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Possible unmarked graves in Grantville Cemetery

  • By Jeffrey Cullen-Dean
  • |
  • Sep. 24, 2021 - 3:45 PM

Possible unmarked graves in Grantville Cemetery

Jeffrey Cullen-Dean / The Newnan Times-Herald

The Grantville Cemetery may have unmarked graves of Confederate soldiers and buried slaves in its annex and section 11.

Plots in The Grantville Cemetery's new Annex A may already be occupied.

Jimmy Dunagan, a Coweta resident and grave dowser, met with members of the Granville Historic Preservation Commission and the Grantville Cemetery Trust on Tuesday afternoon to show them what he believes are unmarked Confederate and slave graves in the cemetery.

Annex A, the expanded section of the cemetery, was approved by the City Council earlier this year in January.

Grave dowsing works by holding two metal L-shaped rods and walking over the site of a burial. When the user is standing above the site, the rods will cross each other. Dunagan said the rods can identify the sex of the deceased — if the rods point to the left, the body is female, and if they point to the right, it is a male.

Dunagan said he used his dowsing rods to detect male bodies buried in a line in the cemetery's annex, which would be a burial site for soldiers. He said he believes there to be approximately 1,000 bodies buried there.

The slave burial sites were determined because there were bodies buried in between other graves — where there shouldn't be any — he said, in the cemetery's section 11, and the burial pattern based on the bodies' sex is sporadic and patternless like a white burial site.

Selma Coty, chair of the HPC and a member of the cemetery trust, said the two groups will have a meeting to discuss their next steps and how to confirm Dunagan's information.

"We are going to explore this more," she said. "I'm going to try to get an archeologist involved, and we'll see what happens."

Marion Cieslik, chair of the cemetery trust and a member of the HPC, said if Duanagan's information is correct, the ramifications could be costly. The cemetery would be shut down, and graves would have to be exhumed.

"We need to honor those graves and put some Christian markings there, and the slaves are just as important as the Confederate war dead. They're all human beings," Cieslik said.

However, Cieslik said he remains skeptical of the findings.

"Somewhere, somebody has to know something about a thousand people being buried, so we need to get hard evidence," he said. "There's gonna be a confirmation process. We got to get evidence."

But it's unknown how the cemetery trust will afford the ground-penetrating radar or expertise to examine the graves.

According to Cieslik, after the construction of the cemetery's retaining wall, which cost more than $73,000, only $5,000 remain available to the trust.

Cieslik said he voted in opposition to spending the funds for the wall.

"Now there are no funds to do what we need to do with the cemetery," he said.