********** CORRECTION November 30. 2000
The book Cemeteries of McIntosh County includes burials of all races in the Southeast Georgia county. Because of a reporter's error, a story on Page B-4 Sunday incorrectly said the book excluded African-Americans.
DARIEN -- For the past 10 years, Mattie Gladstone has been poking around graveyards.
Actually, she's been probing with a 32-inch stainless steel rod trying to find lost and forgotten graves for a cemetery book. With the help of an estimated 35 people, Gladstone has edited and compiled the 393-page book Cemeteries of McIntosh County, Ga. Published by the Lower Altamaha Historical Society, the book contains records and maps of 81 graveyards, including military, family, church, public, slave and plantation burial grounds.
There is nothing morbid about the decade of work. Gladstone claims no particular fascination for graveyards. It is instead her interest in history that kept her at the job.
"I grew up in the area and over the years I've visited cemeteries," she said.
The cemeteries helped her with genealogical searches and in researching history with the Lower Altamaha Historical Society of which she has been a longtime member, she said. Many of the volunteers on the project are members of the society's Cemetery Committee, she said.
Another concern was that a record had to be made to prevent further accidental destruction of graves. Some small poorly marked cemeteries have been plowed under for tree planting or development, she said. After the Civil War and during the Depression, many McIntosh County families were too poor to buy tombstones and the wooden crosses have rotted away, she said.
The last known record was Evey White's unpublished compilation from 1958, but it had one enormous omission: It included no African-American cemeteries, Gladstone said.
The state also recommends that cemeteries be recorded when counties do their master plans, which are road maps for future development, she said.
Gladstone began checking out the known cemeteries and then expanded to family plots and other forgotten plots hidden away in forests in remote areas. Many of them were pointed out to her by older African-Americans, especially men who had hunted in remote woods, she said.
She consulted with archaeologists who suggested she and her assistants use metal rods to probe the ground to find unmarked graves or those from which markers had rotted or been lost.
She had to clear her procedures with the state Department of Natural Resources' Office of Historic Preservation, which said she could do no excavations. She was allowed to probe the graves and do some minor ground disturbances to check out fallen or partially buried tombstones but nothing beyond that.
The method was to check out the ground and find any sunken areas characteristic of old graves. …