McManhandled? When your footers need to be six feet under in Trinity Park...

Made a pass by Watts St. this weekend to take some pictures of the Sweaney house, moved from the corner of Buchanan and W. Main to make room for the Trinity Park Motel, but now fixed up and on the market for a cool $835K; an open house had cars lining the 1000 block of Watts St.

While I was prepared to comment on how how you should be able to buy real window muntins for $835K, I quickly became more interested in the lot next door, which has been graded and had footers poured for an infill piece of undoubtedly swank-tastic real estate.

But wait, wasn't that piece of land an old cemetery?

You couldn't really tell from the previously wooded appearance of the lot:

But, why, yes it was. Even noted on the tax record.

Hmm - what's that at the back of the lot?

headstones_1000watts.jpeg

Oh, right.

Your standard pile of headstones.

I wonder how ---cy E. Chamblee would have felt about this?

Or the rest of the family?

But the homeowner shouldn't have to worry about ---cy and the rest of the gang going all Amityville Horror on them - I don't think they are on-premise anymore.

So rest, uh, peacefully, in your sepulchre of granite...countertops.

Seriously, TP folk, don't you think this avoidance of local historic district designation has gone on long enough? Are you just going to keeping inching your way towards architectural/historical mediocrity demolished-building-by-demolished-building? Or will you just go towards overt disdain for history like this? Probably would have been good to have this come before the Historic Preservation Commission, don't you think?

Update, October 2009:

Nancy Chamblee, your house to haunt has arrived:


1009 Watts St., 10.03.09

Comments

I was under the impression (after sitting in on one or two city council meetings where the moving of graves was discussed) that this sort of reckless handling of graves and markers was... well... illegal.

Or is that not the case?

Like Jason says above, I too thought this was illegal. Or is it only illegal if someone accidentally finds out ahead of time and protests?

To be fair, I know nothing about the legality or illegality of this particular case, or whether it is something that some city/county department has signed off on or not - just saw it today. Certainly this link implies that one had better have some serious sign-off before doing something like this.

My argument would be that, regardless, it isn't 'right', even if, in this situation, it turns out to be technically legal.

GK

Oh I agree, regardless of the legality of it, the treatment of those headstones isn't right.

This is absolutely awful. I just posted a link to this article on the Trinity Park listserve. Everybody in the neighborhood should see this.

Let's see: they couldn't save the D.C. May house, and they couldn't prevent this, but they stopped the Chancellery Condos. What's wrong with this picture?

That's simply disgusting. I knew there was a reason I no longer cared to live in Trinity Park.

At one time, my limited understanding was that when cemeteries were abandoned, they also became property of the state. A certain, large amount of time had to pass. I don't recall any more particulars, and I've been out of the paralegal business long enough that the idea of rooting through NC Gen. Stat. ยง blah blah blah holds little charm.

[click click click]

Ok, turns out searching North Carolina's General Statutes is pretty easy; you can easily search for statutes with words like graveyard, grave, and cemetery. Wee, that's fun! Thank god I'm not an attorney, or even a paralegal.

To be honest, from a historian's perspective, I don't think this shows a disdain for history. Rather, just history-in-action. Most western European countries have more dead underfoot per meter than we'd likely care to recall. Does this mean they are one big cemetary? No, of course not-- because land is constantly repurposed. And I don't think anyone would argue against the logic of that. Callous? Perhaps. Necessary? That too.

I'm as chagrined as the next person by the way the gentrification of trinity park has given way to what sometimes seems now like an IRL HGTV marathon for the nouveau-megariche. But that's really a different issue than the repurposing of a more than 100 year old cemetery, which, as the link indicates, only had 12 graves and was in such disrepair as far back as 1981 that it was hardly recognizable.

I guess I just don't see this as so disturbing. I feel like folks are being a little overly emotional about this. But I'm that curmudgeonly sort who's more bothered by how the living are treated than how the dead are.

(BTW, I like the new(ish?) site design. Haven't been by here in awhile.)

Durhamight

Thanks for the compliment on the site, and your comment. Certainly, the detached perspective is that everything is simply history, which we watch unfold around us inevitably. And that's a particularly important perspective for an academic to have - how do you observe and comment on history with the least amount of bias, particularly since one is unavoidably immersed in it?

