Local News

September 6, 2009

Historical group protecting plots

There’s a plot of land off South Dixie Road that seems empty — but it’s not.

There are no markers, no fences, nothing to indicate it’s a cemetery except a few places where the ground has sunken in a little.

“I wouldn’t have known it was a cemetery,” said Mitch Adams, a senior GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technician for Whitfield County. “I only know it’s one because Marvin (Sowder) told me it was and because there are indentations in the ground.” Sowder is a local history enthusiast.

Members of the Whitfield County Historical Preservation Commission were concerned some of the county’s cemeteries might be lost to development if they’re not recorded. Adams and Sowder are working to map the county’s burial sites so that anyone with a GPS (Global Positioning System) can find them. They are beginning with the ones in the most danger of being lost, such as unmarked sites and those in pastures and in wooded areas.

The project does not record who is buried at each site, only the name of the cemetery. There is a book released by the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society that records who is buried at each site.

Sowder helped create maps of each of the county’s cemeteries for the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society several years ago, but they did not have access to the technology that allows them to record the sites using GPS.

“We need to have (burial sites) recognized and marked so they are not lost,” Sowder said. “These people, even though they are dead, they have rights.... They need to be preserved and respected.”

Adams said the information will be used by county officials to create a map to determine where people can build. For example, if a developer submits plans for a subdivision, county officials will be able to easily see if the new development would disturb a burial site.

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