Historic Durham cemetery needs help from volunteers

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The last time ABC11 showed the condition of Durham's Geer Cemetery in February, many viewers were shocked when they saw overturned gravestones and overgrown burial plots.

Now, there's restoration activity underway there --with the work being done by concerned volunteers.

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Our guide back in February, Jessica Eustice, observed on Saturday: "There's a forest here, there's poison ivy. There are weeds."

There's also a movement underway to remove them and other signs of neglect.

"I am on 'Friends of the Geer Cemetery' because my heritage lies here," said D.D. Barnes.

Some of the ancestors who helped develop prosperous black owned businesses and NCCU in Durham are buried in this cemetery.

Jessica Eustice identified a distinguished looking black man with a lush handlebar mustache whose picture greeted volunteers as they signed in.

"That is John Wesley Geer. He was a descendant of the black side of the Geer family, after which the cemetery was named," Eustice said. "The Geer that's buried here was also the son of a slave and the son of the white gentleman who donated it."

That happened back in 1877. By the 1930s, Durham leaders who considered the cemetery full decided to close it. Since then, conditions deteriorated until volunteers stepped up to help.

"Repairing some of the stones," Eustice said as she noticed a man carefully cleaning a headstone. "I mean, Ron Bartholomew has done a great job."

Thick ivy still covers graves on an overgrown side of the cemetery. There's work that remains to be done and they're hoping volunteers will step up and help.

They say they have a Friends of Geer Cemetery link on it's Facebook page where you can learn more and volunteer.
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