Tag Archives: Georgia Cemeteries

Hatoff Church & Mt. McCrae Cemetery, Laurens County

I haven’t been able to locate any history of this congregation, but it was traditionally known as Hatoff Church, as the road sign confirms.

It’s possible that a later congregation used the facility, as the adjacent cemetery is known as Mt. McCrae.

There are several interesting headstones in the cemetery, including these traditional wooden markers.

Such markers are found in African-American and white burying grounds alike.

Reverend R. W. Wiggins (?-1952)
Ned Wiggins (1862-27 March 1939)
Baptismal, erected in 1956.

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Filed under --LAURENS COUNTY GA--

Sunbury Baptist Cemetery, Liberty County

Detail of Rachel Bowens-Pap monument.

The vernacular headstones of Sunbury Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in the old Trade Hill-Seabrook area were memorialized by photographer Orrin Sage Wightman in Margaret Davis Cate’s beloved book, Early Days of Coastal Georgia (Fort Frederica Association, St. Simons Island, 1956). The images, made mostly in the 1930s and 1940s, depict monuments in much newer condition than we see today, and many which have vanished altogether.

Rachel Bowens-Pap (1886?-March 1937)

The most significant of these monuments were predominately wooden markers and whimsies thought to have been made by Cyrus Bowens. None of these survive at the site today but a small collection of concrete markers remain, also attributed to Cyrus Bowens. [Findagrave lists a Cyrus Bowens, who died in 1866, among those buried at Sunbury Missionary Baptist, but these graves were made much later than that This Cyrus Bowens appears to have been active in the 1930s].

Chaney Bowens (1855?-18 February 1931)
Detail of Chaney Bowens monument, featuring a hand-incised dove.
George Bowens (?-7 August 1931) A right-pointing hand and a cross adorn this stone.
Frank Jackson (Dates unknown). The empty concave rectangle likely featured a photograph of the decedent at one time.
Lucy Bowens (Dates unknown). The empty concave oval likely held a photograph of the decedent at one time.
Boston (Last name unknown, dates unknown)
Brick Footstone (Name and dates unknown)
Symbolic headstone; broken vessels. In her essay “Negro Graves”, in Early Days of Coastal Georgia, Margaret Davis Cate writes: In old Negro burying grounds the grave is outlined with various and sundry items…The articles on the graves include every kind of container or utensil–sea shells…piggy banks…clocks…cups, saucers…Everything on a Negro grave is broken. To them, this is symbolic. Life is broken; the vessel is broken...Years ago Negroes put these broken articles on all their graves; but today, one finds them only in isolated communities far removed of the white man’s culture. To seek them out, one must leave the paved roads and search in remote areas…
Horace Fuller (26 July 1872-18 September 1933)

The Fuller monument and the seven images that follow feature delicate hand-incised natural forms and symbols.

Detail of Horace Fuller monument, featuring whimsical hand-incised flowers.
Ceasar Hamilton (7 September 1867-January 1938)
Detail of Ceasar Hamilton monument, featuring whimsical hand-incised flower.
Joe & Martha Baker (Birth dates unknown, Joe, d. January 1931; Martha, d. Feb ?) This monument features a flower and an applied hand pointing right.
Unknown decedent, with hand-incised symbol.
L. G. Delegal (1872?-December 1935)
Mary Mattox (1861?-29 June 1938)
Painted brick lot boundary marker
Edward Fuller (21 Jun 1896-29 March 1925) & Samuel Fuller (?-8 March 1924)
Julia Fuller (188?-1907) & Lila Fuller (Died 1900, Age 3 weeks)
William Fuller (?-20 June 192?)
Mamie L. Hague (?-1940)
Ira L. Williams, Sr. (12 October 1889-4 November 1969)
Ira Edwin Williams
Deacon Eddie Bowen – Son of Isaac and Mary – Born Colonels Island off the coast of Georgia in the 1890s. One of the oldest commercial fishermen who worked the coastal waters of Liberty County.
Though the present building was constructed in 1974, Sunbury Missionary Baptist Church was founded by Revs. Frank Harris and Andrew Neal, with 40 freedmen who had been members of Sunbury Baptist Church, which was burned by Union troops in November 1864. Sometime after the Civil War, the black congregation built a chapel near the Medway River. It was moved to this location, given by the Delegal family of the Trade Hill-Seabrook community, and reconstructed in 1918 and remained in use until the present structure was completed.

