Welcome to the Chattahoochee Valley Cemeteries Society Blogger

CVCS Website: http://www.chattahoocheevalleycemeteries.org/

Next meeting: To be determined at this date (27 May 2011). Everyone with an interest in preserving local and regional cemeteries is most welcome. Come join us!

Cemeteries are "a memorial and a record. (They are) not a mere field in which the dead are stowed away unknown; it is a touching and beautiful history, written in family burial plots, in mounded graves, in sculptured and inscribed monuments. (They tell) the story of the past, not of its institutions, or its wars, or its ideas, but of its individual lives,--of its men and women and children, and of its household. (A cemetery) is silent, but eloquent; it is common, but it is unique. We find no such history elsewhere; there are no records in all the wide world in which we can discover so much that is suggestive, so much that is pathetic and impressive." ~~ Joseph Anderson, American clergyman (1836-1916)

Monday, June 25, 2012

CVCS Volunteer Efforts paying off at Mount Gilead AME Cemetery

Recently, CVCS members have been documenting burials at Mt. Gilead African Methodist-Episcopal Cemetery and cleaning up the site.  This cemetery is located near a large quarry pit on the property of Vulcan Construction Materials, Inc., on Fortson Road, and permission must be obtained from the company to gain access.  As no survey listing for this cemetery was known to exist, the first step was to canvas the site and record all data that could be gathered from marked graves.  This was not an easy proposition, as the cemetery had apparently not been cleared in at least four years.  The grounds were littered with fallen limbs, branches, and whole trees.  Overgrown brush, an accumulation of leaf and pine straw cover, eroded dirt, and matted roots obscured many of the markers.

Most marked graves have only a concrete ledger, and almost all of these bear, or used to bear, identifying markings.  Many, many graves here, however, have never been marked.  Deep grave depressions and other clues indicating graves -  such as plantings of bulb flowers, corn stalks, or rose bushes; rusted funeral wreath easels; clay pots, urns, glass jars, and other vessels that once held flowers; temporary funeral home markers; and field stones at the head and/or foot - pervade the vicinity.  The resulting burial list has been supplemented with data from death certificates dating 1919-30. The identities of 118 individuals buried here have now been compiled.  The latest confirmed burial dates from 1960, before death notices for African-Americans were typically published in local newspapers.  Further records of burials here may perhaps be obtained from funeral homes, relatives, or members of the Mt. Gilead AME Church, which is still active and is now located on the east side of Fortson Road, about a half-mile south of the cemetery.

The clearing of an access trail to the cemetery and along its eastern boundary is partially complete.  Efforts are under way to clear the tree litter, abundant underbrush, ground cover, and eroding soil.  A number of unmarked graves have recently been set with simple concrete head markers, donated by John Land, and plans are to similarly mark as many remaining such graves as can be ascertained.  (There are likely quite a few, however, that are so shallow as to be undetectable, except by means of ground penetrating radar or other forensic methods.)  To date, at least 50 CVCS volunteer hours have been devoted in the effort to rescue this site.  

This cemetery will be featured in an article appearing in the upcoming issue of "Muscogiana," the semi-annual journal of the Muscogee Genealogical Society.  Future plans for the Mt. Gilead rescue project include installment of a fence; the repair and resetting or leveling of existing monuments, and eventual placement of granite monuments where concrete ones are failing or losing their markings; erection of a cemetery sign; improvement of public access; the filling in of deep grave sinks and mitigation of erosion that threatens graves; and provision for routine groundskeeping and maintenance of the site.

Anyone wishing to volunteer with this project or make a donation in support of it should contact coordinator John Land at 469.995.5222 or newsompage@yahoo.com .

The Hardaway Lot is one of two curbed lots in Mt. Gilead Cemetery.  

Many of the concrete ledgers are subsiding or crumbling.  While the markings on the T. S. WILLIAMS monument (left) are still legible, any writing on the marker to the right has faded away, and the monument itself is in danger of totally collapsing.  

Ernest WIGGINS, a veteran of World War I, is buried at Mt. Gilead.

Unmarked graves are being marked with plain concrete head markers such as these.  The depressions will eventually be filled in level with the grade, but first a foot marker will be added to indicate whether a grave is adult-length, or likely child-sized.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Patriot Grave Marking Ceremony at Linwood Cemetery

Have you ever been to a Patriot Grave Marking Ceremony?  If not, consider coming to Linwood Cemetery on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 2:30 PM. This event is to honor the memory of War of 1812 Patriot Nicholas P. Gunn and descendent Samantha Ann Gunn Melton, Nicholas' daughter.  This Grave Marking Ceremony has been created by Lynne Allen Tate.

What will the ceremony entail?  You can expect something along these lines:
  • A Welcome and Greetings.
  • Presentation of Colors by appropriate military individuals/groups.
  • Invocation.
  • Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. Flag and other pledges.
  • A review of the life of the patriot's life and service.
  • A review of the patriot's descendent(s) in attendance.
  • Dedication of the marker.
  • Refreshments.
Please consider joining in this time-honored celebration of the lives of those who came before us and helped to make this country what it is today.

