Smith Grove Cemetery, Jefferson County

This well-maintained African-American cemetery contains a collection of vernacular headstones of statewide importance, both as artifacts of ingenuity in the face of adversity and as sacred ground to the loved ones of those interred here. Thanks to Cynthia Jennings for making me aware of the site. Smith Grove [Smiths or Smith’s in some references] members made the best of what was available to them, which was typical of rural congregations. Many of the memorials are nearly unreadable*, but consider that at the time they were made, most rural African-American schools were grossly underfunded and were barely able to provide the basics of an education, and the makers of these were likely “drawing” the letters as opposed to writing them. I believe Smith Grove Cemetery should be on the National Register of Historic Places.

*-All names and dates that follow are presumed to be correct but the nature of the script makes it difficult to be completely accurate

Triangular Headstones

There are four triangular memorials, likely all accomplished by the same maker. Dates on Findagrave for these stones are not completely accurate. The way the numbers are positioned makes it nearly impossible to determine an actual date, in most cases.

Alex Stone (10 August 1862-22 November 1930).

The date of Mr. Stone’s birth would indicate he was likely born into slavery.

Ed Way (1873-?)

Billie Lee Way (1865-1902)

Reverend B. T. Smith (1900-?)

It is possible that Reverend Smith was the first pastor here and of the family for whom the church was named. [The name is listed as B. C. Smith on Findagrave, but I believe that may be an error in translation].

Unique Headstones

Inell Belle (2 December 1932-1944)

This unique memorial is perhaps the most interesting of all the vernacular headstones at Smith Grove. I believe it represents a crown and/or the trinity.

This is the back side of the Inell Bell monument.

Unknown Memorial

It appears at first to resemble a keystone, but I don’t know if that was intentional. The rectangle in the middle likely once served as a frame for a piece of glass that held something of importance. The grave of PFC Robert W. Lockhart (not pictured), while a simple form, also has such a space and retains the original glass.

This side of the memorial has an even more complicated appearance, including incised areas that seem to be purposeful.

Tora Hymes (18 February 1864-?)

This is a small wedge-shaped stone. I am not sure if the name I have given is correct.


Stacked stones were once a common way to mark burials in African-American and white cemeteries, especially in rural locations.

Round Headstones

Sanie Brown (2 December 1932-1944)

Jessie Campbell (1931-1953)

Willie J. Hymes (1895-1945)

Traditional (Rectangular/Square) Headstones

Mell Berrie (1890?-February 1930)

This is identified as Nell Berrie on Findagrave but I believe it to be Mell.

Unknown Avera (1850-1936)

The first name is unreadable but contains an “o”, and an “r”. The surname is misidentified on Findagrave as Iveya. Avera was a common name in the area at one time.

Elex Tyler (14 November 1933-14 July? 1934)

Tom Hymes (February 1886-January 1920)

Professor L. W. Seabrook (January 1864-October 1956)

Many of the later headstones in the cemetery use a form slab and stenciled letters.

The beautiful churchyard at Smith Grove.

11 thoughts on “Smith Grove Cemetery, Jefferson County

  1. Lonnie (L.C.) Bonham

    My ancestors are laid to rest at this church. I was baptized there as well. I am humbled to have found this article. Thank you. Smith Grove is located on the Waynesboro Highway just outside of Wrens and Matthews.

    1. Brian Brown Post author

      Mr. Bonham, thank you for responding. It is a wonderful place that really brings a peaceful feeling. Do you know if anyone in the church knows who made the homemade monuments in the cemetery. They are so important to history.

  2. Lorna Booth

    Thank you for posting this. Don’t know if it is in our cemetery book but will check tomorrow when I go down. We are open 2:00-5:00 pm or later

  3. Elena Shaw Fash

    A lot of work went into this post. Thank you for sharing this most interesting information. I would agree that it is an uniquely special place and appears to be well maintained.

    On Fri, Aug 27, 2021 at 11:26 PM Vanishing Georgia: Photographs by Brian Brown wrote:

    > Brian Brown posted: ” This well-maintained African-American cemetery > contains a collection of vernacular headstones of statewide importance, > both as artifacts of ingenuity in the face of diversity and as sacred > ground to the loved ones of those interred here. Thanks to Cy” >

  4. Dan F


    What an amazing post…really just speechless after reading and seeing this.

    This will lead to much thought and reflection as it brings on recollections of my German Russian ancestors of western North Dakota creating iron crosses out of various materials to remember theIr loved ones.

    The cemetery is deserving of historic registry status.


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