It was a lecture that hit home for one Trident Tech student:
An instructor was giving his class an example of a day in the life of his job with the town of Moncks Corner, and afterward a student who lives in the Foxbank community posted this message on the community’s Facebook page:
“So tonight in class, my professor, who works for the MC Planning Department told us that work was bringing him out to Foxbank tomorrow morning. I guess when the developers were clearing trees for new lots, they found some tombstones/graves belonging to slaves from the old plantation. He said that the graves would have been close to the black church on the grounds but their existence has been unknown until recently. This has halted development and whoever it belongs to is upset about the delay (losing $).”
Moncks Corner officials on Friday visited Foxbank Plantation to investigate concerns that a slave graveyard may have been disturbed by the development. They had gotten a call earlier in the week from a person described as a former caretaker of the historic property.
Town Administrator Mark Hehn and the developer said they have not yet determined that there are any graves at the construction site. But the visit generated a lot of interest on Facebook after it was discussed Thursday night in the Trident Technical College class of Lane West, who is also the town planner for Moncks Corner.
The Facebook post, which has since been taken down, was seen by a descendant of slaves on Foxbank who lives in the community where 850 of 2,100 planned residences have been built.
She sent the text to a cousin, who circulated it among members of the Lynes family. Jack Lynes, a descendant of the family who owned the plantation when slavery ended, was among those who received a copy.
Lynes said he was told by family elders there were quite a few slaves buried there. According to Lynes, one of the elders said her grandmother told her she would get up at night to meet blacks at the gate so they could enter the graveyard to bury the dead.
A plat developed in the early 1880s, after the death of Elizabeth Whitfield Lynes, indicates a graveyard in the general vicinity of the main house. But the document is not drawn to scale and gives limited help in figuring out exactly where the cemetery was located.
A cousin told the Lynes family where he thought the cemetery was, Lynes said. But he now thinks the place indicated may not have been correct. Lynes, who has studied Foxbank extensively, said he never before heard of a black church on the property.
“Apparently it was the wrong place. There is only one place where slaves are buried. It’s critically important to save it,” he said. “Now it’s certainly an exciting thing because they are not going to build on it and it’s a moment of rejoicing. It was our people and we figure it’s sacred and should be protected and should not be built over.”
“There is no cemetery that I am aware of,” says Jeff Randolph, project manager with the Randolph Group, developer of the planned community. Randolph said several people have pointed to a general area where they think the graves would be located, but “No one has walked out and said it’s right here.”
Hehn said he received the call on Monday that depressions in the ground of a vacant area might be a burial site of a nearby church.
After Hehn and other Moncks Corner officials visited the site with the former caretaker, he contacted Randolph, who said he already had established a park to honor history of Foxbank.
“The open space and pocket park was placed in the general vicinity of where there might be graves or cemeteries within the limits of what they think is Foxbank Plantation,” Randolph said. “There is no easement or anything in the title. We would have to respect that.”
Randolph also said the area was slated to get a historical marker.
Hehn said it appears that Randolph has complied with everything he should have, both by law and in his agreements with the Lynes family. But he plans to ask Randolph to send Moncks Corner the surveys of the property a developer usually orders before getting financing.
If they find that anything is incorrect, he says, there is a state law requiring the developer to provide access to such gravesites.