Historic cemetery to be recognized

Published 11:44 am Monday, April 20, 2009

By By Lydia Grimes
features reporter

Pilgrim Rest Cemetery in Alco has a long history, and that connection with the history of the Brewton has now been recognized.
On Tuesday, the cemetery will be recognized as being a part of the Alabama Historic Cemetery Registry. There will be a dedication of the cemetery at 10 a.m. and a memorial placed in honor of the historical significance of Pilgrim Rest.
Pilgrim Rest is said to have been organized and met in the home of Aaron Lovelace on Alco Hill September 17, 1854. A log church was built near by the present day cemetery. According to writings by Annie Crook Waters, the Bethlehem circuit minutes show that Pilgrim Rest Church was received into the association in 1854. From 1857 through 1864, the church was pastored by Z. Williams, Jacob Smith (1858 and an ancestor of many present day citizens), and J.F. Cook.
At some point in the mid 1860s there was a rift in the membership and a division was developed. One group built a church at Cotton Springs on the Belleville Road on Ezekiel Lovelace’s land. The other moved to Brewton on Belleville Avenue. It continued to be called Pilgrim Rest until 1878 when it was decided to change the name. Thus Pilgrim Rest Church became First Baptist Church of Brewton. The part of the church that moved to Cotton Springs eventually became Point Pleasant and is today the North Brewton Baptist Church.
Perhaps the next thing to be associated with Pilgrim Rest Cemetery occurred in 1883. That is the year Brewton was visited by the terrible plague of yellow fever. Within a short period of time in the fall of that year. Seventy people developed the dread disease and 28 of those  died. Most of the dead were buried at Pilgrim Rest. Many graves bear the date of 1883.
One Civil War soldier, John R. Crawford, is buried there (a member of Co. F, of the 49th Indiana Volunteers).
Edmund Troupe Brewton, who many believe Brewton is named for, is buried there along with his wife, Caroline Coleman, who died in the yellow fever epidemic. 
The cemetery is also the resting place of the Rev. Robert Paine Baker (1837-1883), a Methodist minister, who died in the yellow fever epidemic. He refused to leave his church flock and continued to minister to those who were sick.
The drive to have the cemetery recognized was spear-headed by Mary Catherine Luker, who has family buried there.
The Alabama Historical Commissioner administers the Alabama Historic Cemetery Program.
The program officially recognizes and honors family cemeteries that were established at least 40 years ago.

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