This was more than just some Halloween prank, city officials said.
Vandals have damaged and destroyed some of the oldest grave stones at Old Hillside Cemetery in Laurinburg.
Discovered last week, the damage to more than five historic cemetery markers is likely irreparable, according to Laurinburg Cemetery Supervisor Rodney Byrd.
“Somebody went in there and busted up old tombstones, many of which can’t be fixed or repaired,” Byrd said.
The damage extends beyond just the broken stones, according to Beacham McDougald, president of McDougald Funeral Home.
“In some cases, the markers are for someone who’s been dead over 100 years. The death happened at a time before birth certificates and even before death certificates were filed,” McDougald said. “The only record people would have that they ever lived was those grave markers.”
Considering the value of grave markers in genealogical research, the vandalism may disrupt future ancestry projects as well.
“It takes somebody sick to do something like this, that’s the best I can say,” McDougald said.
According to McDougald, the antique markers are made of marble and impossible to replace because of the period materials and techniques employed in their creation.
McDougald first noticed the vandalism when he was conducting a service in the cemetery on Saturday morning.
“It blew me away,” said McDougald, who was so moved by the crime that he posted images of the damage on Facebook where they received dozens of comments expressing outrage and disbelief.
A police report was filed with Byrd’s help on Friday, Oct. 26. Completing the report was a challenge because while the cemetery is owned by the city, the markers themselves are privately owned.
“We had to do a good bit of work to locate the plot numbers,” Byrd said. For the older part of the cemetery records are difficult to come by and the land is divided into family plots.
This is not the first time Old Hillside Cemetery has been the site of crime. In the past bronze vases have been stolen along with other graveside items, Byrd said.
As a shortcut off of Hillside Road for people on foot, the dirt paths through the cemetery serve as a foot traffic thoroughfare. All of the damaged stones were near the dirt road.
Byrd speculated that the damage was likely done after dark, even though city ordinance forbids people from being in the cemetery from dusk until dawn.
“It takes a sorry individual to come into a cemetery and mess with someone’s tombstone,” Byrd said.