FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Hundreds of headstones at one of Fayetteville’s oldest cemeteries are in need of some tender, love and care. There are toppled-over stone markers, missing headstones, and tree damage at Cross Creek Cemetery #2 near Downtown Fayetteville.
“It looks like it’s neglect and I think the city finds itself maybe bit of a crossroads of how we approach our commitment of maintaining the cemetery,” Heidi Bleazey, Historic Properties Manager for the City of Fayetteville said.
She’s passionate about the upkeep of this city-maintained cemetery.
“Some of my favorite Fayettevillians are in here. Robert Harris, first principal of what is now Fayetteville State University,” she said.
The property opened post-Civil War and it’s the most segregated cemetery in Fayetteville. At one point in history, the cemetery was divided into three sections for whites, Blacks and Jewish communities. There are likely more than 2,500 people buried there. Some don’t even have grave markers.
Bleazey said some of the damage to stones in the cemetery could be a result of cars driving through the cemetery.
“There are vehicles passing through here at dark and daytime conducting other business,” she said.
While some could be vandalism, she said mother nature plays a role too.
“Ground shifting toppled over, large branches coming down and causing damage,” Bleazey said.
Necessary repairs and restoration could cost up to $500,000. Bleazey said there are upwards of 500 headstones and grave markers damaged. Each could cost between $500 to $1,000 to repair.
“The expense of restoration is incredible,” the historic properties manager said.
Even though this is a city-maintained cemetery, the expense of restoration is the responsibility of the loved ones of the deceased. Bleazey understands that this is an incredible expense for many families. She also pointed out that many relatives of those with plots at the graveyard no longer live in the area or maybe realize they have relatives buried on the property. Bleazey is trying to come up with solutions to this pricey problem.
“I think opening the dialogue to what we can do is certainly the first step,” she said.
Fayetteville Transportation and Local History Museum will start giving tours of the cemetery on Fridays in October from noon until 1:30 p.m. The “Story Plots Tour” will stop at the graves of influential people and the iconograph. Bleazey hopes that sparks dialogue regarding cemetery improvements.
“I encourage folks who come through here and see broken headstones and things like that to reach out to North Carolina Office of State Archaeology for their cemetery program. Reach out to the City of Fayetteville and see what we can do,” Bleazey said.