Oakie Road Trip 2019: Exploring Birmingham, Ala.’s Oak Hill Cemetery, Part I

The pounding sun glared in my face as I tilted my phone back to snap a photo of the gates of Birmingham, Ala.’s Oak Hill Cemetery. Sweat rolled down my back as the lunchtime traffic whizzed by. As a result, the shot (see below) was not my best. But I didn’t care. It was the first stop on a road trip I’d been eager to start for months.

The start of Okie Road Trip 2019!

I’ve mentioned the Church Chicks to you. Sarah is one of them. I wrote about our visit to Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Rome, Ga. back in 2014. Of all the chicks, she and I have done the most traveling together. Our first trip was to her hometown of Lawton, Okla. We survived a church singles’ cruise to the Bahamas. In 2012, we took a memorable trip to New York City. Our most recent trip (with another chick) was to Blue Mountain Beach, Fla.

Okie Road Trip 2019

In early 2019, Sarah told me about a Memorial Day cycling event near Lawton, Okla. she wanted to attend. Sarah is an avid cyclist and I am not. But she was eager to return to her hometown to take part. She suggested we make it a road trip, taking two and a half days to drive out to Oklahoma, spend two days there, and two and a half days to get back. Along the way, we could stop at all the cemeteries (within reason) that I wanted. Who could say no to that?

At first, I wasn’t sure I could come because it conflicted with my family’s annual trip to Folly Beach, S.C. But the more we discussed it, the more something told me we needed to do it that summer. I could fly out to Folly to join my family after the road trip. Considering that Covid 19 was preparing to strike the following year, she and I agreed later that my gut feeling was on the money.

Our trip out to Lawton, Okla. would cover almost 1,000 miles over two and a half days. I’m very glad that Sarah offered to do the driving! This is what our route out looked like.

Over the next months, we plotted our course and discussed our route. I admit it, I’m a closet travel agent and I relish the challenge of planning a trip. By the time May came around, I was chomping at the bit to hit the road. I think Sarah was, too.

First Stop: Oak Hill Cemetery, Birmingham, Ala.

Located a little north of downtown, Oak Hill Cemetery was originally 21.5 acres from the estate of James M. Ware. According to Oak Hill’s web site, when Birmingham was founded in December 1871, it had been in use as a private burial ground for at least two years. When civil engineer William P. Barker platted the new city for the founding Elyton Land Company, he identified the site as “City Cemetery.” After the city purchased the 21.5-acre site in December 1873, it was formally established as Oak Hill Cemetery.

In 1889, Judge A. O. Lane purchased 200 acres on the southern slopes of Red Mountain (now Lane Park) for pauper burials, ending the use of Oak Hill’s “Potter’s Field”.

In 1977, Oak Hill Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, there are probably around 10,000 burials.

The Pioneer Memorial Building was constructed of Indiana limestone in 1928.

The first building I photographed was this one, the Pioneer Memorial Building, which houses the cemetery office. In 1928, the caretaker’s cottage near the center of the property was removed to the southwest corner of the cemetery and this new building made out of Indiana limestone was erected. It was designed by Miller & Martin Architects with William Kessler, landscape architect.

I was in search of a particular grave and I was hopeful someone was in the office to guide us. We didn’t have a lot of time to look as we were due in Oxford, Miss. that night. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember the name of the kind gentleman who helped us but he personally walked us over to the grave I was seeking. It was probably Stuart Oates, Oak Hill’s executive director. We also talked to him at the end of our visit.

View of Oak Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, Ala.

Titanic Survivors

You might not expect to find a survivor of the Titanic in an Alabama cemetery, but there’s one at Oak Hill. His story is a bit unusual, too.

Born in 1881 in New York, Phillipp Mock was the son of Richard and Emma Mock. His older sister, also named Emma, was born in 1876. The family traveled back and forth between Europe and the U.S., with the children receiving some of their education aboard. The siblings were close and Emma referred to Phillipp fondly as “Boy”.

In Feb. 1900, Emma’s married wealthy Rufus Blake, 44 years her senior. Rufus suffered from Bright’s disease and was housebound. While alone in their home in 1901, he shot himself in the head with a prized gun from his collection. His will left Emma $1,500,000. Another $95,000 went to a sister and nieces, while his four daughters reportedly received nothing. The will was relatively new and written shortly before his death. Emma married a second time in 1903 to Paul Schabert, with whom she shared a romance in Europe before her first marriage.

This is the best photo I could find of Emma Mary Mock Blake Schabert Von Faber Du Faur.

A Suwannee University (known as University of the South) graduate, Phillipp Mock served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War. Although an artist and portrait miniature painter, he worked as secretary of the Sterling Piano Company (previously owned by Rufus Blake) while his brother-in-law Paul was treasurer. He married Emma Clark in 1903.

Mock went on a business trip to Euprop in 1912 and booked passage home on the Titanic with his sister, Emma. Both he and Emma were unhappy in their respective marriages and discussed possibly divorcing their spouses. The siblings were accustomed to traveling on ocean liners and had cabins on the E deck.

According to the Encyclopedia Titanica:

Emma and Philipp were clearly impressed with the ship. He said Titanic was “without question the finest boat that was ever afloat and that she was so large passengers almost lost the idea they were on board ship. She was so huge that there was no rolling or pitching, she seemed to keep an even keel all the time.” Letters Emma wrote on board, revealed that she felt the same way about “the marvelous ship, with its wonderful restaurants, lounge and reception rooms, of our large cabin, of the fashionable well-dressed people who gathered in the hall after dinner…” The siblings touched upon a curious topic. They mused that should the Titanic sink, they would “die as stoics.”

Emma and Phillipp had little idea that the Titanic would indeed sink in the early hours of April 15, 1912.

Philipp sent a telegram from the SS Carpathia to let his brother-in-law Paul Schabert know he and Emma had survived. The telegram is in a private collection. (Photo source: FindaGrave.com)

Boarding the Lifeboats

You can read the account of Emma and Phillipp making it onto Lifeboat 11. Phillipp nearly lost a seat in the boat with Emma but once in, he immediately helped row. The siblings made it to the approaching Carpathia in an hour and a half. They arrived back in America on April 18. Despite a brief reconciliation, Emma and her husband divorced soon after. She would remarry to Baron Curt von Faber du Faur. Although the Baron was 14 years her junior, the marriage lasted until her death in 1961. Emma is buried in St. James Cemetery, St. James, Long Island, N.Y.

Phillipp Mock divorced his wife, Emma, and married Alvis Ehrman (pictured) in 1914. (Photo source: Encyclopedia Titanica)

Phillipp and Emma divorced not much later and he married Alvis Ehrman in late 1914. They stayed in Connecticut while he continued to work for Sterling. He and Alvis did not have children and settled in New York. They later moved to Florida where he taught art at The Casements (a girl’s school) in Ormond. Philipp Mock passed away in Daytona Beach, Fla. on June 16, 1951.

Phillipp Mock and his second wife, Alvis, are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.

So how did Phillipp and Alvis end up buried at Oak Hill Cemetery? After Phillipp’s death, Alvis moved to Birmingham, Ala. She was born in Clanton, Ala. in 1881. My guess is that Phillipp was cremated and she had his ashes buried with hers after she died on Aug. 18, 1963. Her parents, Rudolph and Kate, are buried nearby along with other family members.

Two Lives Cut Short

I’ve got one last story for this installment. I noticed two nicely carved monuments with death dates indicating the couple died young.

Born in 1863 to Dr. Thomas and Lucy Leeper Anglin, Eula Anglin was a well-known society miss in Birmingham. On Oct. 3, 1883, she wed Joseph Paul (J.P.) Mudd, also of Birmingham. Newspapers called it “the most notable social event” of the season. J.P. was the son of esteemed jurist and state legislator Judge William Swearingen Mudd and Florence Jane Earle Mudd.

Eula was 20 and Joseph was 24. In 1885, she gave birth to a son, William (named after his grandfather), and in 1889, a son named Joseph Paul (named after his father). J.P. did well and was involved in banking.

Eula and J.P. Mudd were married seven years before her untimely death in 1890.

For reasons I could not learn, Eula died at age 26 on Feb. 10, 1890. I could not find an obituary for her beyond a one-sentence mention in a Montgomery newspaper. J.P. did not remarry. He died almost eight years later of pneumonia at age 39 on Jan. 12, 1898.

That left young William and Paul orphans. They went to live with their Aunt Ellie Anglin Weakley (Eula’s sister) and Uncle S. Davies Weakley, an attorney. William became one of the publishers of the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune. Joseph became a lawyer like his uncle. The brothers are both buried in nearby Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.

I have more stories from Oak Hill Cemetery as the Oakie Road Trip 2019 gets underway. Won’t you stay with me for part II?

Hidden History in the Back Yard: Uncovering Lively Cemetery in Dekalb County, Ga.

(Note: This is a LONG post. There was too much great information I couldn’t leave out.)

This week I’m diving into a small family cemetery I visited in April 2019. It started with a comment left on the blog by a lovely woman named June McFarland Moss telling me about a cemetery in her Dekalb County, Ga. neighborhood near Tucker. I used to live in Tucker so I was immediately interested.

Lively Family Farmhouse Restored

June, a retired Georgia State University director of technical support services, purchased the old Lively family farmhouse with her husband, Gary, in 1987 and restored it to its former glory. June invited me to visit the farmhouse and to walk down the street to the Lively Cemetery.

June and Gary Moss purchased the Lively farmhouse in 1987 and restored it over the next several years.

Born in 1772, Virginia native Charles Milton Lively came to Georgia in the early 1800s. He lived in Elbert and Morgan Counties before settling in Dekalb County, building the farmhouse around 1832. Charles’ great-great-grandson Lewell Lively was the owner when the Mosses bought it.

The farmhouse is located across the way from a Dekalb landmark, the “White House” at 3687 Briarcliff Road. In 1979, Iranian-born Fred Milani fled his homeland and sought shelter in America. He did extremely well in real-estate over the next 20 years. In 2002, he built a 3/4 replica of the White House to express his love for his adopted country (he is an American citizen now).

The Lively family probably owned the property Dekalb’s “White House” sits on today. (Photo source: http://www.houseandhistory.com)

June and Gary weren’t aware of the cemetery for some time because its in the backyard of a neighbor down the street on property once part of the Lively farm. I’ve visited several of these “backyard burial grounds” in Dekalb over the years. Usually, there’s a small pubic access path on the property so people can legally visit. Of course, it’s always nice to ask in advance so you don’t freak the homeowner out. June had contacted her neighbor to let them know we’d be coming through that day.

