Descendants can only watch as DOT crews dig up what was supposed to be the final resting place for 16 members of the Clifton, Adams and Long families.
The family cemetery near Gresham Lake remained untouched for years. Some graves date back to the 1850s.
Despite objections from family members, the state decided to relocate the graves as part of the DOT plan to widen Capital Boulevard.
"Rather than split the graves up -- and then you have the problem of maintaining access to the cemetery, I think it's worked out best for everybody," says the DOT's Brian Harrington.
Sonny Clifton fought the relocation. His great-grandparents are buried here.
"In many countries, this ground would be considered sacred ground. But this is what's taking place in the name of progress," Clifton says.
The graves will be moved to the Montlawn cemetery in Raleigh.
"It's a lost era to me. I know we don't have a choice, but it's still a lost era," says relative Rosalynd Phelps.
The DOT plans to establish an advisory committee that will oversee future relocations of family cemeteries. One of the Cliftons will serve on it.