The Transylvania County Cemetery Board of Trustees believes a current housing development project in Brevard could be occurring on the site of a historic Native American burial ground.
In an official letter sent through the county office, board members provided recent research they conducted and information they found to Bracken Mountain Design Build regarding its property to the northwest of the intersection of West Main and Galloway streets in Brevard.
“It is our duty to officially notify you of the potential of human remains at this site, and to urge you to take all possible precautions to avoid disturbing any remains, should they indeed be present,” the letter said. The property to be developed into residential homes “is designated on at least one deed and one will as ‘Indian Mound Lot or Hill.’”
Other evidence the letter details included documentation an amateur archaeologist made in 1913.
“The site was described as being the remains of an Indian mound,” the letter said, citing the North Carolina Archaeology magazine, vol. 61, from 2012. “The amateur archaeologist mentioned being told that artifacts, including bone, had previously been removed from the mound,” the letter said.
A 1964 master’s thesis of UNC archaeology student Patricia Holden is also cited in the letter which includes a map showing the location of a mound site within the city limits of Brevard.
“This map is not of sufficiently large scale to pinpoint a location but does show the site as being west of the west fork of King Creek, which roughly matches the location,” the letter said. “These references to a mound, taken in conjunction with the previously mentioned deed and will, leave little doubt as to the existence of a mound in an historical context.”
The volunteer board has five members who are appointed by county commissioners. In North Carolina, County Commissioners have control of abandoned public cemeteries but can also appoint a board of trustees to do this work. In Transylvania, these trustees are charged with the protection of burial sites in the county. Members include Jill Chapman (chair), Yvonne McCall Dickson (secretary), Rebecca Suddeth, David Reid and Ron Chapman.
“Personally, as a Transylvania County native and life-long resident, along with being a history buff, I find the existence of a mound site in Brevard fascinating,” said Ron Chapman.
“I have a tiny bit of Cherokee ancestry myself, as do many who were born here in Transylvania. Personally, I would love to see this site preserved,” Chapman said. “To me, just the mound site itself is worth remembering, even if what we see today is not the original mound. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a small, respectful park there, within easy walking distance of downtown?”
“On the other side of this situation, however, I fully understand the priorities of any builder,” he said. “These gentlemen need to make a living for themselves, their families and employees.”
Bracken Mountain Design Build partner Jacob Dinkins said they “appreciate the Transylvania County Cemetery Board reaching out to (them) and letting (them) know of the possibility of artifacts in (the) area.”
“We’ll be more than happy to keep an eye out for items that could be culturally significant to people in our region and we will be glad to reach out to the appropriate authorities should we be fortunate enough to find anything,” said Dinkins. “We have not been contacted by anyone from the Office of State Archaeology at this time.”
“The site was partially excavated by the previous owner when we purchased it,” said Rob Skeen, another build partner. “All we have seen so far are lots of pieces of glass bottles, old appliances and a few car parts.”
Skeen said he performed additional archival research when he became aware of the board’s recommendation. “Unfortunately, it appears as if this had been the location of a site of interest that it was disturbed between 1935 and 1966.”
Chapman said he has been in contact with the state archaeologist assigned to western North Carolina, Dylan Clark, regarding the board’s research.
“Mr. Clark indicated it was not recorded at the state level — so this is new information for them,” said Chapman. “As the location is private property, a state archaeologist would need to be invited by the landowner in order to investigate.”
Clark did not immediately respond to comment by the time The T. Times went to print Monday morning.
“Neither the City Code of Ordinances nor the Unified Development Ordinance contains provisions for this kind of thing,” said Brevard’s City Manager Wilson Hooper. “We hope the property owner consults with the experts at the state for appropriate resolution.”
“I feel we have done our due diligence in this instance and I am proud of the work our board has done in fulfilling our duty,” said Chapman. “Our duty is to be sure the property owner is notified of the possibility of human remains on the property and to encourage care and precaution so as not to disturb remains that may exist.”
The Transylvania County Cemetery Board of Trustees meet at 11 a.m. on the second Wednesday of the months of March, June, September and November in the conference room of the Tax Administration Office located at 20 E. Morgan St., Brevard. For more information visit www.transylvaniacounty.org/events/abandoned-cemeteries-board.
Laura Denon can be reached by calling (828) 862-5749 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.