Nanticoke family burial plot identified behind Home Depot
By Jim Cresson
Cape Gazette - Covering Delaware's Cape Region | Friday, March 8, 2002
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Standing on the site of an old but unmarked Coursey family graveyard near Five Points, Cassandra Coursey Marshall, Braxton Jackson and Celeste Marshall say they intend to see the site is protected forever.
The three relatives are descendants of Mills Coursey, who purchased the land in the 1840s and farmed it until his death in 1869.. Jackson's uncle, Herman Norwood, uncovered the old plot about 12 years ago and Jackson videotaped the tops of 21 graves, all in single file and facing east, a Native American tradition. Some of the wooden coffins were for children, some for adults, said Jackson. None were identified, but jackson said his uncle always referred to them as Coursey graves. The site was recovered and marked by the single pole in the foreground.
The current problem, Jackson and the Courseys say, is that the land is set to be the site of a townhouse development, whenever Sussex County Council votes on a conditional use request allowing the townhouses. The parcel is located behind Israel Church on Plantation Road, where Mills Coursey is buried.
Cassandra Coursey has written a letter to county council members, explaining the site and requesting that it be permanently protected and that the family may have access to the site, as required under the state's Grave Protection Act.
"We are descended from the Courseys who struck a land deal with Lord Baltimore in the 1600s and who were the last emperor chiefs of the Nanticoke tribe," said Celeste Marshall.
"Our forefathers moved from the original 5,000 acre reservation in Dorchester County, Md., to our Broad Creek village near Laurel and later to our Indian River lands," said Cassandra Coursey Marhsall. "We are true Nanticokes, descended from true emperor chiefs."
The Courseys said they will ask state Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Dan Griffith to conduct a detailed investigation of the family graveyard. Cassandra said she has been researching the family history for the past seven years. "I've found Coursey tax records from this area dating back to the 1780s," she said. "I may be able to find out who is buried there."
"I can tell you that the coffins were old, old, old," said Jackson. "They were in good shape and the tops were made from one solid slab of wood."