Hartsville plans to turn overgrown African American cemetery into historic site

HARTSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – The City of Hartsville plans to clean up a cemetery that a lot people may have forgotten about.

It’s part of a large redevelopment project in the historic Butler district. Leaders say they’re hoping the improvements will attract more people to the area.

City leaders tell News13 two recommendations from the American Planning Association include tearing down the abandoned Lincoln Village Apartment complex and clearing the overgrown trees that surround the African American cemetery. City Council is moving forward with the two- part South Hartsville Improvement Project.

James Ernest Robinson used to live in the Lincoln Village Apartment Complex when he was 16.

“It was pretty. But now, whew, it’s terrible,” said James Ernest Robinson.

Robinson says the buildings have been an eyesore for many years and he was glad to hear the city plans to tear them down. A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of $500,000 will pay for most of the project. Initially, the City planned to spend up to $100,000 in matching funds. Tuesday night council approved a resolution to add $50,000 to the matched fund after contractor bids came back higher than expected.

City leaders plan to use most of the money to tear down the apartment complex and another part to preserve the African American cemetery directly behind the complex.

Long time Councilwoman Adlena Graham has been working to preserve the overgrown cemetery since she got on council over 20 years ago.

“We want to clean it up and put a little fence around it, “said Adlena Graham, Hartsville Councilwoman. “I just want to see it finally, when it’s cleaned up.”

“We have Veterans there from the Spanish American war all the way up to Vietnam that are buried there. People who were born as slaves there. I mean it embraces a lot a large part of Hartsville’s history,” Johnny Andrews, Hartsville Mayor Pro-tem said.

Andrews says the city hopes to carefully clear the overgrown trees to create a historic site for visitors and family members still living in the area.

“It’s how you treat not only your current residents but those that have come before us that really tell the nature of a community. I think we are doing the right thing for doing that,” Andrews said.

This Friday the city will begin accepting bids for contractors to clear the cemetery in Hartsville.