Goats clean up historic Washington cemetery as preservation efforts continue

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WITN) – A pack of goats just spent the last two weeks chewing and gnawing their way toward cleaning up a historic cemetery tied to the founding of the city of Washington.

Forty-two goats were dropped off at the 260-year-old Sycamore Cemetery of Bonner Hill Plantation in Washington by a business called “Goats on the Go” based out of Raleigh. They spent nearly two weeks at the burial site in a fenced-in area.

“We decided to give the goats a bit more time to clear out some of the areas. They weren’t preferencing and we are mostly happy with how they did in terms of thinning out most of the vegetation. For some of the ground cover they weren’t too partial to they nibbled and dabbled but they decided this was not their favorite thing to eat,” Director of Goats on the Go, Stephen Paul said.

The goal was for the goats to eat away overgrown vegetation so that ground-penetrating radar could then be used to map out the graves hidden within. The hopes are that would then lead them to discover not only who is buried there and their ties to Washington but to also discover more meaning behind the city.

Descendant of the Bonners, Steve Bonner, has been the heart of this project and now has the next steps mapped out.

“The next step is to get tree services to come in and work on the tree and brush issues that we have along the perimeter of the cemetery. That will enable us to have more access to the center of the cemetery. We are going to go in with probes and find fallen headstones with metal probes and uncover and restore those and once we get it cleared out well enough then we will be able to come back with ground-penetrating radar and map out the graves that are in there,” Bonner said.

When doing the initial investigation and planning for this project, family organizers were only certain of around five graves in the burial site, but now they are thinking there are upwards of 17 or more graves to be discovered.

The community has been a big part of this project and help is needed, according to Bonner. If you want to volunteer and be a part of the clean-up as a helping hand, you can do so by heading to their Facebook page at Sycamore Cemetery of Bonner Hill Plantation and send them a message!