Beautification projects continue
If one were to drive down East Monticello Street from downtown Brookhaven you’d drive past Rosehill Cemetery, Hoskins Cemetery, the Jewish cemetery and St. Francis Catholic Cemetery. All have beautifully wrought iron and brick entrances and fences. However, take a left on Penn Street then another left onto East Congress Street they’d find themselves at another cemetery also reachable by driving through the winding roads of the gated Rosehill.
This unmarked and unfenced cemetery appears separate because it is devoid of any visual affiliation with any of the other cemeteries in the immediate area. In fact, the cemetery is owned by the city and is part of Rosehill but is separated from its partner cemetery by East Congress Street.
Although the full history of that portion of the Rosehill is vague, the age of some of the burial plots there suggest its beginning during the age of racially-segregated cemeteries.
An article that ran in The Semi-Weekly Leader on Oct. 5, 1921 cites the plot of land that “adjoins Rosehill” was built as a resting place for Brookhaven’s “colored” population.
Robert E. Tyler, chairman and CEO of Tyler Funeral Home, said his grandparents from both his mother and father’s side are buried there.
“I’m 99.9% sure that all the people buried there are black,” Tyler said.
Cemeteries such as these exist all throughout the South, reminiscent of times where white residents felt the need to be separated from their black neighbors, even in death. This sentiment, in a lot of Southern communities surrounding these cemeteries seems to continue due to the fact that the same upkeep and attention paid toward the “main” or historically white cemeteries aren’t extended in the same degree to the historically black cemeteries – whether intentional or not.
Alderwoman Karen Sullivan said the city will be adding a brick and iron entrance to the cemetery this budget year.
“I added it as part of the budget that started Oct. 1 and will end Sept. 30, 2015,” Sullivan said.
She said the entrance way will be similar to the other entrances.
Some residents who live near and around the unmarked cemetery feel the cemetery, which already has a gate, should have a fence.
“It hurts me to see the grave yard trampled down,” Moses Bell, who owns and lives on property beside the unmarked cemetery, said.
The smaller graveyard is surrounded on three sides by residential areas. Bell said the grassy area serves as a shortcut for many people walking in the area. This has caused the cemetery to not appear as beautiful as its partner cemetery across the street.
The main Rosehill cemetery land does not have fences all around its property; however it does have a fence on the side facing Brookhaven High School and the side facing East Congress Street guiding wayward walkers to specified entrances and preferred walking paths through the cemetery. The smaller section of Rosehill, while it currently has a gate at both entrances connected by a road straight through the land, does not have a fence to guide people to the entrance as an alternative to cutting through the grass.
Bell said he started putting up his own fence between his property and the city property to give some sense of upkeep and persuade people to not walk through the grassy area.
Whether or not a more luxurious entrance will affect the future upkeep of the cemetery by both its surrounding residents – walkers and passers-through – and the city, the entrance will offer acknowledgement and recognition to stories of deceased members of Brookhaven’s black community that may have been lost or forgotten all these years.