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Filed under --LIBERTY COUNTY GA--, Seabrook GA, Sunbury GA

Cedar Lane Cemetery, Hardwick

Three historic cemeteries (and two non-historic) are associated with the property around Central State Hospital, but without the efforts of employees who felt the lives of those who lived and died on these grounds deserved a dignified resting place, they would have most likely been lost to neglect. This post will focus on Cedar Lane Cemetery, which was historically known as the Asylum Cemetery. Within its 18+ acres are marble grave markers dating back as far as 1854. The exact date the cemetery was begun is unknown, but it was likely the late 1840s or early 1850s. The earliest burials of institutionalized people of the State Lunatic Asylum (as Central State Hospital was known at the time) were in Memory Hill Cemetery.

Thanks to the efforts of Bud Merritt and numerous volunteers, these metal “headboard markers” have been righted after many were buried over the years by bad management practices. I have talked extensively with Mr. Merritt about the process of “recovering” the cemetery and though he seeks no publicity for this enormous task, his insight and subsequent work on having the Central State Cemeteries added to the National Register of Historic Places, was crucial to their survival. Some of the markers are in their correct places, while others are not. All the markers feature a number that corresponded to a patient or prisoner’s name. It is a somber display, but makes one think of the conditions of those souls who spent large parts of their lives here.

At this time, I believe Cedar Lane is the only accessible of the Central State cemeteries. Typical of the time, African-American residents of Central State were segregated, even in death, and were buried in a cemetery of similar appearance.

As part of the process of reclaiming this sacred ground, a statue was commissioned and stands at the end of the lane of cedar trees which give the cemetery its modern name.

It was created by a prominent sculptor who did commissions for U. S. presidents and other important figures. [I will update with a name soon].

Central State Cemeteries, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --BALDWIN COUNTY GA--, Hardwick GA, Milledgeville GA

Lizzie Jackson Monument, 1883, Milledgeville

The headstone marking the final resting place of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jackson (15 January 1850-15 March 1883) in the African-American section of Memory Hill is worthy of special mention as a singular work of art. More importantly, it serves as validation that the influence of artistic movements generally associated with White communities also reached African-Americans. As headstones go it’s quite diminutive, scarcely a foot-and-a-half in height, but its visual appeal is unmistakable.

Lizzie Jackson was likely born into the institution of slavery and, though little is known of her life, research by Cynthia Jennings found that she was living at the time of the 1870 Census on Franklin Street, the same street Memory Hill Cemetery is located on. This section of town was predominately African-American well into the 20th century. Lizzie resided at the time with a Susan Palmer, who may have been her mother or grandmother. She was married and had a son (Randall) and daughter.

Dutch Henderson has studied this marker, and a couple others which have since been removed from the cemetery. The “missing” markers are similar to this this one and all feature a sunflower. They are all believed to have been accomplished as “side jobs” by an employee of the McMillan Brick Works of Milledgeville. This example is signed [R.J], which may represent Lizzie’s son, Randall. He would have had the schooling necessary to write the words. Lizzie’s husband and son were both involved in the brick industry at the McMillan Works.

As to the importance of artistic influence, the patterns draw heavily upon the emerging Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1880s. The movement focused on natural forms and the sunflower is among its notable icons. The top of the marker is “diapered”, a term for brick made with a repeating diamond pattern.

Vines and flowers were recurring themes of the movement, as well, especially in the patterns of William Morris, one of its most influential artist/designers.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --BALDWIN COUNTY GA--, Milledgeville GA

Clinch Chapel United Methodist Church, Tarboro

African-Americans have been well-established in the Tarboro community since the days of slavery, and in subsequent years owned land and farms throughout the area. Clinch Chapel traces its origins to an informal congregation organized by Brother Zachery Butler to serve the spiritual needs of enslaved people from the nearby Owens, King, and Clinch plantations. After years of meeting in a brush arbor, the congregation erected a wood frame church in 1896, using trees milled at Ceylon plantation and floated on the Satilla to Owens Ferry, from where they were hauled on oxcarts to this site. The first trustees of the congregation were Josh Washington, Rinea Washington, Henry Robinson, Hanna Robinson, Isaac Johnson, Lucy Nicklow, Pompey Gordon, and Lizzie Gordon.

The new church was destroyed by a storm and reorganized in 1897, and again in 1901, at which time a new structure was constructed. Reverend A. B. Fish was pastor at the time.

During the pastorate of Reverend C. O. Gordon, the church was again reorganized in 1953 and the foundation of the present chapel was laid in 1963. Association with the United Methodist Church began in 1968. According to the cornerstone, the present structure was completed circa 1992. Sarah Small, Jack Small, William D. Small, Sr., Henry Butler, Sr., Calvin Small, Sr., and Joseph Hamilton, Sr., were on the Building Committee.

