National preservationists set to visit a historic cemetery hidden in plain sight

Published: May. 27, 2023 at 12:39 PM EDT
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MIDLAND, Ga. (WTVM) - Two Acres of land off Pierce Chapel Road in Midland Georgia, is being labeled as one of America’s most endangered historic places.

Those two acres of land is the Pierce Chapel African Cemetery, and it holds the remains of an estimated 500 people, including those enslaved at nearby plantations.

The Pierce Chapel African Cemetery was established in 1828, and it’s one of the oldest burial grounds for African Americans enslaved at several plantations in Midland.

Chief Preservation Officer Katherine Malone-France will join volunteers this Saturday, to help clean the cemetery.

Yamona Pierce says ‘‘There is no reason why in 2023 this cemetery should be in this condition.‘’

Pierce discovered the Pierce Chapel African cemetery back in 2019, after wanting to know the history of her family beginnings.

‘’Our first visit to the Pierce Chapel African cemetery was not what we had envisioned for the final resting place of my third great grandparents, the cemetery wasn’t what we know today as a traditional final resting place. You know the one with dignity, the one with signage, the one that was welcoming to the descendants,’’ says Pierce.

The Hamilton Hood Foundation has been working to raise awareness about the Pierce Chapel African Cemetery, and repair the severe damage that has happened to the historic site.

‘’We worked with Georgia Power and Mediacom to remove the overhead power lines and broadband cable lines, but in the process of them constructing those lines and coming in for the maintenance of those lines, this is why we see residuals like this. This box tomb once stood gracefully above ground and you see how shattered this box tomb is, and how shattered this ledger stone is.’' says Pierce.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation 11 Most endangered list, has often provided the decisive force needed to preserve important cultural landmarks. Chief Preservation Officer Katherine Malone-France says places like this, and their stories might have been lost already if not for foundations like Hamilton Hood.

‘’The Pierce Chapel African cemetery is incredibly important to the history of Harris County and Georgia, but it is also incredibly important to the entire history of the United states,’' say Katherine Malone-France.

So far, the Hamilton Hood Foundation has had experts survey the land, to determine where and how many people were buried there. Most graves being represented by a flag.

‘’So the flags represent the burials. The pink flags represent where the archaeologists have identified the burials, and the white flags represent the material artifacts. For example, here you see the head of a holt and this person more than likely was a black farmer, this is a burial site,’' says Pierce.

On May 27, the Hamilton Hood Foundation will host a day of service where volunteers can come clean the area, and learn the history of this cemetery. Pierce says the foundation’s goal is to have markers on all the graves, along with benches and herbs.