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Cemetery of pioneer family vandalized in south Forsyth

Grave markers uprooted, broken into pieces

POSTED: August 2, 2014 12:24 a.m.
Crystal Ledford /

Unknown vandals recently damaged tombstones, some dating to the mid-1800s, at a family cemetery near where Union Hill Road and Ronald Reagan Boulevard meet by the Forsyth-Fulton County line.

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SOUTH FORSYTH — Donnie Munda has cared for his ancestors’ cemetery, near where Union Hill Road and Ronald Reagan Boulevard meet by the Forsyth-Fulton County line, for many years.

When he traveled there from his home in Dawson County last week, he was shocked at what he found.

All of the some 20 graves of members of the James family, dating from 1862 to 1978, had been severely damaged.

Small markers had been kicked away from their respective sites, while large tombstones lay scattered on the ground, many broken into two or more pieces.

“They broke them in half on top of one another,” Munda said. “They didn’t just kick them over, oh no. They pulled them all the way out of the ground and broke them on top of one another.”

The small family cemetery is in an open field near several new home developments. The remains of a bonfire surrounded by used soda cans sit just few feet away.

Munda believes teenagers from one of the subdivisions probably decided to have an outdoor party in the field and then for some reason trashed the cemetery.

“All of us as kids have hung out with our friends, we all did it,” Munda said. “But we didn’t go to set about tearing up cemeteries … that’s just malicious.”

Cliff Roberts, a member of the Col. Hiram Parks Bell Sons of the Confederate Veterans chapter and the Forsyth County Historical Society, said the damage is a tragedy, especially given the family’s historical significance.

“The James were a pioneer family in Forsyth County who lived in the Big Creek area near the [then] Milton County line. They drew land in the 1832 lottery and are listed in the 1834 census, which was the first census taken in Forsyth County,” said Roberts, adding that the patriarch of the family and his wife raised 10 children.

“Their five sons all served the Confederacy during the War Between the States, [and] their eldest son, Mahlon Hiram James, served as a constable in Forsyth County before the war and was elected sheriff in 1864, serving a two-year term.”

Mahlon Hiram James’ obelisk, as well as that of his wife, were both pushed over and broken by the vandals.

Roberts said the local Sons of the Confederate Veterans chapter is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible.

In addition, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

Robin Regan, a spokesman for the agency, said such cases are rare and, if caught, those involved could face stiff penalties.

“Anything tied to a church — and any cemetery applies — leads to higher charges than just trespassing,” Regan said. “Anyone caught in a case like this would face vandalism, criminal damage and trespassing charges.”

While Munda knows the odds of catching those responsible for the damage are slim, he’s not losing hope.

“It’s just kids having somewhere to go, but being destructive is totally another matter,” he said. “It’d be nice to find out who did this just so in the future kids would understand that this is not what you need to be doing.

“It doesn’t matter who they are, all people deserve to have their graves not be tore all to pieces.”

 

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cliff874: August 2, 2014 11:19 a.m.

Forsyth County Detective Ben Norton can be contacted at 770-781-3071 or at benorton@forsythco.com.



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