HOLLY RIDGE | No damage has been found by authorities after a report that a 200-year-old graveyard near Morris Landing was disturbed by developers, prompting the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office to investigate.

Major Chris Thomas with OCSO said a deputy investigated the report stating a single headstone at the site was disturbed, but no evidence of damage was found.

“It’s one gravestone and it does not appear to be disturbed,” Thomas said. “It was checked on a week ago and there is no open investigation.”

The family graveyard is along Cheswick Drive in Holly Ridge in the middle of a residential neighborhood undergoing further property development by Coleman Parks and builder DR Horton.

Resident Lori Emery spoke with a local television station last week about her concern that graves were disturbed, which brought the graveyard site to the attention of the greater community, according to neighbors.

Emery told The Daily News she spoke with a worker — whose name she couldn’t recall — more than a year ago about an alleged incident with a bulldozer and unearthed graves.

“The developer came in there started developing where the graveyard was,” Emery said. “I remember there was a guy on the bulldozer and he just stopped working because he went over the graves and after what he saw, he quit.”

Emery and her cousin Jerry Chandler have family in the graveyard. Chandler’s grandfather and great-grandfather are buried there.

According to Emory, the site is an old family and Confederate graveyard.

Other residents are saying the graveyard is well-known to the community and there is an unstated agreement among neighbors to respect the site.

“I don’t think Coleman has broken any of (the headstones),” resident Kristina Smith said. “I don’t think they have any plans of mowing it down like the article had said, but I don’t think they have any plans of maintain it. They’re just going to let it be.”

Equipment operator Mike Hill, who works to develop the site around the graveyard, says he would never disturb a graveyard and the developer has plans to add a fence around it. 

According to permits submitted to the Town of Holly Ridge, the graveyard is marked on the plans as a cemetery and won’t be built on.

Holly Ridge officials say the graveyard hasn’t been disturbed in any way by the builder or developers.

“When they first started that subdivision over there, the developer called and we were notified about the graveyard being there,” said Larry Willaford, who works in code enforcement and building inspections for the Town of Holly Ridge. “They’ve surveyed it several times to make sure it was not disturbed, and I made sure the developer knew it could not be disturbed.”

Not long after being informed of the site in 2012, Holly Ridge officials scouted out the graveyard to figure out the number of headstones on the site and how far the perimeter extended, according to Willaford.

There appears to be about 17 marked graves at the site. The oldest legible tombstone is dated 1804 to 1865 and the newest is dated 1869 to 1904, according to an observation made by The Daily News.