Today, we went to Randolph Cemetery and Lower Cemetery in Columbia, SC. Both cemeteries are next to Elmwood Cemetery. I got the idea to go visit after visiting this blog. It is a pretty awesome site, and you should check it out.
We also tried to visit the Penitentiary Cemetery, but unfortunately the path to the cemetery now has a No Trespassing sign. If you want to learn more about it, visit this blog and Chicora’s site here.
Randolph Cemetery was pretty interesting, but I was interested mostly in visiting Lower Cemetery. Lower Cemetery can be viewed from the I-126 bridge leaving Columbia.
Randolph Cemetery was named after Benjamin Franklin Randolph, an African American Senator for Orangeburg County, who was executed in 1868, by a group of Klan members while he was touring South Carolina. He was re-interred in the cemetery, which was named after him. Most people probably assume that it is part of Elmwood cemetery, but it is not as it was a cemetery for African Americans, while Elmwood was for mostly Whites. I would assume that most of the African Americans here were well to do, or had wealthy connections, as their cemetery survived, while Lower Cemetery got destroyed multiple times. I’ll include more on Lower Cemetery in a bit. Here are some pictures of Randolph Cemetery.
For the most part, the cemetery was in decent condition. It has been restored very well, but in the back there were some crooked stones, rocks as markers, and sunken graves.
After we checked out Randolph, we made our way to the Lower Cemetery. If you are standing at the entrance of Randolph, go all the way to the left in the back, and there is a small trail. We passed by a Hobo camp, but no one was there. We had to go down a pretty steep embankment, so please use all caution if you go. Also, if you read the links I gave you, thousands of South Carolinians are buried on this small plot of land. Literally. They have no idea how many people are buried here, and I read this cemetery failed a shovel test. You can guess what that means. People were buried on top of other graves, and in the late 1800’s the cemetery was seen as an embarrassment to Columbia. You can imagine with I-26 coming through what state it is in. Again, the links above give way more information. Be careful of sunken holes of graves. Please be respectful of the dead when you enter, so do not take anything or leave anything. Keep in mind vandalization to a grave and/or body is a felony.
Lower Cemetery was a public cemetery so it was a burial place for the poor. Though called the Negro Cemetery on many maps and articles, many poor Whites were buried here. Sometimes in death there is equality in race, but certainly not in social class. Most are now anonymous in death, and though the Randolph cemetery was a segregated cemetery, it survived. This cemetery did not, though a few markers remain.