Cainhoy community fighting to save two of the area’s oldest cemeteries

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CAINHOY, S.C. (WCBD) – Community members from the Cainhoy area are fighting to save two of the Lowcountry’s oldest cemeteries say they may have come to a breakthrough in preservation efforts. It’s a fight that’s been going on for some time between advocates and developers.

Those behind the efforts say development in this area is threatening the cemeteries with graves dating back to the Revolutionary War. With trees coming down and houses going up across much of the area, they’re hoping they can preserve the graves of their ancestors.

The Gullah Society, Cainhoy community, Settlement Community Association, McDowell Cemetery Commission and others have worked to preserve the area and recently identified dozens of unmarked graves now marked with small blue flags.

“I mean what is just a blue pin,” says MaeRe Skinner. “A blue pin is nothing, but it represents a whole life lived.”

Skinner says the small blue flags signifying unmarked graves are centuries old in some cases. Each of the unmarked graves comes with a story to be told.

“And it’s an emotional issue for a lot of people you know it conjures up all that has happened in the past,” says Fred Lincoln who believes some of his ancestors are buried in the cemeteries.

Many of the graves dating back to the 1700 and 1800s. At one point, the church onsite was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War. It’s a place that was also used as a meeting spot during the time period.

“There are many, many graves that we know are in there that have stones and many that don’t,” says Skinner.

The historic cemetery is now being threatened by growing development that would back up to the cemetery and in some cases cover unmarked graves. Lincoln is hoping ground penetration radar technology can be used to save the unmarked remains.

“It’s not going to take any time to do that, we have the equipment to examine the soil to make sure that no houses are being built on our ancestors,” says Lincoln.

For those behind the efforts, they hope to find a compromise that protects the past and tells the stories of those resting in peace.

“We want to do what the decedents want to do and how they want to honor their ancestors,” says Skinner.

City of Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg recently sent a letter to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control asking for assistance and extra help in order to preserve the remains. A city spokesman says the agency is responsible for the handling of human remains.

Both Skinner and Lincoln, along with others, plan to meet with Representatives from the City of Charleston along with the developer on Friday in hopes of reaching a compromise that would save both the marked and unmarked graves.

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