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Cemetary project unearths headstones, family’s history

Contributed Lincoln County Historical Association Executive Director Jason Harpe (left) assists Marshall Ramsey, Jr., and Marshall Ramsey, Sr. unearth the tombstone of Solomon Ramsey near a Carolina Mills building on South Grove Street.

Ramsey family, LCHA preserving graveyard in Lincolnton

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

One South Carolina family with Lincoln County roots is on the hunt for long lost relatives’ graves at an abandoned county cemetery.

With assistance from volunteers and employees with the Lincoln County Historical Association & Museum (LCHA), the Ramsey family has already discovered one headstone belonging to Solomon Ramsey, a family member who died from wounds received during the Civil War’s Battle of Fredericksburg, Columbia resident Marshall Ramsey III, said.

Born in 1834, the war veteran is Marshall’s great-great-uncle and one of 10 children.

Local historians revealed Solomon and his brother William signed up together for Company G, 57th Infantry Regiment, in 1862.

Five months after enlisting, Solomon became injured and died a month later in a Richmond, Va., hospital.

Marshall, 47, and his 84-year-old father, Marshall Ramsey II, found the soldier’s headstone Dec. 17 during a group effort at the site with LCHA individuals and other volunteers.

The group spent more than four hours cleaning up trash and other debris on the property, located on South Grove Street in Lincolnton, before unearthing the marble headstone, which Marshall said they found hidden under six inches of dirt.

“We hit something solid and started digging and found it,” he said. “It was definitely the highlight of the day.”

Perhaps more shocking than stumbling upon the more than 150-year-old stone marker was the object’s pristine appearance.

“It was in amazing shape,” Marshall said.

During the event, three additional Ramsey family members — Harry Ramsey Rhodes, Randy Ramsey and Jodena Cronland — whom Marshall and his father had never met, showed up at the site to help.

Family members believed the headstone was erected as a memorial to Solomon after his death.

“That was the neat part about it,” Marshall said.

With no idea who else may be buried at the site, the Ramsey family is anxious to schedule another work day at the cemetery to search for additional headstones.

In addition to their most recent find, Marshall’s father received headstone pieces 40 years ago that the family believed belonged to Solomon’s parents — Robert G. Ramsey (1799-1869) and Elizabeth Davis Ramsey (1804 -1863) — and also came from the Lincolnton cemetery.

The pieces were later handed over to the LCHA, Marshall said.

The local museum also maintains a number of other Ramsey family artifacts, Executive Director Jason Harpe said, since the family has been in contact with him for the last 4-5 years.

He noted how Ramsey relatives once resided around the South Fork area and more than likely owned the cemetery’s land at one point.

Like most families at that time, Harpe said they probably used their property to bury their kin.

While Marshall remains in contact with the LCHA and anticipates additional time at the cemetery in the future, he considers his father to be the family history “expert,” since he’s been researching the Ramsey genealogy for more than half a century.

“I’m just along for the ride,” Marshall said.

The headstone is currently in LCHA’s possession and will be re-set at the site during the warmer weather months, Harpe said.

The project’s next step is to raise $1,200 for a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey, which will determine how many burials the cemetery actually contains, Harpe said.

The survey must be completed before the LCHA can erect any sort of signage on the property.

The group would additionally like to determine more information about other people buried at the site if more headstones are found.

Harpe added that the Ramsey family cemetery is just one of numerous abandoned cemeteries across the county, with others in much worse condition.

“Unfortunately, they sometimes end up being dumping grounds for trash,” he said.

Simply gravesites that no longer receive care, some of the additional forgotten cemeteries throughout Lincoln County maintain as little as one headstone, Harpe said.

Any local residents or Ramsey relatives interested in volunteering or donating to the project, or who have further information on the family’s history, can contact Marshall Ramsey, II, at (803) 466-2751 or the LCHA at (704) 748-9090 or lcmh@bellsouth.net.

Individuals may also stop by the Lincoln County Historical Association at 403 East Main Street in Lincolnton.

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