Imagine the surprise of harried shoppers who, while busily searching for a parking spot, come across this unusual cemetery. Located in close proximity to one of the Valley’s largest and most popular shopping centers, this hallowed ground contains the remains of local soldiers who fought in five different wars.
Once a piece of swampy farmland, the area was built specifically for the interment of African-American veterans. In 1849 the land was deeded to three trustees and became known as the Burying Ground for Colored People. Approximately 100 graves occupy the burial ground, including that of Lafayette Logan, a Civil War veteran and member of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (which was immortalized in the motion picture Glory). Interred here are soldiers from both World Wars, the Spanish-American War, and the Korean conflict. At least five members of the Buffalo Soldiers, the first African-American unit to serve the nation during peacetime, were also laid to rest on this grassy hill.
The graveyard was privately owned by the families of the deceased until 1940, when an eponymous association was formed to maintain it. In the late 1980s the surrounding land was purchased by a developer who, besides building the aforementioned shopping plaza, offered to buy the plot and move the graves to another local cemetery. The association, however, turned down the proposal, claiming the area was sacred ground. But the possibility of the site suffering damage during construction helped bring to light its importance. In 1994, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, ensuring its protection for years to come. This distinction also helped the association secure federal funds which were used to construct a monument to those buried here.
The historic site isn’t exactly hidden — Bed, Bath and Beyond; Barnes and Noble; and Target stores are within sight of its gray headstones. As shoppers pass the cemetery’s wrought-iron gates, one would hope that they are reminded of the sacrifices made by these brave Americans.
Think you know where this sacred spot is located? If you do, E-mail us at email@example.com. The first person to correctly identify the spot wins a prize. Check next month’s issue for the answer if you’re stumped.