A descendant linked to one of the Broad Run Thoroughfare community cemeteries is suing a brewery and Prince William County for failing to protect the historic burials.
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A descendant linked to one of the cemeteries of the Community of passage of Broad Run is suing a brewery and Prince William County for failing to protect historic graves.
Frank Washington, whose family is buried in one of the cemeteries, filed a lawsuit in Prince William County Circuit Court in August against the county, county board of supervisors, acting county superintendent Elijah Johnson and International Investments LLC.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to halt all groundwork on the property and allow Washington and the county to conduct archaeological surveys to identify the cemetery’s boundaries. He is seeking to transfer ownership of the Farm Brewery Cemetery to Broad Run in Washington and provide unspecified damages.
The saga of the cemeteries near 16117 John Marshall Highway technically dates back to 1970, when the property’s first owner, James Scott, died without a will.
Land tax payments ceased in 1994, according to the county. The county began foreclosure proceedings in 2017 and put the property up for auction in 2020 after a descendant tracing and notification process.
The Washington lawsuit says neither he nor any member of the Scott family “received a property tax bill, delinquency notice, or tax lien notice” related to the property and was never notified of the tax auction.
The lawsuit also cites the state code that prohibits levying taxes on cemetery grounds, arguing that the property should never have been seized.
The lawsuit says the cemetery was marked as a historical monument as early as 1874.
“It, along with the Fletcher-Allen and Peyton cemeteries, forms an integral part of the historic Thoroughfare area of Prince William County and is deeply significant to the descendants of the multiple families who can trace their lineage,” the lawsuit states.
However, while the area was listed on the County Cemetery Survey, no indication of Scott Cemetery was included in the sale.
The land was sold to International Investments LLC, which is registered in the name of Michelle DeWitt. She is one of the owners of the Farm Brewery in Broad Run.
The problems increased in 2021 when brothers Frank and Dulany Washington – whose ancestors were among the earliest Thoroughfare residents – prepared to bury their aunt, another longtime resident, in one of the property’s two cemeteries.
The Washingtons and other advocates began to pressure the county to protect the cemeteries because the brewery was clearing land on or near the two cemetery sites.
Advocates said the cemeteries hold the graves of more than 200 freed slaves and Native Americans as early as the 19th century.
The Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare said a third cemetery had been discovered on land cleared by the brewery. The Dewitts said they were unaware of any graves at the site, which were largely unmarked, and they were planting corn.
The county cited the company for not obtaining a permit before beginning to clear the land.
The owners of the brewery have promised to restore the cemetery to the state it was in before their work.
Washington argues that the original purpose of the work was to construct a performance stage. He said the brewery changed its plans to circumvent county citation requirements.
The County Board of Supervisors finally approved a $300,000 deal with WM Tinder Inc. to purchase two acres containing cemeteries last year.
Table also reserved a $3.6 million set of initiatives to better identify and study historic cemeteries, conduct archaeological studies in the Thoroughfare area, and do more to tell the story of the area’s historic black settlements, such as the settlements of Thoroughfare and Carver Road.
Despite action taken by the council last year, the lawsuit argues the brewery has continued to clean up areas of the cemetery and plans to build a corn maze above the grounds. He alleges that heavy machinery carried out operations at least in March and June of this year.
The lawsuit excoriates the county for its “deliberate and flagrant actions” in failing to protect the cemetery and allowing its “eventual desecration”. It says the county’s “negligence and dereliction of duty” enabled a seizure and an “unlawful tax sale”.
The lawsuit says the family is still barred from the cemetery.
“The actions (and inaction) of the defendants in this case are all the more egregious when the region’s racial history and historical treatment of freed African American slaves and Native Americans are taken into account,” the court said. court case. “The actions (and inaction) of the defendants echo the morally repugnant but once common belief that these people were insignificant and worthless.”
A hearing was scheduled for October 28, but was canceled. No further hearings have been scheduled in this case.