That unavoidability is, indeed, history-in-action. But from a community perspective, how do you embrace the history of a city, village, neighborhood, etc. (by, at a minimum, knowing it) and embrace progress (which I'd call the maximization of one's utility in 'future history') at the same time?

That is where I think we can do a better job in Durham, and shouldn't be so quick to dichotomize these choices into either/or. Could the owners of this land have built a smaller house that avoided the graves? I don't know, and I doubt they do either. But if so, couldn't the rehabilitation of an admittedly downtrodden cemetery into a green space amidst the huge houses been an asset to the community?

Or is it simply maximum personal profit does not result from preserving a cemetery in the side yard of a smaller house?

Because I think, as a historian, you would admit that, by removing this cemetery, an opportunity for people to learn about the history of Durham/West Durham has been lost. It is just that much harder to give people the sense of how family farms dotted the landscape, some (many?) of which would have had their own cemeteries.

So I stand by my assertion that this is, indeed, disdain. If we/Trinity Park had an open community discussion about what constitutes a public good worthy of dismantling a site like this, so be it. But I don't think that's what happened.

GK

I think nearly everyone agrees that a discussion would have been good before this happened. But I don't know that anyone in Trinity Park knew about this in advance so that the discussion could have been started. Certainly the first I knew about it was when the lot was cleared, and by then it was too late.

Gary,

Interesting post and story -- thanks for putting this out here! I've also emailed one of the owners of the property to see if they can shed some light on this.

A TP resident made an interesting post to the neighborhood listserv earlier this morning:

"The story that I always heard told by others - others who have lived here longer than I have (which is 23 years) - is that this was the location of the Markham Family cemetery.

Years ago the family established a new cemetery and had the bodies excavated and relocated - all that is, but one of them. The story goes that there was one aunt that was not particularly liked, and she was left behind.

The photo that Gary did not post on his site is that of the odd, rectangular area near the front of the lot that is surrounded by orange plastic fencing. It's about the size of a coffin. When I saw that, I figured that the old tale was a true one!"

From a local genealogy & cemetery expert: "There should be a record of the cemetery disinterments at the Register of Deeds office. If not, then Durham City is in violation of the NC State laws."
Has anyone looked for those records, online or in person?

Durhamight:

>>But I'm that curmudgeonly sort who's more bothered by how the living are treated than how the dead are. <<

And explain to me again why we can only do one or the other.

>>Most western European countries have more dead underfoot per meter than we'd likely care to recall.<<

And since they have far higher standards of morality than we benighted colonial peasants, it must be okay. Well, I frankly don't care whether the French are building a Sofitel on Flanders Field or the Germans are building a Krupp factory on the site of a Kristallnacht atrocity. This action was illegal.

>> I feel like folks are being a little overly emotional about this.<<

Silly us. Someday we'll be like the Europeans: used to bulldozing corpses when it's inconvenient to let them rest in peace.

Kevin:

>>Years ago the family established a new cemetery and had the bodies excavated and relocated - all that is, but one of them. The story goes that there was one aunt that was not particularly liked, and she was left behind.<<

Oh, please. That sounds like the storyline from an episode of "Supernatural." When Sam and Dean show up, I'll take that seriously.

Kevin

There was orange plastic fencing at the front , which I didn't take a picture of because the headstones and open coffin-removal hole were distracting. I think that clearly shows that there were/are multiple bodies on site, if indeed the orange plastic fencing is intended to protect something.

But given how long this cemetery was overgrown/neglected, I'd have to second John's sentiment that the family paying to relocate everybody except the one aunt sounds very unlikely. I doubt they would have left the other headstones here, for one thing.

GK

The cemetery in question was investigated by my company, of grave concerns, Inc., in April 2007. Five test trenches varying in length from 20 to 40 feet were excavated searching for burials. Two were located and development plans were altered to avoid these locations. Unfortunately, two additional graves were located during construction. The remains were removed under the provisions of NCGS 70 and are currently being curated while a search for next of kin is conducted.

The remains will be reburied once the search is completed and the appropriate legal notice has been posted.

The stones at the rear of the lot had been buried and will be relocated with the appropriate burial once the identification has been completed. Keeping the stones at the rear of the lot was a matter of convenience. Exposure to the elements will not harm them and there was no effort to hide their existence.

