Burlington monument re-erected

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2006

BURLINGTON —A landmark of local black history has now been re-erected after vandals toppled it recently.

The massive monument, weighing more than 3,000 pounds, at The Burlington 37 Cemetery on Center Street was struck down sometime over the past two weeks, shocking local residents who say the cemetery is sacred ground and has never fallen victim to any vandalism. The cemetery is more than 150 year old.

The monument that was vandalized honors 37 slaves — 20 males and 17 females — that moved into the area in 1849 after being freed by James Twyman, a Virginia plantation owner. They and their descendants served as the backbone of the black community in the Burlington area. The monument, placed at the cemetery in 1993, was funded by donations and sales of the historical book, “The Promised Land” by Ironton attorney Earl Pratt.

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On Friday, workers re-erected the marble monument and made its foundation sturdier, according to Owen Pleasant, the grandson of Susan Gordon, one of the slaves honored by the monument. He is the last known surviving immediate family member of the 37 slaves. His wife, Imogene, is also a descendent of a slave that moved into the area in the mid-1800s.

“This is the first time anybody’s done anything like this (at the cemetery),” 93-year-old Pleasant said. “We can’t understand it.”

Pleasant, president of the cemetery board visited the site on Friday when it was placed in its original spot.

Unfortunately, he said, he doubts if those responsible for the monument’s fall will ever be caught. But, Pleasant said, he knows they will have to answer to a higher authority someday.

“They (vandals) are going to have to pay. We know someday they will have to pay for this. Maybe not here, but before someone else,” he said.

Although he is not sure if the incidents are related, he said earlier this month an empty trailer near the cemetery was set on fire.

According to Bev Scott, she noticed the vandalism two weeks ago when she was at the cemetery for a funeral. Scott said she and many others were appalled at the act.

“Some people have no respect for life at all,” Scott said. “These people have never done anything to hurt anyone. Who would do something like this?”

The incident happened just days after the community celebrated its annual reunion honoring its rich heritage.