LETTER- Graveyard allegations preceded witnesses, bulldozing

Dave McNair's column, "Sacred ground? Ridge Street sale raises the dead," was– like all of his others– well reported and well written. Unfortunately, however, a quote he included puts me in the all too familiar position of having to correct a misrepresentation by Charlie Armstrong of Southern Development.

According to McNair, Armstrong wrote of me, "Ms. Roades is relying mostly on the 50-plus year old recollections of people who were children at the time they saw a tombstone near a creek."

That is not true. By tracing a dozen individual parcel deeds, consulting chancery documents that included a cited plat, referring to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, City directories, et alia, I had determined with confidence that all evidence pointed to parcel 157 on City tax map 29 well before I heard Kenneth Martin's recollection, the first of two eye-witness accounts that came forward spontaneously. (N.B. The other of those accounts, the one Charlie Armstrong heard personally, involved two tombstones near the creek.)

Archaeologist Ben Ford, then president of Preservation Piedmont, reviewed my information, performed his own document searches, and wrote City officials about the matter also before either eye-witness account surfaced.

So the fact that both accounts supported the evidence previously collected was deeply gratifying but not crucial.

Absolutely crucial, however, is what Armstrong omitted: the fact that parcel 157 was illegally bulldozed by Dr. Charles W. Hurt, Southern Development's creator, shortly after the purchase.

It was September 1999 when a massive earthmover entered the property without a permit, toppled mature trees, pushed them into piles, and thereby disturbed the soil's surface over a wide swath. No small, old grave marker is likely to have withstood such an onslaught.

Had the parcel's surface not been so disturbed, the sort of inspection Armstrong speaks of might have been able to put the cemetery matter to rest. Now, however, the only way to assure that the Hawkins can rest in peace is to perform a thorough archaeological survey.

Antoinette W. Roades