Burial grounds rediscovered on Darlington County land

Darlington County historian Brian Gandy points out data on computer screens during the June 14 news conference. PHOTO BY BOBBY BRYANT

The names and the people’s ages at death are barely legible on these markers. Broken glass once protected the handwritten information. PHOTO COURTESY BRIAN GANDY

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

editor@newsandpress.net

Darlington County historian Brian Gandy and a Clemson University colleague have rediscovered five lost burial grounds in the county, including one American Indian burial mound that may go back 500 years and a cemetery that was the final resting place for “hundreds” of African-Americans going back to the Civil War era. “This is a very important find,” said state Rep. Robert Williams of Darlington. “ … It’s very important that we remember. And not only that, but we have to honor these people. … They played a very significant role in our county.” The discoveries were announced at a June 14 news conference by Gandy, director of the Darlington County Historic Commission and Museum, and Clemson University Professor Jim Frederick. The burial sites are located near the Clemson University Pee Dee Research and Education Center along the Darlington-Florence county line. They are near Dargan’s Pond north of Florence. Historic records, old maps, aerial photographs and site explorations over the years led to the discoveries, Gandy and Frederick said. The African-American gravesite, used for burials as long ago as the Civil War era, was most closely affiliated with Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, but over the years somehow became “disconnected” from the church and was effectively lost. (Some members of the church attended the news conference.) Gandy said there are few markers left at that burial ground; you can tell it’s a large graveyard mainly because of the patterns in which the graves were dug and in the systematic indentations in the ground. Some of the more recent graves have markers. Gandy said as many as 500 people may be buried there. “When we were able to make the discovery to connect this particular cemetery, this sacred space, back to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, I can’t think of a day in the last two years I was as excited as I was at that moment,” said Gandy. “These were the individuals who worked the fields,” said Williams. “They were farm workers. They were the domestic workers. They were sharecroppers. These are the ones that tilled the fields. “These are the individuals who worked so hard to make Darlington what it is today as it relates to farming.” “We’re just so happy that we were able to find these different discoveries, especially during this time in our history,” Williams said at the news conference. Another gravesite that’s been rediscovered was the family graveyard of Capt. William Standard, a Revolutionary War leader who was deeded land in Darlington County in the late 1700s for his service in the war. The suspected Indian burial mound will be explored in more detail next winter, when the ground has dried out. If it’s still intact, Gandy said, it will the only such Native American burial mound remaining in Darlington County. Clemson’s Frederick said the area is full of treasure, in historical terms. “We’ve got the Standard family cemetery there,” he said. “We’ve got the church cemetery there. We’ve got a Native American cemetery there. We probably have like a family farm cemetery (nearby).” “These people have been forgotten,” Frederick said. “Let’s not do it again.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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