The discovery during construction is unfortunate. I have over 20 years experience in cemetery investigations and this is the first time I have missed cemetery bounds even though we made a reasonable and prudent effort to locate all graves and our methods meet all current professional standards.

Our actions, and those of the landowner have been completely legal and above board. I welcome direct comment and will provide any additional information that I can.

Thanks John, for the additional info. As I said previously, I was not/am not making any assertion about the legality of these proceedings. Regardless of the legality, I disagree with them.

GK

John

I'm somewhat relieved to discover that this was at least professionally done, and I retract my comment that it was illegal, and I apologize for that.

However. . .it does seem to me that by leaving the headstones in a jumbled pile you created the impression that a bulldozer simply knocked everything down.

And I really wonder how you look for the "next of kin" for someone who died in 1900, as one headstone clearly indicates. Any surviving children would be at least 108 years old and even grandchildren would be in their 80's. If you can't find anyone, what do you do then? And if you do find, say, a great-great nephew, what is he supposed to do?

And what does it mean to say that "[t]wo [burials] were located and development plans were altered to avoid these locations." Does that mean that the bodies were left on the site? If so, are they going to be marked? If not, why did they alter the development plans.

Moving of gravesites is a pretty common occurrence -- a fairly large site was moved in order to make way for the widening of I-85. My friend Caroline helped put together a short set for UNC TV about the folks who moved the graves.

I'm glad John showed up to clarify that he used a professional removal company, rather than just Dr. Bob's Backhoe Service.

Burial relocation has been a fact of life for years, and I'd only ask that it be done as respectfully as possible, and that the original site bear some kind of minor stone marker noting the relocation, so that years hence those looking for the remains can find their way to the new sites.

But it does bring up this old Clancy Brothers Classic:

Oh they're moving father's grave to build a sewer.
They're moving him regardless of expense.
They've dug up his remains
To put in nine inch drains
To irrigate some posh bloke's residence
[his residence!]
Now what's the use in having a religion
If when you're dead your troubles never cease?
If some posh city chappie
Wants a pipeline to his privy
They'll never let a British workman rest in peace.
[Oh rest in peace!]
Now in his lifetime, father never was a quitter, never!
I'm sure that he won't be a quitter now.
When the job's complete
He'll grab hold that privy seat
And he'll only let them go when he'll allow.
[When he'll allow!]
Now won't there be some brewin' const-ernation
And won't those silly chappies rant and rave
Which is more than they deserve!
For havin' the bleedin' nerve!
To muck around with a British workman's grave!

John - Thanks for providing additional information about this site. I posted a link to the comments on the TP listserv.

Personally, I question the logic in expecting that a separate plot of land should be set aside to permanently commemorate each human who ever lived on the planet. Where's the sustainability in that idea? But that's just my opinion, and I respect the fact that others may disagree.

Graveyard aside, the current owner of this lot was sold a pig in a poke by the former owner, who unloaded it without filling in the new owner on the right of ways and setbacks that affect this property. The new owner was in a hurry to snap up a fairly cheap property in that neighborhood for his new (older) bride and deserves what he got, but it looks as if he is blithely ignoring just about all the building code rules in effect at this point. I hope someone is checking out whether or not any of this is up to code -- he'll have t put his house right in the middle of a tiny lot to comply and I'll bet you anything his current strategy is to build first and ask questions later, when, no doubt, the city will agree to look the other way.

He needs to be busted now. He dug his own grave, so to speak.

Here's a couple interesting links:

http://www.ustaxdata.com/nc/durham/
print.cfm?ownerID=4997212&parcelID
=102273

http://www.ustaxdata.com/nc/durham/
print.cfm?ownerID=8314643&parcelID
=102272

Clues:
GOK = Lou Goetz & Steve Ortmann (Park City Development) + dude from out of town

Wendy Wood = Mrs. Ortmann

Funny how stuff gets "forgotten".

Nice that they made the money back on the lot purchase for the Sweaney house.

It's not that the bodies were moved so much as it is that it was obviously done in a very slapdash way, with the headstones all jumbled about. How are they ever supposed to be matched up with the correct graves? Also, some of the headstones have clearly been recently cracked. Someone didn't take very good care of them. Whether that was the current company involved or an earlier one, I can't say. But someone is at fault here. Someone did something wrong.

I found the following on the Wake County website.

