Cemetery Clearing

This post continues my posts describing our family vacation from August 1- 7, 2009.

Wednesday, August 5th was supposed to be our last day in Talladega for our family vacation last month.  But, we decided on Tuesday that we’d stay another day.  Well, instead of leaving on Thursday, we didn’t leave until Friday. Why? Because we needed to do some cemetery work!

On Wednesday of that week, we took the kids by the family cemetery to visit the gravesites of family members.  On this trip to Talladega, we were ecstatic to learn that a local masonic lodge was now taking care of the cemetery and had even placed a sign at the entrance! This cemetery has often been left neglected so we were very happy that a local group was taking ownership.

We started in the cemetery by going to the tombstone of Mama Frances’ husband, Curtis. He passed away in 1971.

Then, we went over to the see the grave of Mama Frances’  father, mother & sister and guess what? We couldn’t find them! This was highly disappointing to us because three years ago, in November of 2006, Kalonji and I cleared out the thicket of branches that was around their headstones. The area was very overgrown.  We had cleared it out so that you could see the three tombstones quite well and this is what it looked like then.  These are the headstones of Champ McClellan, his mom Fannie McClellan, and his daughter Louise.  Fannie would have been a slave on the McClellan property I posted about previously about our visit to the home.

Well, a lot can grow in three years. When we went back to it during this trip, the area was completely grown over again. This is what it looked like and despite the gaps you see in the picture, there was actually more brush so we couldn’t see anything.

So, we decided to stay another day so that we could get to work clearing it out again. This time, we took out more than just branches. We got an axe and started chopping down small trees. After a few hours of work (including work from the oldest two boys), we were able to do a very effective clearing of the gravesites again. And this is what it looked like when we finished this time.  You can see some of the tree stumps from our use of the axe.

From the work this time around, we realized that there was another grave there that we didn’t know about before, and it was a child grave, unmarked. When we told Mama Frances about this, she said that it was a stillborn that had been born to her mom – so that was an birth previously unknown to me. This is the mess we left behind

Kalonji’s stepmom was going to tell the masonic lodge about out our work and they were going to come clear it out. At least they now know that the graves are there and can continue to keep the area clear. Since we had done so much clearing, we were also able to see further back in the thicket and realize that there were even more graves up in there. It was so sad to see how much this area of the cemetery had overgrown. We couldn’t make it back there ourselves, but I sent Miles in to take pictures of some of them.

This is the headstone of Epluribus U. Lee who lived from 1909-1976. Don’t you just love the name! However, his marker is completely hidden in the thicket. Very sad.


Needless to say, we were all very tired that evening. But, we are so glad that we did this. It is only a start, but hopefully the lodge can get more people involved to do more clearing. This cemetery has many of Kalonji’s family buried there. It is a black cemetery and the only one in the city not maintained by the city and has a lot of history. There are slaves buried there and many family members of the families in this part of town, including those of another, unrelated so far as we know, McClellan family. I think we made our ancestors proud this day.

Comments (6)

  1. Rachel

    That is so good you all to do. Any idea why they’re the “Knoxville” lodge? Is there a Knoxville, AL nearby? (I always automatically think TN)

  2. taneya (Post author)

    That part of town was called Knoxville b/c one of the streets in the area is Knox street (Google maps link – http://is.gd/3erAe) Yeah, I think of TN too every time we go down there.

  3. Randy Seaver

    Thank you for sharing your intentional act of family kindness with us – what a task to keep the area clear around the graves of your loved ones.

    I am blown away by the name Epluribus U. Lee – his middle name had to be Unum, right? “One from many.” Aren’t we all! I wonder what they called him? “E?” “E-plue?” “E-bus?” “E-U?”

    I know your ancestors are proud of your efforts to keep their spirits alive… and I thank you for sharing your work.

    Regards — Randy

  4. Marian Pierre-Louis

    Good for you! That is great work you did clearing the brush. Especially now that there are caretakers. Hopefully they will be able to keep it up.

  5. Miriam Robbins Midkiff

    I love your last sentence. We should all be doing things on a regular basis to make them proud. This was inspiring, Taneya!

  6. A. Spence

    there are some cemeteries in Elizabeth City, NC like that. I was too scared of snakes to go back in the brush to try and take more pictures.

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