Clinch Chapel Cemetery

The cemetery at Clinch Chapel contains more than a dozen vernacular memorials, including one of the Madonna monuments detailed here. The following photographs appear in no particular order but serve as examples of the variety of work present. As is the case with all such markers, environmental factors and the passage of time pose the greatest threat to their long-term survival. This is my main reason for documenting them, but I also find them beautiful and moving works of art and have the utmost respect for the love and devotion they represent.

Reverend John Mungin (Birth and death dates unknown)

Reverend Mungin’s headstone features three crosses and is wedge-shaped.

Luevenia Randolph (29 November 1886-1 May 1944). Ms. Randolph’s headstone is of a type found in numerous African-American and white cemeteries, especially rural locations, which simply use a stencil on a poured slab to identify the decedent. Not quite as common, though, are the applied symbols, including shaking hands, hands pointing to Heaven, bibles, and winged heads (cherubim).

Peter Jackson (1888?-29 July 1938)
Addie Mitchell (17 August 1905-6 June 1942)
Unknown. The symbols have obviously been reapplied on this headstone, which is unfortunately unreadable.
Unknown
Solina Glassco (7 November 1874-5 November 1926). This is obviously a commercially produced monument, and a very nice one at that, but I have included it here because it documents an association with a Mosaic Templars lodge. In African-American communities of the time, these lodges often provided low cost burial insurance and in some cases the placement of a headstone. This one indicates that Glassco was a member of the Carrie Bell Chamber 2855, Mosaic Templars of America, which was located at nearby White Oak.

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Filed under --CAMDEN COUNTY GA--, Tarboro GA

African-American Madonna Monuments of Camden County

Detail of Green Monument, Clinch Chapel Cemetery

I recently documented an eclectic collection of Black cemetery monuments at three locations in Camden County with Cynthia Jennings. Remarkable testaments to African-American ingenuity, they date from the 1920s to the 1940s and are all in the form of a European version of the Madonna (Mary). [I have identified them as “African-American” because of their appropriation by these historic communities].

They appear to have been made using a cast, though all have slight variations. Whether made by a local funeral home or an individual, the monuments have at least one vernacular element: the handwritten identifications of the decedents. While some appear to be distinct, it’s more likely the effect of nearly a century of exposure to the elements.

A review of active black funeral homes in Camden County in the 1930s might be a clue as to their history. Chrissy Chapman has documented these amazing memorials, as well, and has located at least one more, in a plantation cemetery, which we hope to explore after hunting season. Chrissy’s photographs, made a few years ago, reveal a possible maker’s name, which I hope to share later.

It is my hope that by preserving these places photographically, they will be of some use to historians and genealogists in the future. It seems certain that they will all be unreadable within the next decade or so but they should be added to the growing list of important African-American vernacular landmarks in Georgia and celebrated as such.

The Monuments

Grace Scarlett/Scarlott (1855-17 December 1936), Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church, Spring Bluff. Like the next monument pictured, this one is paired with a secondary marker, perhaps indicating that Grace Scarlott died in childbirth and the secondary marker represents her lost child. It is believed that the two visible “bumps” atop Grace’s monument are evidence that the figure was once topped with a crown, as is typical in depictions of Mary.
Flossie/Flossy Scott Fisher (1899-7 November 1939), Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church, Spring Bluff. Cynthia Jennings discovered that Mrs. Fisher died in childbirth and puports that the second stone memorializes her infant, also lost at birth.
Maggie Green (Birth and death dates unknown), Clinch Chapel Cemetery, Tarboro.
Sina Green (Birth and death dates unknown), Oak Hill Cemetery, Camden County. Cynthia Jennings has discovered that Mrs. Green’s husband, Anthony Green, served in the United States Colored Infantry in the Civil War and received a pension. The churchyard is located near the Rains Landing Community.
Detail of Green Monument, Oak Hill Cemetery

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Filed under --CAMDEN COUNTY GA--, Spring Bluff GA, Tarboro GA

Hobo’s Grave, Woodbine

Hoboes were ubiquitous characters in the American landscape of the late 19th and early-mid 20th centuries. They were often depicted as bums and were the bane of the railroad police at various times, but many were simply vagabonds who had fallen on hard times and ostensibly began their journeys in search of work. Local legend holds that one such hobo, Campbell Johnston (24 January 1874-15 December 1905), fell from a train one night and died at this site. Local officials took care of his burial and his headstone was donated by the Woodmen of the World. It seems odd that such a character would have been afforded this memorial, and therefore, his story would be fascinating to track down.