"Grave Removal Process: The North Carolina General Statutes require that the Wake County Board of Commissioners hold a public hearing when a grave is proposed to be moved by a party other than the next of kin. A 30-day written notice of intention shall be given to the next of kin of the deceased before the disinterment, relocation, and re-interment of any grave occurs. Notice shall be published at least once per week for four (4) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation within the county where the grave is located (first publication shall be not less than 30 days before disinterment). Notice of the removal and re-interment of the grave must also be posted on the property at least 30 days before the public hearing."

Perhaps John can tell us when the public hearing was held. And where was the notice that must be posted on the property?

Gary, thanks for your thoughtful response to my comment, and for seeing what I was saying even though we disagree. What will be consigned to the dustbin of history, and how, is always likely to be an issue of contention.

I'm a little confused about the process involved in this case-- it looks like cement was poured over the graves? Or were they all removed? I'm also now curious about where this has happened elsewhere in the area. I seem to recall a cemetery on Franklin Street near the intersection of N. Elliott Rd. where there are now condos? And there was a historically black cemetery in the area of Duke Park I believe that was left untended but I'm not sure what happened to it. If other commenters happen to know about other local cemetery-repurposings, feel free to contact me at the email in my profile. I'd be interested to know. My (perhaps incorrect) impression is that this sort of thing happens a lot around here due to the rapid pace of expansion and the many small, private cemeteries.

Michael Bacon: that's a great lil' ditty you posted, and it certainly gets right to the heart of the matter. Do you know the name of the UNC program that your friend put together on the cemetery moved to widen 85?

I think you can put all type of spin on this thing however the owner and Contractor knew full well they were digging up Graves with Head Stones..I hope in time they pay in some way for this Crime...My family has a small 1800 Cemetery where the last person (Grandfather) was buried in 1950 that I will defend from people like these until Death !!!

I suspect many of you have already found this, but the N&O published a profile of John Clauser, proprietor of "Of Grave Concerns".

I think this paragraph near the end is quite reflective of the matter at hand:

"Now that he works as a private consultant, Clauser is more restrained in sharing information. The developers he works with are not eager to advertise the fact that they have found an old grave site on their property. Local officials are often on edge about approving cemetery relocations, in case they upset relatives or long-time residents. And most people he talks with have a reverential respect for the places of the dead."

durhamight - the cemetery you refer to in the Duke Park neighborhood is the Geer Cemetery. The cemetery was cleaned up a bit with city funds in 2004/2005. There's a group called Friends of the Geer Cemetery that meets regularly to make sure nothing bad happens there while issues like who exactly owns the land are sorted out.

I read this story in the Herald and was most interested in the comments.

My husband and I deal with this a lot in our "line of work", which is our volunteer job. We live in Person county and survey all the cemeteries that we can find and put all the information online for those people looking for their ancestors. We write down all the information, line by line, and post it for all to see. You would be amazed at how many people from across the country contact us to visit the resting place of their ancestors, especially in the last 5 yrs.

Allen Dew has done an excellent job of keeping up with the cemeteries in Durham and Orange counties, which has helped us since there is a lot of overlap.

I can't say that I would be surprised about people building over top of graves because it isn't something that is new. It is a felony to knowingly disturb or desecrate a grave, even the flowers. The general assembly just enacted more legislation about that. It does look like they took some measures to protect what was there.

As far as the cemetery being in disrepair, those that criticize the family for not taking care.....did you ever stop there and visit or take the time to pull a few weeds? We all have ancestors buried somewhere, take the time to visit....and place a flag to honor the Veterans, some flowers to honor the ladies.

Yesterday, I posted a couple of questions for John Clauser and "of Grave Concerns." So far he hasn't answered. But my questions were not accusatory or ideological: I genuinely didn't understand why things had happened the way they did, and I was genuinely trying to understand. Specifically, I asked: 1) Why did they alter the building plans for the house because of the graves they discovered? Surely they were not going to leave the graves in a new owner's backyard. Why not remove the graves and proceed with the building plans. 2) When had they posted notices required by state law to remove bodies from the property? It seemed strange to me that they had clearly removed some bodies, but altered building plans to avoid moving other bodies. Why?

Well, it begins to make sense if you realize that North Carolina law has two separate sets of rules for removing and reinterring bodies. If you know that bodies are on a particular site, and you wish to remove them, you have to go through the legal process first. That means publishing notices and getting permission from the local government before proceeding. But if you happen to discover bodies while engaged in construction (or agriculture or anything else) you can remove them and do the process later.

