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Unmarked cemetery in Falmouth is paved over by new property owner
Debra Scites (foreground) and Linda Belles
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Date published: 10/12/2008
Rumor has it that sometime between 1900 and 1909, Charles W. Roberson was struck by lightning and killed in the backyard of his Falmouth home. He was buried alongside his wife, Mary, in that backyard.
As far as anyone can tell, they are still there, now covered by a few inches of blacktop.
The parcel at the northeast corner of U.S. 1 and Forbes Street was purchased by Access Eye Centers in 2002. The company owns the adjacent property, and expanded its parking lot more than a year ago. In the process, it inadvertently covered the 16- by 32-foot unmarked cemetery parcel that had been carved out of the Robersons' lot.
On Sept. 21, Linda Belles and Debra Scites, members of the Stafford County Cemetery Committee, decided to check out the Roberson cemetery they knew existed in Falmouth. Scites, a Stafford native, had managed to trace her genealogy back to the unfortunate lightning victim.
When Belles and Scites saw the parking lot, they were upset but not surprised.
With Stafford's long history, it's not uncommon for new construction to turn up unmarked graves and cemeteries. In fact, many homeowners might not be aware of graves or cemeteries on their own properties.
The Cemetery Committee wants to clear that up by cataloging every cemetery in the county. Such a database could help developers, curious homeowners, historians and genealogists.
"We have to be responsible about our cultural resour-ces," committee Chairwoman Anita Dodd said. "It's so important to get everything recorded so things like this don't happen."
In this particular case, the cemetery lot actually was listed on county maps, but there was some confusion over whether or not the graves had been moved. The parcel is still owned by the C.W. Roberson estate, but it was difficult to find anyone responsible for the property.
Jeff Harvey and Brenda Schulte of Stafford's Department of Planning and Zoning said there is no record of the Robersons being moved.
"Hopefully, they will get it restored and people won't be driving over it," Schulte said.
Scites was recently appointed trustee of the property, and is working with Access Eye Centers to remove the pavement and properly restore the cemetery. The Cemetery Committee hopes the business will have the parcel covered with sod, fenced and identified with a sign.