SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The last undeveloped lot in what's known as the Ark Plantation cemetery in Surfside Beach is on the market and the Surfside Beach Historical Society is trying to purchase the land to preserve it.
The cemetery sits on around three acres of land along Hollywood Drive South and extends for three blocks from 6th Avenue until Cypress Drive. The problem facing the Historical Society right now is the 90-day deadline the property owner put in place.
"Do we want to preserve historic property in the town of Surfside beach or not? That's the only decision," said Mary Beth Marby, spokesperson for the Surfside Beach Historical Society. The reason being, the society said the three-acre cemetery is known to be the final resting place of colonial and antebellum slaves. Burials of descendents of the Ark Plantation slaves continued in the 20th century, according to the Historical Society.
"Now we're not too sure if it's an all slave cemetery because it goes back to 1700s, so we would have no idea, but we do know that we have over 50 death certificates," Marby explained. There is a binder full of records and photos of people who were buried at the Ark.
"One of the things we really want to do is make sure people understand that by making the Ark Plantation an educational center and historic garden center that it opens us up to so many more grants than what would normally be available," stated Marby. She explained how the cemetery has fell victim to development and disappeared under houses. "It and will be forever gone, just like the rest of the three blocks are."
The Surfside Beach Historical Society wants to honor the memory of those buried on these grounds with a park and benches that will have historical markers and keep it natural the way it is. Marby explained, "We would make it into a little neighborhood park, actually it wouldn't even take up the whole lot, because parking would be in the back. It would be very safe of people to come in and out of, mostly it would have tree lines with a bench. We want it to fit well within the neighborhood, we aren't going to make it into a mock cemetery."
Ed Hunt, who lives on Hollywood Drive South and Cypress Drive showed WMBF News his backyard where the Horry County Historic Preservation have done research and said two grave sites were found. Hunt stated, "Those are where they found with the x-ray machine - they found a cavity in the soil down four or five feet where there was at one time a casket buried there."
After living in the area for the past 25 years, Hunt believes the area needs recognition. He added, "It' doesn't bother me at all, I'd be glad to see it."
The Surfside Historical Society hopes to receive grants and donations in time to purchase the land and are asking town council during the Tuesday council meeting to continue to support them. The society will have their first annual chicken bog fundraiser June 1 from 11a.m.- 2p.m. at the civic center to help raise money.