AUGUSTA (WJBF) – Volunteers came across a historic find during Saturday’s city-wide cleanup. They say they thought they were coming out to clean up a plot of land. Turns out they were maintaining a prominent stamp in Augusta’s history.
“3500 people were buried out here in this cemetery and most people don’t know about it because the gravestones were removed,” said Luke Niday a coordinator with CityServ.
CityServ in partnership with the City of Augusta cleaned more than 20 different locations Saturday morning, including Rollersville Cemetery located off of John Calhoun Expressway in Harrisburg.”
“Nobody knows about it, it’s a little known place, it looks like a spot of grass,” said Niday.
Organizers say they originally wanted to clean this area because of complaints about trash.
“The Marshal’s office was getting several calls from the neighborhood about homeless people that were living here. So homeless people were encamped and leaving trash and liter up in the bushes and on the edge,” he said.
But what volunteers didn’t know is that the plot was actually the first integrated cemetery in Augusta. That’s after a volunteer found a footstone while cleaning.
“This is actually private land, so this would’ve been the largest overall integrated cemetery,” said local historian Joyce Law.
Local Historian and preservationist Joyce Law pointed out how the monument, erected more than four decades ago, sheds light on those that were once laid to rest out there. That includes an orphan who died while trying to save others during a fire.
“So 22 years passed between the first person who was buried, William Trainor who was an orphan, so we know most likely he was under 18 years old, and he rescued folks from a fire, until the time that someone from the Hunnington family was buried, so these were people who the land actually belonged to,” she said.
But that’s not all the monument also tells of soldiers who were once buried there. Law says that there were around three to four thousand bodies layed there. Most were evacuated to other cemeteries after Rollersville closed down, but there’s no way to tell if some bodies are still taking up that land.
“At that time headstones were considered expensive, grave goods were used for a number of people particularly African Americans, so there are probably still some grave sites that we don’t know about,” she said.