They may not have gotten a proper burial when they were first laid to rest, but more than 200 souls were remembered Saturday.
Members of the Forsyth County Historical Society and other community supporters gathered for a rededication ceremony at the Lewis and Mary Blackburn cemetery on Old Federal Road.
“We have short memories sometimes and I think it’s right for us to remember those who came before, those pioneers who came here, the people who lived here before we lived here,” said Dennis Bottoms, a local minister who conducted the informal ceremony. “And in some small way, we’re honoring them today.”
The cemetery site, which is on land owned by Advanced Disposal, had been maintained by the waste management firm for more than a decade.
After historical society members got involved earlier this year, they discovered the cemetery was actually much larger.
While Advanced Disposal had maintained several graves over the years, many others had become overgrown with brush and small trees because employees simply didn’t know they were there.
Historical society members probed the area and discovered the cemetery includes 212 individual graves and one large mass grave that serves as a burial site for an unknown number of people.
Most of the graves in the cemetery are unmarked and a few that are date to the 1840s.
Historical society member George Pirkle said the unmarked graves likely go back to the late 1700s. He also noted that the cemetery likely was used by those of Cherokee, African-American and caucasian bloodlines alike since all lived in the area during that era.
The mass grave, which is 7 feet by 21 feet in size, was likely used during a disease epidemic, perhaps smallpox or cholera.
Martha McConnell, co-president of the historical society, said only a few of the names of those buried in the cemetery are known.
“We think that this was at one time the community cemetery,” she said. “This area was slated to be the county seat at one time and I think they got started up here with the burials.
“We were shocked there were so many graves up here that we didn’t know about.”
Over the past few months, volunteers have placed mulch atop each grave and marked them with rocks as headstones.
“We tried to make it something that would honor each person who’s buried here, but since we don’t know the names of most of the people we couldn’t do a list or anything like that,” McConnell said. “So we just decided to keep it as natural as possible and to mark each grave.
“We think it will last years and years to at least let people know [others are] buried there.”