YORK, S.C. (WJZY) — A 200-year-old gravesite with nearly 150 buried slaves will soon become one of York County’s newest historic locations.
Andrew and Mary Lazenby say the previous owner mentioned the possibility of a gravesite on the 110-acre property when they bought it.
“After we agreed to purchase it, we asked permission to look around and found it. And we found about 12 field stones with an initial carved in each one,” Andrew Lazenby said.
And their journey of uncovering history began.
With a team of archaeologists operating a ground-penetrating radar and other tools, they were able to map the entire area.
Their research revealed a cemetery with 144 gravesites dating from 1780-1865. With the cemetery, the group also found the identity of the plantation.
The number of gravesites, 144, may be hard to visualize. The Lazenbys found a stone cutter to carve numbers into headstones to emphasize the magnitude of the discovery.
“Because we’ll never know the names in here… That just wasn’t recorded,” he said.
They’ve had a ton of support surrounding the project, including a Charlotte blacksmith helping to build a fence around the area.
Right now, they’re setting the stones for each grave and working to further preserve the area with organizations like Nation Ford Land Trust – a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting open spaces, natural beauty, and the scenic heritage of the York County and South Carolina area.
“When I first learned that a few newly discovered gravesites had been uncovered, I knew immediately that something historic and significantly important was unfolding right before our eyes,” said Steve Hamilton, Executive Director of Nation Ford Land Trust. “I felt, as did the property owners, that this moment in time needed to be properly and respectfully documented, recorded, and preserved for this and future generations.”
After 200 years of neglect, the non-profit will host a ceremony on Feb. 25 to acknowledge and celebrate the lives of “The 144.”
“I don’t think we expected it to be where we are now, but I’m not surprised we’ve ended where we are,” Lazenby said.
An event next month will discuss the ancestors and attendees will have the opportunity to visit the graveyard.
“The 144: Honoring the Lost Ancestors”
Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m.
● Keynote Speaker: Dr. Corey D.B. Walker, Interim Dean of the School of Divinity and Director of African American Studies at Wake Forest University
● Q&A Panel with the property owners and Nation Ford Land Trust moderated by Emiene Wright of Our State Magazine
Attendees will have the opportunity to visit the graveyard immediately following the program. In homage to “The 144,” Nation Ford Land Trust will extend 144 tickets to the public. Tickets are $75, beginning Jan. 18. Purchase tickets to “The 144: Honoring the Lost Ancestors” at http://www.nationfordlandtrust.org/the-144/.
Out of respect for the property owners, organizers plan to announce the address of the gravesites and “The 144” ceremony later.