Backyard Burial Ground

The cemetery is located in the back corner of the yard, and you can see how close it is to the adjoining properties. I was happy to see that while markers were on the ground, they were mostly readable and intact. At one time, these were upright, grounded by slotted bases. The plot is surrounded by a cement block border.

The oldest burial at Lively Cemetery is for Charles Lively, who died around 1841.

We’re not sure when Charles Lively married Mary Lambert, who is believed to also be from Virginia. Most of their eight children were born while living in Morgan County. Two are buried in this cemetery.

Charles died sometime between Sept. 23, 1840 when he wrote his will and Jan. 22, 1841, when appraisers were selected for his estate. His grave marker is likely the blank slab next to Mary’s grave. When historian Franklin Garrett visited the cemetery in 1933 and wrote it up in his famous necrology, he described it as being an uninscribed stone box tomb.

Charles’ will left everything to Mary and his children. He also owned property in Gwinnett and Cobb Counties.

The grave of Mary Lambert Lively (1780-1864).

The Lively daughters married over the next years. A few moved out of state but others remained nearby. Only son Milton Charles Lively was born in 1820. He married Martha Maria Johnston around the time his father died. He and Maria were likely living in the farmhouse with his mother, Mary, after Charles died.

Sister Judith was living just down the road with her husband, Alfred Poole. They married in 1846. Greenville Henderson, for whom Henderson Mill Road is named, was another neighbor. He operated a grist mill with his sons for several years.

“Suffer the Little Children”

Five of the 11 inscribed graves at Lively Cemetery belong to children.

One of Milton’s sisters, Lucinda, married Thomas Dabbs around 1840. At some point, they moved to Bartow County. Their daughter, Nancy, was born on Feb. 20, 1844. She died at age five on Dec. 21, 1849. She is the second burial in Lively Cemetery.

Nancy Dabs was the third child of Thomas Dabbs and Lucinda Lively Dabbs. She died at age five in 1849.

The next three graves belong to children of Milton and Maria. Daughter Mary M. Lively was their sixth child, born on Jan. 4, 1852 and died on Oct. 26, 1852. Son John W. Lively was born on Nov. 3, 1853 and died on Dec. 10, 1855. Son James B. Lively was born on Nov. 27, 1857 and died on April 2, 1859.

Mary M. Lively, sixth child of Martin and Maria Lively, only lived 11 months before she died on Oct. 26, 1852.

Accidental Death

Earlier I mentioned Charles’s daughter Lucinda and her husband, Alfred J.H. Poole. Alfred enlisted in the Confederate Army in fall 1862 and was elected lieutenant. He was promoted to captain the following year. The accident that ended his life is described in this article that appeared in the Macon Telegraph from the Atlanta Constitution on Jan. 11, 1863.

Capt. Poole was likely already dead when this article appeared in the Macon Telegraph.

Capt. Poole was 38 when he passed away. The inscription on his stone reads: “O man immortal by a double prize, By fame on earth by glory in the skies.” His last name is spelled Pool on his marker but in most places, I have seen it spelled Poole.

Capt. Alfred Poole was only 38 when he died.

Alfred and Judith had no children. She remarried to Jabez Loyd, a widower with five children, in 1868. Their son, Charles Loyd, was born in 1870.

Union General James McPherson’s Visit

The Civil War changed Atlanta and Dekalb County forever. I wanted to see how Milton Charles Lively was involved and found him listed on an 1860-1864 Georgia Civil War Muster Roll. I saw names of Dekalb pioneers like Capt. W.J. Donaldson, who went on to build the Donaldson-Bannister farmhouse in Dunwoody. Salathiel Adams, whose family has a similar backyard cemetery near Nancy Creek Road, is on it. Greenville Henderson’s sons, William and Rufus, are also on the list.

Carol Harrison, a friend of Judy and Gary, has done considerable research on the Livelys. She shared with them a letter written by General William T. Sherman (yes, THAT Sherman) on July 18, 1864 to General James Birdseye McPherson. Gen. Sherman was staying at the Samuel House plantation home, commandeered by the Union. The date of this letter is important because four days later the infamous Battle of Atlanta would begin.

Union Gen. William T. Sherman stayed at the Samuel House home in the days before the Battle of Atlanta in July 1864. The house is now the clubhouse of the exclusive Peachtree Golf Club, still in operation today. (Photo source: http://www.Redclaysoul.com)

The Livelys had a connection to the House family. Charles and Mary’s granddaughter Frances Jones was married to Jacob Guyton House, son of Samuel House, owner of the House plantation where Sherman was staying.

On July 18, 1864, Sherman wrote to McPherson, who was given command of the Army of the Tennessee in March that year. I won’t include all of the letter but here’s the part that includes the Lively farmhouse.

Tell Garrard that it will be much easier to break the telegraph and road today and night than if he waits longer. This negro says there is a road leading to Stone Mountain from Mr. Lively’s on the Decatur road, on which I suppose you to be. At any rate, I will be here till evening and would like to hear from you.

Gen. James McPherson died on July 22, 1864 as the Battle of Atlanta began. (Photo source: Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs – Library of Congress)

The distance between Samuel House’ plantation and the Lively farmhouse is about five miles. At that time, Milton Charles Lively was fighting with the Confederate Army. Mary, Charles Lively’s widow, was living in Alabama with one of her daughters. Milton’s son, Charles Pinkney Lively (nicknamed “Pink”) was a first lieutenant with the Georgia Cavalry (Co. B of Cobb’s Legion), so he wasn’t there. It’s highly possible the house was empty at the time as many residents had fled the city. But it certainly looks like General McPherson stayed there.

I looked up to see where Pink Lively was buried and discovered that he’s at Norcross City Cemetery. It turns out I photographed his grave back in 2013 for Find a Grave.com! I also learned that Pink’s father, Milton, and Stephen McElroy donated an acre of land for Norcross City Cemetery to be established in 1873. That may be why Pink and several other Livelys are buried there.

First Lieutenant Charles “Pink” Lively, grandson of Charles Lively and son of Milton Charles Lively, is buried at Norcross City Cemetery. I photographed his grave in February 2013 for Find a Grave.com.

In 1916, Norcross purchased an additional nine acres of the adjacent land from Milton’s descendants. Part of the land was used to expand the city cemetery from its original one-acre size, while part was used in later years to build an athletic field.

Death of a Union General

Four days after his stay at the Lively farmhouse, Gen. McPherson died in battle on July 22, 1864. He was only 36 and the highest ranking Union officer to be killed in the Civil War. His death site in East Atlanta Village is marked by a small monument. Unfortunately, it was vandalized in August 2020. Gen. McPherson is buried in McPherson Cemetery in Clyde, Ohio.

Charles Lively’s widow, Mary, died on March 3, 1864 and was brought back for burial at Lively Cemetery. An unnamed infant son of Milton and Maria died in 1865 and was also buried there. Their son Cicero, born in 1859, died on March 6, 1873 at age 13.

Cicero Lively died at age 13 in 1873.

Milton’s wife, Maria, died on Sept. 5, 1878. Her grave marker features a hand holding a Bible aloft. The inscription reads: “”She was a tender mother here. And in her life the Lord did fear.”

Maria Lively died in 1878 at age 58. Her grave marker is the only one with a hand holding a Bible on it.

According to the 1880 U.S. Census, Milton was living on a farm in neighboring Gwinnett County with his youngest son, Milton Jr., who was 13. Milton Sr. died on on Dec. 30, 1895 at age 75. His marker at Lively Cemetery includes the Masonic symbol. The inscription reads: “Upright and just he was in all his ways. A bright example in degenerate days.”

Milton Charles Lively died in 1895 at age 75.

Milton’s sister, Judith Lively Poole Loyd, died on July 24, 1898. Her second husband, Jabez Loyd, is buried with his first wife in Prospect Methodist Cemetery in nearby Chamblee.

Judith Lively Poole Loyd died at age 71 in 1898. Her son, Charles, is buried near her in an unmarked grave.

Final Burial

Judith’s son with Jabez, Charles Loyd, died suddenly on Dec. 30, 1911 in New Orleans. His remains were brought home for burial. This is the only time I’ve seen the Lively cemetery mentioned by name in a newspaper. His grave is not marked but there are a few uninscribed stones in the plot. His is likely one of them. His wife, Lou Mauldin Loyd, is buried in Atlanta’s Westview Cemetery.

Charles Loyd, Judith Lively Poole Loyd’s son, is buried near her in Lively Cemetery but his grave is not marked.

According to Franklin Garrett’s necrology, Charles and Lou’s daughter, Rosa Lou Loyd, who only lived a few days in 1890, is also buried at Lively. Her marker may be the one that I saw that was face down. I did not want to possibly damage it by disturbing it.

I realize I’ve spent over 2,000 words on a cemetery containing about 17 people. That may seem like too many. But for a little piece of history sitting in a backyard burial ground, I think it was worth every one.

Thank you, June and Gary, for sharing this treasure with me.

“Cold in the Arms of Death”: Pausing at White County, Ga.’s Cleveland City Cemetery, Part II

I’m still at Cleveland City Cemetery in White County, Ga. In doing research for this post, I’ve consulted the local newspaper, The Cleveland Courier. It reminded me that newspapers handled obituaries in a number of different ways then. Depending on the person, it could range from a few factual sentences to something quite verbose and emotional.

Cleveland City Cemetery in February 2019

A good example of a what I’d call a more “flowery” tribute was written for George Scott Kytle when he died in 1918. A White County native born in 1870, he was the son of Calvin Kytle and Caroline Dean Kytle. Calvin had a solid reputation as a teacher and Confederate War veteran, serving on the county board of education and as a county commissioner for several years.

I found some conflicting information regarding George’s education. He’s listed in an 1893 Harvard University catalog while another note on Ancestry.com said he received his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University in 1889, took a course or two in Louisville, Ky., then read law in Cleveland with the Hon. John J. Kimsey before passing the bar exam. It’s possible all of it’s true but I’m not sure.

After Calvin retired, George succeeded his father on the school board. By the time he married Maude Bell in 1898, George was practicing law in Cleveland. Maude was the daughter of William Bell and Katie McAfee Bell, who I wrote about last week. George and Maude only had one child, Calvin, on July 22, 1900 and the baby died that day.

