Many cemeteries in Covington County need immediate attentionPublished 12:00am Saturday, June 1, 2013
In the previous column, the urgency of identifying and registering cemeteries, especially those that are being abandoned, was outlined.
Lists of those that have been added to state registries were provided, and it is obvious that most cemeteries are not officially documented.
Therefore, in this writing several of the more historical cemeteries of our area are described.
Although there is no record of the very first cemetery in Covington County, there had to have been a burying ground near the Montezuma settlement. Of course, the early residents had to bury their dead somewhere, so there had to have been an early cemetery in that vicinity. Sites that have been suggested by local historians are the Barrow property, which was west of the Conecuh River near Montezuma, and Riley Hill, which is about two miles west of the settlement. The few records available of this period suggest there was probably a Barrow Cemetery in this general area.
Lisa Franklin, who has roots in Covington County, has with the help of several friends, taken censuses of most local cemeteries as well as many others in Alabama. Earlier than the time she began publishing her records, members of the Covington Historical Society completed a census of about 25 cemeteries and made those available in the Public Library. This group soon realized the magnitude of the project and was pleased that younger people with skills in technology continued the task.
Lisa Franklin now has most cemeteries posted at her web site: www.trackingyourroots.com. There are a few books, that include some of the cemeteries she published earlier, available in the genealogy section of the Andalusia Library.
Before mentioning more cemeteries, it is of note that at least seven Veterans of the American Revolution were buried in Covington County. These are Joseph Bozeman (believed to be buried somewhere slightly west of Andalusia); Robert William Carter, buried in the Carter Cemetery, located about on-fourth mile east of Coldwater Church; Jeremiah Dixon, exact burial site unknown, but believed to be between the dead trunks of 4 large cedar trees in Teel Creek Cemetery, which is near Conecuh River Baptist Church; John Liles, burial site unknown, but believed to be either in Liles Cemetery, which was located on his son’s farm in the western part of the county or possibly at Conecuh River Baptist Church; and Samuel Williams, burial site unknown, but believed to be near Straughn. It has been suggested that there are two others who are most likely buried here: James T. Dannelly, buried somewhere near Dannelly’s Crossroads; and William A. Mancill, believed to be buried in the Mancill Cemetery near Sanford.
Only a few Veterans of the War of 1812 have been identified, but the only one known to this writer is McGilvery Findley. He may be recalled since his and his wife’s remains were moved from a private, neglected cemetery located off US 84 to the Fairmount Baptist Church Cemetery. A special ceremony was conducted a few years earlier with several hundred descendants in attendance.
(It is requested that anyone with knowledge of other veterans of this war let this writer know of the name and location of burial.)
There are many graves of Veterans of the War Between the States in Covington County. A census taken for the county in 1907 listed 146 Confederate Veterans still residing locally.
There is no idea of how many, before and after this date, were buried in this county.
In his Early History of Covington County, Alabama 1821-1871, Wyley Ward stated “It is safe to say, that Covington County contributed a larger percentage of its able-bodied men and resources, and suffered more, for the Confederate cause than did any other county in the State of Alabama.”
He further pointed out that an estimated 1,000 men from the county served in the Confederate Army, and of these, as many as 200 lost their lives while in service. The local Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Thomas Randolph Thomasson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy have ongoing projects to mark these veterans’ graves and honor as many of them as possible.
From this point forward, a few of the older cemeteries of interest will be briefly described. One is the Old Williams Cemetery or Williams Burying Ground, located off Co. 43 (Three Notch Trail) between Rose Hill and Burnout. Old Jesse Bryan, early pioneer in Rose Hill area, was most likely the first to be buried there, so it might have rightly been named Bryan Cemetery. However, after his death, his daughter, Telatha who had married William G. Williams, inherited the property surrounding the cemetery. Eyewitnesses have related how Jesse Bryan’s slaves carried his coffin on their shoulders from his house across the field to the cemetery.
Curt Baker, who grew up in the area, described it as a beautiful site on a slight hill surrounded by pine trees in its earlier days. There were more than 50 graves at one time, but at present there are seven wooden stakes left that have survived forest fires, cattle grazing, timber cutting and vandalism.
