Fifty unmarked graves line the wooded cemetery across the street from one of the most historic structures of the Manhattan Project. The K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant has been around since this mid-1940's, helping to bring an end to Word War II. But the cemetery on the hill across the street has been around for more than 150 years and stands as a testament to the history that occurred here long before the Manhattan Project gave Oak Ridge its name.
According to historic records, African-American slaves are buried in this cemetery, now known as the Wheat African Burial Ground. The cemetery dates back to the mid 1800's, making it one of the oldest on the Oak Ridge Reservation. The cemetery is now maintained by the Department of Energy, one of 31 such cemeteries. These areas are accessible to descendants of individuals buried there.
IThere are two monuments at the cemetery, placed there in 2000 when the cemetery was given the name of Wheat African Burial Ground.
The first monument at the burial ground reads as follows:
"John Henry and Elizabeth Inman Welcker owned and operated a plantation named Laurel Banks as early as 1810 and possibly 1805. This plantation was located along the banks of the Clinch River where the East Tennessee Technology Park (formerly the K-25) Plant now stands. John Henry died in 1838 and Elizabeth died in 1840. In 1847 John Hamilton Gallaher Sr. bought Laurel Banks. According to the 1860 Roane County Census, George Gallaher, Sr.'s estate was valued at $36,000. This included $25,000 worth of land and at least 19 slaves. This cemetery, now named the Wheat Community African American Burial Ground, was formerly known as Atomic Energy Commission Cemetery #2 - Slave Cemetery, and was sometimes referred to as the Gallaher - Stone cemetery. In 1979, Dorothy Moneymaker, a resident of the Wheat Community, counted between 90 and 100 graves with no inscribed markers located within the cemetery. It is presumed that slaves who once belonged to the Welckers and Gallahers and some their descendents are buried here. It is also possible that slaves and their descendents who lived on other farms in the area are buried here. Some of the other families that owned slaves and lived in the vicinity were the Burums, Carmichaels, Staples, Henleys, Ellis, and Rathers. We will never know the names of those buried here."
WHEAT COMMUNITY AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND
ROANE COUNTY, TENNESSEE
THIS CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL
IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY
OF THESE AFRICANS
WHO WERE IN AMERICA
RATHER THAN BY CHOICE
AND LIVED, WORKED AND DIED
IN BONDAGE IN
THE WHEAT COMMUNITY
GPS Coordinates: 35.9181, -84.395
- Added: 2 Jan 2000
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #18602
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