Endangered African American Cemetery in Sumter County, Florida

Our good friend Joyce McCollum is asking for our help to save this cemetery.  Her email follows:

Greetings All,

Regarding the removal of African American Cemetery in Sumter County Florida, we are in a home stretch for tomorrow night’s Sumter County Commission meeting. FOX13 Tampa aired a news story tonight about the cemetery, All the more reason to bombard the commission with emails. One Commissioner’s heart has definitely turned. We need the rest. FOX13 News story: http://www.lcni5.com/cgi-bin/c2.cgi?073+article+News+20091007104347073073003

Letters to the Editor: http://www.lcni5.com/cgi-bin/c2.cgi?073+article+Opinion+20091007103219073073004

Their email addresses are below. Many of you took action previously but we need to renew and intensify our efforts. I am also wondering if we don’t need a S.O. S. site for endandered historical African American sites. Is there one online? I became involved with an effort to prevent a highway going through the cemetery in Henderson, KY. The road expansion would have been over the burial sites of my maternal great-grandparents. We won that one – for now. And I am reminded of Milligen’s Bend, LA. where my great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. I’m told that there has been an historical marker but it was vandalized and not replaced. You can read the story of Milligen’s Bend Battle and the United States Colored Troop who fought there online. It’s a story worth reading and retelling. (I recommend looking for ancestors on the Civil War enlistment rolls. The pension files fron NARA are extremly informational). I feel that we have a responsibility to identify unrecognized places of African American historic signifigance and see that it’s recorded and/or preserved.and publicized. Many communities have oral tradition on events that happened and had a social or familial impact on the residents. The latest genealogy news on our First Lady, Michelle Obama, showed a perfect example of following the paper trail and putting life into those names and dates. It can start with a local place or event and the names of those who shared in an event. Food for thought. Don’t forget the Sumter County Cemetery. Spread the word and please send emails to the following addresses. Promote preservation!

Dick Hoffman: Dick.Hoffman@sumtercountyfl.gov

Doug Gilpin: Doug.Gilpin@sumtercountyfl.gov

Don Burgess: Don.Burgess@sumtercountyfl.gov

Garry Breeden: Garry.Breeden@sumtercountyfl.gov

Randy Mask: Randy.Mask@sumtercountyfl.gov

Thanks for your efforts and I hope to have some great news for you on this matter soon.

Peace & Love

Joyce Reese McCollum

Bradley Academy to begin recording African-American cemeteries

The Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center in Murfreesboro is starting a new project to record all of the African American cemeteries in Rutherford County.

“This unprecedented project has never been accomplished before, and we feel a strong urgency to record those that have gone before us to keep our history alive for our community,” Project Coordinator and Bradley Academy Board Member Florence Smith said.

Once completed, this project will be an important contribution to the recorded history of African Americans in Rutherford County, she said.

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Visiting old cemetery ‘a powerful experience’

MARLIN – Sharon Styles of Sacramento, Calif., hears the whispers of her ancestors as she walks into Bull Hill Cemetery near the Falls of the Brazos. To her, they say “remember.”

When the Summerlee Foundation acquired the 400 acres in 2007, the tract included Bull Hill Cemetery, an African-American cemetery dating back to the 1850s and once part of the extensive Churchill Jones plantation.

“It was such a powerful experience for me. I can’t even explain the feeling I had standing there,” she said. “I felt lifted, warmed, like I was walking on clouds filled with sunshine. I cried. It changed me. I felt committed to working on behalf of all those buried in Bull Hill. Not just my grandmothers, but everybody’s grandmothers and grandfathers. I just could not leave their names unspoken in the earth. They just have to be remembered.”

The land also includes the earlier sites of Sarahville de Viesca, 1834-36, and Fort Milam. Jones moved to Falls County in 1853 from Alabama with his family and slaves. Eventually he owned 50,000 acres of prime Central Texas farmland.

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Volunteers Reviving Historic Washington, DC Cemetery Hope to Pinpoint Grave Sites

By Yamiche Alcindor

Larry Smith has been looking for his father’s grave for 40 years.

Smith knows that his father, Reginald William Smith, was buried in 1950 in Section C of the historic, 22.5-acre Woodlawn Cemetery, the final resting place of many prominent African American figures of the late 19th century and most of the 20th. But badly kept records and a lack of maintenance for many years after the cemetery was abandoned in the 1960s have prevented Smith and others from locating their loved ones.

Now, a volunteer association that has worked for decades to restore the cemetery hopes a system called ground penetrating radar, or GPR, will help Smith and other survivors.

“I hope to find my dad before they put me in the grave,” said Smith, 60, a past president of the Woodlawn Perpetual Care Association board, which has owned and operated the cemetery since 1972.