Well, obviously they knew that there were bodies there (it was labeled a cemetery in the tax records). So why not go through the legal process and then carefully excavate for bodies and headstone and remove them before beginning construction? Then you can remove all the bodies at the same time and you don't have to alter your building plans.

But if they had done that, the request to move the bodies would have become public knowledge and elected officials would have had to approve their request. And who is they? Well, of course, it is Park City Development, Lou Goetz, Steve Ortmann, et al. They still owned the lot in April, 2007 when John Clauser says he did his investigation. I can imagine them thinking that if this was subject to a public process first, residents of Trinity Park might succeed in blocking any use of the lot for anything other than a cemetery in perpetuity. That would make the lot practically valueless. So let's build the house first, then go through the process. Not even Trinity Park and the City of Durham will make us tear down a house that's already built to restore a cemetery. And as a buildable lot, they sold it for $185,000 according to the tax records. That's not chicken feed.

The sad thing is, I actually feel sympathetic to Park City, et al. This happened the way it did as blowback from the Chancellery Condos fiasco. I don't blame them for not wanting to face, once again, those often irrational and irascible neighbors.

The whole sad story does not do anyone involved much credit with the solitary exception of our indefatigible GK with his trusty camera who uncovered this unlovely business.

And, oh yes, a Trinity Park resident on the listserv yesterday said he didn't like Gary's "tone." High praise indeed to my ears.

Greg Hall appears to at least be the contractor involved here. He owned & developed 4 of the worst houses in my neighborhood. They were picturebook 1 story vinyl boxes (vinyl windows, vinyl siding, faux fireplaces, wall to wall carpet, asphalt driveway) that would make Habitat proud. His designs didn't remotely blend in with the surrounding 1920's houses. What made this project even worse is that he brought in tons of rock & dirt to backfill the lot after Inspections initially failed it, as the rear of the property was/is a naturally occuring stream. In short, he crammed 4 mediocre houses on a 1.2 acre lot using the flag lot approach with no regard to the rest of the neighborhood. The sad part is that I honestly think he thought his creations were something special.

I hope that whatever he builds in TP will be better than some of his other developments he currently owns, such as ("townhouses" on corner of Vesson Ave & Anderson St), or a duplex on Guess Rd, behind Burger King. If TP gets something along the lines of what I've seen of his to date, be prepared for a big disappointment.

eeljfilYeah, I don't like Gary's "tone" either... that's why I eagerly anticipate reading this blog every day
:)

Don't waste your sympathy on the Park Citizens. They have a convenient memory when it comes to information - just ask the neighbors on Knox Street. They fell victim to Steve's memory loss about the agreement he reached with them about the particulars on the garage behind the house at the corner of Knox & Watts. The neighbors negotiated in good faith with him so he would be able to build on a non-conforming lot. One condition of the agreement was that the garage was limited to a one car size with a buffer retained to protect the smaller house behind his lot. When the buyer of the corner house wanted a larger garage, Steve threw that sucker up at the speed of light & bye bye buffer. Oops, he forgot he made that agreement, and oops, somehow it never got recorded with the City so, oops, it's not enforceable. Too bad, neighbors, sucks to be you, I'm out of here!

And oh, yeah, the cemetery lot sold for exactly what Park City paid for the whole parcel, including where the Sweaney house sits.

And, John, just to wrap this little package up nicely, the woman who sold that lot to Park City is the person who does not like Gary's "tone".

Anonymouse posting are really fun aren't they? No accountability, no facts required. Just make up whatever you like and fire away without consequence.

1) GOK never was even remotely involved in the purchase of the cemetary site. I worked for 18 months to try and buy it myself, and was ultimately successful. A little record checking is all that's required to verify that.

2) I hired John Clauser's firm because, indeed, the tax records, indicated that there might be grave sites remaining on the property. I hired John because he was recommeded as the best cemetary archealogist in the State.

3) As John as pointed out everyone involved treated the site with great reverence, there was no attempt to hide anything, and I had numverous conversations with TP neighbors who strolled by to talk about what we were doing and how interesting it was to try and figure out the history of the lot.

4) With regards to the setbacks and driveways, all one has to do is look at a copy of the contract that was signed with the current owner. To suggest that everyone wasn't aware of the issue is just more fiction.

