‘With God all things are possible:’ Georgetown community honors ancestors with new memorial
GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WMBF) - For the last decade, members of the Georgetown community have worked to restore the Myrtle Grove Cemetery.
It’s the burial site of a large number of African Americans laid to rest between the 1700′s and 1960′s, many of whom were slaves at an area plantation on what is now Hawkins Street.
The work of the community culminated Wednesday when a monument was revealed to honor all those buried there. There are 150 names on the memorial, with more expected to be added.
“This is the first time that these ladies and some of the other descendants could visit their loved ones in what...60 years,” said Steve Williams, an organizer for the Myrtle Grove Project.
Some of the graves are also unmarked, making many not realize there was a cemetery in that part of Georgetown.
“The community now knows that there’s a cemetery from the 1800s in a place that no one wanted to be,” said Lafaye Nelson Moultrie, another organizer of the project. “You know it was considered the dump right across the street.”
When International Paper bought the land, the graves were no longer accessible to the public. That was until Tony Nelson and others in the Georgetown community met with company representatives around 10 years ago about allowing people onto the property to pay respects to their loved ones.
Nelson said the company was extremely helpful to their cause and allowed access to the cemetery to help the group educate the public about its history.
“Whether you go back to antebellum times or post that, we couldn’t afford tombstones and things like that,” said Williams. “So in African tradition, you might see china. You might see silverware. You might see a teddy bear. You might see various things to pay homage to their departed loved ones.”
The monument is the start of a memorial park project off Hawkins Street, with International Paper also donating a grant to help fund the beautification process.
“This is just the beginning,” said Wilson. “The monument is just the beginning. You come here at Christmas, or certainly by this time next year, it’s going to look like a beautiful park with maybe a gazebo and we can sit here and feel the spirit of our loved ones.”
Moultrie said she has around 10 family members’ names on the memorial - and took a moment to reflect on the progress made and the significance of the monument after Wednesday’s unveiling.
“We researched and we found out all the things that they said about their parents coming to America - and being placed on a plantation and having to work for the plantation owners,” she said. “Then what they worked for they had to give it up and only the leftovers were given to them, but they persevered. They continued to go on.”
Moultrie added that it’s important to remember all the hard things that her ancestors encountered, but that they still had God in mind.
“With God all things are possible and today that was proof,” she said. “All week...we’ve had rain every day. But today God is showing his mercy. He’s given us beautiful sunshine along with the breeze. We could never ask for anything else.”
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