George and Maude Kytle’s only child, Calvin Brown Kytle, died soon after birth on July 22, 1900.

“Cold in the Arms of Death”

Like Calvin, George also served as a White County commissioner and acted as a judge. He was well liked by the community. But his health began to turn in 1918 and he was ill for several months. Spanish Flu was raging at the time but tuberculosis seems the more likely culprit. Despite a visit to California in hopes of restoring his health, he returned to Cleveland no better.

When he died on June 23, 1918 at age 47, which seems quite young to me, George’s lengthy obituary on the front page of the Cleveland Courier began like this:

Photo Source: Cleveland Courier, June 28, 1918

You may think it’s a bit much but at the time, it was the norm for some newspapers to wax rhapsodic in such a way when writing about pillars of the community. It varied depending on the deceased’s importance, of course. Judge Kytle’s family was well known in Cleveland, and both he and his father had been active in community organizations for years.

“They loved him most who knew him best.”

Maude remarried in 1922 to Dr. J.E. Norton. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, she was listed as a widow living in Oconee County with her sister, Katie Kenimer, and Katie’s family, as a nurse. Maude died on April 22, 1960 in Milledgeville, Ga. and is buried in Bishop Cemetery in Oconee County.

“Mrs. A.H. Henderson Passes Beyond”

I was a bit surprised to see the wordy write up Louisa Eliza “Aunt Eliza” Oakes Henderson received when she died on Oct. 14, 1918. Then I realized it was the same year George Kytle died so I’m thinking the same person wrote about him as well.

A native of Habersham County (which White County was carved out of) born in 1845, Eliza was from a large farming family. She married Albert Henry Henderson in December 1864 as the Civil War was coming to a close. Albert had served in the Confederacy before they wed and operated a dry goods store in the years that followed. He and Eliza had no children.

According to the Cleveland Courier, Eliza fell and broke her hip earlier that autumn. In those days, surgery for a broken hip was not usually an option and her health faltered. Interestingly enough, Albert is not even mentioned in her obituary. However, the final words are worthy of a poet’s pen.

(Photo source: Cleveland Courier, Oct. 18, 1918)

By the time Albert died (referred to as “Uncle Albert” in his obituary) on Jan. 23, 1929 at age 86, he was operating a hotel and enjoying the rewards of owning productive acreage/mines. His write up was not nearly as poetic as his wife’ but more factual. He was described as “big hearted”, good to his employees, and a faithful member of the Baptist church.

Albert and Eliza Henderson died about nine years apart. They had no children.

The Edwards Siblings

Thomas Paul Edwards and his sister, Flonnie, are an example of two people buried at Cleveland City Cemetery who didn’t actually spend much time in Cleveland but are there because their parents were born there.

Paul and Flonnie’s parents were George McDuffy Edwards, Sr. and Louisa Allison Edwards. Flonnie was born in 1893, the eldest child, followed by Wallace in 1896, Idell in 1898, Paul in 1900 and George Jr. in 1903. George was working as a machinist in Dahlonega. Wallace died in 1901 for reasons unknown and was buried in Cleveland City Cemetery.

The family had moved to Atlanta by 1910 when George got a job as a boiler maker. Daughter Lucy was born in 1912. Florrie, 16, was working as a machine operator in a paint factory. On June 17, 1915, Flonnie married James B. Davenport in Atlanta, who had grown up on a farm south of the city.

Flonnie Edwards Davenport was only 23 when she died shortly after giving birth to her daughter.

On Feb. 8, 1917, Flonnie gave birth to a daughter, Louise, and died a few days later. Her obituary is not nearly as poetic as the ones I posted earlier.

(Photo source: Cleveland Courier, Feb. 16, 1917)

Flonnie’s daughter, Louise, grew up and lived well into adulthood. She died in 1998 at 81 and is buried at Shawnee Run Baptist Church Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Ky.

Brother Paul never married but found work as a mattress maker, living at home with his parents. He contracted tuberculosis and died at age 26 on March 8, 1927. Like his sister’s obituary, a lot fewer words were used. But because of his age and that he had spent most of his life in Atlanta, it isn’t that surprising.

(Photo source: Cleveland Courier, March 8, 1927)

Paul is buried beside his little brother, Wallace. His father, who died in 1952, and his mother, who died in 1958, are also buried there. George Jr., who died in 1960, is buried at Cleveland City Cemetery but his grave does not appear to be marked. If he has one, it is not photographed on Find a Grave. Sisters Idell (who died in 1963) and Lucy (who died in 1990) are buried elsewhere.

Paul Edwards was buried in Cleveland City Cemetery because his parents were from the area.

Without Words

Then there are those that have no obituaries written about them at all. There are fieldstones (like the one pictured below) scattered about Cleveland City Cemetery that represent unknown lives with no names or dates. We may not known who they are but their lives are no less important.

All of them matter and should not be forgotten.

An anonymous fieldstone at Cleveland City Cemetery.

For Whom the Bell (Family) Tolls: Pausing at White County, Ga.’s Cleveland City Cemetery, Part I

In February 2019, my husband and I attended a couples’ retreat sponsored by our church at the lodge in Unicoi State Park in Helen, which is in the North Georgia mountains. Chris and I enjoy the chance to get away from the routine while growing closer to each other and the Lord. It was very pleasant few days.

On the way home on Sunday, Chris said we had time to stop by a cemetery. I’d already scoped one out online that was 20 minutes south of Helen. Cleveland City Cemetery it would be.

Established in 1866, Cleveland City Cemetery has about 800 memorial listed on Find a Grave.com.

Like Helen, Cleveland is located in White County. It’s named after state legislator David White. With what eyewitnesses said was “a skillful display of oratory”, White argued for it to be carved out of larger Habersham County in 1857. White convinced the assembly to pass fellow legislator William Shelton’s bill for the new county, which had already been turned down twice. Shelton was so thrilled that he immediately moved to name the new county “White” in David White’s honor.

Originally called Mt. Yonah, the county seat was later renamed Cleveland in honor of Gen. Benjamin Cleveland, a hero in the War of 1812.

Home of the Cabbage Patch Kids

Cleveland is probably best known as the home of BabyLand General Hospital, where the wildly popular Cabbage Patch dolls are “born” every day. The dolls were originally thought up by Clevelalnd resident Xavier Roberts in the late 1970s. The Cabbage Patch brand brought in an estimated $2 billion from the dolls and other items such as books and T-shirts during the 1980s and made Roberts a multimillionaire. He lives quietly in Cleveland out of the spotlight.

Cleveland is where BabyLand General Hospital is located, home of the Cabbage Patch Kids created by Xavier Roberts in the 1970s. (Photo source: ExploreGeorgia.com)

Established in 1866

The land for the Cleveland City Cemetery was purchased by the W.E.F. Shelton family (possibly related to legislator William Shelton mentioned above) and deeded to Cleveland’s churches in 1866, according to local historian Judy Lovell. Today, it’s operated and maintained by a board of trustees, similar to other perpetual care cemeteries. According to Find a Grave, there are about 800 recorded memorials.

The land for the Cleveland Historic Cemetery was donated by the W.E.F. Shelton family in 1866.

“Brutally Murdered”

One of the first markers I photographed was in shade so I didn’t read the inscription until I was looking at my photos later that week. I had somehow missed the words “brutally murdered”. As I began my research on the Bell family, a history of sadness and tragedy slowly unfolded.

William Brown Bell was murdered by his friend J.E. “Si” Smith on April 2, 1899.

Born in 1839, North Carolina native William Brown Bell moved to White County in his youth. He married Catherine “Kate” McAfee in 1858 and the couple had several children. William worked in a dry goods establishment in Cleveland and later, was as a pharmacy salesman for an Atlanta employer. He also acted as an “ordinary” or local judge in Cleveland.

William and Kate’s second child, Thomas, attended college and taught school in Cleveland in the late 1870s. He moved to Gainesville to work as a salesman and was elected clerk of the superior court of Hall County in 1898.

Article from the April 4, 1899 edition of the Macon Telegraph.

On April Fool’s Day 1899, William visited J.S. “Si” Smith at his home, the two spending the evening drinking a good bit. When William left the next day, Si hopped into William’s carriage and went along. A disagreement arose between the two and Si beat William with a piece of wood. Some said it was because William insulted Si’s wife.

William managed to get away but Si shadowed him until he set on him again in his carriage, this time crushing his skull and leaving him for dead in the road. Si’s friends spirited him away, and a posse led by Tom Bell was formed to track down Si. It took a while but Si was eventually traced to Rabun County and taken to jail. Smith admitted killing Bell, but claimed it was justified. A judge ruled that it would not be safe for Smith to remain there so he was sent to the jail in neighboring Hall County.

Congressman Thomas Montgomery Bell in later years. He led a posse to capture his father’s killer. (Photo source: National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress.)

Late on July 14, 1899, a mob woke the Hall County sheriff at the jail. One of the men claimed to be a sheriff of a nearby county and that the group had a prisoner that needed to be put in the jail. He let them in, and when he did so the mob rushed the cell where Smith was held, pulled out weapons, and began firing into his sleeping form. They then quickly dispersed.

Georgia Governor Allen Candler, who had earlier offered a reward for Smith’s capture, ordered an investigation. One of Tom Bell’s friends, who was among the mob that arrived at the Hall County jail that night, was charged with the killing, but a jury acquitted him.

“Thy Rod and thy Staff Comfort Me”

Kate was devastated by William’s death and the ensuing events. She died at age 68 on July 3, 1903. She is buried to the left of William.

Catherine “Kate” Bell died four years after her husband was murdered.

In 1905, Tom was elected as a Democrat to the 59th Congress and to the 12 succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1905 to March 3, 1931). He served as majority whip in the 63rd Congress. He died on March 18, 1941 and is buried in Gaineville’s Alta Vista Cemetery.

Unfortunately, tragedy would continue to follow the Bell family in the years to come.

“She Shines in Endless Day”

Mark Bell, William and Kate’s oldest son, married Lydia Zealure Reeves in 1880. The couple had two boys, William and Fred, before Lydia died in 1898 at age 33.

Mark remarried in 1900 to Florence McAfee. The couple moved to Athens, Ga. where he entered into a partnership with brother Tom and some others in operating Bell Brothers Marble Co. On Jan. 10, 1905, Florence gave birth to a little girl they named Katie Lou. She only lived five days, dying on Jan. 15.

