2018-10-12 / Front Page

Restoring Randolph Cemetery

State Senator Benjamin F. Randolph is buried in Randolph Cemetery, west of Elmwood Cemetery. A ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of his death will be held Tuesday, October 16, at 11 a.m.State Senator Benjamin F. Randolph is buried in Randolph Cemetery, west of Elmwood Cemetery. A ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of his death will be held Tuesday, October 16, at 11 a.m.
A ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of African-American State Senator Benjamin F. Randolph will be held Tuesday, October 16 at Randolph Cemetery, 301 Elmwood Avenue beginning at 11a.m.

Senator Randolph was originally from Kentucky before moving to South Carolina in 1864 while serving as a chaplain for the 26th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. He was also co-editor of a denominational newsletter called The Advocate and worked with the Freedman’s Bureau.

He was later elected to the state senate, representing Orangeburg County. On October, 16, 1868, Randolph was speaking at an event in Abbeville. As he was waiting on a train toward Anderson, he was assassinated by three men.


Headstones and plot borders like this one are in need of repair after years of battling the elements. Headstones and plot borders like this one are in need of repair after years of battling the elements. Randolph Cemetery was founded in 1871. Among those buried at Randolph Cemetery include at least a dozen Reconstruction-Era legislators, Columbia City Council members, pastors, and of course, Randolph, who was taken from another cemetery and re-buried in 1871.

While Tuesday’s ceremony is to commemorate the life and death of Senator Randolph, it is also an opportunity to bring awareness to the cemetery’s condition. Several graves and plot borders have crumbled from years of battling the elements. The cemetery is also in need of regular maintenance. That is where Staci Richey, Regina Monteith, and Sherry Jaco have stepped in.

Ten years ago, Richey was made aware of Randolph Cemetery and the poor condition it was in.

“I am not sure who got the ball rolling over a decade ago, but I would assume it was probably Elaine Nichols,” Richie said. “She had a genuine passion for the cemetery. She understood that Randolph Cemetery, like many historic cemeteries, is threatened with decay if it is not proactively managed and funded. The headstones are always out in the elements, and the grass is always growing.


The Randolph Cemetery historical marker stands at the entrance of the cemetery. The Randolph Cemetery historical marker stands at the entrance of the cemetery. Randolph Cemetery is especially important, however, given its unique history and the fact it has at least a dozen Reconstruction era legislators. That probably was part of the urgency in finding some funding a decade ago to help stop the decay, get the borders defined, create a survey and map of the site, and start repairing headstones.”

Along with the involvement of Nichols, Richie, Jaco, and Monteith, Robin Waites of Historic Columbia and Chicora Foundation have helped look for ways to help the cemetery. Board members of the CRBRC, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the historic site, have managed the site over the years.

Richey said the group is looking to do a bigger restoration project to include repairing family plot borders, filling in slumped graves, and conducting a public educational workshop on cemetery restoration. The majority of the funding has come through an $8,000 grant from the Richland County Conservation Commission. If more funds can be found, Richey said she would like to have the road in the cemetery repaired and continue further phases of headstone and plot border restoration, as well as push back the enroaching woods on the north and west borders.

Funding will be an obstacle, as Richey estimates the additional costs between $100,000 to $200,000 to repair all broken headstones and plot borders. Regular maintenance of the five-acre cemetery will cost between $15,000 to $20,000 a year.

“This site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has a historic marker,” Richey said. “More than that, it is a witness to Columbia and South Carolina’s past, dating back as far as 1868, with the assassination of B.F. Randolph. I hope it always has an important, place in the community and the restoration efforts we have been working on now for several years will help it last for the next century and beyond.”

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