HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — A religious group in High Point along with a conservationist uncovered more than 100 unmarked graves of Black community members in their cemetery.
Shawn Rogers was cleaning off a headstone as a favor to the Deep River Friends.
While he was cleaning, another visitor-turned friend told him the area, which looked open and untouched to the untrained eye, was the Black burial area on the site.
He saw a few headstones but a lot of open grass.
“I realized there are a lot of depressions here. This burial ground is practically full,” Rogers said.
He reached out to Barbara Bell, a leader in the Deep River Friends Meeting, and asked if he could look around after the discovery.
“I manually probed for graves and found nearly 100 occupied lots,” Rogers said.
Bell couldn’t believe it.
“I always thought there were 50…you just don’t know,” she said.
Leaders with Deep River Friends say they always knew there was a gravesite there, but they didn’t know how many people were buried.
Bell says they started wondering how they could investigate the area after a conversation in the fall with a friend who has a family member buried there.
They have rough records going back to the 1930s. They estimate people started burying their loved ones in that part of the cemetery in the mid-1800s.
The Deep River Friends are Quakers. In the 1800s, they were seen as friends to African Americans seeking refuge.
Bell and others wanted to know more and gave the green light for Rogers to bring out a geologist.
After scanning, they discovered 143 unmarked plots.
Rogers started to spread the word to friends in the community to check their family history to see if their ancestors were among the unmarked and unnamed.
“I think at the moment, we have 37 names. There are 13 graves here presently that we know of, and I expect that number to swell,” Rogers said.
Now Deep River Friends leaders are making plans to permanently mark these final resting places.
“There are so many lessons to be learned, to be gleaned from their lives from their struggle to me. This is one of the ways we can reconnect to memorialize the fact that these people did live worthy lives,” Rogers said.