The names of those believed to be buried there include the following: Jesse Bryan, Sr.; Jesse Bryan, Jr.; Telatha (Bryan) Williams and her husband, William Green Williams; Lloyd Robert Butler along with two of his infant children; Rowan and Caroline Spicer; Emma Jane (Wyatt) Williams; Bethany (Turbeville) Chandler; Roger and Nancy (Turbeville) Moody; parents of Malone Meredith; possibly a Courtney child and some Colvin family members. There is an ongoing effort to reclaim this cemetery and erect an historic marker. The cemetery boundaries and the surviving grave markers have been more clearly marked. (Anyone who could provide the name of anyone else buried there or who has an interest in helping restore this cemetery is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson.)
Another very old site is the Old Shiloh or Aunt Winnie Bradley’s Cemetery, which is located a few hundred yards southwest of Straughn School.
The Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church Is believed to be the oldest one in the county. It is also likely that an earlier church building sat near the cemetery, which is now is very neglected condition.
There’s a later building and cemetery located some 300 yards north with both in sad condition as well.
There is a broken down wire fence around it, but large trees are growing up through the graves, etc., so it is essentially beyond being reclaimed, at least to the condition it once was.
Two others of interest are the Bradley-Mitchell Cemetery and the Mitchell Cemetery near Loango. Some years earlier a visit to the Bradley one found only two remaining headstones and one foot marker at the abandoned site. The Bradley Family was one of the most prosperous to come to the area when they brought many slaves to harvest the virgin pine timber. They established this cemetery on the Bradley Plantation, and the Mitchell one, which is currently in fairly good condition, was created later.
Also, in the Loango community is the Old Loango or Garwin Cemetery wherein are the graves of President Bill Clinton’s great, great grandparents, George Washington Cassady and Nancy Ann Josephine Snelgrove. One of their sons, James M. Cassady, who was the great grandfather of President Clinton, was buried in the Fairmount Cemetery. James was residing in Arkansas, but he came by train to visit his relatives and developed pneumonia upon arrival from which he died, so he was buried here.
Early settlers, who resided in the current Salem community, buried their loved ones in the Jordan or Jordan-Kelley Cemetery. It is located about 300 yards north of Simmons Bridge Road and near the Conecuh River. It has been reported that there was a church located adjacent to it at one time. After several floodings, the people decided to begin burying in the Salem Baptist Church Cemetery, which had been located a short distance away, but on higher ground. Through the years, members of the Kelley and Lawson families have maintained the cemetery, which is surrounded by a chain-linked fence. Currently it is in good condition, but many of the graves are unmarked or bear no names on the stones that have been placed. Some of the families with relatives buried there are Kelley, Lawson, Bray, Fuqua, Garrett, and Wishum.
Another historical site is the Feagin Cemetery, which is located just south of Rose Hill and would have been near the Three Notch Trail. It is not to be confused with the Feagin Family Cemetery. It appears to have been named for Andrew J. Feagin (1816-1884), who was the first postmaster at Rose Hill. It was the burying ground for a number of families, especially that of Windall W. Taylor and his relatives. Currently the cemetery is well marked with a metal sign and some fencing. Unfortunately, uncontrolled kudzu has been a problem, and many of the headstones have been knocked over and broken by weather and cattle grazing in the area.
The Conecuh River Baptist Church and its cemetery are among the earliest in the county.
The earliest grave in the cemetery is dated 1860, and many of the citizens of that area, Padgett’s Crossing community, buried there. There is also an earlier cemetery, which is located deep in the woods and near the river. It is believed that it has been known as the Teel Cemetery.
The few graves are mostly of the Teel and Bass families. It is very difficult to access and in danger of being lost in the coming years.
The Boyette Cemetery, located about one and a half miles from Harmony Church, is essentially lost even though it was a fairly large cemetery at one time.
Only a few markers are left, and they are mostly of the Boyette family.
Most headstones that were there have been pushed over and buried themselves, which is a travesty. Residents of the area were mostly pioneers from South Carolina.
The cemetery is in serious need of being reclaimed and added to a state register.
There are many more local cemeteries in the area that could be described and that need the same attention as those mentioned.
Anyone who is interested in local history and who might have knowledge of a neglected or forgotten cemetery is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library.