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Society aims to preserve cemetery

Jun. 19, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

WAYNE -- One-eighth of an acre might not sound like a lot of land, but, in John Peters' eyes, an area of land exactly that size in Fort Gay is historical in proportion.

This particular piece of land rests on a piece of property owned by the Wayne County Board of Education, where the new school facility for Pre-K through eighth-grade students is set to open for the 2013-14 school year.

It also happens to be the final resting place for at least five Wayne County residents who were buried there beginning in the early 1800s, including the man Peters called "the father of Wayne County.

"In 1841, John William Wellman got a delegation together to go to Richmond, Va., to petition the legislature to form a new county, and in 1842, the legislature passed a bill granting them permission to form Wayne County," said Peters, who is a member of the Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society. "To think we have a rich heritage and rich history tool right in front of these students, and we aren't protecting it -- I can't understand it at all."

With construction of the school nearly complete, Peters and other members of the society are concerned that piece of history will be lost without intervention from the school board.

In December of 2012, the society gathered enough money to hire an attorney to petition the court and form a Board of Trustees to represent the cemetery, which they refer to as the John Wellman Cemetery.

Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt ruled that, while no more people would be buried in the cemetery, the school system would be responsible for placing a fence around the cemetery, which Peters said is in the area of the new school's bus loop.

While Peters supports the ruling, he said the school board only recognizes two graves at the site, while the society has documentation indicating at least five people are buried there.

The society has limited funding to complete ground radar scanning that would determine how many people are buried in the cemetery, said Peters, and an appeal to the Wayne County Commission earlier this week was not fruitful.

"We couldn't offer much except a sympathetic ear," said Wayne County Commissioner Bob Pasley. "We understand their standpoint, but their solution has to be with the Board of Education. If we could provide some funding for the radar, we would, but there is no funding set aside for us to do that."

More information regarding the John Wellman Cemetery can be found at www.wcghs.com.



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