Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Do Cemeteries End Up in the Middle of Parking Lots?

Little family cemeteries are always in danger of the developer's bulldozer. Sometimes, the developers have an appreciation for the past and do what they can to preserve the graves that are in their way.

That's how parking lot cemeteries are created - rather than tearing out the cemetery, the developer will preserve the site, leaving a small cemetery in the middle of a movie theater parking lot, an apartment complex parking lot, a freeway interchange, or even a sports stadium parking lot!

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In an article at washingtonpost.com by Theo Emery - More Family Cemeteries Dying Away in the South - we can learn a little more about how development is affecting these little cemeteries.

Throughout the South, family cemeteries pepper the landscape. But as cities...radiate rapidly outward, the growth is swallowing rural land that swaddles the graves. In Tennessee alone, dozens of long-hidden cemeteries appear each year--sometimes in mid-construction--creating headaches for builders and heartaches for families of the dead. Some cemeteries are moved at landowners' expense. Those that stay sometimes become forlorn islands of green amid parking lots and suburban developments. Others are paved over or bulldozed.

For example, Stephanie at Southern Graves tells Grave Mappers of a small cemetery in Centerville, Houston County, Georgia. It's called the Gunn Family Cemetery, and she has been keeping her eye on it for quite some time now.

The little cemetery was originally in the woods, but with the passage of time and "progress," it is now right next to a strip mall. Stephanie says the stones are in bad shape, and it looks like there are some stones that are now missing. A small fence has been built around the cemetery, with "Keep Out" signs posted.

Stephanie has a video and photos of this little cemetery that you won't want to miss - check it out at Southern Graves.

As Grave Mappers, what can we do to help these endangered cemeteries?

Sometimes we are able to get into the cemetery and do clean up, preservation, and restoration work. Another thing we can do is preserve the records of these small cemeteries. There are many ways to do this - taking photos of the headstones and publishing burial listings are helpful.

A great new way to preserve the records is to create an on-line map of the cemeteries at Names in Stone. Creating a map preserves the records in a format that makes it possible for everyone to see the cemetery as it really is - who is buried next to whom. It's like a virtual walk through the cemetery. The records become searchable - so records that were previously unknown are now available for everyone to see and use for research.

Creating an online cemetery map is easy, quick, and permanent. Grave Mappers hopes you will try it - and help us preserve the records of these dying cemeteries.


  1. I love you site. I added myself to Wichita Falls as that is where I call home now. However, if anyone needs Cemetaries in between Electa and Tom Bean, please let me know. I have family back towards Tom Bean TX and Sherman area and I go there quiet often. I have been working on the cemetaries out that way to get information for myself and would not mind helping anyone who needs information for this area that can not get here.

  2. Thanks Robin! We're excited to work with you!

  3. One of my great uncles (X 4 or 5 times) is buried under the Frostburg Fire Department's parking lot. I find it very sad and it happens way too often in the U.S.


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