Vereen descendent hopes to find cemetery buried underground for - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Vereen descendent hopes to find cemetery buried underground for 80 years

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Debi Thompson's great-grandmother used to talk about how she couldn't visit her relatives' graves anymore because they had been covered by 15 feet of dirt. Those graves belonged to many of the Vereen family members, who were among the first people to settle in this area, Thompson said.

"We have a rich history here and it ought not be forgotten," said Thompson, a Vereen descendant.

Thompson said the family buried people, including Revolutionary War heroes, in a cemetery in the Windy Hill area from the 1700's to the 1900's when the Intracoastal Waterway was built, burying the cemetery.

"Now it's just gone. Lost to history," she said.

The Vereen family put together a memorial site in Little River, but the majority of the people it honors aren't buried there. Thompson still has the original program from the 1950's dedication ceremony of that memorial, which talks about how the family burial grounds were lost.

A developer owns the land near Barefoot Resort now, which is slated for construction, but the timeline hasn't been established yet, said Mike Wooten, who represents the developer. Wooten said the developer followed all state and federal regulations for surveying the land, which included an archaeological investigation in the late 1990's. That survey, which involved digging for dirt samples, turned up no signs of a cemetery.

Thompson said she knows the cemetery is under the land and she'd like to see new technology, ground-penetrating radar, used to try to find the graves and remains.

"I think that's what upsets me more than anything is that it doesn't exist," said Thompson, referring to what she was told when she inquired about the survey. "It does exist. We know that it's over there. We ought to be able to try to find it."

Thompson worked with the city of North Myrtle Beach to communicate with the developer, but Wooten said the developer wasn't interested in revisiting the possible history of the site because all of the legal obligations had been met.

Archaeologist Dawn Reid, who conducted the developer's survey, said in addition to the physical surveying, she also looked at historic maps from the area, but she wasn't able to find anything indicating an exact location for the cemetery. She said the archaeologists take family folklore seriously and she did find the deep fill from the original dredging of the Intracoastal Waterway, but it would be very difficult to locate anything underneath that. She said she's unsure of whether or not ground penetrating radar would work.

Thompson said she just wants the opportunity for experts to look, but they can't without the permission of the developer.

"Just think of the history that you would see from 300-year-old cemetery stones if any of them are still there," Thompson said. "But on the other hand, if not, a nice little plaque or something. You just don't build on top of them. That's the thing that really kind of hurts my heart."

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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