GEORGETOWN, SC (AP) Construction on a home in a Georgetown County subdivision has stopped after workers recovered bone fragments likely from a former church cemetery.
This kind of discovery will happen more often as coastal development reaches into rural lands where people used to bury their dead, Coroner Kenny Johnson said.
The remains were unearthed by heavy equipment. Workers plan to look for more bones. Local and state experts will then try to find descendants and figure out where to bury them.
The construction site is on the former cemetery for St. Marys Chapel, a black church that likely existed in the 1700s, Johnson said.
The church moved its graveyard in 1977, but apparently some unmarked graves were left behind.
“It does not appear that it will be a large amount of bones,” Johnson said. “I’m not anticipating finding a large number of human remains.”
Johnson was not contacted by deputies until two days after crews initially discovered the bones.
It is a felony to move a graveyard without permission or desecrate a grave and the coroner must be called when any human remains are found, even those in a former cemetery, Johnson said.
But the workers and deputies won’t face charges in this case because they did not know about the law, Johnson said.
“I’ve talked with the sheriff to make sure that we go in together and make sure it’s not a crime,” the coroner said.
The church no longer exists and its records have not been found, so Johnson plans to advertise in local papers to determine if there are descendants of the people buried in the cemetery.
Property owner Ariane Lieberman said the discovery will not change construction plans for the house.
“We had known when we bought the property that it might have been an old grave site,” she said.