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Forgotten cemetery in Charlotte now the focus of new study

Published: Sep. 24, 2015 at 9:33 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 24, 2015 at 9:33 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A final resting place for former slaves and black soldiers in northwest Charlotte has fallen into disrepair. Neighbors near the old Biddleville Cemetery say it's now attracting crime.

The property has roots in the 1800s and is owned in part by Mecklenburg County. A new push is underway to figure out how to best preserve it.

While Greater Gethsemane AME Zion remains a cornerstone in Charlotte's Biddleville community, one block behind the church sits a graveyard mystery linked by names, dates, and family stories.

Neighbors like Otis Green have a simple request.

"Clean it up," Green said.

Remains of veterans, not just from World War I and World War II, can be found in the old Biddleville Cemetery. One marker also identifies an individual who served in the Spanish American war during the 1800s.

However, issues like crime and vandalism in the 21st century are driving people who use nearby Five Points Park to take notice.

That's where Reggie Clark walks his dogs.

"You see the drug activity in the park somedays," Clark said. "The prostitution in the park somedays. A lot of the people don't know the history of the cemetery here."

Preservation is a modern day goal of the Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. Dr. Dan Morill, who heads the commission, is behind a study answering questions regarding who is buried there and how to best refurbish the site.

"It is a place that was obviously extremely important to the African American community in an around Johnson C. Smith University for decades," Dr. Morill said.

It is history valued by those who grew up near the cemetery, like Nolie Steele.

"We just want to honor these people," Steele said. "They should be honored and respected."

The study is expected to be finished this coming December.

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