotsy graves project
Spotsylvania creating list of gravesites in county
February 25, 2004 1:10 am
By ANNETTE JONES
AS MORE and more people call Spotsylvania County home, there's a real danger that some of its family grave plots will disappear.
Many are unmarked.
Others are overgrown.
The Spotsylvania County Planning Department is trying to prevent that from happening.
Planner Brenda Schulte is working with an intern from Mary Washington College's Historic Preservation program to identify where some of these sites. are.
"We don't know if we've lost any," Schulte said. "Unfortunately, sometimes a grave doesn't show up until it's too late."
The idea is to create a database logging the location of these graves. And the county is asking area residents for help. Anyone who knows where these family plots are can fill out a survey for the planners.
"They don't have to be the owner of the property on which the grave is located," Schulte added. "None of this will infringe on anybody's property rights."
"I get calls all the time from people who have family cemeteries but they no longer own the land where that cemetery is located," said County Planning Manager Wanda Parrish. The callers are concerned that someone else purchased the property and the cemetery will be lost, she explained.
When Schulte joined the planning department last summer, it was a golden opportunity, Parrish said. Schulte had worked with Stafford County's cemetery identification program and could put that experience to good use in Spotsylvania.
The project began in earnest in the fall when Heidi Carlson, a senior at MWC, signed on for a year-long internship trying to organize the material.
"Getting the initial project together was intense," Carlson said. As she gathered information from a variety of sources, she realized the project was more than she imagined.
"I didn't realize it would be so huge," she said. "The sheer number of cemeteries--I'm almost up to 350. That's just listing them."
"We're trying to be proactive," Parrish said. The information that Carlson pulls together may eventually be a layer in the county's GIS system. Currently, each parcel carries notations about historical architecture, archaeological resources and Civil War-related activities. "Cemeteries will dove-tail in there nicely and give us a more detailed picture," Parrish said.
"We don't want to scare anyone, that this will affect the way they can use their property," Schulte said. "Our goal, right now, with this survey, is to get some of the knowledgeable citizens to come forward with the information."
That information can then be used by developers as they scope out their projects. "Most developers are very happy to put easements around the cemeteries and establish an access easement, Schulte said, pointing to a new phase of Fawn Lake doing just that. "I don't think we will have anybody opposed to having some kind of official protection [for the grave sites]."
And it won't be just developers who will benefit from the information. Those tracing their roots will also be able to visit historic graveyards to see the final resting place of their ancestors.
"It will benefit the whole county, " said Schulte.
Mike "Dusty" Chapman
Member: CWT, CVBT, NTHP, MOC, KBA, Stonewall Jackson House, Mosby Heritage Foundation
"I would have posted this on the preservation folder, but nobody reads that!" - Christopher Daley
The AC was not started with the beginner in mind. - Jim Kindred