Moses Macedonia African Cemetery

Moses Macedonia African Cemetery

The history of the Free Black Community on River Road dates back to 1869 when emancipated Africans began purchasing land along River Road. Prior to this, cabins for the enslaved ringed the land. It was swampy, hilly land, a typical burial land for enslaved Africns. The poor quality of the land was a main reason it was sold to newly freed Blacks. In 1869, Francis and Charlotte Gray purchased six acres of land and started the community known as “Graysville.” The community was made up of freed Africans who owned their own land as well as others who lived in former slave cabins. Soon after, in 1875, Francis Gray established a Methodist church in Graysville along River Road. This church was later superseded by the Macedonia Baptist Church. From the community’s establishments until 1935 there were 20 documented burials on River Road. Naturally the church is connected to the graveyards as most of the deceased attended the Methodist church.

By the 1950s, the cemetery land had been bought by land speculators. In the 1960s, it had been partly paved over and turned into parking lots and buildings. In 1969 construction began for the 15 story Westwood Tower building, uncovering remains from the old cemetery. Despite this, construction continued. Eye witnesses recalled that there were frequent construction stoppages due to human remains being uncovered.

In 2016 a new development was created to construct a parking garage and new apartment buildings on top of Moses cemetery. Despite the insistence of Mr. Harvey Matthews, who grew up on River Road and a lifelong congregant of Macedonia Baptist Church, the planning board publicly denied the existence of the cemetery. In response to this threat, the Macedonia Baptist church began to fight back against the planning board. By 2019, the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition was a part of the struggle to save Moses Cemetery along with Macedonia.

Despite countless protests and petitions, construction for a self-storage system began on land adjacent to the “official” cemetery but likely part of the older burial grounds.. During construction, the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition gathered photographic evidence of tombstones and remains found during excavation. In spite of the photographs the state attorney remained indifferent and construction continued.