HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - A lost family that is now home.
That’s the feeling for residents who feel connected to a recently discovered cemetery that was found in the Bucksport community of Horry County.
“We found you, we found you. You heard about it, it’s almost like Big Foot; does it really it exist?" said Bucksport resident Kevin Mishoe, explaining the moment he was there to witness the cemetery discovery.
It’s located on property owned by Grand Strand Water and Sewer, and recent road construction in Bucksport stirred up the urged to find the cemetery.
Mary Ann Owens, a longtime Bucksport resident and self-proclaimed historian for the community, said as a child she heard stories about the Eddy Lake Cemetery but no one could ever tell her where it was located.
“As a young girl growing up in this area, I often listened to what elder people were talking about. As matter of fact, I would go to their porch and sit on the edge of their porch just so I could hear what they were talking about," said Owens. “Often they would talk about Eddy Lake, Eddy Lake and how their parents worked at the sawmill at Eddy Lake.”
Owens said it was stories of her great-great-grandfather, Reverend John Mishoe, that prompted her curiosity.
“(Someone said) ‘Your great-great-grandfather is buried at Eddy Lake,’ and I decided at that point I was going to find my great-great-grandfather,” said Owens. “He was a noted man in this area. He was a preacher, a traveling preacher, and I just heard all good things.”
Determined to leave no stone unturned to find her lost relative, Owens followed the trail left behind by her ancestors that led her straight to the Eddy Lake Cemetery.
“I took the 1860 Census that did not give out a name, only a number, the owner and the number of slaves they had," Owens said.
Even in their forever sleep they were speaking.
“I was connected to this area immediately. As soon as I took a step out here I knew oh this is it,” Owens said.
Kevin Mishoe, who also heard the stories of Eddy Lake Cemetery, explained the area now known as Bucksport was formally known as Bucks Township and it was part of the mill that built the Henrietta, the largest wooden ship ever constructed in South Carolina.
That ship was launched from Bucksville in April 1875. Eddy Lake was part of that area and was reportedly where many of people who worked at the mill lived.
Mishoe said while searching the website findagrave.com, it told him the Eddy Lake Cemetery was destroyed. What happened to it was not immediately known.
“We finally got a good geographical of where it should be and sure enough it was just as simple as walking through the woods and they’ve been here waiting on us all this time,” said Mishoe, who is also heading the restoration project for the cemetery. “We’re launching this effort to clean it up because not only is this a good find for this area of Bucksport, but for the African American culture as a whole.”
The cemetery could possibly contain close to 100 graves marked and unmarked, and is a significant discovery for the community.
Mishoe said preliminary findings show the cemetery could be about a football field in-depth, about three-fourths of it in width, which is about 67,000 square feet.
Workers with Horry County Planning and Zoning have been instrumental in helping identify some of the sites, marking them with flags. There are also dozens of depressions in the ground, which indicate a grave without a headstone. Owens said underneath all the ground debris and brush there could be other grave markings. That could include pots and pans, conch shells, “whatever they thought would remind them of their loved ones being buried in this site.”
Mishoe said workers gave strict instruction not to touch anything - especially the headstones - as the oils in human fingers could destroy them. He is calling on the community to help bring this cemetery back to life and is currently seeking help from professionals and volunteers to clean the property and restore the headstones.
“When God drops us these nuggets, we have to use it. You know we learn so many different ways but when we can get a visual and a hands-on, the learning is much more solid for us," Mishoe said.
He wants today’s youth and future generations to know the stories of their ancestors.
“Here’s where we began, here’s where our people made their contribution," Mishoe said.
In order to receive help from historic preservation organizations and archaeologists, Mishoe said the community first needs to clear and remove the initial brush and debris at the site. There is now a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for the project.
Meanwhile, the Horry County Board of Architectural Review will hold a hearing at its next meeting to decide whether to add the Eddy Lake Cemetery to the Horry County Historical Property list. The meeting is March 17.