In recent weeks, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors directed staff to prepare a plan to research and interpret the cultural resources of the historically African American Thoroughfare and The Settlement communities and facilitate restoration of the Scott family cemetery, located in the Thoroughfare community. Additionally, the Board asked for recommendations on how to better research and preserve African American history, culture and historic communities throughout Prince William County. During their meeting on May 18, the Board committed to allocate $765,000 for Fiscal Year 2022 for historic preservation, historical research and public interpretation in the communities of Thoroughfare and The Settlement and other historic communities in the County.
“As we work to preserve this testament to the resiliency and innovation of the human spirit, where freed Black slaves and Native Americans built a thriving a farming community after the Civil War, the County is also taking steps to ensure that such history never again comes under threat in Prince William,” said Supervisor Kenny Boddye.
Work on the Scott Cemetery will include defining the limits of the cemetery, archaeologically fencing the cemetery, installing a sign and providing access. The Prince William County Historical Commission identified the Scott cemetery in its 2001 Countywide survey report and estimated the number of burials between 75 and 100 individuals. Hiring an archaeologist, at $100,000 annually, is also included in the funding allocation to support historic preservation and interpretation and to oversee the contracts involved as the work progresses.
Opportunities to preserve African American history include architectural surveys of buildings and providing interpretive areas in The Settlement and Thoroughfare communities. The cemetery was not listed in Circuit Court record deeds or noted in an independent property appraisal. Heirs to the property did not disclose the existence of the cemetery. The property sold at judicial auction for unpaid taxes in July 2020, according to Prince William County Circuit Court records.
Additional staff recommendations include increasing education and notifications to potential owners of historic properties and cemeteries, establishing a grant program to help identify and properly mark historic properties and encouraging property owners to speak with private attorneys to file documentation with the Prince William County Circuit Court land records.