Historians rediscover forgotten Darlington County cemeteries on Clemson research site

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 7:34 PM EDT
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DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - A project in the Pee Dee to identify unknown cemeteries led the Darlington County Historical Commission and other experts to an unexpected discovery.

Historian Brian Gandy and Clemson Professor Jim Frederick discovered five cemeteries near Dargan’s Pond, on the current site of the Clemson University Pee Dee Research and Education Center.

“There’s one African American cemetery. There’s the Revolutionary War cemetery of William Standard. There’s the unidentified African American cemetery near the Pitner Center, and there’s two Native American burial grounds,” Gandy said.

Cpt. William Standard was deeded land in Darlington County in the 18th Century for his heroic service during the Revolutionary War.

Nearby, sits the pair of Native American burial grounds which historians believe could date back over 500 years.

Gandy believes one of the African American cemeteries is the most prominent of them all.

“It relates to an African American congregation that is one of the oldest congregations in Darlington County,” he said. “They lost their connection in a very unique way and I believe there’s three factors to that.”

The cemetery is linked to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church.

Gandy said the cemetery was started shortly after emancipation and was active until the church moved to its present-day location on Pocket Road in the 1950s.

“We are confident based off South Carolina death certificates, and the records of this church, that people in this cemetery knew the horrors of slavery,” he said.

Gandy believes the arrival of the Clemson Research Center, the church’s aging population and African Americans moving out of the Jim Crow south led to the cemetery being forgotten.

He said the most beautiful part of this discovery is they will once again link Pleasant Grove’s current congregation with their ancestors.

“We’re going to try and identify as many of the individuals in the cemetery as we can,” said Gandy. “Because every one of them has worth, value and importance and contributed to what we now have as Darlington County citizens.”

Anyone with information on unknown cemeteries in Darlington County is asked to contact 843-398-4710.

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