LUMBERTON — A 15-year-old is leading an effort to repair a long-neglected cemetery in Lumberton.
When it came time for Dominic Dent, a sophomore at Lumberton High School, to plan a service project to fulfill his Eagle Scout requirements, he began rallying his fellow scouts from Troop 301 to help restore the Norment Cemetery on East Fifth Street — the city’s oldest graveyard at 154 years.
“I am very interested in history, and this opportunity to help save some local history that might otherwise be lost forever really appealed to me,” Dent said.
The earliest known remains entered in Norment are of John M. Hartman, who died on June 2, 1860. In the century and a half since Hartman was laid to rest, many of the cemetery’s tombstones have been broken, dislodged or simply worn to the point of illegibility.
Just four burials have been conducted at Norment since 1945. The most recent was for Elizabeth Watts, who died Oct. 15, 2012.
As part of the project, the troops will clean, replace and repair tombstones under the guidance of funeral directors Alan Parnell and Lee Summerset, as well as Tim Taylor, director of Lumberton Parks and Recreation.
“They’ve got their work cut out for them, but it’s going to look a lot better once they’re finished up,” said Parnell, who serves as director of Floyd’s Mortuary and runs the monument shop. “Honestly, this has needed to be done for years… . When there’s no family left over, who is responsible? If the community doesn’t want to step up, it takes a group of individuals like the scouts to kind of say, ‘we’ll pitch in and help out.’”
The Boy Scouts aren’t the only organization interested in improving Norment. The Robeson Rifle Guards Camp No. 216 of Lumberton’s Sons of the Confederate Veterans is working with local officials to place a monument on the grounds to recognize the more than 2,000 Confederate soldiers who served Robeson County from 1861 to 1865.
Dent, whose two older brothers attained their Eagle Scout rank through community service projects, said that the graveyard offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Robeson County.
“I am learning so much about the information you can glean from a cemetery and the tombstones,” he said.
Dominic’s mother, Amy Dent, said she was proud of her son’s initiative.
“It is wonderful to see the boys and the community come together for these projects,” she said. “Until we joined scouting, I had no idea how important Eagle Scout projects are for a community.”
The restoration project will kick off at 9 a.m. on Saturday and take place over the course of two weekends.
To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate to the Boy Scouts, make checks out to Troop 301 and mail to 1200 Oakridge Blvd., Lumberton, N.C., 28358.