MB Oak Street Cemetery

The city of Myrtle Beach Saturday hosted an event at a historic African American graveyard off 21st Avenue North, inviting area residents to identify unmarked graves and freshen up the decades-old burial ground. The site is adjacent to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and Myrtle Beach Health Department building.

The land is nearly all shaded by trees. For many in Myrtle Beach, the 21st Avenue cemetery holds special significance. 

On Saturday, the city invited residents to identify unmarked graves and clean up the decades-old burial ground where many who lived in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods are buried. The graveyard is located in the 700 block of 21st Avenue North by the Myrtle Beach convention and sports centers.

Volunteers joined city staff members and law enforcement in the cleanup as they raked, swept and filled numerous trash bags. Many of the graves there are simply marked ‘KNOWN UNTO GOD’.

Myrtle Beach Neighborhood Services Director Cookie Goings said the restoration efforts are to honor those laid to rest there, including her great-great-grandfather.

“It’s about acknowledging the past, knowing where we are in the present and making it better for the future,” she said.

Flowers decorated a few of the gravesites. Several military veterans are buried in the cemetery with tombstones denoting their service.

In the 1930s, graves were relocated from a site where members of First Baptist Church of Myrtle Beach were buried to the cemetery, according to Horry County Register of Deeds Marion Foxworth.

By then, he said, a middle-class black community had emerged along Carver and Dunbar streets, and the community saw the development and organization of multiple black churches. The graveyard’s location was chosen because it sits on high ground.

The land was formerly owned by Myrtle Beach Farms, which is now Burroughs & Chapin Co., and given to the city in 1992.

Some folks like Eleanor Bland searched for a family member’s grave. She recalled how her mother died in Connecticut and was brought to the cemetery in the city she grew up in to be buried when Bland when was a young girl.

Cynthia Dowe Livingston said she located the burial sites of her aunts Daisy Catherine Terry Dowe and Katie Jane Dowe near a corner of the property, pointing it out to city staff members who marked them.

Attendees gave names for those buried at a few of the graves. City staff plans to flip the "KNOWN UNTO GOD" markers for newly identified graves and place names as well as dates of birth and death. Ground-penetrating radar could also soon be used on the site, and organizers encourage those with old photos capturing gravesites at the cemetery to contact Neighborhood Services.

Marie Feaster applauded the efforts of the city and volunteers.

“I like what they’re doing,” she said.

The longtime Myrtle Beach resident has several members buried on the site, including two siblings and her father.

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