Some residents and a school system both say they have the best interests in mind of a special, very old discovery. The future of the site has them very divided.
"This could be a historical slave cemetery," said Leah Jack, walking with several other neighbors through a wooded area behind their Mount Juliet homes. "We really don't know what we're dealing with. Who are these people who are here? How did they come to be here?"
The Cultural Resource Analysts group discovered about 40 graves on the site off North Greenhill Road and Lebanon Road two years ago. They said 31 marked graves and nine unmarked graves were all in a 100-foot area. A report by CRA claimed it was highly likely there are additional graves in the cemetery area.
Jack and several other neighbors don't want a new Wilson County School built on the land near the cemetery site.
The school construction plan avoids the 100-foot by 100-foot site, but Jack believes there's more to discover in the area.
"This headstone here is 90 feet outside the 100-foot by 100-foot area," she said, showing another spot. "It bears further exploration before they come in with bulldozers and start desecrating it all."
Jack also referred to a section of the CRA letter that says:
"Our mapping of the corners of the cemetery was done with a hand-held GPS receiver, but at the time that the corners were mapped, the accuracy of the GPS was inconsistent. It would be advisable to have a licensed land surveyor record the corner stakes so that they can be incorporated into future plans for the property."
"Even just grading the property could affect the cemetery site," said Jack. "We don't have a lot of confidence in the process. We feel there's more at stake here than a few neighbors complaining about traffic. It just doesn't make sense to have the high school on this property."
"The state archaeologist has been out there," said Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson. "There's nobody with the credentials who knows about this who feels this is any kind of problem at all."
Johnson said the school system hired the professionals who found the cemetery site, and they're fencing off the 100x100 site to become a teaching tool for students.
"We're going to put in a sidewalk, so it's actually pretty educational," she said. "There's a lot of fear and concern when people don't understand what's happening and what due diligence has been done. Every time we build a new school it causes a lot of concerns for the residents. They don't like the traffic. I don't know if this is as much about a slave cemetery as it is about people who don't want to see the school there."
Jack and other neighbors said they're voicing their concerns at a planning commission meeting Thursday night.
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