BROAD RUN, Va. — Leaders of a historic Black and Native American community in Prince William County are appealing to the Justice Department for help after a pre-Civil War cemetery was bulldozed to make way for a brewery.
The Scott Cemetery is just off I-66 in the Thoroughfare neighborhood of Broad Run in Prince William County.
The Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare has been fighting to protect the cemetery for the last two years.
"I walk through here and I feel a sense of pride and love having my family resting here," said Frank Washington, walking through the headstones at the Fletcher-Allen Cemetery nearby.
Washington traces his ancestry back to Black and Native Americans who've lived here for centuries.
"Over here in the Potter's Cemetery," he said, pointing down a gravel road. "And over there was my grandma's house."
The remains of the people who lived here have long rested in burial grounds scattered across the community of Thoroughfare. "This is all family," he says, waving his hands to the horizon.
But Washington says one of those cemeteries -- the Scott Cemetery -- has been scraped away to make way for the Farm Brewery at Broad Run.
"What's most distressing is this was supposed to be their final resting place. And now we feel like that peace is being disturbed. Once again, they're being treated as though they have no value, they have no place," Washington explained.
The owner of the brewery says they hired two archeology firms that used ground penetrating radar and found no signs of a cemetery. Michelle DeWitt provided a statement to WUSA9:
"Despite evidence to the contrary, Mr. Washington and his Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare continue to make false allegations against us. Two professional archeology firms were engaged to preform extensive studies including ground penetrating radar which revealed no evidence of the “alleged Scott Cemetery.”, at considerable cost to The Farm Brewery at Broad Run. The Prince William County Archeologist was present for the inspection. We have been transparent and complaint with the County requests, which began two years ago. Both the County and the Coalition have been in possession of these reports for more than a year. Mr. Washington and his Coalition continue to harass us with baseless lawsuits and press releases void of any truth or legal merit. It’s a shame that the Coalition has chosen to try and advance their agenda in this horrific and offensive manor, in an attempt to discredit us. The Farm Brewery at Broad Run treasures this community we serve, it’s sacred history and are lawful stewards of this land."
"County records date back many, many years. There's ample documentation through the county that this cemetery existed," responded Washington.
The coalition has filed suit in circuit court and is waiting for a court date.
Washington believes 75 to 100 ancestors may have been buried in Scott Cemetery, their graves marked by simple field stones. But he believes all those stone markers are gone now. "We witnessed at least two truckloads of debris removed when it was initially bulldozed," he said.
But Washington believes it's still not too late to build a memorial on the site. And to turn the grounds not into a place to drink beer and throw axes, but to remember.