SPECIAL REPORT: Old cemeteries honor the past but make problems in the present

WJBF.com graphic
WJBF.com graphic

AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Thousands of cars drive past Deans Bridge road, and  the Barton Chapel  intersection every day, without every knowing that there’s an old cemetery there.

Or here off Washington Road, not far from the gates of the Augusta National.

“They’re almost all family cemeteries, which means everybody buried in them is related,” says Erick Montgomery, Executive Director of Historic Augusta.

And off the Gordon Highway and in Harrisburg, it’s the Heckle Cemetery.

Erick Montgomery  of historic Augusta is familiar with a lot of Augusta’s old private cemeteries and says  because of their age the limited use  the cemeteries often get lost in the passage of time,

“Families move away or even if they don’t move away families quit using those cemeteries.

Off Wrightsboro Road at the base of the hill you find what appears to be another overgrown lot but it is anything but it’s the historic Morris Cemetery

But like so many other of the private cemeteries their history is hidden by overgrowth, and that can create problems

Doctor Eddie Johnson has had his dentist office on Barton Chapel for more than 30 years,  right new door to this this family cemetery, and it’s  been an ongoing issue for him.

“Yes this property next door has been an eye sore ever since we moved in,” said Doctor Johnson.

Johnson says several years ago the cemetery owners  cleaned  up the property and put in a fence, but now it’s overgrown again and the fence is collapsing he says it blocks the view of his business from the street and he would like to see something done.

“We called the city to try and get it rectified but to no avail,” said Doctor Johnson.

City inspectors will investigate complaints of overgrown private cemeteries but say it’s hard to hold the owners accountable for cleaning them up.

“That is one of the challenges that  we face that the cemetery is so old and we don’t know the property owner maybe deceased it could be in the hands of somebody else who is kin to the property owner never had it probated or anything can’t find a legal owner,” said Terrence Wynder, Augusta Code Enforcement Manager.

Old  cemeteries maybe quiet but often don’t make very good neighbors,

“Storm came knocked down the fence on the backside limbs from the trees have been lying down over there its making it worse,” says Doctor Johnson.

But Montgomery says it’s a shame what the city loses when they become eyesores.

“The one that is really sad to me is that one on Morris Street some really important significant names are in that one it’s just a shame,” he said.

 

At the  Bedford Cemetery off Washington Historic Augusta is joining with the families to keep this cemeteries memory alive   but for the most part the other private cemeteries are passing away to the ages, and creating headaches for

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