Save Historic Land Of Enslaved Africans And Descendants No Atlantic Coast Pipeline! Historic Black Community Theres a proposed destruction of an historic African- American Freedmen community that is one of the founding agricultural communities of colonial America There are two historic African-American churches – Union Hill Baptist & Union Grove Missionary Baptist – within close distance to this proposed industrial facility. Union Hill began as a brush arbor church, the only form of church allowed to slaves before Emancipation. Each has extensive graves of former slaves and their descendants, who still live in Union Hill, or move back to retire. All of that rich history from the 1700s onwards is in jeopardy.”
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1)Donate directly to the Union Hill Community if you can and fight Dominion’s racist fracked gas pipeline. Friendsofbuckinghamva.org/friends/take-action/donate/
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2)Call the governor and tell them they need to stop the pipelines and demand site-specific permits! (804-786-2211) .
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3)Join us and come out when Union Hill needs support. Get updates at virginiariverhealers.com

 

Nelson County

The Rev. James L. Rose is taking a stand among the graves of his ancestors in Peaceful Garden Cemetery.

The cemetery is on land deeded in 1887 to his great-grandfather, Moses Bowling, who had been a slave in the swath of 18th- and 19th-century plantations built along the James River here in southern Nelson County. It includes descendants of four intertwined families: Rose, Bowling, Wright, and Bailey.

It is among at least four known African-American cemeteries in the area of Union Hill, an African-American settlement that is now in the path of a 42-inch natural gas pipeline that is proposed to sweep through Nelson from the Blue Ridge Mountains across the James into Buckingham County.

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“This is the heart of the African-American community,” Rose said. “It runs right through it.”

Dominion Transmission Inc., leader of a partnership that proposes to build the $5 billion, 554-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, is trying to thread its way through dense layers of history in a region settled first by the Monacan tribes hundreds of years before Capt. John Smith documented their presence in 1612, and then by plantation owners who relied on river commerce and slave labor to prosper.

“As we get out on the ground and survey, we’re going to be looking for these things,” said Bill Scarpinato, a Dominion manager and environmental specialist on the pipeline project.

Opponents contend the history will be impossible to avoid — from the African-American burial sites and former Monacan villages on the river lowlands to the architecturally rich Norwood-Wingina Rural Historic District, which the state recommended in the fall for nomination to the national and state registers of historic places.

“The point we are trying to make to both (federal regulators) and Dominion is that this entire area is too sensitive and significant for a pipeline to go anywhere near,” said Janice Jackson, a Shipman resident who has been working with Rose to highlight the potential threat to the community’s history.

“These are treasures, and they go back to the beginning of our nation,” said Constance Brennan, a Nelson supervisor who is a leader in the fight against the pipeline.

Dominion’s task is complicated by resistance from landowners in Nelson to survey of their properties. The company has been denied access to more than 70 percent of the affected parcels in Nelson, from Afton to Wingina. Consequently, the company is preparing to sue 122 landowners for access under a 2004 state law that gives natural gas companies the right to come onto private property to survey for pipeline routes.

The company intends to remove 14 owners of 17 parcels from the list, after an adjustment to the pipeline route in October that still wasn’t shown on the company’s map at an open house in Nelson last week.

Greg Park, construction supervisor on the project, said he made the change after being approached by Stan Olah, whose home was in the path of the original route, about shifting it northeast onto pasture and timber land he owns.

“I didn’t know all this until I got permission to get out on the property and look,” Park said during the open house at Nelson County High School, which drew more than 300 people, many of them vocal opponents, last Wednesday evening.

Emmy and Stan Olah came to the open house because the Dominion map still showed them in the pipeline’s path, even though they had seen survey markers on the back of 320 acres they own where the new route would pass.

“None of us want the pipeline,” Emmy Olah said last week. “But we feel the pipeline is coming whether we want it or not. If it is, we want it in an area that’s more desirable.”

The original route also would have clipped the 16-acre property owned by Pearl Miles and her daughter, Sherry Miles. “We’re not going to affect you at all,” Park told them.

They were happy for the news, but Pearl Miles said, “I’m still concerned about the pipeline. It’s still right across the hill.”

