As Daufuskie Island natives whose relatives and ancestors are buried there have moved away, the island's cemeteries have been neglected, said Daufuskie Island Foundation member Henry Simmons.
The foundation wants to change that, and it started Saturday with a morning clean-up of Mary Fields Cemetery, the island's largest Gullah burial ground.
"We just felt that it was necessary to come back home and get to work," Simmons said. He has relatives from his great-grandmother to his father resting in Mary Fields.
Armed with rakes, wheelbarrows, clippers and weed whackers, about 30 people traveled by boat and ferry to Daufuskie Island on Saturday.
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As a result of the work, visitors will now be able to lay flowers on the graves of their loved ones, said volunteer Laura Winholt of the Daufuskie Island Conservancy.
"There are beautiful old and new headstones, and you can actually see them all now," Winholt said.
Members of a First Union African Baptist Church men's group who meet every third Saturday also pitched in. The new owners of Daufuskie Island Resort & Breathe Spa, the Pelorus Group of Salt Lake City, loaned a lawnmower and other tools that made a big difference, according to First Union deacon Aaron Crosby.
"Some of the people who grew up here said they have never seen it looking this good," Crosby said. "It's a wonderful community effort."
Daufuskie Island Foundation president Ervin Simmons said the cemetery cleanup is the group's first major project. Members plan to extend the effort to the island's other cemeteries, he said.
"I feel strongly that we needed to take back ownership of the community," he said. "We owe it not only to ourselves, but to our ancestors as well."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlog.