Local News

DOT Faces Another Grave Situation With Northern Wake Expressway

Posted July 3, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— For the second time this year, theDepartment of Transportationhas found itself in a grave situation. Dozens of headstones stand in the way of a multimillion-dollar roadway.

The DOT will move 80 to 150 graves that sit along Highway 401 in the path of the Northern Wake Expressway. The graves are located near the landmark known as "The Big Man."

The primitive look of the headstones leads researchers to believe the graves date back over a century.

"Well, I would certainly think that it would be pre-Civil War even after the late 1700s when settlers were here in Wake County," says cemetery researcher Irene Kittinger.

Hubert Norwood lives in a former plantation house a few hundred yards away from the cemetery. He says as a child in the 30s and 40s, he learned the local lore.

"There was no identity on any of the markers so I don't know who they are, with the exception of they could be slaves of a plantation," Norwood says.

Researchers say the land could be a slave or community cemetery.

Any surviving relatives need to step forward soon. The state wants the graves moved by the end of the month.

The DOT says if no one claims the graves, they will be moved to the historic Oakwood section of Raleigh.

A family did claim another set of headstones found in the path of the Northern Wake Expressway earlier this year. The DOT paid to have those remains moved to a cemetery that the family chose.