Katie’s marker is one of my favorite styles, featuring the “baby on a half shell” motif. The detail on the neckline and hem of her little gown is lovely.

Katie Lou Bell only lived five days.

The epitaph on the back of her marker is heartbreaking.

Although she lived a brief life, Katie Lou was much loved by her parents.

Mark and Florence had three children altogether. Son Parks lived well into adulthood but youngest son George, born in 1908, only lived two months. He is buried beside Katie Lou.

“We Miss You”

It was with great joy on May 17, 1904 that the Bell siblings celebrated the marriage of youngest brother Parks Lester Bell, 26, to his sweetheart, Fletcher Louise Charles. Lester was employed as a clerk at Cleveland’s post office, despite having a weak heart much of his life.

On the morning of April 1, 1905, a day before the sixth anniversary of his father William’s death, Lester was found dead in the bathroom by Fletcher. A news article surmised his death might have been due to ptomaine poisoning from oysters that he had brought home and eaten the night before.

Lester Bell, 27, died almost six years to the day that
his father \was killed in 1899.

Lester’s monument includes the date of his marriage to Fletcher and her name, not something I often see on a marker. On top is a heartfelt message.

Lester had been married less than a year when he passed away.

Fletcher remarried in 1908 to railroad conductor J. Franklin Busbee of Atlanta. She died in 1924 of hepatitis. She is buried with Frank at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

“Sorrow That Heaven Cannot Heal”

On Oct. 23, 1911, Florence Bell sent her six-year-old son, Parks (named after his uncle), upstairs to summon his father, Mark, downstairs for breakfast. What the child found that morning would change his life forever.

Little Parks found his father in bed, a pistol still in his hand and blood covering his body. According to a newspaper account, Mark had been suffering from a “severe nervous condition” in the months leading up to his death. Brother Tom came from Gainesville by train to help Florence make the funeral arrangements. Mark is buried on the right side of his father.

Mark’s monument is a Woodmen of the World tree marker with a calla lily carved into the base, which signifies marriage. In some cases, the flower can also represent the resurrection.

Mark Bell was 52 when he ended his life on Oct. 23, 1911.

Florence didn’t remarry after Mark died. She lived with son Parks and his family in Marietta, Ga. in her final years. After she died on Dec. 13, 1956, she was buried at Cleveland City Cemetery.

We’ll See It Again”

Fred, Mark Bell’s son with his first wife, Lydia, married Minnie Warwick in 1902. The couple lived in Athens where Fred managed a grocery store. Their fourth child, Julia, was born on Dec. 16, 1918. After a short illness, Julia died on May 22, 1922. She was only three years old.

Julia Bell was the great-grandchild of William and Katie Bell.

Her obituary included the following poem:

Well might the parents say;
That smiling face God loaned to me
He now calls back for Him to see;
We thank Him for its presence here;
We’ll see it again
We have no fear.

I’ll have more stories from the stones at Cleveland City Cemetery in Part II.

“Me Want It Now”: Visiting Nadine Earles’ Dollhouse at Lanett, Ala.’s Oakwood Cemetery.

I left Greenville, Ala. in the afternoon, hoping to make it to Atlanta before it got too late. Then I remembered there was an Alabama cemetery near the state line I’d always wanted to stop at and wondered if it was anywhere close. Looking on my phone, I realized that I could chart my route to go right by it and hopefully, have enough daylight to photograph it.

I was looking for a cemetery with a life-size dollhouse.

This dollhouse covers the final resting place of Nadine Earles, who died in 1933.

I’d read about this place for years, wondering what it looked like in person and the grave of the child it was built for almost 100 years ago.

The Short Life of Nadine Earles

Born to parents Julian Comer Earles and Alma Moody Earles on April 3, 1929, Roselind Nadine Earles and her family lived in Lanett, Ala. Lanett is located close to the Alabama/Georgia border near West Point, once a major railroad hub. Huge West Point Lake is nearby, which still attracts fishermen and boaters from around the South.

Nadine didn’t have an easy life. Born with a cleft palate, she became accustomed to visiting doctors from an early age. Nadine passed the time in waiting rooms playing with her beloved dolls. It wasn’t as easy then to have the condition corrected. Alma, her mother, worked with her on speech therapy for hours. Her little brother, Comer, was born in 1931.

In summer 1933, Julian and Alma took Nadine to Atlanta for the first of two surgeries to correct her mouth. A second surgery was planned in November. Nadine knew exactly what she wanted for Christmas. A life-size dollhouse in her backyard. Julian purchased the materials, hoping to get started on it in his down time from work.

Nadine Earles was awaiting her second surgery for a cleft palate when she died.

“Me Want It Now”

The Earles were preparing for Nadine’s next surgery when she became ill. At first, doctors thought it might be measles but eventually diagnosed diphtheria. A vaccine was developed in the 1920s but was just starting to become more widespread in the 1930s. Because of the contagious nature of diphtheria, the Earles home was roped off and the family put in quarantine.

With spare time on his hands, Julian tried to build the dollhouse but the noise bothered Nadine so he stopped. For an early Christmas gift, they gave her a life-size doll and tea set. But the little girl hadn’t forgotten her request. Growing weaker, she reportedly turned to her parents and said,

“Me want it now.”

Nadine died on Dec. 18, 1933 and she was buried at Lanett’s Oakwood Cemetery. Julian felt terrible that he hadn’t fulfilled his daughter’s last wish. He dismantled what he had begun on her dollhouse and took it over to the cemetery with the goal of having it built over Nadine’s grave.

According to Anna Earles, the wife of Nadine’s brother Comer, Julian hired two contractors to finish the dollhouse. While he didn’t do the work himself, he supervised it closely. It was completed several months later.

When I was at Oakwood Cemetery, the sun was going down and I did not get a good picture of Nadine’s little box grave marker that the dollhouse was built over. I found this photo of it online. So just to be clear for those wondering, Nadine is NOT inside the dollhouse or above ground. Her marker is inside of it but she is buried UNDER the dollhouse.

A close up of the box grave of Nadine Earles. I did not take this picture.

Her grave marker says:

Our Darling Little Girl
Sweetest In The World
Little Nadine Earles
April 3, 1929
Dec 18, 1933
In heaven we hope to meet
“Me want it now”

Julian and Alma had a another scare during this time. Their little son, Comer, developed a kidney ailment and nearly died. But thankfully, he survived.

I took a photo through one of the windows.

Happy Birthday

After the dollhouse was completed, Julian and Alma filled it with toys and dolls in Nadine’s memory. On birthdays and holidays, they would bring more gifts to place inside the dollhouse. Nadine’s fifth birthday party was even held there. I believe the postcard below is a photo of that event.

Nadine’s fifth birthday was remembered with a party at her dollhouse. That’s Alma, Julian, and Comer in the front.

Life went on. Julian and Alma had another child, Jimmy, in 1935. Every Christmas, toys would come to the dollhouse and old ones would be removed. People came to visit and leave their own gifts sometimes.

Comer married Anne in 1959. By that time, Julian and Alma had divorced. Alma remarried but Anne remained close to both her and Julian. She said Alma rarely spoke of Nadine’s death because it had been so hard on her. Julian never remarried and as the years passed, more and more he would go visit “Honey”, his pet name for Nadine. According to Anne, shortly before he died, he told her he was going to be with Honey.

Julian died on Feb. 25, 1976 at age 66. He is buried beside the dollhouse. I did not get a good photo of his grave so I apologize for the poor quality of it.

Julian visited Nadine’s dollhouse often before he died.

It was also Alma’s wish, Anne said, to also be buried next to Nadine and she asked her daughter-in-law to make sure that happened. After Alma died on Jan. 28, 1981, she joined Nadine and Julian in the Earles plot. Thankfully, I took a better picture of her grave marker. Comer died in 2003 and Jimmy passed away in 2018. I could not trace Anna past the 1987 newspaper interview she gave about Nadine.

Alma was buried beside Nadine’s dollhouse after her death in 1981.

Different people and organizations took the responsibility of looking after Nadine’s dollhouse by cleaning it, painting it, and even decorating it during holidays. I’m not sure who is caring for it now. Curious visitors like me drop by to visit. Some leave notes and cards in the dollhouse’s mailbox, which I didn’t even notice until after I looked at my pictures.

The sun was going down as I said goodbye to Nadine.

Goodbye, Nadine…

The sun was going down as I prepared to leave Nadine’s dollhouse. Cars were going by the cemetery and I could hear a dog barking as people were ending their day. Life was moving along. But standing there, I felt as if I was back in 1933 for a moment. When a little girl asked for the one thing she wanted more than ever.

“Me want it now.”

Three Brides and a Pastor: Farewell to Greenville, Ala.’s Magnolia Cemetery, Part IV

If last week’s post was any indication, you probably knew I wasn’t done at Magnolia Cemetery.

I had a feeling that the monument beside Zenobia “Nobie” McKenzie had a story. Because of the grain of the stone, reading the inscription was difficult. But after fiddling with the photo, I realized May McKenzie Stallings died as young as her sister Nobie had and in one of the worst accidents about which I’ve ever read.

May McKenzie Stallings had only been married three months
when she died in 1905.

Born in 1888, May was the youngest child of Greenville merchant William F. McKenzie and Emma Herbert McKenzie. Nobie, her older sister, died from illness at age 19 when May was five. William was mayor of Greenville at one point.

May met and fell in love with Samuel Stallings, the only son of Jesse Francis Stallings, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1893 to 1901. Sam hadn’t finished college yet and May was only 17. While they were eager to marry, both sets of parents understandably wanted them to wait a little longer.

Samuel Stallings and May McKenzie eloped to Columbus, Ga. to be married in August 1905. (Photo source: The Living Truth, August 25, 1905)

Accompanies by friends, the couple eloped to Columbus, Ga. to wed. Despite their worries about their parents, Sam and May were received back in Greenville with open arms.

Tragedy in Greenville

It was three months later on Nov. 3, 1905 when it happened. I’ve read three different newspaper accounts of what happened that day and while some of the details vary, the basic facts are these. May and Sam had ridden their carriage into Greenville to visit someone near the train station, possibly Sam’s father. They were sitting in the carriage when two mules hitched to a wagon nearby were spooked and bolted.

Sam jumped down to lift May out of harm’s way but was too late. The mules hit the carriage and May tumbled down into the clash of wagon, carriage, and mules. She was dragged many yards down the road before the vehicles were stopped. May died the next morning of her injuries. Having already lost Nobie 12 years before, I am certain her parents were devastated.

