Small Cemetery Amid Development Raises Concerns - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Small Cemetery Amid Development Raises Concerns

A historic Biloxi cemetery is located in the middle of a planned upscale subdivision on Back Bay.

The developer wants to preserve the small graveyard and decorate the area with landscaping and a wrought iron fence.

But a man with ancestors buried there, claims the cemetery has been desecrated by construction work.

What's more, Chuck Stein says the cemetery isn't even located in the area fenced off by the developer.

Orange fencing marks the area where the developer believes the small, historic graveyard is located. The sign for the new subdivision also designates the landscaped cemetery space.

A spokesman for the developer says they learned of the cemetery's existence during public comments at a planning commission hearing. The developer then fenced off the area and worked around it.

But a man with ancestors buried in the Braisher-Akin cemetery doesn't believe that.

"They bulldozed diagonal through it and then widened the road to cover it. It's only a 40 by 80 cemetery," said Chuck Stein as he showed a photograph of the area.

Stein is convinced the cemetery was bulldozed. He claims the orange fencing went up after the fact.

"They bulldozed everything that had any physical evidence. Removed everything that would show a cemetery was there. There were grave markers, there were shells. Inside a fence," explained Stein.

He also takes issue with the cemetery location. Stein claims it's closer to the road.

Why would the developer fence off the wrong area?

"A lot of people asking questions. So now they're saying, all right, there is a cemetery but it's where they say it is. It's not there. I know it's not there," said Stein.

A spokesman for the developer told WLOX News they don't have anything to hide and in fact have gone to great lengths and expense to protect and preserve this cemetery.

That spokesman also said there's never been any bulldozing of the graveyard and if Mr. Stein has more accurate information about its location, they'd be happy to listen.

The temporary orange fencing will soon be replaced with a wrought iron fence, similar to the one surrounding a small, family cemetery that was discovered during the development of the Biloxi Commerce Park.

We also talked with Harrison County coroner Gary Hargrove about Chuck Stein's concerns. Hargrove has visited the cemetery in question. He did not find evidence of criminal desecration to any grave.

By Steve Phillips

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