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Prince William Co. sued for allegedly desecrating cemetery of former enslaved, indigenous people

Frank Washington, a descendant of the Scott family in Thoroughfare, claims that his family's cemetery was illegally sold in a tax sale and desecrated.

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — A lawsuit filed against several parties, including Prince William County, alleges the desecration of a cemetery occupied by indigenous, formerly enslaved people and their descendants. 

The lawsuit names Prince William County Board of Supervisors, County Executive Elijah Johnson, and International Investments, LLC (also known as Farm Brewery at Broad Run) for the desecration of Scott Cemetery, which is occupied by indigenous, formerly enslaved people and their descendants.

The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 10 by Frank Washington who is a descendant of the Scott family. 

According to a press release from the Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare Spokesperson Frank Washington, who filed the lawsuit, Thoroughfare is a historic community in Virginia that dates back hundreds of years and was formed by indigenous people and later freed Black slaves that settled in the area. The Coalition also states that the family cemetery from this community dates back to around the 1860s and possibly earlier.

The lawsuit is claiming that Prince William County unlawfully sold the land where the cemetery resides through a tax sale. In the state of Virginia, it is illegal to tax public and privately owned cemeteries. However, the court document explains that proper notice was not given to “interested parties, including the Plaintiff.” In addition to this, the lawsuit also claims that the buyer of the land, Farm Brewery, continued to do construction over the cemetery after they were informed about its existence.

Dating back to 1937, the lawsuit references the historical recognition of the Scott Cemetery and claims that it was recognized as a historic landmark site in aerial surveys. Furthermore, the court documents claim that in 1966 the United States Geological Survey confirmed Scott Cemetery’s existence.

Another survey that occurred in the mid-1990s until the early 2000s was referenced as siting the Scott Cemetery as a potential cemetery in Prince William County and was registered in the County as a “cemetery with historical significance,” according to the lawsuit. However, despite this, the court document further claims that the cemetery was not given its own address or geographic parcel identification number.

In addition to the threat of Scott Cemetery, the press release claims that developers “destroyed the Scott Cemetery, blocked access to the Potters Field Cemetery, and threatened the Fields/Allen Cemetery with development.” All three of these cemeteries are part of the Thoroughfare community.

WUSA9 has reached out to Prince William County for comment and is waiting to hear back.

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