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Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Surprise Waiting Deep in Fairview Cemetery


"One can tell the morals of a culture 

by the way they treat their dead." - Unknown

UPDATE:  "Within many African American cemeteries "headstones" were not the only way graves were marked. Metal pipes, solid and hollow ones, various sized stones, seashells, and wooden markers. Extra care must be given when finding "odd" items within an old cemetery. What may look like trash may be a grave marker.
I am the caretaker of an all African American Cemetery were bricks were used as grave markers. At the turn of the 20th century piles of damaged bricks from a nearby brick factory were easily accessible to the poorer Black families of the neighborhood."  
---- Jack Robinson, Resurrection Mission.

I am still trying to absorb the experience I had today.  I spent the morning researching in the Greenwood County Courthouse, and I arrived early for my shift at the Greenwood County Pubic Library.  It seems so many of my fellow volunteers there have been so concerned about restoring this cemetery.

Jim Ravencraft stopped by and informed me that he had begun (solo) making paths through the cemetery.  Jim has documented over 100 cemeteries, and he makes those records available on Find A Grave and in a database accessible to patrons at the library. This pre-cleaning will make it much easier to plan and organize further clearing and removal of vegetation. 
Fairview Cemetery, April 9, 2014 by Robin Foster
There was no way that I was going to pass up the chance to watch this unfolding.  I had to have a little assistance climbing in, and I followed Jim as he removed branches and vines in the way.  The pink tape in the photo above is how he marks the path so as not to get lost.  The place was pretty dense and took him some time to carve out an entrance.

I did not fear snakes or falling through an open grave.  I literally felt as if I had walked back in time as Jim recounted some of the birth dates of those buried there 1810, 1830, and so on.   I am more desirous to know their stories.  Lots of huge markers have fallen over.  I was most sad to see the headstone of Iola Rutledge had overturned with the inscription, "Gone But Not Forgotten."  There is no telling how long it has been this way:

Fairview Cemetery, April 9, 2014 by Robin Foster
I kept following closely and noticed there was a group of headstones off in the distance.  We had gone quite a distance from the road at this point.  All the headstones off in the distance had been completely covered with vegetation before I arrived.  Little did I know that this was the spot that I was being led to. 

Fairview Cemetery, April 9, 2014 by Robin Foster
Unbelievably, I was able to force back the tears as I recognized the names inscribed on the headstones which hours earlier were completely covered.

Johnson Family Plot, Fairview Cemetery by Robin Foster, April 9, 2014

Jim later forwarded photos taken after the cleaning around the stones.

Charlotte Vance Johnson is my great aunt:
Fairview Cemetery, Charlotte Johnson by Jim Ravencraft, April 9, 2014

At least three of Charlotte's daughters are buried alongside her:  Carrie Richburg, Agnes Nedwood, and Essie Gilbert, the mother of Senator Frank Gilbert, Sr. (D. 1999)

Fairview Cemetery, Carrie Richburg by Jim Ravencraft, April 9, 2014

Fairview Cemetery, Agnes Nedwood by Jim Ravencraft, April 9, 2014

Fairview Cemetery, Essie Gilbert by Jim Ravencraft, April 9, 2014

I have not found my 2nd great grandmother nor her daughter, Mahalia Williams, whom I know had markers here.  I have been determined to find a death certificate for everyone that I could that was buried in Fairview.  I realize that is not possible, so I was really happy to see headstones for people who died prior to 1915 before deaths were recorded in South Carolina.  I hope it leads to the discovery of my 2nd great grandparents. Some of them died before 1915. 

If you ever doubted the power of one person to make a difference, remember all that you see revealed in this post and many more photos to be made available on Find A Grave was made possible by one person who followed inspiration from above.  

We have much much more work to do, but on behalf of those with loved ones who no longer are hidden under the vegetation at Fairview Cemetery, "Thank you, Jim Ravencraft."

Jim Ravencraft, Fairview Cemetery by Robin Foster, April 9, 2014.


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