5) With respect to the Knox house all anyone needs to do is look at the building plans for the original garage structure that was submitted to the City. Yep, the garage is right on the 5' rear setback line. So yes, I made a mistake with the 2nd bay....but to suggest it was encroaching on some agreed upon buffer is, again, a lie.

6) I have restored 3 houses in TP; lived in 2 of them, built a new in-fill home that fits in perfectly with surrounding homes and participated in the relocation of the Sweaney house. I'm through apologizing to anyone for trying to make a difference in Trinity Park.

Ah well, disparaging my dissonance seems to be the refuge of those without a cogent response to challenging questions.

GK

A lot of people knew this lot had a former cemetary on it with the potential of it still having bodies buried in it. I know since, when I moved here earlier in the year, I was told the lot was used as a cemetary. What I didn't know was that the property was up for sale, and I would have been interested. But congrats to the new owner. It sounds like, through my discussion and investigation of the property, that the owners are going to make every attempt at building a structure conducive to the neighborhood design.

However, I am bothered that the gravestones were recklessly damaged in the process of excavation. Contrary to a former comment, I think it was unprofessional. And sad since a good deal of a citizen's name was desecrated by what looks like heavy machinery. Me, being a layman, I would have used hand tools to at least excavate the first few feet of soil. But that's just me.

Also, had I been an owner, I probably would have left the those who were already buried rest in peace. Including the stones (by incorporating them into the design or preserved, somehow, where the bodies lay. Again, my opinion and choice, but I'm not creeped out by cemetaries either. On the contrary, I find them peaceful and humbling.

So, with that said, from what I have been told, Historical Concepts is designing the new home and are sensitive to reproducing historical design. So, I have high hopes for this lot (now, if only people would invest like this in NECD). But, I am bothered by how the stones were handled and defaced. No excuse for that!!!

As for the Markhams, I believe many of the decendents still live here in Durham, so it might be a good start to consult with them since they may not only shed light on the history of the lot, but may have an interest in preserving what's left of the stones.

As for your comment, Steve, about Anonymous postings since you're not the only person who is bothered by anonymous postings (though, I think it's the content more than the anonymity). When you say they are really fun, have no accountability, no facts required, and they just make up whatever they like and fire away without consequence... I really wonder what those consequences are? Even with a registered name, most are relatively anonymous, and I have found many anonymous postings valuable to the discussion. On the other hand, I've also found NON-anonymous postings as well as blog owners far more insulting, incredulous or slanderous than a lot of anonymous postings. You're gonna get both. I just really wonder, since it sounds threatening, what those consequences could be???

Of course, I don't think you need to apologize for any revitalization and improvement you've made to TP. I don't know all the details, but it sounds like you've made quite a contribution and that is something commendable. Be proud of that.

Now, if a lot of local investors could get together and start improving places like the east and south sides, I'd be delighted because TP is not the center of the Durham universe, in my opinion. They are a success story, yes, considering its history. But only so far if their success helps insprie further success and improvement for all of Durham.

Gary, I hope you keep tabs on this process. It may turn out that we see another good example of what one must do with a vacant lot instead of building some vinyl clad box that might last a few decades (of course, the handling of the gravestones is something I would never condone).

I am the "Caroline" referred to by Michael Bacon in a (now) much earlier post. To clarify:

Yes, I did work on a video project on grave moving. No, it was not for UNC-TV. Although the Producer/Director and I were both employees of that august institution for a number of years, this particular project was not done for UNC-TV, nor were we working there at the time. I am no longer associated with the project and I don't know if it was ever completed.

That said, I learned a number of interesting things about grave moving.

The focus of the video was a man who had been moving graves for 20+ years. Sadly, he passed away from a heart attack during the taping. His personal beliefs were that it was much better to move a grave than to leave it in a location unsuited to visitation or care by surviving family members. His primary example: Drive down I-84 in South Carolina, and you'll see a graveyard in the middle of the freeway. Not only is it exceedingly dangerous to pull off into the middle of the median to visit the graves, but the curve that's in the road to accommodate the graveyard has likely put even more people in the ground. (His words, not mine.)

