Local News

Developer mistakenly levels century-old Wake Forest cemetery

Posted January 10, 2018 6:09 p.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2018 9:09 a.m. EST

— A Facebook video claiming a family cemetery that dates back more than a century in Wake Forest had been bulldozed triggered hundreds of angry comments, but officials are saying it is all a misunderstanding.

The woman who shot the video claims a developer cleared away the cemetery that once was along Burlington Mill Road to make way for a new subdivision.

Mungo Homes is building a new neighborhood in the area, but the developer says no graves were bulldozed. However, the site had been graded, or leveled, by mistake.

The town issued a stop work order and police were called because the cemetery is protected by law.

The cemetery is so old that there were no headstones, but there were small, rough-cut stones marking the graves that had been removed during the work.

The Office of State Archeology came out and determined that 2 to 4 inches of dirt had been scraped off, but the graves themselves were not disturbed.

Mungo Homes was aware of the cemetery, and Vice President Geoff Shiley said the company plans to create a memorial.

"We pride ourselves on doing the right thing. This area was meant to be preserved. We just had a miscommunication with the town on exactly how that was to be done," he said. "Our efforts were basically to come in and kind of clean it up and make it look a lot nicer than it was."

Mungo Homes now faces a $24,000 fine from the town.

"It was within a tree protection area and it was de-marked on the construction plan as a sensitive area with a tree protection fence around it," said Michelle Michael, senior planner for historic preservation for the town of Wake Forest. "Nobody was to enter that during construction."

The Office of State Archaeology recommends the use of ground penetrating radar to determine the location of the graves. Mungo says it will do that and will work with the town on how best to replace the stone markers that were removed.

Last year, 62 grave sites were removed to make way for the widening of Burlington Mills Road. Mungo says there were few, if any, identifiably human remains found.

But what was exhumed was placed in a coffin and buried in the protective site which the company plans to make into a memorial.