Preservation Service Award
Awarded to: South Carolina History Room (Charleston Public Library)
Property: Grace Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery
Submitted by: Charlotte Smith and Lish Thompson
Grace Chapel Baptist Cemetery is located behind the sanctuary of Grace Chapel Baptist Church, located at 5830 S.C. Highway 174 in Adams Run, Charleston County, South Carolina. This church is a small, rural, African American church with history of the site dating back to the 1930s and the congregation dating back 138 years. It is an active cemetery, with burials as old as 1933 and as recent as June 2021.
The Grace Chapel Baptist Cemetery Project can trace its roots back to both the Evergreen Cemetery Project and the McLeod Plantation Cemetery Project that co-workers, Library Generalist, Charlotte Smith and Lish Thompson, Assistant Manager of the South Carolina History Room, generated. In Fall 2016, the McLeod Plantation Cemetery Project documented 66 burials, and was completed by December 2016. That documentation process and the spreadsheet formats were kept for the Evergreen Cemetery Project. They began this project together in March 2019, which documented 323 burials, and it was completed in time for the opening of the new Baxter-Patrick Library in November 2019. The work done on Evergreen Cemetery was recognized by the 2020 Preserve South Carolina Preservation Service Award on August 24, 2021.
The Grace Chapel Baptist Cemetery Project officially began in November 2020. Councilwoman Anna Johnson, Charleston County Public Library Executive Directory Angela Craig, Deputy Director Darlene Jackson and South Carolina Room Manager Marianne Cawley met with others to discuss the project before bringing on Lish Thompson and Charlotte Smith. Reverend Davis had requested help from Councilwoman Anna Johnson in reference to a $12,500 grant they received from the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation as part of the center’s Gullah History Preservation Project to cleanup and restore this cemetery.
The main objective of this project was to fully document the individuals buried in the Grace Chapel Baptist Cemetery. Thompson and Smith focused on uncovering burials utilizing public records and Charleston County Public Library’s research assets. They took over 340 photographs, transcribed marker inscriptions, and identified ninety-nine burials. In all, the Grace Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery binder contains 466 pages.
This information was compiled into a database, using the format previously established in the two previous cemetery projects. Thompson and Smith put the photos and documents into one large binder to use as their master resource. Smith typed all the information into several spreadsheets to create one comprehensive database. They both compiled marker inscription lists to fully describe the stones which, unfortunately, are sinking into the soft ground. Smith also worked on a statistics list that covered such things as the number of burials conducted during each decade, the oldest marked burial, how many children, how many veterans, etc. They gave each interred person their own individual page and typed contact pages with an index. Smith also typed out each of the official death and funeral notices from the local newspapers. The pair both recognized that this is a living document and will add burials as needed.
Thompson and Smith would like to thank Councilwoman Anna Johnson, Reverend Damita Richardson Davis and South Carolina Room Manager Marianne Cawley for involving them in the project of documenting the burials at Grace Chapel Baptist Church. They would especially like to extend their gratitude to Reverend Davis for her kindness and assistance in identifying relationships between the different individuals buried in the cemetery.