A monolith featuring the names of enslaved people has been erected in the Cokes Chapel United Methodist Church cemetery.
The stone structure was designed and commissioned by Cormac McCarthy, an Eagle Scout, as a summit project.
“My original Eagle Scout project was to do an invasive species project, but I wanted to do something that would leave a lasting impact,” he said.
Last year, the cemetery was the subject of a separate Scout project. Josiah Henderson built 30 cement crosses, which were placed to mark previously unmarked graves.
The names on the monolith belong to the people who are believed to be buried in the cemetery.
“When we originally started the project, it was just in the woods and it was rather in shambles. Another Eagle Scout helped clean it up, and we wanted something big there to remind everyone what originally went on there, which was a cemetery,” McCarthy said. “Maybe they’d be intrigued by the monolith, go see it and learn about the history that is there.”
Lisa Dempsey, senior pastor at the church, said the recent projects are a part of the church’s efforts to recognize the previously unmarked graves.
“We’ve been doing restorations, and it’s been well maintained. This is part of the ongoing acknowledgment that we do have people buried on the property who have not been noted,” she said. “A lot of crosses have been put out recently by our Scouts, and this is a follow-up to acknowledge by name.”
In addition to the names, the granite monolith features an image of a pair of hands breaking free from chains.
The Eagle Scout said he was introduced to the cemetery’s need by the church’s former historian.
“He told me that he was looking for something that resembled freedom and breaking away from the old to the new,” McCarthy said of the design.
The names inscribed on the monolith were found through research from probate court records, according to McCarthy.
“Slaves were considered property, so we looked at wills and testimonies dated before 1865 to find out which ones were slaves, because they were property that were handed down,” he said.
A dedication ceremony for the monolith will be held on Sunday, May 5 t Cokes Chapel from 3:30-4:15 p.m.