Speculation regarding grave sites on a potential Lake Wylie development site has been laid to rest.
A survey completed by archeological consulting and monitoring company Search Inc. found no indicators of graves on Mattamy Homes’ 86-acre parcel. Last month, the York County Planning Commission approved the company’s plat for a 175-lot, single-family subdivision.
Mattamy hired Search to complete a report after Lake Wylie residents suggested there might be graves on the site. Resident Matt Burton said that his grandparents told him when he was a child that there were graves on the property, and that he found indentations in the ground which led him to believe they existed.
A map that was missing from the original report was recently provided by Search, which clarified outstanding issues that had been raised by the county’s Culture and Heritage Commission and South Carolina State Archeologist Jonathan Leader, who was consulted by the county and Mattamy throughout the process.
The map that was missing identifies the locations of where surveyors used ground-penetrating radar to scan below the surface for signs of unmarked graves.
“They should have included that map; it would have verified any questions as to whether they were in the right place or not,” said Carey Tilley, director of the county’s Culture and Heritage Museums.
Surveyors used ground-penetrating radar at several locations, including those that Burton thought could be grave sites, according to the report. Burton said that he walked the site with the surveyors before they scanned it, and expressed concerns about whether they looked in the right places.
Leader said that he felt confident in Search’s survey, and that the map containing the locations of where Search used the ground-penetrating radar answered his biggest question about the report.
Search surveyed the entire property, according to the report. Surveyors walked the property from north to south at 98-foot intervals, and made note in the report of the remains of two house sites, a can and bottle dump, and a push pile of debris that was likely left from past construction.
After reading the report, Tilley said, “It looks like (Search) did what they needed to do,” and that the company “went the extra length” by surveying the whole site.
Graves would not have prevented Mattamy from developing on the property, but South Carolina law protects all grave sites, and requires that developers build around them.
Burton said he wants other groups to get involved in investigating his claim, but Tilley said that because the property is privately owned, little could be done by the county or the state.
“Unless there was a problem and they were checking in the wrong spot, there’s not a lot we can do unless someone brings something else to us,” he said. “If something comes up, it might be worth going back out there.”
Although residents had believed the grave sites to be those of slaves, Leader said that was news to him, and that it can be difficult to differentiate between slave graves and their owners’ graves.
“When you’re talking about people who were under the ownership and control of the dominant group, the burial format tends to follow that of the dominant group,” he said.