Graves found at proposed Topgolf site, concerns raised over the - | WBTV Charlotte

Graves found at proposed Topgolf site, concerns raised over the preservation of slave cemetery

(Steve Crump/WBTV) (Steve Crump/WBTV)
(Steve Crump/WBTV) (Steve Crump/WBTV)
The entrance of Topgolf's newest location in Charlotte on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (Source: David T. Foster | The Charlotte Observer) The entrance of Topgolf's newest location in Charlotte on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (Source: David T. Foster | The Charlotte Observer)

Crafted headstones honor the founding fathers and their families who belong to the Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church in northeast Charlotte, but beyond the enclosed stone wall sits another group of graves.

It's the final resting place of those who labored for free.

Historian Dr. Dan Morrill has completed a 29-page study, which details the burial sites at the Mallard Creek church. The burial sites are near the proposed site for Top Golf and a new apartment complex.

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"There is no question there is a burial plot of slave people who were members of that church." Morrill said."The legacy of slavery is obviously troubling. It's painful, but it's instructive as all history is instructive."

Morrill's research spells out how graves were identified and showcases efforts underway to remember former slaves across Mecklenburg County. At age 93, Harvey Johnston remembers how he maintained this cemetery of unknown persons at Mallard Creek Presbyterian.

"We learned that this is what happened in the past, but that's not the kind of thing we want in the future," Johnston said.

Matt Browder, who is the developer of the property, holds on to past lives. "Regardless of what happens here, zoning no zoning, development no development, this will be preserved and protected," Browder said. 

The focus on the preservation is now sparking new questions. 

"The really important thing to me is not what was, but what will be. In other words, now that we know. What do we do? What do we do?" Morill said. 

Charlotte City Council votes on the proposal July 15. 

RELATED: Neighbors protest proposed Topgolf facility in north Charlotte

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