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Preservers Hope to Tap State Funds for Repairs at Charlottesville Cemetery

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Damaged grave stones at the Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville Damaged grave stones at the Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville
Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville
Edwina St. Rose Edwina St. Rose
Steve Thompson Steve Thompson
Dede Smith Dede Smith
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

A historic cemetery in Charlottesville is hoping to get some financial help from the governor's office.

Repairs are needed at the Daughters of Zion Cemetery, a predominately African-American graveyard that was established in 1873.

The city gave $80,000 to the preservers of the cemetery last year, but the group says it can use all the help it can get.

"Many of the stones are leaning, a number of them have fallen. You look more closely, and there are stones that are completely shattered," archaeologist Steve Thompson said.

Projects for the cemetery include repairing damaged headstones, and searching for unmarked graves.

"I have relatives who are buried here. One specially is my mother's sister, and her marker is all the way down at the end alone and I believe that there are other members buried there but there are no markers," said Edwina St. Rose.

Archeologists say there could be more than 500 people buried at the cemetery, but there are only around 200 marked graves.

"When we had the ground-penetrating radar, we were told that there are hundreds more people buried here than we can visibly see now,” St. Rose said.

Wednesday, May 17, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a bill dedicated to funding historic African-American cemeteries that were established before the 1900s.

"I think it's safe to say that we can make a convincing argument that estimates a reliable number of graves that fit that designation and then can apply to receive state monies," said Thompson

"I think it's only fair and only equitable that our African-American cemeteries get the same level of support as our white cemeteries," said Dede Smith, a former member of Charlottesville City Council.

Once the preservers get the 501c3 tax status approved they'll begin the application process. If approved, the financial help given is $5 per grave per year.