Graves on Airport Runways

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New development projects on previously undeveloped land often encroach upon existing private properties and farmlands. Sometimes such a property includes cemeteries. Usually in such cases, the bodies are dug up and moved to a new cemetery with the developers footing the bill. But sometimes families refuse to move the graves of their ancestors forcing developers to build around the cemeteries or the graves, such as in Amity, in the state of Indiana, U.S, where there is a grave right in the middle of the road.

Something similar happened when the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in the city of Savannah, Georgia, United States was being expanded. Centuries ago, this area was woods and farmland belonging to the Dotson family. Their family cemetery was packed with more than a hundred people including those of many slaves. Among these graves were those belonging to Richard and Catherine Dotson, who died within seven years of each other in the late 1870s and early 1890s, nearly two decades before the Wright brothers flew the first flight.


The graves of Richard and Catherine Dotson on Runway 10 of Savannah Airport.

Years later, as World War 2 approached, a military airport was opened and much of Dotsons' property became part of the airfield. The army moved most of the Dotson family cemetery to Bonaventure Cemetery, but four graves including that of Richard and Catherine Dotson, were left in place.

After the war ended, the army airfield was turned into a civilian airport. Construction on the new airport started in the 1960s and new tracts of land were acquired for its expansion. During one such expansion in the 1970s, these old graves ended up in the path of a planned airport runway. Since federal law prohibits the moving of graves without the permission of the next of kin, the airport authorities decided to pave over the graves instead.

The original location of the two graves are now marked by two tombstones laid flat with the runway. The graves are located, embedded into the asphalt, about eleven hundred meters from the west end of Runway 10. The graves are near the edge of the runway, so planes don’t roll over the site, but passengers and pilots can see them when a plane taxis by.



Photo credit: USAToday


Photo credit:


Photo credit: Pinterest

The Mathis Airport in Georgia, United States (now closed), is another airport that has a bunch of headstones laid flush with the runway’s surface. When the airport was built in the 1960s, the Anglin family gave permission to the airport to incorporate the graves under the runway. According to some Anglin family members, there are perhaps 16 to 20 people buried underneath the runway.


A couple of headstones for graves flush with the runway’s surface at the Mathis Airport. Photo credit:


One of the tombstone embedded in the runway of Mathis Airport. Photo credit: Robert S/Flickr

Sources: / Wikipedia / Stuck at the Airport /

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