We should respect burial grounds

Published 4:51 pm Thursday, March 15, 2018

The remains of Mr. David Dunlap and others buried in the Dunlap cemetery (Highway 29 and 22nd Avenue) in the Shawmut community of Valley are scheduled to be dug up the week of April 16, 2018.

A public notice of this, given by PMTD Restaurants, LLC, appeared in The Times News of March 1, 2018, with the heading, Notice of Declaration of Abandonment of Lands for Cemetery Purposes and of Intention to Remove the Human Bodies Interred Therein. It directs that any comments about removal may be made to Shelby Linck: 803-638-7068; 521 Clemson Rd., Columbia, SC 29229, or Shelby.Linck@terracon.com. I believe she is an Architectural Historian but do not know her role in this – nor if the restaurant group now owns the cemetery site.

The Times News editorial of Feb. 16, stated that the City of Valley was then considering relocating graves from this burial site so that it could be better developed for commercial use. It continued by saying that while respect for the past is undeniably a good thing, let’s not burden ourselves with it – also that it will solve a mystery as to how many bodies are buried there. I respectfully disagree with these expressions and with the declaration of the cemetery as abandoned. I disagree that revenue and sales are more important than preserving cemeteries. Respecting burial grounds is not a burden, and I do not view satisfaction of curiosity as a valid reason for removal of remains of people. These are not ancient tombs. It is the responsibility of cities, citizens, family reunion groups, churches, and organizations to assure that old graveyards are cared for and preserved.

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The Dunlap cemetery is within Section 1, Township 21N, Range 28E. The East
1/2 of that Section 1 – 320.08 acres – was issued to David Dunlap on March 10, 1845, by the Tallapoosa District Land Office. It incorporates, basically, the Shawmut Circle area and more to the South. Highway 29 runs through the Northeast corner of this half section, with the burial site there near 29.

Who was the man David Dunlap? Major Dunlap, as he was often called, came to Shawmut by 1840 and never married. He grew wheat and corn and raised farm animals within his plantation of at least 460 acres. He was born in South Carolina about 1790 and probably came to Alabama through Georgia and first to the Tuscaloosa-Greene County area with relatives. In December 1850, he had 260 acres of improved land and 200 unimproved, machinery and tools, livestock, a gin, slaves, and more ownings. He had produced 37 bushels of wheat and 1,500 of Indian corn that year, often working in the fields himself. He was known to have gone in his carriage to church in West Point, carrying a neighbor, and to have purchased miscellaneous goods at a West Point grocery store.

The family closest to him was that of James J. Robinson, an overseer of his, wife Mary, and the four Robinson children born by 1852. Several in this family are buried in Pinewood Cemetery, West Point. Dunlap willed his entire estate to these children, so that $13,640 in value was equally divided among them in 1858 after the Alabama Supreme Court upheld that they were his legal heirs. Dunlap had almost constant medical attention August-September 1852 prior to his death at about age 62 of a disease of a typhoid type or typhus fever. His estate paid $25 for the coffin and casket in which his remains have lain peacefully for only 165 years. His brother Robert and nephew James M. Dunlap were contesters of his will. He had relatives in Tuscaloosa County and in Eutaw in Greene County, including Mary Dunlap McGiffert, daughter of David and Mary Dunlap who immigrated to South Carolina from Ireland and settled in Alabama.

I would not know how David Dunlap, his living kin, nor those buried near him would feel about removal from an intended final resting place, but I’m sure they would have preferred that modern commerce not have already impeded so near to them. I believe a burial place is sacred and much more important than commerce.

Alice Folmar Kelley