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Cemetery book valuable new asset for researchers


Betty Rodgers, local historian, said it best: “The book is a work of love by those who documented and did the footwork, and is a phenomenal job by those who stood until the last of the information had been edited and printed.”

The project that got nicknamed “The Book” is a beautiful hard-bound deluxe edition of 719 pages containing nearly 50,000 names of those interred in the more than 250 cemeteries inside Jackson County, including all cities, communities and rural areas. A byproduct of the research was the discovery of lost cemeteries and, in some cases, improved cemetery care.

The first publication that includes all known African-American cemeteries, the book also has more than 50 cemeteries that have never been previously recorded.

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Triad Group Preserves Historic African-American Cemetery

Graves Of Slaves Who Died Free Lie In Disrespect, Disrepair

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A group in the Triad is trying to save history by preserving an African-American cemetery that has been neglected for years.

Graves from the people who were born into slavery but died free were left in the Winston-Salem woods unkempt for years.

“This particular cemetery came under the term ‘abandonment,’” said the founder of Vintage ’04, Bobby Wilson. “Abandonment meant it was neglected and all the graves were in disrespect and disrepair.”

As kudzu, twigs and brush took over the deteriorating tombstones of one of the first African-American graveyards, Wilson and his nonprofit group decided to step in.

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Marker revives memory of ‘Simpsonville slaughter’

By Jeff McDanald
Special to the Herald-Leader

In January 1865, a company of black soldiers was assigned the task of driving 900 head of cattle from their base at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County to a railhead near Louisville. From there, the cattle would travel south on the L&N Railroad to Nashville to provide food for hungry Union troops.

A few months earlier, nearly all of the soldiers had been slaves. When the commander of the Kentucky forces authorized the formation of “colored” regiments, area slaves flocked to Camp Nelson to volunteer.

Now the men tasted a semblance of freedom, albeit as members of the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry.

For this assignment, the men guided the cattle along a path that became U.S. 60.

As they passed through Simpsonville on Jan. 25, 1865, snow was falling. A scout from a roving band of Confederate guerillas had learned of the cattle drive, and 15 marauders surprised the rear guard of the cattle drive, “yelling like very devils and shooting their pistols in the air. … They began shooting down the men without compunction,” according to a newspaper account in the Shelby Record.

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How to clean a headstone

Local group offers helpful tips on gravesite upkeep

Published Saturday, February 7, 2009

If your deceased loved ones chose to have a traditional burial, it is likely important to you that their gravesites are kept up.

Regular maintenance, if done properly, can protect grave markers from aging and damage caused by natural elements and the unfortunate incident of vandalism.

Sadly, many gravesites in Chilton County – especially private family cemeteries – have become unsightly due to neglect or because their caretakers do not know how to properly clean them.

There is a right way and a wrong way to clean a grave marker, and the potential for damage is high.

“Water, a soft brush and elbow grease are the only three things you should use,” said Kat Reece of the Chilton Cemetery Association.

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Scout gives Melbourne cemetery a makeover

Project is part of Eagle Scout quest for 17-year-old Holy Trinity student


MELBOURNE — Through the years, Aleksander Bologna grew frustrated trying to explain to friends the location of an old African-American cemetery off U.S. 1.

He couldn’t blame them, though. Lack of money had kept caretakers from properly keeping up the cemetery throughout the years, allowing it become overgrown.

“When I took over, it was all wilderness,” said volunteer trustee John Hendley, who has held the position since 1985. “You couldn’t even see the cemetery.”

Hendley — whose grandmother and aunt are buried there — said he had no idea how many graves are there.

That’s what prompted Bologna, a 17-year-old student at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, to undertake the restoration of Shady Oaks Cemetery as his Eagle Scout project.

The cemetery, which dates to 1912, also is known as the J.N. Tucker Memorial Cemetery.

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NAACP blasts Clayton County decision to move graves

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Georgia NAACP called for an investigation of the Clayton County Commission Tuesday after the board voted for 311 historic African-American graves to be moved to another cemetery.

The Clayton County Commission voted unanimously to issue a permit to College Park recycling company Stephens MDS to relocate the graves to make room to expand a landfill. The cemetery is inaccessible and has not been visited for years before news of the possible move was announced, company officials said.

Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia NAACP, accused the five commissioners of a conflict of interest. According to DuBose, all of the commissioners have previously accepted campaign contributions from Stephens. “I’m calling for an investigation of each of the county commissioners,” DuBose told the commission. “This board sits on about $7,000 of this company’s money. We want to look to see if you were too connected to the financial contributions that were given by the company.”

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