By CLAY CAREY
County plans to relocate remains
Construction crews in the Almaville community of Rutherford County made a surprising find this month when they stumbled across several burial sites while preparing land for the construction of two new schools.
Construction workers came across a marked grave in a dense clump of trees while clearing property for the construction of Stewarts Creek middle and elementary schools, said schools spokesman James Evans.
Initially, only one standing tombstone was found. But as workers continued to look, Evans said, they found more. Now, school officials believe there could be anywhere from six to 20 unmarked graves on the site.
''The headstones aren't standing up,'' Evans said. ''There are other things (in the vicinity) that are kind of graveyard-ish.''
It's hard to tell how many graves there might be, he added.
Evans said only one tombstone with legible writing has been found. It marks the grave of a 5-year-old girl who died in the late 1870s. Her last name was Morton.
Some school officials were told that there might be graves on the site when it was purchased in October 2004, Evans said.
However, he said, that information ''apparently didn't get to the right person,'' so construction crews were surprised to find the grave sites.
Prior to construction, no local descendants contacted the district regarding the grave sites, said Schools Director Harry Gill.
''They obviously know the land has been sold,'' Gill said. ''They know the graves are located there.''
The county school system must get a court order to relocate the remains, and it also must advertise the grave relocation and wait 30 days for descendants who might want to move a grave to another cemetery, Evans said.
If no one comes forward, Evans said, school officials plan to exhume the remains and move them to another site on the school property near Poplar Wood Road. This week, the district allocated $39,000 to pay a company to exhume and relocate the remains.
''Where they are now, they are almost completely inaccessible to the public,'' Evans said.
''(Moving the graves) would increase public access for anybody that wanted to visit those graves.''
The graves are on land that the school plans to use as an athletic field.
Evans said the discovery impacts ''easily less than a half-acre'' of the more than 100-acre property, so work crews will have other areas to work until the remains are exhumed.
He said he doesn't expect this discovery to delay the opening of the schools, which is planned for 2006.
One local historian said such burial sites are quite common around Rutherford County.
Susan Daniel, a member of the Rutherford County Historical Society and the author of Cemeteries and Graveyards of Rutherford County, which is being published by the historical society and released this May, said family cemeteries dating back 150 years or more can be found across the county.
Her book includes records of more than 760 cemeteries in Rutherford County, ''and most of them are the graveyards of families'' with only a few people interred, she said.
''There are quite a few (family cemeteries) in Almaville,'' Daniel noted, adding that oftentimes those graves were poorly marked, or not marked at all.
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