The gravesite is located within the Satilla River Waterfront Park.

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Filed under --CAMDEN COUNTY GA--, Woodbine GA

Ebenezer Cemetery, McIntosh County

Izear Day [5 February 1915-18 January 1931]

Though the headstone pictured above is the most unique in the cemetery, I have chosen to document the site due to its considerable collection of vernacular headstones. Ebenezer (spelled Ebernezer on the sign) is actually two cemeteries, located off Churchill Road near I-95. A fenced section is the white cemetery while the surrounding larger cemetery is the domain of African-Americans, a few of whom were born into slavery and others who represent the first generation after emancipation. The African-American section is what is represented here.

Charlie Ifield Thorpe [Circa 1877-1914]

The predominant vernacular form in this cemetery is the homemade star-adorned headstone, a locally made type that is well-represented in the nearby Gould Cemetery at Harris Neck. It’s possible that all of these were the work of the same maker. They follow in no particular order but many of the examples are memorials for the Thorpe family.

Thelma B. Thorpe [Unknown-18 November 1941]
Alice Thorpe [5 December 185116 September 1923]
Eddie Thorpe [Circa 1880-1922]
James C. Thorpe [20 August 1847-16 March 1939]
Affie White [1842-16 August 1931]
Ida Leake [Circa 1885-1921]
Irvin Weldon [16 August 1909-19 February 1936]
Rachel (York) Shellman [1881-6 October 1923] Born at Broxton GA
Susie G. Ross [25 September 1855-6 April 1943]
Reverend Pompie Anderson [12 September 1870-7 May 1949]
James B. Churchill [17 January 1897-19 February 1951]
J. C. Churchill [22 May 1867-16 May 1951] This stone features an O. E. S. Masonic emblem but is eroding quickly.
Mary E. Churchill [5 July 1879-17 July 1968] Wife of J. C. Churchill
Mary J. Jackson [Unknown-9 September 1925]
Proverb R. Roberson [6 June 1910-18 December 1955] Private 548 Quartermaster Service BN World War II
Pernellar Roberson [Unknown-3 January 1925] Born in Buckville SC, Died in Christ
The headstone for Brother Willie N. Alston is professionally made, but his footstone (below) and those of two other family members are more modern interpretations of vernacular types common in African-American cemeteries of the early 20th century.
Brother Willie N. Alston [15 January 1895-December 1974] Footstone
Brian Keith Alston [1 September 1975-6 December 1983]
Jessie Alston [29 July 1941-14 July 1968]
Hattie Hillery [15 September 1881-10 January 1928] This stone is the same style as two found in Behavior Cemetery on Sapelo Island and may have connections to those.

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Filed under --MCINTOSH COUNTY GA--

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.
Unknown. 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.

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Filed under --JEFFERSON COUNTY GA--

Wesley Chapel Methodist Church, 1890, & Cemetery, Circa 1840, Beatrice

The only information I’ve been able to locate on the history of Wesley Chapel, located in the forgotten community of Beatrice, is that it was established in 1838.

That date comes from the old South Georgia Conference-provided sign at the front of the church. The sign is of a type used by the conference in the 1930s-1940s or thereabouts.

An architectural survey dates the present structure to 1890. The stained glass windows appear to be later additions.

Perhaps as interesting as the church itself is the historic cemetery which lies adjacent to the structure. The earliest burials I noted dated to the early 1840s. The cemetery affords excellent views of the surrounding countryside and is characterized by two large enclosures made of local stone. They are great examples of early vernacular funerary architecture.

The shady respite of the Sims Plot is enclosed by a local stone fence, abundant with Resurrection Fern.

The Sims family were early members of the Wesley Chapel congregation.
Sarah P. Sims [22 October 1827-8 June 1845]
Elizabeth S. Sims [14 November 1846-3 February 1859]
Martha A. Seabrook Sims [2 February 1814-25 October 1854]

The plot of pioneer Thomas Turner House [18 April 1787-14 June 1851] & Elizabeth Young House [20 Jun 1787-5 December 1863] and family is made of local red stone and is a massive enclosure.

A gate once guarded the plot but is long gone.

The fence was well built and has survived largely intact, though this section has collapsed. It is likely descendants have made repairs over the years.

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Filed under --STEWART COUNTY GA--, Beatrice GA