Last time, I told you I’d be starting to dig into my cemetery hopping adventures from 2019 in Alabama and Florida. But sometimes things don’t work out the way I planned.
In going through my photos, I realized there was an Alabama cemetery I’d stopped to visit back in April 2017 that I hadn’t written about yet. Sometimes I make random cemetery stops that end up in my photo archive that I forget about. I was returning from a wonderful spring break week in Florida with my best friend, Christi when we stopped by Fairview Cemetery. It was a glorious early spring day and a great opportunity to stretch out legs.
According to its historical sign, Fairview Cemetery was established in the 1830s and has about 1,300 recorded burials. However, Find a Grave notes something more like 4,500 burials. So perhaps the sign is referring the oldest part of the cemetery. I also learned that Fairview Cemetery didn’t get its current name until the 1890s.
Because I hadn’t done any preparation, I didn’t know where to look for the more famous burials at Fairview. Apparently, there’s a governor and other important officials. The most “important” burial in terms of prestige that I photographed was a Confederate colonel and we’ll get to him eventually.
Fairview gradually added land over the years and different sections were established. The “Old Negro Cemetery” contains the graves for blacks buried there until 1870 when that practice moved to Pine Grove Cemetery. There’s a sign for a Jewish section along with areas for Odd Fellows and Masonic burials, although the latter two don’t have signs.
One of the largest plots belongs to the Tansey family. James Tansey owned a small store along with an active marble business in Eufaula. That may explain the grandeur of his own family’s plot. The date on the border of it is 1897, the year James Tansey died.
An Englishman (or Irishman) in Alabama
Born in 1828, James Tansey came to America sometime in the 1850s. I’ve found records that list his birthplace as either England or Ireland. I believe he spent some time in Philadelphia. In 1857, he married Margaret A. Michael of Davidson County, N.C. The couple had moved to Eufaula by 1859. I say that because I found an ad from the July 12, 1859 Spirit of the South newspaper extolling his skills as a stone carver.
James and Margaret had no children. But James’ business did well as he supplied customers locally and across the South with grave stones and monuments. He is frequently mentioned in the Eufaula newspapers.
Margaret died after a short illness on July 22, 1895 at age 65. It was only two years later in November 1897 that James passed away. His obituary goes into detail about his life and works. What I found most interesting were the specific preparations Tansey made before he died. I’m not entirely sure if he actually did request that his body be wrapped in a winding linen sheet or if that was a rumor someone reported. The newspaper later reported Mr. Keller was not the executer of Tansey’s will after all. That task was given to two of his nieces, whom I will talk about shortly.
The Tansey plot contains 10 graves. Two are for James and Margaret, which I photographed.
Two other markers in the plot are for James’ sister, Mariah Grisman, and her husband, James Grisman. Like Tansey, Grisman had crossed the Atlantic but he had settled in Canada. When Mariah died in 1895, Grisman had her remains sent to Eufaula for burial in Fairview Cemetery. He spent his last few years in Eufaula with his brother-in-law and died in 1899 at age 75.
The monument that dominates the plot has some lovely details to it. Here’s the front. You can see she is clasping a chain.
Then you get a glimpse of the back and you can see the chain is attached to an anchor.
So why an anchor? This is a symbol you can observe frequently in cemeteries but it doesn’t always mean the deceased was a sailor or served in the Navy. That’s a common error people make. The anchor is thought to have been a key Christian symbol during the period of Roman persecution. Early Christians lived in fear of being arrested and possibly executed for their faith. Many were. Christian use of the anchor is also echoed in Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Where did the Silver Service Go?
James Tansey named two of his nieces, Elizabeth Egan Tully and Sarah Egan, the executrices of his will. His sister in Ireland and the two nieces received most of his estate. It’s believed that his wife, Margaret, left her own property/possessions to her family. But newspapers reported a dispute between the heirs about a valuable silver service that landed them all in court. This article leave the impression that Margaret’s family ended up with it.
After her husband Daniel died in 1908, Lizzie Tully operated a grocery store. U.S. Census records indicate her sons followed in James Tansey’s footsteps and worked in the marble industry. When daughter Marie married Dr. John Jones, the entire family moved to Savannah, Ga.
But the saga of the silver service was not yet over. According to the article below from the Nov. 5, 1924 Montgomery Advertiser, Tallahassee, Fla. officials went looking for this very silver service for a centennial celebration it was having. The story explains that Lizzie Tully took the silver service with her to Savannah when the family moved before 1920. Apparently the silver service had once belonged to Napoleon’s nephew, Prince Achille Murat who lived in Tallahassee in his later years until he died in 1847.
According to the article below, the silver service was given to James Tansey in payment for a cemetery monument he provided to the Murats. My guess is that it was for Charlotte Murat, who died in 1867. She was the great-grand niece of George Washington. From what I understand, Charlotte was living in difficult financial circumstances following the Civil War.
What became of the wandering silver service? I wish I knew. But I do know that Lizzie Tully, died that same year (1924) and is buried with her husband, Daniel, in the Tansey plot at Fairview Cemetery.
A Doctor with Masonic Ties
I caught sight of another marker at Fairview with an anchor on it. This time it was for a beloved town physician, Dr. William Horatio Thornton. A Georgia native born in 1816, William studied medicine at University of Pennsylvania before moving to Eufaula. According to his obituary, William was one of 12 children and five of them became doctors.
He married Mary B. Shorter in 1845, the sister of Gov. John Gill Shorter, and the daughter of General Reuben Shorter. He was also Eufaula’s mayor in 1857 and president of the board of trustees for the local Union Female College. William and Mary had eight children together. He died at age 64 on Jan. 27, 1881.
Now let’s take a look at William’s impressive marker. It’s possible James Tansey’s marble works carved it. The detail of the anchor, which includes even some fraying at the end of the rope that wraps around it, it incredible.
Earlier, I mentioned the fact that the anchor has strong ties with Christianity as a symbol of hope. It also has a similar meaning in the Masonic fraternal order as a symbol of hope, and Dr. Thornton was an active member of his local lodge. That the anchor was meant to signify his Masonic ties is confirmed in a biography written about him that stated:
“He was a chapter Mason, an emblem of that organization surmounting the beautiful and costly monument erected to his memory in the Masonic cemetery by his devoted widow, whose loving care keeps beautiful this hallowed spot.”
When an Anchor Signifies a Naval Career
Then there are those graves that have an anchor that actually signifies that the deceased was a sailor or perhaps in the Navy. Fairview has its own example in the grave marker of Lieutenant James Lingard Hoole. Born in Barbour County, Ala. in 1840 to Bertram and Violetta Wyatt Hoole, James entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. at age 14 from 1854 to 1858. His marker says he graduated in 1860 but that could be wrong.
William served as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy until enlisting in the Confederate Navy on June 22, 1861, when he took the rank of master. He served on the Confederate ships CSS Forrest, Georgia (pictured below), and Florida. He was wounded in the Battle of Roanoake Island in February 1862 but recovered to return to duty. His final rank advance came in January 1864 when he was made a lieutenant.
“After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well…”
William survived the war but his health did not rebound. He died on Aug. 12, 1866 at the home of Confederate Gen. H.D. Clayton, who was served in the Alabama House of Representatives before the Civil War. General Clayton is also buried at Fairview but I did not photograph his grave.
Notice the small anchor at the top right of his marker.
There’s plenty more to share from Fairview Cemetery, I’ll have more in Part II.