What was once part of an industrious plantation, this 1850’s slave cemetery has over ninety unmarked graves. A monument is placed in the area, dedicated to the dead slaves who’ve passed away in servitude long ago. The Wheat Community African Burial Ground serves as an important reminder of how far we’ve come as a society and serves as an important marker for those long gone.
The earliest settlers of Wheat Community moved into the area in
the late eighteenth century. However, it was not until 1846 that the area was
established as the community of Bald Hill. The name was changed to Wheat in
1880, when a post office was opened, and the community took the name of its
first postmaster, Frank Wheat.
Early farming residents included John Henry and Elizabeth Inman
Welcker. They owned Laurel Banks plantation on the Clinch River from the early nineteenth
century until c. 1840. Records from the time show that the Welckers were active
in the purchase and sale of slaves. George Hamilton Gallaher purchased the
property in the 1840’s, and it was then rechristened as the Gallaher-Stone
Plantation. The Wheat Community African Burial Ground and Gallaher-Welcker
Cemetery still survive as structures to this day.
The African Burial Ground was long forgotten for some time, but
the site was found in 2000 by Will Minter and was soon cleaned up and marked by
U.S. Department of Energy personnel and volunteers. At least some of those
buried in the African Burial Ground are believed to have been part of the
Gallaher-Stone Plantation; a monument to those held in slavery is on the
is presumed by many that slaves who once belonged to the Welckers and
Gallahers, and a certain amount of their descendants, are buried in this
gravesite. It is also possible that slaves and their descendants who lived on
other farms in the area are buried here. There were other slave-owning families
in the area, and it’s possible that some workers of theirs were also interred
nearby. As of this writing, the names of certain parties buried in the area may never be known.