As for Sam, I can’t imagine what he was thinking. The young couple had only been married three months and his beautiful bride was gone.

May’s monument is in between that of her sister, Nobie, and her parents, W.F. and Emma McKenzie.

Sam remarried two years later to Grace Heaton of Birmingham and they had four children together. He died in 1959 in a car accident at age 75. He and Grace are also buried in Magnolia Cemetery.

One Husband, Two Sisters

I have another story of a young bride dying young but this one comes with a final twist.

Edna Flowers Jennings died only a month and a half after her wedding.

Born in 1880, Edna Flowers was the daughter of Joseph Hampton Flowers (J.H.) and Clara Howard Flowers. J.H. was the brother of William Flowers, whom I talked about last week. Like his brother, J.H. was successful in the lumber business. The family lived in Bolling, a little south of Greenville, but later moved to Blakely, Ga.

It was there Edna met Dr. William Jennings, a 1898 graduate of Baltimore Medical College. They were married on Nov. 26, 1901 in the Flowers home. I don’t usually post articles about weddings but I don’t always find accounts of such events. Afterward, the couple settled in Iron City, Ga., only about 30 miles south of Blakely.

Edna Flowers and Dr. William Jennings were married in her home in Blakely, Ga.

Their happiness was soon ended. Edna was stricken with a sudden illness and died on Jan. 17, 1902. Being that her new husband was a physician, it was probably even more painful that he could do nothing for his new bride. It took me a while to find her obituary because the Greenville Advocate mistakenly reported William’s last name as “Jenkins” instead of “Jennings”.

Here’s a longer photo of Edna’s monument.

I thought it was interesting that Edna’s monument includes her marriage date above her death date. Then there is “Edna Flowers-Jennings” on the bottom, a hyphenated last name being something I definitely don’t see often on a monument from this era.

It’s not often I see a hyphenated last name in so young a bride but I’m sure she didn’t go by that name when she was alive.

Dr. Jennings was comforted by his young bride’s family. Then something happened that occurs more often than you might think but in this case, it took place five years later. It usually happens much sooner.

William married Edna’s younger sister, Sarah “Sadie” Flowers, who was six years younger than Edna. The couple had at least one son together, also named William. William Sr. died in 1925 from heart disease but Sadie lived many years after, dying in 1980 at age 93. The couple is buried together at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Thomasville, Ga.

“Universally Loved”

Our final bride is one whose death was likely caused by the birth of her first and only child.

Born in 1886, Aileen Steiner was the granddaughter of Joseph Steiner and Margaret Mathilda Camp Steiner. You may remember them from Part I of my series. She’s buried behind them in the Steiner plot. Her father, Joseph Manning Steiner, Sr., was a prosperous merchant like his father.

On Dec. 12, 1906, Aileen married Edward Winkler, who worked in his father’s store. She was 20 and he was 25. The article written about their wedding mentioned it was the first one held in the “new Methodist Church” in Greenville. After the ceremony, the couple left on a train for a two-week honeymoon in New York and “other points of interest.”

Aileen Steiner Winkler died a few weeks after giving birth to her first child.

The date of December 8, 1907 was a happy one for the couple when their son Edward August Winkler was born.

But tragedy was lurking. During the evening of Dec. 21, 1907, Aileen suddenly became ill. Her obituary states that she seemed to improve but died at 3 a.m. the next day, “heart failure being the cause.” She probably died of postpartum cardiomyopathy. According to WebMD, it occurs in the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after delivery. It’s a type of congestive heart failure, which causes your heart to become larger than normal and weak. This decreases the amount of blood that your heart can pump. It is quite rare in the U.S. now and only 1,000 to 1,300 women develop this condition every year.

A full photo of Aileen Steiner Winkler’s monument.

Edward waited quite a while to remarry. On December 31, 1920, he married Louise Thagard, in Birmingham, Ala. They had three children together, all of whom lived to adulthood. His child with Aileen, Edward August Winkler, died at age 58 in 1966 in Montgomery, Ala. They are all buried in Magnolia Cemetery.

“Remember the Days of Thy Creator”

The last person I’m going to talk about at Magnolia Cemetery is not a woman, a bride, or even Caucasian. He also lived a much longer life than they did.

The Rev. Frank W. Ward is buried in what was probably referred to back in the day as (and I say this with no pleasure) the “negro area” of the cemetery. There are parts of Magnolia that were not connected as they are now. Many of the graves around Rev. Ward’s are fairly recent.

Rev. Ward’s monument is the only grave marker of its kind I have seen in the Southeast for an African-American pastor and frankly, it caught me by surprise when I saw it. But as I read about him, it made sense. He was not only a beloved pastor, Rev. Ward was a valued businessman in the Greenville community.

The Rev. Frank Ward was a prominent AME Zion pastor but was best known for his Greenville store.

Rev. Ward’s monument states he was born in 1857. His parents were probably slaves. He was a prominent AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Zion pastor in Alabama but was also well known in Greenville for his store. He purchased the land for it in 1884 from Patrick and Sarah Pryor. That cannot have been an easy feat during that era.

I found this information in the application to make Frank Ward’s Corner Store (as it was known) a National Historic Site, which it did become:

Although Ward is best remembered as the proprietor of this small neighborhood grocery store which he opened (around) 1885, he was also recognized as one of the leading AME Zion ministers actively involved in stimulating the growth of the denomination of the East Alabama Conference between 1881 and 1892.

Ward successfully combined his professional activities as a minister with this business pursuit and by the turn of the century, conducted an impressive business evidenced in the handsome residence situated behind the store, his imposing grave site in Magnolia Cemetery, and a lengthy obituary attesting to his prominent and modest economic achievements.

The inscription on Rev. Ward’s monument is from Ecclesiastes 12:1.

Rev. Ward’s health declined steadily in 1924. He was preaching a sermon on Feb. 22, 1925 when he had a stroke in the pulpit and passed away the following day. The only obituary I could find about Rev. Ward was not lengthy but it was probably more than most African-Americans could expect to read in a Southern newspaper in 1925. Some of the wording makes me wince, especially the mention of him being a “good negro”.

Rev. Ward had a stroke while preaching a sermon and died the next day.
This is what Fred Ward’s Corner Store looks like today. I’m not sure when the picture was taken. (Photo Source: https://theclio.com/entry/124357)

After Rev. Ward’s death, his wife, Sallie, took over running the store. She passed away in 1930 and is buried beside Frank. Oddly, her marker says her birth date was 1873 and the death date is empty. Since she married Rev. Ward in 1877, that is impossible so there must have been a carving error.

The Ward property was purchased by Nobie Price, who also operated a neighborhood grocery store there. The building was leased out during the 1960s and known for its weekend fish fries. As far as I know, the building remains in the ownership of the Price family. It is a reminder of one man’s efforts to preach the gospel while providing a valued community center for his neighbors.

Saying Goodbye to Greenville

My afternoon in Greenville, Ala. is one of the most moving in my cemetery hopping career. It was here I encountered some of the most amazing monuments (especially Abrams’ cast iron grave covers) and stories I have even encountered. There’s so much more that I didn’t even talk about in these eight blog posts.

This place became quite special to me. I’m so glad I stopped.

“Hours Fly, Flowers Die”: Discovering Greenville, Ala.’s Magnolia Cemetery, Part III

I’m lingering at Greenville, Ala.’s Magnolia Cemetery a bit longer so you can take in some of the beauty and history I encountered while I was there. I don’t want you to miss anything, like the lovely monument for Zenobia “Nobie” McKenzie pictured below. She was only 19 when she died suddenly on April 29, 1893.

Monument to Zenobia “Nobie” McKenzie (1874-1893) who died suddenly at age 19.

There are about 21 Peaglers buried at Magnolia Cemetery and I happened upon one of their family’s plots. It’s not one you’d find yourself immediately drawn to from across the cemetery as some are with towering monuments like Zenobia’s. And Magnolia has plenty of those. But there was something about this one that got my attention.

First, you have to enter through the iron gate. It’s a lovely specimen produced by the Springfield Architectural Iron Works of Springfield, Ohio. I found a copy of their catalog from the late 1880s and while I couldn’t find an exact match, their was one that had a similar look to it.

Here’s the Peagler gate:

This is the T.W. Peagler family plot. Welcome!

Here’s a gate I found in the SAIW catalog from 1889. The Peagler gate is not exactly the same but it’s pretty close.

From the Springfield Architectural Iron Works 1889 catalog.

If you open the gate and step inside, you’ll find a rather inviting scene. But before you get too comfortable, take a look at the fence. Notice the little flowers on top? They look awfully similar to the ones in the catalog illustration, don’t they? So why doesn’t the gate have them? It’s a mystery.

You can sit down and enjoy the quiet of the cemetery in the Peagler plot.

The initials on the gate are for T.W. Peagler, Thomas William Peagler (1859-1921). He likely bought the plot. He and his older brother, Gideon (1847-1931), are the two main people buried in the plot so you’ll be hearing a lot about them.

Thomas Peagler: Druggist and Banking Executive

Thomas and Gideon were the sons of George S. Peagler and Absilla Thigpen. Brother Thomas was born in 1859. He was often referred to as “Major Peagler” but that was due to his membership in the local militia and National Guard unit, not a rank he earned while serving in the military during any war.

This is just a fragment of the ad for Thomas W. Peagler’s drug store in Greenville, Ala. He sold everything under the sun. (Photo source: Greenville Advocate, March 4, 1891).

A druggist by training, Thomas eventually owned and operated his own drug store in Greenville. He also got into banking and railroads, becoming the first vice president of the Bank of Greenville. Like most civically-minded Greenville businessmen, he was active in the Masons, Knights of Pythias, Knights Templar, and Woodmen of the World.

Thomas Peagler was active in several Greenville civic organizations.

Thomas married Ellen Reid Dunklin in 1882, a surname you’ll remember from nearby Pioneer Cemetery. They would have four children, three of which lived to adulthood.

Buried in the back corner of the plot is Thomas and Ellen’s oldest son, Walter Werle Peagler. Born in 1883, Werle was a graduate of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (which became Auburn University). He married Gladys Williams in March 1917, working as an assistant cashier at the Bank of Greenville.

Unfortunately, Werle became Greenville’s first victim of the Spanish Flu. He died at age 37 on Oct. 19, 1918. Gladys, who never remarried, is buried in another area of Magnolia Cemetery. It had to have broken his parents’ hearts when he died.

