An abandoned cemetery just off Highway 301 in Johnston County will be cleaned up and damaged tombstones repaired this summer. What no adults would do, 16 year-old Isaac Wells from Boy Scout Troop 776 in Smithfield will work on over the next several months as part of his Eagle Scout Project.
The cemetery is situated behind Selma Memorial Gardens on Highway 301 at US 70 Business in Selma. The site is only accessible by driving to the back of Selma Memorial Gardens and taking a wooden bridge to the acre tract.
The cemetery was heavily vandalized 10 to 20 years ago, no one remembers exactly when, with dozens of tombstones knocked over or broken in half. About 80 of the 140 graves are marked. Sixty of the graves have crosses but no names of the buried. Uncut grass is more than three feet tall in some spots.
The cemetery was used between 1880 and 1960. Before then, rumors suggest it may have even been an Indian burial ground. According to county tax records the cemetery, just over an acre in size, has no known owner.
Just before Veterans Day 2015, WTSB News received a tip from a concerned citizen about the cemetery. Through our investigation, we learned the cemetery was not part of Selma Memorial Gardens, and had no owner. Working through the Johnston County Marine Corps League, WTSB shared the story with scouting organizations across the county. Immediately, Isaac stepped forward to take on the enormous project.
Isaac says he will use money generated from a fundraising car wash this weekend to buy materials to glue the broken headstones and remount on their bases, and purchase special chemicals to clean up each individual headstone or grave marker and mow the grass.
The teen says he never knew the cemetery existed until the recent email. He has visited the site several times in recent weeks and says each time he sees it, the condition worsens.
Isaac estimates about 30 of the headstones were vandalized and broken. No one knows exactly when the cemetery was damaged because it was never reported to law enforcement.
Isaac will be holding a Car Wash Fundraiser at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 303 Canterbury Road in Smithfield thisSaturday, June 25th from 9am until 3pm. Money raised will buy restoration kits and chemicals needs for the project.
Before the work can begin, Isaac has reached out to Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver asking the Town to donate a few man hours to spray for weeds and fire ants on the property. Mayor Oliver has also agreed for the Town of Selma to be the benefactor of the project, a requirement of his Eagle Scout project.
Wells hopes to start with the restoration in mid-July. He is encouraging other Scouts and volunteers from the community to donate their time and labor each weekend this summer.