PITT COUNTY - Pitt County attorneys said family members of those buried at Branches Cemetery near Ayden are responsible for cleaning up and maintaining the site.
Assistant County Attorney Lisa Overton said officials and sheriff's deputies have been trying to find the owner of the burial site for more than a year. Branches Cemetery is located off Ayden Golf Club Road but is listed as an unincorporated part of the county.
According to the register of deed, Branches Cemetery was designated to the African Americans of the community on January 9, 1937.
The portion of the cemetery that is partially groomed is owned by a man from Raleigh. A one acre portion that has broken tree limbs and trash belonged to a man from Ayden. He died a few years ago. Deputies are trying to locate the heir to the property, on who lives in Mississippi.
Overton said unless the site is declared abandoned, the families are responsible for the upkeep. A trustee would be appointed by the Board Of Commissioners, according to NC statute 65-113.
"The county commissioners of the various counties are authorized to oversee all abandoned public cemeteries in their respective counties, to see that the boundaries and lines are clearly laid out, defined, and marked, and to take proper steps to preserve them from encroachment, and they are hereby authorized to appropriate from the general fund of the county whatever sums may be necessary from time to time for the above purposes."
Local residents said the condition of the site is disrespectful to the dead. The number of people buried at Branches Cemetery is unknown.