Ward restored historic cemetery
Published 3:25 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005
By By Lydia Grimes – Forgotten Trails
This week I wanted to talk to you a little bit about cemeteries. They are interesting places to visit and you can learn a lot from them.
During the days of the early settlers to this area, when a death occurred, the burial took place near the home. Sometimes family cemeteries sprang up after a period of time and after several deaths in the family. That is what makes it so difficult to find gravesites of those earliest settlers. Many times the only marker would be a big rock or a hand-carved board. There were no nice tombstones to mark the graves of those people. Most people were not able to afford an expensive stone for a grave. They had enough trouble taking care of the living.
Once churches began to pop up in the area, cemeteries were built near the church for those members who attended. In those days, no one had to pay anything for a plot in the cemetery; all they had to do was to mark it off where they wanted to be buried. Many country cemeteries are still like that. A family will mark off how much room they will need for the family and put up markers to designate what they want.
When I was a child, the family members of those who were buried there kept up the cemeteries. I can remember going to many cemetery cleanings in my childhood. There is nothing like stepping on the nettles that grow between the tombstones.
Now, city cemeteries are a little bit different. Most plots are sold, just like any other piece of land. You can find the deeds to the plots in the land transactions in the courthouse. Workers hired for that purpose do the upkeep on these cemeteries.
I had planned to go to a special service in an old cemetery with a friend of mine, but was a little bit under the weather and didn't make it.
George Ward of Brewton and his grandson did most of the work reclaiming the old Ward/Withering Cemetery in Conecuh County. This is the burial place of many of the Ward's ancestors. It is located eight miles northwest of Evergreen near Lyeffion. Many people worked for months to clear the cemetery and get it in better condition. Last summer the cemetery was named to the Alabama Register of Historic Cemeteries. This led to the planning a ceremony to honor some of those buried in the cemetery that had lived and fought in some historic battles in the past.
There was much pomp and circumstance in the ceremony which included reenactors, special music by a bagpiper and the surprise of the day, a flyover by the U.S. Air Force Fly-over of a “Dixie 15,” 117th Air Wing KC-135, flown by the 106th Air Refueling Squadron out of Birmingham. The big plane flew over at just the right moment and tipped its wing as a salute.
I am planning to do a story on cemeteries and the art you find in them in the next few weeks. I think you will be surprised to see just how detailed some of the carving is on some of the stones.