Concerns over burial grounds and new development

HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – Tombstones and graves near Clinton city limits are being exhumed and relocated to another cemetery to prepare the site for a new Continental tire plant. The recent developments have people in the area upset and looking for answers.

Family of the deceased and local people contacted WJTV 12 about these recent developments, and they say they were not notified in time.

Yvonne Horton is the granddaughter among the deceased. According to her, the last burial was in 1957. Horton says even though it was nearly 60 years ago, digging up the old bones opens a fresh wound that now has to heal again.

“I was told, no there wasn’t a cemetery over there. I said yes it is,” said Horton.

The pathway leading toward an old cemetery is now closed with chains and locks to any visitors. WJTV’s Melanie Dotson sat down with Yvonne Horton, a family member of many who were laid to rest there.

“We tried to tell people they were there, and no one seemed to be interested or listened to what we said,” said Horton.

Horton is now frustrated after visiting her ancestor’s gravesites, only to see headstones and plots moved to another location, some left broken into pieces.

“My question is, what happened to the remains of the people,” Horton asked.  “Those are the headstones; did they find not any bodies? Why did they not try to contact the families in advance?”

According to the Mississippi Development Authority, all requirements are being followed to prepare the site for development for Continental. The company is set to acquire the site later this year.

“I understand development; I don’t think it’s nice to put industrial park over the top of it so to speak. These people were laid to rest years and years ago, and have been that way for over a hundred years. Why not leave them where they lay,” said a concerned neighbor.

MDA released a statement to WJTV saying, “All federal and state legal and regulatory requirements are being followed to prepare the site for development once Continental acquires it later this year. As the lead agency for any cultural or environmental concerns related to the site, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, provided and approved a plan to relocate the abandoned cemetery, which is located at the site, to an alternate location, where it will be preserved and maintained for future generations. As provided for under the plan approved by the Corps, the Mississippi Development Authority contracted with the University of Mississippi Archaeological Department to ensure each and every individual buried at the abandoned cemetery, including marked and unmarked graves, is cared for in a manner that affords the appropriate dignity and respect.

“If you’re taking such care in excavating the bodies, why are you doing so much damage to these headstones and the vault tops?” asked a concerned neighbor.

“I don’t blame the company at all,” said Horton. “I put it fully on the board of supervisors and anyone else in an elected position that did that. They knew that that cemetery was there.”

WJTV did reach out to Continental for a statement; we are still waiting for them to get back with us.

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