Charlotte residents rediscover their ancestors as New South’s Archaeologists unearth the cemetery of one of the city’s founding families.

In March 2007, construction workers digging a basement for a new wing of the CMC Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, encountered five Sprott1steatite grave markers in disturbed, twentieth-century fill dirt. New South Associates’ archaeologists determined that stones were associated with a family cemetery associated from the Sprott and Barnet families of the 1770s. Historical documentation revealed that these and other families, including the McKnights, Binghams, and Peels, had developed a small burial ground in a wooded corner of the Sprott family property holdings during the middle to late eighteenth century. This cemetery’s presence can be documented until at least the turn of the twentieth century; however, it was believed destroyed by urban development over the course of the last century. The hospital expansion project revealed that burials remained on the site, and New South Associates completed an emergency cemetery recovery project to avoid disrupting the construction schedule.

Sprott2Excavation and recovery by New South Associates revealed the presence of no less than 13 graves containing mostly adults. Skeletal preservation was extremely poor. There were numerous straight pin stains and fragments, but no other personal affects, indicating that the deceased were probably wrapped in burial shrouds. Narrow hexagonal and rectangular grave pits contained hexagonal stains, wrought iron nails, and blunt-tipped screws revealing the use of hexagonal coffins as burial receptacles. The cemetery contained the remains of one of Charlotte’s founding fathers, Thomas Sprott. Many of Sprott’s kinsmen still reside in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg County Metroplex, presenting opportunities for descendants to rediscover their lost ancestors.

Under the directorship of Mr. Bill Merritt, Senior Project Manager, Carolinas Healthcare granted family members access to the excavations; they were provided first-hand opportunities to learn how cemeteries reveal important aspects of the past that are not addressed in historical or genealogical texts. A
positive collaboration between Carolinas Healthcare and the descendant community resulted in a reinterment ceremony at Steele Creek Presbyterian Sprott3Church in Charlotte, North Carolina among other eighteenth-century members of the Sprott, Bingham, McKnight, and Barnet families. The service, witnessed by over 200 visitors, was attended by such dignitaries as South Carolina Congressman John Spratt, a descendant of Thomas Sprott, and Hon. Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina. New South Associates nominated Bill Merritt for the North Carolina Historical Society’s Award of Merit, which was granted in September 2008.

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