Regardless. Any grave moving I've known of has involved finding and notifying any living relatives, respectfully digging up the graves, placing the remains in new receptacle, and then re-interring the bodies in a cemetery.

ok this comment is for Steve Ortmann from an anonymous poster:
a long visit to the Register of Deeds revealed that your wife brought the property on 4/25 for $113,000 and sold it on 5/11 (2 weeks later) for $185,000 thats a $72,000 PROFIT. And that brings the question of why the property is only valued at $100??? Does that mean he also did not even have to pay ANY taxes on it? On the register of deeds site you can go to the drop down box and choose "removal of graves" catagory and click search which will give you a list of all graves that were legally moved. NOTHING has been filed on this location.
Since the bodies have been found has the construction stopped? Where is the notification posted in the paper looking for the family? I tried to find it to no avail.

Has anyone reported this to the city?? What is the city's stance on this??? Is the NEWS aware of what's happening???

Steve you say I'm through apologizing to anyone for trying to make a difference in Trinity Park.
with $73k in your pocket I guess you are laughing all the way to the bank and don't have to say sorry about THAT!!

This whole thing is just too disgusting to me

I thought about this some more and realize that the sale was PROBABLY in his wife's name because of the possible conflict of interest. I wonder if he got one of his buddies at the city to approve the permit to build on the lot? I can not imagine how they got approval for that UNLESS he somehow convinced SOMEONE that there were no bodies on the property and that the legal description was wrong. hmmmmmmmmm

This whole argument is a beautiful metaphor for our abysmal preservation culture.

Clausers remarks:
"I have seen time and time again what happens to the body, and it just doesn't matter," he says. "You can spend great quantities of money on caskets and vaults and this and that and you can't fight chemistry. Or you can just be buried in a shroud, and if it's the right kind of soil, the bones will be preserved for decades."

"The bottom line is, it's all just remains."

Steve,

Since you admit to making a mistake about the garage on Knox, how about reimbursing those neighbors for the legal fees they incurred in helping you get the variance to build "the new house that fits in the neighborhood so well"? That might ease some of the ill will you have inspired.

Irascible

WHICH VERSION OF ABYSMAL WERE YOU REFERRING TO? sUCH BIG WORDS...
1. of or like an abyss; immeasurably deep or great.
2. extremely or hopelessly bad or severe: abysmal ignorance; abysmal poverty.

A clarification concerning burial protection and removal laws may be in order. Chapter 65 has been quoted correctly, but it is not the only legislation concerning burial discovery and removal. The Watts St. burials are being treated under NCGS 70. Proper authorization for removal and treatment was granted by state officials.

Search for next of kin is presently being conducted. A legal notice will be published in the Durham paper once a week for four consecutive weeks. I do not have the exact dates at hand.

The stones will remain at the rear of the lot until burial location is selected. There is a danger of damage to the stones every time they are moved. It is unfortunate that one marker was damaged, but it was buried and hit during preliminary excavation.

"The stones will remain at the rear of the lot until burial location is selected. There is a danger of damage to the stones every time they are moved. It is unfortunate that one marker was damaged, but it was buried and hit during preliminary excavation."

I agree that every time the stones are moved, there is indeed risk of damage. And damage has already been done, that's true. Can't take that back. However, my only complaint is that the site was known to have buried souls on it. With that, it could be assumed that stones or markers could also be found. Thus, I doubt a typical hand shovel was used to damage the badly damaged stone. It was HEAVY equipment that did that. And I think more care could have been used in the excavation. That's all. Hell, I would used hand tools had it been my property. But, again, that's just me having more respect for what remains.

I attended Watts Street School in 1946, 1947and 1948 and everyone knew about the Cemetery being there. I hope John and the Property Owner someday see what they have done for Greed...Give a Name of who within the State of North Carolina gave permission to dig up graves and grave stones with your Bachhoe..I want to speak with this person.. Darrell

I'm still not all that clear as to why the survey tool of choice was a backhoe loader.

I would think that either ground penetrating radar (if the soil chemistry permits sufficient penetration) or a seismic survey, using a seisgun would have revealed not only the headstones, but also the unmarked remains.

The rub, of course, is that renting archaeological tools costs more than using earthmoving equipment already on-site. Not intending to slight Mr. Clauser, but I am led to believe that concerns over cost won out over concerns regarding thoroughness.

Yep--as a 50 yr long researcher on the Chamblee/Shambley/Chamlee et al clan in the U.S., this is upsetting. Thanks for all you do on this site.