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    Prepared By: Michael Trinkley, Ph.D., RPA

    Prepared For: Mr. John R. Greiner

    Conoco, Inc. 600 N. Dairy Ashford Houston, TX 77079

    and Ms. Christina C. Staib, PE

    URS Diamond 140 Cypress Station Dr., Suite 140

    Houston, TX 77090 Chicora Research Contribution 339 Chicora Foundation, Inc. P.O. Box 8664 861 Arbutus Drive Columbia, South Carolina 29202-8664 Email: October 3, 2001

    This report is printed on permanent paper ∞.

  • ©2001 by Chicora Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or transcribed in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior permission of Chicora Foundation, Inc. except for brief quotations used in reviews. Full credit must be given to the authors, publisher, and project sponsor.

  • i


    The Monrovia Union Cemetery, often called just Monrovia Cemetery, is an African American cemetery situated west of I-26, off Oceanic Street and just south of Braswell Street in North Charleston. The property to the north will shortly be undergoing remediation for heavy metal contamination — the result of years of industrial activity.

    As a result, this brief historical study was conducted to learn more about the formation of the cemetery, its activities on the site, and the land- use history of the property. The goal is to determine the potential for human burials intruding into the adjacent industrial tract and provide guidance should human remains be identified during the remediation work.

    The investigations found that the cemetery property was acquired in 1872 by James D. Price, John M. Reed, Charles Bryan, Thomas R. Small, and William Thomas, presumably the first trustees of the Monrovia Union Cemetery Company. Although no papers of incorporation have been found, we assume that the cemetery company was either a for-profit or beneficial company. We have not been able to determine if the company is still in operation, although the grounds are cared for and there are very recent interments in the cemetery.

    The property today consists of ca. 3.7 acres of high ground. Burials are clearly marked primarily on the western half. The rolling topography of the eastern section, however, suggests that unmarked burials are present. There is a loop road, with access off Oceanic Street. A container situated at the southern edge of the cemetery contains funeral service materials. A ditch separates the cemetery from industrial property to the north and marsh to the west. A chain link fence surrounds the tract.

    The topography is generally level, although there is a sizable mound on the northern edge of the property. This mound is clearly artificial, consisting of alternating lenses of dark

    and light soil about 3 to 4 feet in height. The fill is generally clean and appears to have been brought into the site to allow above grade burials.

    This investigation failed to identify any conclusive evidence that the area north of the ditch has ever been incorporated into the cemetery or was used as cemetery. The ditch was not originally a boundary line, although it is a historical feature and, in 1872, was used as a boundary line. This ditch may also have originally extended further to the east than at present.

    Nevertheless, we recommend caution in any land disturbing activities affecting the ditch (whether cut or fill activities are involved). The discovery of any bones, coffin parts (wood or metal) or coffin hardware (for example, handles), should result in all ground disturbing activities to come to a halt.

    Under South Carolina law, the Charleston County Coroner should be immediately notified of the find. Pending their determination that the find is not forensic, the State Archaeologist’s Office (who has jurisdiction over all non-forensic human remains) should then be notified. Chicora Foundation can initially verify finds and coordinate the notification process, if desired.

  • ii

  • iii

    TABLE OF CONTENTS List of Figures iv Introduction 1 Historic Synthesis 5 Current Condition 13 Recommendations 17

  • iv

    LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Project vicinity in the Charleston Neck area 2 2. Monrovia Union Cemetery and adjacent industrial tracts 3 3. Plat of the Monrovia Union Cemetery 6 4. Portion of the ca. 1864 Map of the Defences of Charleston showing the vicinity 7 5. Ashepoo Fertilizer Company showing Monrovia Union Cemetery 8 6. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1884 showing the Ashepoo Fertilizer Company 9 7. Portion of the 1919 USGS Charleston topographic map showing the cemetery 10 8. Portion of the 1943 USGS Charleston topographic map showing the cemetery 10 9. 1949 aerial photograph of the cemetery area 11 10. 1967 aerial photograph of the cemetery area 11 11. Sign for Monrovia Cemetery 13 12. View of the cemetery from the entrance looking west 13 13. View of the rise in the northwestern quadrant of the cemetery 14 14. Lensed soil of the rise exposed in a recently opened grave shaft 15


    This investigation was conducted by Dr. Michael Trinkley of Chicora Foundation, Inc. for Mr. John F. Greiner of Conco and Ms. Christina C. Staib, PE of URS Diamond. The work was conducted to assist these firms better understand the potential for encountering human remains on adjacent property, as well as their responsibility should human remains be encountered.

    The study tract consists of what is locally known as the Monrovia Cemetery, which encompasses 3.7 acres of land situated on the Charleston Neck, within the City of Charleston (see Figure 1). The cemetery is today bounded to the north by a parcel owned by Resco Tower Co. and a subdivided tract owned by Industrial Neck Partnership. To the northwest is a tract owned by Kenan Transport Co., while to the west is a parcel owned by Beazer East, Inc. All of these parcels are industrial in nature, but are separated from the cemetery by a ditch and chain link fence. Access to the cemetery is by way of Oceanic Street, a frontage road west of 1-26. The industrial parcels are all accessed by Braswell Street, which runs off Meeting Street to the east (Figure 2).

    Historically the industrial property to the north was occupied by the Ashepoo Fertilizer Company (also known as the Ashepoo Phosphate Company, and later American Agricultural Chemical Company), which converted phosphate rock to commercial fertilizer. By the mid-twentieth century the phosphate industry had collapsed, but the parcel was still heavily industrialized.

    Trustees of the Monrovia Union Cemetery Company purchased the tract to the south prior to any industrial development and created an African American cemetery in 1872. Successive trustees sold off portions of the cemetery to various interests, so that today only a small portion of the original tract remains. Burials, however, likely date from the last quarter of the nineteenth century through 2001.

    Remediation of heavy metals in the soils

    of some nearby tracts will be undertaken in the near future. This work will involve removal and disposal of contaminated soil from the industrial area, as well as from the ditch which separates the cemetery from those tracts. In addition, there may be some areas where soil will be added, rather than cut.

    This study was undertaken to evaluate the potential for these activities to encounter human remains. One of the most critical questions, of course, is whether burials are known to have taken place off the cemetery property (or if the boundaries of that property have substantively changed through time). Equally important is the issue of the ditch and how much it may have moved through time.

    This investigation provides a brief historical synopsis, based on limited investigations undertaken at the Charleston County Register of Mesne Conveyances, the Charleston City Archives, and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Inquiries were also made with the Charleston County Preservation Planning Office, as well as with Ms. Alida S. Small, a local African American researcher. An effort was also made to contact individuals currently involved in the cemetery, based on three phone numbers listed on the cemetery's sign on Oceanic Street. The individual at one number today knows nothing of the cemetery, one number didn't answer, and the third number is for the William Smith McNeill Funeral Home in Charleston.

    There are additional lines of historical research, including newspaper vertical files, city directories, and oral histories, which are beyond the scope of the current work and which have not been explored.

    In addition, while we did conduct a brief walk-over of the cemetery, no intensive field investigation was conducted. The ditch itself is heavily cluttered with cemetery debris, including flower arrangements, floral stands, grass


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