ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTW) — Family members whose loved ones are buried at a cemetery in Robeson County are asking the community to help repair and preserve its history.
The Fairmont Memorial Cemetery is located off of Highway 130 East.
Mikle Davis, who has family buried at the cemetery, said when he visited it for the first time he was shocked to see the physical condition of his relatives final resting place.
He even said in some areas there were damaged or unrecognizable headstones.
“It’s a little concerning, as to the fact of, you know, you don’t have a place or a person to contact to find love ones that, you know, may or may not be buried here,” Davis said. “And it’s a little unsettling, honestly, you know, where I’m from, you have cemeteries, we can call the office and they have maps, and they have books and records.”
Some said the cemetery is a reflection of deep segregation history.
“You have the African-Americans on one side, whites on the other side,” Davis said.
The segregated cemetery was designed in 1903 by former Mayor Dr. J.P. Brown.
The cemetery has a Caucasian section and a Black section. The Black section was eventually sold at an auction and purchased by the Gaston Sealey family, but due to the people who cared for the cemetery running out of money and getting older, the Gaston Sealey heirs gave the town a 99-year lease agreement to operate and maintain the Black section of the cemetery in 2004.
That only includes cutting the grass, picking up debris and removing fallen or dead trees.
“It’s great that they’re cutting the grass, that’s one big thing. But, you know, it’s more that could be done and not just from the city standards, but just the community itself,” Davos said.
The town said Monday that history shows the Black cemetery was not managed with enough detail to be fiscally or operationally viable in the long-term.
“African-American burials, just their lives in general weren’t really held to such a high standard in society,” Davis said.
For decades, the town of Fairmont said they have recognized the cemetery as a part of Fairmont’s heritage. Almost every citizen in town has at least one family member buried in the cemeteries.