Concern over African-American burial ground

MECHANICSVILLE, VA (WWBT) - There's concern about the future of an African-American burial ground in Hanover County.

Located on Mechanicsville Turnpike near Pole Green Road, part of the burial ground is up for sale. That has some people concerned that developers may disrupt those buried there. Coincidentally, this burial ground is only a few feet from a modern cemetery.

The listing for the property doesn't mention the burial ground. That's creating fear someone will build on it and not know what's underneath.

Kevin Monaghan's family has been in the funeral business for over a hundred years. He now runs Hanover Memorial Park. He found an African-American burial ground a few feet from his cemetery several years ago after finding old casket handles dating back to the 1800's.

"It's something that's always been in here," Monaghan said. "We didn't know the size of it until we got in to actually look."

Monaghan has outlined the burial ground in orange tape and placed brightly colored flags where some of the old tombstones used to be. He says at least seven people are buried here and he's even tracked down photos of them.

"We just don't want these guys to be forgotten," he said. "Hanover County, the people that lived here back then, they kind of made Hanover what it is today."

Now he's concerned these people may not be able to rest in peace. The Virginia Department of Transportation owns a sliver of the land, and is trying to sell the property. Right not there's a fence with barbed wire on top outlining the portion for sale.

Monaghan has already submitted a bid, but he's afraid someone else may buy it and not know what they have here.

"I was concerned the new purchaser or the people that have already made bids on the property would purchase it and not think it was a responsibility of theirs to maintain it or protect the cemetery," he said.

Monaghan says he won't be upset if he isn't able to buy the burial ground, as long as someone takes care of it.

"People just need to know about it," he said. "They need to know it's there, they need to know it's history."

Bids on that property will close July 1st. VDOT currently runs a garage for snow plows and other equipment on the other side of the property. A spokesperson said they weren't aware of any burial ground, but they plan to look into it.

Monaghan says he'll put a wrought iron fence around the burial ground and replace the tombstones if he's able to buy it. Right now the two and a half acre plot is going for almost $400,000.

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