Letters to the Editor - September 2013

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Danville should preserve ruins and cemetery on plantation site

To the Editor,

Descendants and advocates of the Fearn Plantation’s families are working together to save the historic ruins and slave cemetery on the Fearn Plantation in Danville [“Danville gets a new look,” August issue]. The city of Danville has failed to recognize the importance of the African-American, Native-American and white families associated with the plantation and their contributions to the region’s and Virginia’s history.

Danville wants to convey the entire 158-acre site to a Chinese company — and the site is planned to be developed as a furniture-assembly plant.  We do not know the long-range impact of such a business on the furniture and related industries. Many American jobs have been lost because of foreign companies.

As the nation commemorates the 150th anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation and many milestones of the Civil War, destruction of such an important piece of American and Virginian history is an outrage and a disservice to the memories of Danville’s pioneer families and  the enslaved people who made the city  “the World’s Best Tobacco Market.” The Virginia Tobacco Commission awarded a million dollar grant to help GOK International develop its showroom at the Cane Creek site in Pittsylvania County.  A great deal of help is going to GOK International, while little effort is made to preserve and protect the historical resources on the Fearn Plantation.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has recommended that the cemetery not be moved, and recently Preservation Virginia included the entire Fearn Plantation site, encompassing the cemetery and the ruins of the plantation residence, on its 2013 List of Endangered Sites.   The site has also been registered with the Remembering Slavery, Resistance and Freedom Project, a partnership between the College of William and Mary and the Martin Luther King Memorial Commission of the Virginia General Assembly.

Descendants and advocates are in support of economic development in the Danville area but urged Danville to consider an alternative design for the industrial park that would preserve and incorporate the historic resources at the periphery.

Anne Evans, Fairfield, Calif.

Evans, a Danville native, is a descendant through marriage of Thomas Fearn, the founder of the Fearn Plantation.

Editor’s note:
GOK International’s U.S. headquarters are in Danville’s River District, and its plant is in Cane Creek Centre in Pittsylvania County. The company has performance agreements with the city and the Tobacco Commission that include options to use a portion of a new industrial park if the company meets all requirements and needs to expand.

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