Note:  Mrs. Melton is buried by the fence near the upper Confederate Soldier Section.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"...Grave issues at Beallwood Baptist Cemetery"

A recent article in the 12 Mar 2012 edition of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer about Beallwood Cemetery reviews the necessity for repair work on graves due to erosion.  It belongs to the Greater Beallwood Baptist Church.   Mike Owen, the author of the article, contacted the Church pastor, the Reverend Willie Hill to determine if Rev. Hill was aware of the problem; he said he would look into it.

John Land plans to respond to the article, as well, to further discuss forming an association by the church and other possibilities for repair, restoration, and preservation of this and other local cemeteries.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Patrick Memorial Cemetery Association Meeting

Patrick Memorial Cemetery Association will meet February 4th, 2012, 11 AM - 2 PM at South Columbus Public Library, 2034 South Lumpkin Road, Columbus, Georgia 31903 [Phone: 706-683-8805]

Interested parties of the Chattahoochee Valley Cemeteries Society are welcome to join us.  Please call me if you have any questions.  Jean Arambula, 229-444-5191.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Discovery at the Liberty Hill Methodist Cemetery in Chattahoochee County

The Cemetery Committee of the Chattahoochee County Historic Preservation Society recently met to reset a displaced grave monument. The grave in question, that of Gordon Slappey BREWER (1830-1849), is at Liberty Hill Methodist Cemetery in southeastern Chattahoochee County. The grave, marked by an adult-sized marble ledger laid on the ground, is beside a marble box vault marking the grave of John BREWER, (1804-1854), father of Gordon. (A box vault is an above-ground tomb made of marble, brick, granite, or other material, and is typically topped with a ledger stone; while thehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif box vault is above ground, the remains (in coffin, if any) is in the ground, and the above-ground vault is normally empty.)

The ledger marking Gordon BREWER’s grave is identical in size and material to John’s atop the box vault. These two graves are enclosed by an ornamental, wrought-iron fence, the lot being only slightly larger than the two adult graves. A small marble slab with the letter “E” carved into it, at the foot of the intact box vault, suggested perhaps an infant grave; a family member had even speculated that it marked the grave of Henrietta Elizabeth (SLAPPY) BREWER, wife of John, whose burial place has not been found.

Gordon BREWER’s ledger, on the ground, had a sizable corner piece broken off the head end. The ledger was heaving at a significant angle down toward the other grave, evidently having been pushed up at its outer edge and down on its inner edger by a large tree that had been allowed to grow up between the grave and the lot fence. The lower edge had started to be covered over with soil. Sometime ago a family member expressed a desire that the ledger be leveled. She was advised to have the tree cut down and the stump killed. These steps having been taken, the Committee undertook to remedy the heaving and subsidence.

The first task was to remove the stump that was still wedged between the ledger and the ornamental fence. Though dead, parts of the tree stump were still rather solid. Next, the two pieces of ledger had to be taken up so the ground underneath them could be leveled. In the process, the team began to find other pieces of marble. In short order, the team determined that the ledger did not belong on the ground at all, but originally rested on a box vault identical to the other one. Evidently, the second vault had collapsed some time ago, perhaps because a tree or large limb had fallen on it; most of the component parts of the vault had been gathered at the foot end of the fenced lot, except for a couple still beneath Gordon’s ledger. It turns out that what was believed to be a third grave at the foot was in fact stacked vault pieces (the carved “E” was on the interior face of one of the wall pieces and was apparently a builder’s mark to indicate where that piece belonged in the construction of the box vault).

The Committee leveled the ledger on the ground and resolved to return at a later date with more volunteers and the materials needed to restore the box vault, if this should be the wishes of the family member. Committee members participating in this repair project were Gwanda Place (Committee Chair), Bill Place, Dave Cameron, and John Land.

The dead stump of a tree that had encroached between an ornamental lot fence and the grave monument for Gordon Slappey BREWER.

The box vault marking the grave of Gordon’s father, John BREWER, was still intact.

Component parts of the box vault marking Gordon’s grave, such as these wall pieces, had been stacked at the foot of the fenced lot long ago.

The marble ledger for Gordon’s grave has now been leveled, but still rests on the ground. Component parts of his box vault lie waiting until the monument can be restored.

Credit on all four photos: Gwanda Place

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another Newly Discovered Old Cemetery

Previous reconnaissance was conducted in January 2011 at the Pace Cemetery, located along Biggers Road between River Road and Whitesville Road in the Fortson area of northern Muscogee County. In the older section, only three graves (all European-American and dating from 1850-51) have identifying markings. There are five other marked graves, all tumble-down stone cairns, as well as a fenced lot about big enough for two adult graves but with no stones or monuments evident. In the vicinity of this older section are also a number of unmarked grave depressions.

A newer section, adjacent on the west, has at least 70 marked graves. Among these are about 45 identified graves, with burial dates ranging from 1931 to 1988. Apparently, all of these are African-American. Further research has revealed that this section is actually the burying ground of the Mount Olive Baptist Church. In published death notices and at least one death certificate (1925), this cemetery has been called Little Mount Olive Baptist and, later, New Mount Olive Baptist. The church was located in the Fortson area and moved relatively recently from a site east of the cemetery and on the south side of Biggers Road to a more central location in Columbus (evidently at 2311 Dawson Street). (Note: a predominantly European-American church with cemetery, called Mount Olive Baptist, is located in Harris County at 5434 Georgia State Highway 315, Fortson, Georgia .)

