'It's a relief' - Historic cemetery in Hartsville finally cleared, community reacts

HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - The city of Hartsville continues its efforts to remember those who have been forgotten at the Historic Marion Avenue Cemetery. City leaders walked through the now-cleared cemetery, happy to see the area getting the care it needed so long ago.

"It was grown up like a swamp and I thought it need cleaning," said Aldena Graham, founder of the project. "I had some our people to tell me 'What you what to clean up the cemetery for.' I said 'Because it need cleaning.'"

The project is 20 years in the making. Contractors started clearing the cemetery in November and finished up last Wednesday with a final walk through alongside city staff.

The historic cemetery is the burial ground of many people important to the Town of Hartsville's history. So far, city leaders found veterans, those born into slavery, and the founder of Butler School in Hartsville.

Also found on the grave site was Willie Williams' mother. Williams has been involved with project since he found out his mom had been buried in an unmarked grave in the historic cemetery.

"I know she doesn't have marker, but someway, somehow, when we get this all done, I would like for her to be recognized someway with some plaque or something," Williams said, adding that when he first saw the cemetery, he was heartbroken by the neglect. "It's a disaster and all covered and I was thinking there's no way we can finish this.

After walking through the cemetery Tuesday, he has hope.

"It's a relief," Williams said. "There's a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak."

While the biggest part has been done, Williams said other people need to get involved to make the project succeed.

"We have to involve the community," Williams said. "They have to be involved. Citizens could do their part I suppose, but the community has to be involved."

With the community, Williams said he envisions a place that honors those who have been here long before us.

"Someway, somehow you could look across here and you can see the stones that are there and marker or flags or something that's identifying graves, even though they don't have markers.," Williams said. "It's an imagination, but it can be done."

City leaders say the next step is to continue surveying the cemetery for marked and unmarked graves.

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