The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report that gravestones have been removed from the Mathis Airport runway.
According to a report made by Jimmy McConnell, co-president of the Historical Society of Forsyth County, sometime in late July someone took the nine headstones embedded in the runway of the private south Forsyth airport.
McConnell stated that two people had seen the property owner, Joe Voyles, remove the markers.
Voyles reportedly told one he planned to return the gravestones to the family and told another that he was repairing them.
McConnell cited county and state law that prohibits the removal of any burial object, including markers, from a grave.
Attempts to reach Voyles for comment were not successful.
The private airport in south Forsyth was built in 1959 on property that included the Anglin family cemetery.
The runway was paved and then places for the markers were carved out, McConnell said in an interview before he filed the police report.
It’s believed the runway was extended some years after it was initially built, and at that time, it encroached on the gravesites, he said.
The earliest known burial on the site was in 1855, said McConnell, adding that the Anglins were some of the first settlers in Forsyth County.
Henderson Anglin likely moved to Forsyth in 1840 with his wife, Nancy. Records show they had six children.
Purchased by the current owner in 2004, the airport is currently the subject of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding filed in March, as well as a pending rezoning application for 88 town homes filed Friday.
In the police report, McConnell expressed concern that removal of the stones could lead to a surveyor and buyer not knowing about the cemetery and the historic site could be “bulldozed and completely desecrated upon development of this property.”
JEH Homes has proposed developing The Cottages at Mathis Field, which would include 88 town homes on about 17.4 acres, or a density of about 5 units per acre.
The conceptual site plan shows the homes being built along where the runway sits, with a gap left open for the Anglin cemetery.
In between two lots on the south end, the plan states: “Historic Anglin Cemetery — to be restored & preserved.”
Attorney Ethan Underwood, who represents JEH Homes, said they were unaware of the issue with the headstones until hearing from someone else Friday when preparing to file the rezoning.
Underwood said he didn’t know what had happened to the headstones, but that the developer would not disturb the cemetery.
He believed the airport was not currently in use.