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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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.