A small cemetery of unmarked graves has been found in the path of the Sardis Church Road extension, and the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to unearth and move the bodies.
The cemetery dates back to the early 1800s and may have from eight to two dozen nineteenth-century African-American burials,” the DOT said.
It was discovered after the project’s route was approved, and while the department was buying the land it needed to extend the road to Ga. 247 south of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, a DOT spokeswoman said.
The cemetery is in the Avondale Mill Road area in south Bibb County, and the graves appear to be connected to the former McArthur family plantation site there. It’s on land that was part of the plantation, and there is a marked McArthur cemetery nearby, the DOT said.
The bodies will be moved to a local cemetery, DOT spokeswoman Crystal Paulk-Buchanan said.
“There’s really no good avoidance options,” said Julie Coco, program manager for New South Associates, which will handle archeology at the site.
Some underground radar work has been done and more is planned before the bodies are moved. The DOT is asking anyone with information about the site to contact Coco. It was discovered by word of mouth, Paulk-Buchanan said.
“(Someone said) when I was a kid, folks used to say there’s a cemetery on that property,” Paulk-Buchanan said. “It’s not designated (as a cemetery).”
New South Associates plans to have people at the site Thursday to do more study. Eventually the top layer of soil will be removed to look for “soil disturbance,” a tell-tale sign of graves, Coco said.
“Maybe a dozen,” Coco said. “Probably definitely no more than two dozen.”
Coco and Paulk-Buchanan said officials have been in touch with people that they believe descended from people buried at the site, as well as descendants of the McArthur family. They would not provide contact information Monday, saying they didn’t know whether the families wanted to speak to the media.
The DOT has asked anyone who knows something about this cemetery to visit www.avondaleburialplace.org or to contact Coco at (770) 498-4155, extension 103, or firstname.lastname@example.org.