A gentleman from Atlanta, whose parents and other kin are buried at Mount Olive, says that there has not been a burial there since perhaps the 1980s, and the latest identified grave at the old cemetery on Biggers Road dates from 1988. However, published obituaries report interments in the cemetery of Mount Olive Baptist Church or New Mount Olive Baptist Church in 1995 (1), 2005 (3), 2006 (3), 2007 (4), 2008 (1), and 2010 (1). If these later burials were not at the Biggers Road location, it is not clear at what site these interments took place.

A couple of relatives recently mowed and cut weeds at the Mount Olive Baptist Cemetery, as well as the Shippy Cemetery north of Willett Drive. A Work Day will be scheduled in early October at Mount Olive to reset some of the subsiding ledgers and address other deteriorating graves. Preservation work is urgently needed in the adjacent Pace Cemetery as well.

John Mallory Land
President, CVCS

Friday, May 27, 2011

Grave “Restoration” Gives Cause for Concern

On a recent visit to Providence Cemetery on St. Mary’s Road in Columbus to update the old Hanna survey, Reba Rae and I discovered that two graves had been “restored.” This work had taken place since the first weekend in April, when Reba and I had last met at the cemetery. No one had contacted the church before carrying out the work, and the responsible party had little way of knowing that a Providence Cemetery Association had been founded earlier this year.

These two graves, of Eli MASSEY (1793-1865) and Elizabeth MASSEY (1797-1866), are in a row of MASSEY graves that were marked by low brick cairns or ledgers, with a marble tablet applied to the top of each one. These monuments were all in a sad, tumble-down shape, and most of the marble tablets were broken. Trees have grown up adjacent to a couple of these MASSEY graves, adding to the displacement and also complicating the prospect of conservation or restoration.

With regard to the markers for Eli and Elizabeth, the marble tablets (in pieces) and bricks had all been taken up and cleaned. Concrete pads were put down, into which the reassembled marble tablets were embedded. Then the bricks were used to make a shared square paved area around the two concrete pads, apparently with sand in the joints, rather than mortar or concrete. This new brick layout did not make use of all the bricks, some of which were still stacked next to an adjacent lot fence.

While it is commendable that someone has recognized the deplorable condition these graves were in and has taken the initiative to rectify the problem, the solution implemented gives cause for concern. For one thing, it is not clear how the bricks were cleaned, but it appeared they may have been sand-blasted, or at the very least power-washed. These processes can remove or weaken the hard outer shell of historic brick and leave it vulnerable to moisture penetrating and causing the rest of the brick to crumble, eventually disintegrating.

Further, with changing weather conditions marble and concrete expand and contract at different rates – therefore, more damage may be done to the historic marble tablets long-term as the result of embedding them in these pads. Also, even though the graves were in a terrible state of disrepair, while they were still in their former shape, someone trained in historic preservation could likely ascertain what the original arrangement was and put the brick back into that configuration, at least approximating the historic design, using historically compatible materials (such as lime mortar). Once they have been pulled up, all evidence of the original configuration has been lost – except as documented in photographs – and chances are greatly reduced that the brick monument could be returned to its historic shape.

Why does this matter? Shouldn’t we just be glad someone is taking the time and trouble and expense to remedy these sadly deteriorated grave markers? It matters because these are historic grave monuments that record practices from the past and that lend a historic air to this very old cemetery. If old monuments are made to look new or replaced with modern markers, the historic nature of the site is compromised.

But the persons who did this are most likely descendants of the individuals whose graves are marked and have every right to do this, don’t they? Well, first of all, we don’t know who has done this – although again, I do believe the effort is quite well-intentioned, though it may be regarded in some respects as misguided. Even if these folks are direct descendants of Eli and Elizabeth, how many direct (not to mention collateral) living descendants of this couple must there be now? There could possibly be hundreds. Do the persons who made this change represent the wishes of all, or at least the majority, of the descendants?

I would suggest that historic cemeteries belong to the community as repositories of cultural heritage and local history. Descendants certainly deserve to have a say in what happens with the grave markers of their ancestors, but does that mean they should be allowed to destroy legacy monuments and compromise the historic value of a site? I believe these are decisions that should be made collectively among persons who have an interest in such matters. It is imperative that education of the public about the importance of these sites and the recommended practices in historic preservation be a top priority among the cemetery advocacy groups, and that the public be made widely aware of the associations where they exist.

We have left a note at the graves of Eli and Elizabeth MASSEY, letting them know a cemetery association has been formed and requesting the concerned parties please get in touch with us about their project, but to date we have not been contacted by anyone about it. At last inspection, no further work on the graves in this row was detected.

“Before” photos of the markers for Eli and Elizabeth may be seen at their FindAGrave.com memorials (#28327192 and #28327133). We welcome comments about your thoughts on this and related matters.


John Mallory Land
President, Chattahoochee Valley Cemeteries Society