Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Volunteers Revitalize Abandoned Cemetery in Pickens County

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Volunteers Revitalize Abandoned Cemetery in Pickens County

Article excerpt

The founders of the once booming town of Memphis, Ala., its inventors, doctors, Confederate soldiers and their descendants rest in peace beneath dirt, pine needles and leaves, tucked in the woods off an old county road, surrounded by farm land and woods in a place where few people live.

Bricks, white, wooden crosses and leaning, overturned and cracked headstones ingrained with dirt and covered with moss mark the graves where these people were laid to rest in the 1800s.

They were once surrounded by small trees, brush and briars that swamped even the tips of the tallest headstones that stand about 10 feet tall, but Carolyn Street battled her way through it all with a machete until she came upon the first headstone she saw.

Street, a Northport resident, was looking for her ancestors' graves in Pickens County when she found the cemetery. She said the cemetery's condition moved her to preserve its past by cleaning it up, and she later joined the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance in her quest to preserve other abandoned cemeteries in the area.

"I saw this cemetery, and it hit me right here," Street said pointing to her heart. "It just breaks my heart to see these old cemeteries, so I just started cleaning. There's nobody to take care of them, and they're going to be lost."

Street said the number of abandoned cemeteries in the state is a problem, and they need to be preserved and maintained.

So Street and two others began working to clear the two- to four- acre tract of land that she said hadn't been cleaned in probably eight years. They started around April, and are about finished.

"We're trying to get it clean as a whistle," she said.

Street, Tim Sutton who is a member of the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Barney Mitchell who is a member of the American Legion, spent hours each week clipping brush, chopping down small trees and pulling weeds on their hands and knees to clean up the final resting place of what Sutton said is probably about 300 graves, which include family members of TV journalist Katie Couric.

"When everybody was saying they were going Black Friday shopping or they were going hunting, I was getting up at the crack of dawn to come down here to clean the cemetery," Sutton said. …

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