The somber sound of a single bugle playing taps and a wreath laying Monday in the square put the finishing touches on an official dedication ceremony for a monument marking the recently confirmed burial ground at the northeast corner of George and Egmont streets.
Standing atop a step stool and with the help of six Brunswick Public Works employees who excavated and surveyed the roughly 200-year-old graves, Downtown Development Authority Director Mathew Hill pulled off the sheet covering the obelisk to reveal a tall granite structure ensuring the people buried there will always be remembered.
For many years, the graves, most of which Brunswick City Manager Bill Weeks said were likely filled between 1771 and 1840, existed in almost total obscurity.
During those days, the young city often struggled through cyclical growth and decline patterns and was more of a frontier town seeking an identity than a prosperous municipality, Weeks said.
After the 1830s, when the city stabilized and began growing, the grounds around Wright Square were likely abandoned in favor of new cemeteries, said Weeks, who was previously a research associate with the South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology.
In time, improvements to Egmont Street covered several of the graves.
Weeks said as many as 65 to 75 people were likely buried there in all, many of whom appear to be children, which may speak to the harsh life in early Brunswick.
In 1953, Glynn Middle School was constructed on the northern section of Wright Square, covering the burial grounds that were dedicated Monday. For decades, there was speculation that the western edge of the school's campus had once been a burial ground.
When the school was razed in 2012 so the northern half of the square could be returned to the city, Weeks, archaeologist Fred Cook and six public works employees -- Emmett Head, Roy Poppell, Mike Hicks, Maurice Butler, Pat Leggett and Gerald Buggs -- were able to confirm the cemetery's existence.
"We cannot divorce ourselves from the unknowing errors of disturbance in the past that occurred on the Wright Square site," Weeks told the crowd of more than 50 gathered Monday for the dedication. "What can be done is to embrace the simplistic and rudimentary origins of the burial ground, to celebrate the contributions of the earliest inhabitants of the town of Brunswick, delineate the boundaries of the landscape in a very simple yet reverent manner and educate the citizens of today on its significance in the development of the town we enjoy in the 21st century."
Paid for in large part by a state grant, the monument will stand as a permanent record of those who rest in the cemetery. Because the graves were likely marked by cypress crosses, there are no grave stones.
Weeks said work will hopefully begin soon to add some landscaping in the park and to install signs giving historical information and showing visitors where the graves are.
For Hill, the monument will serve as another piece of history that makes Brunswick's historic district special. He hopes it will add to a growing collection of heritage tourism attractions in the city that will draw more visitors to the area.
"I think the ghost tours have already started using it," Hill said.
Pastor Dawn Mayes of First Presbyterian Church, 1105 Union St., called the discovery of the burial ground fascinating.
She has lived and worked in Brunswick for years and never knew there was such a place just a few blocks from her church.
"History is sometimes a lot closer than we think," Mayes said.
Information from: The Brunswick News, http://www.thebrunswicknews.com
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