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Neighbors Work to Clean up Old Cemetery on Saturdays

(July 17, 2011) Earlier this year, residents in a neighborhood off Pine Harbor Road discovered an abandoned cemetery next to Rainbarrel Road. Research of the names on some of the stones showed that they were African American farmers who lived from before the Civil War and died up through the early 1900's.

Ramoth CemeteryLuther Wallace's grave stone (right) says was born in 1842 and died in 1917. According to the1910 census he was a black farmer who couldn't read or write. Little more was known about this man who was buried in this small, overgrown cemetery near Long Cove Marina and Lake Wylie. His is one of only a few grave stones that are still legible, so even less is known about the other people who lived in the area until they went to their final resting place in this small, rural cemetery.

Ted Driggs and other area residents hoped to get permission to clean up and fence off the area. Their problem was that they didn't know who owned the cemetery and who to ask for permission -- until a few weeks ago when NewsChannel 36 invited Driggs to meet with members of the Ramoth AME Zion Church. The members discovered their ancestors' cemetery that they had lost, and Driggs received permission to tidy it up.

See the report here: Mystery of local slave cemetery solved (July 13, 2011).

Driggs and his neighbors have met at the cemetery for the last two Saturday's  plan to meet at the cemetery each Saturday beginning at 9:00 A.M. until the cemetery is cleaned up. Members of the Ramoth AME Zion Church joined them for a prayer service last week.

If you would like to help or have any questions about the cemetery, please contact Ted Driggs at Tdriggs@Okuma.com.

According to area historian Linda Blackwelder, there was at one time a small African American AME church called the Ramah Church located near the cemetery. The church likely moved when Duke Power purchased all of the property surrounding what was to become Lake Wylie in the 1920s. Since there were no African American churches in the neighborhood before the Civil War, it probably came into existence by about 1870 and would have been there until the property was purchased by the power company. The early burials might have had some slaves among them, but the later burials between about 1880 and 1920 would mostly have been children of slaves.  
Consider a time gone by where there was a little church near a river (Catawba) which turned into a lake (Wylie).  See in your mind that Carolina hot and humid Sunday afternoon after a service has been held there.  Hear the voices of those breaking bread and rejoicing of freedom and the pursuit of happiness because all men are created equal. Watch the children play in the sunshine!
                                  Ted Driggs

The current Ramoth AME Zion Church is located on Dixie River Road near Windygap Road.

A single, leaning grave is visible in the distance near the center of the photograph below.

Ramoth Cemetery

Driggs wanted to "request and receive permission from the current landowners to clean up and preserve the site in the most respectfully possible way. For regardless if these were of slave descent, black, white, yellow, red, Kings or Queens; they are human beings that once breathed the same atmosphere that you and I breathe today. They did not ask to die but they did. It is our task to preserve the memory of humankind for this was and is the essence of our existence on Planet Earth.

"These people, be they slave or not, deserve some sort of protection of antiquity. We only want to let these people who have passed rest in peace. They deserve that…we owe it to them."

For the first report by WCNC News, see Neighbors hope to clean historic cemetery (March 24, 2011).

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