“Called By the Grim Reaper”

In April 1921, Thomas became ill and traveled to Montgomery for an operation. He died shortly thereafter on April 22, 1921. He was 62 years old.

Thomas Peagler passed away after an operation on April 22, 1921.

Also buried in the Peagler plot is one of Thomas and Ellen’s grandchildren. Their daughter, Myra, married widower William Blackwell in 1921. Their daughter, whom they named Myra, was born and died on Feb. 26, 1926.

Thomas and Ellen’s granddaughter, Myra, was born and died on Feb. 26, 1926.

Tragedy would strike William and Myra again on April 30, 1949 when their other child, Thomas Peagler Blackwell, died after a long illness at the age of 17. He is buried with them in another plot at Magnolia.

“Hours Fly, Flowers Die”

Thomas Peagler’s older brother, Gideon, was born in 1847 and would leave the University of Alabama to fight in the Civil War, earning a pension in his later years. While Thomas was often called “Major Peagler”, Gideon was referred to as “Colonel Peagler” in a number of newspaper articles I found.

Gideon never married but went into the lumber business with a brother-in-law W.H. Flowers and earned his fortune that way. He was active in the Knights of Pythias like Thomas. In the later decades of his life, he lived with Thomas and his family and it was a happy arrangement for all concerned. Gideon continued to live with his brother’s family after Thomas died in 1921.

On April 30, 1931, Gideon died after a year-long illness. His grave marker is actually a sundial, which is something I encounter from time to time. But I’ve never seen one quite like this, especially with part of a poem inscribed on the side.

Gideon Peagler’s grave marker is a sundial.

The inscription on his sundial was part of a poem called “Inscription for Kartina’s Sun-Dial” written by Henry Van Dyke in 1920.

Hours fly,
Flowers die
New days,
New ways,
Pass by.
Love stays.

*****

Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.

I do wonder if Gideon had a hand in planning his own marker before he died, it is such an unusual but wonderful memorial piece. I wonder if this poem was a favorite of his or if his beloved nieces and nephews decided on it together. His will is a testament to his love for them as each one received an equal portion of his estate, along with money set aside for Ellen, Thomas’ widow.

Ellen died on Aug. 22, 1940 at age 77. She is buried beside Thomas.

Ellen Peagler lived another 19 years after her husband died.

By contrast, the monument to Gideon and Thomas’ sister, Sophronia, is quite ornate by comparison.

Sophronia was born in 1849, a few years after Gideon. She married William M. Flowers, a local merchant, in 1868. They would have five children together. You might recall I mentioned earlier that William and Gideon pursued a number of business ventures together.

In checking the 1880 U.S. Census, I saw that William is noted for having “billious fever” while Sophronia was suffering from “nervous dibility”. I had seen “billious fever” before but not “nervous dibility”. Apparently, that could mean being poor in strength or even having depression.

Sophronia Peagler Flowers’ monument is much grander than her brothers’ grave markers.

Sophronia died on March 20, 1888 at age 38. According to her death notice, she has been suffering from a painful and lingering illness for several months. William Flowers did not remarry but died at age 64 on April 29, 1907. He is buried beside her.

Perhaps it was a good thing that Sophronia and William were not alive to endure the deaths of two of their sons in one year. Both were away from Greenville when they died. George, 42, had been staying in Atlanta seeking treatment for an illness when he died. His sister, Kate, and teen daughter, Mildred, were at his side before he died on April 29, 1913. Walter, 35, was in Mobile, Ala. on business when he suddenly became ill and died on July 31, 1913. He left behind a widow and young child. The brothers were both brought home for burial at Magnolia Cemetery.

“We Live In Deeds, Not Years”

I noticed that William and Sophronia’s daughter, Kate, had married Dr. L.V. Stabler after her first husband, J.F. Johnson, died in 1911. Dr. Stabler operated an infirmary in Greenville for many years and it was where her uncle, Gideon Johnson, had passed away in 1931.

Katie Flowers Johnson Stabler is buried with her first husband, John F. Johnson.

Kate died at age 61 in 1937 and is buried with her first husband, John F. Johnson. Between their names are inscribed the words “We Live in Deeds, Not in Years”.

Another daughter of William and Sophronia Flowers is buried near the Abrams family plot. Born in 1869, Abbie married lumber merchant Oscar Richardson Porter in 1889. He was the grandson of Judge B.F. Porter, whom I mentioned in my posts about Pioneer Cemetery. The couple had two children together, Oscar Jr. and Kate (possibly named after her sister). An infant, James, did after three months in 1896. At some point, Oscar was mayor of Greenville.

Abbie Flowers Porter was almost the same age as her mother, Sophronia, when she died in 1910.

In a sad mirroring of her mother’s life, Abbie became in invalid in the last year of her life. She died the day after Christmas in 1911 at age 41. Her daughter, Kate Porter Lewis grew up to become an accomplished writer.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave Magnolia Cemetery just yet. I may have a Part IV left to write. Stay tuned.

Grave Covers Revisited: Discovering Greenville, Ala.’s Magnolia Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to Magnolia Cemetery in Greenville, Ala. One of the many reasons I put this cemetery on my bucket list years ago was because a special man is buried here: Joseph R. Abrams. He is one of the first people to patent a cast iron grave cover as a way to protect a grave. This week, I’m doing a deeper dive on these and you won’t believe what I found.

This is just one of several cast iron grave covers I saw at Magnolia Cemetery. I’m not sure what the white coating is on it but I’ve seen it on a few others over the years.

Because the name plate on the back is now gone, the identity of the person buried here is unknown. It is located by Charles and Elizabeth Warley’s graves, so it may be a child of theirs who died young.

I first wrote about Abrams’ grave covers in January 2015. He’s not the first person to come up with this idea. There were a few before him and even a few after. But his cast iron grave covers are the ones most frequently seen in Southern cemeteries and were patented in the early 1870s.

As I shared in an earlier post about Pioneer Cemetery, civil engineer Joseph R. Abrams was a native of South Carolina and a graduate of the Citadel who married Laura Porter in 1856 in Marshall County, Ala. Her father, Benjamin Faneuil Porter, was a physician before becoming an attorney then a prominent Greenville, Ala. judge. In fact, he ordered his daughter’s marriage license to her future husband, as this note I found on Ancestry.com reveals. He misspelled his future son-in-law’s last name, too (Abrahams instead of Abrams).

It’s not every day your father can demand the local judge of the probate authorize your marriage license, but Laura Porter’s father did in 1856.

Over the years, Joseph and Laura had at least six children together. Joseph worked as a railroad contractor at one point but in later years, sold fire insurance. All the while, he was inventing new things and having them patented. His cast iron grave cover was just one of many.

The Abrams family lived in this home on 201 Herbert Street after purchasing it in 1863 for $4,000. It remained in the family until 1904 (after Joseph and Laura died) by their daughter Kate Abrams Persons, who gave birth to future Alabama Gov. Seth Gordon Persons in 1902. Kate sold it to Laura B. Knight, who had it until 1939. The home was designated an Alabama landmark in the 1970s and while not currently on the market, it looks like it will take much TLC to renovate and restore.

The Abrams family lived in this home from 1863 until after Laura Abrams’ death in 1903. Her daughter, Kate, married Alabama Gov. Gordon Persons.

Was the Meley Patent Grave Mound a Shell Grave?

With this round of research on Joseph R. Abrams, I uncovered a startling bit of new information. An article from June 12, 1873 refers to Abrams’ connection to marketing a Meley “grave mound”, a term I’d never heard of before.

When I looked it up, I found a 1868 patent by a man from Trenton, Tenn. named Jonathan Meley who had patented his own “grave mound”. But Meley was using seashells! Does that sound familiar? You might remember there are several such graves at Pioneer Cemetery and a few are at Magnolia as well. Here’s a photo of one of them.

Could this be a Meley grave mound? It’s at Magnolia Cemetery.

Take a look at this ad in the Aug. 1, 1872 Eufaula Weekly News. It mentions that these Meley grave mounds can be found in Greenville and Troy cemeteries. I found similar ads in 1870s newspapers in other Alabama cities, along with more in Mississippi and even Galveston, Texas.

The description in this ad sounds like typical shell grave.

I even found a drawing of the Meley grave mound in the patent he submitted in 1868. It may very well be that Meley had a hand in providing many of the shell graves I’ve seen scattered across Alabama. Maybe they weren’t just randomly made after all. I’ve posted it on its side so you can get a better idea of what it looks like flat on the ground.

The 1868 patent drawing for Jonathan Meley’s grave mound looks like a lot of the shell graves I’ve seen over the years.

From Shells to Cast Iron

According to another article I found from 1872, Joseph Abrams had been promoting the Meley grave mounds but was leaving Greenville for a time to market his own new invention, the cast iron grave cover. Unlike Meley, Abrams took the grave mound covering idea to a new level by replacing a mound of cement-bonded sea shells with a longer-lasting cast iron cover with the goal of providing protection for the grave mound.

It’s my belief that Meley’s 1868 invention inspired intrepid inventor Joseph Abrams to go one step further. I think it’s fascinating that Abrams knew all about shell graves, was promoting them in the state, then got into the “grave cover” game himself.

Take a look at this list of patents I found. Both Abrams and Meley are listed.

You can clearly see both J.R. Abrams and J. Meley listed for their different patents.

Abrams was in business with a gentleman named Dr. J.P. Amerine (who is also buried at Mangolia Cemetery) to sell his grave covers. I found a few 1873 articles promoting their enterprise. I don’t know where they had them made but it’s possible manufacturing took place in Birmingham or nearby Montgomery.

This time when I took a look on Newspapers.com, I found ads for Abrams “metallic grave covers” in several newspapers. Here’s one in the Moulton (Ala.) Advertiser from July 25, 1878. You cannot imagine how excited I was to finally find an ad for one! It’s further proof that Abrams contracted with agents in various states to sell his invention during the 1870s.

It may not seem like much but this ad in the July 25, 1878 Moulton (Ala.) Advertiser made my day.

Despite his efforts, I don’t think Abrams made much money from selling his grave covers. Dr. Amerine died in 1876. In the years to come, most of the news I found about Abrams concerned his civic involvement in Greenville and his thriving insurance business.

