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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The inscription on his sundial was part of a poem called “Inscription for Kartina’s Sun-Dial” written by Henry Van Dyke in 1920.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Tom Johnson said:
I really appreciate your background stories on historic people places and cemteries
Jimmy Mileski said:
For the longest time I’ve intended to write and tell you how much I appreciate reading your stories of our ancestral past; enhanced by the photographs and Newspaper articles that truly bring New life to a long forgotten soul.
Very interesting! I went to Pioneer and Magnolia Cemeteries last week. Can’t believe I missed the sundial as I did photograph the gate and fence.
It is a small sundial and truly easy to miss. I was lucky I even noticed it, really.
Linda June Hodges said:
Enjoy the family history that you are able to research and present with the photographs. Sundials do appear in cemeteries from time to time and if I spot one (and the sun is shining) I try to ‘read’ the current time of day. We had one in our family from my G Grandfather that was quite old. Thank you.
Hi, Linda! I enjoy finding sundial grave markers as well. They are nice surprises!