City of Hartsville hopes African American cemetery will be recognized as historic place

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HARTSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – The City of Hartsville is hoping one of its sites will soon be nationally recognized as a historic place. 

Councilman Tre Gammage, who also leads the African American Cemetery Committee, is spearheading this effort to get the Historic Marion Avenue Cemetery on that list. He says the city has received grants to help the cemetery get recognized and representatives from the national and local registers have visited the site to analyze it. 

Gammage says the city is finalizing their application to submit to the National Register of Historic Places. The organization chooses sites based on significance, which could be based on who is buried in the cemetery and how prominent they were. 

“Forty were veterans in World War One, World War Two, Spanish-American War. Forty people were born slaves. And we know that there’s the founder of Butler High School is here, the first black doctor is buried here. So there’s a lot of the black history of Hartsville buried in this cemetery,” said Gammage. 

Gammage says, when representatives from the register toured the cemetery, they noticed the unique artwork on the gravestones and said they hadn’t seen anything like it. 

“There’s a couple of people that will show fingers touching and when the fingers touch, the shackles break. It shows the chains depicting the slave being free. Just that kind of artwork on African American graves wasn’t relevant at the time. We’ve got markers from 1863 and 1865 that depict shackles being broken and heaven going up and it’s really some phenomenal stuff,” Gammage said. 

Gammage says the city is leaning toward using the gravestone artwork as an advantage in their application. It’s unknown exactly when they will hear back from the National Register but they have their local historic marker ready to post. 

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