Resort questioned over Tucker’s Town graveyard
A researcher has appealed to a luxury tourism resort to “show good faith” and release documents that could provide vital information about an historic cemetery now in the middle of its golf course.
LeYoni Junos said yesterday that the Rosewood Tucker's Point resort in Hamilton Parish would hold deeds which showed the original dimensions of the graveyard before the Tucker's Town settlement it served was displaced to make way for a hotel in the 1920s.
Ms Junos said she hoped that, in the era of Black Lives Matter, the hotel would recognise the importance of shedding light on how the land looked before it was taken over.
She said: “Black Lives Matter could also translate to Black Graves Matter.”
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the decision by the House of Assembly to back the Bermuda Development Company Act (2) 1920 — the law that allowed a compulsory purchase order for a private company to take over the area for tourism development.
Ms Junos said the original cemetery may have been far larger than its present size — which suggested that those who developed the land to attract wealthy tourists to the island may have built the golf course over part of the cemetery, rather than around it.
She added: “If it was found that the original cemetery was larger in a southerly direction ... that's a horrible thing that took place down there.
“I would like to see first the documents coughed up by Tucker's Point, that would once have been held by the Bermuda Development Company, and have a proper archaeologist examine that area so we finally know.”
Residents of Tucker's Town, most of them black, had to leave their homes to make way for the Castle Harbour Hotel — and leave behind the final resting place of their ancestors.
Ms Junos, who details the passage of the Act in today's Opinion section and who can trace her own family tree back to Tucker's Town, said: “There has always been a theme that the community was mostly black there and I have bolstered that with factual data.”
She added that she and fellow descendant Eugene Stovell “painstakingly” went through the island's death records from 1866 to 1923 and found 211 deaths recorded in Tucker's Town.
Ms Junos said: “Of those, nine — representing 4 per cent — were white and 202 were black or coloured.”
Further research helped her identify where more than 40 people who died in Tucker's Town between 1866 and 1913 were buried.
But she said the final resting places for 139 others who died in Tucker's Town over the same period were not accounted for in nearby Anglican cemeteries.
Ms Junos has also examined a 1898 map held by the Bermuda Archives — the Savage Map — which marked out cemeteries with solid lines.
She said that for Tucker's Town there was “one solid line” that was “like a triangular shape that widens out as it approaches the church”.
Ms Junos added: “It makes sense. You would think that the cemetery would have started out closer to the church and grown outwards. If that's the case, that cemetery is much bigger than it is now and part of it would be on the fairway.”
Ms Junos said the government of the day had promised to protect the cemetery.
She added: “I would like to think if there are graves under the fairway that the ground was undisturbed. It's a horrible thought to think of it being excavated.”
Historic tombstones were removed from the cemetery in October 2012 by the Tucker's Point hotel, at the request of the graveyard's custodian, Marsden First United Methodist Church, and under the guidance of archaeologist Edward Harris.
Arlene Brock, the Ombudsman, detailed the move in a 2014 report and recommended that nine tombs should be reconstructed and that interested parties should work together to come up with a suitable memorial for people buried there.
But it is understood that the recommendations have not been acted on.
Ms Junos said she hoped Rosewood Tucker's Point would work with the descendants of Tucker's Town residents to bring some resolution, as it would mean far more than a “quick fix, superficial solution”.
Rosewood Tucker's Point could not be contacted for comment yesterday.