“Cemetery Hill,” as it’s lovingly called, was the idea of Clemson’s former president Walter Merritt Riggs. Riggs came to the Clemson Agricultural College in 1896 as an assistant professor of mechanical and electrical engineering. It didn’t take him long to develop a fierce loyalty to the school, of which he was confirmed president in 1911.
In 1922, he sought to recognize faculty and college administrators for their service by creating a faculty cemetery. Two years later, the Board approved the idea and named it “The Woodland Cemetery.” Land chosen was that adjacent to the Calhoun family plots.
Land chosen for the Woodland Cemetery is on the west slope adjacent to Calhoun family plots atop the hill. Ground-penetrating radar revealed the possible locations of more than 600 unmarked graves in the cemetery. The graves are thought to be those of enslaved people who worked from about 1830 to 1865 on John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation and later as sharecroppers and Black laborers, including convicted individuals involved in the construction of Clemson College from 1890 to 1915. Nearly all are believed to be African Americans.
Clemson University is committed to transparency and accuracy in telling the history of the African-American burial site in Woodland Cemetery.