The Old Unity Cemetery in Fort Mill, South Carolina
By Heather Garner, March 25, 2000
Heather Garner, founder of Cemetery Preservation & Restoration, offers this commentary about the town's inability and unwillingness to care for its historic cemetery.
My name is Heather Garner, Founder of an organization called CPR, Cemetery Preservation and Restoration. My family founded CPR, in 1995, after many years of working in neglected cemeteries, including the Old Unity Cemetery. The CPR group is made entirely of volunteers, and we reap no rewards for preserving our heritage, other than the knowledge that we are looking after a little piece of American history. Our work enables future generations to see and learn from the information in our cemeteries, just as we have.
Sadly, our state's history is being lost, vandalized and destroyed; in many cases by the very people responsible for maintaining that history. The lack of interest in preserving the forefront of South Carolina history for our children and the generations to come, is not only heartbreaking, but under South Carolina law, is also illegal.
The Old Unity Cemetery in Fort Mill, South Carolina has been owned by the Town of Fort Mill. since 1989. Prior to that, it was owned by the Unity Presbyterian Church. This cemetery dates back to the Revolutionary War, and the founding fathers of Fort Mill are buried there. There are many children, families and soldiers buried in this cemetery. Since this historical cemetery was given to the city of Fort Mill, it has received nothing but gross neglect, desecration, and destruction.
Historic graves have been smashed beyond repair. Grave markers have been defaced and destroyed. Some graves are no longer marked in any way. The hand built stone wall surrounding the cemetery has been damaged in several areas. Were this damage to be committed by miscreants, it would be described in horrored terms in the community as "shameless vandalism" and "this terrible tragedy". To discover that this act was committed by the very people whose responsibility it is to maintain this historic legacy, is nothing short of catastrophic, not to mention criminally negligent.
It is abundantly clear that the city does not have the time, nor the resources to dedicate to preserving our heritage. The city possesses such a lack of caring for our history that it should not have the right or the privilege to maintain this hallowed ground. Far better, it be turned over to someone who will not only do the job properly, but who will do the task with the care and delicacy required. Never again should a tragedy of this magnitude occur, when, with but a little care, it could have been so easily avoided.
Having said that, let me get straight to the point. It is my wish as Founder of CPR, that this historic cemetery be deeded to my organization, so that we may continue the restoration and preservation of this valuable piece of South Carolina history, without having to be concerned over further desecration by city maintenance workers.
It is my sincere hope that you will support our organization in obtaining ownership of the Old Unity Cemetery, and that you will make this support known by calling the Fort Mill city council members and Charles Powers, Mayor of Fort Mill. I invite you to personally visit this wonderful cemetery to fully appreciate not only the desecration done to the cemetery, but also to gain a better understanding of the history contained therein.
- Heather Garner
Heather is the founder of Cemetery Preservation & Restoration. Visit their website at [http://www.cemeterypreservation.8m.com]
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