District Hill Cemetery in Chickamauga is being restored

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CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. (WDEF)- The District Hill Cemetery is an African-American cemetery here in Chickamauga. It had been neglected many years. But now, family members of those that are buried here and many volunteers are working hard to restore the dignity.”

Time, research and volunteer hours has gone into the restoration of the cemetery where Mark Thrash, a slave and a grounds keeper for the Chickamauga Battlefield, is buried.

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In 2015, with the help of ground penetrating radar, they found that more than 130 African-Americans are buried there.

But, there could be more.

Joyce Haslerig-Harrison, a 4th generation landowner of the property says, “The Lee family had to prove to whomever, the legal people, that it was a public cemetery and somewhere in those legal papers, they said that it was 800 to 1,000 people buried here.”

Haslerig-Harrison’s father started cleaning the land years ago.

Now, volunteer groups like Project 52 are assisting with the cleanup.

“It was just in disarray and neglected after a period of time and we thought that the community needed a restoration”, adds Haslerig-Harrison.

The cemetery holds a lot of Chickamauga history.

Property owners say that even though they are unsure of the number of people that are buried there, they know that every person assisted in the building of the city.

Haslerig-Harrison says, “They were down there building, painting, building foundations for homes doing laundry, doing the gardening. They did all of the domestic work and beyond that. They need a place that they rest eternally. Their body is resting, not their souls.”

Graduate students at the University of Georgia came up with the final design of how the cemetery will be restored.

“This design tells us exactly what we need to do to restore it and it has to be economical, it has to be maintained where it is not hard to maintain. So, it has four seasoned looks. It will go dormant in the winter and in the spring in summer, it will come alive”, says Haslerig-Harrison.

The next project at the District Hill Cemetery is to redo the Haslerig family plot.

If you would like to help with the restoration of the cemetery, you can donate to Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

News 12 will speak to a professor at Covenant College who is working on biographies for those confirmed to be buried at the cemetery.

That will be Sunday night on News 12 Now at 11.