A petition was delivered to Richmond City Hall Tuesday by the Boonesborough Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) asking city officials to take appropriate measures to preserve the grave, which belongs to a soldier that served in the Revolutionary War.
Because of land development, it was brought to the attention of the local DAR chapter that the graves of John Reid and his wife Mary were in danger of destruction.
During the climax of the Revolutionary War in June 1777, the Virginia General Assembly approved an act that required males of legal age within Virginia to give their allegiance to the state. By signing this document, men were considered traitors and risked both their life and their property. One signer of the “Oath of Allegiance by Citizens of Albemarle County,” was Reid, along with the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.
John and his wife moved to Madison County, building his home on Otter Creek just east of Richmond sometime between 1790 and 1795. Reid died in 1816, and his wife passed in 1828. Both were buried near their home.
When the developers began to clear the site for the potential land use in other projects, the Madison County Historical Society (MCHS) and DAR went to the the realtor and owner of the property to make them aware of the tombstones.
Rob Minerich, the city’s manager, said that once he was contacted by DAR about the potential destruction, the city identified the graves and researched the law on preserving cemeteries as well as the names of the people on the gravestones, as they are of historical value.
Even though the landowner lives out of state, the city was able to get in touch with a local contractor who represents the landowner and spoke about the concerns.
“The city acted as middleman in this situation and we connected the land representative and DAR, and to my understanding, there is an agreement with the DAR to assure protection,” Minerich said.
According to Kevin Causey, the construction site inspector for the city of Richmond, a stop work order was issued on March 25, 2019, to the developers because the contractor had not obtained the proper permits with the city to move forward with the clearing.
Sharon Graves, the MCHS president, said that there are several laws that help protect this situation from occurring but a lot of government bodies and developers are not aware of them. Graves hopes that this occurrence will help bring about awareness.
“Problem number one is that cemeteries have been abandoned, and they get sold over generations and people aren’t aware of the history or that they are even there,” Graves said. “There should be steps that state if you do this and do that, and be clear that developers have all information at hand and I think that the city and county governments could do better on that.”
One law passed in 2002 protects cemeteries per KRS 525.115, which states a person is guilty of violating graves when he/she intentionally mutilates the graves, monuments, fences, shrubbery, ornaments, grounds or buildings in or enclosing any cemetery or place of sepulture; or violates the grave of any person by destroying, removing or damaging the headstone or footstone, or the tomb, over the enclosure protecting any grave; or digs into or plows over or removes any ornament, shrubbery or flower placed upon any grave or lot.
Violating graves is a Class D felony.
“Developers need to understand that if they do find a cemetery, what they should do and the steps they need to take,” Graves said. “If they do decide to move forward with some sort of development, we hope they would get enough teeth in them from the government that they don't won’t do it again.”
Graves said that the situation has been rectified and that the city and developers have agreed to focus on the preservation of this site.
“This is the first time we have dealt with this issue so I am sure that it may have been able to be handled better, but I want to commend the city of Richmond and they have been honest and concerned and have educated themselves on cemetery laws,” she said.
Nancy Thames, a Boonesborough DAR regent who helped draft the petition, said all the parties are working together and she too hopes this will bring light to cemeteries and the laws that protect them.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.