Joseph Abrams died at the age of 62 on Oct. 5, 1893. Laura died 10 years later in 1903. I was very curious to see if any of the Abrams family had a cast iron grave cover but none buried in the plot did. Since the earliest death in the plot is for Joseph in 1893, it’s my guess they simply didn’t make them any longer.

You’ll notice there are no cast iron grave covers in the Abrams family plot.

Joseph and Laura are buried with two of their daughters. Lida Abrams Moody died at 44 in Ocala, Fla. in March 1900. Her sister, Dixie Abrams Howard, died five years later in 1905 at age 45. Dixie’s daughter, Kate Abrams Howard, never married and died in 1953. She is buried beside her mother. Their oldest child, Benjamin H. Abrams, was an insurance agent like his father and died in 1910 at age 53 in Atlanta, Ga. and is buried in Westview Cemetery.

Joseph R. Abrams’ monument notes that he was a graduate of the Citadel in Charleston.S.C. The slab the covers his box grave is broken.

The Short Life of Sidney Johnson

Near the Abrams family plot is a nice specimen of an Abrams grave cover. You may remember last week that I featured Jake McGeHee, a Greenville merchant. His nephew, son of his sister Emily McGeHee Johnson, was Sidney Johnson. Sidney was born on Sept. 20, 1873 and died almost a year later on Sept. 18, 1874.

Sidney Johnson almost made it to his first birthday
when he died on Sept. 18, 1874.

Although Sidney’s nameplate did break off, it is still with the grave so we know that it’s his grave.

It’s rare to find a nameplate still intact with an Abrams grave cover.

“Her Pure Spirit Has Gone to Rest”

This cast iron grave cover I wanted to share with you is probably the nicest one in the cemetery. At first, I thought it was for one individual but it appears that Callie is probably not alone.

Born on 18, 1853, Callie was the daughter of Comer Watts Knight and Catherine Priscilla Reid Knight. On Nov. 18, 1872, at age 19, she married Greenville druggist Robert Payne. She gave birth to a baby on Oct. 4, 1874 and died a few hours later. According to her death notice, the child died the following day. I believe they are buried together.

Callie Knight Payne, 21, died only a few hours after the birth of her child in 1874.

The finial to the top of Calliei’s grave cover is missing. I suspect it was a shell. But her nameplate is still attached to her grave cover.

Callie was married almost two years when she died.

I learned that there was a good reason Callie has a cast iron grave cover. Her husband, Robert Payne, sold them at his drugstore in Greenville. Take a look at the ad I found in the Aug. 24, 1876 Greenville Advocate. Note that it mentions that they are “offered at prices that bring them within the reach of the poorest.”

Robert Payne, a Greenville druggist, bought one of Abrams grave covers he sold for his wife and child when they died in 1874.

A Life Cut Short

The last cast iron grave cover I’m going to share is for a child. We don’t know Lilly Perdue’s exact birthday but the stone marker that backs up to her grave cover states she was nine months old when she died on Sept. 14, 1870. She was the daughter of Greenville sheriff James H. Perdue and Jane Franklin Perdue.

Lilly’s father was a sheriff in Greenville, Ala.

On the other side of the marker is Lilly’s grave cover. Note that she died in 1870. This was before Abrams had officially patented his cast iron grave cover. I think the Johnsons likely purchased the cover a few years after she died and placed it over her grave. I’ve found this to be the case at other cemeteries even after burials in the late 1860s.

Lilly Johnson’s cast iron grave cover was likely added a few years after her death in 1870.

There’s still quite a bit of Magnolia Cemetery you haven’t seen yet. I’ll have more in Part III.

“Shed Not For Me the Bitter Tear”: Discovering Greenville, Ala.’s Magnolia Cemetery, Part I

I’ve left Greenville, Ala.’s Pioneer Cemetery to travel just a half mile down the road to nearby Magnolia Cemetery. It’s much larger than Pioneer and recently became active again. According to Find a Grave, Magnolia has close to 4,900 memorials recorded but I suspect there are many more there than that.

It’s not surprising to see a huge magnolia tree just inside the gates of Magnolia Cemetery.

The history of Magnolia Cemetery is a bit complicated. From what I could figure out, Magnolia opened in the 1870s after Pioneer filled up. A small burial ground called Pine Crest Cemetery was adjacent to it that opened in the 1920s. By the 1940s, Magnolia was expanded and Pine Crest was incorporated into Magnolia, dropping the Pine Crest name. If someone has a correction to that timeline, please let me know because I have read a few different accounts.

Sales of plots at Magnolia Cemetery stopped in 1992 when they ran out of space. However, a 2017 article reported that work completed to fix storm drain issues across Alabama Highway 10 and through Magnolia Cemetery enabled Greenville to offer new burial spaces for the first time in more than 20 years.

The Perry Family

After locating what always attracts me the most, the older part of the cemetery, I noticed a row of monuments clustered together and surrounded by some brickwork. So I photographed those first, hoping to do the research on them later.

The Perry/Dohrmeier plot as it looks today. This is the photo I took with a back view of the monuments because the other side was in shadow.

Untangling the Perry/Dohrmeier plot took some doing, but some work done by others helped. Basically, it’s John T. Perry, his wife, one of his sisters, and his mother. Because the inscriptions are so worn, it took some detective work to transcribe them. Two of the monuments include anchors, which are often considered a symbol of hope.

The oldest monument is for Mary E. Perry (pictured below). She was born in 1804 in South Carolina and died on July 5, 1867 in Greenville, Ala. I’m not sure if her husband passed away before the move south.

Mary Perry’s monument is very hard to read.

On the other end of the row is Mary’s son, John T. (J.T.) Perry. He was born in 1833 in South Carolina. According to his obituary, the family moved to Greenville, Ala. when J.T. was “but a boy”. He married Polk County, Ala. native Armitta (or Arminta) Tomkins in 1871 when he was around 40 and she was 23. The couple had no children.

J.T. had his finger in many pies over the years, amassing quite a fortune. He went into the grocery business at one point with his sister Mahala’s husband, Herman Dohrmeier. Around 1879, J.T. built and opened the Perry House Hotel by the Greenville train depot. It included a bar, barber shop and billiard saloon. It was torn down in the 1970s. He also had interest in the local mill. At the time of his death, he was the mayor of Greenville.

J.T. Perry was kept busy with his hotel and other business interests.

Armitta died at age 39 on Sept. 26, 1886. Her obituary notes that she suffered from “congestion of the bowels” before she died. J.T.’s health declined after that and he died less than a year later on June 27, 1887 at the age of 54.

Because the couple had no children, J.T.’s death caused legal problems when it came time to administer his will. His three sisters (Mahala, Mary, and Martha) went to court to duke it out, which included a last-minute codicil and some cash found in a safe. Mahala expected to inherit a considerable chunk. By the time it went to court, she had married a gentleman with the last name Rothenhoffer and is listed as such in legal papers I read. There was also a nephew involved who wanted his share.

I tried to untangle the legal jargon and lengthy court proceedings but I never did figure out exactly who got what in the end. The case went all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court.

Mahela Isabella Perry Dohrmeier (Rothenhoffer?) died
in 1913 at age 68.

Mahala died on Jan. 19, 1913 at age 68 and her monument is between her brother, J.T., and her mother, Mary. Although she married Mr. Rothenhoffer after Herman Dohrmeir’s death in 1883, the 1910 U.S. Census lists her last name as Dohrmeier. Her monument has her last name as Dohrmeier and her obituary also lists her by that name. I’m not sure what happened to Mr. Rothenhoffer, so that’s one mystery I never did solve.

One tidbit you’ll find interesting is that at one time, there was a pavilion or “grave house” sheltering the Perry/Dohrmeier plot. This picture was taken by W. N. Manning on June 12, 1935. I guess over the years the structure collapsed and all that is left are the brick plot boundaries.

This interesting “grave house” or pavilion covered the Perry/Dohrmeier plot for many years. (Photo source: W.N. Manning, June 12, 1935)

“Shed Not For Me the Bitter Tear”

As I wandered over to a cluster of what appeared to be recently cleaned monuments, I saw this one for Elizabeth “Bettie” Steiner. It stood out to me for a number of reasons. The intricately carved profusion of flowers above the inscription was one of them.

According to a newspaper report of her death, Bettie Steiner was engaged to be married at the time of her death.

Born in 1850, Bettie was the eldest child of Joseph Steiner, a prosperous Greenville merchant and later a banker who emigrated from Germany as a young man, and Alabama native Margaret Mathilda Camp Steiner.

A Selma newspaper reported that Bettie’s death took place on July 26, 1870 and that she was supposedly engaged. It did not say to whom. She was only 20 when she died. Her touching epitaph is etched on the middle of the monument:

Shed not for me the bitter tear, Nor give the heart to vain regret, ‘Tis but the casket that lies here, the gem that filled it sparkles yet.

You might have noticed the carver’s mark on the bottom right of the monument. Does it look familiar at all?

The firm of McDonald, March & Co. of Mobile, Ala. carved Bettie Steiner’s stone.

Yes, that’s the mark of McDonald, March & Co. They carved the monument for the Dunklin children over at Pioneer Cemetery. You’ll notice, however, that they chose a different lettering style or “font” from the Dunklin one to use on Bettie’s monument.

Bettie had at least four siblings who lived longer lives. Her father, Joseph Steiner, died on Jan. 3, 1889 from apoplexy after a few years of illness. His monument is quite grand.

Joseph Steiner died in 1889, 19 years after his daughter, Bettie.

You might think it was also done by McDonald, March & Co. but it wasn’t. Instead, Joseph Steiner’s monument is signed by Montgomery, Ala. firm Curbow & Clapp. By the time Joseph Steiner died in 1889, Daniel McDonald had already passed away.

The firm of Curbow & Clapp was based in Montgomery, Ala.

Curbow & Clapp was owned by Georgia-born Joseph A. Curbow and Avery L. Clapp. Joseph’s name may sound familiar to you. He took over H.W. Hitchcock’s marbleworks after he died in 1878.

Newspaper ads for their business state that the partnership began in 1850. The pair are probably best known for their involvement in the long process to create the large Confederate monument on Capitol Hill in Montgomery, Ala. They are sometimes given credit for the entire monument but it turns out they were brought in midway when communication between the Ladies Memorial Association (LMA) with designer/sculptor Alexander Doyle broke down. The story behind that monument’s creation is quite interesting.

An ad for Curbow & Clapp in the Feb. 16, 1887 edition of the Montgomery Advertiser.