They were among the initial 20 landowners to receive notice from Dominion that the company would take them to court to gain access to their properties. The list of landowners was based on maps that Dominion said had not been updated after the route was changed three months ago.

“This was an oversight on our part, for which we apologize,” said Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle, who said the change affected 14 landowners, including Nelson County Sheriff David Brooks and his wife, Sherri. “We are working to understand how that happened so it won’t happen again.”

“We are removing the 14 landowners from the list of lawsuits and apologizing to them for our mistake,” Norvelle said. “While the lawsuits were filed with the Nelson County Circuit Court clerk, they had not yet been served. Nevertheless, we are notifying them that their properties have been removed from the proposed route.”

Dominion officials say they do not know the location of family cemeteries and other sensitive features unless they can get onto the property to survey.

“We certainly need to know this information from landowners so we can plan the best route with the least impact to the environment, historic and cultural resources,” Norvelle said. “After all, landowners know their properties the best.”

Rose is among those who have denied access to about 30 acres he tends for himself and other members of his family along Union Hill Drive. The pipeline study corridor goes through one 5-acre piece of the property with two houses on it.

“I said, ‘No, I’m not falling for that,’?” he said. “There’s no guarantee they’re going to change it once they come out and survey.”

“We’ve got to be stewards for the land our family left us,” Rose said. “That’s why I’m fighting so hard to try to keep it intact.”

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Three cemeteries flank St. Hebron Baptist Church, where African-Americans have worshiped since 1866.

The largest, a modern cemetery still used for burials, lies behind the church. An older plot sits to one side.

The third is scattered among the leaves and branches of a hillside wood, where uninscribed field stone and quartz mark the graves of unnamed churchgoers, some of them possibly newly freed from slavery as the church moved from a white Methodist to a black Baptist congregation after the Civil War. One grave next to a fallen tree includes a funeral home marker for the 1962 burial of someone in a family that still attends St. Hebron.

The pipeline route originally would have come within 360 feet of St. Hebron. The new route would take the pipeline 1,200 feet away from the church and its graveyards.

Dominion officials are emphatic that the pipeline would not disturb cemeteries.

“We’re definitely not coming through any cemeteries that are known at this time,” said Doug Lake, senior vice president and technical director of the Natural Resource Group, which the pipeline company has hired as a consultant.

The challenge for the company is the extent of slave cemeteries that are not known in the area surrounding former plantations that sprang from a royal land grant in 1738 to Dr. William Cabell that encompassed 4,800 acres along the James.

“Some of them we knew, some of them we didn’t know,” said Rose, a former pastor at St. Hebron who now is pastor of Montreal Baptist Church in nearby Shipman.

Identifying and documenting slave cemeteries is “a huge difficulty,” said Lynn Rainville, a research professor in humanities at Sweet Briar College and author of “Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia,” published last year.

Rainville, who also is director of the Tusculum Institute for historic preservation at Sweet Briar, identified and chronicled more than 150 African-American cemeteries, primarily in Albemarle and Amherst counties, in more than a decade of research.

Slave cemeteries are hard to find, even if you know where to look, Rainville said. They often were placed on undesirable land, such as wooded ridges and along back fence rows. The graves are marked by natural stones, usually uncarved and uninscribed, or perishable wood or plantings.

Rainville’s only experience in Nelson came during brief visits to a major slave cemetery — with 60 to 100 graves — on the site of the former Union Hill plantation, which is more than a mile west of the proposed route. She recalled it as a unique slave cemetery because of the number of inscribed headstones and carved imagery.

“These sites have a tremendous amount of cultural importance,” she said in an interview last week.

Rainville is an advocate for a study resolution proposed this year by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, and Del. Mark J. Berg, R-Frederick, to direct the Department of Historic Resources to develop a list of documented slave burial grounds, a procedure for documenting and adding new sites, and a plan for preserving them.

“These are places that could continue to give us information about enslaved African-Americans and wealthy landowners for generations to come,” she said.

For African-American residents here, the potential threat to their family cemeteries and land is personal. “It’s a sacred thing,” Rose said.