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Backyard burial ground a shock to homeowners

Caleb Cameron, 5, examines a head stone to a grave in the backyard of his home in Legacy Park in Indian Land on Saturday. His parents are Rich and Lisette Cameron. Their house is in the background at right. Several graves from an old cemetery are on their property.
Caleb Cameron, 5, examines a head stone to a grave in the backyard of his home in Legacy Park in Indian Land on Saturday. His parents are Rich and Lisette Cameron. Their house is in the background at right. Several graves from an old cemetery are on their property.

INDIAN LAND -- When Rich and Lisette Cameron bought their home in Legacy Park, they were told about the abandoned cemetery in the woods just beyond their property line.

The residents of the cemetery are quiet, the Camerons joked. It didn't bother them at all -- until they decided to build a small garden and fence in the shaded area of their backyard.

What they found surprised them. An estimated seven graves lay in their backyard.

"We had no idea," Rich Cameron says. "We knew the cemetery was behind us, but we had no idea there were grave sites within our property line."

In January, the Fort Mill Times reported on the discovery of the cemetery at the corner of Cedar Street and Vance Baker Road. Children exploring the woods found the cemetery with approximately 20 sunken graves.

The seven graves in the Camerons' yard were previously undiscovered.

Before Legacy Park was built, a surveyor was sent to mark the graves at the cemetery, dubbed "The Cemetery on Cedar Street" by Legacy Park residents. People buying homes near the cemetery were told of its existence, and no graves were supposed to be within homeowners' property lines, according to Legacy Park developer Keith Bell.

Bell suggested that the Camerons deed the portion of their property containing graves over to the Legacy Park Homeowner's Association, which has been restoring the cemetery.

The graves take up a small portion of the Camerons' yard, Bell said, so they won't lose much of their property.

"You're only talking about 150 to 200 square feet in one corner of his property," he said.

Cameron disagrees.

"It isn't much of the yard, but it is the only shaded wooded part of my yard," he said. "I don't really want to lose that part of the yard. I paid a premium to the builder for that yard."

But to build his fence and garden, Cameron would have to either move the graves or disturb them. Disturbing the graves just isn't right, he said, and moving them is costly and shouldn't be his responsibility. Cameron is now working with an attorney to determine what, if anything, can be done about the graves.

"The fact that you're buying dead people with your house should be disclosed," he said.

Brad Sauls, supervisor of survey, registration and grants for the S.C. Department of Archives and History, said there are no laws that dictate to private property owners how they are to care for cemeteries on their property.

"It's kind of up to them to be the stewards of it," Sauls said. "There's nothing to compel them to maintain it or keep it up."

He added there are laws that prohibit malicious desecration of a cemetery and a law that gives descendants access to cemeteries on private property.

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