Curbow & Clapp were so well regarded that Alabama Congressman Henry Washington Hilliard (1808-1892) specifically mentioned them in his will as the firm he wanted to provide his grave monument after he died. His will also stated he’d already designed what he wanted. As it happens, I unwittingly photographed it when I visited Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery in February 2021 when I visited.

Alabama Congressman Henry W. Hilliard left instructions in his will for his monument to be carved by Curbow & Clapp for his grave at Montgomery’s Oakwood Cemetery.

Joseph A. Curbow died on Feb. 3, 1895 at age 58 and Avery Clapp died died the following year in 1896 at age 70. Both men are buried at Montgomery’s Oakwood Cemetery. I did not happen to photograph their graves while I was there but it’s possible I walked right past them.

Died on Valentine’s Day

Finally, I did solve a mystery that had plagued me since I photographed a small child’s grave that is near Bettie Steiner’s. There was no last name on it but the first name was so unique, I thought I had a chance of tracking him down. It was finding his death notice that solved the mystery.

Irby McGeHee died at the age of 15 months when he
died on Valentine’s Day in 1875

Bettie’s younger sister Mathilda Caroline “Callie” Steiner was born in 1852 and she married merchant Jacob “Jake” Abner McGeHee in 1871. On Sept. 17, 1873, she gave birth to a son they named Irby. I don’t think they had any other children. He died on Valentine’s Day in 1875, only 15 months old. His obituary details his short life.

From the Feb. 18, 1875 edition of the Greenville Advocate.

Callie died on July 4, 1901 and her death notice said she’d been an invalid for some time. She was 48. Jacob never remarried. He died on Jan. 28, 1919 at the home of his brother, William, at age 71. They are both buried in the Steiner plot close to Irby. I only got a photo of their graves as part of a larger picture I took of the family plot. I believe that is Callie’s grave to his left.

Jacob A. McGeHee did not remarry after the death of his wife, Callie, in 1901. I believe that is her grave to the left of his. Infant son Irby’s grave is near them.

Next time, I’ll be sharing some of the cast iron grave covers of Magnolia Cemetery and the grave of the man who patented them in the 1870s.

“Not Lost But Gone Forever”: Exploring Greenville, Ala.’s Pioneer Cemetery, Part IV

Today I’m finishing up my series on Pioneer Cemetery in Greenville, Ala. by tying up some loose ends.

One thing I noticed as soon as I opened the gate of Pioneer Cemetery is the lone mausoleum on the property. It belongs to Walter Oliver Parmer (1855-1932) and his wife, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Dunklin Parmer. Her parents were James H. Dunklin and Abbie Reid Dunklin, whom I wrote about in one of my previous posts.

Although Walter O. Parmer and Lizzie Dunklin Parmer were both born in Greenville, they spent most of their marriage in Nashville, Tenn.

Born in 1855 to Dr. Clinton Dale Parmer and Eleanor Oliver Parmer in Greenville, Walter entered East Alabama Male College (now Auburn University) in 1871. In April 1873, before finishing his junior year, Walter returned home due to his father’s illness. He never completed his degree. Forty years after he left Auburn, the institution honored him with a diploma and membership in the alumni association.

On January 2, 1877, Walter married Lizzie Dunklin. During Reconstruction, Walter continued to produce cotton on the family farms but soon sold most of the family mercantile interests and cotton acreage. In 1883, he and Lizzie moved to Sumner County, Tenn., near Nashville where he bought the 107-acre Hughes place at Woodbine. He maintained his livestock, which included thoroughbred horses, until 1907.

Walter Parmer had many business interests, from thoroughbred horse breeding to banking to railroads.

That same year, Walter bought 600-acre Edenwold, an established thoroughbred breeding farm. In the meantime, he leased 400 acres of Belle Meade Plantation on the west side of Nashville, where the best thoroughbreds were stabled. Later, he would purchase Belle Meade and 24 adjoining acres from Colonel Luke Lea at a public auction in May 1916 for $55,000. When I lived in Nashville from 2003 to 2005, I visited Belle Meade (now a museum and winery) and it is indeed a beautiful place.

The Parmers purchased Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation in 1916 for $55,000.

The Parmers’ philanthropic efforts are too numerous to list but they were especially devoted to education. The Parmer Elementary School in Belle Meade was constructed on land given by Parmer to the Davidson County Schools in 1925. The brick school building, opened in 1928, was in use until 1982. All that remains of the school after a 1985 fire is a brick archway.

But the Parmers still had a special place in their hearts for their hometown of Greenville. In 1925, Parmer announced that in his will he was providing a scholarship fund of $500,000, to be used perpetually as an educational trust for Butler County boys to become available upon the death of his wife. From school year 1936-37 to school year 2008-2009, more than 400 students have been selected as recipients of the Walter O. Parmer Scholarship.

Walter died on May 23, 1932 at age 76 and Lizzie died at age 76 on April 27, 1934. They never had any children of their own. They were brought back to Greenville for interment in the mausoleum. You’ll notice an interesting carving above the door. It’s a symbol I see from time to time and it often denotes that the deceased was a Mason (but not always).

What do the snakes and wings signify?

In Ancient Egypt, the winged disk was a combined emblem of the sun, a double-headed cobra, and eagle or vulture wings. The cobra and the vulture represented Upper and Lower Egypt, in the geographical sense and in the sense of a Celestial Egypt and a Terrestrial Egypt. Such symbols are also associated with the Zodiac. Some people simply liked the look of it but as I said, it’s possibly because Parmer was likely a Mason.

The Daniel G. Dunklin Family

There are 26 Dunklins buried in Pioneer Cemetery and how they are related can get confusing. When I came across this row of monuments, I prepared to dive into the records to climb the branch of the Daniel G. Dunklin family tree.

Daniel G. Dunklin is buried between his two wives, Susan and Hannah.

Born on Oct. 28, 1823 to James Hilliard Dunklin and Catherine Lee Dunklin, Daniel Gafford Dunklin was considered a Greenville pioneer. His father, James, died when he was only four years old. Daniel was a merchant by trade and did well. He married Susan Catherine Burnett in 1847. Walter James Dunklin, their first son and the child who would live the longest, was born in 1852.

Daniel Gafford Dunklin was a well-regarded Greenville merchant and considered a founding member of the community. (Photo Source: Greenville Advocate)

But the 1850s would bring a great deal of sorrow to Daniel and Susan. Born on Jan. 25. 1855, second son William Burnett Dunklin died on March 22, 1857. His brother, Daniel Girard Dunklin, was born a month later on April 21, 1857 but he died on June 5, 1859. I do not have photos of their graves but they are buried in front of their parents’ monuments.

“Not Lost But Gone Forever”

Fourth son Jesse Frank Dunklin was born on Aug. 8, 1859. His mother, Susan, died on June 28, 1862 at age 32. Her monument has a beautiful flower bud carved into it.

Susan Burnett Dunklin lost three children in infancy before dying at age 32 in 1862.

As if Daniel didn’t have enough to endure Jesse died at age three on Feb. 23, 1863. I did manage to get a picture of his grave.

Jesse Frank Dunklin died about six months after his mother on Feb. 23, 1863.

I noticed that there was a damaged marker commemorating the lives of the three little boys the couple had lost atop a box grave.

A stone remembering the three sons of Daniel and Susan Dunklin.

On Jan. 11, 1864, Daniel remarried to 24-year-old Hannah Pickett Patton, daughter of Matthew and Louisa Patton. On Oct. 5, 1868, Hannah gave birth to their only child, Patton Bolling Dunklin.

Daniel continued to prosper as a merchant, serving as a city council member. He also served in the Alabama House of Representatives and on the State Democratic Executive Committee for 15 years. While I found evidence he served in the Confederacy during the Civil War, I don’t believe he reached the rank of major, a title he was addressed by in newspaper articles. This was a courtesy often given to Southern gentlemen high up on the social ladder. I’ve encountered quite a few honorary “colonels” that never served in the military at all. It was a common practice done out of respect.

On Sept. 14, 1895, Daniel died at age 71. Hannah, after some years as an invalid, passed away less than a year later on June 19, 1896. She is buried to his right.

Daniel G. Dunklin’s funeral included the Masonic rites, according to his obituary.

So who was left to run the store? The task fell to Daniel’s two sons, William J. and Patton. Neither man had married and were now living together at the “old homestead” near Greenville.

Sleep, Brother Dear

Patton died at age 32 on Nov. 2, 1900. His last years had been trying ones, according to his obituary. It notes that he was seriously injured in an accident in 1893 when the horse he was riding ran away and dashed him against a bridge support. Despite poor health, he affectionately attended his mother, Hannah, in her last years before the death of both his parents.

Patton Dunklin died four years after his mother at age 32.

It’s possible brother William felt quite all alone after his brother died. He was the only one left alive in his family. The inscription on Patton’s monument is one I have seen before. But the “brother” part has a sad ring to it.

Sleep, brother dear, and take thy rest. God called you home, He thought it best.

William J. Dunklin lived another 24 years after the death of Patton. He died at age 72 on May 30, 1924 after a long illness. He looked after his father’s store until selling it off to manage the family farm interests. He lived with his younger cousin, Walter Burnett (he was named after Walter J.), and his family during his last decade. It appears they took good care of him and he enjoyed being with the children.

However, William’s obituary has a rather bittersweet ring to it at the end:

For 72 years he has been going in and out before the people, having seen all of his associates of his younger days either moved away or or laid to their final rest. The present population to a great extent was new to him.

Where is William?

William’s obituary also says he was buried at Pioneer Cemetery, but I could not find a grave with his name on it when I was there. He does not have a memorial on Find a Grave. Perhaps because he was the last of his family, nobody took the responsibility of marking his grave. Or maybe he had one and it was broken. I don’t know. But it is my hope he is buried near his half-brother, Patton, with whom he was very close.

The unknown dead of Pioneer Cemetery.

I do know that there are many unmarked graves at Pioneer. It looks like they have done GPR mapping of the cemetery and several have markers denoting these graves.

Having written this blog for over nine years now, I’ve written about many final resting places. Naturally, some stand out more than others. But Pioneer Cemetery is special to me for a number of reasons. Part of it is due to the many J. Abrams cast iron grave covers, but it goes beyond that. Brothers who died young. Children lost to illness. A barely wed couple separated by death. Widows and old gentlemen. These are stories that linger in my heart and head.

Magnolia Cemetery, half a mile away, is my next destination.