|Yellow area near center of|
image is the cemetery site
between River Road and
Saturday, April 08, 2017
Fact-checking the Westbard cemetery skeptics...again
If you hear or read the false claim by anonymous commenters online that the African-American cemetery on the Westwood Tower property in Bethesda was merely used for the one-time reburial of remains moved from the Fort Reno area in Northwest Washington - arm yourself with the truth. There's been another spike in such "fake news" in the last few days. These false claims are made to suggest no one from the River Road African-American community and Macedonia Baptist Church was buried in the cemetery. Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, who on Thursday blocked testimony from the church and put the so-called "investigation" of the cemetery fully into the hands of the developer who would profit from building on top of the graves, also contradicted the internal report prepared by his own staff in wildly speculating about the possible removal of remains from the cemetery.
The facts: A black fraternal organization purchased the land for the cemetery in 1911. But burials at the cemetery that can be found in public records and announcements are recorded as late as the 1930s, long after the reburials of the Fort Reno remains. Cleveland Clipper, an actual resident of the River Road community, told local historian William Offutt that the road below the retaining wall behind McDonald's was called Outlet Road, and was used by funeral processions to reach the cemetery. And, as discovered during research by the Little Falls Watershed Alliance, an actual February 1935 obituary for Cora Botts - a resident of the River Road community - explicitly states that she will be interred in this cemetery.
"The question is whether those remains were moved, relocated at some point, and we'd like to get to the bottom of that," Anderson told NBC Washington on Thursday. Fact: There is no record whatsoever of any remains being removed from the cemetery after it was sold in 1958. Or in any year. Period.
If you don't believe me, consider what was stated by the Planning Department staff's internal report, which was withheld from the public and final Westbard sector plan:
"No evidence has been uncovered yet that human remains were relocated from the one-acre parcel."
A witness was directly told by construction workers who built Westwood Tower in the late 1960s that some remains were illegally relocated further down the slope behind the building. They were not removed from the site, and along with the graves that were not disturbed by excavation at that time, there is no evidence or reason to believe those remains are not still there.
Those claiming otherwise once again earn a Four Pinocchios/Pants on Fire rating.